Friday, January 30, 2009

Journal in a Jar

I wanted to share an idea I came across around the Christmas holidays. This idea, however, could be adapted to any time of the year. While browsing Mary Hunts website, under her archive section, I found an idea that she labels "Journal in a Jar." Mary Hunt is always coming up with ways to save money and her ideas for gifts are no exception. But, what struck me about this idea was not that it was inexpensive...all you mainly invest is your time and creativity...but that the idea behind the gift will be remembered and cherished for years, and generations to come. You basically take a mason jar and fill it with slips of paper with questions on them. Cut the questions out individually. Give the recipient a journal and pen. Have them take one question out at a time (you could do 365 for each day of the year, 52 for each week of the year...whatever number of questions suit you), and then have them write the question, or glue it to the top of the page and then answer the question on that page. When you are done, you have a wonderful journal of the important events from the life of your loved one. How precious a gift to read with your little ones, or to pass down to future generations to those who may not know grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. I just wish I had done this before my own father died. The website also gives direction in what type of questions to put in there...but you can come up with whatever you would like to ask that person. The wonderful thing about this is, it is a gift that will long be remembered...not just another gift that may have no real significance to it. And the great thing about a gift like this is that it does not have to be given at a certain can do it just because! Think about creating a special keepsake for yourself and your children to enjoy. When you are finished putting the questions in, you can decorate the jar with ribbon, paper and stickers. Let your creative juices flow! If you do try it, drop me a line and let me know. I would love to hear what you came up with! Until next time!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Productive Day

Sometimes, even with the greatest of intentions, there are days when life happens and you don't accomplish a good portion of the things you had planned. Well, today was one of those days where we did accomplish a good many things, and when they come there is such a feeling of satisfaction. There were four loads of laundry, washed, dried and put away. Four small Christmas trees taken down and ornments put away...garland and other decorations as well. Josiah and I had finished math, phonics, reading, spelling and English before lunch today. I corrected past English papers with Joy, taught a new English lesson, graded her Bible and reading work, directed her in math, and helped her with her music some. I called the plumber, as we have a bathroom sick that is clogging. Worked on some bills online. Straightened up in the kitchen. Directed the children during chore time. Actually read aloud today from a classic. Also read a chapter and a half of the Bible to the children this morning. Then, prepared a nice comforting meal of homemade potato soup and cornbread from scratch....from the grinding of the cornmeal and wheat, to the peeling and cutting up of the potatoes...and added some turkey bacon to put on top. It was a good day. There is such satisfaction in just the accomplishment of doing the things that make a house a home. I am thankful to be a stay at home Mom...and days like this just show me what a joy it is. To provide a good, healthy meal for my husband just home from work, to providing the best education I possibly can for my little ones, to helping maintain my husband's castle...what a blessing it all truly is. May you also find joy in God's calling on your life today.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Looking Pretty!

Julia just loves to watch me when I put on my makeup. The other day, she decided that she would try her hand at putting on some of my lipstick. This is not the first time she has done this, but it is one of the worst...or cutest, whichever way you choose to look at it! Here she is, in all her lipstick glory. Notice the blotch on the arm. I am not sure how that happened, unless she just decided to wipe a little bit off of her mouth.

We have been busy this weekend, trying to get projects done here and there, some started but not quite finished. I managed to get to the commissary after making my weekly menu. We had a wonderful dinner with friends on Saturday evening. Friday was busy with Jonathan taking my vacuum cleaner to the shop to get it fixed and trying to do things around the house. I did manage to get some clothes the children have outgrown to a new consignment shop and will be able to use the money for those clothes to buy more for the next season. Believe it or not, I still do not have all my Christmas decorations down yet! I am trying to rearrange things and weed out items I no longer need as I go along, so it is taking a little longer than normal. And, of course, there are all the tasks of the house and homeschooling to sometimes other projects end up taking a back seat, or at least get taken at a slower pace. I have started several piles around the house...those things that are being given to someone specific, things to be taken to Goodwill, and another for clothes that can be taken to a consignment shop for either money or store credit. We have managed to buy most of our spring shoes with the money we get from consigning, so it has been well worth the little bit of work it costs me. I have found that many times after I get rid of things that are not used often enough to justify, or things I am holding on to "just in case" I might need them, there is such a freedom in not having it there to move around, clean, or try to figure how I am going to organize it! So, I am greatly looking forward to getting rid of my "piles" soon. I am keeping a list of things I am getting rid of and will post that periodically when I do. I think it will be quite amazing to see what we disposed of when it is all said and done! Well, I will run and spend some family time with my wonderful husband and children. Don't ever forget that in the end it is people, not things that matter most! God bless.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Snow, Beautiful Snow!

For those of you who get snow regularly where you live, you may not understand the elation that we felt when we looked outside yesterday morning and saw the beautiful white flakes falling all around. Fayetteville, NC is my home. Since marrying my husband, we have left this area to live elsewhere, but have found ourselves here at Fort Bragg, right back where I started from. The places that we have lived since my children were old enough to remember, have not gotten snow...unless we call little flurries that don't stick snow! My northern friends would probably laugh at that! But, we live in a place that if there is a touch of white that falls to the ground and stays there...there is a run on every grocery store in the area for milk and bread...(people fearing of course that they will not be able to get food because of the dire driving conditions!) I am sure to many, in other parts of the country, this is truly comical. I can count on one hand, having lived here most of my life, the times we have gotten any snow worth mentioning. None of my children have ever lived in an area where they can remember snow. So, it was a huge hit! They spent most of the day staring out the window or front door at the beautiful snowfall. Isn't it amazing how looking at God's creation, we find that nothing man can concoct can ever match the beauty and elegance of what He has created? Seeing the pristine whiteness of the snow also brought home the verse, "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow." What a beautiful picture God has painted for us in the sacrifice of His Son! May your day be blessed in Christ Jesus!

This is a picture from the outside looking in...the children (and our dog Bonnie) waiting for the moment when they can run outside and play in all that snow!
I was inside taking pictures of the kids and Jon outside. This is Jonathan and Joy loading up snowballs to throw them at me standing at the door!

Jonathan just let one snowball go and hit the door right where I was standing! Ha, ha, I was warm inside!

Sweet picture of Daddy holding his baby walking through the snow out front. Until next time!

Monday, January 19, 2009

More Thoughts on Simple Living

We try to honor Sunday worship by doing as little as possible and using it as a day of rest and worship as we believe God intended. That is why there are no posts on my blog anymore on Sundays. In fact, we have chosen to not even turn the computer on during the Lord's day. It is so easy to get caught up reading, searching, working, that the temptation is just too great and we feel it is more honoring to just keep it off during this time, rather than losing the focus of what God intended this day to be. We often find ourselves in different parts of the great room looking at books we don't get to peruse other days of the week. Everyone in the family enjoys this! We are definitely a book family! I happened to pick up a book about child training that I hadn't read in a while an came across this paragraph. The quote is from Jacob Abbott and well worth meditating on for a while. The following material was written back in the 1800's.
"If your aim is happiness, reduce your style of living and your responsibilities of business to such a point that you shall easily be able to reach it. Do this, I say, at all costs. If you cannot have money enough for your purposes, in a house with two rooms, take a house with one. For there is such a thing as happiness in a single room, with plain furniture and simple fare (food); but there is no such thing as happiness, with responsibilities which cannot be met and debts increasing, without any prospect of their discharge. If your object is power, the credit of belonging to good society, or the most rapid accumulation of property, and you are willing to sacrifice happiness for it, I might perhaps give you different advice. But if your object is happiness, then this is the only way."
What a great thought! It is so easy to look at the things others have...the newest this or compare what we have with them...but does that really matter in the end? There are not too many people on their deathbeds wishing they had a little more time to get the latest gadget...but rather realizing that all that materialism kept them from the things that were most important. So, if you decide to downsize, reorganize, simplify...whatever you wish to call so with the purpose that your time and monies that you save taking care of all those things will now be spent on a more eternal value.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Battle of "Stuff"

When Jonathan and I started feeling as though the Lord was calling us to a more "simple life" we began talking (and still are, by the way) about ways in which we could begin to make those changes now. Our long range dream is to have a mini-farm: to be able to grow most of our own food, to have a cow to get our raw milk, butter and cheeses, to grow less and less dependent on stores and their stocked shelves for our needs. But what kinds of changes can we make now? In our urban lifestyle, a Jersey cow is definitely out of the picture. :) But, there are ways that we can become less and less dependent on things...and one of those is battling the war on "stuff!" Isn't it amazing how many things one family can accumulate? How much do we really need? How much of our perceived happiness is tied to these things? In Philippians 4:11 Paul says, "Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content." I like the fact that Paul used the word "learned." That is what I am doing too...learning to be content. How easy is it to stroll through stores (craft stores for me especially!) and see all those new things that line the shelves and start your mental wishlist! Then, when the next season rolls around, those things you bought last season all of a sudden look dull and unattractive up against all the "new things" that have come out this season! How many clothes does one need? How many decorations? What about all the latest tools for your favorite crafting hobby? I wonder how people managed years ago and made such beautiful things without the latest die cut machine. Am I saying all these things are bad? No, but I am saying at some point, it is wise to take stock of our motives and realize if our momentary "contentment" is tied to these material things. Living a simple life to us begins with getting rid of excess. Scaling down means freedom. Although many things we have may bring us temporary satisfaction...the more things you have, the more time it consumes just managing them all...whether that means dusting, organizing, or storing. Then, secondly, beginning to live the simple life means taking stock on what you need and asking the hard questions about future purchases. Do I really need this? Can something I already have serve the same purpose? Can this be paid for in full now? Will it put a strain on my budget? How often do we just take a look at God's creation, the sky, a gentle breeze, a sparrow in a tree, the variety of colors and designs among God's flowers, and realize nothing is more beautiful than these? How it must grieve the heart of God to see us hurrying constantly from here to there with our list of things to get and do...filling up our days with things that often amount to nothing in the end. So, next time you are outside, stop a minute...take a deep breath and look around to see all the wonder God has given to us in the form of His creation. That is a great first step along the road to living simply.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Protecting the Eye Gate - A Movie Review

As parents, one of our primary functions is to protect our children from harm. That harm includes many things...things they see, read, listen to, wrong associations, etc. One of the most overlooked areas that we find in our society happens to be the "eye gate." What do we let our children watch? From horror movies, to video games that promote killing, to programs where we constantly have women and men parading around on screen in immodest dress...and the list goes on. It was with this in mind...and the fact that one cannot even look at a good many commercials today to see things that we would not want our children exposed to...that Jonathan and I decided to not have cable television anymore. In fact, we don't watch any TV in our home. We do have a television, but we use that mainly for school curriculum for a few subjects like math or art. For the most part, we watch DVD's that have been carefully screened by Jonathan and myself. And, we are even careful as to the amount of time that our children are allowed to watch DVD's. We have found that even if the material is not questionable, too much watching causes them to lose valuable tools of their imagination, as well as giving them a mentality that they "need" to be entertained. We would much rather them play together, work together or spend their time pouring over good books. One of the challenges in our society is finding Godly material, or at least moral material that we would allow our children to watch. That is what brings me to tell you about a wonderful resource our family has found in "Franklin Springs Media." They are a Christian company that has wholesome, inspiring DVD's fit for the whole family. They are extremely well done...just as professional as any you would find in the secular world and they have been such an encouragement to our family. So, if you are looking for great material to for the whole family...and you would like to support their efforts by buying their DVD's...please go to their website and give them a try. I will be posting reviews of movies and books periodically as I find those that meet our criteria. If you have any you would like to pass on, please leave a comment. We are always excited to find new things to add to our library! Until next time...God bless!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Weighing In

Well, I told you that I would let you know how my resolution of losing weight was going. So far, I have lost two pounds. Doesn't sound like a lot, but with a little patience and determination, they can add up. :) I have never been really good at "dieting." I find that with a diet, it is so easy to revert back to what you were doing before you lost the weight. Then, before you know it...there you are looking at yourself in the mirror wondering how all the extra pounds managed to creep in! With me, it has to be a lifestyle change. I did have this lifestyle change before...when Jonathan was attending seminary. And I must admit, that time in my life, I felt the best I had ever felt. But, stress, pregnancies, was easy to revert back to my "comfort foods." And although I never got to the place where I was extremely overweight, I did suffer from repeated sinusitis, migraine headaches, incredible joint pain...and the list goes on. So, it is with that in mind...and the fact that my energy has been sapped lately, that I have decided that losing weight is secondary...eating better and getting back my energy is the primary goal. It is amazing how easy it is to fall into the habit of "living to eat" rather than "eating to live." I have religiously monitored my children's diet and have seen incredible results as far as their health...but it was always easy for Mom to sneak something here and there that was totally bad for me! Talk about hypocritical! So, I have come to the conclusion that God has a lot to say even in the way we feed our bodies. If our body truly is the temple of the Lord, doesn't it make sense that what we put in that temple matters as well? So, I am taking small steps forward to a healthier lifestyle. No white flour, no refined white sugar (that's a tough one), very little red meat, more fruits and vegetables...etc. No soda's... (ouch! I'm gonna miss those Mountain Dew's)...and I'm in the process of gradually weaning myself off of caffeine. I tried to do that one time cold turkey and I thought I was going to go to the ER my migraine was so severe. That should have clued me in right there about my body's reaction to caffeine, but once again...I found myself justifying that I needed that to get going in the morning. How much better to give yourself natural vitamins and minerals to give that energy boost? So, even though I am eating better right now...I am feeling worse. My body is beginning to go through a detox...and for anyone who knows what that is like...just pray for me! It takes a while to break your body down...and it takes a while to build it back up. I am in the building stage. So, I will keep you informed about my successes and failures along the way. :) Now, on to the things you really want to see...PICTURES!

Since we have boys...they are constantly wanting to play some kind of battle. This is the sign up station for joining the ranks of defending the Alamo. Disclaimer: Although you see girls dressed in Army attire...we do not agree with women in the military. They agreed to serve the fighting men by being cooks and nurses! :)

Here they are at the Alamo fort. (really the boy's room, but don't tell them!)

This is their Grammy Poppa (Jonathan's Dad). Jon's parents came and visited us after Christmas and we had a wonderful time with them. Here Grammy Poppa has enlisted and he looks like Davy Crockett. Julia calls him "Clickett."

And this is a picture of the kids with Grammy and Grammy Poppa during their visit. Until next time, I pray you have a great day in Christ!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Living Frugally

Jonathan and I have always seen the need to save money. It was something that was instilled into me when I was little. However, looking back over the early years of our marriage, we can certainly see that we could have done much more to save as well as realizing many of the purchases we made were not the best use of our money and just became things that we later wished we had not gotten. So, we have purposed to be better stewards of the monies God has given us. We continue to save, but we also are praying more about all purchases we make. It is amazing how many things one would not get when they pray about it! We also feel that the Lord is leading us to a more simple lifestyle. By simple, we mean back to the ways in which "our grandparents" used to live. Now, being city people, this is definitely a step by step journey that will span years, Lord willing. So, some of my blog will be to tell you about this journey the Lord is taking us down. We feel the Bible calls us to be as self-sufficient as possible and that is the way we want to move. It is amazing all the arts of self-sufficiency our society has lost. It is one thing to have a high paying corporate job, but when the economy goes bust and you lose it all, what then? Do you know how to grow your own food? Preserve that food? How would one feed their family? We do not know how to do all these things yet, but we want to learn. And we want to pass these things on to our children so at the very least they will know how to weather economic crises, or natural disasters. And if they never need those skills for their survival, at the very least it will save them money, give them a sense of accomplishment and just provide them the overall health benefit of knowing where their food comes from and how it was grown and prepared. So, we will be letting you know the "baby" steps we are taking along the way to becoming more self-sufficient.

The first area is always getting out of debt. We do not, thank the Lord, have any debt. We also feel the Lord calls us to live debt free and we have purposed not to buy cars, etc. if we cannot pay cash for it...therefore, we are living in a rental home. :) But, we do own our van. We have not always had this philosophy. This is relatively new for us. Some will say that to wait until you can purchase a home for cash in our society is ridiculous. It does seem like an incredible hurdle. But, when all these foreclosures and job layoffs starting making the news, we were very glad that we had not bought a home. What if we were not able to sell it when we moved? What if Jonathan lost his job? Even the military is not 100% job security. Technically, the bank owns the home until you get the deed. They just allow us to live in them as long as they keep getting paid. And although we know many Christians have paid a mortgage and had no problems, we know that this is what the Lord has called us to do. He deals with His children about issues in different ways and different means. Our job is just to obey what He is telling us to do. In what ways do you think the Lord is leading you to live more frugally? As Christians, all the monies we have are on loan to us from God...He expects us to use those monies in ways that will honor Him. How can we better use our finances for His glory and the good of our families?

Monday, January 5, 2009

One of those Typical Untypical Homeschooling Days

As I am writing this, about 7pm, my oldest daughter, Joy (pictured above) has just finished up her school for the day! We had 16 wonderful days off with Daddy and were all ready and geared up to have that great, fresh new start for 2009 in school. But, one thing that homeschooling and the military have in common...expect the unexpected! Life happens along the way and we just have to roll right along with it. Josiah got a fever about three or four days ago and we thought the rest of the family had miraculously escaped unscathed...but alas, today my second son, Joel came down with a very high fever. He had a hard night last night, tossing and turning and not sleeping well, so of course, Mom and Dad didn't sleep well either. Josiah was up a good portion of the night with a cough, so we stationed ourselves to give him his medicine at the appointed times. Joel does not handle sickness well. So, I spent much of my day laying with him on my lap, checking his fever, trying to relieve his headaches and just do the overall comforting that Mommy's do. School started off well, but didn't finish as planned. One of the great things about homeschooling is its flexibility, but it is much nicer when the flexibility seems to work more in our favor. :) So, I do not know what tomorrow will be like...whether another child will be sick, whether we will still be working on school in the evening, whether some other unexpected task will befall me...but I thank God that I know He knows all about it...and He has promised to not give me anything that with Him I cannot handle. So, remember when you have days like the one I just had...God is still...and ever always in control.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Thorns in Our Lives

I am reflective today. The fact that it is 2009 means we are finally in the year that unless God works a miracle, my husband will deploy. Just knowing it is that year, brings a sadness of its own. We are facing difficult times ahead as a family, but I know others are facing their own challenges too. God brings difficulties in all our lives. It is His sovereign will. We pray for those miracles to come and spare us from them, but in His sovereignty sometimes He chooses His miracle to be walking with us through them, rather than saving us from them. I do not know what kind of tribulation or pain you may be facing now...but God does. Our nation faces its own crisis. We are looking at hard economic times, now and in the future. I would like to leave you with this thought. This poem was taken from a John Piper sermon. You can find his resources on Desiring God ministries. The author is Martha Snell Nicholson. And for those who may not know this already (like me) a "mendicant" is a beggar.

I stood a mendicant of God before His royal throne
And begged Him for one pricelss gift that I could call my own
I took the gift from out His hand, but as I would depart
I cried, "But Lord this is a thorn and it has pierced my heart.
This is a strange, a hurtful gift, which Thou has given me."
He said, "My child, I give good gifts and gave My best to thee."
I took it home and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore,
As long years passed I learned at last to love it more and more.
I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace,
He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil which hides His face.

Maybe what we are facing and what we will be called to face is the thorn that will pin aside the veil that hides the precious face of our Creator. We find God more times through pain than through prosperity. I still pray for God's miracle. I do not want to have to say goodbye to my husband, nor do I want my children to suffer the pain of being without him so many months. But, if this is God's thorn for us...if He chooses to pin aside the veil that hides His face with this...I pray for His mercies through it. I do not want to be an ungrateful child kicking and screaming against the will of God. Are you facing difficulties today? Are you allowing God to use it to pin aside the veil? May He find us faithful to whatever task He calls us to do.

Friday, January 2, 2009

What will your resolution be for 2009?

With the coming of a new year, there are always resolutions being made. I bet Genesis is probably the most read book of the Bible just because of the amount of people that start out with the resolve to read their Bible through in a year, but never quite get past Genesis. I know all about that. I did that many times myself. Then one day, I realized that if I don't finish reading it through in a year, that doesn't make me a failure. It is not how much of the Bible I get into...but how much of the Bible gets into me. The key is not to have your list and check it off...but to keep on diligently reaching for that goal. I have some resolutions for 2009. One of them is to lose about 15 pounds that have been my nemesis ever since I had Julia. I have been battling that one for almost three years now. I have found out some things about myself in the last few years that have not been pleasant. I eat for comfort. If I am stressed or depressed, I have a tendency to find comfort in food. I don't like that. Mainly because as a Christian nothing should control me but Christ. I should never seek any other solace but Him. So, I have resolved to lose those unwanted pounds. I will let you know how I do. :) But, beyond that, my biggest resolve this year is to draw closer to my Lord. I feel as though I have lost my first love. I know that I am a Christian. It is simply that so much of life has taken the beauty and freshness of my Christian life from me. I need to spend more time with the One who matters most. It is hard sometimes with five children and the demands of homeschooling and so many other things to find the time. Sometimes I creep out of bed early to meet with my Lord and it is like my youngest children have Mommy radar attached to them! Then, the tasks of the day become ever and always more and more urgent and bedtime comes without any real quality time with Christ. I have a life verse that I feel God has given me. It is Philippians 3:10 ..."that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, being made conformable unto His death." But, this year, I prayed that God would give me a verse for 2009. He led me to Zechariah. The fact that it was Zechariah was a confirmation to me because I rarely go there of my own accord. The verse He gave me was Zechariah 1:3 "...Thus declares the LORD of hosts: Return to me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts." Then to follow that Zechariah 4:6"...not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord of hosts." So often I try to find God in my own strength, with my own list of things to check off the box, but that is not how He will be found. For those of you who may feel like you too need refreshing waters of God's Spirit this year, to see Him once again as you did when you were first saved, to view Him as your first love, to long to be with Him as the deer pants for the water brooks, resolve with me to seek Him more, to love Him better, to be like Mary waiting at His feet for refreshment and just like He says in Zechariah, "Return to me...and I will return to you."
Looking for His refreshing waters,

Thursday, January 1, 2009

More Christmas scenes

Happy New Year! Can you believe it is already 2009? It is time to start taking down all the Christmas decorations. I hope you all have had a wonderful holiday season. We have had a great one, and are looking forward to seeing how the Lord is going to work in our lives during the coming year. I hope this next year brings all of you closer to Christ. Here are a few more holiday scenes from our house. This is a close-up of our lighted church.

Here is a bowl with various Christmas favorite part being the words "The Great Shepherd."

This is a picture of Julia. She took one of the boys capes they have and decided to put it on her head and wear it like a princess. Don't children come up with the most wonderful ideas with their imaginations? May God bless you all richly.