Friday, July 15, 2016

Blast from the Past

We spent last week with my family in Madison, Wisconsin. It's where I lived until we moved to Oregon when I was 12, and all of my siblings were together for the first time in several years. Since my parents and the four of us live in 5 different states, this was no small feat!

Green Bay Packer horse at the famous Ella's Deli?! Of course!
My parents booked an AirBNB home in our old neighborhood, and it was a blast revisiting the old parks, walks, and restaurants we used to frequent. More fun was watching my kids play on the same park equipment, and running around my grandparents' farm, and watching the 4th of July parade that I watched nearly every year of my childhood. My mini-me's played with my cousin's mini-me's, so in a lot of ways it felt like coming full circle.

I don't get back to Madison all that often. Yet I was amazed at how familiar it all was, and how I actually knew my way around enough to not get lost. I'm notoriously bad with directions, and we moved long before I was old enough to drive.

It was a great week of reconnecting with my sisters and brothers, and reminiscing over our childhood. All of it felt extra poignant as I'm wondering what my children will remember {if anything?!} of Pennsylvania...

...Because one week from Monday, we are moving to Kansas City, Kansas. 

It all happened so fast. The Lord started stirring in my heart, then my husband's... we decided just to take the first step. Then the next, and then the next... and much more quickly then we could have ever imagined, there was a solid job offer and all kinds of "yeses" that seem the clear direction of the Lord.

I'm very, very excited to see what He has in store for our family. I'm excited to be only two hours from my parents, and for Niall to have a job that really interests him. I'm also feeling devastated to walk away from the friends that have been so life-shaping for me. I gave Pennsylvania all of my 20's, and it's all my babies have ever known.

Hang in with me- once we've arrived and settled in and I have no local friends {boo!} I'm sure I will have more time to blog. Any of ya'll in Kansas? Because I'd love to meet some kindred spirits!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A Bible Reading Plan for Little Ones {God Takes Care of His People}

A new month is upon us, and with it comes a new free, printable Bible reading plan to share with your kids in family worship. I'm sorry to be posting this so late! Our family has had exciting things happening behind the scenes that I can hopefully share with you all soon. It's been busy and a little out of the ordinary in my real life... which means this space is the first to get neglected ;). 

This month we are looking at God's tender care for His people- His provision, loving kindness, and ultimately, salvation. The goal is to show our kids what God is like, what He does, and why we can trust Him, resting safely and securely in His care. I started the month with passages related to physical provision and God's work in the world at large, and hone in more specifically on salvation and redemption as the month progresses.

I hope it will encourage both you and your little ones! Both children and adults need to know and remember that God is good, bigger than me and my circumstances, and infinitely trustworthy. My prayer is that these scriptures will sink deep into your souls, enabling you to experience the peace and joy that comes from knowing and trusting Him in the ups and downs of daily life. God takes care of His people- perfectly, beautifully, fully. 

As usual, there is a mix of both Old and New Testaments. One passage for each week day, for four weeks. Your feedback on the plans is always appreciated! Hope you enjoy this. 

We try to read ours at meal times. On a really good day, I read and discuss it with my 2 and 4 year old at breakfast, and my husband goes over it a second time at dinner. But we miss many a day, go through times of consistency and inconsistency- we by no means "have it down". 

The goal is to keep trying, and to keep sowing seeds of the Word into our children's hearts. They might wiggle, they might not seem to be hearing... but we keep reading, explaining, and praying, trusting the Lord to work through His Word in His way and time.  

You can print your copy off right here

If you'd like to use any previous month's plans, here's the list. Click on the link and print and read away!

The Love of God
The Death and Resurrection of Christ
The Attributes of God

Who is Jesus?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

How to Stay Awake Reading Your Bible First Thing in the Morning

I'll never forget the advice that an old pastor gave to me and my husband before we got married- "Let the first words that your eyes see every morning be the words of God."

Scripture is replete with the early morning practice of seeking God first; from David in the Psalms to Jesus in the first chapter of Mark.

We know it's a good thing to get in the Word first thing... but it can be rough. Especially for moms of little people who aren't getting much sleep. Trust me when I tell you that I know it can feel impossible to keep your eyes open when you are trying to read your Bible right after you get up in the morning. I'm right there with you! I've gone months at a time of not getting up all that early, and reading after breakfast while the kids play {sleep is essential for our proper functioning!}.

I also know checking phones first thing in the morning is a trap that I, and many others, often fall into. When you are sleepy it is so much easier to take a quick {or you know, not so quick} check of email, facebook, and instagram.

I can't tell you how many mornings I've done this... and how much it throws off my days. Instead of renewing my mind, getting my eyes fixed on God, and petitioning Him with the needs and concerns of life; I'm puffed up with pride that so and so liked this thing that I did, or fuming or worrying or otherwise negatively internalizing any unpleasant information I took in. It is so much better to get our eyes fixed on the Lord first thing!

Let's get practical here: you want to read your Bible first thing each morning. How can you physically stay awake to do so? These are the tricks that I apply to keep my eyelids wide open:

Splash cold water on my face. Like, super cold. Especially right under my eyes where I tend to feel sleepiest. It's a shock to my system that really perks me up!

Hydrate. Step 2 upon waking is to get a huge mason jar full of cool water and start chugging. If I've been reading for a few minutes and feel my eyelids getting heavy, I get right back to drinking my water. If plain old water doesn't do it for you, you can always opt for caffeine.

Don't get too comfy. As soon as I get out from under my nice warm covers, all I want is a soft fuzzy sweater, slippers, and blanket. But if I get that warm and snuggle up on the couch, chances are I will be out cold before long. Not what I'm going for! I wear just enough clothing to be comfortable and moderately cool. I sit on a hard backed chair, or...

Keep moving. Many mornings I will read sitting on my exercise ball, bouncing or rocking. The movement keeps me mentally engaged and focused. I've also been known to read on the treadmill, or just pace the room {think Belle in Beauty and the Beast ;)}. It's very hard to fall asleep while you are being physically active.

Get outside. Weather permitting, sitting outdoors {or even on a screened in porch} can be a refreshing way to get and stay alert. Birds singing and the sun rising provide a delightful environment for communing with God.

If all else fails, try listening. The Bible app on my phone has an audio option. Listen while working out, prepping breakfast, emptying the dishwasher, etc. The main thing is to get your mind fixed on the truths of God. How you get there is secondary, so long as you are getting there!

Not every season of motherhood is compatible for early rising and reading, and I go through looooong spells of reading the Bible on my phone in the afternoon while nursing a baby, or reading while my kids play wildly and loudly around me. But when I'm able, getting up early to seek the Lord is a sweet thing. I hope these tips will be helpful to you!

When do you make time for Bible reading? How do you shut out distractions and stay focused?

You might also enjoy Be Faithful with the Little Moments, Apostolic Truth for Weary Mamas, and Bible Reading for Busy Moms.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Why I'm Not a Big Kids and T.V. Fan

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I might have mentioned once or twice {heh} that I really don't like my kids to watch much t.v. It's an area I'm constantly trying to find balance in. I often fail to meet my own standards, and my kids have watched much more t.v. in their lives than I'd prefer.

A lot of people wonder why I feel this intensely about television. I've been told I need to relax, to give myself grace, and that it's not as huge of an issue as I think it is.

Frankly, everyone who has told me these things is probably right!

Television is not the end of the world, and plenty of kids grow up simultaneously with television & good character, intelligence, and creativity. So I'm trying not to sweat it when I find myself in a season of relying more heavily on television for my kid's entertainment.

And if you don't feel strongly about t.v, we can still be good friends! Every family has got to decide what works for their household and how screen time best lines up with their personal preferences, convictions, and values.

But in case you were wondering why I feel so strongly about the issue, here is the reasoning behind my position.

1. It's the way I was raised. My mom was pretty strict about the amount of t.v. we watched as kids. Usually we could watch one or two shows on a weekday afternoon, and cartoons Saturday morning. We might enjoy a family movie on the weekend. Otherwise we were kicked outside to play! We rode bikes, roller skated, climbed trees, read books, and built stuff.

Looking back, I can't say I remember many cartoons that I watched. They hold little significance to me as an adult. The many creative games I enjoyed with my sisters, on the other hand, are still a source of fond enjoyment in my memory storehouse. We had a ball as kids!

2. Bad attitudes. I've noticed a direct correlation between t.v. watching and increased whining, rebellion, and general crankiness in my kids. If less screen time means more joyful and peaceful family life, I am definitely willing to sacrifice it.

3. I don't want my kids to miss out. I remember reading in the intro of this book that the author wasn't concerned with television viewing in and of itself, so much as what little ones aren't doing while watching; exploring, coloring, being read to, baking, getting fresh air, etc.

Last year I read Catherine Steiner-Adair's book The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, and I remember being especially concerned about the negative impact developmentally on babies and toddlers {from both their watching time, and watching their caregivers stare at screens}. I highly recommend this book as you consider the place of screens in your family's life!

The early years are both short and formative. Our kids need plenty of empty time and space to learn about the world around them.

4. Educational advantages. According to The Read Aloud Handbook, studies have shown that kids' academic performances begin to suffer if they watch more than 11 hours a week. Kids who watched 11 hours or less demonstrated no significant difference from kids who watched no t.v. at all. Moderation seems to be the key as far as education is concerned.

What about all of the educational programs? Also from The Read Aloud Handbook, the educational benefit kids enjoy from these programs noticeably drops off after age 10. Yes, kids might grow their vocabulary, learn facts, and memorize numbers and letters in their early years {personally, our family loves Little Einsteins and Magic School Bus!}. But as they grow it shifts to mere entertainment. Not necessarily a bad thing, just something to keep in mind.

5. Screens are addictive. On a spiritual level, I'm concerned that my children will have such an appetite for screens that they have no love for weightier, eternal things. In my own life I see how compelling screens can be- oh how I crave that down time with Netflix or Facebook- and I want both myself and my children to love God, His Word, and people more.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss's words strike my conscience often: "Children will cultivate an appetite for whatever they are fed in their earliest, formative years. I have known young people from 'committed' Christian homes who know more about movie stars and rock groups than they do about the patriarchs or the disciples. They can sing along with all the top hit songs but do not know the great hymns of the faith. I can only assume they have an appetite for what they have been exposed to" {Lies Women Believe, page 175}.

6. I want us to be book people! I read for fun, and I want my kids to read for fun too. We live in an increasingly alliterate society- I want to fight the tide and raise my little humans to love and live on the written word! If my kids are getting their appetite for story and entertainment filled by me reading aloud to them, I believe its a win-win for us all.

7. Treats are best enjoyed in moderation. Because my kids watch less than the average amount of t.v, when it is on they really focus on it. This could be a good or a bad thing ;). Friday family movie night feels like a big treat when they've only watched a few short programs {or none at all} throughout the rest of the week.

Just like I don't want my kids gorging themselves on sweets everyday, I want them to consume limited and controlled amounts of media as they grow. My hope is that they will learn to regulate their appetites for entertainment {and sugar! ha} so that as adults they are self-controlled and disciplined in these areas.

Lest you develop an inaccurate view of our habits, my kids do watch t.v. Many afternoons you can find them parked on the couch for a half an hour or two. What I aim for is serious limitation- I don't mind if they watch one program a day, although I'm always happy when we skip it for a few days altogether. I also aim to hit all the important activities each day- if they are getting outside, coloring or crafting, playing creatively, helping in the kitchen, doing chores, and listening to me reading... probably a little t.v. won't do much harm.

When we are sick or I'm feeling run down and overwhelmed, I will allow more extended screen time. I'm always fluctuating, never quite feeling like I've reached the ideal. These are the guiding principles that cause me to persevere in limiting screen time and finding that ever elusive appropriate balance.

I'll leave you to judge if I'm extreme or not. Please do tell what you agree and disagree with, how you decide how much and what your kids can watch, and anything else of interest in the comments! I love hearing how different families weigh in on these issues.

I feel the need to say it again- truly, all is grace my friends! My desire isn't to cast judgment or paint a black and white set of rules here, just to share why I land where I do and hear your thoughts on the issue. Thank you for making this a nice place to converse on the internet!

P.S: You might also like Gentle Ways to Cut Back on Your Child's Screen Time.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

How to Salvage the End of a Rough Day

Every once in awhile we experience what I would consider to be  really rough day around these parts. Cranky tired mama, cranky tired kiddos. Too much t.v, too much junk food and coffee. Very little accomplished, very large messes abounding.

We get to the last hour or two before bedtime and I feel like a big fat failure horrible mother who wasted a perfectly good day and has nothing to show for the time spent.


It's tempting to put on another movie for the kids, get out my iPhone, and wallow in the failure/shame/misery. I can ignore the disaster around me and think, "Hey! At least I was consistent today."

But there are a few strategies I can apply to salvage it. I may only have an hour or two left, but much can be done and my heart can be refreshed with a little mindset shift.

Here's what that looks like at our house:

Repent. First, confession to the Lord for laziness and/or sinful attitudes is key. Then I ask my babies' forgiveness for hurtful words, impatience, and any other unkindness. I let them know I am sorry, and that we are having a fresh start all together. Often my oldest {even though she is only 4!} will {unprompted} apologize for her own disobedience and crankiness once I've set the example. Which is a really and truly sweet blessing to my mama heart.

Have some Word time. Even if it's just a verse, crack open the Bible and meditate on some solid truth for a moment. You can read it aloud to your kids too- just be sure not too mind their fidgeting or noise making {remember, we are trying to improve attitudes and make a turn around here}.

Looking for a way to read the Bible to your small children? Check out my free Bible reading plans!

Do the next right thing. Maybe it's having a clean up dance party. Or  wiping that counter or washing a few dishes. Whatever mess is most pressing, tackle it cheerfully, and encourage those littles to pitch in. Every little tiny effort makes a difference, both in your mood and work load.

Be extra fun and sweet. Fake it to make it mama! Give lots of kisses and hugs, read a story, make clean-up time into a game. Give whatever feeble energies you can muster to ending you and your children's day with happy impressions. This will help everyone to go to bed happier, and hopefully wake up happier too. It will build joyful, sweet memories into their childhoods as well.

Eat something green. Maybe in your tiredness you leaned a little too heavily on the chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and chocolate {for both you and them!}. Oh sister, I have so been there. I am so often there! Just serve something healthy and wholesome alongside dinner, or as a before bed snack. A green smoothie, cucumber slices, or even just a quick frozen veggie can make you feel a little more healthy and wholesome. Get your balance back!

Have a big glass of water. Dehydration makes you even more tired and cranky. A big cool glass of water is refreshing and energizing. It can give you a healthful boost to keep moving forward in a better direction.

Find something to rejoice in and give thanks for. All around you there are beautiful, kind, gracious providences of God. Noticing them and thanking the Lord for them can completely change your attitude. Delight in baby toes, toddler giggles, reading a story, snuggling together before bed.

That's about all that this tired mom has to offer you ;). I'd love to know what strategies you use to turn a bad day around!

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy 4 Ways to Make a Bad Morning Worse and 6 Guaranteed Strategies to Turn Around a Rough Morning