Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Must Read for Moms

Hop over to (in)courage today. Author Ann Voskamp (One Thousand Gifts) brought tears to my eyes. Her post, What a Parent Wants to Say Before a Child Leaves, is a must read for every parent.

She made me think about the short time I actually have left to raise my oldest before she heads off in this world. I found myself desiring to express the same message to my children. She eloquently shares her hopes and dreams for her son. I held my breath as though I was intruding on an intimate moment. These are what matter. Take a moment to read it. Then share your thoughts with me. I'll be mulling it over all day.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I Love IKEA




It is time for the Hearts at Home blog hop again. Today’s topic is “Share some tips and hints of things you do around the home that make life easier”.

My first thought was I don’t do anything around my home. That certainly makes life easier! A friend of mine bought me a sign I have hanging up by my kitchen that reads “When I get the urge to clean house, I lay down ‘til it passes.” While this is somewhat true of my life, I also realize that my lack of housekeeping and organization adds a lot of stress to my life.

Many days when I feel as though I have lost complete control of my life, I will organize my kitchen pantry. It’s one of my favorite parts of our home because it is a large pantry and we can stockpile quite a bit in it. At the same time, I tend to throw things in without any organization on a daily basis. That’s when things start to feel a bit crazy. This simple act of reorganization allows me to feel like I accomplished something from start to finish and brings a little bit of sanity back into my day. (I think it is time to do this again soon!)

While there are many things that seem to get out-of-control in our home, there are two specifically where I feel we have made some progress. The first is in the area of toys. It was always difficult to ask the kids to pick up their toys when there was really no designated place for each item. As I went to the homes of different friends, I noticed that several of them utilized IKEA shelving to keep their toys in order. We purchased the large shelving unit from IKEA along with some bins from Target and the toys no longer seem to overtake our home (as often anyway). When I tell the children to put their toys away, they now know where they go.

Papers are the other item my family seems to be swimming in. We have three girls who love to draw and write. This along with school papers and my own mess can begin to overwhelm quickly. With a three bedroom home and three girls, we had some decisions to make on how to divvy up our space. The master suite is ours. That leaves us with two rooms between three girls. Our final decision was to have our girls living dormitory style. They share bunk beds in one room for sleeping. In the extra room, this Christmas, IKEA (or Santa) were very helpful in creating personal desk space for each girl to have. They are responsible for their own desk and are not to go into their sisters’ desks without permission. It’s only been a month but it has helped with the paper pile tremendously!

Although I tend to pride myself in my Italian heritage, I guess this post supports my husband’s pride in his Swedish heritage. Maybe there is something to be said for being Swedish. After all, IKEA has done wonders for my sanity!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The most important thing?

“The most important thing for every person ever is that we each get to experience real life change.”

These are the words our pastor, Justin, shared in a message entitled "First Things First". I was expecting him to finish the sentence with Jesus or God or maybe even the Bible. But real life change… the most important thing? That took a little while to settle with my soul.

Justin used chapter 9 of Acts and the story of Saul (converted to the Apostle Paul) to back his statement. This chapter details the conversion of Saul on the Road to Damascus. As Justin spoke, I thought about Paul. (I love to read and reread his letters recorded in the Bible.)

Saul was a leader in the Jewish religion. He believed that in arresting and persecuting Christians, he must have believed he was obeying God. In Acts 22:3, Paul declares that he was “just as zealous for God as any of you are today”. (Chapter 22 is Paul’s own account of his conversion.) That is why his story is so powerful. Everyone knew who he was. Everyone knew what his life was like. Now, everyone knew he was different.

Saul knew of Jesus. He was educated in God’s laws. He was religious. However, until that day on the Road to Damascus, he didn’t experience real life change. That life change was dramatic and God used his story to expand the church. It didn’t matter how much knowledge about God he had or even that he knew the works of Jesus. When Saul encountered God and allowed his life to be changed by submitting to God’s authority, that is when his life truly began to thrive. The transformation story of his life is nothing short of amazing.

Yes, I agree that real life change is the most important thing for every person ever. I may not have some radical transformation story for my own life but I know that I am different because of Jesus. It is noticeable and I need to continue to pursue God’s transformation in my life. A life changed lives with purpose. A life changed has a different perspective. A life changed has power. A life changed has hope. A life changed has Jesus.

It is a good thing to pursue life change in my health. It is a good thing to pursue life change in my fitness. It is a good thing to pursue life change in my finances. None of that quite matters, however, if I have not pursued life change in light of eternity. It’s a question we each need to ask ourselves: “Has my life really been changed because of Jesus”?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:28-34

(Paul’s story as well as his letters can be found in the books of Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The John 3:16 commercial


I applaud Focus on the Family for this commercial. Fox News quoted a woman saying "Religion is a family value. Keep it in your home". Really? It's acceptable to have half naked women broadcasted during commercials but religion is what we should be concerned about keeping in our homes? I'd much rather my husband and children's eyes and ears be exposed to this message. If only all commercials could share uplifting messages. When did we lose our family values, America? This is clearly a message we all need to hear.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Power in the Written Word

A gravel driveway, thistle weeds and hot tar on the street don’t mix well with bare feet. For me, however, there was some sort of twisted accomplishment in setting out towards the mailbox across the street from our driveway without my shoes. Growing up on five acres, collecting the day’s mail might have felt like a chore to some. Not to me. The anticipation that our wooden box held something with my name on it gave me a hop in my step (with or without shoes on) the moment I saw the mail carrier come by.

There was something about being the first person to rifle through the stack of envelopes placed in that mail receptacle. The hope that this day, someone cared enough to drop a little change to tell me I matter. Encouragement from a friend who knew the way a heart soars to tear open a letter that simply says, “I’m thinking about you.” There was a magic about that little box and the possibility that any day a lifeline-of-sorts-on-paper could be found addressed specifically to me.

I have come a long way from being a young girl who sacrificed her feet in hopes that there would be a letter to brighten my day. At some point, I quit expecting letters decorated brightly with stickers amongst the ordinary bills and advertisements. Somewhere along the way, I decided the written word was simply a thing of the past. As the mailman quit delivering anything exciting, I came to believe the lie that others simply do not see the same magic I do in opening the mailbox each day.

In today’s day and age of email, Facebook and texting, I surrendered to the idea that the keyboard was an acceptable form of communication. Rising costs of postage added to my reasoning that the postal service no longer was an acceptable route for communication. Recently, however, I’ve found my name on letters in the mailbox again. Not on bills or advertisements, but on personalized envelopes just for me. These, along with a little encouragement from (in)courage and DaySpring, have stirred the hope from my past. 2012 is a year I commit to offering handwritten encouragement once again.

I have stacks and boxes and scrapbooks filled with written encouragement. From condolences on the death of our dads to special occasions that were marked with cards to the simple “I’m thinking about you”. In these, I am reminded of the support system surrounding me. I thumb through each one rereading their messages with the thought that I am not alone. I am loved. I am cared for. I have friends. The written word has lasting power. (My favorite are the letters written by the Apostle Paul to different churches that are now an encouragement to me as well because the written word can stand the test of time.) I’m committing to use my written word to build others up this year. Will you do the same?

(On a side note: I’m not a huge fan of Federal holidays for the simple fact that there is no mail delivery to look forward to.)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Fully Satisfied

"Those who want to do right more than anything else are happy, because God will fully satisfy them." - Matthew 5:6 (New Century Version)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Our Bigger World

I read this post today over at (in)courage about Compassion International. Our family began sponsoring two children through compassion almost two years ago. (You can read how our world expanded here.) It was one of the best decisions we ever made.

In this world of entitlement, it is so nice to have specific names to bring to our girls' minds when we talk about "those who have less than us". "Don't you realize that there are starving children in this world?" is not a comment I need to throw at my girls. Instead, I have real life stories that I can remind them of. "Remember how Johnson used the money we sent for his birthday to buy chickens so his family can have eggs to eat?" This certainly grabs my girls' attention a lot more than a generalized statement about strangers. We currently sponsor two children and it is my goal this year to add another child to that list. Three daughters and three sponsored children.

Our girls love to pray for our friends. They each have their own personal friend that they pray for and our youngest ends every prayer with "...and food and a Bible...Amen" because she has heard us pray for the needs of these children to be met as long as she can remember. It will be so exciting when she can choose her own friend to sponsor. Another goal of mine is to do better corresponding with these children we sponsor through Compassion.

If you are looking for a way to broaden your world, look into Compassion International. It will change your life...and a child in need's as well.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Carpe Diem – Seize the Day

It’s January 3rd and my mind is still swirling with my options of resolutions. I want to get to my goal weight. We need to start reaching our financial goals. My family would benefit if I could get my anger under control. It would be fun to have a regular date night with my husband. Someday I would like to progress in my scrapbooking past my middle daughter’s third month of life (she is 6 now). What would it be like if I went to bed every night with a clean house? How would I feel if I exercised every day? I should eat healthier. Practice better dental hygiene. Get back on track with couponing. I’d like to be intentional with writing letters to friends. It would be best if I spent less time watching television and playing on the computer. I need to prevent our calendar from becoming too full. I want to pray more. Listen better. Read more. Eat less. Get back into a running routine. We need to schedule in more time with friends. I want to be more intentional with my children…

Overwhelmed? So am I. The real problem is that the list can go on and on. There is always something I want to change and continually look to some point in the future when I am going to achieve my goals. The other problem is that the future never really quite cooperates the way I expect it to. After saying goodbye to our dads, life needed adjustments. Three children required more adjusting. There’s the school activities and changing friendships. Family is not even a factor I can count on to remain consistent. Always needing to adjust my life doesn’t make for a very convenient routine to establish my “resolutions”.

I think the best commitment I can make for this next year is a simply one. I need to learn to live for today. Quit waiting for tomorrow. The grass may appear greener on the other side but once I get there I’ll look back and see the lush land I’m currently in now. I have no guarantee of tomorrow. Attempting to get there only creates stress. God has promised to be with me today and that is where my focus needs to be. Today I can live with gratitude, offer praise to God, extend love to my family, cherish my friends, live my life the way God directs and open my eyes to the blessings He has sent my way. When I am tempted to start longing for tomorrow, I will look to God and seek His help to stay present in today. Tomorrow can just wait.

“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” – Psalm 118:24


"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." - Matthew 6:34

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Renewing

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God - truly righteous and holy.

Don't sin by letting anger control you. Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God's Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

- Ephesians 4:21-24, 26-27, 29-32