Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Motherhood is Suffering

John Piper has said, "Motherhood is more than suffering, but it is not less than it."
There are so many beautiful, wonderful things about being a mom.
Some days as a mom are truly as bright and as beautiful as this picture, taken at the Tetons this last summer.
But other days are just plain HARD!  We who are called "Mooooom!" will suffer in many different ways.
For some it may be difficult pregnancies, intense nausea, a traumatic childbirth, lack of sleep, or post-partum depression.  For others it will be in the form of a disobedient toddler, kids who don't sleep much, the death or rebellion of a child, a child's chronic illness or disability.  Every mom will struggle with the enormity of the task and the fatigue that comes with caring for other human beings around the clock, without days off, for years and years on end. 
The question isn't if we will suffer, but how we will suffer.
In the midst of the daily laying-down-of-my-own-needs-and-wants-for-others, we can become
either bitter or better.
We can allow the trials to grow us and make us strong, like trees in a strong wind that dig down deeper into the soil so they don't get blown over.
We can dig into the Word and draw from God's strength, or we can become angry, resentful, and bitter towards our kids.
In the suffering that comes with motherhood, this quote by Alexander Maclaren is a comfort to me, "Each of us may be sure that if God sends us over rocky paths, He will provide us with sturdy shoes."

Monday, January 27, 2014


If we don't acknowledge pain, strife, and imperfections, how can we relate to a hurting world?
There are some people whom I know but don't really know.
They always seem upbeat and positive and thankful. 
They are fun to be around because they seem to always see the glass as half full.
They have a way of making others feel discontent, without even trying to because they never reveal a struggle, a need, or a wound.
Yet, the ones dearest to my heart are not these ones with shallow smiles
and lives of perfection on display.
The dear ones aren't afraid to tell me that they totally blew it and yelled at their kids or that they are struggling in their marriage, or feeling faithless, depressed, hopeless, or over-tired. 
The ones close to my heart are the ones who know their humanity to the extent that they don't need to pretend that everything is always wonderful. 
Because we all know that it isn't and won't be...until Heaven.
It has been said that friendship begins the minute someone says, "No way!  You too?"
If you are looking for a true friend, a bosom buddy, a kindred spirit...someone who is truly going to rock your world, don't hide behind a perpetual smile or build a wall of pride and independence.  Don't be afraid to cry sometimes, or rage, or let them see you in your pj's, with dirty dishes or a bad attitude.  Ann Voskamp talks about how the walls we build to keep others out, (yes, even with a smiley, happy facade), become our prisons that isolate us.  I know that well, having lived through a time in my life where I refused to open up and overcome shyness, only to have people think I was snubbing them in pride when I was really just afraid.  True joy comes from being vulnerable, letting people know and love you just as you are. 
Authenticity is where awesome begins.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

In Case You Were Wondering....

....where Justus gets his energy from...
this is what testosterone looks like.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Unworthy To Be So Blessed...

Today, the verse that really jumped out at me during my Bible reading was Genesis 32:10a.  Jacob is begging God for help as he prepares to meet up with his brother Esau again after a long time away...after deceiving Isaac and stealing Esau's blessing.  He says to the Lord:
"I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant..."
I immediately thought of Dave Ramsey's famous line, "I'm better than I deserve." 
How accurate it is that all of the blessings in my life are not only undeserved, but ill-deserved. 
God has been endlessly faithful and loving even when I have gone my own way.......sometimes I don't even stop to consider this truth.
It's easy for me to get caught up in what isn't going right in my life or have selfish ideals of how life should be and forget how amazing it is that I am breathing, that I'm forgiven, and that I can think, and feel....for the wonder of my family, and little ones to grow and teach, and opportunities to share His love, and the blessings of provision for things we need. 
Yes, there is too much laundry to do.
Yes, that one kid of mine just cannot seem to understand the basics of math.
Yes, I have to get that bill mailed, and that person called, and that job done, and those chores finished, and that meal made, and those crumbs cleaned up, and that toilet scrubbed, and that package sent, etc. etc. etc.
Yes, motherhood seems overwhelming and absolutely exhausting many a day.
But I have so much to be thankful for. 
Chief among those many, many things that I can praise God for is His faithful presence, which is with me in any and every situation, including my toughest days as a wife and mom.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Psalm 126:3


I love to look back over my photos and remember special moments where God was at work.
This picture of my friend Lori is one of my all-time favorites as she trusted God for the safety of her baby after some difficult pregnancies and the stillbirth of her precious baby girl, Ava Grace.
When this picture was taken, she didn't know what would happen with her pregnancy, but she clung to this verse.  Just a couple of days after this was taken, she ended up being sent to Denver, many miles from home, to spend a few months at a special hospital, on bedrest, waiting for Asher's birth.  Asher was a healthy 3-pounder when he was born, 2 months early, and now he is the happiest, sweetest lil' 2 year-old guy ever!  And...just a week ago, a dear friend of Lori's gave birth to a baby girl and named her Ava in honor of Lori's child...what a beautiful gift!  

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Stages of Beard-dom

 In November, my husband Josiah decided to try out a beard for the first time.
Since I'm not a fan of facial hair, it was a long month for me!
On the last day of the month he decided to have some fun as he shaved it off, and try some different looks.
This is what he looked like after a month of growth. 
Just your average, "Lumberjack Look" which isn't so bad considering he is, in fact, a carpenter!
The "Street Thug from the 'Hood" look
"The Creeper"
Eewww!  I can barely look at this picture...so gross!
Ahhh!  Back to his normal self! 
This is what I prefer!

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Father's Love

The other day I was thinking about how much I love my children, and how much I want to protect them, care for them, and help them succeed.  My love is merely human...God's love is infinite....much, much greater than my own love for my kids. 
How could I ever doubt that He cares about my petty little problems or that He is with me and is able to strengthen me for my tasks?
How deep the Father's love for us!
How vast being all measure....

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Friendship is Beautiful!



...and now. 




Katrielle and Abigail have been buddies since babyhood and they adore each other and share a passion for Dora the Explorer.  I hope they stay friends throughout their lives.  I'm so glad they allow their mommies to dress them up like twins!

The One and Only

Photo taken from the Desiring God website.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Survival Mode--Day Seven

For the same amount of money as a fancy drink from a coffee shop, I can have yummy fruit dipped in warm chocolate.  I always remind myself of this on my weekly grocery shopping trip if I'm thinking about splurging on a Chai while shopping!
Yesterday's challenge, the final one for this project, is to make a list of things that recharge you
so that after a day of being productive, we can refill our energy tanks. 
Things that I do to unwind and relax:
*Turn on worship music
*Visit my favorite "mommy-blogs"
*Enjoy dipping fruit in melted chocolate in my Velata pot
*Take a hot bath and read in the tub
*Watch an intriguing detective show
*Chat with a friend
*Go do something fun with friends
*Take pictures and edit them
*Go for a walk
*Browse Pinterest
Moms often fail to take care of themselves because they are so busy taking care of everyone else.  If I want to be the best mom I can be, I have to be taking the time to refresh myself.  

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Poem for Someone Who is Suffering

The Thorn
by Martha Snell Nicholson
(a "mendicant" is a beggar)

I stood a mendicant of God before His royal throne
And begged him for one priceless gift, which I could call my own.
I took the gift from out His hand, but as I would depart
I cried, "But Lord this is a thorn and it has pierced my heart.
This is a strange, a hurtful gift, which Thou hast given me."
He said, "My child, I give good gifts and gave My best to thee."
I took it home and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore,
As long years passed I learned at last to love it more and more.
I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace,
He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil which hides His face.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Thankful For...

A gorgeous sunset one morning

What Justus wrote on the board for me.

The kid's delight over kabobs for lunch.

The mister and our On Guard, which has kept colds, flus, and stomach bugs away
from us this year.

The kids playing "King, Princess, Knight, and Servant."

Poor Magellan, being "loved on" by an adoring girl.

The way she carefully drinks hot chocolate.

Saying Goodbye to Survival Mode--Day Six

Amanda and I on our 3-year "Friend-iversary" this summer standing at the spot at the park where we met!
Today's challenge was to find an accountability partner to help you reach your goals. 
I feel like my husband is great at helping me decide where I can cut back in my life and so I often run things by him when I get asked to do something to see what he thinks of it.  As a team, we strive to keep life manageable in the craziness of having 4 young children.
Though I don't call her by a fancy title, like "accountability partner" my friend Amanda and I get together regularly, communicate daily, and constantly talk about our goals, simplifying, minimalizing, homeschooling strategies, cutting back, saying "no" and our lives.  It is of ENORMOUS importance to have a friend or two like this in your life.  Having friendships with other women is such a blessing, an encouragement, and a help during these challenging years of raising children.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Survival Mode Challenge--Day Five

The day of our annual Christmas party.  Though I'd love for my living room to look like this ALL of the time you can usually find 3 gallons of Legos on the floor and paper scraps from the boys' incessant cutting and making paper airplanes.

Today's challenge was to de-clutter one area of the home.  I love to organize and de-clutter, so I'm faithful at purging our possessions.  I probably take 2-3 large cardboard boxes of stuff to the local thrift store every  month.  How the toys and kids' clothing never seem to run out is one of our home's greatest mysteries!
I recently de-cluttered the homeschool closet, for the 3rd time since we started school, and I got rid of lots of toys before the "Toy Avalanche" on Dec. 25th so clutter hasn't been too much of a problem lately.  But, even so, there are two things I can do to continue to help keep the clutter under control:
1.  Put half of the new Christmas toys in the shed for the toy rotation.
2.  Put the craft supplies box and paper scrap box out of the boys' reach as they are continually getting into it and making enormous paper messes.  I'm not against creativity, but I'd like to keep them from burning through 50 sheets of paper at a time!
Also, one area I haven't de-cluttered in a while is my vitamin cabinet, so it's time to go through that and toss what has expired.

Thursday, January 9, 2014


My sweet friend blessed me with this little "Emergency Packet" of chocolate, coffee, and Bible verses at the beginning of the school year.

If you've ever dreamed of running away from being a mom...if you've ever felt completely swallowed up from the demands of caring for your children...if you are so tired you can hardly see straight...or just need a shot of encouragement and hope to keep going, this is wonderful post!  I've read it a few different times and it never fails to remind me where my strength comes from.

Saying Goodbye to Survival Mode Challenge--Day Four

Today's challenge is about using the little moments in your day to accomplish small tasks instead of wasting them.
I have discovered that it takes me about 10 minutes to unload the dishwasher and re-load it.
It takes about 5 minutes to wipe down on all of the counters in my large kitchen and dining area.  It takes 1 minute to take the trash outside and replace the trash bag.  When my little kids are bathing, I wipe the bathroom mirrors and sink down and clean the toilet.  I can make a quick phone call or send an e-mail during the kids' recess time.  When someone calls, I can fold a load of laundry or dust my house while talking on the phone.  I often use little pockets of time between tasks or appointments to tackle the smaller chores on my to-do list.
Crystal talks about the distraction of social media and how she avoids it to save time in her day.
I decided toward the end of 2013 that I needed to do the same and get off facebook.
It's not even just the time I spent surfing my newsfeed, but it was also the emotional burden it placed on me.  Even when I wasn't on it I would be thinking about it.  "I forgot to send so-and-so a birthday greeting on fb!" or "I'm so worried about so-and-so and her personal problems." or "I wonder if that one person is mad at me because she never replied to my message." or "I'm so angry about that totally biased political quote my cousin put up!"  Even some of the joyous statuses were an emotional burden as they would tempt me to feel inadequate about myself because I don't run as much, decorate as nicely, or seem as peaceful about having tons of little kids as someone else would.  In addition, being accessible to sooooo many people sucked a lot of time out of my day.  Not being on fb, just like not having a cell phone, keeps me from being "at beck and call" to dozens and dozens of folks and their opinions.
As I told my brother, who doesn't have a fb account and is proud of me for quitting, "Ignorance is bliss!"  Truly, the people I have real relationships with still stay in touch with me and I'm happier not knowing everything about every person I've ever met!
Little tasks I can do with pockets of time:
Straighten my desk
Sort my paper pile
Carry my hanging clothing up from the laundry room and put it in my closet
Wipe down the windows on the front and back doors
Sweep the dining room
Check e-mail
Write a note of encouragement or a thank you note and drop it in the mailbox
Wash a couple of pots or pans
Straighten the shoe pile in the entry way
Read a library book to Katri
Enforce a 5-minute cleaning challenge for the kids


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Morning Prayer

This morning I prayed that God would help me to not be so caught up in my own agenda that I wouldn't be open to the plans that HE had for me to fulfill today. 
 Just because I have a good routine going and an agenda for the day doesn't mean that I need to be a slave to my plans.
As He often does, God gave me opportunity to put my prayer into practice today.  An opportunity arose for us to be hospitable to some friends who came over from another town and we got to enjoy their fellowship for lunch and the afternoon.
Not everything got done on my chore list today but everything yet to be done can easily be saved for tomorrow.  God had hospitality on His agenda for me today, truly as a gift for me after not having much social time over the past couple of weeks, and His plans are best!

Saying Goodbye to Survival Mode Challenge--Day Three

I highly recommend Crystal's book, "Saying Goodbye to Survival Mode" which comes out in two weeks.  If you are tired, weary, or overwhelmed, you will find it to be a great resource.
Today, for the challenge, we were asked to create an evening and morning routine of five items to help our days go smoother. 
I've listed the things I'm currently doing and the things (in green font) that I'd like to add to my current routine.
Morning Routine:
1.  Wake up early and read 2 chapters of the Bible, my devotional book, a section from Early to Rise and pray.  Read a chapter or two from a non-fiction book (my current read is "Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child").
2.  Shower and get dressed.
3.  Set out the breakfast things.
4.  Light a candle or turn on worship music to set the tone for a wonderful day.
5. Prepare the school table with lessons and supplies before the noisy brood awakes.
Evening Routine:
1.  Put a load of laundry into the washer and fold what's in the dryer and put it away.
2.  Take my vitamins. (This is very important preparation for staying healthy and happy!)
3.  Straighten up the kitchen and run a load of dishes if possible.
4.  Read 2 chapters of the Bible and a few chapters of a fiction book.
5.  Jot down a list of priorities/chores/goals for the next day in my notebook.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Survival Mode Challenge--Day Two

Today's challenge was to stop comparing yourself to others and to think of the characteristics you like about yourself.  So many women today feel like they don't measure up...to the air-brushed photos of models and actresses we see or gorgeous displays of talent we see on Pinterest or other social media, to the "celebrity Christians" we tend to put on a pedestal, or even to our own friends and neighbors.  It was very good for me to sit down and make a list of my strengths and to ask my husband what he considers to be my talents/gifts.
I often focus on my weaknesses, failures, or flaws instead of being thankful for the talents and gifts God has given me.
One of the gifts my husband sees in me is that I'm an encourager, which is the whole purpose of this blog! 
Today, my devotional reading from "Streams in the Desert" included this little poem which I thought went along perfectly with today's challenge:
Others may do a greater work,
But you have your part to do;
And no one in all God’s family
Can do it as well as you.

Snow Cute!

I've always thought the photos I take of my own kids or kids whom I know well and whom I love dearly are my best work.  It takes a knowing to truly convey a child's spirit in a photograph.
I often think that mamas take the very best photos of their own children, better than fancy photographers in a studio...because they are "writing with light" (what the word photo-graphy means) from a deep well of knowledge of their subject.

I know when the weather is just right outside, when the lighting will be magical in that one corner of our yard, when that one really cute outfit she has is clean, and when she will be in a good mood.

I know what her trademark expressions are and how she responds to new situations.

I know what to say to make her smile.
I know to click fast when she does that funny little smirk.

I know that I love her and that shines through in these pictures!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Self-Portrait in the Snow

We got several inches of snow on Friday night, and I loved how it piled up on top of the large ornaments we have on the bush outside our house.

Saying Goodbye to Survival Mode Challenge--Day One

I'm on the launch team for Crystal Paine's new book, Saying Goodbye to Survival Mode, so I got to read it a couple of months ago and it's really, really good!  It's a down-to-earth book that shares Crystal's heart and her struggles, and I think just about every woman out there will benefit from reading it.  It comes out in just a few weeks.  I plan to order several copies for my friends who are exhausted and overwhelmed.  If you've ever been intimidated by Moneysaving Mom or felt like you just couldn't measure up to her you will love this window into her soul!  This week, Crystal is leading a 7-Day Challenge encouraging her readers to "Say Goodbye to Survival Mode."  Today's challenge is to learn to say "No!" and to cross 3 items off of your to-do list.  Here are my 3 things I'm saying no to today:

1.  Cleaning my bedroom.  It could use a good deep-cleaning, but today, it is more important that I get the kids started on their schoolwork for this brand-new semester.

2.  Taking down the Christmas tree.  Our tree is still up because though I planned on taking it down this weekend, I ended up cleaning up an enormous broken glass mess the kids made in my homeschool closet, and I de-cluttered our school supplies once again.

3.  Making homemade bread or biscuits.  It's a chilly day and I know homemade bread would taste good with our turkey soup tonight, but I just remembered we have some sourdough loaves in the freezer.  I'll pull one of those out instead of baking my own!

This is a good exercise to get in the habit of doing because for some reason I seem to always expect more out of myself than I can accomplish in a day.  It's good to simplify!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Tiger Boy!

Jer got his face painted as a green tiger at the New Year's Eve party at church the other day!

Best Buddies

Amidst the many things I am not happy about, such as the broken glass coin jars all over the carpet in the homeschool closet, the quart of food crumbs covering the dining room floor, or the kid who still can't find his snowpants after spending 2 hours looking for them, I am gladdened when I see how much our little pet bunny and our oldest child love each other.  It brightens my day to see them cuddling.