Seek Him and Brush Your Teeth!

Yesterday I didn’t smile.

Yesterday I didn’t look my girls in the eye.

Yesterday I didn’t brush my teeth until the afternoon.

These confessions glare what kind of day I had yesterday.

Last night, when my youngest daughter asked if we could have our monthly breakfast date in the morning, I said, “No.” Don’t worry, I went on to explain why. I told her about how I had not had my quiet time in the morning and my whole day went downhill from there.

Now, truth be told, it wasn’t just the missing quiet time with the Lord that did me in. It was literally not taking a second to slow down and hear from the Lord all day. He is so good to me. When I slow down, and seek Him, He shows me what I need in each given moment. Maybe it’s fresh air, a nap, His word, a snack, a tough conversation, time with my husband. But when I just plow through the day, I am useless.

This morning, the Lord brought to my mind the image of the flight attendant reminding parents to first place the oxygen mask on themself and then tend to their children.

That is how today looks.

Placing the oxygen mask on myself first today looks like: taking time to study God’s word and be filled up through prayer, exercising with weights and sweat, making a green smoothie, listening to piano hymns, taking a shower AND brushing my teeth, and letting my girls sleep in so they get what they so needed.

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Dear One, it is not selfish to take care of yourself. God loves you so much. He does not want you to neglect yourself. You are not able to serve Him if you are completely spent. Seek Him today!

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

Update: at 10:00 am when my youngest daughter finally surfaced and asked once again about our breakfast date, I could answer, “Yes!” Thank you, Oxygen Mask! You truly are my Savior!

The Power of Life and Death

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs 18:21

My encouraging friend, who lives out Proverbs 18:21, sent me that verse the other morning. Every morning I receive a nugget of wisdom from her. Because God has proven to me time and time again that nothing worth anything is ever  by chance, I take what she sends me to heart.

For years, I have been aware of the power of my words. God began revealing this to me through Joyce Meyers TV broadcasts, where she openly shares her struggles with words and how through God’s Word and power, she has overcome.

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I don’t know about you, but I have set backs in this area. I am not tempted to smoke cigarettes, overeat, or drink alcohol, but I am definitely tempted to criticize, especially those closest to me.

1 Peter 5: 8 tells us that the Devil is watching us, looking for what he can use to destroy us. For me, it tends to be my words. He feeds me the words to say, especially when I am tired, sick, discouraged, or just simply not alert.

But I am so tired of it. I am so tired of Satan having his way with my words. And, I am not powerless against him!

Some truths about taming the tongue (just in case you, too, struggle in this area):

  • I cannot tame my tongue (control my words) in my own power. James 3:8
  • My life will be happier if I obey God with my words. James 1:26
  • My words can bring healing. Proverbs 12:18
  • My words are powerful. James 3:5
  • When my words are gentle, the can bring forth life. Proverbs 15:4

tree of life

Practical ways in which I am obeying God with my words:

  • Making sure my children are looking me in the eye when I give them a compliment. I don’t want my words to go unnoticed. I will say their name or something to get their attention, wait for their eyes, and then speak the words I want to say. I usually benefit  by seeing their face light up in response.
  • Keeping a list on my phone for both of my kids and my husband of compliments I want to give them. Often, I will think of good things about them when I am apart from them. I just make a little note on my phone and then I keep it there until I give them the compliment. Then I put a little check mark symbol after that particular compliment. Once, I am more fluent with my family, I want to add more people to this list.
  • Making sure I am full of God’s truth about me, so that I am not running on empty and have nothing to give.

Dear One, how do you see the power of words at work in your life? I am praying we each see someone we can encourage today. 

 

Stop the Race. Look Up.

A nature loving mom with nature loving children means a homeschool brimming with nature projects.

Some simple peanut garlands hanging just outside our back door provide nourishment for the squirrels and much entertainment as we watch the animals bustle around gathering the nuts.

My soft-hearted, nature loving daughter can’t stand to leave the peanut garlands in an area where the squirrels have to work for it. She attempts to give them a challenge but usually within minutes she’s lowering one of the tasty treats to an area where the squirrels can have a heyday with it.

It’s like watching a nature documentary right outside our door. We watch as two squirrels fight over the peanuts. Who can get there first? Who’s quicker? Who’s stronger? Who is more nimble? Who can find the best hiding place for their peanut?

Their movements are fast. Frantic. My heart begins to race just watching them in their haste. And then I remember. As I watch one of the squirrels dash across the yard my eyes raise a bit and I remember the peanut garlands my daughter has yet to move still hanging from the trellis. Just above these frantic squirrels heads, peacefully resting there, are two long garlands of peanuts. The squirrels race around in their stress, capturing their prized peanuts. greed overcoming them. All the while an abundance of what they treasure hangs just above their heads.

Do they know? If they did know, would they rest a little? Would they slow down and enjoy the process a little more? Would they be more apt to share with the other squirrels in the yard?


Oh, do I ever see myself in these squirrels. The way I get so wrapped up in my own needs and the needs of my family. The way I bustle about in a frantic pace when I act as if our lives depend on my ability to move fast. The way I so quickly forget my Provider. The One that meets my needs for each day. The way I forget to look up and remember the Giver of great gifts, holds in abundance everything I need, ready for me just when I need it.

Can we all just slow down a bit today? Can we stop the race we find ourselves in and instead look up and remember the One that knows our true needs?

Just as the squirrels in our yard rush about completely unaware of the blessings hanging just above their heads, we too, rush about, missing the blessings and the provisions the Lord has for us.

But, if we’d just slow down. Stop. Look up. Commune with the Creator and stop the race. 

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10

 

 

What I Learned in April

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

tulip path

What We Read This Month:

Among the Forest People by Clara Dillingham Pierson–A beautiful compilation of delightful short stories of the creatures living in the forest.

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain: Stretch It, Shape It by  JoAnn Deak and Sarah Ackerley–as we have been on a healing journey this school year, healing from past trauma, this was a wonderful, short book to solidifiy some of our learning about the parts of the brain, their function, and amazing ways in which it heals.

My Reading This Month: 

The Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman—great book with helpful exercises to strengthen any marriage.

Getting Past Your Past by Francine Shapiro—interesting book describing the principles of EMDR therapy and how you can apply those some principles to your own life.

Change Your Brain Change Your Life by Daniel Amen—I am not quite done with this book, but I have found it very interesting. I enjoy how it has practical  yet powerful ways to change your thoughts and thus improve your overall life.

My Learning This Month:

“The Yes Basket”: I learned this idea here: The Yes Jar. I love the Empowered to Connect website and podcast. I have learned many helpful tips there.

The Yes Basket has helped our family with problems such as stealing gum or treats, boredom causing “bugging behavior”, difficulty with waiting for someone to be available to play or help, and the general feeling of deprivation.

How it Works: We have a small basket on our family room coffee table labled YES. I place individually wrapped gum and Hershey Kisses. Other ideas are lollipops, small toys, fidget toys, bubbles to blow, etc. But, my kids are content with gum and Kisses. I like to keep things simple! I usually place 1 or 2 pieces of gum and 1 or 2 Kisses per kid per day.

Rules: They must ask to have something, but I always get to say, “Yes!” They have to keep it equal…no taking more than their share. They must throw away their wrappers. If they do not follow these rules, the Yes Basket is closed the following day.

Feel free to try the Yes Basket in your family and let me know how it goes!

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What I Learned in March

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

March path

What We Read This Month:

Hinds’ Feet on High Places: Delightfully Illustrated and Arranged for Children by  Hannah Hurnard and JoAnn Edington (I cannot recommend this book enough! Even if you have never read the original version, both kids and adults will love this book. It is an allegory of how God transforms our fears and weaknesses when we fully surrender to him. My children and I love it and want to read more and more each day.)

Indescribable by Louie Giglio (We continue to enjoy reading this devotional each morning. My 10 and 12-year-old enjoy how Giglio combines science and Biblical truth.)

My Reading This Month:

I Can Only Imagine: A Memoir by Bart Millard and Robert Noland (This is the book version of the movie which is in theaters right now. The book is a more complete telling of Bart’s life story.)

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman

My Learning This Month: 

Passport to Purity: My oldest daughter and I went away for a weekend, just the two of us. We brought along the Passport to Purity curriculum which includes, audio CD’s, parent guide, and a journal for the daughter to follow along in and answer questions. This curriculum includes learning about peer pressure, choosing friends, puberty, dating, love, and sex. We found it to be very well done. There were moments of awkwardness, which we needed to work through. Overall, I was so thankful to have the structure and framework the curriculum provided so that we could get through all the important information. Biblical truths were the base for the entire weekend. I would definitely recommend Passport to Purity for all famililies with kids around the ages 11-13.

1 Timothy 4:12, Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

This is the beautiful necklace Cate Florey designed for my girl so she could always remember our special weekend together! Check out her beautiful work here:  Cate Florey Studio

Thought Journaling: A counselor taught us about this helpful process she calls Thought Journaling. This process is a way of looking at how the thoughts we think and the messages we send ourselves cause us to react in positive or negative ways. Negative self-talk seems to just sneak right in. In becoming more aware of our reactions whether internally or externally, we can begin to see how false messages are sabotaging us. Or, the reverse is also true. When we send ourselves positive messages or quiet ourselves enough to hear God’s loving voice, we react in love, peace, and compassion.

thought journal page

Romans 12:2, And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

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What I Learned in January

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

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What We Read This Month:

My Father’s Dragon Trilogy by Ruth Stiles Gannett and Robert Serva

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater and Florence Atwater

Indescribable by Louis Giglio

The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos

What I Read or Listened to This Month:

Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado (I love Max Lucado. This book will not disappoint!)

Your Teenager is Not Crazy by Jeramy Clark (When your almost teen recommends you read a book she heard about, it’s usually a good idea to listen to her!)

New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul Tripp (This has quickly became my favorite devotional, ever!)

Launch (a podcast on iTunes about an author going through the steps of writing and publishing a book series)

My Learning This Month:

Bracelets = Time Together

Exactly a year ago, God began working in me to establish one on one time with my girls. I wrote a blog post called, Talk Time. Almost immediately after implementing Talk Time with my girls, I saw benefits: more peace between my children, more peace between me and my kids, more compliance from my kids, a greater knowledge of my kids’ interests, and an overall smoother running home. So why in the world would a mom ever fall away from this wonderful solution? My kids didn’t stop wanting this time with me. We didn’t stop enjoying this time together. We never saw the benefits of this time together diminish. But, one day, our schedule was full…too full, and Talk Time got pushed aside. Then, 2 days passed and still no Talk Time. Then stress and tension began to creep back into our home, and suddenly time together was the last thing anyone of us wanted.

Fast forward a year and we are back to the beginning of January 2018. Much learning and growth has occurred in our family in the last few months with the help of an amazing adoption parent coach. But, my one on one time with the girls was NOT happening regularly. The parent coach shared with me the idea of using bracelets for the girls to exchange for time with me

This is how this works: Each morning, I place three rubber bracelets on the breakfast table at each girls spot, along with their daily vitamins. They place the bracelets on their wrist. When they want time with me, they are to come to me and request time with me and hand me a bracelet. Each bracelet equals 10 minutes of uninterrupted time with me doing something of their choice. They may even choose to use all 3 bracelets at once, equaling 30 minutes of time with me. The key is that it is just me and the child, it’s their choice of activity, and they must request it. So, when we have family game night, they would not need to use their bracelets for that. Also, going over to the park as a family, would not count.

bracelets

So rather than just setting the good intention of having Talk Time, we now have the visual, tangible reminder of the bracelets right on the girls wrists. As well as the plan for them to initiate and take the risk of asking me for time. I do enjoy this time, but I have to admit that when I am about to start the laundry and one child comes to me and says I want to use a bracelet now, I do struggle at times. But, what I have found is that 10, 20, or even 30 minutes of time goes quickly! I am able to pick back up what I was doing, or what I was doing gets pushed aside, while time with my girls does not get pushed aside.

A wise, good friend, has encouraged me several times with the phrase, “You will never regret time with your kids. You will never look back and regret the energy you put into your kids.”

Is sibling rivalry rearing its ugly head in your home? Are you having a hard time remembering the last time you had individual time with your child? Is your schedule so hectic it seems impossible to carve out time with your children? I encourage you to implement the bracelet plan.

Let us remember our children are gifts from the Lord!

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

 

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What I Learned in December

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

December pathWrapping up another month and the end of 2017, I am reflective. It’s been a month of celebrating, growing, and rejoicing. 2017 has been a year of challenges, eye-opening revelations, and steps toward growth. To end a year a little softer, a little less tense, a little more aware, and still clinging to the Lord, is just where I want to be. Thank you, Lord!

Our Reading from the Month: 

A Tree for Peter by Kate Seredy A beautiful book which kept our attention and stirred great conversation.

A Tree in the Trail by Holling C. Holling We are using this for narration, reading it slowly, one chapter per day.

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannet We are reading the whole trilogy but have only finished book one so far. We plan to see the play in Bellingham in February.

My Reading this Month:

Cure Your Child with Food by Kelly Dorfman Very interesting book addressing so many common issues: anxiety, constipation, picky eating, ADHD, hyperactivity, poor sleep, stomach aches, etc.

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk Insightful book. I am only able to read a little at a time as it’s quite heavy at times. I definitely recommend this book to anyone with past trauma or working with kids who have experienced trauma.

My Learning this Month:

More structure/routine equals less decision making and less stress.

In the last several months, we have adopted more structure and routine into our daily lives. I have always considered myself a structured person, but often that structure was in my own mind. I followed the structure, but I didn’t clearly communicate it to my children. I am the type of person that can become quickly overwhelmed by rapid fire questions and demands being made at me. Creating more clearly communicated structure and routine in our day-to-day to life has drastically cut down on the amount of on the spot decisions and questions I need to field. Whew! What an unexpected blessing this has been!

Example: dinner menu hung on the kitchen cabinet. Each weekend, I sit down and create a very basic dinner menu plan for the week. Result: kids have more time to process and deal with dinners coming up in the week that are not their favorite, I refer them to the menu each time they ask, “what’s for dinner?”, I am aware of what ingredients I will need for the week, and there is one less day-to-day decision I have to make. This has been a win/win for all of us.

dinner menu

Helping My Kids Respect Time/”Owed Time”

“Kids can’t regulate on their own so the parent has to be the regulator,” therapist and adoptive dad, Lynn Owens.

The above quote helped to motivate me to become more structured and diligent about helping my kids move toward greater self-control, including time management.

In practical terms this looks like stating a specific time they will be required to be at the table in the morning to begin school, or in the car to leave, or at the table for a meal, and then keeping track of each minute they are late. Each minute they are late gets doubled and becomes their “owed time”. Owed time equals time spent sitting at the table in the kitchen doing absolutely nothing for the entire time they owe. The first time one precious daughter of mine earned 6 minutes of “owed time” for being 3 minutes late for school, she panicked. She quickly began bargaining. “Mom, I will do 6 extra chores for those 6 minutes! I will make dinner tonight! Just don’t make me do nothing!” I realized we were really on to something. My kids need to practice being quiet. They need time to just be still. They need to begin to see that it is actually possible for them to do nothing at all without dying.

My husband commented that he has never seen one particular daughter act motivated to be on time until we implemented this strategy.

Most days they are on time now. If they owe time, it’s typically 2-6 minutes. Their future spouses, friends, and employers will be thanking us someday for putting up with the current drama when we inform them of their “owed time”!

Let us begin this new month, this new year, remembering our newness in Christ. Our rebirth. Renewal. Rejoicing in Him.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17