16 Jun

Loving the Unlovable

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Remember last year when I wrote about praying for God to send my kids someone to disciple? Turns out that is much easier in theory than in real life. This year God sent my boys (and myself) a neighborhood full of families for us to love on and minister to and they have all been so easy to love.

The kids in our new neighborhood have been great. The boys have made great friends and we have developed relationships with our neighbors that we cherish. We couldn’t be more blessed to have been placed where we are right now and I am grateful. We spend a lot of time with the neighborhood kids, they go to church with us on Wednesday nights, they come to birthday parties, we go to the pool together. We’ve had an opportunity to love them and it has been easy.

Then God sent a child that was hard for me to love. There is just something about him that makes me worry. He lies all the time, but I notice they are the lies of insecurity rather than manipulation. He’s unsupervised, he goes where he wants when he wants. He gets to our house early most days, and stays until the sun is gone. He’s rude, and very rough around the edges. He’s too knowledgeable about the world and  It’s been a struggle for me to allow him to spend so much time with our kids. I have worked hard to shelter my boys from this world and now I feel as though I’m allowing it into our home in a huge way with this boy.

Yesterday it all came to a head. This child had been here most of the day and the boys were upstairs playing a video game. He called our youngest son some names and Collin asked him to stop. He didn’t. Pushed came to shove and the two of them ended up in a fight that turned physical. Collin immediately was remorseful, even making him an ice pack for a bump on the head. It wasn’t anything terrible, these are little boys, but feelings were hurt. I checked him over and sent him home to rest and cool off but you know what I felt in my heart? I felt relief. I was happy. I thought that it would be the end of having to deal with this child.

I was wrong.

That night as I was loading Olivia into the car, John had already left with the other kids in the church van, I felt a nagging in my heart. As I drove up the street I knew that God wanted me to go to this child. I really didn’t want to. I argued with God a bit, he’s not a good influence on my kids, he had hit my child, I have a right to keep him away.

God said go.

As I pulled up in front of his house I was nervous, I didn’t know what this child had told his mother about what had happened at our house. I rang the door bell and he opened the door. This skinny, insecure, unaccepted child…

“Do you want to go to church?” He smiled and nodded.

On the way to church we talked. He cried, although he didn’t want me to know. He wiped his tears quickly as they fell. I shared Jesus with him. I don’t know if he understands, or even cares to but I know that I was able to show him forgiveness, acceptance and love yesterday and I’m thankful.

When we pulled into the church parking lot Collin saw him get out of the car and immediately ran up. He apologized to him for the fight and the boy did as well. They walked side by side into the house of God with smiles on their faces. This night could have been very different. My child would have been at church either way but he had the chance to ask forgiveness from a friend and mend a relationship. He had the chance to offer acceptance to a child who doesn’t get much of it.

The little boy got to spend time with a lot of good kids, he was shown love and forgiveness. He got to experience Jesus rather than sitting on his couch watching tv or whatever else he would have been doing had he stayed home. I’m not applauding myself, not in the least. I didn’t want to go get him. God made this night happen. God put this child in our path because he desperately needs Jesus. It’s easy to minister to and disciple children who behave and are respectful. It’s not so easy with the ones who truly need God.

Mothers, please be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we are being called to mother more than just our kids. Loving the unlovable is hard, but it’s necessary.

Hebrews 13:16 NIV

16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

02 May

When Life Gets in the Way

13147883_10209479632211070_1689233775_oThis past few months have been crazy here in the Herrell House. Baseball, church, doctor visits, co op and family obligations seem to be taking over our life. The days of perfectly scheduled school seem to have left us and chaos has ensued. Everything is still getting done, just some days it’s done in the evening after dad gets home. Sometimes we do two days worth of work in one day to accommodate our changing schedule.

A couple of months ago I went to my doctor for a routine check up and some of my blood work came back abnormal. It’s nothing terribly serious, but it has resulted in several more doctor visits, blood draws and some nuclear imaging. That last test meant I had to be away from the kids for 24 hours. That’s especially difficult for a homeschool family. Luckily, my hubby works for an agency that is very flexible and understanding with our situation and he’s often able to take a day off on short notice without any problem. So that’s what he did. I spent the night with my parents for 2 nights, leaving him to be Mr. Mom. The kids had a blast… hot dogs, ice cream, baseball games. I gave him school work to do with them but I went easy on him… all he had to do was supervise review papers and make sure everyone stayed alive. He succeeded, although our 3rd grader tricked daddy into reading him his assigned reading rather than him reading it for himself, but that’s another story for another day.

I thrive on organization. I love my color coordinated schedule. I need my to-do list. My plan is my sanity. Having to throw it out the window these last few weeks hasn’t been easy. I’ve felt as though I’m doing my kids a disservice by not having our perfectly organized school days. I started second guessing myself, things like “If they were in school they wouldn’t be playing video games at 10 am while I was at the doctor.” It was honestly depressing and I felt as though I was getting behind. Yes, we were getting the work done but things were crazy. Laundry was piling up, the dishes needed to be washed, the floors were sticky. I felt like I was drowning.

Then God showed me the reason for the chaos. He’s growing me. He needs me to understand that life won’t be perfectly organized. It’s messy. My kids need to understand that messy is real. I have very little flexibility in my personality. I like things my way, always. God is shaking that up in me.

My kids are learning to adapt to stressful situations. They see John and I pulling together to get things done in the house. They’re (sometimes) helping out themselves although it may take a little reminding.

I’m learning to adapt as well. I feel like I spend a good portion of my time grasping at threads and trying to hold this thing together. I have a fear that if I let go something will come crashing down. It’s the control freak in me, I get it honest… right Daddy? God’s taking my threads. He’s trying to get me to let them go, to give my hands a rest. Why is that so hard to do? I’m learning, and He’ll keep plucking them out of my hands, one by one, until I just hand the bunch over.

My point us that life can’t be scripted. Things happen that shake up our schedules. We have to roll with the punches. We have to adapt. So do our kids. Being able to show them how to be graceful in stressful situations is a life skill that they don’t always get at this age. Teaching them how to adapt is a priceless lesson. Although, swimming with grandma on a Wednesday afternoon while mom is at the doctor lessens the blow. They’re doing just fine with that.

Why do we second guess our choices the moment things get hairy? God called me to this path, without a doubt. So now Satan is throwing some punches, he starts whispering that I’m doing this wrong…  and I start to wonder if he’s right? I’m sure it’s not just me. The Bible says that he prowls around like a roaring lion, looking to destroy us. He’s looking for our weakness, my insecurity and need for perfection is mine and he exploits it every chance he gets. But my God is bigger. I have peace in knowing that I am on the right path. No  matter how crazy things in this house get my kids are where they belong. With me. Will I ever send them back to school? Maybe, but it won’t be done just because things get a little difficult.

I’ll leave you now to enjoy hot coffee before my brood gets up and we start our day. Thank you for listening to me work out my personal crazy right here for everyone to see 🙂

 

 

13 Apr

10 Ways to beat Spring Homeschool Burnout

13016825_10209339490587617_1134450907_oIs anyone else struggling to keep it going? Spring has sprung, the days are beautiful (at least they are here in central Florida!) and it’s hard enough to keep myself motivated, no less these three little fun-thirsty souls I’m schooling. Every single day around 9:30 they’re begging for recess… They look longingly out the window at the big open field across from our house that is teaming with lizards and grasshoppers, just begging to be caught. As I look into their little glazed over eyes I know that there is no point trying to reel them in, it’s best to let them play and then settle back into the school day in an hour or two.

I know I can’t be the only momma who’s having this trouble so here is a list of my top ten ways to beat Spring Homeschool Burnout.

1. Library trips: Some mornings we fight burnout by packing up and heading to the library. Olivia looks at the books, I pick out a new James Patterson and the boys find themselves thumbing through a new series or playing checkers. This quick break from “real school” keeps them interested in reading, gets them playing together without fighting and is sparking a love of books in Liv. Afterwards, we try to grab lunch with Dad to really make the day special.

2. Netflix: Netflix is a funny little thing because the boys think they are slacking off and watching tv when they’re really learning all sorts of things. Frozen Planet, Mysteries of the Unseen World, Nature’s Weirdest Events, Myth Hunters, Blue Planet and countless other educational shows keep them entertained while they are learning a ton about things they are actually interested in. Do you know what kids do when they watch something that interests them? They learn.

3. Pool Days: Ok, so there’s no real educational value to a pool day. Kids running, jumping, swimming, splashing and enjoying the sun is just one of those things we homeschool mommas get to have that others don’t. We’re going to call this P.E, Vitamin D restoration and a Mental Health Day for Momma. It works for me!

4. Field Trips: It doesn’t have to be anything big, expensive or even planned out. Two weeks ago we went on a scavenger hunt through the woods with some friends. It was a simple walk but the kids had a blast exploring. They found leaves, compared them, watched birds, checked out all sorts of flowers, seeds, butterflies and bugs. They were outside, being kids, enjoying their childhood and making memories. That’s all a field trip needs to be.

5. Farm Days with Mamaw: My mother lives in a few acres out in the sticks. She’s had a slew of animals over the years, including chickens, roosters, catfish, worms, cats, dogs and even a goat. The boys will occasionally spend the day with her helping with the chores. They work in her garden, gather eggs, feed the animals and just have a great time being boys. Don’t get me started on how much fun they have with her composting worms! Know what they are learning? They’re learning the value of hard work. They’re learning how to grow food, how to care for something other than themselves. They’re learning that shoveling mulch in the hot sun won’t kill you, and it’ll probably earn you a little green and an ice cream.

6. Camping Trips with Dad: Sometimes my husband will take a day or two off of work and we all head out on an adventure. We don’t do anything special when we camp. The boys bring their skateboards and ball gloves. We do some nature hikes or bike rides, we may rent a canoe if the camp ground has a spring. There’s always something to learn at State Parks, things to explore and memories to make. We get just a few short years with these kiddos, we want them to remember them as much as we do.

7. Spring Training Day: Ok, ok, you got me. No learning here… unless I quiz them on their spelling words and multiplication problems in the car. But I say again… Memories. They aren’t replaceable. The kids learn what being a family looks like. They get to do something they love with their Daddy and that keeps that bond strong between he and I and them. That’s important to us, as Kaden approaches those teenage years especially.

8. Night School: We don’t do this often during baseball season because we just aren’t home enough in the evenings but some days, we forego the workbooks until after dinner. We play or read, sometimes they help me bake or cook. We just hang out, run errands or play. Then we do school at night, when the sun has gone down and all the fun is successfully wrung out of the daylight.

9. CHORE DAYS: Can I just say that I love chore days? We get the bedding washed, the laundry folded and put away, dust the furniture, sweep… mop. The boys “clean” their rooms and help Olivia with hers. Then we reward our hard work with a treat. Maybe some cookies or a movie. The boys are learning to be men. They’re learning what it takes to run a home and be an adult. Hopefully these Home Ec days will stick with them and make them great husbands one day!

10. I JUST DON’T WANT TO DO LESSONS DAYS: These don’t happen often but sometimes we just can’t. We’ve done so many days of double lessons and extra lessons that we sometimes just blow off school. Maybe someone has a cold, maybe momma needs a break, maybe Olivia really wants to play dress up all morning. These days are nice, laid back and important to any homeschool family. The day the table is covered in playdoh and board games. Maybe it’s tempura paint and construction paper… Trust me, they’re learning.

 

School is important but it doesn’t always have to be school. Sometimes it’s just family. Whatever that happens to look like for you. So momma, if you’re feeling the spring time burnout don’t fret. You’re not alone. Get outside, take a day off, make some memories and enjoy the freedom you have to spend your days with your kids however you want to.

 

 

14 Mar

Confessions of a Professional Worrier

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Ever worry about your life? Ever wonder if you’re making the right decisions ? Schools, friends, churches? As mothers we get to worry about a plethora of decisions throughout the few short years we have our children.

I am a professional worrier. If there were an award for Most Worrisome Mother, I am sure that I’d win. My husband agrees with that. The last two years has been particularly worrisome for me. We’ve made some big life decisions and struggled with some medical issues within our family. Nothing major, but stressful none the less. And I have worried and fretted over them all.
It all started when we were deciding if we should have another baby. We had these two perfect boys, but our life was busy. Did we have the time and energy for one more? I was working full time at my boys’ school at the time. It was really a perfect gig. I was there during school hours, and home when my kids were home. We got a discount on the small Christian school’s tuition which helped financially afford it. We were living in a small home, but it was enough space for the 4 of us. We were driving a car that although it was a little old, it was paid for. Life was pretty good. But we knew we weren’t complete.

So we decided to try for another and we got pregnant quickly. I found out on Mother’s Day 2012 that we were pregnant with number 3. That was the last month of the school year so everything was falling nicely into place. That is until our 20 week ultrasound with Olivia.
At the ultrasound I noticed a black spot in her brain. My sonogram tech was a friend but she couldn’t say anything about it. Just a couple weeks before we were sitting in another sonogram room finding out that our third little bug would be a girl. Our hearts were overwhelmed with gratitude that we would get to complete our family with a little girl! Suddenly we were here, learning that something was wrong. I couldn’t talk to my doctor right away because he was in surgery so I left the office, promising not to worry.

I broke that promise. I went straight to my mother’s work. We cried and we prayed and we worried like mothers do.After a week of torture, we learned that our baby was going to be just fine. The cyst was superficial, in the spongy protective layer of her brain. It would dissipate in a matter of weeks, and we would never think of it again.
As the summer turned into fall, I began to worry about how we would pay for school. Private school tuition is expensive and now that we were going to have a baby I wouldn’t be able to work full time to help pay for it. And so I worried. For weeks I drove our poor pastor crazy, needing to know what our future would hold as far as my job was concerned. My pastor allowed me to be a substitute until the baby was born, I worked on short notice whenever they needed me and in return I was able to maintain a small discount on tuition, just enough so that we could afford it. God worked that out pretty well didn’t he.
We had to purchase a new car to have room for our little bug and taking on that payment knowing that I was soon not going to be working was terrifying to me. The thought of how we would afford a new car and a baby and private school… worry…

Once Olivia was born I felt God tugging at my heart to homeschool the kids. I’ve told you guys many times how much I worried about making that decision. I even waited a full year because I felt like I knew I couldn’t do it. Worry.
Towards the end of that last school year, Collin started having some issues medically. He had a constant cough. He went through every single test you can think of. He was allergic to zero. He was misdiagnosed as having asthma but the medicines for that didn’t help. It wasn’t until after he had a gasterologist preformed a scope on Collin that we found an answer. At least what we thought was the answer. The doctor found a patch of stomach tissue in the top of his esophagus. They told us that this little patch was creating acid all night long, Collin was aspirating that acid and that was the source of this horrendous cough that had plagued our lives for months. The plan was simple, Collin would take a daily acid reducer and be sure not to eat within 2 hours of bedtime. Easy enough. The cough was finally gone!
As school ended that year we started our homeschool journey. The extra money we were saving from taking our kids out of school paid for the car payment and then some. We were finally comfortable. For the first few months everything went amazingly. Then Collin’s cough started slipping back in, only this time it was preceded with a loud sniff, and sometimes followed by a barking throat clear. Back to the doctor we went… upping his medications each time we went. By the time we were done, Collin was taking double an adult dose of Prevacid every day. His stomach had begun to hurt so often that he had all but stopped eating. We would give him Pepto bismol before meals so that he would eat, and tums between meals in an effort to control the constant coughing. I was worried. In the middle of all this stuff, he had been hospitalized with a severe Campylobacter infection in his stomach and intestines. This child had a 105 fever and bloody diarrhea for days. The ER doc had told us that the meds he was on had killed all the good bacteria in his stomach to fight off this infection, therefore his case was much more severe.
Those of you who know me know I am already a germaphobe when it comes to stomach bugs. I am anxious wreck any time someone says their belly hurts. And now, I had a child who was more susceptible to stomach bugs! WORRY!!!!
Things crept along like that for more than a year. Collin was healthier our first year of homeschooling, mainly because he wasn’t in a school environment every day, exposed to lots of germs. However, being in that tiny home twenty four hours a day with three young kids was overwhelming. We had turned our dining room into a classroom and we were out of space. Everyone was on top of each other constantly. We knew we needed more space but the thought of listing and selling our home, and buying a new one was overwhelming, and it led me to WORRY.

Now, you know how you hear that when God moves he moves suddenly? Well let me tell you, he moved in such a way that we had no doubt whatsoever who had orchestrated the sale of our home. We listed our house the Wednesday after Thanksgiving in 2014. THE VERY NEXT DAY I got a call from one of my many cousins. We have a large extended family in this area. Anyway, she called and asked me if it was my house she was looking at online. She said that she and her kids had been looking for a home in our area for months. She had been making asking price offers and people were swooping in asking more and getting the houses she was trying for. She said she had given up. Her husband and her had gone through a divorce a couple of years ago, she and her two small kids were living, comfortably, with her parents but they were ready for a place of their own.

She came to look at the house that night. That was it. After a tearful meeting we knew that God had put this together for both of us. The only hiccup was where we would live while we were building our new home. She had an answer for that. We’d stay right where we were. She said that she and the kids had plenty of room and that she would let us stay in our home, no matter how long it took to build. We had come down on our price a bit to help her with what she was approved for, so she didn’t even charge us rent to stay.

Ladies and gentlemen, that’s God moving suddenly. That’s God answering prayers. That’s God asking me why I am worried. Oh ye of little faith.

The months trickled by as we were engulfed in the blessings that were before us. Although, I’m sure you know I found something to worry about, right…The house payment. No one could tell us what the house payment would be until we got closer to the actually closing date. That’s hard. We built a house that was twice the size of our old one in a beautiful neighborhood. Our home owners fees doubled. We didn’t know what to expect for utilities. I had plenty to worry about. Clearly, I thought that God had done all this to let us fail and not be able to afford our new home.

Oh ye of little faith.

As we moved through the process of building our home it became pretty clear that we were going to be paying about the same amount as we were in our old house. Even though I was pretty confident that our finances wouldn’t change much, I was still stressing over it. Then the week before closing came and we had hard figures. Our new home was going to have a mortgage payment that was more than $100 LESS than our old house! On top of that, because we were outside of the city limits our water bill went from $140 per month down to a measly $55! Even the electricity bill came in under budget, we had expected to be paying double since our new place has two air conditioners, but we have been paying about the same as the old place simply because of the energy efficient appliances and windows! God gave us double the house, for less money per month!

So back to Collin, slowly we found ourselves engulfed in acid reflux prevention. We were medicating him constantly, before meals, after meals, before bed… His life was a constant stomach or headache. We finally sought a second opinion with a new doctor and she wanted to do some additional tests that we just weren’t comfortable with.

I felt overwhelmed. I knew I didn’t want to put him under anesthesia again, so we decided to wean him off all the meds. Within 2 weeks he was off everything. And guess what? The cough went away for the most part. We now watch when it starts, we notice that it’s worse after eating pizza or spaghetti, so we avoid those foods. I’ve found a couple topical essential oils that seem to help. I’m now wondering if it’s more of a nervous tic than anything else. But it occurs to me that I spent more than a year worrying about this child and he’s fine. There is no major underlying condition. Does he have an inlet patch? Yes, but his new doc says that 99% of those are asymptomatic and she doesn’t believe his has anything to do with his little quirk. We medicated the daylights out of this child for more than a year and he absolutely didn’t need it. That’s what worry will lead you to do.

God tells me in the bible to “fear not” 365 times. Think that number is a coincidence? I don’t. When I worry about things that I cannot control I allow my joy to be stolen. God doesn’t give me fear or worry, He gives me the spirit of peace. We know where fear comes from right? Satan. I know that many people act like Satan is some mythical creature, made up to scare children into telling the truth but I am here to tell you that he is real.

1 Peter 5:8

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

That paints a pretty intimidating picture. Satan is walking around this Earth, trying to steal us away from God. He wants our minds, and the minds of our children. He wants our peace and our joy. We cannot rely on God and worry at the same time. It’s not possible. When Satan succeeds in causing us to be affraid and to worry, he has separated us from God, even if only temporarily. However, we have a loving God in Heaven who is there, ready to comfort us, if we turn to Him.

We have to hold our thoughts captive, constantly. We have to guard our hearts and our minds against fear and worry which can be next to impossible for me.

2 Corinthians 10:5

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

This verse isn’t just about guarding our thoughts against sin, it’s about guarding our minds against fear and worry as well.

2 Timothy 1:7

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

God did not give us fear. Fear is not an emotion. Joy, love, happiness… these are emotions. Fear is a spirit. It’s not from God. The spirit of fear works against faith to bring us worry. Fear is not a welcome guest in my homes any longer. When he creeps in I crank up my faith. I’ve seen God move in our lives so many times that I should never fall victim to fear, but of course I do at times. I do remind myself though, Be still, trust God. He’s not brought you this far to leave you stranded.

 

 

22 Feb

Flawless

flawless

I am not perfect. No, a long way from it.

I am vain. If you know me you know that I have always had a bit of an inflated sense of self worth. I’m sure it comes from years of being spoiled and told that I was perfect by my awesome and well meaning family. God knows I’m vain too. In fact, a couple years ago he looked down on me and said “Girl, if you look in that mirror one more time I’m going to fix that vanity”

I didn’t listen and He took my metabolism. 🙂 God loves me anyway. 

I’m selfish. I like things my way, all the time.  You guys don’t know what a saint my husband is. He’s so keenly aware of every single one of my flaws and he has zero problem calling me out on them. He doesn’t sugar coat a thing and he doesn’t hold back. I love him for it. He’s constantly praying for me and helping me be a better person. Sometimes it stings but this man loves me like Jesus does and I’m beyond grateful. God loves me anyway. 

I’m short tempered. I’m not a bad person, but I have a sharp tongue and I don’t always keep it tucked in well. I don’t go full crazy woman but I’ll get a little passive aggressive dig in when I feel wronged. This is mainly directed at telemarketers and customer service reps with the various companies we use. As soon as I get on the phone and someone asks me if my husband is around to verify that I’m allowed to make changes on an account I lose my mind. I set up the account, I pay the bills, my husband literally doesn’t even know who our electricity company is!!! But that’s neither here nor there… this is about my brokenness. God loves me anyway. 

I have a jealous heart. If someone gets something I feel l deserve my first reaction is to pick them apart. Why did they deserve it? They aren’t better than me… God (and my sweet saint of a husband) are quick to remind me that no, they aren’t better than me. God just has something different for me. It wasn’t my blessing. We can’t have all the blessings. I saw a post on Facebook a few weeks ago that spoke to me.

doors

 

Jeremiah 29:11 tells us this

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

He knows my plans. I have to surrender my control, or attempt at control, in my life and wait for what He has for me. That’s hard for me. He knows it and so I wait. Patience is a virtue, and if you’re not good at it God will help you learn. 🙂 God loves me anyway. 

In spite of all these and so many other flaws God loves me.

He loves me anyway. 

I am not better than anyone on this earth. I am no less of a sinner, no more of a saint. I am no more deserving of love or praise. The only difference between myself (or any other Christian) is that I am repentant and forgiven. I know when I mess up, the Holy Spirit convicts me of it and I ask God’s forgiveness. He forgives all my sins. Every time. 

1 John 1:9 (NIV)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

There is no limit to his forgiveness. He forgives us of things that we aren’t able to forgive ourselves for. Yes, even that one thing in your heart that no one knows about. Nothing surprises God. Nothing. You can’t shock Him. And yet, He loves us like children. We are never too far away to come home to Him.

We all remember the story of the Prodigal Son. A wealthy man had two sons. One son stayed home and worked with his father. Obeyed and honored him. The other son left his father and took his inheritance to start his own life away. He squandered it all on every sinful thing you can imagine. He soon found himself living with pigs, scrounging for food among them (have you ever found yourself living among pigs?? I have) He decided to go home and repent to his father and ask to be a slave for him. He didn’t expect to go home and be welcome, he expected to go home and work for his forgiveness.

When he returned he saw the forgiveness that only a father could offer.

Luke 15:20-32 picks up here… 

20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Isn’t that one of the most beautifully promising stories in the Bible? You can’t get far enough away from God that he won’t welcome you back with open arms! He celebrates our return to Him.

God doesn’t care where you’ve been. He forgives what you’ve done. He cleans you up, dusts you off and He loves you. God doesn’t want your money or good deeds. He wants your heart. He wants your trust. He wants your love. He wants your faith.

He wants a willing, repentant heart not a picture perfect appearance. 

Thank you for letting me share my imperfections here with you today. I hope you’ll realize that no matter how far away you are, you aren’t too far for God. One of my favorite songs says it best…

No matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless
No matter the hurt
Or how deep the wound is
No matter the pain
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless

Flawless. <3

 

06 Feb

Aren’t you afraid they won’t fit in?

fit in

You know the question I hear the most?

“Aren’t you afraid they won’t fit in?” 

What? Really?? Fit into what exactly? Drugs, alcohol, pregnancy, sexual promiscuity? Do I want them to think that everything is acceptable, regardless of how sinful it is just because they want to do it? Nope.

We live in a society that is broken. We have leaders who celebrate sin, laws that endorse sin, and citizens who are so lost that they don’t even know the difference any longer. Our schools are full of violence, both sexual and physical, and drugs. Our schools desensitize our children to the sinful nature of this world. At a very early age they learn that everything is acceptable. Our liberal school system is cranking out tiny liberal people who are going to continue to live the YOLO lifestyle for generations to come.

Not. My. Kids.

 

I want my kids to stand out.

We raise our kids to stand out, stand up and live for Christ. People assume homeschool families are hyper religious families who are raising little drones who only know how to spout scripture. That’s not the case in most families. Yes, we worship God together, yes, we memorize scripture but we also learn Math, Science, English, Spelling… we read books and we practice multiplication tables. We study this history of this great nation, or at least what it used to be. I show my boys daily how far this country has turned from God. I teach them that our country was founded on Christian morals and I teach them how to continue to live that Christian life in a country who no longer celebrates our Christian heritage.

Do I think I can educate my kids better than the teachers who have been hired to do the job? Of course not. I’m not homeschooling so that my children will be brilliant. I’m more concerned about them getting into Heaven than I am about them getting into college. Life on this earth is fleeting, a blip on the radar. I don’t need my kids to fit into this society so that they can feel accepted while they are here. I want my boys to live a Godly life on this earth, to raise a Godly family and one day spend eternity in the presence of Jesus Christ. That’s our end goal. Not a degree or a plaque on their wall, Not loads of money to spend on material things. Yes, I want them to be successful, I want them to have the things they need in this life, but I know that I have a God in Heaven who will ensure that their needs are met.

The picture I have for my kids is different than what society wants. I want them to grow up serving God and their communities. I want them to love everyone, not just the Godly, I want them to comfort the broken and show Christ to the masses. I want people to recognize that there is something different about them. Something that has nothing to do with their education and everything to do with their relationship with Christ. If my kids grow up to be Godly family men who love Christ and follow after His heart then I’ve done my job. I don’t need a doctor, a lawyer or a president. I need Christ centered people who know their purpose on this earth is far greater than the amount of money in their bank account.

I know that homeschooling isn’t for everyone. It’s an incredibly personal decision that isn’t made lightly. My husband and I are as secure in our decision to homeschool as you are in your decision not to. We have been called to walk this road. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it.

 

 

 

 

27 Jan

Dear Mom Who Quit Homeschooling,

dear mom

Dear Mom Who Quit Homeschooling,

Don’t feel guilty. Your sanity matters. Homeschooling children who don’t want to be homschooled is not for the faint of heart. Especially when you have other little ones to tend to. I know you put everything you have into your family, your efforts were not in vain. Your homeschool life was meant to be a season, God has bigger plans now, new doors to open. Be excited for the next chapter, not regretful for the last.

You’re not alone. We’ve all had days where we want to throw our kids onto any vehicle that even resembles the big yellow school bus! Being a homeschool mom is hard, I can’t imagine how you’ve done it this long with all of the commitments and responsibilities you have. You’ve grown a booming business, raised a beautiful, brilliant daughter, kept 2 tiny toddlers alive and still managed to school another child for 3 years. Bravo to you!! You’re a rock star!

You have our support. No one is looking down on you for leaving the homeschool mom clique… at least not from this house. And if any of them do let it go. Your friends will always support your decisions. We know you’re following after God’s heart for your family and we know you’re tired. You deserve to have some sanity back into your life. You’ll always be an honorary member of the Homeschool Mom Secret Society 🙂 You and your littles are welcome at all our events, all of our field trips and all of our momma coffee breaks!

Don’t think of this as giving up. You didn’t fail. You changed paths for your family. You care enough to let go of something you’ve put a lot of time and energy into for the sake of your family’s well being.  For the sake of your own sanity.

On Monday, when your child heads back to school, think of us all, busy and overwhelmed, as you sit drinking your coffee. No lesson plans to keep, no co-op to rush off to, no reading books to find, no papers to grade. And smile. Enjoy the quiet, and maybe say a little prayer for the rest of us.

 

God’s plan for our lives is ever changing. It’s imperative to stay in tune with His heart. To seek His will. Please don’t judge someone who’s not following what you believe God’s will is for your life. Instead, life them up and encourage them to follow God’s plan for their life. Even if it’s different than yours.

 

25 Jan

Our Homeschool Day

homeschool dayDepending on what day it is, I get up at either 5:30 or 6:00. 5:30 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and I’m in the gym by 5:50. 6:00 on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday… those days I run at home. Either way, by 7 a.m. I on my couch having coffee with my husband, and possibly Olivia depending on her own personal alarm clock. She’s a snuggler, so she curls up under a blanket with us and we drink coffee to Doc McStuffins or Sophia the First. Once she wakes up, my day really begins.

After coffee (sometimes during coffee if she’s feeling pushy) I make her breakfast, waffles and yogurt… every. single. day. The boys usually stumble down when they smell her breakfast and I get theirs going while they watch Wild Kratts or Ninja Turtles.

This time of the morning is a blur, making breakfast, pouring milk, packing John’s lunch, finding whatever he is missing for his work day… getting Olivia dressed for the day and trying to eat something for myself… Everything settles down when he leaves the house around 8:00.

I normally grab a shower while the kids eat breakfast, the boys watch Liv and put a cartoon on for her. I generally have about 10 minutes to shower and dress before she realizes I’m gone and starts hunting me. After my shower everyone gets dressed for the day. The boys have to make their beds and straighten their rooms up before school starts at 9.

I used to wake everyone up by 7 and start school promptly at 8, just like regular school, but I realized quickly that my sanity was worth the extra hour I allow us in the morning, so 9 is our new start time.

At 9 I start math with Kaden. Collin and Olivia play in her playroom downstairs. Once we’re done with math, we move on to English, then spelling… those are the only subjects he has that really require instructional time. We’re normally done with all of his teaching time by 10:30. Then the boys switch places.

at 10:30 we start math with Collin, then by about 11 we do his English, then spelling. It’s about lunch time by then so everyone grabs a break.

Around 11:45 the boys go outside and play while I make lunch. Olivia and I get to hang out while we fix lunch and the boys play. She likes helping me, and I enjoy the time with her.

Lunch is normally at 12 most days, and over by 12:30. Then the boys start their independent work. Collin has it pretty easy, he has a reading lesson and worksheet, history and he has to read 3 chapters of whatever book is currently reading. He also does a daily assignment on a website called xtramath.com, I love it. It drills his basic math facts into memory, and he loves seeing his progress. My perfectionist…

Kaden has the same independent work but also has to do extra math work from his lesson and his history lesson is an online lesson so it takes a bit more time.

Around 1:00 or 1:30 I put Olivia down for a nap. The boys are normally done with their work by 1:30 or 2:00 and then we all have free time. I curl up with a book and a cup of coffee and they tend to head upstairs to the loft to either watch tv or play Wii while Liv naps.

She’ll wake up around 3:00 and then we start getting the house in order for when John gets home. If the boys get done with their chores they can go out and play with friends. I take Liv outside and let her ride her scooter or just run in yard if its warm out.

I start dinner around 4:30, John’s home by 5:15 and we eat by 6… normally with a couple extra kids around the table.

We try to make evenings after dinner our family time, we watch a movie together, play a board game or just hang out… with coffee of course. Wednesday nights we have church and during baseball season, we will have ball games 2 nights per week. Once we get home, baths start, Olivia is in bed by 8:30, the boys by 9:00, as long as there isn’t a special sporting event on television, then their daddy tends to let them sit up.

That time when the kids are all in bed is the golden hour. We actually get to talk, most nights we read for a while too before we head to bed and start all over.

This is a typical Monday, Tuesdays we go to Co-Op from 9-12. The boys take guitar lessons there, as well as a history and music class. They’re also practicing for an upcoming play. Wednesdays we have Cross-Trainers from 8:30-10:00, it’s a local homeschool running group that we’re a part of. Thursdays we go to the Library from 10:00 – 10:30 for Preschool time with Olivia… the boys do their reading and independent work there to save them time.

Fridays we don’t do school. It’s our rest day. I catch up on housework, the boys make up anything they missed or slacked on throughout the week. We may go to the park, or to my parents house to spend some time with them. We stopped doing school on Fridays when I implemented a year round school calendar for us. At first the boys weren’t happy about the idea, however, once they saw the freedom it allowed us, they were all for it! We work 6 weeks, then take a week off all year long. During June and July, we only have to do school 3 days a week, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. School in the summer will be light , only Math, English and Reading. They’ll be done with the day before their friends wake up.

So that’s it, that’s our typical week. It gets a little hairy trying to coordinate all the obligations but it’s still so much better than rushing around every day of the week trying to get little people up and off to school.

15 Jan

I Am Not What You See

see

I’ve been struggling lately with my personal self esteem. My husband and I made a lifestyle change last year. We made a commitment to be healthier, to eat better and exercise more regularly. We started running, dieting, working out… My husband lost 20 pounds.

I gained 5.

I feel overwhelmed by the need to lose this 20 pounds that I have left over from my pregnancy with my 3-year-old. It seems as though it’s a lost cause. My friends who I talk to tell me not to worry about the number on the scale but isn’t that really the goal of losing weight? To actually lose weight? Every time I step on and see no change or change in the wrong direction I feel disgusted with myself. Why bother right? Why bother getting up at 6 am to run 3-4 miles 3 times a week? Why deprive myself from the treats that I want when depriving myself isn’t making a difference? It’s easy to eat healthy when you’re reaping the benefits of eating healthy. It stinks when you’re not.

My husband has had to have all of his pants taken up, he’s lost 2 sizes in his pants. Mine are tighter than they were last year. Every time he tells me that he has to get new shorts because his are just “hanging off of him” I want to punch him in the throat. I love him dearly, obviously. 🙂 He’s successful, I’m proud of him. He does try to help me, telling me the things that I “just need to change” but I’ve given up in my heart. I have dreams of being my old self, fitting into my old dresses, wearing a bathing suit without feeling self conscious. I set goals, “ten pounds by Christmas” turned into “ten pounds by Valentine’s Day” which I’m sure will be “ten pounds by Easter” soon enough.

After the boys were born I lost the weight quickly. Easily. I could skip a meal and lose 5 pounds. That spoiled me. I was pregnant with them in my early to mid-twenties. Having a third child in your mid-thirties changes things. It’s a different ball game. My body seems to have just said “ha ha fatty, you’re stuck with me!” I sometimes call Liv my little muffin top because that’s what she gave me 🙂

easy

My devotion yesterday got me thinking about all of this. It was entitled “You are Not What They See” It reminded me that God doesn’t care what my body looks like. He looks at my heart to see my beauty. It also told me that the reason I feel the way that I do about my appearance is because the world’s view places so much emphasis on our physical appearance just to hide the fact that there is so much sin in our hearts. You have to make a choice about beauty. You can choose to invest in the purity of your heart and thoughts or you can invest in making your outward appearance beautiful. I don’t mean that you can’t have some level of both, there are a lot of gorgeous Christian women out there… they just both take a great deal of mental energy. How often do you think about your looks? How often do you think about the state of your heart and spirit? Do you wonder what people think of you when you’re out? Or do you wonder what God thinks of your heart? We are not what we see. Our hearts are eternal, our flesh is not. One day this body that is giving me fits will be a thing of the past and I’ll be basking in the light of Jesus wondering why on Earth I spent so much time worrying about it.

Anyway, this post has no purpose except to allow me to be me. Maybe some of you have the same feelings about yourself, maybe you don’t. I’ve said many times that this blog is meant to be my heart, and right now this really is.

 

30 Dec

My Kids Weren’t Grateful for Christmas

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The theme of our Christmas break has been gratitude. Not because my kids are so perfect and appreciative… no, it’s because I can see greed and entitlement creeping into their little hearts. I want to remove that like the cancer that it is. It’s our own fault. We’ve given them everything they have ever wanted. We take them on special trips, camping, baseball games, amusement parks… all things we wanted to do as kids but didn’t. My husband comes from a family who didn’t have the means to do special things when he was young and I see him reliving his childhood through our boys. He’s an amazing dad. I am so blessed that he would rather be with myself and our kids than anywhere else in this world. That being said, special has become normal to our children.
I started to notice it right after Thanksgiving. Our oldest son started making Christmas list after Christmas list. It just kept getting longer. He would sit on the computer and look for things to get. He obsessed about it. Talking about nothing other than Disney infinity characters and toys. I pointed it out several times, gently at first. Just letting him know he was over doing it a bit. Then I got a tad nasty… “Have you asked me what I wanted for Christmas? Have you put any thought into what you’d like to give?” He always softened, “I’m sorry mom. I’m just so excited!” I get that. Being a kid on Christmas is a phrase we use anytime we’re over the moon excited about something. There’s a reason for that. Still, I want gratitude oozing from these little hearts.

We always over do Christmas. Every year we say we’re going to keep it simple. We never do. This year was no different. The boys got a ping pong table, new running shoes, jersies from their favorite players. Scooters, and countless other gifts. Top that off with my parents buying them a Wii U (which I totally agreed to) and you have a recipe for greed.

It all came to a head on Christmas night. I won’t go into specifics but something happened that made it crystal clear that our kids, at least one of them, wasn’t able to handle a big Christmas. I reacted. We both did… we told them that from now on they’d only get four presents for Christmas. Period. Their years of BIG Christmases were over. They cried. Our oldest felt guilt, our youngest was counting on Santa to right the wrong we were clearly imposing on them. He sat, calm and collected… and asked “This four present thing… we telling Santa about that?” He had to know… a resounding “YES!!” came back to him… “Good to know Dad, good to know”

After a few minutes of yelling and anger, we sent them to their rooms. Then we looked at each other. After a few seconds John says “You know we completely over reacted right?”

Yep. We canceled Christmas for the rest of their lives. We found ourselves laughing at our impulsive punishment. We acted out of emotion, not out of reason. We devised a plan and headed upstairs. We didn’t tell them that Christmas wasn’t cancelled. We want them to stew on that for a while. What we did do was implement Gratitude journals into our homeschool routine. For all of us, well, at least the ones who can read and write.

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Every day we will all sit down and write something we are thankful for. It can be something someone gave us or something someone did to serve us. Then once a week, we’ll read our journals to each other and talk about how the tiny acts of kindness made us feel. The hope is that they’ll see that the appreciation other people feel for the things they do is better than getting something for themselves. We want to foster an attitude of giving, serving and gratitude in our children. It’s not there naturally, for most kids at least. We’re selfish beings, we really are. We need Jesus on a daily basis to keep us thankful. It’s easy for an adult to be greedy, how much easier is it for a child?

Here’s to hoping a few spiral notebooks and a Friday pizza night family meeting will help develop a love of serving in our kids. So far they are enjoying writing in their books. They’re thankful for gifts they received, I’m hoping they’ll start to notice and be grateful for acts of kindness, not just gifts here soon enough.

So, that was the lesson we learned this Christmas, first for John and I, now our kiddos. There is such a fine line of wanting to give your children the childhood you want them to have and breeding entitlement in their young, impressionable hearts. We want the memories of big smiling faces on Christmas morning. Of camping and baseball games, special trips to special places, but when does it become too much. When they stop appreciating the things we do. When they stop thinking of ways to serve others and start thinking of ways for them to be served themselves. I think we caught it early. I’m sure their tender hearts can be softened and molded back into the servant leaders we’re trying to raise. Thank God there’s a learning curve for all of us and that we have the perfect example of Jesus Christ to follow. We don’t get it right 100% of the time but Jesus does. His grace covers our mistakes. These children are His, not mine. One day they have to live in our world and either be givers or takers. I am praying and striving to make them givers.

 

Thanks for listening and have a blessed day!

 

Nicki