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When God Grows My Child

“Mama, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever been through in my life.”

I’d just gone in to kiss my six year old good night. His room was still filled with evening light, and I could see his large, tear-lined eyes as he stared thoughtfully at the ceiling and explained this to me in a calm, matter-of-fact tone.

I stretched out on the bed beside him looking earnestly into his face, my own eyes filling with tears.

He was right. He is going through the largest trial of his life right now.

There was a strong desire inside me to stop the pain he is going through. Like any parent, I long to see my child joyful and at peace every day, but I’m also learning God, in His love, sometimes has a bigger plan for my child then easy days.

My first grader continued. (He’d just spent 15 minutes discussing this situation with my husband, and he had a game plan.) He was going to show God’s love to the person hurting him in the situation.

I listened intently, as my son quietly outlined for me how he’d sometimes been unkind to his sisters, and now God was teaching him the importance of being kind.

He talked about praying for the person who was hurting him.

He expressed how he wanted to share with that person about Jesus, and we talked about showing Christ’s love and being a light.

My eyes welled.

We as parents so often see our children in pain and desire to dive in and save them from sorrow, and my mother’s heart longed to do this for him.

But as I lay there in the semi-darkness watching his piqued little face as he searched to express deeper thoughts and reach far beyond the tiny world he’d  known even that morning, I was hit with a deep mix of joy and sorrow. God was working in my six year old son’s heart.

The difficulty he faced was drawing him to God and helping him show more of God’s love to others.

Parenting is not quite what we feel it’s going to be.

When our child is born, we take hold of that sweet treasure God’s given us and desire to protect that child from everything. We try to give them every advantage we can. We don’t want pain for our child. We don’t want people to hurt them. We don’t want them to fail.

But pain can purify even a small vessel.

Hurtful people can drive even a child to God.

Failing now, under the love and care of his parents, is the safest place for a child to learn foundational patterns that will set him on a life time course and future strong walk with God.

We as parents plan out a course for our children. We give them healthy food to strengthen their small bodies. We impart wisdom to (hopefully) shield them from mistakes, we fervently share the gospel, and we give massive amounts of thought to their education and extracurriculars.

We don’t usually dream about the trials divinely brought by their greater Parent.

We don’t really think our child will be the worst reader in the class, the ‘dumb’ one who feels the rejection and judgement of his peers and maybe even teacher.

We don’t imagine our child being the socially awkward one who can’t seem to make friends and doesn’t fit in.

And it’s hard, as parents, when these problems come up in our child’s life to not view them as roadblocks to the wonderful life we have planned for our child.

But these are not roadblocks, they are stepping stones to a higher path for our children!

The socially awkward girl learns dependence on Christ for her need of friendship, and eventually, she will understand and show empathy to the excluded and outcasts.

The academically delayed boy will learn discipline, conquering his academic struggles, and he may soon surpass the children who never had to fight and struggle in school.

And as a parent, I am left in awe as I watch God working in my child’s life according to His good pleasure.

My focus is shifted from my ‘perfect’ plan for my child to the perfect Author.

God brings about what I could never begin to do in my child. He brings about faith, hope, love, wisdom and character.

And I become nothing more than a bystander and an occasional arrow – pointing my child to focus on his most loving Parent.

And what’s more, my faith is grown. I lay my ‘plans’ on the altar and see God do more than I even thought to imagine for my child.

Thank you, Lord!

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

Check Out Our Posts!

This past year, we wrote a few guest posts on a great Christian blog where several Christian moms contributed. A couple we had posted here, but we also wrote a couple new articles.

(And while you are there, I’d totally suggest looking over some of the other posts. There are some wonderful articles on there by a handful of great ladies from all over the country!)

Click on a picture to check out our posts! :-)

Challenging ChildThe Challenging Child

Valentines DayWhat Your Husband REALLY Wants for Valentines Day

No TimeTo the Mom Who doesn’t Have Time

Dandelion 1The Dandelion Stage

mommy blog danger

Mommy Blog Danger

No Ministries

Where Did My Ministries Go?

 

reformation day

Reformation Day Celebration / Halloween Alternative

Yesterday, October 31st. was a joyful and festive day in our home with focuses on Christ, giving-rather-than-receiving, and purposeful family traditions.

We celebrated a holiday I had not even heard about until 3 years ago and yet now may become a favorite – and no, it was not Halloween.

The holiday is Reformation Day, and since it celebrates those in church history who have stood up for Biblical truth – even against impossible odds – it goes along with the exact things I’m trying to teach my kids!

What is Reformation Day?

October 31st 1517 Martin Luther mounted the stairs of St. Peter’s Basilica in Germany and nailed his history-changing, 95 thesis, to the door.

At that time, Johann, Tetzel, under orders of the pope, had been funding a building project in Rome by lying to the poor and uneducated and telling them that they could buy their dead relatives’ salvation from purgatory by buying the indulgences he pedaled. This lie, along with many others that were being accepted at that time due to lack of education in the populace and political agendas in high places caused Luther to take a stand against the powerful leaders of his day.

Despite persecution and having to go against the ‘normal’ way of doing things in his society, Luther fought for what He believed the Bible said and sparked the Reformation.

While Luther, like all of us, was not perfect, I think that his stand and the fruit that came from the many brave Christian men and women that spoke out for truth during the Reformation is worth celebrating!

Here’s what we did to celebrate:

1. I told them the story of Martin Luther using free pictures I found online.

2. We made gospel tracts with candy and crayons for the trick or treaters

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FullSizeRender(Here is a PDF of what we made. I put a couple crayons with each tract since they looked like coloring books and attached a piece of candy.)

FullSizeRender3. We made a German supper since Luther was from Germany. :-)

4. We sang “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” and “The Son of God Goes Forth to War” – 2 songs we’ve been learning in school.

5. We shared our faith and gave candy/coloring tract/crayon gifts to everyone who came.

 

The fruit:

1. We were able to learn a lot about church history

2. We were able to PARTICIPATE in church history by sharing our faith!

Putting the tract, candy, and crayon packages together.

Putting the tract, candy, and crayon packages together.

(After telling the kids about Luther’s stand, I mentioned that the trick or treaters were coming soon so we were going to give them some papers with God’s truth on them, and my 4 year old immediately exclaimed, “and we get to tell them the truth like Luther!”)

3. I felt this was a positive approach to a tough situation.

I did not want to celebrate Halloween. (For good thoughts on that, I suggest this ARTICLE.) However, I didn’t want the focus to be on judging others who chose differently on this issue. I felt that focusing on good and more important things – Christ, His people, and His truths was exactly where I wanted the focus to be.

FullSizeRender_1AND IT WORKED: Across the street from our house was a big Halloween party. Their kids were running around in costumes, they did a piñata, and played some fun looking games. My kids watched at the window yet showed NO regret at not being able to participate. They only showed anticipation for the other kids to finish their games and come to our door so they could give them God’s truth on the tracts we had made!

 

 

Things I may change: 

Dressing up Like Historical Christian Figures: The girls ran upstairs as I was making supper and came down in their dress-up clothes. Next year I plan to help the kids choose famous people in church history to dress up as. I think if we are following the example of Christians before us, that choosing people to study and dress like would be more appropriate.

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Note to Self: When you are busy with the trick-or treaters, do not leave 2 year old next to back up candy bag.

We may just go out to eat instead of being around for the trick or treaters: When you have 60+ people showing up at your door, it is HARD for me to not grab that opportunity to share the gospel and teach my kids about sharing their faith, but it is a valid argument that any participation in Halloween is questionable for followers of Christ. It’s something we are still working through.

We may go to a Reformation Party: Our church family had a Reformation party, but we all woke up sick yesterday morning and had to stay home – which I think worked out. It was a wonderful day and a wonderful opportunity to share our faith.

- Verity

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Sister Bedroom – 3 girls in a 10X10 room

As we talked about our new house, one definite was that it was time for the 3 girls to have their own room.

They share a 10X10 room which houses all their clothes, a reading spot, (usually) 3 girls sleeping (though the 22 month old is temporarily sleeping in the play room), and their toy baskets of favorite toys.

Colors:

I chose some consistent neutrals such as the white furniture (that I hope will stay constant despite their changing tastes.)

They chose their wall colors (though I admit – I got the lightest and most neutrally tinted colors I could convince them of). The psychological effects of colors is a super interesting study, and I wanted calming warm tints in with their color choices for the simple pragmatic reason that they’d be more cheerful!

They also have their fun bedding from grandma and picked their colors on their baskets.

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Organizing:

Their clothes all fit in the closet.photo 2

  • The dresser holds diaper supplies in the top drawer, socks and undergarments in the second drawer and PJs in the bottom drawer.
  • The baskets hold their play clothes and shoes
  • Their sweatshirts hang on hooks on the side of the dresser and side of the closet

Their favorite toys are in the baskets at the end of their beds and they have to keep their ‘favorite’ toys down in number to fit in the baskets. (Yes, I do have to confiscate the baskets some nights because as I tell them, they are ‘abusing the privilege of having their toys baskets in their beds …”)

Their Own Spaces:

The picture holders above their beds allow them a spot to . (Refer to article on how we made them and cost break-down HERE)photo 3

Each girl gets her own favorite toy basket and no one is allowed in anyone else’s bed without her that person’s permission. (Not that that always happens, but we are working on enforcing the right to personal property…)

The two older girls are religious about their favorite colors right now, and the baby pointed to the yellow paper when I gave her a choice of colors – so that’s how we got purple, pink, and yellow.

Themes:

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SISTERS became the main theme because they are all learning to be thankful for each other right now. (Yes. We totally did a ‘photo shoot’ for the pictures in their room. It was a perfect Friday afternoon when we were supposed to be doing other things)

Butterflies because I saw this super cute idea of paper butterflies flying around the room. (Isn’t it CUTE!!??)

And yes…I talked the girls into the themes. If they’d had free reign, they would have picked

‘princesses.’ I feel like one of the hardest things as a parent is to allow them to be themselves while directing them to be more. 

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They play princesses, make up stories about princesses, save up (usually) for princess dolls, and beg to watch princess movies.(And my kids watch a grand total of 1-2 movies a week so it’s not like they are getting a ton of influence.) I decided that a room that surrounds them with beauty – simply because it’s objectively beautiful and not necessarily magical or royal would be a good reminder that they don’t need to be princesses to be beautiful. I also wanted to play up the beauty of sisterhood, unity, and family love.

The room is usually light filled, and they do spend a lot of time in their. I hope they have a lot of great memories :-)

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- Verity

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Kid-Friendly Fall Apples in under 15 minutes (And for under $10)

I wanted to make candied apples with the kids, but apparently you have to heat the candy coating up to 250 (!!!!!!) degrees to dip -the apples which meant the kids could not safely dip them.  And caramel apples were really expensive.  ($7 for a single pound of caramel plus the need to buy a candy thermometer which made the whole caramel apple thing expensive and not fun in my opinion.)

So I decided to try substituting almond bark, and this turned out to be super fun, fast and very, very kid friendly!

Ingredients:

12 apples .98 a lb              $4.21 from Walmart (I picked small ones)

12 craft sticks                    $1 for a package of 24 from Dollar Tree

1 pound Almond Bark       $ 2.98 from Walmart

Container of peanuts         $1 from Dollar Tree

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Total Cost:                         $ 9.19

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Directions:

1. Mom and kids break up almond bark.

2. Kids (attempt to) put sticks in apples while mom microwaves almond bark for 90 seconds (THAT’S IT!).

3. (Mom helps put sticks in apples)

4. Stir almond bark

5. Kids dip apples

6. Kids coat apples in nuts

7. Voila!

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I was also very pleased that these were a lot less messy than caramel apples to eat. The almond bark hardened into perfect shape but was easier for little mouths than caramel or regular chocolate.

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It did feel a little ‘weird’ to my husband and I to not have caramel on the ‘caramel’ apples, but I was thinking a drizzle of caramel ice-cream topping from the Dollar Tree would do the trick and still keep the cost down.

As for the kids – they LOVED them. They didn’t know the difference and think that this is what fall  apples are supposed to taste like! 

They want to make them again soon – and I think we will because why not? How many deserts can you make in under 15 minutes with 4 little kids for under $10? :-) Definite score!

-Verity

Picture Display Boards

The girls love their new room but needed a place to display their own pictures.IMG_3830

(As you can see… The 3 year old didn’t think she needed paper to express herself. This is by her bed -)IMG_3831

So here is a quick and easy project that looks cute!

Materials for one picture board:IMG_3812

- Pre-primed board 4- 6 feet long

- 1 package Cute clothespins from Michaels (Some of their selection HERE )

- Glue Gun

- 3 finishing Nails

- Hammer

- Stud Finder

IMG_3816So, my husband picked up a pre-primed board from Menards and cut it it half. (They can do that at the store for free too – Home Depot will do multiple cuts though it’s .25 a cut after)

I spaced the clothespins 9 inches apart (though I wish I had spaced them 12 inches apart. The pictures hang right up against each other) and glued each pin with hot glue.)

 

 

Ta da! This project literally took 20 minutes (even with kid interruptions). :-)

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Then I just used a level, a stud finder, and 3 nails to attach it to the wall.

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It’s really, really important to me that my kids grow up learning how to prioritize. I wanted them to have a place to show their interests, but I think it’s really important to help them keep growing and reaching.

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I want my kids to create, grow and expand their interests, and I think that part of that is helping them learn to choose what is important to them. They create beautiful drawings now, but tomorrow they will create better drawings and can replace these. Just like they have limited space for their favorite toys, I want them at this age to choose what is ‘important.’ That’s why they each have 5 spots. We have a binder to keep their work if they want, but I want them to only display their favorites and to keep growing and expanding. Unless it is their masterpiece, I don’t want to encourage them leaving a picture up for years.

The girls love their picture boards and have already been using them a lot!

This makes the girls’ room about done. (That article coming soon!) :-)

-Verity

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Why Having Baby #5 is More Fun Then #1

Few things in life compare to the wonder of holding your first child for the first time and realizing, yes, you are a mom!

However, now that #5 is on his/her way, I have to admit, I wouldn’t go back there! There are some fun perks to this stage.

  1. You don’t worry about everything.

Along with all the thrill and joy of baby #1, there is also a lot of fear. Will you be a good mother? Will you do everything right?

(By #5 you realize no, you will not do everything right. You will get grouchy sometimes, you will have rough nights and feed your kids that super-bad-for-you macaroni and cheese, you will not do all the magical activities you always imagined yourself doing with them and no, you will not be anything like Mary Poppins – even on your best days, but that’s OK.)image

You will be what your kids need – their mom, you’ll go to bat for them, love them, laugh with them, and help them clean their rooms and do their homework. You’ll believe in them and cheer for them and even when you mess up – you’ll get up and by God’s grace be there for them the next day – and for as long as you live. And by baby #5, you’ll know it’s not about being ‘perfect’ but about loving them and being there for them. You can do that.

  1. Less people talk about your shape and poke at your belly.

When you are surrounded by a mass of little kids, people cannot even get to your belly let alone poke it. And with 4 little socialites crowding for their attention, those people also don’t have time to talk about your increased size.

(Whew! That problem is solved! Yay for less Pillsbury Dough Boy pokes!)

  1. You have more people genuinely excited about the baby.

Maybe extended relatives will roll their eyes when you tell them you are having another one, but as far as the people who will be changed and affected by the baby every day, you now have a household of 6 people who are thrilled to pieces. (Even if their name choices are not always the best. Lumina? Thor? Leelee?)

  1. You are secure in your body and birth plan.

For baby #1 and even #2, you read everybody else’s opinions about birth. By #5, you know your own body, you know what you’re going to do, and you need minimal help.

(The doctors are also lot more apt to let you do what you want to. Seriously, they look at my chart now and kind of nod in a very hands-off way, and I’m thankful for that. I’ve been here multiple times before, and I’ll call them if I need them.)

  1. You are secure in your approach to mothering

imageThe moment you look into your first baby’s face, you are overwhelmed. Never have you seen someone so wonderful, but you are also overwhelmed by your own identity change. You are now a mother.

By the time you’ve had a few, you are secure in your identity as a mom and in your approach to mothering. The moment you see baby #3, #4, #5, you just soak up their little face.

  1. Necessary life changes have already been made

- You’ve made the schedule changes

Most of us with #1 had to make some major changes – whether it was stopping working, finding childcare, or embarking on the journey of juggling a combination of those things.

By #5 those things are in a rhythm. Yes every newborn brings new challenges, but you are old hat at the juggling game, and your family is accustomed to rolling with the punches and working together as a team.

- You’ve made the heart changes.

I’ve heard so many new parents say it. “We don’t plan on changing much in our schedule. We’ll just bring a baby along. Not much will change.”

(I just smile and nod when I hear them say this and then I admit – I laugh with my husband later. We know they’ll learn.)

By #5, you have long since laid down an active social life. Yes, you sometimes miss it. Yes, it’s important to call friends and have deep conversations sometimes, but by #5, you’ve realized that right now your kids simply come first. You’ve accepted that for this season in life other things won’t happen, and you are (usually – except on the messy, PMS days) content with that.

  1. No Shower Gifts to Deal With

I say this tongue in cheek. I was given a lot of wonderful shower gifts for baby #1 that I still use today. However, now that I have my systems set up, I am relieved to not have to deal with an onslaught of new gifts. Less clutter, less stress, and less returns sound great! I’ll just buy the few items I need.

  1. Less Hard on Yourself.

image- After #1 you realize you will never be the perfect mom because you’re not perfect. And you realize that’s OK.

- After #2 you realize that your love multiplies and there really is plenty to go around.

- After #3 you realize that you can never keep them all happy at once, and that’s OK.

- After #4 you realize that you can’t always stay in control of everything. You have to let some things go, and not only is that OK, it’s pretty relieving.

-Verity

PS (And I’ll let you know what I learn after #5, but I’m really excited to find out!)

 

 

Miscarriage pic 2

CS Lewis, Planned Parenthood, and Our First Baby

I was holding my dead baby’s body in my hand, and the doctor kept calling it ‘tissue.’

It was a honeymoon pregnancy, and I was 11 weeks, 3 days pregnant when I woke at 1:00 AM covered in blood. By 3:00 AM we were in the emergency room, and by 4:00 AM I’d birthed our first child and experienced one of the first showdowns of my life between Morality and Science.

“I’ll show you what comes out.” The young doctor had said when I a realized that I was miscarrying and asked to see ‘my baby’s body.’

“It’s tissue.” He had said.

But it wasn’t tissue. It was the tiny, perfect lifeless body of (what I’ve always believed) was our first daughter. It’s really hard to tell at that age, but it looked like she had a high forehead like me, and she was amazing.

But it was like the doctor was looking at something completely different then my husband and I. While we sobbed – deep, heart-wrenching sobs of grief over the tiny, bruised form of our first baby, he was careful to never refer to her as a baby – or even a fetus. (In medical terms, our child was still 4 days from being called a fetus.)

How was it that we and the doctor could be observing the same thing and yet arrive at 2 different conclusions? Distanced now by almost 7 years and able to evaluate the situation objectively, I believe our two different conclusions were because we had 2 different starting points.

- I looked at the baby’s body through the eyes of morality as something of value and worthy of respect.

- The young doctor looked at the baby’s body only scientifically and saw tissue.

- My view was derived from my faith – that the child was a soul, made in the image of God.

- The doctor’s view was also derived from his faith. He had embraced Science as the determiner in each situation and the prevalent Postmodern view in our society that there are no absolute determiners outside of what can be observed with the eyes. Ultimately Science acted like a god directing his actions, goals and values.

When a person rejects morality for Science, they fool themselves into thinking that they can now be free from the restraints of faith, but they instead build themselves a new kind of nightmare. CS Lewis predicted that every man must have a moral law, a “doctrine of objective value, the behef that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, and that any society that rejected morality for the pursuit of science would digress to being “kneaded and cut into new shapes for the pleasures of masters who must, by hypothesis, have no motive but their own natural’ impulses.”

Paul said it better in Romans 1: 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”

And indeed our Postmodern society that rejects absolutes yet adheres without question to Science – the obsession with man, birds, animals and creeping things – is left to rationalize heinous crimes such as the systematic slaughter of children through abortion.

Of course at 4:00 AM on that dark November morning, I didn’t understand any of that.  All I could think of was that we needed to give our baby a memorial. Something. We should take the body and bury it.

But the doctor (despite his denial of my child’s value as a person) was strangely insistent that we leave the body there at the hospital, and for some unfathomable reason, I agreed. I don’t know why he wanted me to leave the body; I don’t know why I agreed. What crossed my mind was that I thought it must be a health issue – me taking the body. Now I believe it was a moral issue – and I failed.

We later received a bill for $350 for them ‘disposing of elements of conception,’ and It still awes me how I stood like a bystander and allowed our child to be degraded in that way. At the time, the doctor was so convincing, so sterile, so educated, and I was just a very scared girl who could barely digest what was happening.

Despite my strong pro-life upbringing and my Bible college education, I wasn’t prepared for the cold and calculated mis-education of this young doctor. I never dreamed someone could SERIOUSLY look at a baby’s dead body and not call it what it was. But he did – right to my face. His training so imbedded in his sad soul that he literally could renounce the morality of the situation by simply retreating to his medical (Science) terminology. But every scientific observation has to first start at a standpoint, and I believe there is no ultimate objectivity because observations in science start with the premises of what we believe going into it.

It still gets down to FAITH.

I’ve started writing this article 6 times, and I finally made it past the first sentence. I do feel like I failed our first child. (I named her Asaph.) But I’ve become wiser from it, and I recognize now what I did not then:

Most of us follow a moral center that says there is right and wrong, and most people will reject abominable practices when they learn the truth. That is what makes these Planned Parenthood videos and exposing the truth about what is happening is so important to keep showing – no matter how horrible.

So don’t give up. Keep signing petitions (HERE, HERE, and HERE), posting reminders, and boycotting the businesses who support Planned Parenthood. (Find that list HERE)

Abortion is a moral issue – not a scientific issue – that we can’t ignore.

miscarriage 2

This is not a picture of our Asaph, but a precious little boy named Noah who was miscarried around the same gestation and looks similar to Asaph. To read more about the incredible testimony connected to this precious little one’s picture. Click HERE.

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Freezer Meal Swap

​Imagine with me that you have a freezer brimming with “ready to heat” meals. Imagine that your family gets to try several new meals each month that you didn’t even make. Imagine that you could save both time and money while cooking. AND imagine that you have a practical excuse to get together with other like minded ladies for a time of fellowship each month.

​Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it??

​Allow me to introduce the marvelous idea of a Freezer Meal Swap Group. J

​There are different ways you can go about this. The bottom line is that a group of people get together and swap meals they have made. It saves time and money because you are doing bulk cooking and you get the benefit of enjoying meals you may not normally make, plus all of the meals are prepped and waiting in the freezer on a busy day.image

​Here’s how to do it!

#1.
​Invite friends to join you. You may think you have a lot of friends who will want to take part, but you might be surprised how few actually do it. It’s a big commitment and involves both time and trust of the other participants, so I always encourage the ladies to just try it for a couple months and see what they think. Some will fall in love with the idea and others will move on, but either way, the variety in participants is lots of fun. J We average 5-6 in our group, but I’ve heard of as many as 12. You want a manageable number but still worth it for people to make the trek to exchange meals.

​I am very careful who I invite. Your situation might be different, but here is my criteria: A woman in a similar stage of life as me, with a similar family size, like-minded, has a clean home, is dependable, is able to cook. This way, the time of getting together each month is profitable for fellowship and encouragement. It’s crucial that the ladies are dependable because no one wants to go through all that work and not get a meal in return. And most importantly, I make it clear to anyone interested in joining that the ladies all have clean homes. NO ONE wants to eat food from a dirty kitchen.

#2.​Decide what type of swap you will have. You can ask the other ladies what their preferences are as you prepare for your first swap, but here are some options. Some of this is listed in our QUESTIONNAIRE if you just want to use that.

• Have each person make multiples of the same meal. This way they are just making 1 recipe times the number of participants.
• Have each person make different meals. This way they can just double various recipes they are already making throughout the month.
• You could assign people certain ethnicities or food types to prevent duplication. Some ideas are: Red Meat, Poultry, Meatless, Crock Pot, Breakfast, Ethnic, Italian, Soup, Freebie—anything. Or you could just have them bring anything they want. Regardless, it’s like a treasure hunt every month when you arrive to see what meals you will get. J I remember we were all pretty giddy when we arrived at 2nd freezer meal swap to see what we would get that month!

#3. ​Decide how often you will meet and when.

​Some groups meet weekly while others meet bi-weekly or monthly. We meet the third Thursday of every month at 1pm. We always meet at the same person’s home because she is centrally located and some of us live nearly an hour apart. This is nice because we never have to question when or where we will be. I send out an email about a week before each swap, but if I forget, it’s okay. Everyone is independent on this and I think that’s really important. We are EXTREMELY blessed to have very dependable ladies in our group!!

#4.​Decide how the meals will be stored

• Freezer bags
• Disposable containers
• Containers that they re-use and pass around each month
• Each person does whatever

​We mostly do freezer bags flattened and folded in half to save as much space and money as possible. Sometimes though, you need a container and that’s okay, but we try to be conscious of freezer space.

#5.​Decide how the meals will be labeled
​Some of this will depend on how they will be stored, but some is basic. Ask the ladies at the beginning if it’s important to them that you include the recipe of the meal. For our group, it’s not important, but if it’s easy, we include it. These days, most recipes are off the internet so that helps. If not including the recipe, you can simply write in a permanent marker the following information. Or you could print it on paper and rubber band it to the bag. Tape and Staples don’t work very well.

​Include:
o Name of meal
o Date it was made—they last about 3 months safely, so it’s good to know when it was made!
o Preparation instructions including whether or not it needs to be thawed
o We started including the word, “Raw” if the meat was uncooked so we had a better idea of what we were working with if we were in a hurry when prepping. J

#6.​Determine any food allergies or strong preferences in the group.
​This is important yet you want the food prep to be as simple and generic as possible, so I stress the STRONG preferences. For example, my husband will eat anything, except he really and truly cannot stomach onions. He won’t eat anything that has them, so we use onion powder for ALL of our cooking and this has to carry over into the swap. I, on the other hand, am an EXTREMELY picky eater and have more foods I dislike than like, but I don’t list any preferences on the sheet because I can always pick things off, eat around things, and so on. There is definitely some give and take in a freezer meal swap group. To be honest, we have had meals we didn’t like at all, we’ve had several some loved and some hated, but mostly we’ve had a lot of really wonderful meals, obtained several new recipes and ideas, and rounded out our overall menu.

#7.​Decide how the meals will be distributed at the swap.

​There are several interesting options for this. Here are some I’ve seen and how to implement them.

• Some groups lay out all of the freezer meals from everyone in the group on the table. The person who brought the most meals chooses an equal number of meals first. The person who brought the next highest amount, chooses her equal number of meals next, and on down the line until all of the meals are gone. This works well if the participants bring various types of meals (from doubling recipes throughout the month) or if they bring several of the same meal. It’s also a good option if you choose to meet weekly. This method also gives the ability to bring a few meals or several if someone has had a busy or quiet month. Lots of flexibility here.
• Some groups make a meal for each person in the group, but they make lots of different recipes (like doubling recipes throughout the month), then they lay them out on the table and people just choose the appropriate number of meals randomly.
• Other groups make several of the same recipe and lay them out in organized piles on the table. Each lady walks around the table and gathers her own meals from each pile to fill her container.
• Our group currently has 5 members. We fluctuate between 5 and 6 regularly. We each have our own large container with our name on it that stays at the hostess’s home to be used each month. We each make 5 of the same meal and distribute them into each person’s appropriate container as soon as we arrive. Then we go off to fellowship as long as we want. Afterward, we package up our meals into our coolers or bags and head home. J We require that the meals be completely frozen when each lady arrives so that thawing isn’t a concern if we have to run a few errands or get delayed.

#8.​Back up Plans

​First, I’ll just add this here: The #1 thing we ask of the ladies in our swap is that they be on time. Most of us are able to stay and chat each month and we all look forward to that time, but sometimes we can’t. 1 person has 4 kids and often had to leave immediately early on. We didn’t want her to have to bring all of her kids in and wait unnecessarily for who knows how long before she could leave. This way, she can (theoretically) leave her kids in the car, dash in to grab her meals, and be off. It’s just a courtesy to the other ladies and I think everyone appreciates it. Of course, we all have our times when we’re a few minutes late, but we try really hard. J

​Life happens, so sometimes someone has to miss a swap. Here is how we handle it according to our guidelines which each lady receives up front.

If you can’t make it to a swap and would still like to participate, please arrange two swaps with another person because they will need to bring your food to the swap and bring your new food back to you. Just be aware that freezer food is heavy, so this will add a challenge for the other person and also take up their freezer space.

We’ve all had to do this, and no one really minds. You just need to have a plan in place. We’ve never actually had anyone randomly miss a swap, but you could just have them drop out for a month instead.

We are all in the childbearing stage of life, so we have fun with it! Each lady who is going to have a baby picks a month to take off. It is usually the month before or just after her due date so she can rest. (It’s HARD, if not impossible, to make several freezer meals post partum!) Then we each make our normal number of meals and one person is designated to take them to the new mom. It’s an enormous blessing to her to receive several new meals during that time (plus all she’s stockpiled leading up to her baby’s arrival) and we all enjoy being able to help her in that way. We are short one meal that month, but it’s worth it and we know our time will come too. J To give you an idea of what a blessing this is: For my last baby, I stockpiled nearly 30 freezer meals before her arrival! I barely cooked for several months afterward, so my kids started asking me every night at supper who had made their meal. J

As you can see, there are many blessings of a Freezer Meal Swap Group. We are coming up on 2 years as a group, and we love it. It has stretched my creativity, motivated me to do more freezer cooking, saved us time and money, but most importantly, I have cultivated relationships with other like minded women I never would have taken time to fellowship with. My kids also love playing with the other kids—there will be 13 kids by next month!

I hope this is a help to you if you would like to start a group in your area. Here is the QUESTIONNAIRE that I sent out when we first started and here is a copy of our current GUIDELINES if that information is helpful as you begin. Also, here is an article I did on 10 Freezer meals from your pantry to get you started.

- Lydia

You have your hands full #1

You Have Your Hands Full!

“You have your hands full!”

The man in Walmart’s canned vegetable aisle gapes at my brimming cart and the 4 small children hanging off in every direction. Then his eyes travel down to my protruding belly.

Like every mom with small children, I’ve received this comment more times then I can count.

It doesn’t bother me anymore though.

(On the contrary! I’m excited by the opportunity!)

I look him in the eye so he can see my sincerity and give him a genuine smile.

“The BEST kind of full you can have!” I exclaim.

My response gets the reaction I was hoping for, and his eyes prove that they can indeed widen farther.

I push my cart on – hoping that my thankful attitude concerning my kids planted a seed in this stranger’s heart.

In a society where children are increasingly devalued, we as Christian parents find ourselves in a powerful position that simply no one else is in.

The pastor can preach about the value of children, politically active can picket and hand out brochures on not killing the unborn, but we, sisters, are the ones who live out a love for our children in front of the world.

The spoken truth is never more potent then its testimony – and we Christian moms are the testimony.

- When you fall on your face before God and find the grace to love a less-then-loveable child, you are a testimony of unconditional love.

-When you lay down your own desire for respect from others, (I’m not talking becoming a revered doctor, national speaker or movie star – I’m talking someone – anyone being impressed by anything you do – because parenting – while insanely hard – rarely gets any applause-)– Yet, even in the midst of obscurity and loneliness, when you find your fulfillment in His sustaining promises – you are a testimony.

-When you are in Walmart, Taco Bell, (fill in your most recent child-threw-a-tantrum-in-front-everyone-spot here), and your child is acting like a sinful little brat and totally humiliating you, and by God’s grace, you zone in and help that child through his/her spiritual battle without losing your cool, you are a testimony.

Satan doesn’t just attack Christ’s name. He attacks Christ’s truth.

And one of the biggest truths attacked in America today is the value of motherhood – AND by default the value of children.

(Satan is busy. He is constantly telling women that they need exciting careers, thin bodies, big houses, and a dozen other things that won’t matter on our deathbeds but will be stifled by faithfully parenting children.)

And the world is listening.

Despite longer lives and better healthcare, the worldwide national fertility rate (the number of children the average woman will bear in her lifetime) has steadily dropped from 4.95 children per woman in 1950 to 2.34 children in 2015. Oddly, this trend is dominant in the countries where we can actually afford children. In America, the average woman has birthed less then 2 children since 1972.

If numbers speak, children are not a priority in the western world today.

But there is one thing Satan can’t stifle – the Truth – and the testimony of the Truth that we get to be.

We are the undeniable picture that children are awesome and being a mom is a high and worthy calling – one that surpasses the rest.

So the next time you are rushing through the grocery store, and the inevitable comment comes –

“You have your hands full!”

Proudly hoist your battle-worn banner up on your shoulder and make the most of that fleeting opportunity.

You have your hands full #2