Category Archives: Mom’s Musings

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Thanksgiving Then and Now

1621  53 immigrants (called pilgrims) and 90 indians celebrated the first Thanksgiving.

Days of thanks, celebration, and prayer to God were a regular practice among the pilgrims, but this was the first official celebration on American soil.

And this spirit of gratitude is throughout our history.

1774- 1789  “National days of prayer, humiliation, and thanksgiving” were regularly instituted by the continental congress.

1861   Abraham Lincoln declared the holiday of Thankgiving proclaiming the need to remember “the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

Today: Stores this year are opening their major sales as early as 4:00 PM on Thankgiving Day. Shoppers will have to leave time with family, time to reflect, time to be THANKFUL to go after deals.

So Thanksgiving this year will have hoards of Americans racing after what they want rather than pausing in “prayer, humiliation, and thanksgiving”

I DON”T actually blame the businesses. As a small business owner, I know what it’s like to  come up with deals just to survive.

I blame US.

I blame we Americans who have changed from WORSHIPPERS to CONSUMERS.

From Thanks-givers to Stuff-getters.

When a store says they are opening on Thanksgiving day. WE, Americans should be outraged, but instead we move our dinner up – so we can race out the door to save $35 on a blue-ray player, $10 on an Elsa doll or $25 on a TV wall mount.

We willingly sacrifice the time we’ve set aside to THANK for WANT.

Ultimately, the success of the Thanksgiving sales show what we Americans serve.

We serve our true master – Stuff – and pledge our first fruits to get it.

This is what we’ve become.

How different the first immigrants were from us.

They sacrificed everything to be here – and willingly thanked God that he had provided the bare necessities – let alone deals on flat screen TVs and Barbie Dream houses.

A few days ago I caught a glimpse of what we must look like to a modern day immigrant.

I was talking to an immigrant friend from Germany.

Immigrating has never been easy, and today that hasn’t changed. She, her husband, and their children became citizens, have worked hard (At Walmart jobs), and are trying to put him through school for a brighter tomorrow.

And so here is her 7th Thanksgiving as an American. It is not a time of thankfulness and prayer. She and her husband will both be working through Thanksgiving, Black Friday and the whole weekend.

When she told me this,  I opened my mouth to say something about holiday shopping boosting the economy, but I stopped.

I looked at her tired face.

She had sacrificed everything to come to America because it boasted of freedom and prosperity – yet where would she be on Thanksgiving – the day we have set aside to celebrate the prosperity God has given us and THANK Him?

She would be watching us all grab for more.

For just a second this glimpse into a modern day immigrant gripped me.

For just a second the view of my own taken-for-granted life of privilege left me speechless.

“I’ll be praying for you.” I said weakly.

I will be praying for her, and I don’t plan to be part of the hoards shopping on Thanksgiving either.

I hope to spend my Thanksgiving doing what the first immigrants did – giving thanks.

-Verity

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10 Benefits of Contentment when Finances are Tight

Philippians 4:11-13

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. 

My family and I have walked through what could have been a daunting time the last 8 months. My husband didn’t have a real job, we have 3 kids (1 is a new baby), my husband was finishing school, and we had many other unknowns in our life. To see why and how, read THIS post. As we have gone through this time and are now standing on the cliff of the other side, I have been realizing how much my thinking has changed in many areas. Trials (whether big or small) change us and they are (and should be viewed as) an exciting time as God molds us into who He wants us to be. (Isaiah 64:8  But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.)

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I grew up the daughter of a pharmacist. I commend my parents in many ways for being careful with money and not spending foolishly, so this experience the last several months has been a first for me. Maybe some of what I’m going to write will sound naïve that I’m just realizing these things, or maybe it will sound foreign to you, but whatever your circumstance, I hope it encourages you to view possessions and circumstances differently. To view them as gifts from God and to view each decision as an opportunity lovingly bestowed upon you from a faithful and good God who is gently teaching you and molding you into who He wants you to be. If you have the opportunity to buy something new—praise Him. If you have the opportunity to go without—praise Him.


A Song of Ascents. I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
Psalm 121:1-8

My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.

The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

So today, I’m going to share with you some of the ways my thinking has changed over these months with the goal of simply encouraging you.

1.         I am LEARNING to be content with what I have rather than looking for new things to need or buy. Even though there are things I would still like, the fashion game (both in clothing and décor) is endless. At some point, we must choose to be content. I’m not out of it yet, but the concept is very freeing.

 

2.         I view all household projects, craft projects, and cooking activities differently. Rather than seeing the “need” to go and buy something to make the project work, I look first at whether or not I need to do the project at all. If I don’t, I view it as a freeing opportunity to do something else. If I do need to do it, I first look for ways to do it for free. If I don’t have all the ingredients for example, can I substitute? Or can I skip that ingredient altogether? Or is there a similar recipe I could use instead? If it’s a decorating or craft project I try to think of materials to substitute. Can I cut up an old skirt or bed sheet I don’t use any more? Can I use a different tool or decorative piece than the example? What do I have in my own home that could possibly work or be changed in some way to work? To whet your palette for this topic, I recently re-decorated our living room for FREE. A post will be coming soon!

 

3.         I LOVE couponing! However, I’ve started to realize it’s okay if I don’t even look through the Sunday paper for an entire week. It’s okay if some of my coupons get behind on being filed, or if I miss a blog post from some of my favorite couponing sites. Those deals WILL come back. Thankfully, they seem to operate on this wonderful cycle. I am learning to trust that GOD will supply all of our needs even if I don’t MAKE it happen through a particularly amazing coupon deal. Time and time again, over these months, I have missed a deal only to be handed the exact thing we needed at the exact time or for someone to hand us money to cover those needs when we least expected it. God is bigger than couponing.

 

4.         I have learned to look around my home and realize it’s okay if things aren’t perfect. It’s okay if I want something to make it better and I have to wait to have it. Maybe my desire will change or maybe the item I need will change. I can be content with what I have. I still have my desires. I still want to have nice things, but I don’t have to be driven by finding a way to get them. I can rest and know there is no rush. Maybe someday I’ll reach the non-desiring stage! :-)

 

5.         I’m learning to be creative—quite a feat for me!! Not creative in craft projects, (necessarily) but in how I provide the things we need. For example, I have started to keep almost all receipts. Right now, my 2 year old almost always stays dry when she sleeps, so we are going through less than half the diapers I had anticipated. My 3 year old son still goes when he sleeps, but soaks through often too. He must need a bigger size. My 7 month old, simply needs new diapers. I have an abundance of size 4 diapers for our current needs for the week. What can I do to provide for my family?

I bagged up an extra package of size 4 and a package of size 5 diapers, with the receipt, and I’m taking them to CVS to exchange them for size 3 and size 6 of the same brand. This will get us comfortably through another week or so and I am going to spend ZERO dollars!

Just to add to the fun of this: Next week, Walgreens will have their diapers on sale 2/$11 and there is a $1.50 off coupon available with 2 prints per printer. I happen to have an old gift card left from an exchange several weeks ago. That will nearly cover the diaper cost which will get us through another 2 weeks of diapers with less than $2 output total! Bottom line: Over a month of diapers for THREE kids for less than $2. I could have gone to Target and picked up diapers, but instead I get to learn creativity. God is so good!

This general concept has happened multiple times over the last several months. Fun side note: If you forget to use a coupon when you checkout at CVS, you can take it back with your receipt and they will give you cash! J

 

6.         My husband and I have begun to view work as a good and exciting thing. There are no more Moan and Groan Mondays for us! We even look for opportunities to work and we tell others when we can work rather than it being a laborious and disappointing task. Our children have been learning about communism and socialism vs. capitalism this week. It has been exciting to share with them the importance of working for our money. They too have been enjoying the fact that Daddy can work to provide for us.

 

7.         My family and I are becoming increasingly familiar with the free lists of things to do online. Not just in our own city, but in others where we have traveled as well. Because we are intentionally trying to find a free activity to do or free event to attend, we are spending more time together than when we just did whatever and the financial side didn’t matter as much. I think it’s because we are becoming more intentional with everything we do. I challenge you to look up “free things to do in________ (your city).” You WILL be amazed at all the options! And it’s not just like a picnic in your backyard—there are free museums, tours, outdoor movies, swimming pools, kids’ craft projects, concerts, zoos, and even dining locations! It’s amazing!

 

8.         Kids love to get STUFF. Who doesn’t, I guess. I am realizing that I COULD take my kids to Target, browse the aisles and let them each pick out a toy, OR I could take them to a FREE event in my community and let them go to the different “freebie tables” as we call them.  Just in the last several weeks, we attended National Night Out, Battle of the Badges Barbecue, the Fire Department’s Open House, and the State Fair all for free. At EACH of these events my children not only participated in TONS of fun activities, but they also came home with bags of stuff—and I did too. We’re talking: bouncy balls, frisbees, pencils, sunglasses, back packs, multiple food items, stickers, books, dollar store toys of their choice, washable tattoos, stuffed animals, fireman hats, police badges, coloring books, hula hoops, and TONS more. Everything I have listed, was 100% free (and I barely scratched the surface, but I think you get the idea!) :-)

 

9.         I have discovered that I don’t have to purchase expensive materials for my children’s schooling. Pretty much everything they need can be found on Pinterest these days. How did we ever survive before Pinterest??? (like 3 years ago! Ha!) Admittedly, this may not work for everyone, but there is A LOT on there and it has been beneficial for me to check Pinterest before Amazon.

 

10.       I am attempting to be creative when it comes to ways to help others. Do I have to provide food or a tangible gift, or can I provide time or a service? Some people don’t have time to clean or complete a project, but if you do, that may be the biggest blessing of all. If you do provide a meal, there are so many you can make from your pantry without spending much (if any money). I actually have an article coming soon on that topic.

 

I share all of this, not so you’ll look at me or my family’s situation, but to encourage you. To encourage you to be excited about whatever trial God has presented you with and to know that He is lovingly shaping you to be who He wants you to be. To encourage you to praise Him in whatever storm you are in. To encourage you to step outside of a financial box and to find creative ways to do things. To encourage you to praise God for the situation he’s given you!

 

-Lydia

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The Biggest Danger of the Mommy Blogs

8:15 last night:

Our house was a disaster. (Like every room – including food and garbage- type of disaster.)

Supper was drying on the uncleared dishes.

Half the groceries were still on the counter from earlier. (I had managed to put most of the refrigerated items away.

Errands went long. (Like the door greeter at Walmart laughed when he saw me leave and said “You’re STILL here?” type long.)

Nap time was given up after an hour of trying to get my 4 little bouncing beans to keep their heads ON THEIR PILLOWS. (Seriously, it was like one of those groundhog bonking games where you are supposed to keep them all in their holes with a padded mallet – and you bonk one, and then another pops up…)

And the kids FINALLY went to bed …45 minutes late.

It was at this low moment (when I should have stopped to pray for strength and focus) that I did what I have done far too many times.

I raced to my beloved laptop to check favorite blogs and to ‘connect.’

To ‘socialize.’

To ‘like’ and ‘be liked.’

I’m not the only mom who does this.

Surrounded by dishes and tantrums, I too often find myself, at the first moment of reprieve, reaching out – hoping for someone to understand – to put into words the discouragement, the hopes, the fears and the joys of my messy, lonely life.

I think this is why stay at home moms make up one of the biggest group of blog readers on the internet.

We are lonely.

We are really longing for someone to relate to.

(And we are too tired to drag the kids off every week to join a MOPS group, and too poor to hire a babysitter more then a couple times a year.)

But there is danger in the Mommy Blogs. I’d never thought about it until I started writing my own blog. But now I have to voice it, and I’d really love to get your thoughts on it.

We always hear about how the mommy blogs can cause envy - of the woman who has the Martha Stewart-type house, cooks 100% from scratch and runs a thriving home business while raising 6 children (who always look like models and never sin.)

We also hear about how these blogs can cause discouragement because no one really has it altogether. It’s just easier to make it look like you do when your blog only records carefully selected pictures and stories.

However, I think the BIGGEST danger of blogs (and all social media) is much closer to the heart.

We Use Blogs to Fill Heart Needs That They are NOT Meant to Fill.

Tired and lonely, we head to the computer when we are spiritually struggling or needing fellowship.

1. We use blogs to fill our spiritual needs.

Rather than retreat to our Bible and reach up toward the One Who will fill our longing souls with His grace, we turn first to our computers.

We do find something in the Christian blogs, but it is like a crumb of food in comparison with the meat of His Word that would fill our starving souls.

These blogs are convicting and spiritually encouraging, but our first moments should be spent filling up on Him, and our later moments could be given to the words of wise Christian sisters.

(To be honest, in my lowest moments as a mom, I have the hardest time picking up my Bible. I may have just yelled at my kids; I may have let the house slip and be struggling with guilt and discouragement. I don’t feel holy enough for God. I would much rather find a blogger mom who I can relate to and yet keep a safe distance from. It is these darkest times though, that I need His pure words the most.)

2. We use blogs to fill our friendship needs.

Rather than reach for the phone and call a friend with whom we can share deep and meaningful conversation, we start surfing through posts.

Rather than looking for friends in our community who will come into our home and know us for who we really are and with whom we can share experiences, we use technology to make ‘connections’ digitally.

But cyber friends can often be smoke and mirrors. Someone with a thousand ‘friends’ can be one of the loneliest.

We become very attached to our favorite bloggers – even though they barely know us. We send our comments out to them with all the love and care of our bestie.

(I’ve completely done this. I checked one of my favorite blogs routinely when her baby was due last year, and when a different favorite blogger failed to respond to a personal message, I was deeply hurt.)

And virtual medias can even distance us from our real friends. We feel like we’re keeping up with our friends because we check up on how their children are growing on Facebook, but we haven’t had a worthwhile conversation with them in 3 years.

And there is a difference. A former roommate on the other end of the phone, knows your struggles and can call you on it if you are wallowing in self-pity. A blog can often convict and encourage us, but it cannot do what a friend does. It’s not meant to.

Blogs DO have their purpose.

As long as we don’t depend on them to fill unprecedented positions, blogs can be a great blessing – adding to our days worthwhile thoughts and encouraging conversations!

My blog has helped me connect with sweet sisters from my past and also make some new friends. I do hope for future conversations and friendships!

So in their place and fulfilling their purpose, blogs (and all social media), are useful and fun!

The main thing is to use blogs as blogs.

Our relationship needs must be filled by relationships!

So as I walk away from this post, I want  to commit myself to go to God when I am filled with loneliness rather than surfing aimlessly through Mommy blogs, and then I hope to call or email a friends who will encourage me, instead of quick checking Facebook statuses.

And dear sister may I encourage you also, when you find yourself with a rare moment of silence, to pause BEFORE reaching for the computer. Instead, pick up your Bible and fill your need tank from the friendship that will be forever – and then maybe reach for the phone to call the old friend you’ve been meaning to call.

 

-Verity

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What is Our God?

A friend recently posted an article about a girl who renounced Christianity because, having been a part of the purity movement, she felt she could not have sex with her husband and still be a Christian.

It’s a very sad article, but it’s also very good for those of us who profess Christ to work through and consider because the article touches on something much deeper than just virginity at marriage.

It touches on what I think is one of the main reasons that young Christians are leaving the church today in droves.

(Here is a link to the article)

She repeatedly mentioned two things:

-Unnecessary Guilt

-Her Identity Being Based on her Outward Acts of Spirituality.

I think her church and family were trying to help her by encouraging a good standard (even a Biblical standard on her) but the problem happened when:

1. THE STANDARD BECAME THE FOCUS INSTEAD OF CHRIST’S LOVE

2. HER IDENTITY BECAME FOUND IN THE STANDARD INSTEAD OF CHRIST

Whether it is virginity or any other standard, even good and Biblical standards can be turned into idols. And when she had to reject the standard, she had no choice but to reject Christ.

This is very sad, but the problem started many years before when she placed her LOVE on the standard rather then on Christ. She explains in depth her relationship to the standard and never mentions (in the article anyway) a relationship with Christ.

The ONLY thing that will keep people in true, Christianity is a love for Christ.

Then – as an act of love to Him, they will obey from their hearts BECAUSE THEY LOVE HIM. (John 14:15) We obey him only because we love Him.

But, if we OBEY to OBEY then we ONLY find emptiness and guilt.

Throughout the centuries well meaning Christians have lifted up standards – genuinely trying to help their children and disciples to succeed.

Unfortunately, when one’s focus and love are not on Christ, depending on His grace, standing in awe of His incredible person, and rejoicing that He is working His perfect will in us, one cannot succeed.

My heart goes out to this poor woman who wrote this article, and I hope that she can learn what true Christianity is – to love Christ because He first loved us and while we were yet sinners showed His amazing love toward us by offering Himself for us.

-Verity

Live Independently of My Circumstances

Recently I celebrated my 30th birthday

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Each year on my birthday, my husband takes the kids, and I get to go off to a lovely coffee shop, buy a $5 large coffee ice cream drink (with whipped cream) and spend some much needed time evaluating the last year and planning for the next.

This year I was a little disappointed because we had planned to have some time to reevaluate together BEFORE I had my alone time.

I wanted him to change some things –

 I wanted him to change some our schedule

 I wanted him to change some priorities

 But I’m glad that the Lord worked it out that way because as I sat there, in one of the rare grown-up, sophisticated, (quiet!!) environments I get to be in in the whole year, feeling a little miffed that we hadn’t had that conversation in which he was going to make all those great changes I had planned for him, I realized one important thing that I hope to carry through the coming year -

The only thing I can control is ME.

I can’t control if my husband throws off my evening or morning routines, but I’m in control of 8:30am-4:30 each day.

I can’t control if the kids are whiney (though it is my job to train them), but I can control if I blow up at them.

I can’t control if the house is old and frustrating, but I can make the best of it and keep it as picked up as possible

I can’t control the economy, but I can control if I give in to fear.

Circumstances can stink. Plans get ruined. Dreams die.

But I CAN still stand strong.

This morning the kids and I were working on Psalm 1 in our devotions.

1 Blessed is the man

who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree

planted by streams of water

that yields its fruit in its season,

and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does, he prospers.

4 The wicked are not so,

but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

I drew two trees for them.

The one was a strong and firmly rooted tree beside a river, and the other was a sickly tree barely hanging on.

It was a helpful picture. No matter what our circumstances are, no matter if the kids are whiney, jobs are lost, the economy does a nose dive, we can stand strong – firmly rooted in Him, His promises and His commands.

This last year, I watched Lydia and Matthew go through the hardest year of their marriage as Matthew finished his last difficult year of seminary. Finances were tight. Classes were heavy. Obligations were insane. Jobs were demanding.

Yet Lydia always responded rightly. Again and again I saw her remain calm when I would have been convulsing on the floor.

Late in the year she mentioned to me that at the top of her TO-DO list every day she would write “Live Independently of My Circumstances.”

No matter what happened (and plenty happened this year for them), she tried to respond rightly.

Circumstances were hard, but she stayed focused on Him.

I saw my sister be a strong tree.

She faithfully trained her children, faithfully encouraged Matthew, and faithfully responded rightly again and again.

So as I stand, looking out at (hopefully) another 30 years, I hope that I can learn from my little sister. :-)

Live Independently of My Circumstances and Live Dependently on Him.

-Verity

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How a Family of 5 Lived Comfortably for 7 Months without a Job

My husband is a hard worker and a very good provider, but when the political climate at his job skyrocketed last fall it became apparent that a change had to take place for his health and the sanity of our family. We toughed it out for a few months until my husband finally gave his two weeks notice just before Thanksgiving. We didn’t know exactly how things would play out or how we would even survive. For the first time in our marriage, we were taking a GIANT leap of faith. Some called it foolish (we wondered if it was), but we knew something had to change. You see, my husband was about to enter his final semester of a 6 year endeavor to obtain his Masters of Divinity degree (96 credit hours). We were tired—no exhausted—and we had a new baby (our 3rd) due in just a few weeks. We needed to do whatever it took to survive that next semester which was already going to happen on very little time and sleep. Today, I want to share with you how God has provided for our needs over the last 7 months and counting, but also some of the practical things we did to survive. I hope there will be some useful ideas for frugality that you may be able to use too!

Here was our situation for…

Money coming in:

Even though there was no full time job, we were not completely without income. My husband drove limousine very part time, but there was almost no work in January and February.

My husband taught piano lessons to 2 students each week.

My husband tunes pianos occasionally.

My husband is in the Army Reserves.

God provided many opportunities for my husband to fill pulpit in area churches—one consistently. They then provided an honorarium which not only covered our gas, but helped with our overall income. It was also a wonderful ministry opportunity for us and we cherished that time.

I nanny 1 day a week, but I was off for my maternity leave in January and February.

I took advantage of Market Research Groups to make a little money and receive fun, free products to try.

 

How we prepared:

My husband purposely quit his full time job the beginning of December so that he could take full advantage of the busiest limo driving month of the year. He worked 5-6 days a week and we were able to get slightly ahead financially.

We also had a little bit in savings that helped.

I knew that we were about to have a new baby in the middle of a frigid winter and that things could change financially, so I gradually stocked up on EVERYTHING leading up to my husband quitting his job. We had a solid months worth minimum on everything except perishable groceries. I stocked up on toiletries and paper products, including diapers and wipes, to get us into the month of May when my husband would finish school. This made things so much less stressful and easier to survive the winter too.

I took advantage of some of the Gift Card deals around the holiday season where I bought gift cards to stores we frequented and then received another one back as a bonus. This was a fun and practical way to make a little money up front as we prepared.

I had bought almost all of the kids summer clothes on deep clearance coupled with coupons last fall, so we had minimal expenses for clothes. The last few items we needed, I found at Goodwill on Toddler Thursdays for $1-$2 each.

Things we did to save money:

We ate out less, but when we did we only ate at places where we had a gift card or there was a freebie. This helped us get through our gift card stash we had been accumulating for years and was A LOT of fun! Freebies abound in a big city, so we also had plenty of free family outings. Here are just some of the deals we got in on.

  • My husband had his birthday during this time, and he and I are each signed up for about 10 birthday freebies. www.birthdayfreebies.com has a great list.
  • Noodles and Company did an awesome promotion where you could bring in 3 non perishable food items per person per day for five days and each receive any regular size entrée complete with meat! We did this 4 of the 5 days and ate off of it for 2 weeks! Some went in the freezer. J
  • Caribou Coffee often does BOGO days and there were even some free things due to their new Perks Program!
  • Dunn Bros. Coffee did a BOGO
  • Red Robin had various freebies and offers
  • Kids eat free at various restaurants on certain days.
  • Chipotle did a BOGO offer.

We were more mindful to ask for military discounts everywhere we went. Some provided amazing deals!

We took advantage of WIC and some local food pantries. It was amazing how many times God provided a specific food need through a food pantry item!

I’m a part of a Freezer Meal Swap Group, so we actually saved money by preparing large amounts of one meal and getting 5 others back each month. I’ll be writing a post on this soon!

LOTS of coupons and combining deals. We did a lot of shopping at Target where we combined sale items, Target coupons/mobile coupons, manufacturer coupons, Cartwheel (I LOVE CARTWHEEL!), deals where we got gift cards back and then paid with our Target RedCard for an extra 5% off. Yes, all of that in one transaction! We also did a lot of shopping at CVS for similar reasons and that was a place where I had gifts cards from the holiday season so my totals didn’t hurt as badly. :-) After my shopping, I often submit receipts to apps like Ibotta or Checkout 51 to make a little bit of money back too.

We only bought items we ABSOLUTELY needed. I tried to wait as long as possible before buying and prayed to see if God would provide it another way. He often did!

For baby gifts, I gave an extra package of newborn diapers I had left from our youngest (since she loves to eat) with an extra new outfit I had or an inexpensive item I could buy from their registry with coupons. :-)

For any other gifts, I found items where I could use coupons or combine it with something I had to still give a nice gift and spend very little. I also appreciated my Taget RedCard where I could save at least 5% and then have the item shipped for free if we couldn’t attend.

It’s also surprising how many things are free. We definitely haven’t skimped on family dates! There are multiple places where kids can play for free, free museums, free attractions, and historical locations that are free. Some are free all the time, others are free sometimes or with a military ID. We have actually had more family outings these months than ever before—and all for free! We were even able to get a free 1 year membership to the Children’s Museum!

Little things we did to save:

I used less soap in the dishwasher, when I washed my hands, in the washing machine etc. You really don’t need as much as is recommended.

I figured out as many meals as possible that used up pantry and freezer items.

I typically use about half the meat a recipe calls for—especially chicken. I also used a little less cheese and skimped on any other more expensive ingredients if possible.

I tried to use fewer wipes on the kids and be mindful of all other paper products.

I only went out if I had to and tried to do all the shopping at once. We became better about stopping for things that were on the way home from church.

My husband rode his bike as much as possible.

Ways we saw God provide:

Our neighbors called us on two different occasions to give us some extra food they had ended up with from their church food pantry!

We had a baby at the beginning of this time. We thought it would be a financial drain, but it turned into a blessing as MANY people brought us meals, freezer meals, groceries, specific items we needed, and LOTS of Target gift cards!

My husband graduated from seminary during this time. Again, we thought it would be a financial drain as I threw him a party and many extra expenses were involved along the way, but we were flooded with financial gifts!

Almost every time my husband went on a limo run during these months he received extra tips. This had rarely happened in the past.

People randomly gave us money! I still don’t know why exactly, except that God laid it on their heart to be a blessing to us and they were!

My husband received several unexpected calls from people asking him to tune their piano.

Above all else, the family time we have had during these months has been priceless. Our kids were at a point where they needed to see their dad more often, and emotionally, I needed my husband around sometimes. We had activities we wanted to do, and we have crossed almost every single thing off of that list. Money has been tight, and we have had to give up some purchases in order to have time together and a healthier, closer lifestyle. We don’t intend to stay in this position long term as my husband is actively seeking a ministry, but looking back on these months, I wouldn’t change a thing, and I praise God for the opportunity to have this time!

-Lydia

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When Dreams Don’t Come True

 

I will be 30 in a couple weeks. This is the age when so many of my friends and I are posting on Facebook about our dreams coming true. We post about getting married, job promotions, and having children. Some post about ministries coming to fruition; others about home renovations.

We all post about dreams coming true.

But most of us don’t post about dreams that do not come true – dreams that are lost.

Even when the lost dream is one of the closest things to our hearts, we stay silent.

Who would understand?

Sometimes we sacrifice it for other things that are more important -children, survival.

Sometimes the dream is simply beyond our grasp.

Either way the surrender of those dreams usually happens in silence.

Perhaps only our closest friends know how hard it is to let those dreams go. Often they don’t even know. (Who can truly understand another person’s heartache?)

But losing these dreams is an important part of the Christian walk.

This is surrender.

This is recognizing that God and His plan are enough for us.

In an amazing article on trust and surrender, a friend recently wrote about a dream that was lost. After 5 sons, she realized she may never get to mother a daughter. After prayer and some struggle, she surrendered it to God.

It really struck something with me.

Like all of us to varying degrees, I’ve needed to lay a dream on the altar and have been learning to trust Him more in the process. Through the surrendering of this dream and the embracing of His different plan for me, I’ve been learning several truths.

1. God is Enough for Our Joy

We don’t need ____ to be happy.

If we think we do, we are reducing God’s worth, and we are making that lost dream an idol.

We need to realize He is sufficient for us. He is enough. His grace is enough.

2. God is Enough for Our Purpose.

We were not created to do great things for God. We were created for Him to work His perfect will through us.

We try to make right decisions, and we make choices based on our priorities and interests and strengths. But who gave us those strengths and interests? God.

He picks.

Not us.

If we work, and he gives fruit, it is simply a gift.

The homemaker who faithfully serves her family and seeks to obey God in her humble day, is not less rewarded then the silver tongued evangelist who enjoys hundreds of golden opportunities to see God’s work.

Because it’s God’s work. He gives the increase.

The homemaker and the evangelist were simply called to faithfully play out their jobs.

We run with patience the race that IS SET before us. (Passive tense. We don’t set up the race. The only action word that we do is RUN.)

We are called to run what HE sets before us. And He gives the increase.

3. God’s Plan is Better

Right now my four-year-old wants more than anything to be a hero. He talks constantly about saving his sisters from the monster under the bed, saving all our friends at church from wild animals, and saving our family from bad men.

Wisdom has taught me that God’s plan for working out these desires in my son’s life may be very different than what my son imagines. God may plan for him to be a hero by being a provider for his family, a witness in his community, or a leader in his church. My son wants to slay a dragon.

Whatever God’s plan for him, it will be deeper and better than the crowd-pleasing grandeur he has planned for himself.

4. We Learn that God is Enough. Period.

If tomorrow one of us were stranded on a desert island.

Hope of rescue: Gone.

Every dream: Gone.

And we lived out every day with only Him. Only His love to comfort us when lonely, only His grace to strengthen us when discouraged, only daily communion with Him and hope of Heaven to give any joy, He would be ENOUGH.

If in the sorrow and isolation, we could fulfill our life’s calling to faithfully worship Him through prayer and remembrance of the Bible verses we’ve memorized, it would be ENOUGH.

Now to think, when we are surrounded by blessings of comfort, family, church, successes, those are simply extras!

ANY dreams realized are extras!

Because ultimately HE is ENOUGH!

What a joy then, in an act of obedience and love, to lay down lost those dreams, embrace what He does set before us, and thank Him for being ENOUGH for us.

 

-Verity

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Letting Them Help: Part 1

Painting House for Normal Person:

8:00 Go Outside and Paint Two Sides of (Small) House

10:00 Snack

10:15 FINISH Painting House

12:00 Eat Lunch

Take Afternoon Off.

 

Painting House with Small Children:

7:30 Dress Everyone

8:00 Help them with Chores

8:30 Summer Preschool Time (Focuses Little Minds)

9:00 Baby Wakes! Feed/Change Baby

9:45 Set Up Baby and Kids in Fenced Yard

9:50 Spend 10 Minutes Explaining to 3 Year Old How to Paint (Today Other Kids are Going to Play. Only One Kid with a Paintbrush – thank you!)

10:00 START PAINTING!

(Stop 27 Times to Give Baby a Veggie Stick, 4 times to Help 2 Year Old, Once to Give 4 Year old a Time out, Once to Give 4 year old Something Else,  32 times to help 3 Year old with Brush, and [of course!] Accidentally Drip Paint in Her Hair!!)

10:47 Go Inside to clean up little people, make them lunch do potty breaks, diaper changes, and toss them in bed for naps!

12:00 ( Accomplished:  1/3 of a side of the house)

Admittedly Painting with a 3 year old is a little extreme but the example could hold true to any activity.


IT IS SO MUCH EASIER TO DO IT WITHOUT ‘HELP’
Cooking, planting, and basic chores take so much more thought and time with little helpers.

But as tempting as it is to stick them all in front of the TV so I CAN ACTUALLY GET SOMETHING ACCOMPLISHED I am try really hard to use their ‘help’

(I do resort to the TV sometimes, but I try to view it as a ‘last resort’ for desperate times. Some weeks are definitely more desperate then others.)

But for the day in and day out. I try really hard to let them work with me.Helpers 1

  1. I Want that Time with Them OVER Getting More Done

Sometimes I have to repeat this to myself. I’m not a SAHM to have an immaculate house or gourmet meals, and if something has to give, it cannot be the kids.

It is really hard to remember that though!

(We unfortunately have a web filled with moms who are trying to ‘have it all’ – perfectly decorated and outstandingly clean homes, incredibly dressed children, and thriving careers. And between Pinterest  and parenting forums and Facebook we become Mommy ping-pong balls – bouncing from one great idea to another. And rather than just soak up the minutes with our children, we look around and recognize our life does not measure up to all of the great ideas online.)

BUT our kids are why we are here. We are Stay at Home MOMS. So if we can get a cool Pinterest-worthy project done, that’s really just icing on the cake!

2. It is Fun to Work with Them!

I’ve made cake 100 times, but nothing is as fun as watching their little faces pour in the ingredients. Every task is new and interesting again!

3.  It is a Perfect Time to Teach

Helping 4

Through the kids helping me, I have learned that one of them only works for seven minutes before he/she becomes bored. This has been a vital time to help him/her push past comfort zones and learn to work. An important lesson to carry through life!

4. To Each His Own

A friend recently shared how she put all of her dishes down on the lower counter level so the kids could independently put them away and set the table. It was a great idea for her family.

This idea would not work for us. Our present schedule, kitchen layout, and the vision of an 8 month pregnant me jerking out dishes at floor-level, makes the the setup almost stomach churning.

5. Kids Take Pride in Their Work

I still remember helping as a kid. We were taking off old laminate flooring. Mom gave Lyd and I (Maybe 5 years old?) each little kitchen spatulas and we went to work – scraping, peeling. We were proud of our progress!

God gave man work right at the beginning of the world – before the fall. It is good, natural and right for us to enjoy watching the fruit of our hands. (Ecclesiastes 12)

6. Eventually they WILL be a Help

(I’ve heard) The Amish have a saying. You invest into your children their first 7 years. At seven, they can earn their own keep. Around 10, they contribute to the family.

Hours teaching now, will make things easier (for the whole family!) later.

So at the end of the day, I may not have a fully painted house.

I have 1/3 of the side of the house painted, and a very happy three-year-old (with a little paint in her hair) proudly showing me her work. She learned to pay attention to detail and get all the cracks, she had 47 minutes to be with me (that was actually more focused then normal), and she learned that when she works hard, she has fruit to show for it!

Very productive morning for us! :-)

-Verity

I’m publishing part 2 of this series next Friday – Teaching Them to Help. :-)

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Wars and Rumors of Wars

Increasingly powerful Big Brother, Stazi-like stories (in our country) coming up almost every day, power grabs, high-ranking officials whose values are opposite mine, enemies within our country and without, empire building, economic troubles.

Sometimes I wish I could travel back in time a hundred years and guarantee my children and grandchildren some relative safety from the increasingly socialistic government. But to what? The fever of 1917? World War I? The Great Depression? World War II? The drafting during Vietnam? The Cold War?

Then I realize that there is no time or place that was truly void of danger and heartache.

And I remember Christ’s words. “There will be wars and rumors of wars.” (Matthew 24)

There have always been wars, and there will always be wars – until Christ’s return.

We live in a fallen world.

I’ve been thinking about this ever since I was pregnant for the first time.

And it crosses my mind every time I read another frightening news article.

And while sometimes I find myself paralyzed with fear for my children, I need to remember some important truths.

1. God has put Them Here, at This Time, in This Place, for His Purpose.

I remember the first time I voiced my fears to my husband. I was pregnant, and I was sorry to bring my little baby into a messed up world. He responded concerning the baby. “He/She will be part of the solution.” It changed things in my mind. Godly children who grow into godly men and women can make a difference for the better. I’m not raising victims. The goal is to raise leaders and lights.

2. I Can Prepare My Children.

imageI don’t know if my children will face persecution for their faith or have to survive an economic collapse, but I can help prepare them to the best of my ability. My husband  (who is into that stuff) has already started teaching our 4 year old about survival, and we work on verses, the Romans Road, and a toddler catechism a few times a week so they will not be deceived.

3. My involvement in Politics Makes a Difference

imageIn the future I need to write about the incredible usefulness of political involvement. You can make a MUCH bigger difference then you think! For this post, suffice it to say that even in large cities VERY few people get involved, and just a few passionate people – willing to give a few hours here or there can get a good candidate elected. (Couple of decades of experience speaking here.) This summer my son and daughter joined us at our state caucus, and all the kidsimage helped with a parade. If only 10% of Christians got involved, we’d have a very different political lay-out.

4. What is the Worst That can Happen?

In her super good book “Calm My Anxious Heart” Linda Dillow suggests thinking to the end of your worry – and then giving it to God. Ask, ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ The worst that could happen as the economy continues to plummet is that  my children will not enjoy as much comfort as I did as a kid. We may need to work really hard just to survive. (That’s not really a bad thing! They will probably have much better character then I do!) And the worst that could happen (in a war or economic collapse) is that my children could die – and then they will be with Jesus. They will no longer be in pain. They will be in Heaven. And in a thousand years, it will be a distant memory. This life is a vapor!

5.  I Need to Trust God

Ultimately, it always gets back to trusting God.  I need to remember that my little ones are truly HIS; not mine.

He loves them more then I do.

He placed them here for this time. He has a perfect plan for them.

My job is simply to prepare them for whatever that plan is. (–By HIS grace, HIS wisdom, and HIS strength.)

-Verity

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A Letter to My Son

imageLately my almost-five year old has been using the same heart-wrenching phrase whenever he comes up against something he doesn’t want to do.

“But Mama! That doesn’t make me HAPPY!”

I wrote this letter as a pep-talk to myself, and I decided to share it because I thought other moms would relate!

 

 

My son,

It is not that I do not want you to be happy. I do want you to be happy. It fills my heart to nearly full when your eyes dance innocently and you break into exuberant laughter, when the pure joy of childhood seems to surround and embody you as you run around just enjoying it.

Yes, it fills my heart to nearly full when I see you happy.

But son, I have a job to do. During these few sweet years of childhood, I need to help prepare you to be a man. And adulthood is not all about being happy.

So while there are plenty of times for cuddling, playing ball, chasing each other around the yard, singing funny songs, and you telling me about your dreams, there must also be many times of learning to work harder than you feel like, having a good attitude when you’re tired, sharing a toy that you want to keep, sitting still when you want to play, being content when you don’t get something you want, being kind when someone has hurt you, and learning to trust God when you are scared.

All this and more must be learned during these years of childhood.

So while there will be plenty of fun and happy moments, there will also be many moments in the safest place possible – your home – to learn and grow and be prepared for times ahead.

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Because when I see you respond rightly when tempted to get angry or share a toy you wanted to keep, you are winning spiritual battles and maturing into a man.

And those are the moments when I can see glimpses into the future of the wise and godly man you will become.

Those are the moments that my heart is not almost full; it is filled to overflowing.

- Verity

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them.” Ecc. 12:1 ESV