Sunday, December 25, 2011

2011 Memories

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Joy is in His Presence Not Presents

Last year we tried to be very intentional about keeping Christ at the center of Christmas. This year I feel like we have done that but n a different way...instead of constantly doing activities we have been a bit more quiet, a bit more prayerful and a lot more peaceful. Going into this holiday season I set my mind that anything that stressed me out as we prepared for the holidays wasn't from the Lord. If it was stressing me out...He wasn't in it.

We decorated the house and continued with our homeschooling lessons, finished up our fostering homestudy work, and just genuinely have enjoyed each other. I haven't had time to bake a bajillion cookies and we haven't done half of the traditional things we typically do, but there is a peace and a joy about our house that has been lacking for far too long.

I firmly believe the decision to homeschool our kids this year was from God. I do however believe it was less about their education and more about refining me. It has caused me to take a look at my selfishness and really die to myself each day. It has brought me to focus on truly doing everything as unto the Lord and to find joy and gratitude in all situations. I am coming to realize that I do not need validation and praise from my family (though it is nice). I know He knows my heart and He sees. I am ever so thankful that His grace covers me in all of my shortcomings and am learning each day to be sure and extend that grace.

A week or so ago as part of our Advent Challenge we decided to sponsor a child from World Vision. We typed in Isaac's birthdate and up popped the picture of sweet Samuel, (who we later found out when we received our information that his last name was Happy...Thank you Lord!) and Luke read from the Bible and as we talked about giving to "the least of these" as a way of giving to Him for His birthday, my sweet 8 year old looked up and said..."Then mom, are WE the least of these? Why do we get toys for His birthday?" Um...I had nothing. I rationalized all kinds of things about celebrating and wanting to give to the people we love (which is somewhat valid) but largely...I was at a loss.

Howard and I discussed not getting the kids presents this year but I wasn't ready for that...I'll be honest...I LOVE to see their faces on Christmas morning, and we don't go crazy, they each get a gift from each of their siblings and one from us and we do one family gift from Santa. I just love the joy of the kids on Christmas.

A few days later we were again discussing our Advent Challenge and decided to let the kids pick something from the World Vision catalog to buy for Christmas. They decided on chickens. We told them that for every dollar they contributed we would match it. That afternoon, Luke asked if he could go to my dad's garage to stack wood to earn money. (Grandpa pays well and I had seen Luke eying up a Star Wars Lego set) So he came home a couple of hours later and opened his hand and showed me that Grandpa had paid him SIX dollars. I told him to go put it away and he said, "No, is for the chicks." I stood there feeling guilty for taking his money. He assured me he wanted ALL of it to go to the "chick fund" he had done the math and he knew with his donation we were halfway there.

That night as I tucked him in he was GIDDY. I mean seriously crawling out of his skin and jumping for joy. I asked why he was so happy and he said. "Mom, I never knew giving everything I had would feel so good. It seems like it would make me sad but I am just so happy I could do that. It is so fun to give. This must be why Jesus gave up everything for us." My eyes filled with tears and I kissed him good night as tears fell down my cheeks. I had forgotten. I had forgotten that allowing and even encouraging our children to GIVE WAS A GIFT. My gut reaction when he handed me that money was to give it back to him and tell him to save it for his Lego set. Had I done that, I would have robbed him of an even greater gift.

I am not sure what Christmas will look like next year in our house, but I am so grateful for the reminder that joy doesn't come from opening gifts. Joy comes from the Lord. It comes from gratitude and giving. The world teaches us that Christmas means presents. This Christmas I am thankful for his constant presence in my life through those I love most. Luke astounds me and makes me want to be a better me. I am so very thankful for all of the amazing gifts I have been given...not one of those being "things". What are you thankful for this Christmas?  May your holiday season be filled with His presence.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Schooling Dilemmas

I come here looking for tips, tricks and advice from my fellow moms who school your kids at home...I have been at this for three months now and have tried a variety of different things to make school work best for our family. I have tried the, get everyone up early and work on a schedule type day, the do school with one child while the others play and then alternate kids day, and the relaxed let them take all day kind of day. I have yet to find something that works perfectly for raising and educating a 2nd grader, a preschooler and a toddler.

I had been feeling defeated and pulled in so many directions that I feared I might lose my mind. I prayed and prayed that God would give the clear direction, and I think He has. Yesterday I woke with some strong convictions. One about ME getting up early even if and especially if no one else does. A typical morning here has me getting up with Howard to send him off and make sure he has his coffee, breakfast, lunch, then I typically go back into my bed and read subsequently falling back asleep only to wake when Hope (who has yet to realize she can get out of her big girl bed herself) screams my name like the house is on fire. I have to admit...waking up to that doesn't set me up for success. Then Ben typically wakes to the alarm of hearing Hope yell MOOOOOOOMMMMMM! We snuggle and watch Dora and wait for Luke to get up and then we have breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth, make beds and begin school.

The Lord has reminded me yet again that while I love my warm bed in the still dark morning, that my days go better when I get up early, send Howard off, get myself dressed, get a cup of coffee and pray and read before the children get up...when I have had he opportunity to start my day with Him in the quiet peace of the morning it definitely has an impact on the entire day, yet that soft warm bed entices me.

Another conviction I believe He is alerting me to is my use of the TV. Obviously during school time we can't have the TV on but I have been so guilty of leaning on the TV to entertain Hope while we do school in lieu of finding her appropriate activities to do. Yesterday we spent the day TV free and it was so fantastic.

I also need to stay off the computer myself. I am often times lured by the computer to check Facebook or a deal site and then find myself snapping at the kids when they want to steal my attention from my laptop. They deserve ALL of me not just my leftovers.

So, I've set some goals for myself for the next few weeks...I've written them down so I can reassess in a week or two. Here they are:

1. To get up early no matter what and get my day started with God and prayer so that I can be fresh and ready to greet the three blessings He has given me the way they deserve to be greeted. To greet them with a smile, a hug and a prayer for the day each morning.

2. To have ALL meals planned out to avoid the chaos of what's for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and to include the kids in preparing the meals.

3. To not rush through school and take a more "team work" approach...allowing the kids to be included in all lessons if it interests them and allow them to teach each other more.

4. To include the kids in more of the chores of the day to allow them to take ownership of our home and see first hand the work that it takes to keep things up.

5. To include family devotion time each day as we do our Advent Challenge.

6. To stay off of my computer during the day...allowing for time checking messages and blogging in the morning before the kids wake or in the evening after they are in bed.

I hope to check in at the end of next week and see if our days are more peaceful and if I've followed through. :) What are some goals you have? What helps your day go better and more peacefully?