Wednesday, March 4, 2015

2015 Goals: February Update

February was a quick month and it looks like March is going to go by fast, too!

Here's an update on how I'm doing meeting my yearly goals.

1.  Read through the Bible in 100 days.  Still on track with this; making my way through the Old Testament prophets this week.

2.  Write a new, very specific prayer list for my husband and my children at the beginning of each month.  Done in February.  Once again, I saw some direct answers to prayer from these lists.

3.  Spend one hour with each daughter each month doing an activity that she likes to do.  I went shopping with my older daughter for jewelry to match a new dress of hers and we finished with two scoops of ice cream from a local ice cream shop.  I took my younger daughter to Sweet Frog, then to the pet store where she was able to visit the cats - and, much to her delight, one of the workers even let her hold one.  

4.  Send a note or e-mail of encouragement to someone every week.  Done in February.

5.  Complete my reading plan each month.  Finished in February.

6.  Exercise for 25 minutes a day, 4 times a week.   Done in February.

 7.  Eat at least 3 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. I did well with this last month!  I've worked on keeping a greater variety of fruits and vegetables in the house and that helps all of us eat more servings daily.

 8.  Complete Copyblogger's collection of 15 ebooks and implement 5 changes to my blog by June 30. I've finished two ebooks and updated ten posts following recommendations I found in the first ebook.

How are you doing with your goals?

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Big White Bus


Friday night I sat alone in my warm car in the school parking lot, listening to the radio and watching traffic go by.  I was waiting for the school bus that would bring my daughter back from her last basketball game of the season, a tournament held at another school three hours away.

The arrival time for the bus had passed 20 minutes ago, but I'd seen the backup on the interstate and figured they'd been delayed.  A few minutes later, the long white bus with the school name printed on its side came into view.  As it sat waiting for cars to pass so it could make its turn and discharge its riders to the waiting parents, a feeling of intense gratitude came over me.  The sight of that big white bus, back from its pilgrimage with all passengers safely inside, caused me to say aloud, "Thank you, God."

You see, I know that not every bus full of bright, happy, young teenagers returns home.  Not every student who climbs onto a school bus walks off.  But this night, from this event, God brought our daughter safely home.  Let me not take this for granted, not now and not ever, this expression of His grace in protecting one I love.

What about those who don't come back, when accidents happen or tragedies take place?  What about God's grace then?  I'm as unqualified as anyone to answer as to God's purposes or plans or to begin to fathom His all omniscient character.

But having faced difficult trials myself, I know that it's then that we must trust, that we experience His grace in a different light, the all-encompassing, God-only-given grace that carries us through when human effort fails and self-generated peace flees.

Friday night, as she got ready to go to sleep, I hugged my daughter tight and prayed over her and thanked God for the safety He'd provided.  May those words not be rote, but heartfelt, never letting me take these partings and reunions for granted, seeing the grace and the blessings, taking each one from His hand with a thankful heart.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015

6 Books I Read in February


I used a lot of my reading time in February to keep up with my reading through the Bible in 100 days!  I'm still on track, but it feels like the pace picked up in the last couple of weeks.

I did make it through my four selected books for the month, along with a couple of others.

  • If God Is Good by Randy Alcorn.  Just like Heaven (Alcorn's other book I've read), this book gave me so much to think about.  Alcorn discusses the evil and suffering in our world and how that affects our view of God as well as our relationship with Him.  I always appreciate how his books are laid out with detailed, Bible-based points.  I would like to re-read this book at a much slower pace so that I can take in even more of these principles.  It's definitely encouraging, especially if you've faced difficult trials in your life.
  • Making Happy:  The Art and Science of a Happy Marriage by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott.  The Parrotts share six actions couples can take to make their marriage better.  Five of the six were areas I would like to work on -  try new things together (take a class, visit a new location); count your blessings in your relationship; give together (monetarily and by volunteering); celebrate each other; and always keep dreaming together, making plans for the future.  It wasn't quite as easy a read as I may have thought, but was worth going through.
  • Smart Money, Smart Kids:  Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze.  I highly recommend this book for parents who want to raise their kids with sound financial principles.  Having been a fan of Dave Ramsey for years, the information wasn't new, but the laying out of how to teach Biblical money principles to kids was very helpful.  It was an easy read - nothing technical - and the chapter on instilling contentment in our children was spot on.
  • Throw Out Fifty Things:  Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life by Gail Blanke.  The first half of this book dealt with clearing out physical clutter, while the second half addressed mental clutter.  This wasn't as detailed or practical as I'd hoped when it addressed clearing clutter out of your home.  However, there were a few good ideas in the second half of the book, including advice on letting go of expecting the worst and setting a vision for your life, then determining how to get there.
The other books I read this month were these.
  • The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle.  This was a re-read from last year.  Melanie boils marital love down to its essence and includes some laughs from her own experiences along the way.
  • Firewall by DiAnn Mills.  This was an interesting fiction read centering on the FBI and a potential terrorist plot, but had a little too much violence in it for my taste.  

Here are the books I plan to read in March.

SpiritualTo Live is Christ:  Joining Paul's Journey of Faith by Beth Moore
MarriageThe Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages:  The Little Things That Make a Big Difference by Shaunti Feldhahn.  (You may recognize this title; it's a re-read.)
ParentingThe Parenting Breakthrough:  A Real-Life Plan to Teach Your Kids to Work, Save Money, and Be Truly Independent by Merrilee Browne Boyack
Personal Growth: The Power of a Half Hour:  Take Back Your Life Thirty Minutes at a Time by Tommy Barnett

What have you been reading lately?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

4 Helps for Our Children from Psalm 119


As I continue reading through the Bible, I've reached Psalm 119, which is full of wonderful truths about God's Word.

While reading the chapter yesterday, I realized anew how much my children can benefit from studying Scripture.  I highlighted four blessings that they - and I! - can receive as we read, memorize, and meditate on God's Word.

1.  Good judgment.  "Teach me good judgment and knowledge; for I have believed thy commandments."  (v. 66)  We all want our children to have good judgment!  Teaching them God's commands and then explaining how we can practically carry out those commands in our daily lives will help our children have perception and discernment.  It's very effective when we can relate personal stories or give examples of situations our children face and show how a Bible verse applies.

2.  Light.  "The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding to the simple."  (v. 130)  God's Word going into our children's minds and hearts gives light and understanding.  No matter how young they are, they can begin to grasp the simple truths of the Bible, such as obeying parents and being kind to others.  In our family Bible time after supper, my husband is currently going through the book of Proverbs and discussing its principles with our girls.  There is so much they can learn about people, riches, our tongue, work ethic, etc.

3.  Direction.  "Order my steps in thy word..."  (v. 133a)  The older our children get, the more decisions they make on their own.  Hopefully we can set an example by showing our children, on an age-appropriate basis, how we ourselves make decisions based on principles from God's Word.

4.  Victory over sin.  "...and let not any iniquity have dominion over me."  (v. 133b)  As our children learn how to gain direction from God's Word, they can have victory over sin.  Here's where Bible memory can come into play as we help them learn verses that combat a sin with which they're struggling.

Here are some past posts with helpful ideas related to this topic.

7 Tips for Teaching God's Word to Our Children

6 Ways to Expose Our Children to God's Word

10 Ways to Help Your Child Memorize Scripture

3 Tips for Having an Effective Family Bible Time

In what other ways can God's Word be a help to our children?

Monday, February 23, 2015

New Grace

One of the songs that speaks to me most powerfully about God's grace is "New Grace" written by Tom Hayes.

The words of this song remind me of several truths about His grace.
  • All of life is grace.
  • He gives grace exactly when we need it - not before, not too late, but at just the right moment.
  • His grace is unlimited.
  • I don't need to fear death; He'll give me the grace to face it when it's time.

Here are the words to the song.

All of grace is my story,
All the way from earth to glory.
Since by grace he lifted me from sin and woe.
Living grace he has extended
As on him my heart depended
And he’ll give new grace when it’s my time to go.

Chorus: Grace not yet discovered,
Grace not yet uncovered,
Grace from his bountiful store,
Grace to cross the river,
Grace to face forever.
There’ll be new grace I’ve not needed before.

There’s been grace for every trial.
There’s been grace for every mile.
There’s been grace sufficient from his vast supply.
Grace to make my heart more tender,
Grace to love and pray for sinners,
But there’ll be new grace when it’s my time to die.

Chorus: Grace not yet discovered,
Grace not yet uncovered,
Grace from his bountiful store,
Grace to cross the river,
Grace to face forever.
There’ll be new grace I’ve not needed before.

(If you're reading this in a feed reader or in e-mail, you may need to click over to my blog to view the video.)

What's your favorite song about God's grace? 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Saturday Salutes


Christina shows us How to Change Up Wire Shelves for Less Than $10.

Janet give us 7 Ways to Shake a Bad Mood.

Rachel has Ten Facts About When Moms Get Sick.

Erin shares 12 Things I'd Tell My High School Self.

Our assistant pastor's wife, Molly, is an incredible baker.  She made these Flourless Monster Cookies for an adoption shower at church and they were so delicious!  I think one of my daughters and I will be making them soon.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Universal Language of Motherhood

It's amazing how two strangers can connect when they begin talking about their children.

Occasionally I attend work events with my husband where I know very few people.  As I'm introduced to a person, the initial conversation may be slow. However, if it's a woman and she mentions that she has children, we are usually off and running! If her children are older than mine, she can share her experience with me. If they're younger, we can talk about the trials and joys moms of little ones face.  If they happen to be the same age (and especially if she has a daughter!), it means we have plenty to discuss!

I believe that we can almost always learn something from a fellow parent about parenting.  Certainly those who have steered their children through life stages we haven't yet entered have wisdom they can share with us.   

As mothers, we love our children and want the best for them.  We're all in the same boat, getting on-the-job training.  Our methods or philosophies may differ at times, but at heart, we all want the same outcome - children who become happy, well-adjusted adults who are living out their life's purpose.  As Christians, we want to see our children whole-heartedly following the Lord as they grow.

Whenever we can, it's worth the effort to connect with other moms and share our stories and struggles, each offering grace and support to the other as we travel this season of life in similar shoes.