Thursday, October 27, 2011

How Much Time Do I Blog?

A few people have asked how much time I take to blog weekly. Since my heart in blogging is to pour Christ into my home and out to others, I feel really strongly that I need to guard my time here. I hate how poorly I manage my time on facebook (I'm once again committed to moderation there). So here, I purposefully guard my time by blogging ahead.

The answer is, I don't spend time blogging weekly at all. I make a list of a few months worth of ideas (which are added to pages worth of ideas I came up with before I ever began this blog) and save links to posts I've read that I want to pass on during naptime when I see one or think of it. Then, on the first week of the month, I blog during naptime for the entire next month. I blog enough to publish two posts per week that I schedule to release automatically on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I have flexibility  built in for anything that I may want to add in as the month goes on during weekends. That's it. I don't blog any other time. The rest of my time is for my family and other priorities God gives me.

God has honored that desire and for an entire year, I have been able to keep that boundary. It helps me enjoy blogging without going overboard. And I love blogging. What a neat opportunity to share what He's teaching me, confess my sin to you all for accountability, remember His grace, and be reminded of ways to direct our hearts towards Him throughout the year in new ways. He has used it in my life to help me be open in my own life and to learn how to share Him in this different platform. I'm so blessed to be a blogger! Thank you for coming on this journey with me. I'm so very thankful.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Birthday Traditions

Next week we will celebrate our firstborn's 6th birthday. I have so many fun memories of my own birthdays growing up and some traditions I still follow (like my yellow cake with chocolate frosting), so I knew I wanted our family to really enjoy celebrating God's good gift of each other on our birthdays. Here are our main traditions:

1) Cake- each of us pick out what cake we want and get it on our birthday. Andy likes ice cream cake, Jimmy wants fun cupcake designs, and Caleb is still young enough that I make whatever sounds fun to me!

2) Notes with specific things we love in that person. Andy and I write them on small index cards for each boy (and each other on our birthdays) and we have them tell us what they love about each other and write out one from each of them. We try to do this in cards we send to family far away on their birthdays as well.

3) Party Favor/Present hunt- Since birthday parties go by quickly and sometimes we can miss the favors and presents for our own kids, we wrap each favor and a few small gifts from us and hide them (each with one of the character notes we wrote on top). As the boys find each one, they get to unwrap the present and hear us read one thing we love about them. Then they put them in their party bag and they never miss out on that part of birthday party fun!

4) Pray- We spend a few minutes as a family to thank God for another year and pray for growth in Him in the next.

5)Birthday Party- We had one year at our church, but mostly stay home for parties. Andy and I decorate the house while the boys sleep the night before, so it's always fun to see their faces the next morning as the house is transformed.  We have never budgeted more than $50-75 for the party. Sometimes we have $5 pizzas or hot dogs, but usually we just serve cake and ice cream, buy favors, and use dollar store and homemade decorations. We want a fun experience, but mainly want to celebrate the precious gift of our children with their friends.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Read to Your Kids

I love reading to our kids and we are regulars at our library. We are always excited to find a new author (to us) that captures our imaginations and stirs our hearts. My favorite kid authors are the ones who provide opportunities to show Christ and talk about hard things with my kids, but do it in an adventurous and exciting way. Here is a short list of some of the most often read books in our home.

1) Sammy and His Shepherd, Susan Hunt- I've written an entire post about this book in the past. It's a sweet series of stories of Psalm 23 through the eyes of a sheep named Sammy and his friend from another pasture.

2) RC Sproul is a favorite author of Jimmy's (age 5) All of his books are fantastic. I listed the ones we read regularly in the order I like them.

3) The Squire and the Scroll, Jennie Bishop - great book about a boy, knights, a dragon, and gaining wisdom through God's Word!

4) Tell Me the Story, Max Lucado- series of short stories. I love the first two about creation and the fall.

5) Tell Me About Heaven, Randy Alcorn- I wrote a post on this, too. I believe this is the best resource available for talking to young kids about heaven and new earth.

6) Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis- Such an engaging classic series and fun family read (for older children)

7) Francis Chan has a few great kids books that our new reader just started reading:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

7 Questions About Posts I Wrote This Year

I've almost been blogging for a year now! Wow. That is so exciting! I'll post a few blogs sharing how I am learning to manage time well as a blogger soon. But today, I'm filling out a 7 question blog survey:
  1. Your most beautiful post.- The post that I have a super soft spot for is Remembering. Teaching my  boys how good it is to remember those we have loved that are gone has been so good and meaningful to our family.
  2. Your most popular post. Hands down this is my post on A Fallen Idol- How One Man's Sin Exposed My Own. Within a day I had hundreds of people who read it and those thoughts are still read daily by people. My close second though is my anniversary post of 9 years In Pictures. Funny how different those posts are!
  3. Your most controversial post. I've had a few. The series I seem to get the most feedback on is how we discpiline our children. Some people love it and others think we're crazy. And they write to let me know.
  4. Your most helpful post. People seem to like reading about our traditions, but I think the most helpful posts have been when God blows me away through His Word. The best lesson I've learned is In Humility, Count Others More Significant. So that post seems like the most helpful to me for people who want flourishing relationships that honor God.
  5. A post whose success surprised you: Boasting On Facebook. It was huge for me as I wrote it, but I never expected people to even notice it. I was floored when people were reposting it and began sharing with me as they hashed through their own facebook profiles. It was really cool to see how we spurred each other on.
  6. A post you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved. There are SO many- ha!!! Here are a few: How God rocked me in missions: They Knew Jerrry Springer, not Jesus, what God taught me about fighting others vs. suffering willingly: Outside the Camp, and all I learned through Psalm 131 about quieting myself.
  7. The post that you are most proud of. Not sure there is one. But there are many that learning the lessons I posted really shaped and changed meOne post that I like to look back at is called All About the Home?. As I wrote that post, I felt like God clarified His call for me at this life stage of "Mom of young kids" in such specific ways.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Submitting to God #2

Let me share today, the rest of nancy Guthrie's quote from my previous post. Her take away from the call in Scripture to submit under God in all circumstances is SO encouraging:
For me, submission has meant a quiet, though sorrowful, acceptance of God's plan and God's timing. It has meant giving up the plans I had for my daughter, for my family, for my life, and bringing them all under submission to him.
Now what I wish is that it had been a one-time decision, a one-time sacrifice. But throughout Hope's life, as her condition deteriorated her, the call to submission hasn't stopped, and it hasn't gotten easier. Every day, as I let go of my dreams and my desires, as I see little girls the age Hope would be bringing a smile to the face of their moms and dads, as I plan for another child who will only be with us a short time, I'm once again called upon to submit. Some days I do better than others... 
Shouldn't we cry out to God with boldness and passion and persistence in a prayer that says, "God, would you please accomplish your will? Would you give me a willing heart to embrace your plan and your purpose? Would you mold me into a vessel that you can use to accomplish what you have in mind?" And then, perhaps, we could add a tiny P.S. that says, "and if that includes, healing, we will be grateful."  
Isn't real faith revealed more through pursuing God and what He wants than by pursuing what I want?
Because I believe his plans for me are better than what I could plan for myself, rather than run away from the path he has set before me, I want to run toward it. I don't want to try to change God's mind—his thoughts are perfect. I want to think his thoughts. I don't want to change God's timing—his timing is perfect. I want the grace to accept his timing. I don't want to change God's plan—his plan is perfect. I want to embrace his plan and see how he is glorified through it. I want to submit."- Nancy Guthrie
YES!  This is what I long for: a heart fully His, living daily to His glory. I want to embrace everything He has for me and grow more and more into Him. Praying He'll continue this work in me in even greater ways.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Submitting to God

I was encouraged through Nancy Guthrie as I read through her pain and loss (of 2 children) and yet see her desire to submit under God and grow in Him in strength. I want to share a few excerpts from her book, Holding Out Hope that have impacted me. Here's the first:

"God seemed to speak to me clearly — though not in an audible voice. I've never heard that. He spoke to me the way he always does: through Scripture. 
In my Bible study a couple of weeks after Hope was born, we looked at the story of Hagar who had run away from Abram and Sarah due to Sarah's harsh treatment. She wanted to escape her difficult situation, but God spoke to her in the desert, telling her to "return and submit." The lecturer asked, "What is God calling you to submit to?" And I knew God was calling me to submit to the journey we were facing with Hope, not to fight it or cry out to him to change it, but to submit to his plan and his purposes. 
At the same time, we were talking in Sunday school about the biblical account of the angel who came to Mary to tell her that she would give birth to a son. How did this "favored" one respond? "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said." She submitted, even though what God had brought into her life, from her perspective as a 13-year-old Jewish maiden, must have looked like a disaster. Once again, I sensed a calling to submit to the plan he laid out before us, and to walk through it in a way that brought him glory, in a way that exemplified what it means to trust him in the midst of sorrow and difficulty and disappointment. -Nancy Guthrie
I'm praying through things God has laid in my life and learning to thank Him for His ways. i'm asking Him to give me the desire for only what He wants for me and those I love. I want to submit and seek Him alone. I'm so encouraged by how openly Nancy shared and by the reminder through His Word (especially through Mary) that His ways are best and it is a delight to rest in Him alone.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Kids Bible

Since I posted some ways to engage hearts and not just entertain our kids on rainy days, I thought I'd go ahead and share the Bibles and family devotional we use. 

1) Young Kids Bible Storybook- Jesus Storybook Bible- such a great bible storybook for even the smallest child and you can watch videos of it online too! Here's part of the Christmas story video:

2) School age full text Bible- ESV Seek and Find Bible- great full text bible with LOTS of pictures for young readers!

3) Awesome Devotional- Long Story Short: Ten Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God, Marty Machowski- Great family devotional that dives into the Word!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Rainy Days to the Glory of God #3

Playing together is so fun! But rainy, yucky days that go on day after day are hard. I'm praying we will begin to see that they are also opportunities to share Christ in our time at home with our young kids. So I pray our hearts will stay on Him, our kids will burn some energy in fun activities, and we'll engage their hearts in our time spent with them. I shared lots of ideas how in my last 2 posts (read them here and here), but here are a few more:

1) Read your kids favorite Bible stories and then help them make a picture book to tell the stories to others!

2) Listen to audio books that engage and pour Christ in through allegory! We love The Chronicles of Narnia, The Mighty Acts of God (narrated bible stories with family discussion questions/application) and when a bit older, Adventures In Odyssey. 

3) Clean the house together. It is so good to instill hard work and serving others into our children. Find the fun things (like racing each other while sorting clothes or mopping floors) in the hard work. Sing together as you work. Let different areas of the house remind you of fun memories of your children that you can share with them (kids love to hear stories about themselves). It's a neat time as you pour into them to remind them that you love them so much, that you are thankful for God's good gift of them to you, and that God loves them the most.

4) Use a “treasure hunt” (hide certain toys or objects all around the house to find) as a fun time together and an opportunity to teach what God teaches about storing up treasure in heaven (Matthew 6), and share the parables about treasure (treasure and pearl-Matthew 13) that share who the true treasure is: Jesus.

5) Sing and dance! I bring out my guitar or we crank up worship songs (we love Sovereign Grace) and Sunday school songs. We dance and sing to God’s glory and our fun!

6) Play in the sink in the bathroom. I love this because of the mirror there. It’s SO much fun to play in water. Water is so pivitol in Scripture, so you can share any Bible story that fits- like creation, Noah's ark, crossing the red Sea, crossing the Jordan, baptism, etc...  With kids a little older, the mirror there gives the opportunity to talk about God’s law and the gospel by sharing in Romans that the law reveals shows our sin, but only Jesus takes them away. Then sharing the analogy that we can look in the mirror and see something on our face, but the mirror can’t clean it, can it? So we go to the water and wash it away. The law is like the mirror and Jesus is the water that washes the sin away. The mirror shows us that we need to go to Jesus.

7) Use blocks/ mega block/legos/plastic cups etc. to make a monument of God's faithfulness. Read Joshua 3 and 4 and point out how the people made a monument to remember God's faithfulness. Take a block and share something to praise God for (like one block/lego to say we love how strong He is, or another to thank Him that we have a house, etc.) Then stack each one. as long as we can think of things to thank Him for, we keep building! And you can do it over and over again!

8) Read engaging books that teach timeless truths of Christ. A good place to start is with RC Sproul. He  has long, but fantastic kids books. I may need to do a whole post on some of my favorites...

I can think of other ideas, but I think you get the point. As we read these lists and think about ideas to entertain our kids, let's remember to engage their hearts. I want to be intentional to pour Christ into my boys in everyday life to help prepare them to have open eyes and hearts to see Him at work throughout their days and stay their hearts on Him as long as they live.