The Sand Dollar that Taught Us to Love, Even When it Hurts

The Sand Dollar that Taught Us to Love, Even When it Hurts

One morning the kids and I discussed Festo Kivengere’s book, “I Love Idi Amin.” Festo had been persecuted and treated horribly, yet chose in the power of God’s love to forgive his evil enemy. I gave a writing assignment for each of the kids to share a time when they had been hurt by someone else’s actions. They could choose to share a time when they responded in love, or a time they didn’t respond in love and how they could learn from their response.

Jules gave me permission to share her paper with you (slightly altered to protect a sibling’s identity).

My sibling broke a gift I got from Hailey. It was a magnet sand dollar with a painting of dolphins jumping out of the water. The background of orange, yellow and red made it look like a sunset over the ocean.
I was so excited about the sand dollar. It was the first gift I had ever received from a penpal. I put the magnet on the fridge next to a friendship magnet I had gotten from another friend awhile ago.
One day, my sibling was reaching for something above the refrigerator and knocked the dolphin magnet. A large piece of the sand dollar broke off. As I watched it happen, I had a pang in me that wanted to yell out at my sibling, exclaiming how much that magnet meant to me.
Instead, I was able by the power of the Holy Spirit, to calm down inside and pleasantly say, “It’s OK. It’s just stuff. Stuff that will eventually burn. It won’t last.”
I kept that broken magnet as a reminder to me to be patient and loving, even when I feel like exploding. I kept it to remember it is just stuff that will burn.

sand dollar

How about you? Has someone broken your sand dollar? Your trust? Your heart? Are you living in the bondage and bitterness of an unforgiving spirit? I have stand out times in my life history when I’ve suffered the wounds of beloved friends. I carried onto my wounds and tended to them with great care. Over time, my bitterness hurt more than the memory of the offense. When God re-awoke my heart to His grace, I was able to pray for my enemies. I lifted them up to Jesus and He gave me the power to forgive. I became free.

So here is my encouragement to you today: be free! Don’t wait any longer. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the kind of power to love with His love so that you can look at your “sand dollar” as a reminder that the only thing that lasts are the eternal souls that God has set in His people. Let’s help each other value those souls and love…even when it hurts.

Transforming Angry Parenting Into Interactions of Peace

Transforming Angry Parenting Into Interactions of Peace

When our big kids were little, I remember thinking that they were trying to control me. Their job was to obey, my job was to enforce obedience. When they didn’t do what I said right away, I felt worried that they were going to become difficult. Ceasing to obey me on demand would give them a pattern of disobedience if I didn’t strongly intercede.

I remember asking them to get out of the car, or to come with me upstairs to get on pajamas or brush teeth for bedtime. When they stubbornly resisted, I felt a tightening in my chest. I needed to remain in control and they needed to do what I said!

Sometimes, I spoke with a stern, angry voice, “You need to get out of the car, NOW!”

Other times, I would grab an arm and physically pull the child out of the car, with a scowl on my face and a desire to show I was boss.

Have you been there? Can you think of times when you didn’t know what else to do?

Believe me when I tell you, there is SOMETHING else you can do!

God DOES call my children to obey. It is my job to HELP them do so. In the past, when they didn’t listen and I felt the pressure rise in me, I gave into it, lacking self-control. When I matched their level of stubbornness, I created a power struggle where everyone felt as if they lost. This was the opposite of helping them obey, it created hardened hearts toward me.

When I repented of my need to be in control, it transformed my relationships with my children.

Today, Cupcake wouldn’t get out of the van. I asked her to come inside. She flatly refused. I didn’t even realize I was doing it, but I calmed my entire body and took a deep breath. Then, sweetly, gently, I walked over to the car. I extended my hand toward her in gentleness. I sweetly touched her arm and smiled as I said, “Come on in with Mommy, honey.” She simply reached for my hand and walked inside.

transforming anger to peace

This kind of interaction between us didn’t happen over night. In the beginning when I began walking in freedom with my children, I would have to stop, count, pray, breathe, ask God for wisdom. My children didn’t always respond right away to my smiles or gentle gestures. Sometimes they dug in even further. I needed to find wise, kind responses. Over time, they began to understand that my heart was changing and they could trust me.

In the beginning, I messed up a lot. During those times of messing up, there were days when it felt hopeless. Sometimes I feared I would never change. I lost hope that this grace-filled way of relating would have a positive impact. Humbling myself and committing to a do-over was an hourly part of my existence.

As days have turned into years, muscle memory has kicked in. My body doesn’t immediately get tense when kids resist what I have to say. I’m able to stay calm, listen to their view point, give them options, and I have power to turn from the temptation of forcing obedience. As I have changed, my kid’s hearts have opened to me. They resist me less and trust me more. This has taken years! And we are still working on it! Am I perfect at it now? No! But we are all TRANSFORMED.

Moms, Dads, if you find your parenting paradigm is causing you distress, pain, anguish…try another way. If you feel defeated, lay awake at night regretting your parenting interactions…you can change! Start small. Smile when you want to give a disapproving look. Speak softly when you want to yell. Ask God for a calm heart and wisdom.

When we as parents obey our commands in our relationship to our children, our children are better able to obey their command to obey us.

Reach out if we can pray for you or help you take the first steps toward a grace-filled home. We are here to help.

First Day of School

First Day of School

There’s very little that’s authentic about our family’s First Day of School posts. It’s really not our “first day.” We have a very fluid homeschool and we are always learning. We don’t put a high emphasis on what “grade” our kids are in. Mainly, this helps us know where to categorize them in events outside of our homeschool.

But we love doing “first day” pictures when the rest of our area goes back to school. It breaks my heart whenever I see pictures of children looking downcast as their mom celebrates her children going back to school. As a homeschool mom who feels grateful for every day home with her kids, it’s very difficult to understand.

We are having a party over here at our house today… a party that celebrates our freedom and gratitude to homeschool.

Happy First Day of School everyone! We pray you have a blessed school year, with hearts turned toward God and turned toward home.

Malachi 4:6 y’all!

 

Ten Ways to Invest in Your Small Children During the Homeschool Day

Ten Ways to Invest in Your Small Children During the Homeschool Day

One question I hear all.the.time: What do you do with your little kids when you are trying to homeschool?  Homeschool moms love to plan, purchase curriculum, and dream about crossing off all our check lists.

But…babies, toddlers, preschoolers! They are a reality in many of our homes. I’ve found that pre-school aged children don’t care about our carefully laid plans.

Here are ten ideas for investing in your pre-school aged children during the homeschool day:

1. Buy a good baby carrier:

When your hands are free, you can nurse that baby, while teaching a math lesson. You can keep your little crawler out of dangerous cupboards as you listen to narrations and dictate spelling lists. With a toddler on your back, you can stay engaged and sing and talk together as you make pb&j in the kitchen.

2. Use play-dough during concentrated school time only:

Toddlers and preschoolers LOVE play dough, magic sand, and all things messy. Keep it for special occasions when you want them to stay engaged for just a few minutes longer. Let them make letters in salt or shaving cream. If messy makes you anxious when you already have so much to deal with as far as clean up, get some trays! Teach your toddler to keep materials on the tray as they play. It won’t be perfect, but I’ve found trays to help minimize the mess.

preschool

3. Give the older kids “assignments” to play with the little one for a short while:

Little siblings usually adore older brothers and sisters. Special one-on-one time where older siblings read books or play puppets or build towers with blocks is not only helpful, but so good for their relationships. When Cupcake was a small infant, Jules used to bring the baby and her science textbook to a rocking chair. She would use a British accent (for fun) and read her science assignments aloud to the baby. It made a boring subject more fun for Jules and was a blessing to everyone.

preschool

4. Make sensory bins:

Grab an empty bin or tray, fill it with rice/perler beads/popcorn/rocks/water/beans and top it off with small toys. If you want, get “fancy,” make themed bins (I was able to do that this year and it was so fun! I included one of my big kids and he had a blast finding little toys to put in the bins). Little hands love to pour items from cup to cup and to make discoveries under the layers. (Notice the tray under the bin? I use those trays all the time!) *Supervise your little ones to keep them safe and your house from becoming a rice field.

preschool

5. Make a light table:

I took a white trofast storage bin, put left over lights underneath it and gave my preschooler opaque toys: letters, window clings, reusable ice cubes, neon letter templates, dollar tree plastic shot glasses. She loves to build on the light table. It has a calming effect. Bonus, you can turn the bin over and fill it with all the toys and the lights…easy clean-up.

preschool

6. Dramatic play:

Dramatic play is our FAVORITE around here. We have a closet right outside our school room. It was nearly empty, so I made it into a cute little nook where my little girls have home-base for dramatic play during school time. I hang up dress-up clothes and rotate them out. The dramatic play toys are small and fit on the top shelf of the closet. No one can reach them but mommy and they only come out when I’m doing concentrated school time with big kids. We have a camping set, specialty food items, a tiny kitchen, doctor kits, and a cash register. I set up the rug outside of the closet with a “theme” and give them different props on different days and set them free with their imagination.

preschool

7. Do school together:

My little Cupcake takes her “school” so seriously. One of her frequent prayer requests is that she can “get her school done.” My favorite “school” ideas for littles over the years have been:

~”Before Five in a Row.” The book list from this gentle curriculum is precious. Even if you don’t purchase the teacher’s guide, your preschooler will enjoy sweet time on your lap with classic books that teach many beautiful concepts.

~Chocolate Chip School: We do have Counting Bears…but, nothing made my Cupcake happier last year then when I announced it was, “Chocolate Chip School time.” We got out chocolate chips and counted them. Simple addition and subtraction is fun when you get to eat your manipulative. Siblings came running when they heard us subtracting and everyone enjoyed a little chocolate break in the day.

~Ziggy school: All About Reading has a sweet way of introducing letters to your preschooler with their pre-reader program. Make sure you purchase the activity sheets. They are darling. All of my littles have LOVED Ziggy the Zebra. He says such silly things. Sometimes he helped Cupcake listen to instructions that have nothing to do with the “AAR” program. Taking instruction from a puppet is more exciting than following mommy some days.

preschool

~Letter Search: Cupcake and I got some squishy bath-toy letters. After Ziggy introduces a letter to us, we take out the bath-toy letter and put it in our “hunting box.” Then we go around the house and try to find things in the house that start with our letter to put in the box. THIS IS SO FUN. Do it!

preschool

~Include them in the “big kids” school projects: Whenever my kids are assigned an active, hands on, messy, or fun project, we make sure the little ones are front and center. Does it sometimes lengthen the project? Yes. Have there been times when it frustrated the situation? Certainly! We just look at those as character building moments for all of us and move on.

preschool

8. Make a “can-do” list:

Sometimes it’s overwhelming for everybody to think of all the things preschoolers “can’t do.” I used to have a “Catty Can” list. I laminated little cards and hung them on an o-ring. Each card had something “Catty Can” do; sing the alphabet, roll a ball, color a picture, read books, play dolls, blow bubbles,” The list can be as long and creative as you want it to be. When Catty was a tiny little thing and she felt frustrated with being told “no,” we got out our “Catty Can” list and picked an activity.

9. Don’t forget your baby:

Homeschool moms…you have so much to do. I get it! Math, handwriting, history, read alouds, science labs, spelling, grammar, art, breakfast, lunch, clean up, dinner, Bible, memory, character issues. Being a teacher to our big kids is important. If God has blessed us with little ones who aren’t in school, they need us, just as much as our big kids did when they were pre-schoolers. Make sure you are hugging, laughing, tickling, reading to, coloring with, pushing on the swing, chasing, being goofy, dancing, singing silly songs and spending time with your little ones. Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes of hard play to help them feel remembered, loved, and valued.

10. Hold your plans loosely:

You know I love a well thought out plan. Please remember, that plans should not trump people. Our little ones will be fussy, sick, and overwhelmingly needy at times. It will be tempting to feel like they are getting in the way of our plans. Sometimes, God has a curriculum for us that doesn’t match our beautiful planners. Pay attention when He puts something in our path that pulls us away from what we thought was the “perfect day.” Especially if that “something” is one of our little ones. Don’t look back on the preschool years of your children with regret because you pushed them away to check off a list. Gently guide, love, embrace, and include them as much as you can!

Oh…and one more tip:

Don’t do school when they nap! Really. Don’t do it. Use that time for all of you bigger people to refresh and rest. You can thank me in January for that one.

When We Exasperate and Create False Repentance in Our Kids and What to Do About It

When We Exasperate and Create False Repentance in Our Kids and What to Do About It

During a recent car ride, nearly all of my kids were fighting and one girl in particular was displaying extremely unkind behavior to some others. We had been going strong for several days with lots of late nights and we were all tired. Another late night was ahead of us and I was irritated that we were dealing with sibling fighting only three minutes out of the drive way.

Upon my request, David pulled over and so I could give full effect to the guilt trip I was about to deliver. I told the biggest offender that I had no problem turning the car around and sending the rest of the family on the fun outing. She and I would stay home. I watched her eyes fill with tears and heard apologies begin to fly around the van.

You would think I would have felt satisfaction. I didn’t. I slumped over in my seat, disappointed with myself. I’ve been walking the path of freedom and grace in parenting for eight years now and STILL there it was:

exasperate

 

Fast forward to a different day. One of my sons decided to engage in a power play with one of his sisters. I stuck myself in the middle of their controversy. Acting as both judge and jury, I swiftly decided my son was guilty and wanted to make sure he knew it. Not only did I want him to know how displeased I was with his unkindness, I wanted to bring him to sorrowful repentance by using harsh words and a displeased face. There it was again:

exasperate

In the first scenario, I created false repentance from my daughter. She wanted to go to the activity, so she apologized. She wasn’t turning from her sin, she was avoiding consequence. In the second scenario, I disobeyed God and exasperated my son. He hardened his heart toward me. I wasn’t even a part of the original conflict, but now it was all about me! His body language showed me that he was DONE with any instruction from me.

The tragic thing in both of these stories is that I not only sinned against my children, I sinned against my Lord. Ephesians 6:4 clearly spells out my part in the parent~child relationship and I failed.

Do you find yourself failing in this way as well? Do you find yourself controlling your children instead of building godly wisdom? Are you building a culture of true repentance in their hearts? Or demanding a false repentance that bears no lasting fruit? Are you intensely irritating children when their sin makes you feel annoyed or angry? If so, please hear me:

There is hope.

I was angry with my son. However, when I saw I was losing his heart, I became concerned. My need to be right was going to drive him away from any wisdom I might have. A lifetime of these interactions would drive him away from not only me, but God. And then the Holy Spirit convicted me of my sin and told me to take the plank out of my own eye. I was mad at my son for trying to control his sister, while I attempted to control him! Such hypocrisy! I cried out to God for help, a softened heart, and I removed the plank in my eye by humbling myself.

“I need to confess something to you Pal. The way I was talking to you earlier was totally out of line. It’s not the kind of Mom I want to be. It’s not the kind of mom God wants for you. I’m sorry for sinning against you.” He forgave me and I watched his heart soften. We were then able to  discuss his behavior. He apologized to me and told me he had already gone to his sister in repentance.

I went on, “I’m thankful you forgave me. My sin wasn’t against you alone. I sinned against God as well. He has told me in his word not to exasperate you, and I did. Will you pray with me while I confess my sin?”

Moments later, we sat down in a public restaurant with the other kids who had gone in before us. My son silently bowed his head in thanks for his food. After the meal, he stood next to me and tenderly placed his head on mine. Our hearts had come back together. We were restored to each other and to God. And he was able to again receive instruction in the Lord from me.

The BEST of parents mess up from time to time. YOU will sin against our children as I did, but in your own way. We are so, SO fleshly and still being sanctified.

So what do you do about it?

When you fall, turn your hearts to God and admit it! Confess your sin and walk in humility. If you are in need of God’s intervention in your parenting as I am, (and I suspect you are) you will need to do this kind of work, over and over and over and over and over again. But do it! Walk with God! Keep your kid’s hearts!

exasperate

Over time, your do-overs will decrease and your victories will increase!

My sons were in a major battle. One of them slammed a door on the other. David and I heard the kind of yelp that causes panicked middle-aged parents to run as if they are in 5th grade again. As the details unraveled, we saw pride and deceit in the son who slammed the door and caused an injury on the other. My Mama-Bear instinct was strong. I was enraged to see a child of mine had been hurt by another individual’s temper. I was livid to discover I had been lied to on top of it. My instinct was to spew shame filled messages to the perpetrator of the crime.

Thankfully, my muscle-memory kicked in and I knew that I could help my child in his sin without sinning against him. Quickly, I offered up a silent plea for God to give me love, grace, and forbearance. After tending to my hurt son, I walked over to my other son and gently rubbed his back. David and I asked gentle, but pointed questions as to what was going on in his heart. Without excusing his behavior, we were able to communicate: “It’s OK to admit you have done something wrong. Bringing your sin to the light is necessary for healing. You need forgiveness. Our love for you hasn’t changed because of the temper, the pride, or deceit you displayed. And God’s love for you hasn’t changed. In fact, God’s love was demonstrated while you were yet sinning, by giving His son as a sacrifice for you.”

His heart didn’t soften right away.

The boys requested time alone to discuss things with one another. After they talked, they went back to life. Forty-five minutes passed when the son who had hurt the other, came inside, with a sorrowful and contrite spirit. He apologized to his brother for hurting him. The Holy Spirit was able to work in our son’s heart because we hadn’t exasperated him. There was no effort to control him or force a change of heart. True repentance brought forth beautiful fruit from a heart that had been softened by grace.

Let the gospel of grace transform your hearts as you parent. You won’t do this perfectly. But if you humble your hearts and let the God of love and truth guide you, you will be transformed. And his power will begin to change you-and your kids; slowly, beautifully, over time.

 

 

 

Are Our Daughters Considering Homemaking As a Career?

Are Our Daughters Considering Homemaking As a Career?

It’s hard to write a post like the one I’m about to share without including a few stipulations. Yes, there are crazy people in the world who treat women and girls like property. It’s true that many women are called into important, wage earning, professions. Certainly, some women are called to single life. Let’s operate under the assumption that I’m NOT functioning as a voice for the dogmatic stay at home daughter movement. And many, if not most of our daughters will one day marry and have children. Fair enough?

I grew up watching Laura Ingalls, of Little House on the Prairie, dissatisfaction with “just” being at home as a wife and mother. Maggie Seaver of Growing Pains, grabbed her brief case and coffee while kissing her children goodbye as they got themselves ready for school. Claire Huxtable practiced law and brought her skills home to navigate the waters of a large family. I was told repeatedly I could be anything I wanted to be. My list of possibilities was long; teacher, broadcast journalist, advertisement, musician, pastor, missionary, writer, etc.

My dreams growing up didn’t include becoming a wife or a mother.

My dreams growing up didn’t include becoming a wife or a mother. I have no memory discussing this as an option. I remember dreaming of success and goals achieved. Of course marriage and having children was part of the plan, but almost like a side bonus, not, THE DREAM.

What kind of messages have you received about motherhood? Recently, talking to older teens and young adults about their dreams I often hear, “I want to be a teacher, a nurse, a missionary, etc.”

I’ve been gently asking, “Have you ever considered becoming a homemaker?” These young ladies don’t know how to answer a question which has never been posed to them before.

Have the young ladies in your life considered homemaking as a career?

I love the idea of my daughters receiving a solid education, a foundation on which to support themselves, and general development and growth as human beings. There is something I know however, which they do not. I know what it feels like to hold your very own baby in your arms for the first time. I’ve experienced what it is to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you would give your life’s breath for that baby the instant you lock eyes. I’ve wept the tears of a woman who nursed her baby, not wanting to hand her over to a childcare provider at 12 weeks of age. And I’ve walked the path with numerous women, shedding tears over wanting to stay home with their babies, but set up their lives in such a way that it was financially impossible.

What messages are we giving our sons and daughters about homemaking?

homemaker

Why don’t our girls dream about the passionate pursuit of raising children as a profession? Do we not present it as a glorious option? Is the pull on the world, requiring two incomes to live like those around us, so strong? Do we send our children (boys and girls) into higher education, accumulating unthinkable debt so that staying at home with children is an impossibility? Do those of us who live out the roles of homemaker do so joylessly, making the job unattractive? Is the church building up and valuing the glorious job of mothers raising their babies and children at home?

Sisters in Christ, if you have been called to marriage, motherhood, and homemaking, you have received a high and holy call.

We receive no paycheck or glory and few accolades from the world. Managing our homes however, brings us to a glorious place of storing up treasures in heaven. As we change diapers, scrub toilets, instruct toddlers in the kindness and gentleness of the Lord, organize our cupboards and prepare meals; we have the ability to perform every task as worship unto the Lord. When we creatively prepare a menu on a budget and joyfully serve our family, we are serving Jesus himself.

Teaching our little ones the gospel in our day-to-day interactions, growing them in godliness and discipline is a certain way of doing our part in fulfilling the Great Commission we’ve received from the Lord Jesus. Impossible questions need to be answered, world-views need to be shaped. Boo-boo’s need to be tended to with great wisdom. And our husbands need our love and attention as well. All of this takes great skill, devotion, and selflessness.

I don’t know that we will turn the tide, making the High Call of Motherhood and Homemaking, into a longed for profession in our culture. But we can do an amazing job of showing the beauty of it in our homes. We can do our job with excellence. Join me in challenging our daughters with our devotion to the home and the Lord.

Let’s challenge them with our words as well.

We can speak highly of our job as homemaker. When we talk about our daughter’s futures, when we talk about Jesus command to “store up treasure in heaven,” include the career of motherhood as a path for them to consider as a worthy call. I don’t have my daughter’s lives mapped out for them. That is between my daughters and the Lord. I do desire, when they think of the future, to realize that jobs with titles, advancement, and paychecks aren’t the only career paths to consider. Homemaking doesn’t need to be an after thought. It’s a worthy, lovely, worthwhile career they can be proud in wanting to pursue. Let’s give our girls the dream of raising a family for Jesus.

The Messy Mom~You Were Made for More Mamas

The Messy Mom~You Were Made for More Mamas

There is a trend today in social media Mom blogging, the “Messy Mom.” The Messy Mom says she’s imperfect and fumbling and stumbling through life. She doesn’t have it all together. She presents her parenting challenges, flaunting her children’s struggles and her reactions. She says her reactions aren’t perfect. However, I wonder if she might be a little bit proud of how she handles things in her flesh. She loathes pinterest, yet presents a pristine, perfect looking blog. She sets high standards for her children, but excuses her harsh, unloving responses to them.

 

messy mom

Moms…don’t buy it! Don’t buy into the messy. If you are a Christian you are NOT called to imperfect, messy, sin-excusing lives. You are called to growth, love, self-sacrifice, holiness, and grace. Will you be perfect in this? NO! Should you flaunt your imperfection? NO! Should you flaunt God’s glorious grace in your life as it changes you? A billion times, YES!

John 15:16 “…I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will remain…”

I Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 

Romans 6:6 “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. 

Colossians 3:1-3 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” 

Dear, dear sisters in Christ…God has called you to a high standard. Don’t miss HIS call for you as you watch moms, “glorify in the messy.” Love unconditionally. Make your home a place of peace and safety. Grow responsible adults. Teach your kids God’s word. Don’t compromise. Our culture wants you. Don’t give in. Be set apart. Be holy, because He is holy.

Love Your Kids Challenge

Love Your Kids Challenge

Think back to the pre-parenting days when you wanted to be a mom or dad. Remember when you looked at the positive pregnancy test or heard/saw your baby’s heartbeat the first time? Do you recall the day you got the call from your adoption agency or social worker? Your child was ready to come home? What did you feel like the first time your saw your child’s face, tiny hands and feet, smelled their skin? Can you still feel the warmth, the longing to protect, soothe, and sacrifice for this new life in your home?

love challenge

Love challenge

Those first moments with our children are some of the sweetest moments in our lives. As time wears on, the feelings fade a bit. We sin against our children in our selfishness at times. Our children sin against us in their willfulness. At some point we have to stop the continual gazing at our child and go on with life. Our joyful zeal diminishes and our ideals take a back seat to sleepless nights, feedings, crying, diapers, toddler messes, homework, activities, sibling rivalry, teenage heartaches and mistakes.

Have you stopped smiling at your kids?

Do you feel disillusioned and disappointed? Tired and complacent? Are you lacking peace, contentment? Do you feel angry? Have you stopped gazing at your children and smiling?

Some of you have children home for the Summer months. (Or in our case, a loose schedule as we are not “formally” educating our children and taking a homeschool break.) My heart breaks a little bit every time I see a mom post on social media how she needs a wine break by 10 am. I hurt when I see the looks on little faces when moms talk about how they can’t wait for Summer to end so mom can get her freedom back. Let’s do better moms and dads!

If you are familiar with Connected Families, then you may know their Family Framework to help you grow in God’s grace and truth: 1. You are safe with me. 2. You are loved no matter what! 3. You are God’s workmanship, created to be a blessing. 4. You are responsible for your actions. I want to issue a challenge from the second point:

How can I communicate love in all circumstances?

What does it look like to love your kids when things are going well?
Will you show love to your children for no particular reason?
How can you love your children even in misbehavior?

Love challenge

How can you fill your Summer with messages of love and acceptance toward your children?

Here are a few ways you can practice communicating love this Summer:
~SMILE! Don’t underestimate how much our children need to see warmth in our face.

~Listen to your tone of voice. Are you harsh and disinterested? Be intentional to speak with gentleness and sweetness. Show interest in what your kids are saying and sharing. Laugh.

~When you children fight, stop yourself from sighing and feeling exasperated. Look at their fights as opportunities to help them learn about the world and relationships.

~Do you have a child stuck in disobedience or rebellion? Hug them! Find an activity you can both enjoy together and do it. Don’t wait until they “clean up their act” to show them tenderness and interest in being with them. Love them now in the midst of their sin! (Remember God’s lavish love for you.)

~If you have a day with nothing planned and everything is going swell…surprise them! Take them to Sonic happy hour for a candy slushie. Go to a library event or puppet show. Find a free kid movie and go together. Hit an amusement park or go shopping. It doesn’t have to be glamorous or expensive. Just play together and enjoy it without distraction!

~Is it hard to like one of your children, much less love them right now? It is up to YOU to bridge the gap and mend the relationship. Take the lead. Encourage your child in this difficult time and show love even when you may not feel it. Take a walk together. Read a book aloud. Ride bikes. Listen to your child’s favorite music. Watch their favorite YouTube channel together.

~Set down your phones and walk away from your computers and devices. Enough said.

Love Challenge
Join me in this challenge to Love Your Kids No Matter What.

Think back to those first moments of tenderness and the thankfulness you felt for each of your kids. God has given you a great blessing and gift to parent the child(ren) in your home. Don’t forget it. Remember the joy. The days are fleeting and you won’t regret loving your children with a deep, sacrificial, unconditional love.

Let me know if you are with me!
~Swannie Mom

Family Sports Night…One Family’s Solution to a Busy Culture

One of the things we value in our family life is avoiding the “busy trap.” How do you accomplish the daunting task of discipleship when outside activities demand your attention most nights of the week? Our family is striving to regularly eat dinner together, do daily devotions, serve, and open our home in hospitality often. In order to accomplish our goals, we’ve had to make some difficult decisions about our time and finances. One of them is around sports.

A friend shared this article on Facebook: The Race to Nowhere in Youth Sports. Our family hasn’t experienced this kind of sport culture first hand, however we know it is common. We’d like to share with you one alternative which has made a big difference in our life.

Family Sports Night

Three years ago, we were invited by friends to participate in a Family Sports Night (FSN). Several families gather on a weekly basis and tried out different sports together. This has been a perfect way to expose our kids to different sports and exercise, while maintaining our family values.

What is FSN?

Entire families meet once a week for a determined amount of time and play sports. A leader chooses the sports by the group’s interest level. The sport has to be something good for all ages, without requiring special equipment. FSN introduces common sports and rotates selections from month to month. Dads and moms teach basic skills related to that evening’s sport for the first hour. A parent shares a short devotional during a break. During the second half of the evening, kids are able to use their skills, by playing an actual game. Teams are divided by age categories so play is fair for developmental stages. Depending on the number attending, there may be several games going at once.

Our FSN meets at a public park. It’s an open event and a great way to invite families to play together, hear a gospel message, and experience sports in a loving and safe setting. The goal of our FSN, according to Dave Miller (the current lead organizer) is “to simplify the suburban American sports frenzy, by bringing all family members together on one night each week instead of running ragged 3, 4, or 5 nights a week.” This goal fits so well with our family values! Our kids are exposed to different sports and healthy competition. Our family is able to play together and invest our time in other life worthy goals during the week. We love Family Sports Night!

family sports night

How do sports work in your family life?

Are the choices you are making fitting into your long term family values and goals? We encourage you to start a Family Sports Night chapter of your own if it would help you meet some of your family goals.

 

Summer With the Kids

Summer Bucket ListHow do you spend Summer with the Kids? What is your Summer parenting philosophy? Are you the mom who sends the kids out after breakfast and calls them home at dusk? Do you sign up for lots of classes, teams, and camps? Does structure fly out the window? Will you waterski and fish at the cabin every chance you get?

The rhythm of our household changes in the Summer months. I love the kids to get a lot of free time to explore, read, play, and exercise, without my direct involvement. However, I am keenly aware my kids want me present as well. As the years continue to slip by, I want to build into my children, and establish firm roots of friendship in our family. I am carefully working at keeping our time together intentional, meaningful, and fun!

Several days ago, my oldest daughter and I set out Summer Bucket list we hope to follow loosely:

Work with modeling clay
Finish up craft kits around the house
Teach the little girls how to Rainbow Loom
Smash Book
Work on coloring posters
Free movies with friends
Backyard water games
Night time bowling
Shaving cream Twister
Water bag piñata
Solar oven s’mores
Grammar and spelling review hour
Human bubble
Rock candy making
Ice cream making
Summer Acts of Kindness (leave sand toys at the beach and bubbles on a park bench)
Corn dogs and pop rock slushies with the Dehnnies
Make a chalk town on the driveway
Math lessons every day
Tin foil river down our hill
Play croquet
Make dioramas
Make Christmas gifts
Sponge sail boats
Under the Sea Graham crackers
Park hopping day
Science experiment books
Piano practice plan
Play basketball
Scavenger hunts
Paper bag book nature journal
Make a funny face book
Make puppy chow
School supply shopping
Girl’s Week
Camping

We made lists of books we want to read and people we would like to see. A couple of business ventures were added to our wish list as well. And yes, we have vacations on tap, weekends at the cabin, fishing trips, athletic endeavors in which to participate. Add our Summer family traditions with dad, blink, and it will all be over and we will enter a new school year. While we won’t cross off every idea on this list, I like having a master plan in which to refer back. Any moms out there want to play with your kids this Summer? Show me your plans!

*Most of the ideas listed above are pinned on our “Summer” pinterest board.