Monthly Archives: January 2015

Minimize Maximize

Raising Lights: Minimizing the Wants to Maximize the Needs

Beyond salvation and a godly marriage, my children are the greatest gifts I have ever been given.

Sometimes it makes me totally speechless how amazing it is to be their mom. To watch them grow, discover, and become men and women of God.

It awes me beyond words that before the foundations of the earth, God had a plan for each of them – to play a part in His eternal story – and that through these little ones, He will raise up the next generation of Christ-fearing men and women.

They are the greatest thing I will leave behind. My heritage – to live on decades and even centuries after I am in Heaven.

As their mom, I want to open every door and opportunity possible. I want to give them every tool they could ever need.

However, (like most of us) I have a limited amount of energy and an even more limited budget.

Having limited resources is not a bad thing; It is an opportunity to choose best over secondary.

It’s a chance for us as parents to stand back and say ” I cannot give my children ‘everything,’ but I can give them what’s important – so what is important?”

And this opportunity – brought on by a tight budget and limited energy – creates the need for purposeful and thoughtful parenting.

I’ve needed to think A LOT about what my children’s most important needs are – and what the ‘needs’ are that I’ve simply perceived based on the loves I’ve adopted from society.

With everything, you need to minimize things – in order to maximize the pursuit of what you value.

No great thing is achieved without great sacrifice.

I want to make sure that the things I’m sacrificing are not the real needs but the extras that I’ve simply been perceiving as ‘needs.’

Example: Our family budget is such that I am able to stay at home and be with my children – at the cost of living in a small house, shopping at Goodwill and limiting trips to business and family.

This is hard for me sometimes as I feel like I would like to give my children ‘better.’

A society that measures ones’ worth by their designer clothes and house screams at me that my children should be wearing Tommy Hilfiger, each have their own room, and be enrolled in expensive dance lessons.

But then I re-evaluate.

I even go write lists about what my children ‘need’ so that I can read it and remember what I need to minimize and what I need to maximize.image

More then being known as kids who have nice clothes and cool rooms, I want my kids’ character to shine as lights.

  • I want my children to be thankful, be diligent, and be good at getting along with others.

A shared room makes them learn to share, clean up, and be patient with each other.

(My limited resources are not hindering my most important tool I want to give them (good character). Their less-than-perfect situation is HELPING with my biggest goal for them!!)

  • I want my children to learn to be good stewards.

Because of our low budget, they are already learning about buying things that are a good value and a good price.

  • I want my children to be content.image

There are physical things I’ve determined each of my children will always have no matter what.

(They each have their own toy basket for their special toys and a different basket for own clothes. They each have their own bed to go and read and be alone. They each have scheduled ‘dates’ with my husband and with me. Soon they will each have their own desk to get their homework done in a designated quiet room. They each cover the same school material every year from 2 years up and each have that daily alone time with me.)

But for all the society – ordained ‘needs,’  they have been learning to be content on far less then society’s representation of the ‘ideal,’ and that has actually helped with their character training not hindered it.

  • I want my children to work for what they want.

The life tools that will help them most to become successful adults come through struggle and hard work.

Fortitude, discipline, and courage can only come through stretching situations. I don’t need a ton of resources to teach them that.

 

My children will not be getting very high allowances in high school. But I do plan on helping them start their own little businesses on Etsy or trying lawn/cleaning/babysitting services to neighbors. They will learn about business planning, target audiences and marketing, and they will learn how to work with people and be worthy of their wages.

And yes, (addressing one of the biggest questions people ask parents with limited resources) we will not be able to pay for our children’s entire college education.

(At least I doubt we will.)

But I am a firm believer in students having to pay at least part of their own way.

While we do have plans in play to provide as much as half of their education costs, much of their education will be paid for by their own sweat.

Why is that a good thing? When they finish college, they will actually have  job experience on their resume and will appreciate the degree that they had to sacrifice for, work for, and fight for.

My parents could have afforded to pay for my entire education. I am glad they didn’t. They paid for half, and I paid for the rest – sometimes easing my financial burden by academic scholarships or less expensive correspondence classes. I had to sit out of college two semesters to work, worked every every summer and almost every semester and used my entire high school savings as well.

I learned to covet that degree and when I was in that classroom, I hung on every word the teachers taught. I had to work for the thing I wanted and never took it lightly.

And already I am already trying to teach my children that mindset. When they want a toy at Walmart, I give them jobs to earn it. Even at 3 and 4 they are learning to work for things and, in the safety of home, learning money sense.

  • MOST IMPORTANTLY, I want my children to define themselves and their worth by their identity in Christ.image

And that once again gets back to focus. If my focus is on Christ, then I can learn to look past our clothes and house and see that we are precious in His plan.

With one look at His awesome majesty, I can clear away the clutter of society’s perceptions of ‘needs’ – and recognize that we were bought for an unfathomable price.

When my focus is turned to my identity in Him, His light shines on those perceived needs and reveals them to be the shallow kitsch that they are.

Then I’m free to pursue the real needs – Him – and teaching my children about Him and the glorious identity they can find in Him.

They do not need a nice house or name brand clothes to help them succeed.

They need a mama who puts Christ first and, looking through His glory can minimize the distractions and maximize the pursuit of real needs – helping her children to know Christ and learning to pursue Him.

-Verity

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Thank You Notes with Kids

It’s so important for thank you notes with kids, to teach them to stop and thank others!

Now that we are couple of weeks into January and the excitement of Christmas and the pure giddiness of the influx of presents is wearing off, I thought I would talk a little about children giving thanks.

My kids and I have slowly made it a practice as they are able to articulate and express thanks, to write thank you notes to the relatives after holidays and birthdays. My son just turned 4 and my oldest daughter is 2, so sometimes this is interesting, but here is our progression of what we have done.

Last year, I simply used Word Art on my computer to write “Thank you” in giant bubble letters and let them color it. I folded it to resemble a large card and wrote my thank you notes to the relatives inside.

By my son’s 4th birthday, he was able to dictate his notes to me and then I wrote them on stationary. I started by telling/showing him the gift that was given, and then I encouraged him to say, “Thank you for ________. I like it because_________. I’m excited about it because of ___________.” And so on.

By Christmas this year, I was ready to loosen the reigns a bit and see how the kids did. My 2 year old is unusually bright, and after watching her brother, she was ready to jump in and take part as well.

I printed several of THESE (Thank you note Template) thank you notes I made. The kids took charge of coloring them individually and eagerly asked the favorite colors of each relative who would be receiving them, so I was sure to write “Dear ________,” at the top as they finished each one so I could keep track. ☺

Next, I had them dictate their notes and I wrote them down word for word—or VERY close to it.  Most of the time, their comments were meaningful and fitting, but I just have to share a particularly funny note from my sometimes overly dramatic daughter.

IMG_3366Dear _______________

Thank you for giving me Kate. Kate is my favorite because I just really like Kate. I just really want to keep her forever and ever and ever! I barely play with her.

Abigail

Clearly, I left this italicized phrase out of the note, but it was funny nonetheless! To her credit, she had gotten extremely sick the day after Christmas and had barely played with any of her toys at that point, but you never know what will come out of the mouth of a 2 year old! ☺

Humor aside, it’s so important to get kids actively in the habit of giving thanks at young ages. We also take pictures and videotape when they open many of their gifts so we can send them to the relatives that day. The kids know this and are accustomed to the practice.

If we don’t teach our children to give thanks at an early age, when will we teach them? Giving thanks needs to be as much a part of our life as breathing and our kids need to learn this.  A thankful spirit affects our attitude as we go throughout the day, it affects our dealings with other people, the purchases we make, how well we sleep at night, and our view on pretty much everything!

Each night, we ask our children to share a blessing from that day. It can be something they received, something they did or enjoyed, or just something they’re thankful for. We then sing the doxology which begins, “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!” My kids look forward to this time all day and are quick to remind me if I miss it in the craziness of getting them to bed. We have spent much time in those moments before bed (on the calmer nights) discussing the meaning behind each phrase of the doxology and why we give thanks. They have memorized Bible verses on giving thanks, and have learned to tell others “thank you” whenever needed.

I’m not saying we “have it all together” when teaching our kids to give thanks, but I do think that as parents we need to be intentional about teaching them to give thanks. Here is a list of things that we do that help in this area and might be helpful if you want to encourage thankful hearts in your children.

  • Look for teachable moments to point out blessings throughout the day.
  • When they are babies, say “thank you” each time they hand you a toy.
  • Encourage them to do the same.
  • Tell them who has given them a gift and encourage them to thank that person.
  • Look for creative ways to thank people. With kids, you often have to think outside the box. Can they color a picture for someone, help make cookies for them, talk to them on the phone, pose for a picture with their new toy, dictate a note or email, make a craft project to give to someone…?
  • Have a set time when they pray and thank God for specific things from the day.
  • Teach them verses on giving thanks.
  • Study Bible stories about people who gave thanks.
  • Teach them what thanks means and role play what it looks like.
  • As part of asking to be excused from the table, teach them to thank the cook or the provider of the food if someone bought it.

These are just a few ideas to get your mind going about ways to teach kids to be thankful and to express it to others. What are some things you’ve done with your kids?

We have so much to be thankful for, but if we don’t teach our children to look for it and express thanks, they could miss so much! Let’s seize these teachable moments while our children are young and others will be gladly affected by their actions!

I love this opportunity using thank you notes with kids to help them be more thankful!!

-Lydia

(For more great kid activities for toddlers and preschoolers, check out our page HERE)

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Easy Hair Accessory Storage

Looking for easy hair accessory storage?

Ponytail holders, clips, bows, headbands, brushes… it all adds up—to a lot of little items to work around and keep track of. I love my daughters immensely and I truly love doing fun, new hairstyles on them, but the amount of hair clutter reached a breaking point for me last summer. I spent a ridiculous amount of time on Pinterest searching for some great way to organize their hair supplies and still keep them out of the way. You see, I have 3 children sharing a very small bedroom and counter space is limited. I never did find the right idea for us, but through a series of concepts, I’m EXTREMELY pleased with what I did scheme up.IMG_3405

I went to Dollar Tree and bought a 4 pack of these cute bins. They are small, but not too small. Notice it was a 4 pack. My grand total investment in this project was $1 plus tax!! ☺ I decided to use all 4 of them: 1 for brushes, 1 for ponytail holders, 1 for clips and barrettes, and 1 for headbands.

 

Next, well, I enlisted my husband to hang them, so I’m not a lot of help in the details, BUT what he did was easy! He simply put a screw through the center of each bin and lined them up on the wall. He used dry wall anchors to ensure they wouldn’t rip the drywall over time.

 

IMG_3404Start to finish: About 10 minutes.

Cost: $1 + tax + screws and drywall anchors = CHEAP!

Finished product: AMAZING!

 

Seriously. These make me SO happy every single day, I can’t even tell you! I love having plenty of space for other things on my changing table, and I love that I can see and quickly grab the exact item I need when I’m trying to do my daughters’ hair. I highly recommend this easy hair accessory storage concept. ☺ 

It is so nice and easy! Hair accessory storage right at my finger tips!

-Lydia

PS: Check out the organizing system in Verity’s kids’ room HERE

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Snowman Sensory Bags

The kids and I have been enjoying snowman themed activities, crafts, and games throughout the month of January, but today’s activity was especially fun!

We made Snowman Sensory bags. I had never realized before that this concept was even possible, but I might be hooked. I’m sure there will be more homemade sensory bags to come, but for today, here’s the snowman one. ☺

I got the idea from THIS website and followed it pretty closely with a few alterations.

Here is what you’ll need (items listed are for each child):

  • Ziploc bag
  • Scotch tape or packing tape (we ended up using Scotch and it was perfect)
  • Staplerblog snowman bags
  • Cut out Foam eyes, nose, and buttons (or something to create a snowman in the bag) The eyes and buttons were about the size of a penny I that helps.
  • Cut out Foam or felt hat—not necessary, but fun. The main part of the hat covered the width of the bag and then the flat part stuck out the sides
  • About 2 oz. clear hair gel
  • About ½ cup water
  • About 2 teaspoons glitter

#1. I reinforced the 3 sides of each bag with Scotch tape making sure to fully cover the corners. While I did this, the kids and I discussed the 5 senses and what senses would be used on our sensory bag.

#2 I let each child squeeze about 2 oz. of clear hair gel into their bag while I held it open. They LOVED this part as we used our entire bottle and it made lots of funny noises!

#3. I poured in about 2 teaspoons of glitter into each bag while they held it open.

#4. I poured in slightly less than ½ cup water into each bag while they held it open.

#5. I sealed each bag and let them smush everything around inside to mix it up. They loved this part and were getting eager for the finished product. ☺

#6. Next, I explained the snowman pieces and what they were supposed to look like when laid out properly. I gave each child their pieces to put in their bags.

#7. I had each child wipe the tops of their bags with a piece of paper towel to ensure it was dry and free of stickiness.

#8. I got out as much air as I could and securely resealed each bag.

#9. I sealed the top of each bag with Scotch tape (just to be safe.) ☺

#10. I stapled the hat to the top of each bag being sure to ONLY staple above the zipper seal.

And then the kids were ready to squish and smush away!!

The little ones did need help adjusting their foam pieces into the correct position, but when I explained some other options of ways to arrange them, they were pretty happy to just have fun with it.

I like that this is a craft project they can really use and even learn from. A welcome winter craft! I hope you enjoy it too! ☺

 

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The Stay at Home Mom’s Biggest Sin Struggle

There is a sin that destroys our joy on even the most perfect day.

This sin can cause us to feel annoyed by our baby’s coos and blind our eyes to our warm homes, cute children, hard-working husbands, and the countless eternal blessings given to us by God.

Though it starts out microscopically small, it can grow until it has blocked our vision of every good gift that we were meant to enjoy.

And because of the limited contact and swinging hormones of Stay-At-Home Moms, I think that this sin is one of the the most common sins we struggle with.

It starts out with someone doing us a little wrong – and the next day, (left alone to our thoughts and our fussy baby) we let that little root of indignation take hold.

Later, as we sweep the kitchen floor or unload the dishwasher, we start thinking about everything we want to say to that person.

(We know we shouldn’t say any of the mean things we are thinking about saying, but left alone to ourselves, we start to pride ourselves in how we will ‘show them.’)

And in that pride, we don’t want to give up our ‘little’ sin. We want that person who hurt us or – MORE TEMPTING – hurt someone we love to ‘be punished.’

And, honestly, WE would like to be the one who punishes them – preferably in a way that makes us look smart and that person look dumb.

And so like the dog returns to its vomit, we continue to return to that wrong in our minds – each time letting it grow and letting our view of ourselves grow too.

The sin is bitterness.

Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.

And this single sin can take a holy Christian mom, walking in the light of God’s love, and “defile” her testimony – bringing “trouble” – as it has for “many.”

Yet it is a COMMON struggle among Christian moms!!

Recently I was part of a private Facebook page thread in which one of the moms mentioned that she’d been back-stabbed by family over Christmas. Within minutes, 28 other moms said that they too had been hurt by family during the holidays.

We have all been hurt.

The temptation for bitterness will come.

And when it does come, here are some things to remember.

1. Remember that the Struggle is NOT the Sin

When we are hurt, we will struggle with bitterness, but the struggle is NOT the sin. It is only when we CHOOSE to let it fester. When we CHOOSE to toy with the ‘get even’ scenarios in our mind that it starts to take root in our hearts, and we sin.

Don’t let yourself think you’ve lost the battle – when you have not!

2. Fill Your Mind with God’s Word

I’m POSITIVE that with a house full of maidens, there would be some lady-gossip going on behind the Proverbs 31 woman’s back – and I have a hunch that dealing with merchants means she gets ripped off once or twice.

However, the Proverbs 31 woman opens her mouth with what her mind was full of.

Proverbs 31:26 “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”

We become what we think about.

When we allow our minds to be filled with the wrongs we’ve suffered, we become more like the people (or worse – our perception of the people) who have wronged us.

I do not want to be the woman who always has a criticism and who constantly hurts others because my mind is too often on the hurts I’ve endured.

Bitterness really CAN defile grace-filled living!

3. Fear God. Not Man.

Psalm 111:10a The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. 

Do you want to know how to look at a painful situation?

Don’t start there.

Spend some time looking at God.

-Think of His character and how He shows mercy and forgiveness to you and to all who call on Him.

-Think about His eternal plan in which this painful situation is comparatively tiny and short-lived.

-Think about the many, many blessings He has given you – salvation, eternal hope, spiritual promises, purpose, freedom…

Only THEN – look at the situation.

See it from His eyes. See it as something that He, in His omnipotence, has under control.

Give it to Him.

Rest in Him.

Move your focus from the situation to Him – which is right where your focus belongs.

What gives the Proverbs 31 woman her strength to not get bitter at gossipy maidens, deceitful merchants, and husbands who are busy ruling in the gates and not home enough? 

Proverbs 31: 29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” 30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. 31 Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.

That’s what we want for ourselves, sister. We want to be described as women who fear the Lord – not women who ‘get back’ at those who hurt us.

Let Him define us – and not our circumstances.

-Verity

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Cut Your Christmas Decor Take-Down in HALF!

A few years ago I started using an easy trick that cuts

my Christmas decor take-down time in half!!!

(-And also helps with set up next year!)

Here it is!! TADA!!

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I realized that if I just gently take down the garlands/wreaths/swags (WITH THE ORNAMENTS AND LIGHTS STILL ON) and put them each in their own garbage bag [which I re-use year after year], I wouldn’t have to re-decorate and re-pack all the ornaments and lights.

-The Lights DON’t tangle because they are already spread around the garland

- The ornaments (most of ours are plastic) are padded by the garlands/swag/wreath or whatever I’m packing up.

-Everything I need to put the garland/swag/wreath back up next year is all together!

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Then I stack the bags (about 5 to a tote and stack the totes in the basement.

image(This year, I got organized and listed on the outside of each tote what I’d packed inside.)

Of course if you have a lot of glass ornaments this may not work as well.

I estimate I save at least an hour and a half on take-down and another hour on set-up next year, and it helps a lot with trying to keep track of everything with four little kids ‘helping.’

So there is my tip. :-)

-Verity