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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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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!)

 

 

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Missing in Action

This blog, the friends made through it and the joy of sharing what God’s teaching me have been an important part of my life the last couple years.

I honestly never expected to drop the ball on it – ever!

But 3 1/2 months ago I totally did.

It started with a shocking text from my husband.

“Do you want to get the house ready to sell and move?”

I didn’t even text him back.

living_room1I seriously thought he was joking!!!!!

The house was really workable (unless we had more kids which I really, really did want at least one more…)

But he came home, and he was serious.

He was ready for a house and neighborhood that fit our goals and family better.

 

And as we looked at the economy in our exact area, we realized the time to sell – was NOW – or in 3 years.

So we SCRAMBLED

The next week my 3 oldest spent almost a week at my mom and dad’s house, and we worked REALLY hard.

And the whole house was A MESS. Projects in every room. Clutter on every surface. Me missing my babies. (5 1/2 still counts as a baby – right?)

And there was the emotional struggle. Apparently moving involves a lot of emotional struggle. (At least this one did.)

master_bedroomThis was the final step for me in accepting that doors were really closed on other dreams. We were really NOT going into full-time ministry any time soon. (The house we were buying, while a better fit for our family and goals does require my husband’s much-higher-than-most-pastor’s-make salary) We were not moving out to the lovely little town we’d dreamed of living in – surrounded by dear friends who I still deeply wish I could be closer to.

I spent a lot of time reading the last several chapters of Genesis. Again and again I was awed by God’s working hand in Joseph’s life.

Living the American dream was never my plan for my life. Missions. Sacrifice. Martyrdom all sounded much more spiritual then buying a nicer house.bedroom2

But I finally had to come to terms with one thing – my ministry is my family right now. We could afford to give our kids a house with a better lay-out to homeschool them in, a house that was more condusive to build my husband’s dream business, and I needed to recognize the ministry in front of my nose instead of lamenting the ministries God has given to others. I agreed to work with him in his home business, something I’ve not done in about 3 years, and I accepted that God has given me this ministry, in this place, at this time.

As I internalized all this, I couldn’t write. I couldn’t call friends. I needed to deal with the chaos in my house, deal with all the projects we’d procrastinated for 6 years, and come to the final acceptance of what God had for me and my family.

bathroom1And then we did the showings – 42 in 3 1/2 weeks. Sometimes I’d get a text 30 minutes before we needed to be out of the house, and I’d shoo the kids outside and do a desperate wipe-down to ensure the floors looked gorgeous and the house did NOT look like 4 kids under 6 and an 80 pound poodle occupied it.

Then came the low-ball offers and wondering if all our work on the never-ending-fixer-upper would never pay off.

The low-point was 3 weeks in. We’d spent thousands of dollars to get ready ready to sell, lowered the price as low as we could go, and were exhausted from abandoning our home daily to showings. The kids cried often, and I think I cried more…

In that weekend, we surrendered the whole thing to God. If it didn’t sell, it would be okay. He would provide. We could see the many lessons we’d learned – the joy of finishing the fixer-upper house we’d started several years earlier, the lessons in communication to each other, the lesson of contentedness, the strong realization that He was working – whatever the outcome.kitchen1

The next day the offer came. It had actually come in 6 days earlier but had gone to our realtor’s spam envelope by mistake! There was no doubt in my mind that God allowed that so we could learn those vital lessons that one day earlier and surrender it all to Him.

They asked for a closing only 28 days later.

More scrambling.

We found the ‘perfect’ house, lost it, and found what was really the right house. And the owners, who had already moved, agreed to a closing on the same day as our other closing only three weeks later.

And here we are.

If you had told me in January that by June I’d be in a gorgeous 2 story house with a massive fenced yard overlooking the most lovely pond you can imagine, I’d have laughed at you.

But here I am – so amazed by the provision of God that even 2 weeks in, I still feel like I’m dreaming.

(And one week after we moved, Lydia and Matthew were called to pastor a church in Florida – so her moving story is just beginning!)

Things are finally unpacked enough that I’m able to start writing again.

If you have sent a note or comment, I am really, really sorry. I have 41, 537 comments which I’m going to delete because I’m guessing at least 41,500 of them are spam and the thought of sorting them sounds horrible. :-I (SO PLEASE COMMENT AGAIN in a couple days once I get those figured out!)

We would love to hear from you!

-Verity

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Sun Catchers Craft

​As we gear up for spring, (and that extra hour of sunshine!) the kids and I did this great craft project I have to share with you! It’s cheap, easy, and makes a great gift to brighten someone’s day. We made sun catchers.

What you need:

• Contact paper
• Tissue Paper
• Ribbon
• Hole Punch
• Scissors
• Small suction cup with hook

​Simply trace a circle onto contact paper with a little hump on the top. It will look similar to a Christmas ornament.

​Cut out 2 of them for each sun catcher.

​Cut out several small squares of multi colored tissue paper.

​Peel the backing off the contact paper. This takes a bit of patience…

​Have the kids place their tissue paper squares all over the sticky side of the contact paper. My 13 month old did this no problem and loved it!

​When it’s full, place the matching contact paper circle on top. Line it up best you can, but it doesn’t have to be perfect at all.

​Trim around the edges. This will catch the tissue paper hanging off the edges and is also an easy way to even out the circles.

​Punch a hole in the center of the hump part at the top.

​String a short thin ribbon through the hole and tie it in a loop.

​Hang on a window with a suction cup that has a hook. They sell 10-12 packs at Dollar Tree.

​These make great gifts to brighten someone’s day!

​Enjoy the sunshine!!
- Lydia

Valentines Gift 4

GUEST POST: A More Minimalist Approach

A friend of mine has a really fascinating story about how minimalism has helped streamline their home and simplify their life! 

Thank you Susie for this great post!

“I was born into the Utah foster care state system. Sometimes I was allowed five minutes to pack a bag of items before being rushed off to the next living situation, other times I was only allowed the clothes on my body. The Lord graciously allowed that crazy cycle to slow way down when the Albrights lovingly adopted me when I was 8 ½ years old. The cycle only slowed because the Albrights moved at least every 3 years. Sometimes we moved into a big house and sometimes it was a small house. In preparation for each move, we would have several yard sales and then whatever did not fit into the moving truck was left behind. Because of this, I learned to only have a handful of special things.

Money was never super tight but we did live on a loose budget. My parents taught my siblings (the Albrights adopted 2 more children after me) and I how to take good care of our belongs and how to be good stewards of our finances. Most of our clothes came from a thrift store or were hand-me-downs from a friend. We always had plenty of clothes, food, and things to keep us entertained.

I began attending college shortly after my 17th birthday. I attended 3 semesters, sat out for one to work, and then again for 2 more semesters. During that time I became friends with a wonderful, godly man named Ben who was two years older than myself. In March 2009, Ben’s senior year, he asked me to become his wife. Ben graduated from college in May and I moved in with his grandma during the summer so we could put the final touches on our weddings.

Along with this new stage in our lives, came many, many new possessions through three bridal showers, wedding gifts, and yard sales for extra glass serving dishes. My parents also decided to downsize shortly before our wedding and their gift to us was their possessions (couch set and other furniture, decorations for year around, kitchen items, etc.). These gifts from people who loved us were a huge blessing as we started our new married life together in August.

Less than a month after we got married the Lord allowed me to become pregnant with a sweet little girl. Emily was the first grandchild on both sides of the family and with our growing circle of people who loved us we were given 2 baby showers and tons of just because gifts. By this time our little one bedroom apartment was filled with boxes and boxes of stuff.

In November of 2010 Ben and I bought our first sweat-equity (i.e.-needing a lot of remolding and updating) house. Emily was 6 months old and we just found out we were expecting another little one and along with her came more and more gifts. A week before Hannah was born we had to temporarily move into a furnished 2 bedroom apartment for 2 months while our house was being worked on. We took all of our clothes, toys, books, and musical instruments. The rest went into an in-closed storage trailer in our backyard. The last week in the apartment I had double foot surgery that kept me mostly off of my feet for 8 weeks. The move back into our house was difficult to say the least and for a long time everything from the apartment and the rented storage trailer was just stacked wall-to-wall in our living room.

Slowly, as we were able to, the stuff in the living room found places throughout our house and we were once again able to use our living room. As we remodeled rooms, everything from that room had to be moved into another one. I would organize everything as best as I could so things could function well during the transition. For a long time it drove Ben crazy that he couldn’t find things in his own house because every few months things, out of necessity, had to find new locations. There were many stressful and exhausting hours as we did most of the remolding ourselves, yet still tried to lead a normal life – Ben worked full time, we had two beautiful daughters to raise, we were highly involved in church, we gardened, and we loved spending time with all of the extended family who live in close proximity to us.

With all the wonderful family and friends who loved our family of four, I began dreading birthdays and Christmas because we were always overwhelmed with tons of well-intentioned gifts (and hurt feelings if we returned or got rid of a gift). Those gifts that were meant to be a blessing had become a burden and clutter to us. We tried asking for specific items but often that frustrated the giver. We tried hard to abide by the one-in-one out rule but that just maintained the clutter. I tried organizing it better but that took a lot of time and had very little to show for it. Something needed to change and soon. The clutter was too stressful, the cleaning and maintaining of house took way too much of our time and energy and was pulling us away from the things we wanted to purse- like family and God. Being Christians, we feel that God created us to glorify HIM and that everything we purse and use our time on should be things that in some way draw us closer to God and bring Him glory. I wanted the relationship with my Savior, the Creator of the Universe, that I had before and during college but I could not find the time. Everything else was taking it and I couldn’t even keep up. I spent many moments in prayer begging God for wisdom and direction. I remember many nights asking God to somehow burn our house but keep our family and specific possessions and parts of our house without mar.

In 2013 God lead me to 2 articles that really challenged the way I thought about our family’s possessions. The first was about a woman who had run out of room to store some of her craft items and told her husband that she was planning on purchasing another cute container to house her necessary items. The husband half joking told her that what she really needed to do was purge a few of her unloved craft accessories. The lady took the challenge believing that she could prove her husband wrong, for in her mind, all of the items needed to stay. Working her way quickly through her boxes, she found a great deal of items she no longer wanted. When she was finished she was left with things she enjoyed and extra empty bins to be used somewhere else in her house. The second article was about a lady who had recently lost her parents and was given the responsibly of emptying their house. The process was overwhelming and time consuming. She found their house filled with things but very few of value. Throughout the project the lady learned many things but came to conclusion in her own life she only wanted to keep what she found necessary, beautiful, and she LOVED. So she set out to de-clutter her house and only kept what fit at least two if not all three of those requirements.

Over the last two years I began our journey doing just that. At first it was hard to see what all we had, even though it was “organized”, but as we have remodeled more of the areas in our house and things are began finding their permanent locations, it’s became easier to know what we need/wanted and what was just excess. When I began it was mainly just my personal things, and then things my children outgrew. Slowly that has expanded to things all over the house. I had to remind myself over and over again, “the clutter didn’t get here overnight and it won’t disappear overnight either”. During this time I read more and more articles and posts about de-cluttering and stumbled onto the idea of minimalism. At first I was skeptical but then after a lot of thought and prayer I realized that that is where we were headed and I embraced it. My girls joined in next, and I love that they often bring me things to sell or just pretend to sell things and set up meets. Ben wasn’t fully on board for a long time and if he said something had to stay, then I left it alone and found something else to de-clutter. I did my best not to nag him but rather when he wanted to acquire a new item or hold onto something I would ask him questions like why he wanted to buy said item, will he use it, what was it replacing, how long does he envision it being beneficial, or do we have an item that already serves or can serve that purpose.

Ben still refuses to call our family minimalist but rather “becoming streamlined” and I am fine with that. As you can guess, he is now fully on board with what we do. You see, November 2014 faced us with a professional waterproofing company, EverDry. We already knew the issues and had done tons of previous research. Our basement had moisture issues and with its monolithic foundation it had to be handled correctly. Yes, upfront we could have saved money doing it ourselves or paying a fly-by-night company but chose to wisely invest and fix it correctly the first time so we didn’t’ have to spend a more money and time in the end. While cleaning out the basement in preparation for the company we found many things that had to be thrown away due to mold growing on them. Things that we (mainly Ben) had saved for “just in case”- but in the 4 years we lived in the house “just in case” had never come and now the items were ruined. EverDry fixed our basement in December and now we are excitedly (and very carefully) planning out how to use the space.

Two years ago, cleaning the house was a full time job – literally. I spent hours a day, cleaning, organizing and straightening things. Now – we can clean a really dirty house in 2.5 hours – That includes dishes, laundry, vacuuming, a quick wipe down of both bathrooms, and straightening rooms. How did we cut the hours on the house? One, most of the remolding is done so things have found their permanent locations. Two, we have gotten rid of many possessions. I made it a goal with each room when we emptied it to fix it, I would not bring all of the stuff back in. When we did the kitchen, over half of the items were sold or donated. We now have way more cabinet space than ever before and plenty of extra space.

There are some areas of our house I don’t think will ever be “streamlined” like our books or Ben’s dress ties. And I don’t think we will ever be “extreme minimalists” in that we can easily count our belongings. But I am thankful God lead us every step of the way, that Ben is finally fully on board, and we that are and have de-owned many of our possessions.

Some of the things we did and do to help reduce the clutter in house:

1) Sell clothes and household items on local Facebook sites. We only meet at our house, on the way to where we are going (like at taco bell on the way to grandma’s house, or somewhere we already are (like the parking lot of Walmart). That way we do not waste money on gas and if we have to sit and wait a few minutes in a parked car then we use that time to just talk as a family). In January 2015 alone we have made almost $550.

2) We occasionally have been able to sell items on Craigslist – though we only meet at very public locations and make sure we don’t go directly home because craigslist has been known to be shady (fb can be too if you are not careful) Though regardless, we are in God’s hands

3) We also do short challenges (like get rid of 10 things each day for 6 days or about monthly I round up all the random stuff from all over the house and do a “goodwill give away” where I post on a couple of my local facebook sites saying its free but must be picked up that day at our house).

4) Minimalist shower: we each have our own scrubbies and then make our own shampoo (baking soda + water), conditioner (I use it weekly. its vinegar + water), we buy bars of honey/oil soap (each one lasts almost 2 months and leaves our skin super soft so lotion is very rarely needed) from a local bee farmer. Our neighbor makes her own bars of soaps for pennies each and we have used it but still need lotion afterwards. We keep our bar of soap in a lidded soap dish and wash it out every time the bar is gone.

5) Minimalist laundry: We make our own laundry soap for less than $2. It takes 20 minutes, is unscented, easy on sensitive skin, is comparable to Tide, and lasts our family 14 months. Yes we still occasionally need to treat a spot so we have on stain remover. Also, we use less than 2 tsp of distilled white vinegar for our fabric softener so no dryer sheets our needed. Speaking of the dryer, we only use it to dry towels and socks. Everything else gets hung up. Allowing moisture in the house in the winter, the air dry outside on racks in the summer (take 20 minutes for most clothes), and saving money on utilities.

6) Minimalist cleaning system: distilled white vinegar diluted with water is what we use to clean almost every surface of the inside of our house. At $1.70 a gallon, vinegar lasts us almost 2 months.

Somethings I learned while decluttering:

1) its not a race. There is no complete end because as long as we are alive on this earth we will acquire more possessions and things will eventually need to be replaced.

3)When every item is special then no item is special. Choose your things carefully.

2) When things no longer fit into its designated location (like the games in the game closet), rather than find a way to organize them better – purge them first!

3) There is going to be a casualty or two – something that you regret getting rid of. That’s ok and its part of the process. Take a deep breath and move on. More than likely you will forget you ever owned it or you will find some other item that can handle the causality’s job

4) Time is so precious. Your family is precious.

Because taking care of our house has become less time consuming we have more time for the things we desire to pursue. We have more time to spend in God’s word and prayer, more time with our kids, more time for my husband and I just to enjoy being with each other. We have played way more games, and had more time to talk this year than any of the other years of our relationship. We have been more focused and been able to create a better HOME for our family.”

-Susie

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