Goodbye January

Finding the magical peaceful moment in my day when I can sit down clear headed in a quiet peaceful environment……yep that’s not happening! I may as well go searching for unicorns and leprechauns! Working full time with seven children at home I’m lucky if I can make it in the bathroom for 5 uninterrupted minutes.

I always seem to have the greatest intentions. Over the years I have made several attempts to follow a personal bible reading plan and scripture studies on my own. Some attempts and plans have been more successful than others along the way. But none the less, life, excuses, the busyness, the to do lists, and the exhaustion take over and the struggle to find that magic peaceful moment seems like a lost cause. In past years and attempts I have found myself discouraged and frustrated.

But not this year!!!

These photos show what my 2019 scripture study is looking like this year, it is not pretty but it is wonderful and I am so thankful to have pushed through all the discouragement and barriers and making my scripture study this year grow so much already! Praise God!

 

 

Scripture study in the chaos of our kitchen….

My office space

Some study time in car with our daughter

Studying in hallway/office/sewing&craft area

 

 

 “that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” Psalms‬ ‭30:12‬

 

 

I have been following devotional I found online and my scripture study and prayer time is taking a priority over the to do list.

It has not been perfect, there have been a few days along the way when my weary exhausted mom brain just had nothing left but to hit the pillow…. when that happens I just pick up the slack and the next day when I sit down I spend some extra time in my scripture study to catch up.  I am giving myself grace and moving on where I have left off.  It is quite impressive how just adjusting my expectations and planning for failure has helped me to be more successful.

Planning for failure has made this more successful!

I am enjoying my scripture study immensely.

I am learning.

I am growing.

This is the plan I have been following.

https://asymphonyofpraise.com/blog/inscribe-the-word-february-scripture-writing-plan-2

It has verses selected for each day. The verses are written out and studied. I am finding how effective writing them out is for me. I am incorporating tools I have been learning in Sunday school as I write out my verses to study scripture. When? Who? What? Why? Where? How?

This year I have taken a new approach and attitude. I’ve stopped waiting for the peace and quiet. I am building moments in my busy day for my study.  So I am putting my intentions and desires into action in between the noise and the chaos. I have prepared my mind and heart to be able to study regardless of what the day is like.  Not having my heart set on the same time, same location and expecting perfect quiet is just not realistic at this season in our lives, I am no longer letting this be a barrier and the results are AWESOME!  So while my study locations are not picture perfect or ideal, they are real life and its working!  I have successfully done every day of January for my scripture study this year!!!

Bring on February 2019!!!

 

 

Advertisements

(almost) ready

I had a brief conversation with a stranger last week. A sweet and kind middle age woman who was beyond the years of bearing children. She was just amazed to learn we had six children at home and that we have one on the way. Her eyes lit up as she pondered the busyness we see everyday.  Then when she spoke of how exciting Christmas morning must be in our home she was so excited. And she repeatedly told me just how lucky my husband and I were to have a large family.

Then the light in her eyes died as she spoke of never being lucky enough to have any children of her own and I could see the pain and heart break in her eyes. My heart broke for her.  The deep hurt and longing and emptiness she felt deep inside could be seen in those few brief moments of our conversation. I wanted to be able to say something, to say anything to offer her comfort or healing. The words didn’t come, I sidestepped the conversation into a different direction.

But her pain has not left me or my heart.

How humbling and startling at the same time. In all the chaos of this Christmas season to see our family through the eyes of another. I do know our children and large family are an amazing blessing but the day to day takes over and you in a way become desensitized to truly appreciate these blessings.

On a typical day when I am tired or sick, the kids are not getting along, not listening, complaining and bickering, full blown two year old tantrums, preteen attitudes in full swing, messes to be cleaned, never-ending to do lists are growing its hard to look at all that in the moment and think ‘wow I am blessed!’.

So in this moment, this conversation I was given the gift of seeing our super size family through the eyes of someone who longed for a family that never came.  To be reminded that all the mess and chaos and busyness is a blessing even during the hard days and moments.

Not to be taken for granted but loved, valued and appreciated.

I am thankful but not as thankful as I should be.

‘Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.’ Colossians 4:2

I am joyful but not as joyful as I should be.

‘But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God, may they be happy and joyful.’ Psalm 68:3

I am imperfect, a work in progress.  I will continue making progress and I will continue to grow.

‘Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’ 1Thessalonians 5:18

During this last week of December I will reflect on this past year and pray for the upcoming year.  This sweet reminder will continue to sit with my heart as I prepare myself to enter 2018.  I will study scripture and lean to the Lord to mold me and guide me to be a more thankful and more joyful momma-bear and wife during this next year and season in our life.

Bring God glory in all circumstances!  Bring on 2018!  I am (almost) ready.

Rising to the challenge

We had a heck of an evening.  One of those disaster after disaster days when you question whether or not you have done anything right as a mother.   

After several minor sibling problems and other behavior issues brewing amongst several of our children.  Our daughter especially presented us with quite the challenge as her preteen attitiude took rude and disrespectful to an entirely new level.  There have been moments of this attitude here and there but this evening her attitude exploded and crossed many lines.

I will not go into all of the details but reached a point a line was crossed and enough was enough.  It was not quite 6 pm when this situation peaked.  As an immediate consequence her youth activities at church were taken away and she was sent to bed without dinner.  And to bed without being allowed to complete her homework for the evening.  If you know Emily you know that not being allowed to do her homework is devastating.  

All this being done with discussion and further consequences to be given tomorrow.  These are the moments when parenting is at its hardest and most challenging.  Respond don’t react.  Don’t overreact.  I am human, I struggle in the heat of the moment with this concept, but today this situation I kept it together.  Calm face, no raised voices. Success, no yelling or arguing she put herself to bed.  Deep breath and I have time to collect my thoughts and prepare to sit down and discuss this with her tomorrow.  

Several hours later after I chopped up some fresh veggies for salad I slipped into Emily’s room to slip the carrot peels and lettuce heads to her bunnies.  I startled her out of her sleep as I was slipping back out of the room.  Half asleep, eyes closed and she says quietly to me “Mom I love you”.  That’s it, drifts back off to sleep.  

No pleading for getting up out of bed, no justifying her behavior, no apologizing, begging, arguing, just a sweet simple ‘mom I love you’.  

This is the first thought she had when she woke up.  Not angry with me for holding her accountable.  Not trying to get out of consequences.  Just that she loves me.  Oh despite her many flaws I love this girl’s heart.  This sweet heart melting moment does not change her consequences the following day.  She is still held accountable for her words, actions and behaviors.  


But as I lay drifting off to sleep I wonder what if that’s how I responded to God.  When I am dealing with the consequences of my own sin, facing the mess I have created trying to do things in my own strength and not turning to God.  Instead of rationalizing, justifying, complaining and worrying about the discussions of tomorrow.   To just stop and rest and tell the Lord I love Him.  Laying in bed after a day of trials and storms and just say “God I love You.”  How peaceful, simple.  

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”  ‭‭1 John‬ ‭4:16‬ ‭


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 

Ready set go

When I take a moment and look at our family from the outside looking in I find it somewhat overwhelming.  I would imagine that some would say we are just plain crazy for all we take on.  Two full time working parents, 6 kids, our family is active in our church, our kids do extracurricular activities- one per child,  exercise regularly and in our downtime always finding adventures and outings for the kids.  Frequently I will be asked or hear the comment “just how do you do it all?”.  My response is simple, we don’t do it, we are not capable of doing it on our own, we are not made to do anything on our own, God give us the strength to push through and persevere during this season of busy, at times chaotic, our season of READY-SET-GO.

My strength comes from the Lord……Philippians 4:13


 This is our season of busy and I realize this is a brief fleeting moment in our lives and one day will be gone and we just may miss the busy.   I am making an honest and conscious effort each day to not get frustrated or annoyed with the small insignificant details and truly appreciating each moment as a gift on God in this challenging and wonderful journey of parenthood.  This can be a struggle for me as I tend to be a perfectionist and lean towards the OCD side of the spectrum, I while I am not always successful in these efforts however with God’s wisdom and guidance I am aware and I am improving.  

If we don’t take it moment by moment and enjoy it for what it is, will blink our eyes and one day it will be gone.  
As these hours, day, weeks and months are slipping by so quickly yet the are so incredibly important in the molding defining and shaping of our children into the young adults they will become.  Of course the most important and vital element in them growing up is their salvation, growing to truly know Christ as their Lord and Savior.  The most vital aspect for us as parents is to live the example. 

You cannot teach your children to live a life for Christ when your are not living yours for Christ. 

Wow!  This truth and realization cuts me deep and convicts me to my core.  This makes me really question and evaluate myself.  When my kids see me and how I am living do they see joy in all circumstances?  Not likely.  Do they see a patient and kind spirit?  Sometimes, in all honesty not as they see see an impatient spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23 ‘ but the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.’

We cannot expect our children to learn to live in a way that we are not able to.  For example look at healthy eating, we can teach our kids day in and day out what healthy choices are, what they should be eating and how that should be exercising however we lose credibility when we eat junk and sit on the couch.  It does not matter what words come out of our mouths if our actions do not match them.

John A. Younts writes this in his book titled “Everyday Talk.”  “Parents, God has given you a mission to make Him known in every corner of life. To pursue this mission takes great courage. As you walk along life’s road with your children, you must literally deny yourself in order to speak first about God and how He views this world. When your child hears and learns about God this way he will indeed be clothed with honor and crowned with grace.”  I love this perspective, as parents raising our children to know God we must deny ourselves.

 

I can look back and see how far God has brought me already in the last few years, God has transformed my heart and my life in many ways already.  I am so amazingly thankful to God and all He has done and for always being faithful and patient and loving with me.  So as I self-reflect on my many areas of weakness in my living the example of Christ for our children I turn to God for wisdom, guidance and direction to grow into the mother and woman He created me to be.  

Psalm 106:1 ‘Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.’

Lord, thank You so much for the great honor and blessing of being a mother.  I know that in the moments of busy I do not always handle my words, emotions, or actions the way You would. I fall short every single day.  I reach out to You and pray for continued strength, wisdom, discipline and guidance to continue to grow and transform into a godly mother and an example to our children to love You and live my life for You bringing You glory in all I do.  You have blessed me and my family abundantly, thank You for Your many blessings thank You for the greatest blessing of all Your son dying for our transgressions so that we may have eternal life with You Lord.  Thank You for loving me and our children, I pray they see and feel Your love through me in all circumstances.

In Jesus name ~Amen.

—>It’s complicated <—

Being a parent is basically hard, challenging and just out right impossible at times.  Being tasked with the responsibility of being a mom is quite possibly the most difficult task I will be given in this life.  Children unfortunately don’t come with step by step instruction manuals.  There’s parenting advice galore out there especially these days with all of our social media, good advice and bad advice everywhere you turn and filtering this advice that comes at you from all directions.

 

As I sit back and look at how much goes into being a parent and just how much responsibility lays in our role it is quite overwhelming.  Then top off all the basic parenting tasks and add on the extra element of being part of a blended family or single parent role to the mix and you have taken complicated to a whole new level!  Co-parenting is difficult and intense with a cooperative parent that has the same belief and values.  Unfortunately more times than not the co-parent will not being any of those things and makes being a parent 10 times more complicated and challenging.


 

I feel like my husband and I are constantly scrambling and searching for this fine line to walk—-> raising them in this world and teaching them how to not be part of this world.   As much as I long to put my kids in a bubble and protect and shelter them from everything, it is just not possible to shelter them completely and protect them from all the evil and ungodly influences of this world.  And even if it were possible that would place them at a huge disadvantage to be sheltered in that way.  So you need to allow them to be in the world at the same time keeping them from becoming part of the world at the same time you are leading them to know Christ.

 

I was deep in thought pondering this daily dilemma earlier while running away taking out my frustrations on the treadmill at the gym.  This happened to be a family gym day and we had our crew of kids with is at the gym today.  Today is one of those days it was a struggle to get some of them to come to the gym. A little bit of whining about not wanting to go, questioned on why do they have to be dragged to the gym to exercise.  I find this battle quite frustrating and feel like it’s a losing battle most of the time. We have our good days when they come to the gym willingly and put forth good effort and leave the gym smiling after enjoying their workout asking when we are coming back.  But then we have the bad days when it’s struggle, and it is on those bad days that I am so tempted to give up and tell them fine just to stay home while my husband I get in a good uninterrupted work out without distraction.  But giving up is not the answer.

We certainly cannot force them to want to exercise and most definitely cannot force them to enjoy it.    This really leaves us with one option; what we can do is continue to bring them and set the example, lead them and teach them by showing them how it’s done.  We can simply show them that we enjoy exercising and being healthy and let them see the positive results from this. Then praying that the example you set takes hold and one day they can recognize the importance of exercise and maintaining the health of their body.

We can face our children’s salvation in the same manner.  The best we can do is be a good witness, to set the example for them, show them how to live a life for Christ, pray for them to be saved and LET GO, get out of the way and allow God to handle the rest.  Put down on paper it sounds so stinking simple…

Not so simple though, not for me anyway.  I struggle each and everyday and fail in many ways in my witness to our children.  I get so frustrated when I fail, I have really good intentions but am human and frequently fall short.  One of my biggest downfalls is not being joyful in all circumstances, letting my emotions and circumstances of the moment control my words, actions, facial expressions and moods.  I am working at this, slowly giving it over completely to the Lord and I am His work in progress, some days I do better, but each day a step in the right direction.


 

“Come follow me” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people”  At once they left their nets and followed him. —Matthew 4:19-20


  
I don’t want our kids to make the same mistakes I made.  I don’t want them to know God in their mind but not truly know Him in their heart, I don’t want them to be consumed by this fallen world and slipping into the darkness before living in the Lord’s light.  So with each day I will continue working on allowing God to strengthen and mold me into the mother and wife He created me to be and let my witness and example be what our children need to come to know Jesus. And I will fight for them on my knees in PRAYER…..


 

Heavenly Father above, please guide me and give me strength and courage at a mother and a stepmother.  I pray my witness will be true and bold.  I pray that our children will be able to look to me and see You, that I will let Your love shine in all areas of our life, I pray for a joyful heart even on the trying days when I want to be short tempered and rude, please soften my heart and strengthen my spirit to let go and let You take over.  Lord You know my heart and the areas that I truly need to surrender and allow You to take over, please God take all of me and let me be the woman, mother and wife You intended me to be, I pray to have the courage to chose Your way over everything else in this fallen world.  God thank You for the honor, privilege and responsibility of being a mother, our children are truly a blessing directly from You, let me never take this for granted and always treasure being a parent even during the difficult moments, let me praise You and bring You Glory.

In Jesus Name- AMEN


Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus   1Thessalonians 5:16-18 

Don’t worry….. Pray to God

Our Wednesday evenings at church I spend in the 3-5 year old room during Teamkid. This week had a great message for the kids and so simple and has really stuck with me….

“DON’T WORRY….PRAY TO GOD.” The children’s simplified translation of Philippians 4:6. What a great message for all of us.

When you are afraid- Don’t worry, pray to God!
When you are mad- Don’t worry, pray to God!
When you are upset- Don’t worry, pray to God!
WHen you are happy- Don’t worry, pray to God!
When you are lonely- Don’t worry, pray to God!

If we could just follow this simple command how much simpler could things be for us? To let go and trust God, He is in control, everything is according to His plan and His purpose. I know and have experienced that He knows what is best, I have learned time and time again His way is SO MUCH better than my way, so why do I spend so much time worrying about things I have no control over??? When I simply just need to follow the advice we gave our little ones this week…Don’t Worry, Pray to God.

This topic was approached from another direction in my ladies group on Tuesday evening, the chapters we study focused on fear and anxiety and goes down the road of identifying worry as a sin, which is a hard fact to ponder and realize. It is so easy to worry and let this worry, turn to fear and lead to us sinning. When we worry we are questioning God, we are not trusting Him when we do this. If we had complete trust and solid faith that He will always provide and be there for us then we wouldn’t need to even consider worrying. But we cannot do this, we are sinners and human and we need God in every area of our lives, hearts and souls. It is not possible to not worry, we are not built this way but we do need to work on obeying God’s commands to us, if we are working everyday to keep in constant communication with God, constant prayer, through every situation, always stay focused on Him and let Him be the center of everything then it will come more naturally to follow the advice and let go of worry and pray to God first and always.

Message for this week is heard loud and clear—-“DON’T WORRY—PRAY TO GOD!!!”

Philippians 4:6-7
Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayers and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Matthew 6:25-27
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Matthew 6:34
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.

“Lord thank You for this great reminder this week, I pray for strength, guidance and wisdom to take and apply this to my life. Your words are so clear to me this morning please help me keep this sweet and simple reminder in all areas of my life. Help me to be humble before You. Daily I am faced with challenges, please help to always come to You first, I pray to live out these words and to not worry and always come to You in prayer and supplication. Let the great truth in Your words and Promises continue speaking to me and guiding me. Thank You for all You have blessed me with in this life, thank You for having Your plan be so much better than my own. In Jesus Name- Amen”

 

2015/01/img_6800.jpg