Tag Archives: parenting

9 Comments

School starts today, at least for most of the friends in our smallish community. This is the day my Facebook feed will be packed with excited faces, posed eagerly in front of a school building with brand new clothes and a heavily-laden backpack. But for the first time in five years, my kids won't be with them. I won't be driving them to school, and we won't walk down those familiar halls packed with anxious parents to the freshly-decorated room they will call home for the next nine months.

This is the year my kids (and I) begin a new adventure: homeschool.

How and Why We Made the Transition from Public School to Homeschool | www.thereisgrace.com

It still seems a little strange to say, We are homeschooling. Not strange in an uneasy way, but strange in a "we're about to embark on a whole new way of life" way.

I am a firm believer that a family's decision of how to educate their children is a very personal one. In fact, the goal of The Great {Education} Debate series I did a couple of years ago was to explore the different educational options that work for different families in different situations.

In that series, I was very open about Why We Chose Public School, and as I recently reread that post, I realized I still stand behind everything I said. It was the right decision for our family at that time. When I wrote it two years ago, homeschooling was the furthest thing from my mind, but God has a funny sense of humor. In fact, I chuckled when I read this quote I wrote back then:

public-school-3

Ironic, that the very principle that confirmed our decision for public school back then is the same principle that led us to homeschooling now: obedience. Crazy how we simply can't put God (or His plans) in a box, huh? (Even crazier how many times I try to do so!)

So, how did we come to the decision to homeschool? Very carefully. 🙂 In fact, it was a multi-step process that all came down to that one, simple, frightening word: obedience.

Here's what that looked like for us:

Desire

Back in January, in an effort to #BeIntentional in every area of my life, I began to pray--really pray--for God's blessing and favor on our family. After battling cancer for more than a year, I wanted desperately to regain the time I'd missed out on with my family. It didn't seem fair that my kids had been without their mom at times, simply because I was fighting for my life. I believe God desires to do more than simply heal. I believe He also wants to restore what the enemy tries to take from us. So I prayed for God to restore the time that cancer stole from my family.

I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. (Isaiah 58:11-12, The Message)

As I prayed, God began to whisper, homeschool. I chuckled to myself and continued to pray. He would whisper again, homeschool. I would laugh a little louder and whisper back, Disney World. Seriously, wouldn't it make more sense for God to bless us with a trip to Disney World than to radically change our lives with something like homeschool?! And yet, God doesn't seem the least bit concerned with what makes sense to me! 😉

I continued to pray (for a free trip to Disney World), and as I did, the idea of homeschooling began to shift from being "great in theory" to becoming something I really wanted to do. I decided to casually mention it to my husband, hoping he would dismiss it and we could move on with life. But he didn't. Instead, his response was, "Maybe we should consider it." (WHAAAAAAAT?!?!?)

Discussion

I am blessed with a fantastic community of like-minded mamas, many of whom homeschool their children. So I asked them questions...A LOT of questions. I went to meetings. I read blogs and articles on homeschooling. I messaged FB friends whom I knew were homeschoolers. I called my sister (who homeschools) and talked her ear off on more than one occasion!

The more I learned about it, the stronger my desire grew. Isn't it funny how God directs your steps by leading with your heart?

The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. (Psalm 37:23, NLT)

I took all my information and research back to my husband, and we both agreed: homeschooling seemed like a good fit for our family at this time. There was one problem: We didn't know how to make it work. I was only a few months from my battle with cancer; was it really a good idea to take on a huge life change like homeschooling? Plus, I had just released my book, and the promotion alone would be a full-time job. Then, of course, there was the financial side. Unfortunately, homeschooling is not covered by our taxes like public school, not to mention that huge pit of medical debt we are still climbing out of.

Decision

By this time, we both wanted to make the leap to homeschool, but we just couldn't figure out how. We were at a crossroads. Then I got a phone call from the homeschool community we were interested in. I'd already met with the director, asked questions, and expressed our interest in the community if we chose to leave public school.

She was calling to let me know the community would be growing in the fall, and they would need to open another class for 9-12 year olds (my daughter's age). If we decided to homeschool, would I consider tutoring the class...which is heavy on English grammar and writing. It would pay enough to cover the tuition for both our kids.

If she had asked me to tutor science or geography or Spanish, I would have had to politely decline (and keep from laughing out loud). But English and writing.....um, let me think about...YES! Sign me up!!!

I kept my composure and told her I'd discuss it with my husband. Honestly, there wasn't much discussion, because when I told him, he simply said, "This is obviously God. Tell her 'yes.'"

That's probably more than you ever wanted to know about our decision to transition from public school to homeschool. So, why share all of this? Maybe your feeling a tug toward home education, or Christian education, or private education. Maybe you're considering a huge life change in another area--a move, a job change, or a relationship. Maybe you simply need direction in your everyday life.

Whatever the decision--whether big or small--remember God is working for your good. Your job is simply to seek His wisdom, follow His leading, and trust His plan.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. (Proverbs 3:5,6 The Message)

In what ways has God ordered your steps lately?

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

34 Comments

It's been a few years, but I still remember the look of pain in my daughter's eyes. She came home from first grade in a bit of a funk. When I asked what was wrong, she explained that some kids at school had called her a name.

Instantly, I felt my inner "Mama Bear" awaken. WHAT?!?!

Defying every impulse I had to call the school and chew someone, anyone, out for letting some second-grade hooligans hurt my baby, I calmly asked,  "What did they say?"

Her eyes filled with pain.

"I can't tell you. It's a bad word." There it was again...Mama Bear Rising. It took a few minutes longer this time, but I managed to control my it.

She reluctantly agreed to whisper the offensive word in my ear. She leaned close and whispered a word that is simply not allowed in our home..."Stupid." Then I saw tears fill her gorgeous brown eyes.

I held her close and assured her she is not stupid. I don't think she's stupid. Daddy doesn't think she's stupid. Most importantly, Jesus, who created her, absolutely does not  think she's stupid.

"Do you think you're stupid?" I asked. She shook her head. "Then it doesn't matter what anyone else says, does it?" The waterworks came then.

"But it still hurts!" she cried.

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless #BeIntentional | thereisgrace.com

And she was right. The old playground saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me," is quite simply a lie.

Words do hurt. Whether they're simply said without thinking, for a good laugh, or out of raw emotion in the heat of an argument. Once they're said, they can never be taken back. They can be repented of, even apologized for, but never taken back.

Kids are notorious for being outspoken, a little clueless, and sometimes rude. They are, after all, kids. They are also remarkably resilient. It didn't take long for Little Miss to bounce back and dive, carefree, into her latest art project. But those words will stay with her for a long time. The next time she is called something unkind (and let's be honest, it will happen), it will hurt a little more, because hateful words have already left a tiny wound.

I'd like to think that, as adults, we know better. We know to think before we speak and weigh carefully our words. But if my life is any indication I'd have to say that's not always the case.

Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose. (Proverbs 18:21, The Message)

That tells me that (1) my words have the power to bring life to someone or bring death to their spirit, and (2) that I have the power to choose.

If words can bring life or death, we should at least consider the power in them before we let them tumble out of our mouths. If I held a high-powered weapon, capable of killing with a single shot, I wouldn't wave it around or shoot it off aimlessly. You'd better believe I'd be extremely careful in how I held it, carried it, and transported it. I'd refrain from using it, except when absolutely necessary.

Maybe that's what the writer of Proverbs meant when he said:

Watch your words and hold your tongue; you’ll save yourself a lot of grief. (21:23)

Careful words make for a careful life; careless talk may ruin everything. (13:3)

Observe the people who always talk before they think—even simpletons are better off than they are. (29:20)

Knowledge flows like spring water from the wise; fools are leaky faucets, dripping nonsense.(15:2)

The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words. (10:19)

For me, it's a daily struggle, and it's worse when I'm tired, stressed out, or overwhelmed. (Who isn't all of those things most of the time?). But I keep at it. Why? Because I want my children to realize the power of their words.

I want them to understand that they possess great power in their words. And with that power comes great responsibility. 😉 Their words can bring life or bring death. They should be chosen carefully...used wisely.

Maybe our grandmas had it right after all... "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all!"

Let your conversation be always full of grace... (Colossians 4:6)

BeIntentional-250How do you strive to #BeIntentional with your words? Share your ideas in the comments, or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

More great reading to help you #BeInentional with Your Words:

The Words We Say

 

 

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

26 Comments

For as long as I can remember, there has been a piece of paper held to the front of my grandma's fridge by a magnet.

On this simple piece of notebook paper, scrawled in my grandma's handwriting, are two simple statements of great wisdom. I've read these statements many times over the years (usually as I snuck "just one more" bite of homemade cookie dough.)

When I was younger, I didn't give much thought to the words. Now that I'm a Mom, these simple statements have taken on new meaning. I don't know where they come from...if Grandma read them or heard them somewhere, or if God just dropped them into her heart one day. Because that's the sort of thing He does for my grandma.

I have watched her live these words for decades. And if I can remember these truths and learn to live them out, too, then maybe I can give my kids the love my grandma has so freely given for so long.

I don't know who (besides my grandma) to credit these great truths, but I pray they will encourage you:

Grandma's Wisdom {printable}...true then, truer now | thereisgrace.com

Grandma's Wisdom {two printables} | thereisgrace.com

Go ahead...print them out. I bet they'd look nice on your fridge.

 

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

7 Comments

It happens about this time each year...I begin the slow transformation into Frantic-Crazy-Christmas Mom. Armed with my long list of must-do, have-to-do, and want-to-do items, I hit the ground running on December 1. My transformation escalates as Christmas parties, obligations, shopping excursions, baking, wrapping, and travel fill the calendar. By the time December 25 rolls around, I've gone from Buddy the Elf to Mrs. Scrooge in a mere 3 1/2 weeks.

Last year was the first time in a long time that didn't happen. I was finishing up six rounds of chemotherapy, so I determined to focus on my health and my family and not worry about the rest of it. It was one of the most relaxed, enjoyable Christmases I can remember.

Even though I am recovering from two surgeries this year, every fiber of my hard-core, overachieving self wanted to jump back into the frenzy. I wanted to try every holiday recipe on Pinterest and every DIY wreath project on my FB feed! (Never mind the fact that I have been banned from using a glue gun on more than one occasion!)

But if there's one thing I've learned in our journey over the last 14 months, it's to focus on the truly important things. There's nothing wrong with Christmas parties and homemade gifts, but when my time and energy are consumed with accomplishing my to-do list, there's no time or energy left for what really matters...people. That's when it's time to kick the crazy to the curb!

5 simple steps to kick crazy to the curb this holiday season (plus resources!)
photo credit: nineminutes via photopin cc

1. Make a plan. We sat down as a family a few weeks ago and made a plan for our holiday season. We asked the kids their favorite traditions--foods, activities, events, etc. Then we scheduled those on the calendar; the rest are optional. We even gained an entire evening in December when we discovered an event we were all OK skipping!

2. Create time for family. We just completed a marathon trip for Thanksgiving--3 destinations and 19 hours in the van over 5 days. Why? Because we saw more family in those five days than we've seen all year. Yes, it was exhausting, but we'd do it all again in a heartbeat. If we wait to find time for family, we never will; we have to be intentional to create time for them.

3. Focus on giving, not getting. We asked our kids, "If you got only one gift from Mom & Dad this year, what would you want it to be?" Don't worry, our kids will not be deprived of Christmas gifts this year, but that question accomplished a couple of things: 1. It helped us hone in on the one thing they really want (as opposed to the 1,463 items they circle in the toy catalog!), and 2. It tapered their expectations (because they will never get all 1,463 things they circle in that catalog!)

I'm confident our kids understand Christmas is about Jesus, not about gifts and stockings. But this year, we wanted to be intentional about giving to and doing for others. We found opportunities through organizations like Operation Christmas Child as well as making special gifts for individuals in our lives.

4. Find silence. My favorite spot in the month of December is in front of the fire place with the Christmas lights on. I'll wake up early and curl up on the couch with a blanket and a cup of coffee. Then I simply sit and bask in the silence. Sometimes it's only 10 minutes before all my creatures start stirring, but those 10 minutes of calm will give me enough sanity to make it through the day!

5. Remember Jesus. That seems so simple, really--almost trite. Of course, we know Christmas is about Baby Jesus in the manger, but too often we stop there. We forget that Baby grew up--then gave up His life for us. Too many times we forget that part until Easter.

But that's what Christmas is really about...it's more than the fact that Jesus came, it's why He came. He came because God loves us so much that He could not leave us where we were. He loves us so much He wants a relationship with us, and that could only happen through Jesus.

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. (John 3:16, The Message)

You don't need more things to do this Christmas. But if you'll take a few minutes each day to focus on God and thank Him for Christmas, it will go a long way in keeping the crazy out!

How do you stay focused and keep the crazy out during the holiday season?

It's not too late to start an Advent reading to help you keep your focus. Here are some great resources to get you started:

The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp
Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room by Nancy Guthrie
Jesus: Light of the World by Candace Crabtree

Free resources
The Hope of Christmas
Advent: Preparing to Celebrate Christ's Birth by Billy Graham

For kids & families
Unwrapping the Greatest Gift
Truth in the Tinsel
More than Candy
Check these 4 Advent Resources for kids

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

If you have a child with food allergies, you know the fear that Halloween brings--not fear of the tricks, mind you, but fear of the treats. Any occasion that encourages my allergic child to accumulate a mountain of candy from a variety of sources is enough to strike fear into this Mama's heart.

As a general rule, I tend to reside in the "our children are overly-sugared" camp. Still, I would never dream of depriving a child the ritualistic pleasure of loading up on the goods on Halloween. And that includes my child with food allergies.

I want him to enjoy the gathering, sorting, swapping, and (rationed) consumption of his treasure just as much as his sister does. But since those shiny wrappers also contain a potentially life-threatening reaction, there needs to be an extra "layer" of precaution. No one wants to end Halloween with an Epi injection and a trip to the ER (or worse!).

So, how do you have a happy and safe Halloween with food allergies?

5 Tips for a Successful Halloween with Food Allergies | thereisgrace.com

1. Know the Source
We don't do much door-to-door trick-or-treating. Between events at our church and my husband's workplace, we end up with plenty of candy and most of the porch lights are off by the time we roll back into our neighborhood. Since those establishments only pass out individually-wrapped candy, I know the ingredients can be easily checked and cross-contamination is at a minimum. Stick with houses (or business establishments/organizations) you know and trust.

2. Check the goods
What kid doesn't like to take inventory of their stash as soon as they get home? This is not only fun, it's also necessary for food allergies. My son sorts his candy into three stacks: candy he knows is safe, candy he knows is unsafe, and candy we need to check. If the ingredients are listed on the candy itself (and many are), it makes checking for allergens quick and simple. If they are not listed, a quick visit to the manufacturer's web site will usually do the trick; most list ingredients of their candies there. SnackSafely.com  provides a comprehensive list of peanut- and tree-nut free snacks (and many egg-free snacks). Click here for their special Halloween edition.

3. Make the swap
After the sorting and checking is done,  the swapping can begin. My son's first option is his sister. Since most chocolate is off-limits for him (because most contain soy), this works out well for Sis. 🙂 She's quick to swap him her Skittles and Smarties for his Reese's and Butterfingers. If there are leftovers once bartering is done, he can then swap with me: I keep a supply of "safe" treats on hand that he can swap for his unsafe treats. I recently came across this idea of "buying" Halloween candy from your kids; I'm seriously thinking of using it this year!

4. Think outside the candy wrapper
The Teal Pumpkin Project encourages families to offer alternative, non-food treats as an option for kids with allergies or other dietary needs. Their goal is to raise awareness of food allergies, but I think it's also a great way to provide a little variety. Yes, Halloween becomes mostly about the candy, but it's ultimately about the fun. So, thinking of treats beyond the sugary kind is fair game. If you're worried about competing with those neighbors who offer full-size candy bars, check out this article with a great list of non-food treats that are sure to be a hit!

5. Enjoy!
When you live with food allergies (or have a child who does) any event, holiday, or celebration that includes food prepared by someone else brings with it a level of stress. The key to managing that stress is balance: be informed, be diligent, and be safe. Beyond that, relax and have fun. I want my son to be equipped with the information he needs to be safe. And then I want him to go out there and have some fun!

Looking for more resources for a Safe (allergy-friendly) Halloween?
4 Halloween Strategies for Accommodating Kids with Food Allergies
Tips to Trick-or-Treat Safely
Food Allergy-friendly Candy and Treats
Yes, Your Kids Can Still Trick-or-Treat with a Food Allergy
The Scariest Part of Halloween Can Be Dealing with Food Allergies

It won't be long before Holiday Parties are here. Find out how we navigate those with food allergies, too!

signature-1

*********************************

Like what you’ve read? Would you like to get new posts delivered directly to your inbox? Enter your e-mail address in the box to the right, and you’ll get new posts e-mailed to you as soon as they’re published. Easy-peasy. Or, follow me on Facebook , Twitter, or Pinterest.

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

11 Comments

It's officially Fall...my FAVORITE time of year. Here in the Midwest, that means cooler weather, warm beverages, pumpkin yumminess, and of course, the seasonal clothing switch-out.

Unless you have closets the size of my garage, you know what I mean: twice a year (in the spring and in the fall) you pack away all your off-season clothes and unpack appropriate wear for the upcoming season (good-bye flip flops; hello hoodies and boots!).

If you have children who are still growing, you know this is also a great opportunity to take inventory of what still fits and what needs to be purchased before the temperature drops too far. And, if you have kids in that age range, you're familiar with the concept of a children's consignment sale--an event where mothers can bring clothing, toys, books, DVDs, electronics, etc. their children have outgrown and offer them up for a reasonable price (usually). For a mom, it's a great way to clean out those closets, make a little cash, and stock your child's entire wardrobe for the upcoming season.

And that is exactly what I do.

There's just one problem: once I'm in this giant sale, with so many cute outfits and adorable shoes, my eyes glaze over and I go garage-sale crazy. You know the condition...it's usually preceded by such statements as: "I'm not sure this will fit her, but it's only $3!" And "I doubt he'll ever wear this, but how can I pass it up? It's such a great deal!"

Yes, my friends: Garage Sale Crazy.

That is how we end up with 247  shirts (195 of which are black with a cute character on the front), but only 3 pair of pants for each child.

After years of this struggle, I've determined I need a plan going into such situations. I can no longer rely on my memory alone to guide me. I need a list (oh, how I do love lists!).

So, I created one. (Actually, I created two...one for boys, one for girls.)

Ever wished you had a list of the clothes your child needs for the upcoming season. Well, here you go! Free printable of Fall clothing for boys and girls | www.thereisgrace.com

Ever wished you had a list of the clothes your child needs for the upcoming season. Well, here you go! Free printable of Fall clothing for boys and girls | www.thereisgrace.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then I thought, Hey. I bet other moms could use the same thing.

So I decided to share it with you.

Whether you use it for a consignment sale, garage/yard sale shopping, or just tuck it in your purse in case you hit a sale at the mall, I hope you find it helpful.

You can track of the basics your children still need (undies, socks, PJs, shirts, pants), plus how many and what colors. (Anyone else ever end up with 15 pair of white leggings, when you really need brown?)

There's also a place for seasonal items like holiday outfits and snow suit/boots so you won't be the mom at Target the night before the big snow storm, fighting over the last pair of size 2 snow boots. 😉

Happy Fall, Y'all!

Click to download: Fall Clothes Printable-BOYS, Fall-Clothes-Printable-GIRLS

signature-1

*********************************
Like what you’ve read? Would you like to get new posts delivered directly to your inbox? Enter your e-mail address in the box to the right, and you’ll get new posts e-mailed to you as soon as they’re published. Easy-peasy. Or, follow me on Facebook , Twitter, or Pinterest.

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

Don't let the title fool you...I have never been Miss American anything! Today, I am honored to welcome my good friend Casey Gibbons of Realife Casey.

I first met Casey more than 15 years ago when she began attending the youth ministry where I volunteered. As I got to know Casey over the next few years, a great friendship blossomed and grew. We have spent hours talking about ministry and writing, sharing motherhood woes and triumphs,  and walking through personal and physical challenges together. Now, we have the privilege of watching our children grow in friendship (a blessing to this Mama, for sure!).

As a wife, mom to 6, writer, ministry leader, and blogger, Casey is one of those "how does she do it all?" women. But she's the first to tell you she relies heavily on grace (and admit sometimes it doesn't all get done!) She remains as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside, and she has graciously allowed me to share this post (from June 2013) about her experience as Miss American Teen. Please welcome, my  friend Casey Gibbons:

**********************

Miss-American-Teen-1

As a former pageant girl, you can imagine my excitement when I turned on the TV last night to check the weather only to find that the Miss USA competition was just begininng! It was perfect timing. My husband was already in bed so I didn't have to turn it off due to immodesty and my five little girls were in bed so I didn't have to have a two hour training session on finding confidence aside from how a person looks. It was just me and the tv.

Although pageants are much different than when I participated, a flash of memory lane rushed through my body. It was 15 years ago that I was crowned Miss American Teen 1998 in Orlando, FL. It was a dream come true for my 18 yr old world. After months of hard work preparation and competition, God allowed me to win the national title. Yes, I cried. My family cheered. My hometown celebrated. My school friends went fan crazy. And I spent the next year going all over the country speaking, helping causes, serving communities, and living it up best I could.

Without boring most of you, all I can say about my pageant experiences was that I had the time of my life. My whole family participated with all the excitement. For us, it was making memories and doing something together. And I learned how to handle myself in public speaking and formal settings. I was challenged in my ability to lead in the community and in my school with grades and participation. My body was held accountable and my mind was sharpened during those days. In addition, I made a ton of friends and was able to share Christ to hundreds of girls.

Fast forward to now. As my eyes are glazed over thinking about my time "conquering the world" with a young in-shape body, glamorous clothes, fancy food, high-rise hotels, personal makeup and hair artists, talent shows and fame, I am keenly aware of my current state of being.

Miss-American-Teen-3

My body has given birth to five children, my clothes are worn out Pj's, my food tonight is animal crackers and yogurt served in a Veggie Tales bowl, my housing arrangement is a low-rise that smells like rotten eggs from the soaking pan days old, my hair hasn't been washed in four days, I haven't worn an ounce of makeup for over two weeks, my talent consists of rocking my coughing toddler back to sleep, and I am now famous among needy EGR (extra grace required) teenage girls who are texting me even though we just got home from being together for a week.

Yes, life is different now. But I am writing today with good news! There is a verse Paul wrote in Philippians 4 that challenges me.

I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I have learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I am just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I have found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. (Philippians 4:11-13, The Message)

There is such a strength in being content in all circumstances. Although I had wonderful memories from my pageant days, I can be content in the current stage of life! My joy and satisfaction comes from the Lord, not in how outward things are going for me. As I sit here looking and feeling completely different than 15 years ago, I am still full of joy at the place God has me. This doesn't make sense in natural thinking but it's true! As long as you are where God wants you to be doing what He wants you to do then you will be okay!

Don't fret friends! Don't look to your past accomplishments and wishful thinking for the "old days". God has a plan for you TODAY in the workplace, the home, the school, the church, the store, on vacation, and anywhere else you find yourself! You may be have different circumstances but God is with you! Because of the joy that can only come by God's grace, I am loving my life and you can too! There is no need to wait for things to "be like they used to be" so we can be happy again. Life changes. Things happen. We have a promise from the Lord that He is with us and will give us all we need to face life as it is, today!

So, I don't know about you but I am embracing my place in the world I now live in. I am not 18 and I am not a pageant girl. But what I am is a woman who is content is all cirmcumstances at all times as the Lord gives me strength.

I praise Him for the past, lean on Him in the present and look with anticipation for the future! And my prayer is that you will too.

caseyCasey is author of A Girl's Life with God and well-known speaker to girls of all ages. She has been married to her best friend, Scotty, for 14 years. They have five daughters, ages 12, 10, 9, 7, and 4, and they welcomed their first son this summer!  Casey blogs about motherhood, ministry, home education, and life in general at Realife Casey!

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

1 Comment

Yes, that's a pretty tall order; one I probably can't deliver on. But I believe you can have a happy and productive summer while maintaining a level of sanity.

happy-summer

Summer lends itself to lazy days and a carefree spirit, but I've learned that too much laziness sends everyone spiraling into a meltdown by about 3:00 p.m.  And while summertime means more free time and fun, it also means an opportunity to do things we can't during the busyness of the school year.

Here's how I plan to tackle such a tall order:

1. Routine
It will be much more relaxed and move at a slower pace, but there will be a routine. We won't wake up at the same time everyday, or be forced to rush out the door (except for the week of VBS). And there will be days we stay in our PJs until dinnertime (mom included!). But those days will be the exception, not the rule. We'll enjoy plenty of movies (especially during those pop-up summer thunderstorms), but screen time will have its limits. Our days will have a rhythm, but it will be more like a "smooth jazz" groove with a lot of improvisation, not the driving "marching band" beat that drives us through the school year.

2. Responsibilities
Yes, summer is a great time to kick back and relax, but unfortunately, the laundry, cleaning, shopping, and cooking don't take a summer break! Now that everyone is home all day, every day, there are more hands to pitch in and help. That way, Mom can enjoy some summertime fun, too! So in addition to their regular responsibilities (taking care of themselves and their space) each child will choose 1 job to do each day. (These are jobs they get paid for in addition to their regular chores. I explain our job/chore system in more detail here.)

3. Resources
The phrase, "I'm bored" is not allowed in our house, because we believe that a creative person should never be bored. And since kids have endless imaginations, they are some of the most creative people in the world! Still, even they need a little inspiration from time to time.

If you've been on Pinterest more than 5 minutes, I'm sure you've seen ideas for this Bored Board or these Boredom Jars. Ours have been used every day so far this week!

3. Research
My kids LOVE to learn, and I want to keep that going through the summer. We've wrapped up our first homeschool year, but that doesn't mean the learning stops. Summer is the perfect time for fun, educational activities (and they'll never know they're learning!). Here are some ways we do that:

  • Library reading program
  • Special arts & crafts projects
  • Trips to museums, zoos, and nature parks
  • Keep a "science" journal about our garden (what they observe, how it grows, etc.)
  • Focus on character traits we want to develop
  • Reading books as a family
  • Taking swimming lessons (that counts as education and exercise!)
  • Cooking projects (reading recipes, life skills, and math!)
  • We'll also continue music lessons and a few sports activities through the summer

4. Rest
Summer is a time to relax and refresh, and we'll do that with lazy mornings and long afternoons at the pool. But we'll also take some time every day to intentionally "power down" and recharge. Now that we are a nap-free home (at least the kids are, anyway!), the days can get long and the house can grow small when everyone is home all day. So, I'm borrowing an idea from our church camp and instituting a "feet off the floor" time every afternoon. Everyone will spends an hour (or so, depending on what's going on that day) in his or her own room doing something calm and quiet (reading a book, playing legos, doing puzzles, listening to an audiobook, etc.). No screens allowed.

This is how we plan to find a balance between fun and slothfulness this summer. There will still be plenty of lazy mornings where we sleep in (which we've already done a couple times this week!) and lots of time playing with friends, eating ice cream, and swimming! But when August rolls around, I want to look back at these weeks with a sense of satisfaction, knowing we made the most of every opportunity.

What does your summer routine look like?

Need more ideas for an intentionally fun summer? Check out How to Survive Summer with Your Kids!  or follow my Summer Fun board on Pinterest!

 

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

4 Comments

I remember how it felt, standing in the grocery aisle reading label after label on the boxes of crackers. Then putting each one back because it contained a potential threat to my son...a food allergy. I exhausted every brand of cracker in that store. That's when it hit me: I have no idea what to feed my child.

This week is Food Allergy Awareness Week, and all the articles and discussions online have reminded me what it was like in the beginning...when we first learned of my son's allergies. The information was overwhelming. At only 2 years old, my son relied completely on me to provide him with food. And I suddenly had no idea what he could eat. That first trip to the grocery store was, in a word, traumatic.

If that's you, overwhelmed mom whose child has just been diagnosed with a food allergy (or additional food allergies), here are a few tips that helped me get through those early days, and continue to help me today:

food-allergies-child

1. Learn to read labels. At first, this can be a daunting task....You want me to read every single label of every single food my child puts in his mouth?! Yes. Always. Even (and especially!) the "allergen statement" listed after the ingredients. This is the "May contain" line after the ingredients that will tell you if there's a potential for cross-contamination. You'll soon learn what brands are safe and which ones contain allergens, but always read labels as ingredients and manufacturing practices can change.

2. Learn to ask questions. Of everyone...restaurant servers, daycare workers, teachers, church nursery volunteers, and other parents. If they will be serving food your child will eat, it is your responsibility to know what is in it. If you're not satisfied with the answer, keep asking. I've actually had young, inexperienced wait staff respond to my allergy questions with, "Oh, he should be fine." Yeah, that's not gonna fly with this mama. I'm going to need to talk to someone who knows something (and maybe has a driver's license). Be kind, but firm...and tenacious if you need to. Your child's health (and possibly her life) depends on it.

3. Start with what you know and go slow. You don't have to chuck everything out of your kitchen and start from scratch. (If it's a serious allergy, you may want to get the allergen completely out of the house, at least for a while.) Start with what you know is safe. Can your child have fruit? Stock up on fresh fruit, frozen fruit, and fruit cups. No dairy allergy? Load the fridge with cheese sticks and yogurt cups. Don't make it too complicated at first. Find a few meal options and snacks you know are safe and stick with those for a while. You'll soon find other options you can add to your rotation.

4. Join a community. Believe it or not, when my son was first diagnosed, it was difficult to find much practical information online. Everything I found was from a medical journal. Oh, how far we've come in four years! If you know another mom who navigates food allergies, pick her brain. I'm sure she's a wealth of information and would love to share what she's learned. There's great value in online community as well. Need some recipe inspiration? Debra at Worth Cooking has some great allergy-friendly recipes, and I've heard Food Allergy Mama's cookbook is very helpful. (I've not read it, but I've heard good things.) And you can find some great, allergy-friendly recipes every Wednesday at The Domestic Diva's Allergy-Free link-up. You can also find some of my favorite recipes here, follow my Food Allergy board on Pinterest, or join the Food Allergy 411 Facebook page.

5. Always, always carry your Epi-pen. Just last week, my son had a reaction to some muffins I made with garbanzo flour....garbanzo flour?!? He has eaten hummus too many times to count, so it never dawned on me that he would react to garbanzo flour (even though he is allergic to peanuts and soy...both legumes). Fortunately, I did not have to use the Epi, but I was glad I had it with me...just in case. The thing about allergic reactions is that each one can be more severe than the last. So, even though we've never had to use our Epi, that doesn't mean we won't. And I'd rather be safe than sorry.

So, take a breath, Mama. It's going to be OK. You can get up off the grocery store aisle floor where you've been in the fetal position for the last 30 minutes. You don't have to answer all your questions today. You don't have to know what you'll serve at your child's graduation party or wedding. You just have to get through today. Tomorrow you'll know more than you do today, and the next day you'll know even more.

And someday, even sooner than you think, when you see another mom in the grocery aisle with 14 boxes of crackers in her arms and that deer-in-the-headlights look, you'll be the one to walk up to her and say, "It's going to be OK. I did this, and you can, too!"

What advice would you give a mom who is just starting the food allergy journey?

If you're looking for more helpful tips on food allergies...
A Crash Course in Food Allergies
Making the Most of Food Allergies
What's the Difference Between a Food Allergy and Food Sensitivity?
Navigating Parties with Food Allergies

signature-1

*********************************
Like what you’ve read? Would you like to get new posts delivered directly to your inbox? Enter your e-mail address in the box to the right, and you’ll get new posts e-mailed to you as soon as they’re published. Easy-peasy. Or, follow me on Facebook , Twitter, or Pinterest.

 

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

16 Comments

It was my first Mother's Day as a mom...I had only been a mom for thirteen days. I was physically exhausted and emotionally overwhelmed.

Just a few days earlier, my own mother, who had been with me since my daughter was born, abandoned me. She had hugged me tight and said in her calm, motherly voice, "You're going to be fine. Happy Mother's Day." Then she got on a plane and flew home to my dad...as if he needed her more than I did!

I cried big, crocodile tears as I held my new baby, right there in the middle of the nursery. I had no idea how this little person and I would make it through the next 8 hours until my husband came home, let alone how I'd manage the next 5 years until she started school.

How was I supposed to take care of this little person when I couldn't even figure out how to put her in the baby carrier?

I was a mom, and all I wanted was my mommy. 

motherhood-note

Not only did we make it through that day, we eventually made it through the first year. Then the next, and the next. We even managed to add another baby to our family, and I learned the secret to motherhood: multi-tasking. I could cook dinner with one child in my arms, one around my feet, a dog scratching at the door, and a phone to my ear. Still, there were times I struggled.

Nine years into this parenting journey, I now realize those moments are  universal...life for moms is simply varying seasons of insanity. Some are less chaotic, but all are some level of crazy. And hard. And stressful.

I am blessed to have a legacy of strong and generous women in my family, and motherhood allowed me to see them in a new light. These are the moms who have had the greatest influence in my life:

motherhood-2My Grandmothers To the untrained eye, my grandmothers couldn't be more opposite: One raised her only  son as a single mom, working a 9-5 to keep the bills paid; the other worked at home, caring for her four children and any neighborhood kids who might need a safe place and a loving hug. One was a genius in the kitchen, with a specialty for comfort foods and chocolate chip cookies; the other's culinary repertoire included only macaroni and cheese. One would not live long enough to see me marry or to meet my children; the other carries on, serving her kids, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren.

Although very different, each of these women served her family faithfully through long days of hard work. I'm sure there were many times they didn't feel like getting out of bed to go to work or take care of a family...Those weary days we mamas know so well. But they did it with a warm smile and eager hands, because that's what a mom does.

motherhood-3My Mom When I was younger, my mom represented all I had yet to learn and all I wanted to be. Married at 19 and a young mom at 20, I'm sure she wondered often if she was making the right decisions for her children, for her family. I've watched her sacrifice much over the years. She has worked alongside my dad in ministry and stretched grocery money to feed her family. She has sacrificed her own desires to create lasting memories for her children and now for her grandchildren, because that's what a mom does.

motherhood-4

My mother-in-law I've heard it said that men marry women who remind them of their mothers. If that's the case, I am truly honored to be in the same category as my mother-in-law. She and my father-in-law saw some difficult times over the years, suffering job losses that uprooted their young family. She worked hard, right alongside her husband, to put food on the table and raise three kids born within four years. The days were long and I'm sure her energy gave out long before her to-do list was accomplished. Still, she got up every day and did it all over again, because that's what a mom does.

Thanks to the examples of these women, I have learned what motherhood is truly about; I have learned to be thankful for what the chaos represents...a home, and a life, filled with love and family.

To my mom, my grandma, my mother-in-law and the many other women I am honored to call family....thank you for your love, your example, and the legacy you've given me and my children.

To moms everywhere...I know you don't need to hear it, but you really are the rock stars.

And to you, weary, first-time mom...trust me when I tell you, "You're going to be fine...Happy Mother's Day!"

photo source

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.