Sunday, May 29, 2016

Gospel-Centered Mothering

I recently joined a book club organized by some local homeschooling moms.  We had our first meeting this past Saturday, and the fellowship was most enjoyable!  Several weeks ago, when one of the club hostesses told me the title of the book that would be discussed, my attention was immediately piqued!  Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full.  Yes, yes, yes!  That's me!  My hands are definitely full, yet I long to treasure Christ more.

As soon as I began reading this book, I was blown away by how much Scripture was quoted on just about each page.  It was such a refreshing read because every thought, every concept was beautifully interwoven with verse after verse from God's Word.  Familiar verses I've read dozens of time came alive in new ways because of being paired with other verses or thoughts from the author as she related them to grace, and specifically, grace in mothering.

I read this book quickly in order to be finished in time for the club meeting.  However, I would like to go back and read it more slowly the second time to truly savor the truths found in its chapters.  For now, my major take-aways include: 

~ The importance of confessing my sin to my children when I lose my patience with them and speak unkindly.  This is something I should have started doing a long time ago, but for some reason, I tended to justify my wrong reactions to my children's misbehavior because of what they were doing that "provoked" my impatience.  Real mature, huh?  The author shared something similar from her life, and it convicted me.  I have recently tried to be more sensitive to my tone of voice and moments when I don't have the right response and ask forgiveness of my little ones.  It's been amazing to see Isaac's little eyes light up when Mommy asks forgiveness, just as I've taught him to do, and how willingly and graciously he is ready to give it.

~ How integral the Gospel is to mothering.  It's not just about salvation and a starting place for everything else in my walk with God but about so much more, including mothering.  I wish I could elaborate on this point more clearly, but I've tried three times and not found the words.  Perhaps some of the below quotes will lend further insight into what I'm trying to say here.

~ How beautiful grace is, and how very much of it God has available for my every day, every need, every moment!  I came to a renewed, refreshed understanding of the phrase I've heard so often, "My grace is sufficient for thee."  As I understand better and lean more fully on the grace of God, that grace can then pour forth to my children. 

~ My need to lean on the Lord completely, trusting in Him for the kindness, the patience, the delight I want to have for my children.  He is my unlimited resource for all things that pertain to life and Godliness and victorious mothering!

And now for some quotes I highlighted from my first read-through of Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full:

The Gospel stands above and beyond all the most practical, family-friendly, or cost effective philosophies of mothering.  

When Jesus rescued me from hell, he also rescued me to himself.  

“Truly alone” time with the Lord is a gift.  But so are the times when you’re ring-mastering your family circus.  The Lord is just as near to you when you’re using a bulb sucker on a tiny, congested nose and as you’re summoning the wisdom of Solomon to settle a spat over a disputed toy.

It is this love - the love of Christ - that compels Christian mothers to love their children.  The love of Christ in her heart is what overflows when a mother speaks kindly to her children even when they don’t speak kindly back.

A mother’s Spirit-empowered sacrificial love is what enables her to willingly complicate her life for the sake of her children.

Consider how the Lord Jesus Christ willingly and cheerfully complicated His life so that He could share His life with us.  Although He was in the form of God, He “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8).  As if becoming God incarnate wasn’t humbling enough for the Creator, this innocent author of life further humbled himself by allowing himself to be crucified like a criminal.

There are times when we are not motivated by the love of Christ, and we fume at our children not because they break God’s law but because they break ours.  

 I am so thankful for how the Gospel frees me from seeking glory in my parenting or in my kids.  My children, although they probably can’t articulate it yet, are relieved that when I treasure Jesus, they are freed from the burden of being the center of my world.  No child should have to shoulder the weight of her mother’s glory and reputation.

Every mother can be freed from seeking her own glory as she loves her children for the sake of Jesus’ name being made famous among the nations.

Spiritual counsel that has “empty calories” or is devoid of rich, biblical doctrine cannot and will not satisfy a soul that was made to be satisfied only with an infinite God.

Motherhood is physically exhausting, emotionally draining work.  Where can a mother find the strength she needs to serve her family?  From God, who is “able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work (2 Cor. 9:8).  Even when our back gives out and our body is tired, God can strengthen mothers “with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy” (Col. 1:11).  Thanksgiving is the proper response to God as He extends to us all the inheritance of grace we have in Christ (Col. 1:12).

I remembered that motherhood is not a blessing given to me because I deserve it.  It isn’t a reward for my good deeds or (as some might suggest) a sentencing for my bad deeds.  God made me a mother because He jealously and rightly desires praise for His own name, and this is how He saw fit to do it.

God’s grace is sufficient for everything He has called us to.  “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work (2 Cor. 9:8).  God makes all grace abound to us through His Son, Jesus.  And it’s through the strength of His indwelling Holy Spirit that we are able to abound in (not just drag through) every good work He lays in front of us.  And as we work, we work with an eye toward eternity, knowing that our work is not in vain in the Lord.  “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).

What is Motherhood?
Motherhood is a piece of evidence of God’s triumphant agenda to give life despite the curse of death.  It is a gift that points us to Jesus.  As life marches on to the praise of God’s glory, we see a riveting display of the grace of our Father, who will fulfill His promise to give His Son an inheritance of nations to the praise of His glory. There’s no greater goal than that.

At the end of every day - chaotic and mundane alike  - motherhood is about the adoration and enjoyment of our great God. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Anniversary Get-Away to Hocking Hills

Tomorrow marks four years of being the wife and side-kick of this good-lookin' guy!  
As is our annual tradition, we enjoyed a delightful anniversary get-away to the beautiful Hocking Hills of Ohio the past few days.  I can't tell you how much I was looking forward to this trip!  It is my one time of year that I get to have a couple days "off" from my full-time job at home and simply focus on my husband.  We had a wonderful time basking in God's creation, reminiscing over our years together, and just being the two of us!  

Hiking in Hocking Hills State Park was definitely a highlight of the trip!  The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful and incredibly serene.

A unique rock formation that reminded me of a diving board.

So much green - even on the rocks!

Old Man's Cave

The Lower Falls

Trees growing out of rocks.

Fun trails!

So many gorgeous waterfalls...but only one tree growing sideways out of the cliff. :)

Cedar Falls

Love birds!

After a three-hour hike, we were ready to pull up to our cozy accommodations at The Tree House cabin!

We immediately took advantage of the hot tub to soak our sore feet and tired bodies!

Afterward, we headed to the private lake on the property for a bit of evening fishing.

Nathan thought it would be fun to have a little competition and see who could catch the most fish.  Here he is reeling in one of his catches.  I finished the night with 6.  He caught 4.

However, the next morning, we took the supplied canoe out on the lake where Nathan had a very successful time catching and I only reeled in three.  He caught a grand total of 16 fish compared to my 9.  Fishing is a hobby Nathan has enjoyed since he was a child, and an activity he has graciously helped me learn to participate in!  We specifically chose the Tree House cabin out of the hundreds of cabin choices in Hocking Hills because of this private lake with fishing opportunities, and it did not disappoint!  There is something so peaceful about fishing in an environment like this.  It's been a fun activity to do together that we started on our honeymoon and have continued on several of our anniversary trips. :)  (Hopefully, the bit about a tippy canoe and me falling half-way into the lake will not be repeated on future trips!)

After a morning of fishing, canoeing, and hot-tubbing, we headed out for a very brief hike to Ash Cave, another notable attraction in the area.  

The beauty of God's creation is unsurpassed!

Once upon a time when I was single, I used to wonder if I would ever get married, who I would get married to, what our children would be like, and what sort of life we would have together.  Four years into marriage, I can only thank God every day for His goodness in bringing me this man.  He is my best friend, my lover, my hero, my pastor, my teacher, my companion, and the father of my children.  I still can't believe he chose me!  He is not perfect and neither am I, and we don't always agree on every little thing, but we have learned to extend grace that bears with the failures, patience that gives room for growth, and love that covers a multitude of sins.  The fours years we have spent together as husband and wife have been delightful and anything but dull!  Three moves, three churches, and three children later, we are closer than ever before!  I love this man with all my heart and am so thankful to be his!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Great Library Finds

I'm playing catch-up with our recent library finds and giving you two rounds' worth. :)  Keep in mind, we check out about 20 books every week or two, so I am only picking out of those batches the highlights to share with you.

I imagine most of you are familiar with the famous book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. It is one of our favorites!  Naturally, my boys also love the other books in this series by Laura Numeroff which we've been checking out quite a bit lately.  This book about a dog was especially a hit with Josiah who loves all things "doggie". :)  

I think the reason the children like these books so well is because of their fun, colorful pictures with simple text and a wonderfully imaginative story line that is easy to follow.  I like them, too, because I can so relate to going from one activity to another in great distraction and not always completing them before the next pressing need presents itself. :)

After reading this one in which a pig makes a tree house, Isaac spent several mornings in a row during our outside play time collecting big sticks to build his own "tree house" on the front porch and even went so far as to "paint" it (for pretend) like we read about the pig doing.  I love to see their imaginations flourishing!

This was another sweet story by the same author as the "If You Give..." series.  I found this as a board book and really appreciated a story about two brothers treating each other with great kindness and playing together so happily.  I'm sure you can understand why. :)

In conjunction with our month's theme on baby animals, this non-fiction book about animals all over the world was very informative and engaging!

Another classic that was greatly enjoyed by my children!  We read this book and followed it up with a mother to baby animal matching game.

This book is full of gorgeous photographs that the author took of a spirited little chipmunk living in her yard.  Then, she wrote a story of his adventures to go with the photos.  A very enjoyable read with wonderful pictures!

I thought this looked like a fun book that would incorporate counting skills, but I had no idea just how much Isaac would become enamored with this story!  He asked to read it nearly every day and had a gazillion questions about various aspects of the story (usually starting with the question, "why" because we are now in that infamous phase of life!).  I used the book as an opportunity to practice counting with him as well as reading simple words that he can sound out like "up,", "on," and "top."  It was a win-win all the way around!

I don't know about your children, but Isaac has fallen in love with Richard Scarry books!  This is one of several I picked up at the library, and he asked to read it over and over!  I liked the benefit of the manners that were being taught with each illustration and story. :)

This was a Richard Scarry book I found at a garage sale for fifty cents (score!).  Although Isaac is not able to read it for himself yet, he absolutely loves the simple stories and fun pictures.  It has probably been our most read book over the past many weeks!

I first read this book when I was a teenager and was immediately and forever captivated by the beautiful, realistic pictures.  The story of Noah's Ark has resonated with me ever since I was a little girl, but this book made it come alive in a fresh way.  When I happened upon it on our public library shelves, I knew I wanted to share the beauty of these pictures with my children and help them cultivate wonder at this remarkable story beyond the cartoony-style pictures that are so prevalent in their children's Bible books.  Indeed, they were mesmerized by the story and the pictures!  This is definitely one book I would like to add to our own personal library to be read over and over again.

Friday, May 13, 2016

A Bucket-Load of Pictures!

It would seem a pattern is forming with my blog posts of late: Take a bunch of pictures over the course of a month or more, eventually get around to uploading and editing them, and finally find the time to share them on the blog. Blogging is my outlet for creativity, for news sharing with family and friends, and for a form of journalling (often in the pictorial sense), so it is an activity I greatly enjoy and would love to do more of more frequently.  However, my real life family (not just their pictures) and busy household responsibilities always take precedence!  In addition to raising children, homeschooling, cooking, laundry, ministries at church, and husband care, we have also factored in chickens and a spring has been especially full!  Enjoy this glimpse into the month of April and beginning of May from our little patch of land in Ohio. :)

Bright, happy colors of delicious produce going through the wash before making it into the fridge.  I love happy colors like these!

And these!

But not these. :)
In all his three years of life, we've never had a problem with Isaac coloring the wall.  Josiah, however, is another story entirely.  He will color on anything and everything if given the three minutes of unsupervised time while Mommy used the bathroom and Daddy was getting ready for work! Ha!  Needless to say, I took the time not long after to move all of our art supplies that were right at hand's reach on that windowsill to a shelf only accessibly by grown-ups in hopes of preventing the help-yourself-to-the-crayons mentality.  It makes for a much more organized school storage space and a more decluttered window ledge which equals *happy* in my book!

Mr. Sunshine!

There is a picture in my baby book that looks so much like this one!  I'll have to go find it some day to share...

Happy boy!

Operation chicken coop delivery!

The boys were so excited to see the new coop and watch our Amish neighbor who built it install it on cement blocks.

Scoping out the interior.

Hi, Mom!

Isn't it beautiful?!
I don't have a picture to show yet, but Nathan quickly built a nice run off to the left side where the chickens love to eat fresh grass and enjoy the sunshine.  We plan to free range them as much as possible, but when they do need to be penned up, the run is a great place for them to be out of doors.

And Hilltop Farm is born!

Here is a picture of the inside before we installed a hanging feeder.

Lots of nesting boxes they don't use yet.

Our big garden got plowed that same day, thanks to a very kind friend from church who hauled his tractor and roto-vator over!

The boys were very fascinated to watch Mr. John at work!

And for those of you who have commented on the lack of Nathan pictures recently, here you go! ;)  My hardworking, handsome man!

Josiah Bear

Davy Crockett the construction man?

Adoniah is turning into quite the little climber.  He just can't quite figure out how to get down off of things yet!

We've been learning about baby animals in our preschool program this spring (much more on that later!), so we took a field trip to a church member's goat farm where they had lots of adorable little babies!

The herd outside.

Their donkey guardian.  Seriously.

Josiah, our animal lover, was a little bit intimidated up close!  Hopefully, by the time we get our own goats, he will feel more comfortable around them. :)

My outdoorsy boy.

Isaac loved helping to feed the goats!

And the giant tree swings were a hit!

Getting to be such a big boy!

Mr. Max helping JoJo swing.

A recent, free addition to our outdoor toys has been VERY well loved by both older boys!

This is his just-woke-up-not-quite-chipper-yet face. :)

Getting happier by the minute.

Addy-Boy playing while Mommy snaps green beans.

That's all for now, folks!