I can hardly believe that the month of February is already gone! We finished our summer holidays and have been back to homeschool in full swing. You might remember last month that I wrote that we are changing the pace of life in our family, and being intentional about what we say yes to. It’s been such a good thing so far and I would love to encourage you again to consider how this might look in your own family.
So on that note, here’s some things to pass on that have caught my attention this past month.
I love this version of ‘The Prayer’ with Josh Groban and Celine Dion.
New Discoveries and Good Ideas
Seasons at Homeis a stunning print magazine with topics for the whole family, and includes articles on whole food cooking, homemaking, homeschooling, and projects for the home.
‘Take Them a Meal‘ is a great way of organising a meal roster for someone special. I’ve been part of these many times. You can see what others are planning, which helps to avoid 7 nights in a row of lasagne. 🙂
I cannot tell you how incredibly excited I am about having the opportunity to watch and review this documentary called ‘Captivated’ very soon! Please take a look at the short clips here and I’ll let you know soon where you can get hold of a copy for yourself.
Celebrating Woman – my Pinterest Board with some fabulous photos of woman around the world.
Quote of the Month
When you articulate your boundaries to people, they have the opportunity to respect your needs and virtues and protect your relationship with them. And when they value and protect the things that are important to you, the relationship flourishes. This is the process that builds trust between you and others. – from ‘The Supernatural Power of Forgiveness’ by Kris Vallotton
There’s a flood of e-books, articles and information online these days, giving us insight into how to balance every aspect of our lives, particularly for us mothers that are at home and sometimes also homeschooling our children. Although there are varying voices on the subject, the loudest one appears to be that we woman can have it all, make a few compromises and take some short-cuts, but still manage to juggle all these balls that are thrown our way.
I’ve felt caught up into the frenzy myself at times, with a mix of worthy goals and some less worthy – to nurture my marriage, successfully raise and teach my children, be actively involved in the lives of others, have some sort of public face so I don’t fade into obscurity, manage a home well, give out of what the Lord has placed in my hands, have Mum time with others outside my home, meetings and functions, write in this space here while ticking all the necessary boxes that I knew nothing about 12 months ago (eg. SEO keywords, pinnable images, and social media promotion)… and so forth.
And then there’s the deepest desire within me to connect more closely with my Creator, the source of all things good in my life. He has so much he wants to share with me, and yet my own fears of perhaps falling off someone’s radar or not feeling fully satisfied with how things are arranged in my life, has frequently kept me from being still and moving out of the fast pace of modern life to hear His voice.
I love the picture that we have been given in creation, of bees, birds and insects, living out their purpose, but not in a hurry. There’s a natural rhythm to things, cycles and seasons that continue without toil. Fruit comes forth from a healthy tree of its own accord, and doesn’t strain or labour to appear. Aren’t we, those created in the image of God, so much more capable of finding this sort of purpose and peace in our own lives? To align ourselves with a rhythm and purpose that has peace, sustained rest, and fullness of life?
So I’m at the point now of saying yes more to the things that matter, which inevitably means saying no to other things at times.
Yes to more time with Jesus, so no to things that use my time unwisely or that can simply wait.
Yes to more time just enjoying the sun with my children, feet in the grass, and breathing fresh air, so no to always managing our day according to the clock.
Yes to making our home as our ‘centre’, so no to lots of activity through the week outside the home.
Yes to the natural rhythm and pace that my family is best wired to, so no to hurrying my children up all the time.
Yes to the ‘hidden’ things that take place out of sight from others: enjoying my children, loving my husband, and cultivating a healthy environment in my home. So no to excessive social media time, ‘me’ time with friends, blogging things, or putting aside the ministry in my home to do ministry in other places. [Of course I still want to spend time with my friends and serve the Lord in other places besides my home, but those things need to find their place in this season of my life where my home is where my heart is].
I’m anticipating that in deciding to focus primarily on these hidden years with my children, I might fall off the social scene somewhat, not always make it to events and functions, and perhaps even become forgotten by some if I lose my visibility in their lives. But I’m choosing to focus on what God is giving me, not what I am losing. I’m going after what He is giving me instead!
I’m finding I’m looking forward to waking up each day, having the kids jump into my lap, homeschooling them (even though daily there are still challenges to overcome), and the end of the day I can’t wait to spend time with Jesus.
I’m off the treadmill and have my feet on the ground. I’m planning to enjoy my years with my children. I don’t want a single regret from this point forward.
Beginning this month, I’m going to do a round up at the end of each month of things that have grabbed my attention over the course of the month – things to make in the kitchen, things I’m reading or watching, something I’ve read or discovered in health and natural living, and perhaps something we’ve been doing in homeschooling that’s been a great experience or fun part of the journey.
I simply want to pass on things that have caught my interest and been of benefit to my journey, in the hope that you might also find something useful or inspiring too.
So here goes…
In the Kitchen
I’ve spent the month making these regularly, which are keeping us cool at the height of summer, and are also healthy: Sugar-free chocolate fudge.
I’ve been enjoying Dr Caroline Leaf’s material for the last couple of years on the brain and faith connection, and strongly recommend you listen in. She has a series online at the moment on TBN. Here is the first episode.
Rend Collective: 10,000 reasons – Love this! Intimate, honest, inclusive worship in a community of kindred people. Love the Irish folksy sound, and love the heart of these people to honour one another and honour their King.
iHerb.com – a great place to get over 35,000 supplements, health and beauty products at great prices. Best of all, they ship to NZ for just $4, and only $8 for 2-day delivery (on average). I’ve already put through 2 orders – love cheap international postage!
See the Light ShineArt DVD series – just got bumped up my homeschool wishlist. We can’t wait to get started next month!
PureSante –spend months or years trying to get to the bottom of your health issues (like I have!), or consult with someone like the amazing Rachael who can help lead you into greater health. For folks in the Bay of Plenty, give this fantastic gal a call – she is amazing!
On the Homeschool Front
Our scripture to memorise and soak in this month (or longer): Psalm 91.
“When the key element of your identity comes from a negative, then your experiences will always be negative. When you see yourself as a sinner, then you will be preoccupied with sin. When you know that you are a saint, then you will be occupied with righteousness because a saint is one of the holy ones. You were a sinner that has been saved by grace to become a saint. You are a child of light beloved of God walking in newness of life. That makes you a completely different person!”
I’ve recently had the opportunity to write for my friend Jacque at ‘Whole Family Strong’. I instantly connected to Jacque’s worldview when I first started reading her site. She has a heart for simple and intentional living, and for living out wellness and wholeness faithfully as a family (make sure you check out her paleo recipes). I love how Jacque wants to see other families living in fullness also – her website displays these words ‘Spiritually Strong, Physically Strong, Family Strong’.
EMBRACING THE SEASON
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every
activity under the heavens”. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Life is full of seasons and rhythms, and ebbs and flows.
“There are seasons of waiting, of action, of preparation, of joy, of visible ministry, and of quiet and unnoticed acts of service. And then there is time of the faithful, and (immediately) unrewarded ministry in the home. Every season provides opportunity to grow and mature, and every season has a purpose to walk into a greater understanding and revelation of the character and nature of our Creator.”…
We are still very much growing into how we are to disciple our children. We have the clear scriptural precedent that we, as parents, are solely responsible for training and guiding our children’s hearts to pursue a living relationship with Jesus. We can invite others into this place, but scripturally speaking, there is no direct command given to any other role or person to fulfill this responsibility to raise our children to be followers of Jesus. So in that aspect, we are certain.
As to how we do this however, we’re only just finding a rhythm and consistency in this. Partly this has been due to having three young children, all at different places on their faith journey, and then we as parents continuing to grow and add habits that we need to be disciplined about keeping in place.
What is Family Discipleship?
Firstly, what is discipleship in the context of the family? I believe it is partnering with the Holy Spirit in directing your child’s heart towards cultivating their own relationship with Jesus.
The heart of our family’s discipleship approach is to stir within our children a desire to love like Jesus, and to follow Him every day of their lives, growing deeper in their faith, and living out His purpose for their lives on earth.
We’ve decided that the very best thing we can do is to love Jesus ourselves, devote ourselves to knowing him, be extravagant in our faith and in how we express love to others, and our children will follow our lead. We cannot lean on a method or curriculum to guarantee our children’s successful discipleship – these can be useful tools but do not replace loving nurture and guidance in stirring within our children a heart to cultivate their own relationship with the Lord.
Nurture and Connection
We’ve found that having gentle and sympathetic hearts with our children, and making our connection with them a priority, makes it possible to guide them from that place of relationship. Let me add that we aren’t perfect, and we ask for forgiveness daily for impatience, stern words, and missing the target in other ways. But establishing heart-to-heart connection is at the foundation of building into their hearts. Otherwise we would be doing nothing more than teaching good morals, and teaching bible knowledge as though it were a school subject. Discipleship for us must be from a living, real, honest, relational context.
Admittedly, we have wavered in our consistently many times, and are only just reviving our goals in this area. But here’s some of our approach and what we hope to grow into more this year:
Prayer is the first response rather than the last when navigating the storms of life, no matter what their size.
Children’s devotions are those designed for children to work through themselves or with your assistance. We especially love “Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing” which is written for children ages 8+.
Family devotions are a way of bringing the family together and connecting together over His Word. “Our 24 Family Ways” by Clay and Sally Clarkson is a favourite, which contains nicely-illustrated colouring pages for children to complete while they are listening. Sometimes we just do a spontaneous family devotion at the dinner table.
Spending time with like-minded families is such a necessary part of building one another’s faith, and inspiring a desire to know Jesus and make Him known.
Worship with other Christians is something we love to do, and we have a community of like-minded families that we love to worship with where the children are welcome to participate. It might look a little different from a family separating into two locations once a week and standing in rows to worship, but we love the freedom of creativity of allowing God to move in a group of people that love, honour and accept one another, with children a valued part of His voice and expression amongst us.
Worship music on in the houseevery day is something we’ve always done. Worship is my great love, and I know it will form the soundtrack of my children’s childhood. It’s our hope that the songs of their childhood will be remembered throughout their lives as a source of life, encouragement, and blessing.
Memorising scripture and displaying scripture so His Word is being learned and meditated upon regularly.
Audio bible is something we haven’t utilised yet, but plan to use when our children are a little older.
Intentional bible study and learning – we haven’t wanted bible study to simply be another school subject, but do want to gradually introduce more intentional study as they get older. We want them to first and foremost understand that the bible is God’s Word – infallible, trustworthy and true.
A couple of resources we are currently enjoying as part of our intentional learning are, “Who is God and Can I Know Him?” (Apologia text and accompanying notebook), and “What’s in the Bible” DVD series.
We have a growing collection of books containing stories of missionaries and some great heroes of faith (both historical and living), that seek to inspire children with what it can look like when lives are surrendered to Jesus. A couple of films that we’ve watched recently (Father of Lights, and Compelled By Love) have reminded me that these will be a wonderful addition to our family’s discipleship resources at some stage.
One Final Thought
We aren’t simply aiming for our children to simply behave like Christians and grow up to be good people. We want to present them with the truth that the power of the gospel will save them and transform them. Yes we need a discipleship path that is grace-filled and intentional. Yes we need to model them love and a living relationship with Jesus ourselves.
But also, we need to remember that the goal isn’t to produce children and eventually adults with good morals and behaviour. It’s to train them up in the way THEY should go on the path of life, and encourage them to find out what God wants for their lives. Instead of asking them ‘What do you want to be when you grow up’, ask them ‘What does God want to do in and through your life?’ It’s all about Jesus, and what He’s done for us. In dying for us, we can now live for Him. And he enables us to do so.
2013 was quite a memorable year. We started the year with a few days holidaying with dear friends, and felt relaxed and full of hope for what lay ahead. My word for the year: 2013 the year of joy. I had my joy dares in hand, ready and eager to chronicle our joy gifts from the Father.
I quote this again, as it continues to speak life to my soul:
Joy is who God is. Joy is the abiding atmosphere of heaven. Joy is the expression of the kingdom here on earth. And therefore joy is an environment that we should be creating as a community and inhabiting on a personal level – in our homes, in our places of work, we can make those places like heaven. – Graham Cooke
Early February my precious family was hit with illness, husband included, and we negotiated our way through this for many months. There were some scary nights in there, where I wondered if my children were going to take their next breath. Those of you who’ve been through something similar know that it’s simply indescribable.
After this, I felt like I was running on a deficit for the remainder of the year, and still am to some extent. Life continued to bring what it does for many, and didn’t wait for me to be ready – financial challenges, health challenges, relationship challenges, heart challenges.
Maintaining my place of joy became much more difficult than I could have ever anticipated.
But through it all, there were so many beautiful, wonderful, hope-filled, incredible moments.
There were lots of firsts for my youngest child, and even with our third, they are no less special and worthy of celebrating.
There were treasured moments with each of my children, where my eyes were opened to see more of who they are created to be. Precious. I love being at home with them.
There were some really enjoyable learning times, and crazy fun-filled moments in our homeschooling.
There was authentic connection with heaven, with the Father’s grace and mercy, and with the soft and loving sound of His voice.
There were those moments with my husband, where we sat looking at each other, completely spent, sometimes in utter disbelief at the most recent wave of challenge, but unspoken love passed between our eyes, as did the firm resolve to never give up on ‘us’. We have been shaken, but our love runs deeper than ever.
There was one incredible friendship that shone brighter than my worst days, and remains one of the most treasured gifts that I’ve ever received from heaven. I’m still floored that I’d be worthy of such a tender-hearted, giving, sweet, loving, beautiful friend.
So although the ‘joy journaling’ faded as the year wore on, the overall purpose did not die completely, as today I can remember with thankful heart some ‘big’ joy gifts. I am blessed.
I have little expectation of what might happen in our circumstances. But I know the Father is already there, and His grace will be sufficient for whatever we will face, whether it be abundant and overflowing, or challenging.
The joy journaling is back at the fore, and once again I have my joy dares printed and ready to go.
Can I encourage you to read my simple and short post on Journaling Joy Gifts, in the hope that you will feel inspired to join the community of joy-seekers?
Be blessed. And thankful!
[You may also like to visit ‘A Holy Experience’ and read Ann’s Grace Plan for 2014].
My friends with The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew are also writing on ‘Looking Back at 2013’ this week. Have a read of some of their posts and be encouraged [Live on 8th January].
There are natural seasons and cycles, and I also believe there are seasons to our lives.
After a prolonged period of what has felt like the longest ‘winter’, our family finds a new season approaching. It’s something we’ve felt in the last few weeks, as the winds of change blow into our family.
As I’ve contemplated our ‘word’ for this coming year over the last week, quite independent of one another my husband and I both had exactly the same word: Spring.
Here’s what ‘Spring’ means for us:
Restoration of hope
Spring is a time of warmth, and of buds and blossoms giving the promise of fruit within their beauty. It’s a time of growth and a bustle of activity within nature – but in the midst of all the activity, there’s no striving or stress. No-one tells the bees to collect pollen or the grass to grow.
For us, this means that we are going to enjoy the journey, and God’s promises unfolding in our lives without striving to obtain something that is already freely given. If we find ourselves striving or stressing, then we’ve left the place of peace and it’s up to us to return and remain in His abiding presence.
A good friend of ours passed this onto us a couple of weeks ago, and it seems fitting to include it here.
Song of Solomon 2
My beloved spoke and said to me,
“Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, come with me.
See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me.”
A beautiful invitation to join with the One who delights in us.
Friends, I pray that your eyes will be enlightened to know the hope to which you are called*, and that you will see something on the horizon that will ignite hope in your heart.
Do you have a word for 2014?
Have a read of some of what my Crew friends are seeing for 2014 (this link will go live on 1 January).
As I write this on Christmas Eve, Shawn is finishing the last minute painting on the children’s Christmas gift, my eldest is playing the piano, the little ones are occupied with books and paper, dinner almost ready to serve, and I am feeling so incredibly overwhelmed by the Lord’s provision in our lives. We are truly blessed.
Thank you for joining me here and for sharing in a part of our story. I hope you’ve been blessed by something here this year. I appreciate you, and pray that Christmas 2013 will be a special and memorable time for you.
You will have noticed a few things have changed on my blog as of late: the look and feel has changed a little, and I’ve also moved from a free site to a self-hosted one that will give me more freedom and enable my site to grow better (a huge thank you to my brother-in-law who rescued me during the migration!). It might all look the same on the outside, but there’s a lot that happens behind the scenes of a website – I’m sure I’m completely over my head on the technical side of things sometimes!
In recent months I’ve started using affiliate links in some places, as I’d like to start earning some income to cover the cost of my website, and if anything extra comes in over and above, it will be a support to our family. Thank you to those who have already used these – it’s a blessing to us. My main motivation for writing here will remain simply to encourage and pass on the things in my journey that I hope will benefit others.
I’ll be taking a blogging break over the Christmas period, although I have a few posts ready to publish so I hope you’ll check in and have a read. I look forward to being with you in this space again next year – I have some super things planned!
Blessings from our family to yours,
LUKE 1 – Mary’s Song
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
Does anyone else feel that sometimes family mealtimes are chaotic, messy, loud and rushed? Lately I’ve felt to be a little more intentional about how we set up an environment around our dinner table that promotes relationship, peace, and family, and that also teaches our children to be considerate of others.
My husband and I are intentionally looking at how we can build into our family around the meal table. It’s a value I had growing up, having English parents, and I’d like us to reinforce this in our own family too.
Mealtime is a time to set aside to be together and enjoy some fantastic, nutritious food and conversation together. Will it be perfect every night? I doubt it – the kids are young and attention spans are still a work in progress. But we are growing into this!
Here’s what’s we came up with and have been doing over the last couple of months:
Our Family Mealtimes
We are well organised before being seated.
The table is cleared of school work and other things, and is transformed into a meal table.
We all sit down together, and stay seated for the whole meal.
We thank the cook for the meal, even if we don’t like everything on our plates.
We give thanks to God for the provision and blessing of our meal.
We don’t complain about the food, and give everything a try before leaving it on our plates.
We use our table manners: asking to be excused, chewing with our mouths closed, and using please and thank you.
We take turns to speak, and listen when someone else is talking.
We are supportive, encouraging and loving towards others.
We help clear the table and do the dishes.
Some Of The Challenges
Hopping up and down
I think the trick to the hopping up and down one is to make the meal table attractive to be at. This means that every excuse to get up is already dealt with (toilet, washing hands, table laid with everything accessible, kids have their water), and the atmosphere at the table is a place of warmth, love, and enjoyment. You want your children to so look forward to mealtimes! I think it’s possible!
If everyone gets a turn to talk, and in turn everyone feels encouraged and listened to, they’ll be less likely to wiggle and slide off their chairs. Or is that just our house?
Naturally it makes sense to plan ahead so there’s plenty of time to eat without needing to rush out the door. I’m getting tough on myself with making arrangements that fall around lunchtime especially, as it’s one of my least favourite things to do to nag the kids to hurry up and eat so we can get in the car.
I’m also learning that I can’t do everything and be there for everyone – right now at this time in my children’s lives, this is what consumes my time and energy. So the self-inflicted busyness can be dealt with if I just let some things go for now and concentrate my efforts on cultivating a peaceful home, free of rush and chaos, and take the time to just be together.
All I can say on this one is, make sure there’s at least something on your children’s plates that they enjoy. Don’t let the entire meal be groaned at! Have a plan to introduce new foods to them one at a time, and possibly get them involved in preparing it. Make it a fun and enjoyable, and not a battle of the wills. I learned the hard way on this with my eldest, who was the world’s pickiest eater and now at 8 she eats most foods.
If you’re concerned about them getting enough fruit and vegetables in their diets, get them hooked on homemade smoothies and juices. The other thing I do is gently steam and puree vegetables, and add them to sauces.
Some Of The Practical Aspects
Keep the table clear of distractions such as toys, books and anything that isn’t to do with the meal.
Have everything on the table so no-one has to get up to fetch anything.
Take your time and enjoy the food and each others company
Have everyone take turns to talk about their day, or whatever is on their heart to share.
Make setting up and clearing the table a family affair, and be an enthusiastic role model yourself. If you haven’t already been (joyfully) involving the kids in setting the table, don’t expect them to be enthusiastic straight away but set an example yourself. Your children will soon follow your example.
Make the table attractive and orderly. We have been setting out a tablecloth, placemats, cloth napkins, condiments, and cutlery.
Some quiet background music, perhaps instrumental or classical, might be a nice addition to mealtimes. If you have to increase your voice to talk over it, it’s too loud.
I’m looking forward to our meal table becoming a place of joyful conversation, where everyone feels valued and heard, and where simplicity and calmness rules over chaos and rush.