Creativity without Chaos

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Have you ever had God lead you to a solution that is so simple you are almost embarrassed it took you years to figure out? That’s the case with this revelation!
For years I’ve been battling how to encourage my kids to be creative without having to clean up the ensuing chaos of craft supplies.

As a homeschooling mom, this is an issue that keeps coming up over and over as my kids have lots of time for art projects and coloring.

Moms of little ones may experience this too, or even moms of older kids during summer breaks. Well, one day as I was cleaning up a messy school room table… again…. I uttered a prayer, not even expecting an answer, “Lord, how do I keep encouraging my kids to be creative and not have the mess?!” and suddenly God downloaded a great solution into my mind!

The idea is two parts (plus a maintenance tip!):

1.     Simplify the supplies your kids have access to every day. I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of books lately. One topic that comes up over and over is of how kids thrive with simplicity. They do well with less. We all do well with less. I’ve seen this theory completely prove itself in the area of art supplies. I love giving my kids fun items such as scraps of cool wrapping paper, ribbons, and all the typical pipe cleaners, googly eyes, stickers--you name it. However, I realized having these items available all the time is overwhelming. I decided to take everything out of the school room and put in only the basics:

●      A stack of white paper

●      A stack of construction paper

●      Crayons

●      Markers

●      Colored pencils

●      Scissors

●      Glue sticks

●      Just a few favorite coloring books

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(Some of the items I put in $1 pencil boxes I found, and then placed them in the drawer.) All of a sudden, the supplies looked cute and organized! When I was trying to give them everything, I was really giving them clutter. It was amazing to watch their interest in coloring be renewed. Instead of getting out odds and ends and leaving them on the table, they came, colored, and created… without clutter. They even knew how to clean up after themselves so much better because there were fewer categories of items to clean up! And because I put everything at their level, it was easier to hold them accountable to cleaning up. When it came time to sort the projects into their dividers it was also easier because the pages weren’t 3D! The kids didn’t need to shove odds and ends into their shelf. Such a bonus! So what did I do with the other supplies?

 2.     Carve out a time for them to be creative with other supplies. I sorted through the other items and kept the coolest things. I put them in a bin on my laundry room shelf and labeled it “Creative Galaxy” (there is a show that has this name and my kids have seen it a few times,  but basically it is just a catchy title so we named our time after it). About a week after my kids had their “art supply minimalism makeover”, I got out the bin. I pulled out items and laid them out on the table. “Alright guys, you can use whatever you want! Let’s just be creative!” I put on music and sat down for a half hour with my kids. We each created a project. I wrapped a piece of cardboard in a fun wrapping paper, wrote a Bible verse on it, and added a coffee filter flower. One of my sons made puppets, one a picture of a ninja using ribbons and wrapping paper, and another a 3D fire truck out of a gift bag.

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Afterwards, we shared our projects with each other and I took a picture of them. I told them that they could keep their creations for awhile, but that we would recycle them eventually, and just make a photo book of our Creative Galaxy time. Then we will have all of our projects in one place. I’ve realized that the process of being creative is often much more important to my kids than the result. When I recycle my kids’ coloring pages, they very rarely complain or question where the pages went. (Tip: You may want to be careful with this if you have a child whose love language is gifts. They can tend to see each of these pages as their possessions, and they feel hurt if we take them without asking. Training these kids in letting go of material possessions is an important skill to train them in… and it will probably be a long process! So far it seems like all of my kids have gifts as one of their highest love languages. :/ Perhaps that’s just a normal childhood thing… or maybe they get it from me. :) )

-Doing this about every other week seems right for us. You can adjust the frequency to find what works for you. But I’ve found this keeps the supplies fresh and exciting without being overwhelming for me to keep up in our schedule. On the weeks we don’t do this, I usually have a painting time for them.

-After a few “Creative Galaxy” Sessions, I noticed that some items in the bin were not being used or even contemplated by my kids, so I recycled or tossed those items.

To maintain our new system, I have set a weekly reminder to sort through the art divider with the kids. I needed this reminder to stay on top of the paperwork. It takes 10 minutes, and it is a good training exercise for us all.

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This is an additional idea that is a huge win for kids with the love language of gifts: “printables”! About once or twice a week, I will sit down at my computer and do an image search with each child. (Understandably for their protection, I definitely do this with them!) For example, Lincoln may have me search for a picture of a baby cheetah. He will find one he likes, and we print it out for him to color. I let each kid pick 3-5 pages (and they need to decide pretty quickly!). It is amazing how much they prefer this over coloring books. For some reason the process of them picking out exactly what they want feels like they are getting a present. It is one of their favorite parts of the week, and it buys me about 30 minutes of peace because they are so excited to color when they have these! Since starting this practice, I have recycled or donated most of our coloring books. Even when the books were of their favorite characters, the kids still didn’t use them very much. Two exceptions are the giant character coloring books,and the large Melissa and Doug themed books. Perhaps your kiddos are similar and you can purge these too!

At the end of the day, it really is simple: our God is a God of order and He is creative. We are made in His image, so we should foster each of these traits. For most people, there is probably a bent towards one side or another. I think it’s great to raise our kids in an environment in which each quality is valued. I hope this idea helps you strike some balance! 

Posted on November 14, 2018 and filed under Building Your Family.

Give the Man a Fish: Being a Wife that Helps Her Husband Take the Wheel

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To be perfectly honest, I am the “go-getter” when it comes to family matters in my home. I have been envisioning this phase of life since I played with my dolls as a toddler and named myself “Mrs. Judy Davis” after a Tide commercial. I love being a mom. My husband always knew he wanted kids, but that was as far as the daydream went. He pursued a career, he prayed for a wife, God answered…. And then seemingly all of a sudden four kids were clamoring to sit in his lap.

If he doesn’t get poked or prodded upon every encounter, he is lucky. Then the pour guy got diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that zaps his energy. If he makes it to the kids’ bedtime without falling over, we are winning. This may not be your family situation, but perhaps your husband isn’t the CEO spiritual leader you were expecting.

What does it look like when the wife tends to have a more strategic vision for the family? Does it mean my husband isn’t our spiritual leader? No. I think we have a very narrow-minded view of what spiritual leadership looks like. God created a lot of different personalities, and His order works with each and every one of those. Sometimes our expectations of what it “should” look like are not from God’s Word. I challenge each of you to pray for your husband to lead biblically. In the meantime, if you have unmet hopes for him taking the wheel, try to discern if they are rooted in biblical truth. If you are seeking wisdom in this area, Entrusted With a Child’s Heart: A Biblical Study in Parenting, truly is based on the biblical standard. This is an excellent resource to guide you. Perhaps you have a husband who isn’t there yet… Keep praying, and maybe he is more ready than you think.

As you set your heart to seek the Lord, I want to give a few tips I’ve discovered that have set my husband’s personality up to lead. Perhaps they will help you as well:

  1. Give the Man a Fish.

We all know the Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” I must confess that I have been waiting for my husband to learn how to fish, when he just needs me to throw him some snapper. Sometimes we want our husbands to do the whole process of leading, but what our families need is his engagement and willingness. I want to propose that we act like the helper we were created to be, and we throw those guys a fish instead of always expecting them to “learn to fish.” Right now it looks more like, “Get that frozen fish out of the freezer, cook it, and hand it to your husband.” And he’s a good eater, so I’m giving it to him. Let me share some examples.

Because I homeschool, I read a devotional with my kids every day. (Ideally we would do that at breakfast time together, but we have a 5-year-old trapped in a teenager’s body and he.doesn’t.even.wake.up.for.natural.disasters. He rolls out of bed after Dad is at work.) Should I stop the devo because I’d prefer my husband to do it with them? No, it is a great part of our day. Instead I am going through a book, somewhat like systematic theology for kids, and I have my husband read the devotional at the dinner table. Here’s how “holy” this interaction was:

“Hey Travis, You know how you eat faster than everyone else in the family, and then you often get up and start doing the dishes? Would you mind reading this devo to the kids before you get up?”

“Sure.”

And he does it. Later I asked him if he felt I was bossing him around to ask him to do that. He didn’t think that at all. He was thankful for the opportunity. It turns out that most men do not stand around and talk about what Bible stories they are reading to their kids lately. As Christian women, we are flooded with great options… sometimes we have too many books to pick from and we are overwhelmed! Is it wrong to provide our husbands with a great book so our kids can see him leading? I don’t think so. If he has it in his heart to lead, don’t force him to complete the whole process. Sometimes your gentle “nudge” will get you where you want to be faster than you wishing and hoping he’ll be someone he isn’t.

Here’s another example:

“Hey, Travis, I feel so overwhelmed by everything our family is going through. I think we need to commit to praying as a family each night at bedtime.”

“Okay, great idea.”

It was typical for us that whoever put the kids to bed would pray over them. Now we sit in a circle most nights,  and we each take a turn praying. Travis closes the prayer for us. When my sons hear their daddy honestly approaching the Lord on our behalf, they are learning to be prayer warriors and spiritual leaders. Does it matter that it was my idea? No. Not.at.all.

And another:

Before we left for our recent road trip to visit family,

“I’ve been wanting to read this parenting book. Should I download the audiobook so we can listen together?”

“Cool. Sounds good.”

It wasn’t complicated, and we had some great discussions along the way. I also got to see Travis’s heart in wanting to lead… and he heard from someone else how crucial his influence is. Mwahahahaha, Mastermind Steph strikes again.

2. Leave.

Sometimes I worry about my baby getting diaper rash because Travis forgot to change her while I was gone. Or maybe he’ll give my son a food he’s allergic to. Or maybe they’ll all starve because every time I get back home the kids famishly greet me and say they haven’t eaten. (I hear this is typical for men, so I’m not husband-bashing, just being real.) They are always still alive when I get home, and they are probably learning valuable life lessons about not having their needs met immediately.

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Once I was away and my husband sent me a picture of his three “Mighty Men of Valor.” One of them was struggling with fear, and Travis was teaching them a Bible lesson. I didn’t set it up. And it probably wouldn’t have happened if I was home. Another time, and another moment of fear struck while I was away. Upon calling to check in, I found out that Travis was teaching our oldest Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” I don’t think this would have happened if I had been home to “take care of everything.” If we want our husbands to lead, we have to get out of the driver’s seat.

Now whenever I leave, I give clear instructions for dinner and snacks… and sometimes it feels like I am prepping for a babysitter. But it’s okay. I didn’t marry the man so he could make gourmet meals for our kids. If setting out an easy dinner frees him up to build into them, microwave away those chicken nuggets, Babe.

The win for me is that we have now decided I will leave for a couple hours every few weeks to go get tea, read my Bible, and plan for homeschooling. I am getting refreshed, and my kids are getting more time with their dad.

3. Daddy Dates.

As a mom of four I work really hard to pour into my kids as individuals. It is a lot of work to make sure no one fades into the background. I like to take them on dates or errands as much as possible. Recently I realized they do need individual attention from me, but they need it more from their dad. As much as I’d like to be the one to take Ryder out for ice cream and 20 Questions, he needs a strong relationship with his father. This revelation came right after I had created a brand-new schedule for our season of life. I had adjusted everything around the baby’s naps, homeschooling, co-ops, etc… It turns out that Saturday mornings are the best time for Travis to have dates with the kids. Good-bye free morning with errands… I realize that I need to move my errand time to a weeknight after the kids go to bed (or take the other three for all my errands which happens a lot but is not nearly as efficient!). It’s not my preference, but I think the end result is so worth it to me. Now I plan on cleaning the house on Saturday mornings while the baby naps, and I will be teaching the other two boys to clean. Honestly it is a lot easier training two kids to clean than three, so it’s okay.

Here are some ideas for Daddy Dates that don’t break the bank:

  • Go out for cheap ice cream cones.

  • Do a workshop at Home Depot.

  • Go to library and let the child pick out their favorites.

  • Go play at a park.

  • Go out for breakfast (the cheapest meal of the day!).

  • Look for sports opportunities through the rec center that allow for a parent and a child to participate.

Also, we have the boys have “Work Dates with Dad” too. Maybe they help weed or go to the hardware store for supplies. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, and it’s okay to have them have a realistic view of life. They need to contribute to your family too.

I also asked my husband if he would like me to print out some questions to ask the kids to have in his wallet. Instead, Mr. Technology prefers to use his phone. :) I may still remind him to use the list, but he is willing and set up for intentionality!

4. Give him credit in front of the kids.

My kids may not see one of the most pivotal ways Travis leads our family. He is a rock when I am anxious. When the kids are in bed, and I pour out my worries to him, he prays with me, and he often helps guide me to make decisions that are rooted in faith. When the storm of my fear passes, and all my kids see is a calm mom, they need to know their father was part of the solution.

Also, Travis falls asleep every night listening to God’s Word. I want my kids to know that. These are things I can tell them about because they may not see it otherwise.

How is your husband leading your family? Is it emotionally, mentally, physically, financially? Ask God to give you eyes to see who he is and who he was created to be…. And then give him grace in the transformation.

Hebrews 10:14 says, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” God is challenging me to give myself grace and live by the mighty work of the cross. I need to extend this grace to my growing husband too. How about you, Mama?

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Photo Credit: Red Sweater Photography

Posted on September 26, 2018 and filed under Building Your Family.

Entrusted Recipes: Mom’s Chili

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My most favorite time of the year is Fall. I’m the one who anxiously waits for the stores to bring out their pumpkin-spiced food and drinks, checking almost every day to see if anything is out yet. I’m the one who stalks Starbucks to see when they’ll bring back their Pumpkin Spice Latte – this year Starbucks even had a secret group where lovers of all things Fall could share their excitement.

I love football, wearing leggings and comfy shirts, cooler temps, pumpkin farms, and beautiful leaves. I love breathing in crisp, fresh air that smells like dry leaves. I love Fall so much that my husband and I were married in the Fall of 2006. And I love Fall so much that the paint colors and accents in our living room and kitchen are rustic earth tones that resemble Fall leaves. Yeah…I kinda like Fall.

With my love for Fall comes a love for Fall food – pumpkin scones, pumpkin pie, beef stew, mac and cheese, soup, and most of all, chili! But not just any chili. My mom’s chili. I’ve had many types of chili but my favorite is my mom’s recipe. And because I want others to enjoy her recipe as much as I do, I asked her if I could share it.

So here it is – the best chili you’ll ever eat. (Yes, I’m completely unbiased.)

Susie’s Chili

Ingredients

2 lbs. ground beef

2-3 Tbsp chili powder (to taste)

Salt and pepper (to taste)

1 medium chopped onion (if I don’t have onion, I use dried, minced onion)

1 large can tomato soup

1 can diced tomatoes (with chilies if you like more heat)

2 large (or 3 small) cans drained kidney beans

1-2 cups water (1 cup makes it thicker, 2 makes it thinner – in the picture of the simmered chili, I added 2 cups)

 

Directions

Brown the beef in a large pot. Add seasonings and onion. Simmer for a few minutes. Add tomato soup, diced tomatoes, kidney beans, and water. Heat through for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Then simmer an additional 10 minutes on low. The longer it simmers, the better it tastes.

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 When it comes to how to top your chili, there are many options! My favorite is sour cream, cheese, and corn chips. My dad likes to top his with black olives. We also usually make cornbread muffins as a side.

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However you top it, it’s good chili. You’ll let out a contented sigh as you get comfy on the couch to watch football with a warm bowl of chili in your hands. I love it anytime of the year, but it’s even more delicious now that it’s Fall.

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Posted on September 21, 2018 and filed under Building Your Home.

Phases vs Lifestyles: What a Determined Plant Has Taught Me

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My in-laws live on a 200-acre farm in southern Kentucky. My favorite time of year to visit them is in the fall because the southern heat and humidity have eased and the rolling hills are yellowed with drying hay and bean crops.

When I can get myself out of bed at a decent time, I like to take morning walks along the paved driveway between the farmhouse and the main road.

It’s a pretty and serene walk as the road rises and falls with the land. As I was walking one morning last fall, I looked down at the side of the driveway and was so intrigued by what I saw that I stopped, took off my head phones, and knelt down for a closer look. Growing up through the asphalt was a plant. Through the asphalt! It was yellowed like the plants in the field next to it, but it was still growing. I took some pictures with my phone and continued my walk, marveling at the determination of the plant.

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I can be a pro when it comes to determination, too. I’ve gone through phases where I’m very determined to accomplish something. For example, I pursued my Masters for three years and even switched degrees part-way through when I realized that I didn’t really want an MBA; I wanted a Masters in writing. And when my husband and I bought our townhome in 2008, I spent hours poring over paint chips, curtain fabrics, and flooring samples. We redid the half bath and installed new light fixtures. We worked every night for weeks until we finished all the tasks on my list.

On the other hand, there have been times I’ve set out to accomplish something and have started out strong and disciplined only to falter, then give up altogether. Case in point: I’ve struggled with my weight since college. I’ve lost and gained as much as 60 pounds twice just in the past seven years. I start strong and have at times kept up with a pattern of healthy eating and exercising for a year or more. But, inevitably, I allow life to derail me and now I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been and feel miserable.

I also struggle to be consistent in my time with the Lord. A lot. I start strong, spending time in the Word, praying, and being conscious of my thoughts and temper. Then I trick myself into thinking that other tasks like a load of laundry are more important than praying. One misstep leads to another, I feel defeated, and then I give up altogether.

It’s taken me a long time (an embarrassingly long time) to figure out why I’m successful in some things but not others. It’s because some are actual phases and some are meant to be life-long disciplines. Phases aren’t permanent routines – they’re temporary. Life-long disciplines last for…well, a lifetime. Most people can stick with something when they know there’s an end point – even something as fun as decorating my new house was sure to feel cumbersome if it lasted for more than a year.

Many of us like to have a starting point and an ending point. We want to know how long we need to push and work because it gives us hope and encouragement. We know there’s an end so we can hammer through with determination and persistence until that end comes.

But some things in life don’t have a stopping point that we can look forward to – we won’t have that specific moment when we know we’ve finished the task and can relax. My physical well-being won’t be perfected until I take my last breath. My spiritual well-being won’t be perfected until I take my last breath. I need to continually work in both areas of my life; I’ll never get to a point where I can or should stop working on them.

Both my physical and spiritual well-being are vital. And yet, these are the two parts of my life where I’m the most lazy. That’s the plain and simple truth: I’m lazy.

I’m empathizing more and more with Paul as I age. In Romans 7, he expressed sorrow and frustration over being divided within himself. His will was torn. Flesh versus spirit. Romans 7:19 says, “For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want” (NASB). While I may not be purposefully practicing evil, I’m still practicing it because I’m not doing what I know I should and can do. When I think about it that way, it’s very convicting.

For me, it’s come down to this: I can’t think of my desire for a healthier body as a phase. And I can’t think of my desire for a healthier spiritual life as a phase. They’re disciplines. They’re lifestyles.

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So, now what? Now that I’m confessing this openly, I need to have a game plan. The first thing I need to do is to find what works – what type of eating and exercising regimen will I realistically stick to? And what kind of personal time with the Lord is most realistic based on how my days flow and where I’m at in terms of kids at home, work, etc.?

A second thing I need to do is print the picture of that plant I found in Kentucky. The plant has taught me and continues to remind me that while it’s not easy, it’s possible to pursue physical and spiritual health for my lifetime. I won’t be perfect as I move forward, but I can and must choose to persist in doing what I know I should do and not doing what I know I should not do.

Posted on August 22, 2018 and filed under Building Your Faith.

Memories for the Long Haul: The Value of Establishing Summer Family Traditions

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July was one of my favorite months when I was a kid because it was when we took our annual trip to Winona Lake, Indiana. My dad worked at Moody Bible Institute and part of his job was running sound for the sessions at their annual summer conference. For more than ten years, we knew that every summer we would stay in the same hotel, in the same hotel room, and we knew we would spend our mornings with Frank Buckley who, along with his family, put on a fun, biblical program for all the kids. I loved this trip. And I loved that we got to do it every summer. It was a family tradition.

 my sister and I with Frank Buckley and his puppet, Daniel. Frank ran the kids program at the conference we went to as kids.

my sister and I with Frank Buckley and his puppet, Daniel. Frank ran the kids program at the conference we went to as kids.

Last year when my husband and I decided to start our own summer family tradition, we knew that we wanted family camp to be our thing. We both love the camp atmosphere and experience: staying in a cabin, worship services in the tabernacle, Lake Superior (the camp we go to is in the UP of Michigan), meeting families from all over the country, speakers, all of us falling asleep in minutes from blissful exhaustion, and (a very big deal to me) not having to meal plan or cook for a whole week. This July was our second year of family camp and we already have our reservation for next summer! Our kids are three, five, and seven. The older two remember many experiences they had a year ago and are already excited about going back next year. They told us that they like knowing they’ll get to go back again.

 My sister and I on swings near the hotel.

My sister and I on swings near the hotel.

Another summer family tradition we’ve started is going on an outing the weekend before school starts. The first year we went to the zoo. Last year was our second year and we went bowling. They’re not over-the-top outings, but they have a specific purpose: to kick off a new schedule for our family. We celebrate the great summer we’ve had and talk about what we’re looking forward to as fall approaches.

Family camp isn’t everyone’s preferred vacation. And maybe your weekend before the kids go back to school is already packed with buying school supplies and getting in those last-minute doctor appointments before your youngest starts Kindergarten. My point is not so much about the kind of trips or outings you do or when you do them, but the act of establishing summer family traditions. Maybe your family loves exploring new amusement parks, going to baseball games in different cities, or the visiting local or out-of-state fairs. You know your family and what kinds of trips and activities will appeal to everyone. Pick a couple and make them your non-negotiables every summer.

Why? Because kids aren’t likely to remember what they got for Christmas when they were eight but they’ll remember the trips or outings they did every summer for five, ten, or fifteen years. And those experiences might be things they’ll want to do with you after they have their own kids. Last summer at family camp, we were fortunate enough to have my parents and my sister and her family all together for the week. We were only missing my younger brother. It was a dream come true for me to have us together at camp and reminisce about the similar experiences my sister and I had when we were young.

There are a lot of things I don’t remember from my childhood. But I remember going to Winona Lake every July. I remember the smell of the lake and knowing that sometime during the week I’d get to buy copious amounts of Atomic Fireballs® from the local pizza place. Each year was a little different but it was also the same. I think that’s why it means so much to me now that I have kids.

The emotions that my memories of our family tradition evoke are the kind I want my kids to have when they’re talking to their kids about their annual trip to family camp. And when they’re getting ready to send their kids back to school, I want them to think back to the beginning of each school year and recall how we celebrated the end of summer and the start of new routines together.

It’s the end of July, but there’s still time to establish your first annual _______________. What trip or outing will become your family’s summer tradition?

 My three kids at the Bible camp we go to each summer. 

My three kids at the Bible camp we go to each summer. 

Posted on July 19, 2018 and filed under Building Your Family.

The Last Lemon Cake: A story about submission and the tender loving care that God the Father had for our three sons

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A lemon cake is baking in my oven right now.  It is the 13th lemon cake baked in my kitchen in as many years.  Here is the true story of why, and how and who it is for. On January 6 of 2003, a day we’ve come to call Bloody Monday, David was told that he no longer had a job—as of that day! 

 

The natural reaction to conserve kicked in.  He called to let me know this had occurred and that there would be a moratorium on spending. 

My deepest concern, even more than the natural reaction of “what are we going to live on?” was how my sons would perceive God, what would they think of him when the church that claims to love and obey him was so callous?  Would they be able to separate the two?  Would this shipwreck their faith?  I pondered this for a couple of days.

Meanwhile, I realized I had made commitments, which I felt would have to be fulfilled, regardless.  The first of these promises was a batch of cookies.  These had to be made and taken to the kindergarten class to celebrate Michael’s 6th birthday.  They were going to be Veggie Tale cookies.  I already had the cookie cutters: Bob the tomato and Larry the cucumber and budgeted for the baking ingredients.  I also told Michael that I would get a lemon cake mix per his request,  and bake it for his special day which would be on that Wednesday.  While shopping for the cookie ingredients and cake mix, I remembered that I actually had a yellow cake mix at home already!  I had to honor David’s wishes—no extra spending! Yikes!!!  Although I felt in good conscience about spending for the cookies to give away, I didn’t feel as free to buy another cake mix—a lemon cake mix—when I had a perfectly good yellow cake mix at home.  I would just have to explain it to Michael—he would understand, after all he would be 6 years old! When I broke the news to him he accepted it like a little man!  Phew!

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It was now Wednesday, January 8, Michael’s birthday. I started to bake that yellow but decidedly very un-lemon cake!  First, however, I would need to get my mixer blades back from my neighbor, Laura, who had borrowed them some time ago. I called that morning to say that I was baking that afternoon (I did not tell her why or what) and could I pick up my mixer blades?     I went over later and she handed me a grocery bag with some movies she’d borrowed,  the mixer blades and since she’d been feeling guilty for keeping my stuff for so long, she threw in something from her pantry…a lemon cake mix!  I remember pulling that out and giving it to Michael, he began running around the house shouting--“How did she know?!  How did she know?!”  I just answered, “God knew!” Right there beside me were my other two sons, Andrew and Nate.  They were seeing this miracle, knowing that no matter what or who brought us to such a difficult place that God did not forsake us and beyond that, cared for a little boy to the fine detail of the flavor of his birthday cake. I determined from then on that Michael would always have a lemon cake on his birthday and that we would remember that God cares for us personally.  He cared for my sons.  I’ll ever praise him (Psalm 146:2) and let this be a reminder that it is my job to obey—He will provide! 

Today, then, I’m baking what might just be the last lemon cake; after all Michael said recently now that he’s all grown (18 years old) this should be the last lemon cake—I didn’t promise anything!  

(Welcome guest blogger, Helen Jones, wife of Dr. David Jones, Pastor of Village Church, Barrington, IL!)

Posted on July 13, 2018 and filed under Building Your Faith.

Becoming My Parents

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I’ve watched my parents be parents for forty-one years. And now that I’m married, have kids of my own, and am more mature (some days), I’m keenly aware of how fortunate I am to be their child. They’ve created a legacy for my sister, brother, and me, and they’re helping us create a legacy for our kids. And you know what? I hope that I become my parents because they raised us (which was no small feat) and we would all say that we are who we are because of the Godly example they have given us.

They put family first.
“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” Deuteronomy 6:6-7.

My parents always put us first. They made many sacrifices so my siblings and I could go to Christian schools. I didn’t understand the depth of the sacrifices back then, but I do now – and I’m happy to do the same for my kids. My dad worked full-time in addition to getting as many freelance jobs as he could get to make ends meet. Right now, my husband works 50+ hours a week between his full-time job and part-time job and I work from home as an online faculty member for a Christian college as well as getting every freelance job I can so we can keep our kids in a Christian school. Why? Because my parents believed God wanted us in a Christian school and we believe the same for our kids. We do what we have to do.

My mom and dad were always faithful church attenders. But they didn’t just go to church; they lived out the truths of the Bible every day. By making their faith a priority, they made us a priority. We learned that God comes first, then family, then everything else. And we learned how to serve. My dad’s motto is that when he serves, he arrives early and stays late to make sure that everything is done well.

They protected us.
“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” Psalm 127:3.

They knew where we were and who we were with all the time – and this was before cell phones were around. We had to tell them what was going on and they would then tell us what time to be home. It varied based on what we were doing, but we were usually with our youth group or kids from our Christian school so they were ok with us being home around 10:30 or 11. But we were never allowed out past midnight. Why? Because my dad says that nothing good happens after midnight. He’s right.

My parents didn’t drop us off at the mall unchaperoned. That made me so mad because everyone else got to walk around the mall without their parents – at least it seemed like everyone else did. But they said no. And now that I have kids, I wouldn’t drop my kids off at the mall either. I understand why they said no. Kids are precious and there’s no reason to take an unnecessary risk.

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While there were times when it felt like they just didn’t want us to have fun, I now understand that they were protecting us. And my husband and I will protect our kids the same way.

They’re givers.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” Lamentations 3:23.

My parents were and are givers. They give of their finances, their time, their resources. They give so much to me even as their adult child. They help us send our kids to a Christian school. My mom will ask what I need at the store and pick up things for me while she’s shopping for herself. They’re our babysitters – or as my mom likes to say, they’re our grandsitters.

My parents have set the ultimate example when it comes to tithing. Even though money was tight, my parents tithed. Faithfully. And now I see how God blessed them because of their faithful giving. They drove older cars, but I’ve lost count of how many of those cars were given to them or they purchased cheaply. My dad knew how to fix cars so no car was too far gone that he couldn’t resuscitate it. They gave faithfully and God faithfully provided for them in countless ways.

My mom says that people don’t stop being parents when their kids get married and have their own kids. They learn to parent in a different way. But they’re still always parents. I pray often that I will emulate to my precious kiddos the same love, devotion, and faithfulness that my parents have shown me. I pray that I will become my parents.

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Proverbs 22:6
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Posted on June 20, 2018 and filed under Building Your Family.