Her Life Looks Great Part II: She’s Doing It Better Than I Am

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I want to share a recent experience I had with you. Most recently this issue collided with my homeschooling, but it has happened in so many aspects of my motherhood before. Please forgive the long intro if you aren’t a homeschooling mama, but it helps to serve the point I’m getting at. :)

It was time to prepare for the next homeschool year. I was full of goals, hopes, and dreams. Before I got carried away by publishers’ promises and colorful curriculum covers, I felt the Lord putting the pause button on my heart. He seemed to whisper, “Stop. Just pray first. Don’t buy anything.”

And so I began weeks of prayer. Instead of looking at curriculum websites and listening to all the benefits of using their program, I thought about my young family. What do we have time for? What do I want homeschooling to look like in our home? Who are my children? How do they learn?

Oh wait--an email for a curriculum sale! Can I buy something?! No. Okay. I get it, I’ll just pray.

I have evaluated questions like these many times before. I believe vision casting is key--especially when you are setting out on the sometimes-isolating journey of home education, feeling the subtle skepticism of some around you. But medical challenges in our family caused me to re-evaluate my methods, priorities, and limitations. I’m thankful they did. I decided to look for someone farther along in the journey than I was to glean from. The non-negotiable part of my homeschooling day is cuddling up with my kiddos on the couch for a devotion and reading time. We read. And read. And read. I learn so much about the way their minds work as we experience stories together. Anyway, I sought out someone with the same values. Of course Sarah Mackenzie is the leading cheerleader for Christian parents to read to their kids. It turns out that she has a very similar Meyers-Briggs personality to me, so it makes sense that I am so inspired by her. I prayed through a lot of Sarah’s resources. This helped me narrow down my focus and my curriculum choices.

Then I made a schedule of what our ideal day would look like. Would we have time for the curriculum I was looking at? Were these programs really accomplishing the goals I had set? Did the books provide opportunities to disciple and shepherd my kids? When I was confident I was committing to the appropriate amount of materials, I felt peace to purchase the items. I very clearly felt I was supposed to do less and do it well before I could consider adding any more to our day. Sarah says, “What our kids need most is a calm, happy mother to homeschool them”. I so agree, and I felt certain that I was on the right track.

The books arrived. They fit so nicely on their shelf without being overcrowded by expensive books that would barely be opened. The school year began. I felt such peace about the Lord’s direction.

A few weeks later, we had an orientation and picnic for our homeschool co-op, and I was introduced to another mom. She was lovely. She had four boys, so this mama of three boys and a girl immediately felt connected to her. She was sweet and humble with the softest hint of a southern accent. She was calm even as she nursed her newborn in a park while keeping tabs on her older sons and having conversations with strangers. And she was wearing an adorable trendy jumpsuit. I immediately knew we’d be friends. After a few more quick conversations at homeschool pick-up, I told her. “I’d just love to pick your brain about homeschool and what it looks like for you.”

She agreed it would be great to talk more, and we got together a few weeks later. Awhile into the conversation I found out that Lily has a blog. She loves to pour into moms and encourage them where they are at. So I went home so excited to have a friend with so much in common. And then I started reading her posts.

My stomach sank as I looked at her homeschool schedule.

She was doing more than me.

She had different curriculum than I did.

She even had time to blog about it.

I wasn’t doing enough.

I must have bought the wrong books.

I didn’t even know some of these existed.

I must not have researched enough.  

Basically--I was doing it wrong.

Have you had those moments? Those days? Those weeks?

There are times God puts people in our path to give us wisdom. And there are other times He has already given us the wisdom and we need to stick with it. We all have different personalities and different life situations, and we need to be faithful to who we were made to be.

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I’m sure you’re laughing at how quickly I had forgotten my prayerful process.

God had so calmly and patiently guided me through the steps to create peace and joy in my home. And it was working. I was loving my days. I had learned so much about my kinesthetic-learning second-grader, and he was having a much better year. My kindergartener and preschooler were thriving with the curriculum I bought. My baby was faithfully napping according to the schedule I had set. I was spending more one-on-one time with each child, aiming to foster security in their hearts. We were off to a great start. Until I let the lies creep in.

As I began to doubt myself, the Lord put two verses on my heart…

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. (Gal 5:7-8 NIV)

He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:11)

Who snuck in on me? Who told me I was naked/not enough? I did. No one else. I said I wasn’t good enough. I said I needed to do more. I let comparison rob me of joy.

Did Lily do anything wrong? Absolutely not! She was just being a woman after God’s heart. I was disappointed with myself, and the fact that I couldn’t do everything I had once planned on doing. Seeing someone else able to meet those goals was difficult for me. But obeying the Lord and surrendering our plans is what we are called to do. I hope to be a cheerleader for her as she follows after God’s direction for her family. I don’t want my sensitivity for comparison to stifle relationships.

To be honest, I was over this episode of comparisonitis pretty quickly, but I share it because I was amazed that after all of that prayer I was so easily able to doubt God’s leading in my life.

So how do we protect ourselves from comparison? Do we vow to never read a blog post, look on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest? Avoid all parks, play dates, and mom groups so we don’t have to hear about all the things we aren’t doing with our kids?

Do I even need to answer that one?

Of course not. It’s not where we go that’s the problem. It’s how we go. (Although sometimes a social media fast is in order to protect our hearts.) God gave you your kids. He chose the genders, the order, the birthdays, their personalities, their coloring, etc…, etc…, etc…. And He gave them YOU. With your experiences, your idiosyncrasies, your cooking abilities, your laundry folding preferences, your love languages. He gave them YOU. No one else on this earth is going to crank out a kiddo just like yours. (And that’s a good thing!) And no one else should have exactly the same parenting game plan. God knows you and knows your kids, so He should be leading. As we seek Him each day for wisdom, embracing His plan with confidence, we can shrug off the urge to compare and encourage our sisters. I think it’s also key that we write down or journal the guidance He gives us so that we can look back and be reminded we are where we are supposed to be. Sharing these revelations with a friend is also very helpful!

 Let’s press on in His wisdom!

Posted on February 22, 2019 and filed under Building Your Family, Building Your Faith.

Thankfulness in everything: from Christmas poems to college papers

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When I ask my 7-year-old what she wants to be when she grows up, she says she wants to be a DJ, an artist, and a mom. When I ask my 6-year-old, she says she wants to be a police officer on Mondays and Tuesdays, an astronaut on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and a dentist on Fridays in addition to being a mom all days. When I ask my 4-year-old, he asks if he can have a granola bar. Maybe he wants to be a chef or food critic?

I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a mom, a teacher, and a writer. My third-grade teacher was one of my favorites in elementary school and watching her made me want to teach too. Then I had a teacher in eighth grade who encouraged me in my writing and that fueled me to write lots of poems and short stories. I did internships with preschool and fifth grade to see what age I preferred to teach. I started college working towards a degree in Education, but the more I continued in the degree, the more I knew I didn’t want to teach – at least not young kids. At that point, I had no idea what I wanted to do so I stuck with the education field but shifted gears towards the administrative side.

 When I graduated from Moody Bible Institute in 1999, I found a job at a small company that produced continuing education materials for adults. I was thankful to have found a niche to use my degree. I also got to do some writing. Five years later I had finished my Masters and was hired at Awana Clubs Int’l where I began as an editor and later became a program designer. In that role, I got to write lessons and resources for teachers as well as contribute to developing materials for kids.

Since then I’ve been able to work from home, writing, editing, and, since 2013, teaching. I’m an online professor for Moody Distance Learning where I teach Research Writing and College Writing. And for years now, I’ve been freelancing as a writer and editor.  

My parents were cleaning out their attic in December and sent me a picture of a poem they found. It was a week when I was grading a slew of papers and trying to get final grades posted. Stress was high and I struggled to find the energy to keep going. But the picture drew immediate happy tears. My dad found a poem I had written around Christmas in second grade and while the poem won’t win any awards, it was an affirmation. I’m doing exactly what I should be doing.

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I smile when I think about where I am as a 41-yr-old. I’m doing what my second-grade young self wanted to do. First, I’m a mom to three precious kids and I get to be home (even though there are days where a quiet office to work in sounds glorious). Second, I’m very fortunate that I can work from home because we still need my income. Third, I can’t believe that I get to do work that I love! I’m a teacher but instead of teaching younger kids, I teach college students. And I get to write articles, blogs, and curriculum.

But between third grade and now, there have also been maaaaaany struggles and difficult times. Maybe you’re doing what you dreamed about doing when you were a kid. Maybe you’re discouraged with where you are. Either way, 1 Thessalonians tells us to give thanks: “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Notice it doesn’t say to give thanks FOR everything. It says IN everything. I need to remember to be thankful during the frustrating times and the exciting times. I need to be thankful regardless of my circumstances. But that’s not always easy. I’ve had frustrating jobs and fertility struggles and I haven’t always been gracious or the first to give thanks in those situations. But during a rough week of grading, God encouraged me – the poem my parents found was a reminder to give thanks in everything. Will I always be thankful in everything now? Nope. But I’m going to frame that poem so I’ll have something tangible to look at when I need to be reminded to be thankful!

Posted on February 8, 2019 and filed under Building Your Faith.

Her Life Looks Great: Turning Social Media Envy Into Gratitude

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We have several options of how to utilize and respond to social media. This post is not going to tell you what you should be doing or posting. Rather, I want to encourage a perspective shift you may need--like me--as you scroll. I promise, I have no agenda here. I’m not on a soap box trying to get you to change any habits. I’m hoping to offer freedom if you also struggle with envy at times.


One night as I looked at my Facebook feed, I noticed how discouraged I felt about the trials my family was going through. It seemed like we were the only ones being hit by the storms of life. Abruptly, I opened up my camera roll and, instead of focusing on everyone else’s highlights, I looked at my own. Pictures of my baby girl, surrounded by three adoring brothers. No one even looks like they are sick. A kitchen that is gorgeous and just how I wanted it--and you can’t even tell it’s still not finished. A baby sitting atop her sweet pink play kitchen (given to us by a dear friend)… and I didn’t think about how much attention it takes to keep her safe right now. Boys that destroy playrooms because a desire for construction overtakes them… and all I saw was their precious, joyful smiles. A selfie with my boys was delightful if I didn’t focus on the fact that their dad was too exhausted to join in on the family adventure day. A children’s author we got to go see for free because our local library sponsored the event… and you can’t even tell my son’s stomach was upset due to food allergies.  Three boys teaching their sister how to sing “Jesus Loves Me” while sitting in a box. A box someone (we still can’t find out who!!!) sent us with a giant, stuffed golden retriever. And it doesn’t matter that my son is severely allergic to dogs because someone made it happen with this gift. Three mighty men walking through a nature preserve and pretending it is Narnia and Aslan is on the move. No one would know we didn’t get through as much homeschool as I wanted that day, and I spent way more time than I wanted removing the mud from their shoes when we arrived home. Boys surrounded by blankets and couch cushions and a destroyed living room that led to us hopping on lily pads to 100. Amazing Lego displays at the library. No evidence we had to rush out because a screaming little girl had had it. Eggs yolks that naturally formed a smile. The whole family in coordinating costumes. PIctures of my little girl finding the dark chocolate stash… and then her daddy’s coffee pot! A half-finished boys bedroom that will be exactly what I was hoping for when it’s finished. Boys covered in mud because they can make anything fun… and this picture holds no evidence of my needing to scrub the four rooms they tracked the mud in through the house. A video of my kids singing worship at the top of their lungs  through a locked bathroom door.

Life is a gift.

When I slow down to look at my life through these snapshots, I am overtaken by gratitude. The moments of my day strung together are breathtaking. Forget the pain. Forget the sorrow. I am abundantly blessed. No more “Her life looks great.” My life looks great.

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So I took a break from social media. Instead of taking a few minutes to scroll, I started looking through my own photos at night. Praise filled my thoughts as I meditated on God’s goodness toward my family. Honestly I was hooked. Meditating on the good moments refreshed me. Study after study confirms what God’s Word has told us--thankfulness is key. Gratitude produces joy in us.

 So, my Sweet Sister, do you struggle with envy at times? Do you need to look at your own blessings and stand in awe of how God is working in your own life? I pray you find the joy and strength there to do well another day....Or to start fresh another day. As Betsy reminds us, “Every day counts”, and you have what you need to do it joyfully dear Mama.

Posted on December 14, 2018 and filed under Building Your Faith.

Little Eyes Are Watching: Why my Choices Matter

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I’m finding myself more and more irritated with sitcoms and commercials these days. So many of them portray dads as bumbling fools who can’t be trusted to take care of their kids or share in the housework. And even if they’re respected in the workplace, at home they’re childish and selfish and their wives chastise them in front of the kids on a regular basis. I don’t know which causes me to get more upset: the way men are portrayed or how women react to the men.

Betsy Corning has heard George Barna speak many times and according to research done by the Barna Group, most kids have developed their worldview by age thirteen. A worldview is the lens through which we see life. It affects how we view the world, culture, family, church, God. My seven-year-old will have a well-developed worldview in less than six years! Realizing this has made me think more deeply about some things.

 Not only will my kids have developed their worldview about the world, culture, etc., but they will also have a worldview about the home and how it functions. So, what do they see in our home? How will my actions and my husband’s actions influence them? How do Jason and I treat each other? Do we show each other love and affection? Do we display core truths of the Bible? Do I honor Jason? Even in the little things, do I act in such a way that shows our kids that I love and respect Daddy?

 Overall, the answer is yes. But recently, I’ve done a few things that, in retrospect, are not a positive influence for my kids. Yes, they’re small and might seem insignificant, but those are the things kids pick up on! A couple weeks ago, Jason took the kids to school because I was sick. I let our three-year-old, Hunter, take his stuffed fox in the car on the way to school. He leaves it in the car and then it’s there when I pick him up after preschool. As Jason was getting the kids ready to go he told Hunter to leave his fox at home. I corrected Jason in front of the kids and told him that I let Hunter take his fox in the car. There have been a few other instances like this. Like I said, they’re not big deals, but I’m correcting Jason in front of the kids. I felt convicted about it so I apologized to him.

 As I’ve been pondering how my actions with Jason influence my kids, I’ve also become aware that not only are my actions with him significant, but my actions by what I choose to let our kids be exposed to are significant.

 I’m a Food Network and Cooking Channel junkie. I don’t like to cook, but I like watching others cook. So while the shows I have on aren’t an issue, the commercials can be. The kids will see commercials where wives and kids are rolling their eyes at Dad because he tried to fix the leaky faucet but made a mess or he forgot to pick up someone from soccer practice.

 Even these commercials, as short as they are, can be a negative influence as my kids are developing their worldview about family life. Granted, the kids are usually playing with toys or watching a video on our iPad so they’re not focused on the commercial. But it’s still there in the background.

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 I need to show my kids that I’m for Jason. That’s something Betsy focused on the last couple weeks at our Entrusted Bible Study. (If you haven’t gone through the study, find one or start one – you won’t regret it!) I need to let Jason provide, protect, and lead our family. I want to be like the Proverbs 31 woman – doing him good and not evil all the days of my life. Why? Well, first, the Bible commands it. Second, it strengthens our marriage. And third, it shows our kids what marriage should look like. It will help them develop a healthy and biblical worldview about family and home.

As with everything in my life, I will mess up. But even in those times I’m not the best wife I should be, when I apologize to Jason in front of the kids, that too will be a positive example of how the family should act and will help our kids develop a biblical worldview.

Posted on December 4, 2018 and filed under Building Your Family.

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.