tiny miracles

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On June 6, a tiny newborn was rescued…a baby girl who was destined for death when she was placed inside a plastic bag in Georgia.

Instead, upon hearing a noise, investigators found the baby, who had only recently been born. They filmed the dramatic event with a body cam.

As I watched this video, tears streamed down my face. This little baby, named Baby India, should not have survived. We all know the dangers of allowing children to play with plastic bags, let alone placing a helpless infant inside of a plastic bag. A death sentence for certain once suffocation set in.

But Baby India didn’t die. She didn’t suffocate, didn’t starve to death, wasn’t found by a wild animal in the woods where she was placed. Instead, in God’s goodness and grace, He led rescuers to find her alive and seemingly healthy.

Indeed, even before Baby India was formed in the womb, the Lord knew her. Knew she would be rescued. He never left her side, not even once.

Requests to adopt Baby India have been pouring in by the hundreds. This precious child, whom someone determined shouldn’t live, instead has a future of life ahead of her.

In a world that condones and even promotes the killing of babies through abortion, this miracle baby survived. No, she wasn’t aborted, but rather someone attempted to kill her soon after her birth.

As I re-watched the video, I was reminded of God’s love for His Creation.

Indeed, He has a tender spot for children. We learn that children are a heritage from the Lord… (Psalm 127:3). Consider the words of Psalm 139:13-16:

Psalm 139 13-16

Miracles continue to occur each and every day – with full credit given to our Lord and Savior. Such was the tiny miracle of Baby India and her survival against the odds.

 

 

4 ways to reconnect with your spouse

4 ways to reconnect with your spouse (2)

Time goes by in a blink, and if we aren’t careful, marriages can be neglected in the name of busyness.

So how can we draw closer to our spouse?

1. Take time alone with your spouse. You hear this all the time, but do you realize how important it is? Even if it’s lunch once a week or a weekend getaway, time alone without the kids is crucial. Swap babysitting days with your closest friends. Be creative!

One thing to remember is that time alone with your spouse does not equal a hefty price tag. One of my favorite pastimes with my husband, Lon, is to meet him on the front porch for a chat about our day when he arrives home from work. It’s a time for both of us to decompress, talk about our day, and reconnect.

Other great ideas?

A walk or bike ride together after dinner,

Challenging your spouse to a card game after the kids are in bed,

Going out for ice cream.

herbie, lon, and me

2. Take time to forgive. Lon and I have been married 26 years and trust me, there have been a few times when we’ve gotten on each other’s last nerve. Yes, really! So, are there things that bother you about your spouse? Pray God will help you to forgive. Pray not that God will change your spouse, but that He would change the way you respond to the things your spouse does. Pray you would respond in a God-honoring way and draw upon His grace to do just that!

3. Take time to be thoughtful. One of Lon’s favorite foods is No-Bake Cookies (if you don’t believe me, please see my post gluten free delicious no-bake cookie recipe and how Lon overdosed on them! As such, I routinely make these cookies for him as a way to show him how much I love him.

As a writer of Christian romance, Lon shows his love for me by listening to the latest chapter, even though Christian romance novels are far from his list of favorite genres!

Leave each other notes in the morning, call each other, or send each other texts or emails in the middle of the day. Lon and I have had a “running” note at times where we try to cram all we can on a little piece of paper that carries through everyday throughout the week. It can be silly, lovey-dovey, or a combination of both!

One of my favorite notes had these words on it added by Lon: “This is a recycled note.” 🙂

The takeaway? Ask God to help you be a blessing to your spouse.

4. Take time to reminisce. Oftentimes, in the hurried rush of life, we aren’t as patient as we should be with our spouses. We tend to see flaws more readily when life is stressful and overwhelming or when we ourselves may be feeling neglected.

Instead of the negative, focus on the positive.

 

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Take the time to reminisce with your spouse about some of the funny and/or unforgettable memories you have shared as a couple. Lon and I recently laughed about the time we were grounded in an emergency landing due to weather from a vacation we took 17 years ago. The airline hired a commercial bus to drive the passengers on the plane to the next airport, which was four hours away in good weather.

Interestingly, (and perhaps a little bizarre) the bus only had one movie for the onboard DVD player. Yep, you’re right if you guessed the movie Speed. The driver played the movie twice over, as we drove through icy slushy and dangerous roads at a too-fast-for-conditions speed.

Not to worry – we had an idea to take our minds off of the situation. I drew pictures of each person on the bus and Lon guessed who it was. Since I’m not an artist and am rather comical in my sketches, it wasn’t an easy feat to Lon to decode. Nevertheless, he guessed correctly on each drawing. And yes, I still have that little black wire-bound notebook with the “People on the Bus” contained within its pages.

You share a history with your spouse. Rekindle some of those fond memories!

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What a precious gift the Lord has given you in your spouse. Take the time to relish your time together – something that will only further cement the love that binds together what God created – marriage.

 

5 things moms need

 

5 things moms needs

Being a mom is the best, but sometimes hardest job.

We yearn to make a difference in the lives of our children. To be the best mom we can be. We love our children with all that we are and strive to bring honor and glory to God in the way we raise them.

But motherhood can be a challenge, too. The baby who doesn’t sleep through the night. The temper tantrums of a toddler. The drama of junior high. The teenage years with all of the frightening things kids have to deal with in today’s modern world.

No wonder we moms can become worn out and tired. I look back at the photos from when my daughters were little, and my eyes are almost consistently closed in those pictures. I obviously tried to catch a wink of sleep any time I could get it. 🙂

So what can a mom do? How can she refresh and rejuvenate? What things do moms seriously need in the best, but hardest years of our lives?

Moms need…

Time with God. Francesca Batestelli sings about meeting God for quiet time in the morning before the kids awaken and life gets hectic in her song “When the Crazy Kicks In.”

Time with God is critical. Crucial. Necessary. It starts our day off right. Prayer, then some time in His Word and being still before Him makes all the difference in the direction our day will go.

So what if you don’t have time in the morning to spend with the Lord? A later time with Him, while the children are down for a nap, for example, works too. The only problem is that we, as moms, tend to get so overloaded and busy with our day and all the demands pressing on us from every side that we give what’s left to Him, rather than what’s priority.

A supportive spouse. Every mom needs a spouse to come alongside her to be a co-partner in raising their children. To be a listening ear. To forge together to make dreams a reality. To be there just to hold her, even when she has spit-up on her t-shirt, hasn’t changed out of her jammies all day, or has been dealing with a rebellious teen and is uber-exhausted. Someone to listen as she decompresses about the day.

Speaking of supportive spouses, be sure to take some time for a date night. Enlist the assistance of a friend, relative, or teen babysitter to watch the children while you reconnect with your spouse.

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A mentor friend. Ideally, this would be a mom who has been in the trenches and has now graduated from a mom of littles to a mom of teens, or beyond. Empty-nesters work well for this role. A mentor friend not only is there for you when you need her, but she has sound advice (given when asked for, rather than unsolicited), is a devout prayer warrior, a shoulder to cry on, and has wisdom beyond our years as young moms.

Other moms make excellent mentor friends, as do godly women from church.

A best/close friend. We moms all need a fellow mom to text for an impromtu playdate, to call when things get crazy, and a bestie to share a good laugh with about all the adventures (and trials!) of being a mom.

Proverbs 27 9

To recharge. Moms, we need to recharge our batteries. Life can be hectic, stressful, and seem to move at the speed of light. It’s easy to become exhausted and burned out, no matter what our stage as a mom is – a new mom, a mother of elementary kids, a mom to teens, or a mom to all of the above.

How do we recharge? Take a few minutes each day to put our feet up and relax.

Tackle a chapter in that book we’ve been wanting to read (or have been reading) for the past two months.

Take time to exercise. Many gyms include “drop in centers” for children while moms take an exercise class. Or, if you are the mom of toddlers, put them in a double stroller, pack some healthy snacks, and go for a walk.

Take a bubble bath.

Spend time with the Lord (see #1).

Spend a few minutes on Pinterest pinning your dream kitchen onto a new board.

Partake in a hobby you’ve neglected or one you’ve always wanted to try.

Organize a girls’ night out with your mom friends.

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Finding time to spend in the Word, call a friend, or even scroll through Pinterest can be difficult, if not nearly impossible. To begin, ask the Lord to help you carve out time. It may be at odd moments during the day, or even evening, but doing so will not only help your health and stress levels, but help you be the best mom you can be.

Happy Memorial Day!

May we never forget the ones who sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy. Please take a moment to pray for those who have lost someone in service to our great country.

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7 Ways to Encourage Your Children

7 ways to encourage your children

Everyday, we can make the choice to encourage or to discourage. To build up or to tear down. To make a positive difference or to make a negative difference.

There’s no one more important than our children when it comes to choosing whom to encourage.

The word encourage in Webster’s Dictionary is defined as to inspire with courage or confidence; to promote, foster.

So, how can we, as parents, encourage our children? Below are seven suggestions…

Encourage their character.  “A person’s character is the sum of his or her disposition, thoughts, intentions, desires, and actions.”*

As parents, are we helping our children to develop good character? Are we encouraging them to make good choices? Our kids will be, and are faced, with multiple decisions each day. Helping them to understand why good choices are important and equipping them with the knowledge and practice to make good choices is paramount.

One of the things we do in our home is to discuss with our children what they would do if faced with  a particularly difficult situation.  What would they do if they were asked to do something they knew was wrong?

C.S. Lewis gave the perfect definition of integrity. He said, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.”C.S. LewisMy prayer is that my children will have that kind of integrity.

 

Picture 095Encourage their dreams. I love the dreams of little children! My youngest once asked for a pet mongoose. I could have easily told her that there was no way we could have a mongoose and for her to be more practical. However, I chose not to. Instead, I encouraged her dream and we chatted about how fun it would be to actually have a pet mongoose (especially since they eat snakes!), and the tricks we would teach him.

Encourage your children to dream at every age and every stage of their lives.

Encourage their future. I pray regularly for our children’s futures, both during family prayer time and during my own quiet times with the Lord.  I have told my children that it’s exciting to see what God has planned for their lives. We often discuss Jeremiah 29:11 which says: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV)

Encourage their compassion. Compassion is one of the most important things we can teach our children. One thing we have done is to instill in our children the importance of serving others. For some ideas on how to instill compassion and servanthood in your children, please check out my book 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference: Ideas and Activities for Serving Others. 77 ways

Not only should we encourage compassion for others outside the home, but we should especially encourage compassion within our own families. One of the ways that we do this is to regularly pray for each other and to express our prayer needs daily to one another.

 

Encourage their imagination. As a writer, I am grateful that the Lord blessed me with a creative imagination.  There are several ways I have encouraged my children’s imaginations. For one, I have always read to them. Reading is so important and can take us on adventures we would never otherwise take. When my children were old enough to begin reading themselves, I encouraged them to check out as many books as they wanted at the local library and to even have a “reading marathon” over the summer months. Reading is excellent for the imagination!

Several times, we have spread a blanket in the backyard and gazed up at the clouds. We take turns imagining what animals the clouds look like and which could we would choose if we could lounge on any cloud. The white puffy clouds always win!

My oldest daughter has a knack for art. As such, I asked if she would illustrate a story I wrote. She was delighted and it was wonderful to see her own imagination shining through in her art. I combined the story and her illustrations and asked the local office supply store to bound the pages together. We now have our own special book – not only a keepsake, but also a delightful practice in encouraging the imagination of a budding artist!

325381_piggy-back-rideEncourage their friendships. We talk often about friendships in our home and about the kind of friendships that are important. The Bible has much to say about friendships and what type of friends to choose. For example, Proverbs 16:28 talks of why being dishonest and being one who gossips separates close friends.  Proverbs 18:24 states the importance of a friend who sticks closer than a brother (ESV).  John 15:13 is a profound statement of friendship: Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

In our home, we have talked frequently about three different types of friends: gold friends who are there for you through the good times and bad; silver friends who are fun to be with, but you can’t always count on them; and bronze friends who are more like an acquaintance because they aren’t “true” friends.

We also discuss how good choices for friends is critical because of the amount of influence friends have on each other.

Encourage your children to be the kind of  friend that would honor God.

Most importantly, encourage their walk with God.
Are you children growing in their walk with the Lord? Have they accepted Christ as their personal Lord and Savior? The most important thing we can do is encourage our children to have a close relationship with Jesus. After all, that’s the only thing that will last for eternity.

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*Quote taken from gotquestions.org

motherly morsels of wisdom

motherly morsels of wisdom

Moms. A rich source of wisdom passed on for generations.

In celebration of Mother’s Day and as a tribute to moms everywhere, I asked friends across the nation and beyond what was the most important thing they learned from their mom. Here’s what they had to say:

Perseverance, faith, and compassion. ~ Madi A.

My mom taught me that happiness is not how much you have but how much you enjoy what you have. She always says that. ~ Marianne F.

To be kind. ~ Maria F.

Respect, compassion, dedication. ~ Ross W.

To keep Jesus first, cherish family, serve others and never give up hope when things get tough. ~ Margaret S.

The Salvation Message/ to love the Lord. ~ Holly C.

To love like Jesus. To speak kind words. To live by faith. ~ Tammy S.

My mom left me with my grandparents when I was 6 months old & my grandma and aunt wouldn’t let her take me back. Everything I have learned about unconditional love and faith, from a maternal source, I learned from my spiritual mom. She’s been there for me since i was 13, praying for me, taking me to church, reminding me to keep my focus on God, and proving that some people can be trusted not to abandon you. I wouldn’t be who I am without her. ~ Jodi H.

To look to God in hardships… ~ Holly Anne H.

We do not hate, hate is a very strong word. We may not like how someone is or what they did, but we do not hate…….my momma was an amazing woman…..we didn’t have much growing up but we had lots of love and laughter. ~Julie B.

To cherish your family…Just lost my mom 3 weeks ago and she always cherished Family! She was a gracious lady. ~ Tammy J.

My mom told me, “Ninety percent of your unhappiness in life will come from comparing yourself to other people. Just don’t do it.” So far she’s been right. ~ Sam H.

Unconditional love and charity. She would give you the shirt off her back if you truly needed it. ~ Natalie J.

To always remain positive no matter what. ~ John C.

Courage and humor in the face of loss of loved ones, her own severe arthritis, three kinds of cancer, heart problems, dementia. ~ Kathy B.

Kindness, diligence, work ethic, love for my kiddos—because of her love for me and my bro’s, my mom is AMAZING!!! ~ Heather K.

Rudyard Kipling

I’m thankful for my own mom, who taught me the value of hard work. She worked harder than anyone I’ve ever known in difficult labor-type jobs: cleaning businesses and wallpapering homes, so she could stay home with us and help provide income at the same time.

But my mom taught me so much more than work ethic. She taught me to serve others from the time my siblings and I were little, we “adopted” grandparents and visited them, provided for their needs, and learned to treasure them.

But my mom taught me even more than serving others. She taught me compassion and to put others above myself. She taught me how to nurture and care for those who are ailing. She also taught me to be creative and follow my dreams.

But my mom taught me more than that. Now confined to a wheelchair with serious chronic illnesses, my mom has taught me the value of faith and how to rely on God in all circumstances. To keep my eyes on Jesus, even when it’s the hardest (and last) thing you feel you can do. To still serve others in the midst of struggling with her own hardships. To persevere and to never give up. To love others even if that love is never returned.

Moms – you do make an impact on, not just your child(ren), but also future generations. You do this by the way you live, the words you say, and the actions you show day after day.

To all you moms, Happy Mother’s Day. May the Lord bless you for being shining examples.

Mom's motherly morsels

 

 

 

Check out these other posts about and/or for moms:

 

 

 

outside-the-box homeschool ideas

Outside-the-box

Looking for some suggestions for your homeschool students? Check out these out-of-the-box ideas:

For younger students:

Gameshow Contestant Alphabet race. Purchase magnetic alphabet letters and place them in random order on the refrigerator. Pretend to be a game show host and ask  your contestant(s) to retrieve a letter. For instance, “find the letter “S”! Your student runs to the refrigerator, and in record time, returns with the letter. Continue until all of the letters have been chosen. If they get one wrong, have them try again. My girls loved this game when they were little. They would giggle when I announced they won “a brand new car!” at the end of the game, which was really one of my husband’s toy Matchbox cars he’d collected as a youth.

Real Gameshows. Similarly, my daughters loved (and still do love) to play Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. From the time they were little, they would guess letters and try to answer questions. The familiarity of learning letters assisted them greatly as younger children. Today, my teen daughters compete with the rest of the family for the correct answers on Jeopardy and the correct puzzle solving on Wheel of Fortune.

Math Candies.  When my girls were in kindergarten and first grade, we often played math games with candies. Candies (and crackers) work well for learning adding and subtracting. And they’re tasty when you’re finished. (Just be sure not to eat the entire bag)!

Specimen Collection. My youngest daughter loves insects. In our town, we have numerous pathways and trails where we collected “specimens” for her bug collection. Enlist relatives in other states to send specimens from their area to add to collections.

different learning styles

For older students:

Attend a Naturalization Ceremony. It is amazing to watch as people proudly become new citizens of the United States. It’s an excellent example of legal immigration. To become a U.S. citizen is a privilege, and the hard work these new members of our country have put forth is an inspiration.

Attend a court hearing. Have a small claims or traffic court in your town? Call ahead and see if your teens can attend a hearing and sit in the audience. A word of caution: you will need to be discerning, as some court cases are not appropriate for children/teens.

Read the newspaper and/or news magazines. This is a great way to teach your children how the press works. Encourage them to be on the lookout for biased articles. A good reporter  will write an article in such a way that the reader cannot tell which side of the controversy the reporter is on.

Have your student write a letter to the editor. Allow your tween/teen to pick a topic that is important to them and relevant to current events. After they type the letter, they will either hand deliver or email the letter to the editor of the paper.

Novel in a year. My oldest daughter wants to be a writer, so last year for part of her English studies, she wrote a novel in full for a story she’d had percolating around in her mind. Her creativity was amazing to see.

Start a blog. My youngest daughter isn’t as fond of writing as her mom and sister are, so to encourage creative thought, she established her own blog. Every other week, I assign her a topic, which is usually picked from the headlines. On alternating weeks, the decision is up to her regarding the subject matter. She usually chooses an interesting animal or a fictional story. It not only gives teens a chance to develop opinions about important topics, but also enhances their creativity.

Woodworking and other projects. My husband and oldest daughter took on two projects: the first was to build a birdhouse for my birthday. The second was to design and build a dresser for my her room.

Sewing. My youngest daughter takes sewing and quilting classes from a dear friend who is an expert seamstress and quilter. My daughter so far has learned how to mend, sew doll clothes, and complete a quilt from start to finish. She will soon begin sewing her own clothes.

Both woodworking and sewing teach a host of useful items to students. Learning how to measure; learning the importance of sticking with a project; and how to use various machines/hand tools.

Field trips. We live in a small town, but I’m surprised at the number of places we’ve found to take field trips. For younger children, the fire station and the local bakery are favorites; for older children, the police station, court house, and historical places were hits. Don’t rule out places of employment, especially for older children. You never know what might spark an interest in them for a future vocation.

Topics of discussion. When people ask me what my favorite things about homeschooling are, “topics of discussion” is one of the things that top the list. I bring important issues to the table during breakfast or lunch, and we discuss them. It can range from current events, to issues teens deal with, eating disorders, alcohol and smoking, friends, boys, etc. There are no taboo topics, and everyone joins in the conversation. Sometimes teens can be a bit evasive, so have some quality questions in your arsenal that you can ask to get them to give their opinions. It’s also a time for them to ask questions, so be sure to make it a relaxed and laid-back environment.

One of the first things I learned as a homeschool mom was that every child has a different learning style. What works for one may not work for another. As such, being able to “add” projects to their curriculum only enhances their learning.