This is not a test…..or is it?

This year 2019 has certainly come in like whirl wind as our family and home endured trials and challenges from about every direction possible. With everything we are facing time is just flying by…And just like that March is almost over….

One of verses I have been studying for this month has been James 1:3.

testing= challenging, requiring considerable effort

Steadfastness=form in brief, adherence, not subject to change, constant

So I can have comfort and peace in knowing that all of these trials we are being challenged and tested by are perfecting me and will help me to be firm and constant in my faith.

So in our whirl wind of tests, trials and challenges that 2019 is bringing to us we will count it all joy.

Staying strong in our faith, staying in God’s word, fervent in prayer.  Blessed in our trials as we are perfected into steadfastness in our faith.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:7-12‬ ‭

Link

Heavy duty stuff

Lessons from Sunday school the few past couple of weeks keeps jumping through my mind. Over and over and over….the words and lessons speaking to my heart mind and soul. Words that are hard to hear but must be absorbed. Things that need to be heard again. And again. And again…..  Reminders to push and direct me. To keep me going forward on the narrow path and not sliding backwards downhill in spiritual cruise control as so well said by our pastor during the sermon this past weekend!

—> ARE YOU TRUSTING THE LORD THE WAY HE CALLS US TO???        I’m not, I am guilty of anxiety and worry….

—> WHEN YOU WAKE IN THE MORNING WHAT IS YOUR FIRST THOUGHT? Is it focused on the Lord?…     mine isn’t its normal grumbling about being tired and not wanting to get up and start another busy day

Beware!

‘Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning’ Luke 12:35. ‘And he said to them “take care and be in your guard against all covetousness for ones life does not consist of the abundance of his possessions’. Luke 12:15

I need to remain in prayer and study of God’s word to be able to beware and prepared for the trials of this world.  The days/weeks I am more obedient with this there is a noticeable difference.  There are so many idols in our lives that it is easy to slip into not making this a habit and a priority in my routine.

Have no fear!

“”I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” Luke‬ 12:4-5

To truly trust the Lord and live fearlessly in Him, I need to be with Him, I cannot do this if I am not studying His word, meditating and learning His word and alive in my prayer life with Him.

Do not worry, do not be anxious!

And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭12:22-26‬

Who am I to question God and His plan with my worry and anxious heart???  But yet I do.  This is truly my greatest struggle and something I am actively working towards.  In the heat of the moment when fear hits the ceiling and physically overpowered by anxiety is when it is most challenging, again I need to continue to improve in my bible study and prayers to move closer to the Lord and farther from living with constant anxiety.

Be ready!

“”Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”” Luke‬ ‭12:35-36, 40‬

I need to be ready with God’s words constantly in my mind and heart.  I need to be on constant and frequent fellowship with Christ to stay ready, if His word is in my heart and mind then that is what will come out.  If sinful and evil is allowed to be entertained in my mind and heart then that is what will come out.  We must stay in God’s word and know it so intimately that we can distinguish false teaching.    Application of scripture in life may change but the truth of it will remain the same.

Christ must come first!

“”And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” Luke‬ ‭12:8-10‬

I need to rest in the Holy Spirit, putting Christ above all else, first in and above all things in this world and the Holy spirit will be there leading me, convicting me when needed, and preparing me for His return one day.

I am so very thankful for God’s truth, for God’s mercy and grace upon me and my life.  I am so thankful to be in this Sunday school class where I am being challenged, spiritually fed and convicted.  I am so thankful for my salvation in Christ. My heart is so happy to be moving forward in my walk, learning and growing along side sisters and brothers in Christ.  I am so VERY THANKFUL for HEAVY DUTY STUFF to be laid on my mind and heart on Sunday mornings ❤

In response to our growing family we at times get some quite unfiltered responses and questions.

1) YES -we do know where babies come from and how they are made! My husband and I are fully aware of how babies are conceived.

2)No, our television is not broke, we have several operating televisions in our home.  (not joking I have been asked this)

3) Nope, my husband and I are not unintelligent or careless or crazy… we are truly blessed with having children.  ( I have been asked this too, if my husband and I are ‘slow’).

4)Yes! It’s another baby boy 💙💙💙, we have 5 boys and one girl and we are very happy to know we are having a healthy baby boy. While there would have been some perks to adding another girl to our family God had us equipped for boys!

5) Benjamin David Fincher is the name we have selected for our sweet baby boy. He is due June 4th but we anticipate he will make a May arrival.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:28‬ ‭

“Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him.” Psalm‬ ‭127:3‬

Parenting success for 2017!

Towards the end of 2016 my husband and I spent some time discussing and reviewing the amount of time our children were spending on screen time.

Overall we have maintained boundaries around their screen time that we firmly believe in.  With simples things like these…

-No electronics after 8pm.

-No phones or electronics in their bedrooms they must be used downstairs out in the open.

-No using phones or electronics on the morning on the way to school.

However even with our boundaries in place we were feeling that with all time they were spending with these devices they could be putting a little more into reading. (Ok so they could be putting A LOT more into reading 🤦🏼‍♀️)

Tyler Emily Joshua Richard

None of our older thee children, Joshua 14, Tyler 12 and Emily 12 are super avid readers.  They each have gone through phases when they read for pleasure here and there but overall it is not their favorite leisure activity to do.  They have the same habit their parents have to pick out lots of books and start many but finish few books.  So we explored some ways we could help get them reading more regularly some really great books.

We discussed all the different ways we could come up with and implement an enforced reading plan. This is the simple plan that we came up with for each one of our older three children for 2017.

An ENFORCED READING CHALLEGE each child will be;

-Assigned and required to read one book that was chosen by a parent each month.

-After completing their book they were required to answer some simple questions about the book in writing, I had some worksheets I made for them.

-Required to keep a log of the books they read and how many pages were in each book.

To try and make things fun and a little competitive we put a challenge on it.  We told them they could read above what we assigned with parent approved books and the child who read the most books would win a prize and the child who read the most pages would win a prize.  Of course our reading choices were carefully selected to make sure they were reading good books.  This was done on top of what assigned reading they had in school and reading they wanted to do on their own.

At first they grumbled and complained…but they did it.  We were mean parents but our children were reading some great books!

It seemed after a few months in they were even starting to enjoy some of the books.  Some of the books were faith based, some were nonfiction, some were fiction.  We even through in some of the books we had to read as a child like ‘Where the red fern grows.’  Some of the months they were challenged more than others.  Emily did note on several occasions she felt this reading at home was helping her at school with her reading comprehension.  Hopefully it helped the other two as well!

Of course this meant work on our part as parents, following through with it.  Taking the time to select books each month and keep up with them and make sure they were actually reading.  We did let the month of September go by as a free month as they got back into school routine that month.

We sat down one night last week at dinner and pulled out all their reading logs and the questions they answered on the books they read over 2017.  Talked about their favorite books and least favorite.  Added up totals to find the winners of the most read and the most pages read.  Talked about what a successful year of reading they had and how awesome they felt for accomplishing this challenge.  And then came the reward…my husband and I told them that since they did such a great job we would find a weekend before the end of winter and take just the three of them to Great Wolf Lodge for some play and fun!  This is a huge treat for them and they are super excited and looking forward to this.  Our 6 year old who was not part of 2017 reading sat in on our reading discussion and got to see what all the fuss was about.  He will be jumping into our new and improved 2018 ENFORCED READING CHALLENGE.  Now he is excited too!

And of course the OCD nature in me has neatly filed away all the reading logs and questions so next year we can pull them out and compare and see how they have grown in their reading and writing.

We are super pleased with the way this reading challenge progressed however we have learned along the way and have made some adjustments to our plan as we take on 2018.

—–>First: we are adding a book of the bible to be assigned each month as well as their assigned book.  January they are reading 1Timothy.  We the parents of course will be reading the books of the bible as well.  Last year I did read some of the books before giving them to the kids to make sure they would be appropriate and beneficial.

—->Second:  Richard is joining the reading challenge this year so since he is an early reader as a 1st grader he will have some help especially the first few months as he gets the hang of this and his comprehension questions are scaled down to his level.

—->Last: When the 1st of the month rolls around if their reading from the prior month is not done they will lose all electronics and phones until it is complete.  I think after once or twice this will help encourage them to be more aware of having their reading and questions done on time which was a challenge last year we saw.   Hopefully this year they can be completing each month without being reminded.

As in most parenting moments this has been a learning experience for us this past year as well.  As a result I myself have increased the number of books I read and have been reading a wider variety—->Mom win!!!

I know felt super accomplished that we followed through and stuck this out even through all the grumbling and complaining. Even when it was extra work to keep up with during busier seasons.

I do believe the kids and the parents in our home are pleased with the outcome of this 2017 ENFORCED READING CHALLENGE.

Sometimes the parenting successes feel few and far between but this was a big success for us and I am excited to see how the children and parents in our home grow with our 2018 reading!

PS——>We are open to books suggestions for 2018!

Uncharted years ahead

My husband and I are entering a new season of parenting, our oldest is 14 going on 15 years old and in his first year of high school.  Over the next several years we will have several other children that will be following into their teenage and high school years.  I do not know that there is any way we can adequately be prepared for what this season in our parenting journey may bring us.  It almost feels like we just need to be braced and ready for the impact of what is next.  Oh Lord help us!
While my emotions and thoughts drive me stray with worry and anxiety.  My mind knows that what we need to do is to stay in constant and unceasing prayer.

‘pray without ceasing’ 1Thessalonians 5:17

However my struggle is really to learn to let go completely.  For so many years through child hood you have such a huge impact on what and who your children are exposed to but these teen years they are becoming young adults and need to learn to make their own choices.  To stand back and allow them to make their own choices even when I know they may fall is possibly the most challenging parenting role I have yet encountered.  My biggest fear is for our children to make the same mistakes that I have made, it hurts my heart to think of them having to experience what I had to go through to get to where I am today and it is my biggest desire to protect them from that.  The big bad mean momma bear in me wants to come out and keep protecting them.  I need to turn mama bear protection directly to prayer and not allow this fear into trying to control their actions and choices.

I have read dozens of christian parenting ‘how to’ books and I will have a fleeting wish for a more specific step by step instruction manual in how to raise our children and then remind myself we have one, God’s word, the Bible is where we need to be turning and studying and teaching our children from.


The most powerful tool we have as parents that we can do is to pray for them, constantly and without end.  We need to continue to love them, support them and equip them to make these big life changing decisions on their own.  If they make poor choices and fail then they will have to learn from their own mistakes, every child is different and going to learn things in their own way.    It really does not matter what are children do with the future careers, family, education as long as they are followers of Christ and find true salivation, God will take care of everything else.

Don’t get me wrong this is not an open ended, our teenagers get to make all their own choices and sink or swim.  Of course we will maintain some rules and boundaries but it is during this time that they need to learn to make choices and to be responsible members of our society and be accountable for their actions. We as parents need to equip them and allow them to make more and more decisions and then hold them accountable and responsible.

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.”  Colossians‬ ‭1:3-6

As parents we are human, we are sinful and we will make mistakes.   Lots and lots of mistakes.  It is my natural tendency to beat myself up over my mistakes, especially when it comes to parenting.  But this does not help and something I am working on and praying over.  To accept the mistake and learn from it and move on.  Oh boy, so much easier to say that than to actually do it!

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”  Ephesians‬ ‭6:4‬ ‭

14 years old and in high school and now the decisions they are making could and will impact the rest of their lives!  And these are the decisions we need to equip them and prepare them to make.  But most importantly we need to be praying they are following God’s will through all this.  Let go and allow God to takeover these uncharted teenage years we are diving into.  

Our oldest and I before his 1st homecoming dance!

Be still my heart ❤️

Cross country…. passion for running

Organizing successes & wins for our super size family.

Keeping a home with our family of 8 (plus a grandmother) running comes with its fair share of challenges.   So as we are about to take on another busy school year I will share some of the organization successes and wins that we have experienced over the last few years.

 

 

The color system, this is something my mom did with me and my brothers growing up and has been a huge success with our crew. Each child has a color, this goes for theirs cups, tooth brushes, towels, anything that can be done in their color.  It helps the kids to know what is theirs and makes it much easier for us to keep track of many daily items.

Joshua is green, Tyler is blue, Emily is pink or purple (since she is the only girl this works), Noah is yellow, Richard is red and Nathaniel is orange.

 

LOCKERS IN THE GARAGE

Lockers in the garage have been amazing. We started off with the white plywood ones from Lowes but these did not last and were very expensive, so last year we found some metal lockers at Ollie’s and they are fabulous.  The kids have a place to keep their shoes, book bags, coats, sporting supplies and anything else they want.  They were allowed to personalize their lockers with stickers.  I cannot imagine the chaos we would have if they did not have this space to put their belongings.

These kids would be lost without these!

 

 

CUBBIES DOWNSTAIRS FOR ELECTRONICS

 

Cubbies downstairs, these functioned for a while.  We are actually in the process of phasing these out and taking on a room swap that is turning out to be a complete disaster!  The cubbies are downs stairs and the kids rooms are upstairs so instead of using this for storage of books or things they would be using daily it has become a catch all for things they do not feel like bringing to their room.  The big idea with these was a charging station and storage for their electronic devices.  We stand firm in no phones, tablets or electronics are to be brought upstairs.  These devices are limited in use and must be used in the main spaces downstairs where everyone is.  So while we are going to get rid of the cubbies my husband will make a small shelve with 6 slots to use strictly for a charging station so their devices remain downstairs.


 

WEEKLY FAMILY CALENDAR

 

Weekly calendar- we have been using this for a while now, I think I started this about a year ago actually.   This is awesome!  There is a row for ‘family’ for our family activities and events and then each person has their row.  I update this every Saturday and then everyone can see what the week will bring.  I used dry erase boards and put post it notes, I tried just writing in the squares with dry erase marker but that did not work very well.  The kids have really come to rely on this being there.  Next to the weekly calendar we have a plastic tray and in the tray if a folder for each member of the family.  This is used for kids to put papers in that need to be signed, trying to avoid being handed 15 different things the moment we walk in the door.  And then once the paper for school or whatever it may be is signed, we will put it in the child’s folder and it is their responsibility to check and get it out.


I also keep an update monthly calendar for the kids on the fridge. (MorMor uses this one too:)

 

 

MENU PLANNING

Menu plan- This is a must. We have used this for years, or the most part we stay consistent with using this. Not quite as good at using the menu planning over the summer while we are so off routine. On the weekend my husband and I will meal plan and then grocery shop based off of the meal plan. It is a piece of paper in a frame and I write in dry erase marker. The kids love being able to look and see what meals are what nights seem to love knowing this information. It is amusing when at times we do not have what is written on the menu, oh the looks of shock on their faces!

And yet they still ask almost daily…’what’s for dinner?’ 🤔

 

BATHTUB SOLUTION

 

Another thing that has worked well for the older children is shower caddies.  We have tried any things trying to minimize the chaos of bath products and sponges in the shared bathroom.  Especially keeping them out of each others things.  So we have gotten them each a plastic shower caddy to keep their shower supplies and they bring this to the bathroom with them when they go to shower.  No clutter in the tub and fighting over who touched who’s things!  Definitely a WIN 🙂

They will be ready for dorm life 😉

 

 BUSY MAMA—-> JOURNALING SOLUTION

 

This last organizational success is not used by my family directly but by me for keeping our family organized. This has truly been a game changer for me. I used to struggle with journal confusion and my husband would even tease me frequently because I was constantly getting a new notebook to try something different. I had a prayer journal and I would have a journal for taking sermon notes, I had my electronic and paper calendar and planner along with some form of running to do lists. At times it felt like I was trying to juggle six different notebooks. Juggling so many notebooks was complicated and caused more confusion than helping keep me organized.  About two years ago the bullet journal concept was all over the internet and that caught my attention. After doing some exploring and ‘pintresting’ thus began my journey and evolving of building my own organizational system that has worked so well for me.

I started with one notebook. I had ongoing prayers and running lists in the back. A yearly calendar in the front. And the after the yearly calendar I would do my months, weeks and days, sermon notes and daily prayers as I went. It was awesome! To have everything condensed into one flowing journal. I fine tuned this system and fell in love with the Leuchtturm1917 leather bound notebook. This was by far the best journal I found. I loved it so much and used it so consistently I started filling up one journal every 3 months! So having to change journals so frequently was becoming a chore because I would need to transfer my yearly information into each new journal to continue with my system that was working so well.

 

So several weeks ago I transitioned and transformed to a similar and updated version of what I was already using. I bought a 3 pack of the small moleskin notebooks and made a slipcover for them out of fabric.  There are elastic bands holding the 3 notebooks in place like binding in a book.  I attached ribbons in the moleskins to use as place holders.  I made a pocket in the front pocket for pens and then another pocket for post it notes and little papers I am needing to keep with or hang onto.  (I always keep a thank you card with me, just in case I need it).

      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first notebook I use for my weekly/daily.  I have a list of tasks and events for the week, our meal plan, prayer requests from our loved ones, friends and church family, and a weekly verse to study/memorize.  Then I keep a page for each day with tasks/events, I log my miles, write out a daily prayer, keep track of my ‘wins’ for the day to help focus on the positives and write out the daily verse.  I keep two pages a week for writing out the prayers that I have written down prayer request for, writing them out helps keep me on track with actually praying over these requests.   I also like to tape and save any movie stubs or little momentoes I want to save as well. This is the notebook that will be replaced every few months, it fills up quick!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second notebook is my yearly book, it is my constant.  I have my yearly tasks and goals, keep track of the books I have read, I have an ongoing list of things we have bought for Christmas gifts as well as ideas for Christmas gifts,  a list of all my log in and password information, basically anything I don’t want to forget gets written down.  I have a page with tasks/goals things to remember for each month and a monthly calendar. Each month is tabbed with tape.  I still keep my online calendar up-to-date, this is something that my husband and I use together.  However I still prefer to have a paper calendar to be able to write on so I keep a written one in my yearly book and up date as needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The third notebook is my prayer journal.  This is where I can keep my written prayers, for my husband, marriage, children, country, church and for Landy our compassion child.  I have this organized by sections so I can keep track of the prayers.  I love written prayers, I love being able to look back to weeks, months, years ago and see where my heart was and the ways that God has answered prayers and brought me to where I am today.  God s good ALL the time!

The adventures of PAC time

My husband and I from the beginning of our marriage and blended family becoming one have made it a point to be sure the children were able to have some one on one time with each of us.  There was no rhyme or reason to how we did this we would just kind of on a whim one of us would take one of the kids out for a meal or movie or something special that provided our undivided attention.  While this was good we felt like we could be doing better, more focused and intentional on making this special parent and child time a priority.

So we came up with PAC time, Parent Child Time.  At first I tried using ‘Power Hour’ but this was not well received and the name was changed right away.  Apparently the boys and girls club has power hour for getting homework done.  

‘They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing.’ Psalm 37:26

This is a set schedule we have, my PAC time is Tuesday evening after dinner and Matt’s is Thursday evening after dinner.  We have an ongoing rotation with the kids so they each have some intentional one on one time.  We rotate the kids through in a way that if one child is with me for their PAC time the next time it’s their turn it will be with Matt.  

‘Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.’ Psalm 127:3

We do various things during our PAC times.  However they typically involve some form of sweet for dessert 🙂
-milkshakes and Yahtzee at cookout

-sweet drink and playing cards at Starbucks

-peeps from dollar tree and putting together a puzzle

-sneaking off to new port news to indulge in warm Krispy Kreme donuts

-sweet frog and Walmart

-milkshake in the car while watching the light show outside Franktronics 

– dessert at cookout and working on bible study for community group 

These are a few of the fun times we have had and look forward to many more.

We have made this parent child time a priority. I think this is important for the kids to feel like we value our time with them and sacrificing this time each week with them is a reflection of this priority. Now there has been an occasional event scheduled on one of PAC time evenings so in that case we adjust and do the PAC time another night that same week. PAC time is not taken away as a punishment, it is a constant and not conditional.


The kids were a little skeptical of this whole PAC time idea at first.  I think they waited for it to fall off as a temporary phase.  But we are holding strong and have stuck with this for nearly 6 months now with every intention to keep this up.  The kids have really come to look forward to this time.  They save some important questions and topics to bring up and discuss during this time.  They get excited and very much look forward to this time.  It essentially breaks down to each of the kids getting PAC time twice a month.  Even Richard who is five has really gotten excited about this, last week the first thing he said Thursday morning was” “yes PAC time tonight with Matt!.”  


Now this I not always an easy task to accomplish each week.  After a long day of getting everyone out of the door by 7am, a full workday, time at the gym or free clinic hours, dinner prep, baths and clean up it is next to impossible to muster up the extra energy to sneak out of the house with a child at 8pm and being deliberate and focused on them.  But we do it, we with the Lord’s strength pull ourselves together and make this very purposeful and meaningful time with our children a priority.  There have been evenings when it is next to impossible and painful to go back out in the cold, but in the end we are always very thankful we did.  

‘Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.’ 1John 3:18

While we know that they truly enjoy this time now my prayer is that one day when they look back and reflect on their childhood they truly appreciate this.   That this will be one of the things they remember well.  That the time, energy and love we are pouring into these precious hours will have lasting impact on their tender hearts growing spirits.  

‘Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of he Lord.’ Psalm 34:11

As we continue with our adventures of PAC time there are some minor ways we can expand on this purposeful time we are dedicating to our children.  We can infuse more prayer and devotional time reflecting on and studying God’s word while we are enjoying our sweets and our time together.  We do incorporate this on a smaller level but as I reflect on this time well spent I can see there is great potentional to expand on this and making and even more eternally lasting impression on our children’s minds hearts and souls through this time when we have their undivided focus and attention.  We have successfully established this intentional time with our children we will continue with this and utilize this valuable time to teach God’s word, law and love through our PAC time.  

Blended—> Challenging & Beautiful 

Our large and lively family is what is considered to be ‘blended’.  This means our family is not the traditional family, my husband and I both have been married before and have had children with our ex-spouse.  Before God led us into each other’s lives my husband and I both went through devastating trials as we lost our previous marriages to choices and circumstances beyond our control that left us both faced with the adventure of single parenthood.

Prior to meeting each other during the months we survived being a single parent we each went through our own transformation period, on our knees opening our hearts in complete surrender to Christ.  One of the most traumatic and challenging times in my life led me to a point that my eyes and my heart were opened, I was delivered from despair as I came alive spiritually and found new hope for life.  God gave me strength and carried me through every day, every challenge and every trial I was forced to face.  I prayed each and every night to let it be God’s will for me to meet someone, I prayed specific details on the man I desired to be led to, and less than a year later God answered my prayers.

Psalm 102:1. —–Hear my prayer, Lord, let my cry for help come to you.

Psalm 143:1 ——Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.


Our faithful and wonderful God brought Matt and I together. We quickly connected as followers of Christ and grew as friends and after dating for about a year we entered the covenant of marriage united in Christ.


We both were very aware that there would be some trials and challenges along the way as we entered into our marriage and beginning our beautiful blended family.  We did not do this blindly, we kept God at the center of it all and let Him lead us.  Together we did do quite a bit of research and reading of Christian authors who had been down the same path before.  We went through premarital counseling and guidance with our pastor.  We were bravely prepared as we began this journey over two years ago.  We had ultimate faith in the Lord that He would be there with us and guide us every step of the way.  God is so good and so faithful, He has been with us every step of the way.  Our marriage and blending our family has truly been our greatest blessing.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

‭‭1 Chronicles‬ ‭16:34‬ ‭

I feel like there are some misconceptions or stereotypes surrounding the ‘blended family’.  Today’s society now has more blended families than traditional or intact families.   The most recent statistics show that more than 50% of families are in situations where parents are remarried or recoupled.  With such an increasing population of blended families it would be great if there were more resources available to help these families learn, grow and thrive especially in Christian homes.  Our church has embraced and accepted us with open arms, but unfortunately I think a lot of churches are not very loving and accepting of blended families or single parents.  This is very sad because it is the children and parents in these situations that desperately need the love and support of the church.  Thankfully these stereotypes mean nothing to the One who matters, in God’s loving eyes there is nothing second-rate about a blended family.

It has not been an easy or effortless transition, we have had some challenges through this and still continue to have challenges.  Some days are much more trying than others, but all of the good moments by far outweighs the struggles.  Family and parenting challenges are not exclusive to blended families, intact and traditional families are also faced with many challenges.  However there is a different dynamic and unique element to challenges seen in blended families.  My husband and I have learned many things over the last two years, we have made several mistakes along the way.  We are not perfect but we have a perfect Savior to carry us along the way.  We have learned from our mistakes, praying constantly for wisdom courage and strength.

Here are a few of our lessons learned from our experiences of blending our family into one under Christ:

—Love is a choice.  Loving your biological children comes naturally but you must choose to love your stepchildren.  Love unconditionally as Christ loves us.

—Family mealtimes are golden moments of bonding, we love when we are able to have a meal with all of us at the table.  We try and make this a priority, not possible daily during our busy school year but we typically pull it off a few times a week, dinner during the week, lunch or breakfast on the weekends.  Getting 6 kids and 2 adults to sit still at the same time for an extended period can be challenge to say the least!

—Church as a family is a priority, not an option in our house, it’s expected that we will be at Sunday school, Sunday service and youth activities weekly.  No matter what’s going on with our house or family church is a constant.  

—Adults get divorced, kids don’t.  A child still needs the positive involvement and contact with their biological parent that they don’t live with.  We cannot force their other parents to fulfill this role appropriately however we can be there to support and help our children with their relationship with their other parent.  It is vital that we never speak disparagingly about their other parent in front of the kids.  This only hurts the kids and cannot be undone.  This is one are that Matt and I have done very well with, we have refrained from speaking badly of any of their other biological parents in from of them.  This area can be quite challenging, while you don’t want to speak badly of their other parent you cannot lie or withhold certain truths.  For example if a parent fails to show up or follow through with a promise it is not ok to lie and make excuses for them.  Finding the line of not speaking badly but being honest can be very very hard.  Overall we have done well with this and will continue leaning on God to guide us in this area.  We will work to support our children to continue their relationship with their other parents.

—Holidays, weekends and summer vacations will be forever changed, better just to accept this reality of custody and visitation schedules and be flexible and be as positive as possible, especially for the kids, unfortunately the little ones involved are the ones who get hurt and impacted by the complications involved with visitation schedules.  My husband and I put a lot of effort into protecting the kids from the adult pieces of this but we cannot control what happens outside of our home and we have learned to efficiently handle damage control when needed.  We have failed in maintaining joyful and positive attitudes at times but we have learned a lot and have moved on to be best example and support we can for our children.  They look first to us so we must handle conflict and complications with grace and patience.  Lord give us strength!

—As parents my husband and I have no power or control of what happens outside of our home, particularly in the home of the other parents.  However at times what happens in the other home directly impacts our home and family.  It is hard and at times impossible to accept the powerlessness of watching your child be hurt, disappointed, emotionally neglected and spiritually attacked in the other parents home.  We can do nothing to stop, prevent or change this, we have to release control and trust God in these difficult and heartbreaking circumstances.  This has been by far one of the biggest challenges for me as a mother to accept and learn to endure.  It has been a slow learning process for me, I have been stubborn (yes Matt I am admitting to being stubborn;), angry, had an unchristian like attitude, and this has made this process for me painfully long, I have been kicking and fighting this area that God has been working on me.  I’m still not where I should be but have come along way and continue making progress.  As parents we need to let go of not being able to protect our kids when they are with their other parents , we cannot bubble wrap their heart from feeling rejection and hurt and  we are unable to cover their eyes, ears and hearts from being exposed to ungodly and evil things of this fallen world.  Thankfully what we can do is so much more POWERFUL!!!!  We release them to God and rise up in PRAYER.  It has been an excruciating process for me to get this but I am still learning and will continue improving in this area, thank You Lord for being patient with me.

‘Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil, cling to what is good.’ Romans 12:9


Blending a family takes time, it does not happen easily, without hard work, without love or overnight.  It is essential to keep Christ at the center of it all.  He will give us what we need and He will not let us down.  When your marriage and family stay God centered amazing things happen.  He is good and faithful and He loves us.  He has called us to love one another as Christ loves us.  Praise and glory to God!!


“Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God.”  Romans‬ ‭15:17‬ 

Remembering Queen G

Last week while driving through the peaceful countryside of Mathews County I spotted a beautiful Blue Heron hanging out on the side of the road.  Everytime a bird catches my attention especially one I can identify my mind wanders and reflects treasured memories of my grandmother and grandfather.  It was during very special time with my grandparents that they taught me to identify and appreciate birds.

“She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.”  Proverbs‬ ‭31:26‬ ‭

Hazel, mom, grandma, gamla, known by many different names but she was one very remarkable and wonderful woman.  She certainly was Queen of our little family and we all loved and treasured her dearly.  Very sadly my grandmother passed away just over a month ago, I am taking a few moments to reflect, reminisce and honor this very special woman today.  There is nothing that can be said or done to make losing a loved one any easier or less painful but I do take great comfort in knowing my grandmother loved the Lord and has been called Home to be with Him in paradise and has been reunited with our beloved grandfather.  

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”  ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭31:30‬ ‭

 

I would not be who I am today without my grandmother.   She lived a full, wonderful and long life, she was 91 years old when God called her home. She did experience heartbreak and tragedy in her life that no one should ever have to experience however she never let circumstances dictate or define her.    My grandfather was her highschool sweetheart and they were faithfully and happily married for over 60 years and she had to say goodbye and bury him a few years ago.   My grandmother faced challenges of fulfilling the role of working mother of 4 children, one of the first in her time to brave this the task of being a working mother.  When we lost my Uncle John a few years after we lost my grandfather she had to experience the pain of burying her youngest child.  Yet she always stood strong and was quite determined, some may even go as far as to call her stubborn. (Which my husband would tell you is something I inherited from her 😉

   
I truly am blessed for having such an amazing grandmother.  She helped me become who I am today in so many ways. I have always looked up to her and will always treasure my memories of her.  I will continue to be reminded of her and my grandfather in little parts of everyday life.  I will continue to talk about my grandparents and show and display their photos and keep their memories alive in my children as well.  

 

What an amazing testimony my grandmother left behind, the last words she spoke were to my brother before she went to sleep, she said “God has been good to me”.  She went to sleep and never woke up.  So peaceful and without suffering she left this world and into the arms of Our Heavenly Father, in her last moments she gave glory to God.  Everytime I think about how AWESOME this is I am so humbled and inspired.  

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  ‭‭John‬ ‭3:16‬ 

 

“Thank You Lord for blessing me with such an amazing grandmother.  I am so thankful to have had her as part of my life, blessed by her love and influence in my life.  My family and my heart are hurting as we feel the loss of this incredible woman we loved and cherished so much.  Please cover my family in healing and comfort during this time grieving. Amen.”

Weeds are evil.

  
Earlier this week I spent hours in our small vegetable garden on the side or our house pulling out weeks and weeks worth of weeds.  This is by far one of my least favorite and dreaded household chores, and explains why it had gone weeks without being properly unkept. Such a tedious task of having to hand pull each evil little weed out of the dirt away from the fragile vegetable plants we are hoping to produce food for us.  However the more weeds that grow and surround and consume the vegetables the more likely the plants are to not produce vegetables or even just give up and die.  It amazes me just how quick the weeds are to grow and flourish and begin to overtake gardens.  You would think that after having let this happen over and over, every time I attempt a vegetable garden and every year with my flower gardens I let the weeds accumulate for weeks before tackling the task of weeding.  Which is quite ridiculous and silly since if I remained proactive and pulled the weeds out as they grew in one or two at a time and kept up wth it then it would not come to the point of having to spend hours bent over in the dirt pulling out the weeds. Somehow I still don’t learn my lesson and year after year let the weeds accumulate to a much larger task and moan and complain the entire time I have to pull out the weeds and vowing to not allow them to get so bad again….. and then the cycle just starts over and I let them accumulate again……

So the other day when I was bent over in the dirt in the summer heat with spiders worms and other bugs as my audience certain verses from the bible started popping in my mind….. When Jesus talks about reaping and sowing.  I started think about our children and how we plant seeds with them all the time.  We can plant all kinds of seeds with our beloved children, seeds of faith, honesty, love, goodness and the list goes on and on, we can plants seeds in them all day long but if we don’t keep the soil healthy they don’t stand a chance to grow and produce fruit.  In my mind I can see the weeds as all the evil in this world they are exposed to day in and day out.  It’s our responsibility not only to plant seeds and water them but to keep our children from becoming overgrown with weeds.  

So I have been turning this concept over and over in my head trying to better understanding and plan for how we can actively improve on this in our home with our children and here is what I have come up with….

1) The seeds we plant with our children first and foremost needs to be faith in God and obeying God and then move on from there to loving others and being kind, ect.  However we need to be very aware that the seeds we plant can also be bad, we can be planting seeds of anger, doubt and other negative things if we are not careful.  We need to be planting the good seeds within our children.  

2) We need to keep the soil healthy and water the seeds we have planted. I feel this is so important and can be so easy to neglect this part.  We need to keep their soil healthy by being an example to our children of how they should speak act and behave.  We can not expect our children to learn to live a certain way of we as adults are not even capable of setting the example for them. Another essential way to keep their soil healthy is by the power of prayer, we need to be praying for them constantly.  Prayer is our ‘Miracle Grow’ we need to be covering them with the Holy Spirit all the time.

3) Pulling the weeds- we need to be aware of what our children are being exposed to within our home and outside of our home.  What they hear on the radio, from friends at school and church, all of this can influence them whether it’s negative or positive. We need to accept that it will be impossible to keep them away from all negative influences however we can work to limit the amount of negative influences in their lives and work to educate them on the difference in good and evil as we surround them with positive influences.
   
 
““This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.” Luke 8:11
But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭8:11, 15‬ ‭NIV‬‬
“But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”‭‭Luke‬ ‭8:15‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him.”‭‭Genesis‬ ‭26:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”  ‭Galatians‬ ‭6:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”  John‬ ‭12:24‬ ‭NIV‬‬

““I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  ‭John‬ ‭15:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬