Tag Archives: Christianity

You have your hands full #1

You Have Your Hands Full!

“You have your hands full!”

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

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

It doesn’t bother me anymore though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the world is listening.

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

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

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

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

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

“You have your hands full!”

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

You have your hands full #2

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Thank You Elisabeth Elliot

I was 2 years into parenting, and life was stretching in front of me like one massive laundry pile after another.

Gone was the glory of the Christian walk that I’d dreamed of while in Bible college – back when I’d had hours to study and contemplate all the beautiful and exciting ways God’s plan was going to unfold in my life.

There was no glory.

There was no excitement.

There was just a very challenging toddler, a newborn, and a husband who was working feverishly just to provide enough for us to scrape out an existence.

And there was the nagging fear that maybe I’d missed God’s will for my life – that if I’d ‘caught’ it, I’d be off making glorious differences in God’s work because obviously I was made for more then dishes, laundry, and toddler tantrums.

And there was the discouragement and depression that comes every time I start giving into fear and forget to notice God’s working hand.

But then came the pivotal phone call with my older sister – that got my head screwed back on, and the quote she gave me that has become the motto of my every day.

It was an encouraging call – as they always are when I take the time to call the godly woman who I get to call my older sister, but at the end of it, she offered to send me a quote by Elisabeth Elliot.

I agreed – having been blessed by a couple of Elisabeth Elliot’s books – though doubting someone who had actually gotten to do awesome things in God’s work could ‘get’ my menial existence.

But I found in the quote – a life outlook that I needed desperately to adopt. It was one of trust, and it was one of seeing God’s hand at work in every. single. task.

 “This job has been given to me to do.

Therefore, it is a gift.

Therefore, it is a privilege.

Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God.

Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him.

Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way.

In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.”

 

Elisabeth Elliot

 

I printed the quote, capitalized the words I wanted to think about, framed it, and have read it multiple times a week since.

I have many framed Bible verses around my home, but this is the only human quote, and it sits front and center above my sink because I seem to need this reminder often.

(In the summer it usually has dandelions next to it, but as you can see, my kids have upgraded to chives this year.)

My life is still filled with the menial, but this life outlook has helped me to recognize that every time I’m sweeping the floor, I’m fulfilling a task God has called me to do – to exemplify a content attitude and create a calm home for my children to grow.

When I fold the 97th load of laundry this year, I recognize that it is a gift to be able to do whatever God has for me – exciting or not-so-exciting and to teach my littles how to fold wash clothes, pants , (and two of them can now fold shirts!).

And when I start seeing past the temporal exterior that enshrouds every task, I start to be overwhelmed with the privilege.

That is when I finally start to realize that my uneventful day is an offering I may make to God.

Then the gladness and thankfulness for getting to do a service for Him comes.

Then my heart opens and reaches up to God – eager to learn the lesson of the way that He is teaching me.

Then, slowly, I can strive for faithfulness.

- Verity

Resurrection Day Invitation to Play – Easter Crafts

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During a season of bunnies, chicks, and eggs, it can be hard to direct our children toward the real meaning of Easter. This year, I wanted something that was hands-on and interactive but not a typical craft project. I came up with an Easter Invitation to Play that was God focused and reviewed many of the truths we have been learning the last few weeks.

I think there are a lot of ways to do this, but here’s what we used. You can tweak this to adapt to your materials and needs.image

White Play dough
Green Play dough
Three toothpicks or small sticks to serve as crosses
Pom-poms or small flowers
A strip of fabric or paper
Small pieces of paper or stones where you have written examples of sins
The bottom portion cut out of a cup

imageI gave each of the kids a plate with the above items. We have been learning all about the crucifixion and the resurrection so it was all very fresh in their minds. Before we began this portion though, we sat down and discussed the fact that it was our sin that sent Jesus to the cross. He was perfect and did not have to die to take the consequence for his own sin. He died for us: it was our sin that paved the way to the cross. I wanted them to understand the significance of this truth. I had very small pieces of paper, maybe half inch by half-inch, and we wrote a different sin on about 30 of them. This was significant and they really understood it. Therefore, when they each received their plate with the items to use for the invitation to play, they each had about eight of the papers with sins. I explained that they were going to set up the scene however they would like. The toothpicks could be used as crosses, the white Play dough could be used to create a tomb and to cover the cup portion, or they could use the cup portion as the tomb and the white Play dough as the stone. I explained that the pom-poms could be flowers, or some other type of decoration. They could use the strip of paper as a road or some type of pathway. They could even use it as a linen cloth to wrap up a pom-pom to serve as Jesus. :-) The green Play dough could be used as grass or as a hill for the crosses to sit on. The one thing I told them I wanted them to include for sure was the pathway of sins. They all thought this made a lot of sense and were excited to dig in!

imageThey worked on this project for probably close to an hour, and came up with all sorts of scenes. I think it really helped to solidify the truths that we have been learning this week in a hands-on experience where they could actually do something with what they have been learning. I hope that you find this to be just as profitable with your kids!

Happy Easter!

-Lydia

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The Love Story that Saved my Marriage

Even now my love story is hard to write about without great emotion.

It’s been 8 years since the majority of my story takes place. 11 since I met my husband.

We became friends in Bible college, and he immediately impressed me with his love for doctrine and the Bible. I quickly viewed him as a great spiritual leader.

After almost 3 years, we hoped to be engaged, but my dad had reservations. Although we had stayed pure in our relationship, my dad was unsure if we were well-matched and mature enough for marriage.

We said we’d wait as long as necessary, but my father asked us to end the relationship and break off all contact.

With incredible sorrow (and a couple days of trying to persuade my parents otherwise), we agreed to honor my parents and submit to their counsel.

There were many spiritual struggles I had to deal with during the coming months -

- Bitterness toward my father and those who spoke for the break-up

- Fear of man’s opinion. What if people thought we were broken up because we sinned?

- Jealousy toward my twin sister who, with my parents’ blessing was planning a wedding to a mature and godly man she’d dated for 6 weeks before becoming engaged

- Deep, deep grief. I actually went through the 5 stages of grief as if my boyfriend had died.

But the greatest struggle by far was wondering if I was ‘missing’ God’s will for my life – I feared that if I obeyed God, honored my parents, and broke up with my ‘soul mate’ I’d miss all that God had planned for me.

I feared that my dad (who never talked about the Bible and theology as eloquently as my boy friend) was not ‘in tune,’ to God’s leading.

Finally though, I had to realize that my struggle was NOT whether or not I trusted my dad.

My struggle was whether or not I trusted GOD.

During those deeply lonely months, I had to wrestle with my view of God.

Was He good to allow this?

Was He powerful enough to work this out for good?

Was He going to work it out for MY good or only His good?

I remember driving alone early on a cold February morning sobbing about Romans 8:28.

(Romans 8: 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.)

“Lord!” I cried. “Is the ‘good’ MY good or YOUR good? Can it be good for me too!?”

Slowly and mercifully, God grew my faith in Him and my love for Him.

He would work out good for me – despite imperfect leadership, loss and failure.

One thing that stands out in my mind from that time was when I held a Bible study and special dinner for a couple of newly saved teenagers and chose to use the special dishes bought for the home I planned to make with my lost love.

I stood there looking at the beautifully patterned place settings and seeing a clear physical picture of God  taking my lost dreams and working them out for good.

God was both good and powerful, and even if He did not allow me to marry the man I loved, He would have something even better for me.

5 months later, at the right time and in the right way, my parents gave their consent for Jeremiah and I to reestablish contact, and the next year we were married with their blessing on 8-2-08, a fluke coincidence that always makes me smile when I think of my wrestle with Romans 8:28.

Love Story 2But the deeper love for God and greater trust in His omnipotent hand that grew in my new husband and I during our separation came with us into our marriage.

In almost 7 years, we’ve endured miscarriage, unemployment, a premature baby, 4 children, a fixer-upper house, ministry and family struggles and so much more, but our marriage has stayed strong.

And I contribute this greatly to the faith God grew in us during our break-up.  When confronted with great loss, we learned that God will always work things out for good.

As a wife, I’ve found it easier to follow my husband’s leadership because I’ve grown to recognize that I’m not trusting him – an imperfect sinner (albeit cute as can be ;-) ).

I’m trusting God. He promises GOOD. He will do GOOD.

So while I’ve been telling you about my love story with my husband, the love story that has saved my marriage – and any marriage – is the love story of God’s love.

We are His beloved children, and His perfect way for us will prevail despite imperfect leaders, and financial or other life struggles.

If God be for us, who can stand against us?

 

-VerityLove Story 3

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Valentines Day: Who God Loves Craft

The kids and I have been learning about God’s love this week as we prepare for Valentine’s day. It’s important to me that whenever we learn about Valentine’s day or love that we start with God’s love. We have covered different aspects of God’s love, but today I wanted them to have an interactive picture of WHO God loves so they would understand that God’s love is limitless and applicable to those they know and even those they don’t know.

What you need:

  • White paper
  • Colored paper in a few different colors if you want
  • Ribbon
  • Tape
  • Marker
  • Scissors

What to do:

I cut cloud shapes out of the white paper to represent God. We talked about how He is in heaven beyond the clouds. The clouds were about ¼ a sheet of paper in size. I wrote the first portion of I John 4:10 on them to demonstrate how God loved us before we even loved Him. There are many verses that would work for this though! You could even just do I John 4:8 which says, “God is Love.” I had the kids say the verse with me as I wrote it on the paper. This kept them involved and helped them begin to memorize it. They each also chose their own color of marker. If they are older, they can write it themselves.

Next I laid out my multicolored hearts which I had cut into 2 sizes. They each picked several. I had them tell me different people they knew. They loved this and were excited to tell me everyone! This took a while. ☺ We wrote each name on a different heart.

Next I gave them each 3-4 pieces of ribbon to tape onto the back of their cloud.

Then we attached each heart to the ribbon with tape. The idea is God’s love reaching down to each person.

Lastly, we reviewed how God loves each person with an everlasting, unchanging, and overflowing love. And He loves them with the same kind of love, no matter what.

The kids really got the point of this craft and they were excited to have a visual of some of the people God loves.

In this is love, not that we have loved God

but that he loved us

and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

I John 4:10

 

-Lydia

 

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To the Mom Who Doesn’t Have Time

To the Mom who doesn’t have time:

​You know the days where it takes you until lunch time to clean up breakfast? The ones where you efficiently do 3 loads of laundry and then they stack up on the couch? Have you had one of those days where you try ALL day to get supper in the crock pot, the time slot passes you by for both high and low settings, so you decide to cook something on the stove instead… but then that time slot passes as well and you end up serving peanut butter and honey sandwiches for supper—again? And what about those days where your child wants to do a project with you, but you just can’t quite seem to get the house cleaned up enough to clear a spot so you can cut and glue together? Those are the heartbreaking moments. The ones where you want to imagespend time with this sweet child you are raising, but you just don’t seem to have time.

​To the Mom who doesn’t have time, I am right there with you! The days I described above have basically been my life the last few months. I have a baby who nurses hourly around the clock and through the night. I’m exhausted. Our family is in a constant state of the unknown and the emotional aspect of the situation is wearing me down hard. I can’t seem to keep up with anything. Then I wonder, “how am I supposed to spend time with my children?” How do I find time to read the 39 books they so excitedly chose from the library last week? How do I find time to complete the adorable craft projects and educational ideas I’ve been pinning on Pinterest during my many nursing sessions each day? How will my children learn important life skills if I don’t have time to teach them? Then it hit me…

​They will learn them from me and it’s okay if it is through everyday life.

​You see, my kids will learn more from how I handle life than they will sitting on the couch reading a book with me or sitting at the table gluing a perfectly prepared craft project. The difference is in how I choose to respond to the trials set before me.

​I can yell at them to go play in the other room so I can conquer the dishes, or I can choose to demonstrate a right attitude and even teach them how to conquer a daunting task as I systematically rinse off the dishes and put them in the dishwasher before I tackle those I hand wash.

​I can complain about peanut butter and honey sandwiches AGAIN, or I can explain to them the wonders of improvisation as supper approaches and I serve them a different option than planned.

​I can rant about not having enough time, or I can teach them time management as we figure out a way to sneak in a quick craft project.​

​Parenting isn’t about the external. It’s about including your kids on the internal. Transparently showing them the reasons for the things we do, including them on your struggles, openly teaching them through your own mistakes, and honestly relating the truth to them day in and day out. Parenting is about the teachable moments and those moments often come through unlikely circumstances.

​To the mom who doesn’t have time, it’s okay. Let’s make the most of what we do have: everyday life–and teach our children to the best of our abilities.

 

-Lydia

Minimize Maximize

Raising Lights: Minimizing the Wants to Maximize the Needs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No great thing is achieved without great sacrifice.

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

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

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

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

But then I re-evaluate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • I want my children to be content.image

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

(At least I doubt we will.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Verity

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How to Tempt a Mother – 7 Sure-Fire Ways! – By Uncle Screwtape

C.S. Lewis’ masterpiece “Screwtape Letters” is a phenomenal book in which a senior devil instructs a younger devil how to tempt a soul. (You can find that wonderful book here)

But if the character, Wormwood, went on to tempt a mom, I think this is how Screwtape would instruct him. 

- Verity

My Dear Wormwood (Demon D. Younger),

I see you have been assigned a mother. I was shocked that, after your losing the last soul, you were assigned such an important person!

Mothers have and always will be the most influential people in any society. By them kings are set on their courses and future leaders’ hearts nurtured for love or for hate.

(Of course, we demons have successfully kept this truth from women in the 21st century by putting a focus on careers, unattainable beauty and a growing disdain for children.)

And moms fall for the same lies in any time or age.

Here are some lies that have worked outstandingly well for me in the past.

1. Make the Mom’s World as Tiny as Possible

If a world is tiny, it is easy to make the most minuscule mishap seem catastrophic. A spot on the rug in a tiny world is fuel for hysteria while someone who sees themselves as soldiers in an age-long spiritual battle can withstand the death of a loved one and still stand strong – strengthened by a focus on the eternal.

To that end, limit her influences – above all keep her from reading her Bible which opens a person’s eyes to the cosmic battle of time, power and love.

2. Keep the Mom’s Focus on Something Unimportant that Makes Her Feel Like a Good Mom While Losing Sight of the Important

If you can keep her running around – trying to attain perfection in enough unimportant exploits, she will never have time to notice the eternal ventures – like the character training of her children.

Of course children’s hairstyles or flurries of extracurricular activities are not bad of themselves. Your opportunity with any potential idol comes when they have grown in her mind to the point of trumping the important! Let her take pride in her victory over her daughter’s hair or her son’s music lessons until she is willing to sacrifice the sanity of her family and her own focus to achieve them.

3. Let the Mom think of Herself as a Victim

Thankfulness will destroy your work, Wormwood.

Daily bring to her mind the grievances of a leaky faucet, tight budget and a challenging child. If she thinks of herself as a victim, she will forget that she is already a victor with Him. Never let her remember that!

If you can help the root of bitterness take root in her, your battle is practically won! Especially stay-at-home moms with little outside influence can be consumed with the tiniest wrongs – letting their minds grow these wrongs into outstanding evils.

And when a person has given herself over to bitterness, their view of even the most wonderful things – like the smiles of her baby or the warmth of a home are distorted. And the woman who would normally spread joy and warmth in her home taints it with the anger and indignation that is slowly destroying her from the inside out.

 4. Make sure the Mom NEVER Thinks of Her Children as Blessings

If she realizes the true value of her children, she will pour her energies into teaching them about God and His Way.

Value must be placed on almost anything besides her children. (The career that suffers because of their demands, the social life she used to have, the heels her pregnancy-ravaged hips can never handle again or any other unattainable desire will be especially effective.)

Let her view her children as leeches – filching from her energy and resources and keeping her from her true potential.

Resentment toward her children will be one of your sharpest tools!

Of course if her child was threatened by a speeding car, she would lay down her life for him in an instant, but make the small life sacrifices that are her testimony of God’s Way seem unimportant to her. (Her smile when bringing water for the 56th time, the gentle voice at 2:00am, the prayer for wisdom when breaking up a fight all stem from her realization of her children’s value and importance in God’s eternal plan.)

5. Make the Mom Think of Her Personal Identity ‘As Being Lost.’ 

Bring to her thoughts dreams of what she would be without the demands of her family. Let shadows of herself as a put-together, non-tired, woman play across the edges of her mind – tempting her focus and reaffirming the lie that she would be more without them.

Of course we know that motherhood is a means of sanctification – of losing oneself and being fashioned more into His image as each mother lays her life down not once but daily. (Or in the case of motherhood daily and multiple times a night as well.)

6. Make the Mom Think She has Already Failed!

If she chances to get angry and yell at her kids, make her sink into despair – forgetting that His mercies are new every morning, that He readily gives grace to the repentant sinner and that ultimately He will work – even through a sinful Mom – because of His kindness and mercy – and not because of her worth.

But your biggest ally when dealing with moms, Wormwood, is complacency.

7. Always Make the Mom Think that Her Job is NOT Important!

Grow in her mind the value of financial and social success while dimming the importance of motherhood. Let her dwell on how little she feels she is accomplishing in the world today, and go to every length to make her forget that her children will shape tomorrow.

If she does not realize that she is fighting a valuable battle, you will be victorious, and she will lose.

Of course we know that Mothers are of utmost importance to God’s plan and that they are given enough grace and strength to accomplish what He calls them to do - so take special care.

Your Affectionate Uncle,

Screw Tape (Demon D. Experienced)

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Christ-Focused Christmas Tradition Series (Part 2)

imageThe Advent Wreath 

Throughout the Old Testament, there is great longing for the coming of Christ. The passover lamb, the scapegoat and countless other traditions foreshadow the coming Messiah.

In modern day Germany, they put out Advent wreaths in anticipation of Christmas.

They set the Advent wreath out a month before Christmas and light one candle the fourth Sunday before Christmas, 2 candles the third Sunday before Christmas etc.

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Finally, the Sunday before Christmas all 4 candles glow – and if they have a pyramid (a wooden dome with a a type of windmill wheel on top) – the wheel will spin from he energy being emitted by the 4 candles.

Each Sunday, they eat stollen, a pastry-like fruitcake rolled in powdered sugar that resembles a swaddled baby Jesus.

This is a favorite of our traditions. We purchase the stollen from Aldi and use the gorgeous pyramid we were given from in-laws. (As you can see, it now has a little extra character – thanks to a curious toddler on a past Christmas.)

-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