True Stories from a Busy Mama

Sometimes I fail as a Mom; it’s true.  Like yesterday when I forgot to put in a load of laundry that happened to contain the soccer jersey my teenage son needed for his game last night.  Let’s just say it didn’t smell the best. :)

I felt so bad for him and so frustrated with myself for forgetting!

And then there are the times when I forget to sign my seven-year-old’s assignment book every night.  Or the times when field trip money is due.  How about the times when someone asks you to do something simple, and you agree, only to forget over and over again?!

The truth is that as a mama of four, my mind is occupied by so many different thoughts, needs, and schedules at one time that some things are bound to slip through the cracks.  It frustrates me because I used to be a very dependable person….before kids. :)

But then I remember something my aunt said on facebook a while back.  She told another relative dealing with mom-guilt that she was mothering well.  Why?  Because this mom teaches her children about the saving grace of Jesus.

Every mom fails once in a while, and every mom feels like she is just not enough.  Want to be a good mom? Here's one easy way!

 

And the truth is, that’s enough, isn’t it?!

If shoes go untied and beds go unmade and laundry goes unwashed or unfolded, but we remember to tell our children about Jesus, then we have done the most important thing of all!

Sharing truth, the most important truth in the universe, is the best way to be a “good” mom.

So, if like me you experience an epic fail in your motherhood this week, remember what’s true.

Superwoman is just a myth.

You teach your children about Jesus.

And that’s enough.

Jen :)

This Five Minute Friday’s challenge word from Lisa-Jo Baker is True.  She’s asking women all over the globe to share their true stories – the good, the bad, and the ugly. :)

Sharing with: Inspired Bloggers Network

Three Biblical Reasons for Suffering: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

 

Have you ever wondered why the Lord allows suffering to enter our lives?  Or what the reasons for suffering are? He’s omnipotent God, after all, and could supernaturally prevent such trials if He chose to do so.

Obviously, this suffering is part of what makes us human, but it truly wasn’t His original plan!

Adam and Eve lived in a perfect atmosphere – no sin, no death, no sickness, no hardship of any kind.  That’s the sort of perfect existence our Father God intended for us to experience from the beginning.

Nevertheless, our present world is full of evil, pain, suffering, and trials.So what happened?

Suffering and Evil are real problems that plague today's world. Why is this so? Isn't God all-powerful? If so, why doesn't He eliminate suffering? Here are 3 reasons for suffering according to the Bible. Bible study, devotional thought, encouragement for Christian women, faith, overcoming discouragement, God's Truth, believing God, trusting God, why God allows suffering and trials

3 Biblical Reasons for Suffering:

1. Suffering because of Sin

In the Bible, God’s message to us, we find that the first suffering took place when man first sinned.  As a result guilt and death entered the world.

It must have been horrifying for Adam and Eve to realize that because of their choices, an innocent animal must be slaughtered, especially since they had never experienced death.

And to realize they must leave paradise and the very presence of their Lord God?

Equally horrifying.

So by this token, one of the reasons for suffering is related to sin. Sin leads to suffering and eventually… death.

Sometimes we experience natural, earthly consequences as a result of our choices to follow our own ways and ideas rather than God’s.  We choose not to stay inside the fence of His protection and leave ourselves open for calamity. That’s one of the reasons for suffering in the world today.

But wait; there is still good news!

We serve a God of grace.

Even though Adam and Eve brought sin and suffering to the world, God did not leave them to suffer alone.  Instead, He promised a Deliverer, the Messiah, who would one day restore man to a right relationship with Him.

Consider the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:10-32 -an ungrateful lad who left his father’s household to pursue his own desires, which led to his eventual ruin. But when he realized his mistake, his sin, his father welcomed him home with rejoicing! Not grudging acceptance, but rejoicing!

He was fully restored.

It’s the same for us, Chosen Children – no,  even more so!

For if an earthly father could forgive an ungrateful son and welcome him home with full acceptance and even rejoicing, how much more can our perfectly loving Heavenly Father welcome us back when we make wrong choices?  

So, even if we suffer for a while because of sin in our lives, God promises redemption and restoration.  Although we may feel too ashamed to ask for His help, He willingly offers it!

 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:7-10

2. Suffering at the hand of Satan

~ For the Lord’s Glory

We also read in 1 Peter 5:8-9  that suffering and trials can be brought upon Christ-followers simply because we belong to the Lord.

Satan is God’s enemy and does not desire that we should exist in a harmonious relationship with God.  1 Peter describes him as prowling like a lion, seeking to devour.

Even the very world we live in is also our enemy because of our beliefs according to this passage in John.

“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” John 15:19

Thus, sometimes our suffering is a result of the enemy’s attacks.

Never was there a clearer picture of this type of suffering than the life of Job, a man who lived uprightly. Satan asked for permission to test his faith and the Lord granted it.

Why?

So that through his endurance, Job might bring glory to the Lord!

But the story doesn’t end there, friends.  Because the Lord required the loss of Job’s family, possessions, and even his health, He also blessed Job abundantly by restoring him and adding to all that he had before.

And through it all, the Lord was glorified! Not only that, Job’s story continues to be an encouragement to others to this day.

What suffering have you endured that the Lord might want to use for His glory?

We sometimes like to hide away those painful things, but what if our restoration can only be found in surrendering those things to the Lord to do with as He pleases?

Suffering and Evil are real problems that plague today's world.  Why is this so? Isn't God all-powerful? If so, why doesn't He eliminate suffering?  Here are 3 Biblical Reasons for Suffering.

 

3. Suffering for Refined Faith

 “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” Isaiah 48:10

In the Bible, we read that trials will refine our faith like precious metals are refined by fire.

Such suffering is not a punishment from the Lord, although it may feel like it at times.  Rather, these trials are intended to grow our faith, to help us better understand who God is and who we are through Him.

Therefore, James 1:2-4 can admonish us to “count it all joy” when we suffer.

We can count it joy, not because the suffering is painless,  but because we believe that God is faithful to use it for our benefit.

 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ…” 1 Peter 1:6-7

Friends, our human perspective is skewed.

We see and live in the here-and-now.

Any present suffering feels bad, unbearable even.

But God’s view is all-encompassing because He is all-knowing and eternal.

God alone knows how something that looks bad can actually result in good for us.

He can also see how the lives we live today will not only affect those around us now, but also how our lives might affect generations upon generations to come.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (emphasis mine)

This, this right here is the light at the end of the tunnel, folks. 

Not the deliverance, although we’ll certainly be grateful for that when it comes.

It’s the purpose: to know that we do not suffer in vain.

In the midst of your trial, remember you are not being punished by an angry God, but pruned and pursued by a loving God.

In tough times, we are often tempted to ask God "Why?" Here are 3 biblical keys to understanding suffering. Bible study, christian women, hope in the midst of trials, suffering, discouragement, encouragement, devotional thought, why we suffer, the problem of suffering

And, oh, the beauty of it all.

When He takes our insignificant pain and suffering and uses it to comfort others in need, I’m just in awe .

This is the God we serve, Who takes the ugly and make it beautiful,

Who turns weeping into rejoicing, pain into promise,

Who lifts up the humble,

Who chooses the weak,

Who redeems the sinner and exalts the unworthy!

He is the Lord and is worthy to be praised!

Suffering and Evil are real problems that plague today's world.  Why is this so? Isn't God all-powerful? If so, why doesn't He eliminate suffering?  Here are 3 Biblical Reasons for Suffering.

Take heart, my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Whatever trial you are going through,

there is purpose in the pain.

Jen :)

Hands-on Color Activities

mama mondays2

As promised in last week’s Mama Mondays post on Pre-K resources for homeschooling, I have some color learning activities to share with you today. :)  I did not spend a penny on creating these activities and probably only spent an hour or two of my time.  Unfortunately, the laminating machine and I did not get along at first, so it took a little longer.  If you do not have access to a laminating machine (I used our church’s), check with a local church or library.  And learn from my mistakes – practice on some scrap paper first.  Also, you might consider using clear contact paper as an alternative.

Here are the color learning activities we made this week:

Color Go-Fish

On pinterest, I saw an idea for cutting activities using paint chips from the store, similar to this color matching activity. So, the next time my husband went to the hardware store, I asked him to pick some up. Instead of the variegated kind, he brought home solid colors, but he did remember to get several of each.  Since they weren’t the kind I wanted for cutting practice, I decided to make a Color Go-fish game out of them.  The samples themselves were pretty flimsy, so we glued them onto card-stock.  If you don’t have card-stock on hand, try using index cards.  The twins were happy to practice using their glue-sticks, and I was glad for an adhesive that dries quickly. If you don’t plan to laminate them, I would use a better adhesive, though.

paint chips for Go-Fish color edition

I was already planning on doing some laminating, so I decided to laminate them as well.  Now they’re practically indestructible, which is good for our son. :)  Our daughter picked up on this color learning game rather quickly, but our son is still learning the rules and the right questions to ask.  They both really enjoyed it, though, and have asked to play again since the first time we played.  Color Go-Fish is a really fun, hands-on way to learn colors, and we’ll probably use it for shapes, numbers, and letters as soon as I can make up more cards.

Color/Shape Hop

Our son lacks interest for much table work, so I’ve been searching for some more active ways to practice shapes and colors.  One neat idea I found on pinterest  was to use masking tape to make shapes on the floor.  However, since I want to work on colors, as well, I decided to cut out large shapes from colored card-stock and laminate them.   Then, we put them out on the floor and say, “Hop on red!”  or if  you want to include the shape as well, you could say, “Hop on the red heart!”  Since we have two preschoolers, I’ll probably give each child his or her own turn so that they don’t fight over the shapes.  Once we practice colors, then we use the same activity to practice shapes.

Color Sorting Mats

My husband picked up enough paint chips that I had extras once I made the Color Go-Fish game.  I decided to laminate the extra set and use them for color sorting.  At the moment, all we had to sort were some colored pom-poms and some beads, so I had our second-grader use one of my scrap-booking paper punches to punch out stars from the leftover shape paper scraps.  He had a lot of fun using the punch and now I have stars for our preschoolers to color sort, as well!

Color Go-Fish

I also plan to use our Hi-Ho Cherry-O game for some color sorting.  Our twins love to play with the game pieces, so I figure it’s the perfect opportunity for some hands-on learning.  We’ll probably practice counting while we’re at it, too. :)

For more ideas on Color learning activities:

http://www.childcareland.com/teach10.html

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/59532026297549568/

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/59532026297549599/

Last week we focused on the color green, and this week we plan to focus on the color blue.  For our daughter, who already understands color, I’ll do more patterning activities to give her more of a challenge.

That’s all for this week!

Jen :)

You may find me linking up at any of these lovely blogs.

Answer the Door!

Image

Rev. 3:20

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock;

if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him

and will dine with him, and he with Me.”

He’s knocking today.  Will you answer?

Jen :)

I’m trying something new today over at The Sunday Community.

I may also be linking up at any of these lovely blogs.

Undesired Sacrifices and the Equation for Right Living

Imagine waking up every morning, trudging out to your backyard, and building a fire to offer a burnt sacrifice on a stone altar placed there.

You head back out again later in the day when you choose self over others, and again after that unkind thought, and again after snapping at a loved one. In and out of the house, offering sacrifices for sins committed throughout the day – it’s an exercise in futility.

Today we would call such behavior crazy, wouldn’t we?

Of course we would because we no longer offer burnt sacrifices like the Israelites did in the Old Testament …or do we?

Earlier this week, I read these words:

    Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;   Heb. 10:11

“Daily,” the priests stood at their posts; “time after time” they offered the “same” sacrifices for the same sins.  Such repetition calls attention to the never-ending nature of their tasks.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary explains that at the time the letter to the Hebrews was written, the Jewish Christians continued to offer sacrifices at the temple.

For those who believed in Christ and His resurrection, such offerings should have been rendered meaningless by His atonement as the final sacrifice.

So, why were they still trudging back and forth to the altar of sacrifice, so to speak?

The early Hebrew Christians continued to offer sacrifices in spite of their belief in Christ.  How often are we guilty of offering modern-day sacrifices instead of the thing God wants most?

They knew of the gospel, the good news that abolished the old system and established a new covenant built on the cornerstone of Grace, but they struggled to let go of their old ways.

At first glance, I was tempted to think, how silly of them – they’re doing so much work and it’s all meaningless!

But lately the Lord has been opening my eyes to an alarming truth: I sometimes offer my own daily sacrifices, often without even realizing it. 

Just think about it for a moment.

This is what we like to do, friends. We wake up in the morning thinking we’ll do His work today.  We’ll be the best mom, wife, aunt, sister, friend, child, Christian we can be. We even have this list of good things to do in mind.

And we offer these things up to Him as our very own sacrifices, sometimes without even realizing what we’re doing.

Okay, Lord, I’ve accomplished all of those things on the list.  Here ya go.  Are we good now?  I can go about the rest of my day as I please, right? Or maybe, I’ve tried really hard today. You’re pleased with me now, right?

I pile the sacrifices of good behavior up in a nice neat pile on my altar, thinking I’m all good to go. Except I’m not because while I was busy checking off my good-Christian-girl-things-to-do list, I withheld the very thing He wanted most, myself.

Look at what Jesus says about such sacrifices in Hebrews 10:5-7:

“Sacrifice and offering You have not desired,
But a body You have prepared for Me;
In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure.
“Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come…
To do Your will, O God.’”

Here Jesus reveals that God the Father takes no pleasure in burnt offerings.  Instead Jesus offers something else – His very being – so that He might do the will of the Lord.

The same is true of us, co-heirs with Christ.  The Father doesn’t desire our sacrifices in the first place.  He desires our hearts, our very beings.

What the Lord desires is so much less about doing than we like to make it, and so much more about being than we like to offer.

Don’t get me wrong, friends.  We should be loving others, choosing joy, offering praise, living in the Spirit. But if any of those good things are done out of a sense of obligation, duty, or an attempt to earn His favor, then they are pointless.

Filthy rags.

We might as well build altars in our backyards and start burning animals.

being vs. doing 2

 

We cannot offer doing on the sacrificial altar at the expense of being.

When we do, we get the horse before the cart, for no good thing can come from us on our own.  Good works only come from the overflow of a heart that lingers in His presence! We must constantly choose “being” in Him, abiding moment by moment, day by day..

Doing never leads to being, but being always leads to doing.

It’s all about embracing that personal relationship with our Father God, abiding in Him.

So, ask yourself: what am I offering up to the Lord today?

This section of scripture in Hebrews concludes with the following words:

“And their sins and their lawless deeds
I will remember no more.
Now where there is forgiveness of these things,

there is no longer any offering for sin.”

Hebrews 10:17-18

The truth is that we who are in Christ already have the Lord’s favor.

being vs. doing 1

What the Father desires most then is really very simple and has little to do with how we mother, how we serve at church, how clean our houses are or how happy we make our husbands.

What He desires is you.

Simply  you.

What a sweet relief to realize that our falling down at His feet in surrender is enough!

Father, remind us that it’s meaningless to offer undesired sacrifices. Help us to let go of the doing and embrace instead the being. Remind us that if we abide in You, the doing naturally overflows.   Help us to rest in the grip of Grace, for Your Son was and is enough.  The debt is paid once and for all.  Now we are set free. 

Set free to just be.

Amen.

Jen :)

 

Top Free Preschool Resources for Teaching at Home

Do you have toddlers or preschoolers in the home?  I’m planning to teach our two preschoolers at home this year, for reasons like teaching the faith and values that our family upholds as true and also for financial reasons.

While I’m really excited to exercise my teacher muscles by homsechooling our preschoolers, I’m also feeling a little overwhelmed since preschool is not exactly my specialty.

So, lately I’ve spent a good deal of time on Pinterest and Google trying to gather up the best free preschool resources out there – from curriculum, to themed units, to printables, to hands-on activities, and more.

So, on today’s Mama Monday, I thought I would share these free preschool resources with you so that you don’t have to spend all of the time I did on collecting them! :)  I won’t have room to mention everything I’ve pinned while searching, so if you want even more material to consider, look at my Learning at Home board on Pinterest.

This huge list of free preschool resources will make homeschooling preschoolers so easy!  For teachers, parents, homeschoolers,  child care providers, etc.

  1. God’s Little Explorers Curriculum

    Motherhood on a Dime offers this FREE, faith-based preschool curriculum online for homeschoolers, and it looks to suit our family’s needs.  The free curriculum includes basic plans for daily instruction (based on a four-day school week) as well as printables.  I plan to use the free version of this curriculum as my foundation and supplement it with some of the activities and ideas listed in the categories below.   Note: the creator of this program also has a paid option format that includes better graphics and more printables.  The paid option is still very inexpensive (less than $15 )for an entire school-year’s worth of plans!

  2. Seasonal/Themed Printable Packs

    I plan to use this free fall printable pack from Homeschool Creations as a supplementary material for this season along with the curriculum mentioned above.  Homeschool Creations offers many other printable packs as well.  1+1+1=1 is another amazing printable packs resource with everything from princesses and my little pony to solar systems and star wars. These two free preschool resources make both teaching and learning fun! :)

  3. Writing Skills

    My children are not yet coordinated enough to form actual letters (although our daughter is close), so we’ll be working on some pre-writing skills before anything else.  I picked this floral printable for my daughter  and these printables will work well for both children as well as these from 3 Dinosaurs .  I love the idea that this mom had to put the printables or workbook pages into sheet protectors in a binder so that you can use dry erase markers with them.  You could even let your preschooler decorate the front of his or her binder to personalize it.  Use them over and over again! :)  Once they grasp the concept, I plan to introduce alphabet letter formation.  The Measured Mom offers these writing stations as homeschool alternatives to using printables alone.  You could use the same methods with shapes and numbers, as well.

  4. Letter Recognition

    I love the idea of starting out with my children’s names as well as other names in the house.  You can read about name kits at Fun-a-day.  If you’re intersted in a montessori method for introducing letters, Living Montessori Now offers excellent advice.  Hands on as we grow  has a list of 50 fun activities for learning both upper case and lower case letters.  At Crystal and Co. you can find instructions for fun letter-of-the week crafts, too, as well as other free preschool resources.

  5. Number Recognition

    DLKT offers a number of counting and number worksheets here. Turtle Diary offers these printable options.  What I think will most appeal to our preschool boy and girl will be more hands-on activities like this paper tube one from Learn With Play at Home and a method using easter eggs from Reading Confetti.

  6. Shape Recognition

    Although our preschoolers already know most of their shapes, we still need to do some reviewing in this area.  Hands on as we grow demonstrates how to be hands-on when learning shapes.  Shape puzzles are another great resource as children can both handle the shape itself and also learn how it fits into the board. I also like this crafty approach to shape matching from education.com.  Creative Family Fun offers 12 fun ways to learn shapes.  Also, you can find printables for shapes here at Aussie Childcare Network. Printables are one of my favorite free preschool resources! :)

  7. Color Recognition

    Although our daughter is pretty solid on her colors, our son could use more help.  So, we’ll be continuing to practice our colors through the preschool years in our homeschool.  I’m working on a home-made version of Go Fish using colors for our preschoolers, so when it’s done I’ll be sure to share with you. :) Toddler Approved provides these hands-on learning methods for colors.  Inspiration Laboratories has a great idea for creating a color rainbow that I think our preschoolers would love.  We also plan to sort buttons, pom-poms, beads, etc. by color and create patterns, as well as learn colors through reading some books we have about colors.

  8. Music/Rhymes

    I plan to use youtube for much of our music, but I also like these printable nursery rhymes from Aussie Childcare Network.  DLKT offers these printables for making nursery rhyme characters to use as puppets or for a felt board.

  9. Bible Literacy

    I plan to incorporate Bible lessons into our home preschool, but I’d like to save this topic for a future post as I plan to review a few options in detail.  So, check back later for those options. :)

  10. Letter Formation

    Here are more free preschool resources – printables for the alphabet:

Other free (or nearly free) preschool resources to consider:

Pinterest – while I already knew of some of these free online resources, much of the additional material I found on pinterest. :)

Library books – the best way to teach your children (aside from play) is through reading to them.  You can find books on almost any theme or subject you plan to teach.  Libraries are great resources for supplementing the books you already have at home.

Youtube  – a quick search for alphabet songs, shape songs, days of the week songs, and more reveals that the options on youtube are endless… and best of all, free! :)  You can also teach nursery rhymes and other preschool favorites such as “Five Little Speckled Frogs.”

PBS/Netflix – Leap Frog, Word World, and Super Why are all educational animated shows that focus on letter learning, although Leap Frog has some that focus on numbers and shapes as well.  We have a subscription to Netflix’s online streaming service, so I plan to use many of these programs through Netflix.  The advantage to using Netflix over PBS is that I don’t have to wait for an episode to air.  Instead, I can hand-pick episodes to coordinate with themes we might be exploring that week.

Online learning – the internet offers a wealth of free online resources for learning games.  Check out our top ten educational websites – many are suitable for preschoolers.

Dollar Store Deals – I wrote a whole post on items you can find at the dollar store to use in teaching preschoolers or toddlers, complete with ideas on how to use them!

Toys – we have a few toys that I have set aside specifically for our preschool use (I do not keep these toys in their regular toy box, which makes them special since they can’t play with them whenever they want).  Any toy that says a letter’s name aloud and repeats the sound the letter makes can be a good tool to use when your preschooler just doesn’t want to sit and work with paper.  You probably already have a few of these “educational” toys laying around the house, so don’t feel the need to go out and buy new ones. :)

Additionally, much of the time spent during preschool should be free play, when children have time to pretend play using blocks, legos, dress-up clothes, kitchens, etc.  You can also use toys you already have at home to enhance themed lessons.  Finally, puzzles can be great resources for learning shapes, colors, letters, and numbers, etc.

I hope this helps to get you started on planning for your toddler/preschool years, whether you intend to teach formally by homeschooling or just as your children are interested.  Feel free to share with us your favorite free preschool resources, as well!

Jen :)

I’m also linking up at any of the blogs here!

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Waiting While Sea Billows Roll

It’s more than a bad hair day and more than spilled milk.  It’s one of “those” days, the ones you really do weep over, when wave after wave of some new trial sweeps over you as you struggle just to keep your head above water.

And just as you gain your feet, another waves swells up before you.  In the midst of such trials, we can do little else than cry out for mercy, for deliverance.

Sometimes “those” days last longer than just a day or two, or even a week.  Sometimes, we experience whole seasons of “those” days, whole seasons of trial, and illness, and heartache.

If you read regularly here, you know our family has been in the midst of such a season for a while now.  I’ve been wanting to share with you all some of my “discussions” with the Lord about this spot He has us in, but I’ve honestly been confused about the message He’s trying to give me.

I don’t want to wallow in self-pity, but I do want to allow myself the grace to rest and recover when needed.  I want to keep using  those Grace-colored glasses He’s been teaching me about.

You see, it’s not just the practical and physical difficulties of a trial that make life on one of those days oh-so-difficult, but it’s the emotions that come along for the ride, too.  I’m frustrated by the condition of my physical body and even by the condition of my fragile emotions.

I feel guilty about my absence as the Mom, the flusher-of-toilets, the light-turner-offer, the schedule-keeper, the cooker-of-food, the kisser-of-boo-boos, the one who makes a home a home.  I see my husband growing weary with the extra burdens, and I wish I could bear my fair share.

What I really wanted to give you was a how-to post:  how to survive when Mom can’t be mom.

I do have a few ideas about that one, a few tips the Lord has been helping me with.  He’s been telling me to

For instance, He’s been telling me to lower my expectations.

So what if the twins watch an extra hour of cartoons?  So what if beds go unmade and the soccer shirts aren’t clean on game day?  If at the of the day, we’re all fed and alive, then we’re surviving!

Or what about Teamwork – be a team with your spouse?  Yes, that’s a good tip, too.

When I feel overwhelmed by circumstances in life, I often fight against my husband instead of with him.  In return, I reap the added burden of marital strife to an already trying situation. So, teamwork is good, blaming my husband for my own limitations and frustrations is bad.  Okay, I got that. :)

Resist Satan’s Lies – tip number three.

Of course, I know that in spite of my guilty feelings, I’m doing the best I can and that’s enough for the Lord.  Of course I know that He promises to be my Deliverer.  But sometimes I just don’t want to wait for deliverance.  I’d rather try to fix it myself, right?

Are you with me here?

Some days I'm all "onward Christian soldiers" and others I'm moaning about like an Israelite, lost in the desert. Some honest questions about suffering and the Father's surprising answers about waiting while sea billows roll.  christian women, suffering, trials, struggle, pain, bible study, devotional thought, christian encouragement, how to trust God, learning from trials

Lean on the Lord for both physical and emotional strength. That’s another good one, right?

Chin up, soldier because God is on your side.  If God is for us, who can be against us?  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  And all of the other platitudes we like to splatter about when someone is suffering a trial.

They’re all true; they really are, but sometimes they do little to comfort the weary soul.

Sometimes instead of lifting us up, those verses make us feel like crummy Christians.

Because if I’m not “counting it all joy” every single day of this trial, then I’m once again failing somehow, am I not?

And what about “count your blessings,” which goes right along with “think of those less fortunate”?  You know some days that really works for me. Most of the time, I can see all of the good things around me that the Lord has blessed me with.  I can find the silver linings.  I know that my temporary suffering pales in the face of what others have gone through before me, namely Jesus. 

But other days I can count my blessings, think of others,  and still feel frail.  Some days I know I’m not clinging to joy, I’m not embracing peace, because I have no strength left to do so!

So while I sit and think on all of these good things I feel I should be doing to try to help myself in this season of trial, the waves grow all the stronger and more ominous around me.

Crashing, crashing, always crashing, this storm in my soul.

I feel like Jacob, wrestling with the Lord, and I wonder, what’s wrong with me?

Why can I not seem to overcome?  Am I not obedient enough?  Not trusting enough?  Not hopeful enough? Have I sinned in some way I’m not aware of?

Then,  I read this post here about not having a formula for success in the midst of trial but just “hanging on for dear life” and this post here about resting in the mud, in the mess of it, because He’s willing to sit right there with us.  I began to wonder if I was seeing it all wrong, if I was trying to earn favor rather than be willing to receive favor.

I’m beginning to hear a new song from the Lord, a refrain of comfort to my weary soul. His song tells of a Shelter in the storm, strength found less in doing and more in waiting, a peace gained not from a change in circumstance but from His very presence.

In my devotion time this week I feasted on these lines that seemed to be meant just for me:

“We must learn to wait on the Lord and look for His return…. As you wait on Him, you will discover that this attitude renews your spiritual strength, clears your perspective, and reduces your giant-sized problems to manageable size.  Let David’s words become your marching orders: ‘Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.’” [Excerpt from Joy of Living Bible Studies: Hebrews, pg. 102]

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In the original language, this word wait is qavah (pronounced kaw-vaw’) and is a verb meaning to look for, to wait for, to hope for.  I found it even more interesting that the original meaning was one of binding together by twisting, as in a rope.  (And here I am, dangling at the end of mine.)

I found that this verb is very active, not an idle sitting by the wayside, but an expectant waiting.  We are to actively be on the “look out” for the Lord to work on our behalf. While we wait, qavah, we are also to be strong.

The phrase “be strong” from the Hebrew word chazaq (prounounced khaw-zak’) is also a verb.  In essence, this chazaq is an also act, something done rather than a state of being.  It was used numerous times in the Old Testament to describe a scene of supernatural strength: David vs. Goliath, Samson’s final act, Joshua’s entrance into the Promised Land. [NASB, Hebrew-Greek Keyword Study Bible]

So this being strong is an act that comes not from any natural or human means, but only from the Lord.  Thus, it’s impossible for us to “be strong” in the chazaq sense on our own.

So, how does that look, practically speaking?  I mean, how can I wait and be strong without striving and stressing?

I can be quick to meet Satan’s lies with truth from the Word.  I can earnestly seek moments of joy in a day full of trials.  I can watch to find His hand already at work in the situation and trust that it’s happening even if I can’t yet see it. I can speak words of hope.

I can earnestly seek moments of joy in a day full of trials.  I can watch to find His hand already at work in the situation and trust that it’s happening even if I can’t yet see it. I can speak words of hope.

I can watch to find His hand already at work in the situation and trust that it’s happening even if I can’t yet see it. I can speak words of hope.

I can speak words of hope.

But it’s more than that, isn’t it?  Because some days I don’t have it in me.  That’s the key right there – it’s not in me to wait and be strong.  What is naturally in me is to despair, to cry “Mercy, Father, it’s too much!”

And maybe sometimes that’s just the best place to be: at the Father’s feet, completely undone, utterly dependent on Him alone.  No strength of our own left.  Completely at His mercy.  Humbled and low-down.  At the end of the proverbial rope.

I’ll be honest, that’s a really hard place to sit in.  I much prefer to jump up and busy myself doing something because at least then I feel useful.  But what if that’s not what He desires?  What if what He most desires is to hear me admit,

I much prefer to jump up and busy myself doing something because at least then I feel useful.  But what if that’s not what He desires?  What if what He most desires is to hear me admit, I can’t do it, Father – I’m not capable –  I need help?

I think the most difficult aspect of learning to walk a road of suffering is understanding when to “be still” and when to “soldier on.” 

I still don’t have it figured out. I seem to pendulum swing between the two, trying to find that balance.

Some days I’m all “onward Christian soldiers” and others I’m moaning about like an Israelite, lost in the desert. :)

It’s all part of His work in progress in me.

 

Is it one of "those" days?  Or maybe it's been a whole week, month, year of trial after trial?  Read here for some honest questions about suffering and the Father's surprising answers about waiting while sea billows roll.     suffering, Christian suffering, faith, doubting, Christian women, trials, struggles

So this is the heart of my struggle, really.  What is it you require of me, Lord?

Here’s how I believe He’s answering me:

Daughter of mine, wait for Me.  Listen for My voice.  When it’s time to get up and walk, I will tell you.  And when it’s time for you to sit and take rest at my feet, I will tell you.  And when it’s time for me to carry you because you have absolutely nothing left to give, then I will carry you.  Stop trying so hard and just rest in my embrace.  No squirming now, not yet.  Sit. Relax. Cry if you need to.  Confess if you need to. Question if you need to.  I’m big enough to handle all of that and more.  Just let Me hold you because that’s all I really want.  You, beloved daughter.  I want you.  Take heart; rescue WILL come, for I am the Faithful One, God of all Hope and Comfort.  But for now, just wait.

Because the truth is that our Father God loves with a perfect love, so much more perfect than ours.  Which one of us mothers would look at wounded, heartbroken child and chide her for her tears? I’m not talking about tantrum tears or even repentance tears, but tears of helplessness and hurt.  Does their sorrow not bring forth our very compassion?

And which one of us mothers would fail to come rushing to the aid of a child calling urgently for help?  Which one of us would refuse to comfort and console?  Which of us would leave that child to struggle alone?

We would not.

We cannot because our love compels us to respond.  If this is the way we imperfect humans feel about our children, how much more so does our Father God have compassion for us, His beloved, chosen ones?

With that perspective, those crashing waves don’t seem so ominous anymore.  They still knock me down from time to time, but maybe, just maybe, that’s exactly where I need to be.

Perhaps those waves of trial aren’t reaching up at my waist in order to suck me under and drown me, but to push me to a better shore.  If I would just quit fighting them, give in, and ride the momentum, I’d find myself safely on the other side.

And there I can find the rest my soul is so desperate for.

My sister in Christ, if you’re struggling in the surf of suffering today, take heart.

You are not alone. Rescue is near.  He welcomes you into His embrace and asks that you just sit a while.

Listen for His voice.

And just wait.

Jen :)

If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy:

http://sarahjofairchild.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/just-one-of-those-days-again/

I’ll also be linking up at any of these places.

Sharing with: Grace and Truth

Top Ten Educational Websites for Kids

Our children don’t spend a lot of time on the computer, as a rule, but when they do, I like it to be as educational as possible.  Over the years, we’ve found some children’s websites that are great and some, well…not so great.  The educational content needs to be high, but so does the entertainment value (from a child’s perspective).

We really like educational websites for kids that include a variety of options, such as material to read or listen to, games to play, printables, and videos.  We absolutely loooove websites that have all of the above in the form of free content! :)

Since we’re doing preschool at home this year with our four-year-old twins, I thought I would gather our favorite learning websites (in no particular order) all together in one spot. Our Top 10 Educational Websites for Kids

When our children spend time online, I like it to be as educational as possible. These top ten educational websites for kids make learning more fun!

best educational websites for kids

  1. PBS Kids – http://pbskids.org/ – we love this educational website for kids for a variety of reasons: the kids love the characters, parents love the educational value, lots of options to choose from (videos, games, online books etc.), appeals to a variety of ages, etc.  It’s also easy for children to navigate. Target Range – toddler through the lower elementary grades.
  2. Highlights Kids – http://www.highlightskids.com/ – great variety on this website as well, such as animated books, both factual and fictional texts, printables, crafts and science experiments, etc.  The content is very similar to what you would see in a Highlights magazine, such as hidden picture puzzles, articles on animals, stories about children, and so on.  Target Range – elementary grades, specifically children who can read on their own.
  3. Starfall – http://www.starfall.com/ – Starfall is so full of educational information that it’s hard to even know where to begin.  Although much of the content is free, some of the content is restricted to paid members.  There are printables, songs, books for beginning readers, letter recognition, color recognition, even sign language – really too much to list here.  Just go and check it out! :) This site would be especially helpful for those who homeschool.  According to starfall.com, the targeted audience is toddler/preschool through 2nd grade, including content specific to special needs!
  4. Cool Math Games – http://www.coolmath-games.com/ – this site is a recent favorite of our second-grade math whiz. ;)  Many of the games included on this site utilize mathematic and scientific principles in a fun format.  Some of the games seem to focus more on teaching the child how to use the keypad and directional arrows.  However, most also involve critical thinking skills.  When I asked our son for his favorites on this site, he mentioned Fruits, Truck Loader 4, and Home Sheep Home 2.  Despite its name, the site also includes reading/spelling games, geography games, mazes, puzzles, and more.  In order to enjoy this site, your children will need the ability to manipulate the directional arrows and the mouse or touchpad (if on a laptop), unless you want to sit and help them. For that reason, I would say the targeted age range would be for older preschoolers through the elementary grades.
  5. Seussville http://www.seussville.com/ – we just love Dr. Seuss in this home, so I had to include this favorite, as well.  This site isn’t as extensive as some of the others I have included, but you can still find good content here.  You’ll find most of it under the Games and Activities tab, including some excellent Dr. Seuss-themed printables for coloring, reading, crafting, counting, and adding.  One neat feature is being able to search by specific books or specific characters to find the related games and activities.  The one downfall to this website is that it seems to take longer to load than most when switching between activities and tabs. Target range – Pre-K through lower elementary grades.
  6. JumpStart – http://www.jumpstart.com/jumpstartmoms/ – The free content on this site requires a little more digging than others because there is also a paid membership option (similar to Starfall).  However, JumpStart offers tons of free printables (look under the worksheets tab and the activities tab), organized by grade.  Some of the online games, both educational and just-for-fun, are also free. The best thing about this site is the wide age range it caters to: toddler/preschool through sixth grade!
  7. Caravan Friends – http://caravanfriends.org/ – I featured this faith-based website in a post about teaching Missions, but it’s also a great site just for learning about other cultures, specifically those in Asia.  Cute characters help to engage children in learning about various regions on this visually appealing site.  Here you will find lesson plans, printables, videos, and more!  The stories and activities are available in the categories of  Preschool, 1st-4th grade, and 5th-6th grade.  Our children really enjoy reading stories about other cultures online as well as watching videos of children from this area. Target range – preschool through 6th grade.
  8. Nick Jr. – http://www.nickjr.com/kids/ –  Here you can expect to find videos of your children’s favorite Nick Jr. characters and a few games themed after them.  The Create tab has some online coloring pages, as well, although I found them difficult to use for younger children.  One thing that annoys me about this site is having to watch an advertisement before playing a game or watching a video.  If you have a child who really loves Nick Jr. then watching short ads might not bother you.  I especially like the Dora the Explorer game on this site because it also teaches Spanish vocabulary by allowing children to click on objects within the game and hear the Spanish equivalent.  Target range – toddler through preschool, and possibly up to first grade.
  9. Webkinz http://www.webkinz.com/ – we found this site when our oldest son was given a Webkinz stuffed animal as a gift.  You can buy the stuffed animals at many stores, and they come with web codes to activate an online pet.  This opens up a whole world of pet-care, including creating and decorating a home for your pet, feeding and grooming your pet, and even training your pet.  You can also visit the arcade to earn Kinzcash in order to buy more online items for your pet.  I was very pleased to learn that Webkinz now offers free content that you can access without buying a stuffed animal.  Instead, you choose a free virtual animal, create your login, and play any of the content that is not restricted to members only.  Aside from the fun and learning that comes from caring for a virtual pet, the arcade offers a variety of educational games. Our oldest son had a whole collection of webkinz and enjoyed this site for many years!  Although a child of any age could use this site with parental help, it’s easier for children who can read to navigate on their own. Target range – all elementary ages and even pre-K with parental help.
  10. National Geographic Kids – http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/ – this site is relatively new to us, but our older boys love to learn facts about animals, places, and so forth.  Here you can find videos featuring animals and countries, games for the brain and some just for fun, craft ideas, recipes, and more.  Kids can even print out fact cards for animals or send animal-themed e-cards to friends.  This site would appeal mostly to those who can read on their own, although the videos might still interest younger ages.  Target range – all elementary ages.

Many of these educational websites for kids also have links to downloadable apps for those with mobile devices.

If you’d like ideas for board and card games your children might enjoy, be sure to read Our Big List of Favorite Games.  I hope you enjoy exploring some of these sites with your children!

What are your favorite educational websites for children?

Jen :)

If you have toddlers or preschoolers at home, you might also enjoy this list of free resources!

 

The Day I Saw Red

Today I saw red.

I was so angry at the injustice that I burst into tears.  That’s my response, ya know, when the going gets so tough that all kinds of nastiness is about to spew forth from my lips.

But I know I’m held to a higher standard than the world; I know the tongue is sharper than any two-edged sword.  I know letting those words escape would be wrong.  So I gulp the words down and they rise up as tears instead.

You see, there was this insurance claim for a broken bone, which happened during our family vacation (see the story about Buttkill Falls).  And even though we followed every step that we should have, even though we did everything according to procedure, the insurance company still refuses to pay.

It’s really not just the fact that this month we’re already short, and the medical center has already removed money from our account.  After all, I know Our Provider can handle dollars and cents.  

It’s not even just that my tailbone still hurts and now I’m miserable with a cold, too.

It’s the incredible injustice of knowing you did everything right, yet still you suffer.

I saw red, and I was tempted to despair.

For when you have one of those days. "Whenever I get to that point, the point when I'm telling the Lord He's not being fair, He has only to say one word..." The Day I Saw Red

I asked the Lord, “Why? Hasn’t enough gone wrong already in the last few weeks?”  And the truth is that it really has been an incredibly crazy few weeks for us.  One trial after another.  When it rains it pours.  That kind of few weeks.  The kind of weeks that string into one long line of day after day of some new problem to cope with – problems with

The kind of weeks that string into one long line of day after day of some new problem to cope with – problems with ministry, problems in the home, problems with old, leaky  pipes, problems with finances, problems with health.

You cling to His promises and try to face each new challenge with a trusting heart.  But it all sort of piles up on you until you feel like you can’t breathe anymore and you want to beg for rescue, cry out for mercy.

It feels unfair.

And whenever I get to that point, the point when I’m telling the Lord He’s not being fair to me, He has only to say one word…

Jesus.

It wasn’t fair to Him, either.

He did everything right and nothing wrong, yet He suffered even unto death for my sin, my wrongdoing, my evil.

Oh, the shame!  The shame of having questioned.  The shame of telling myself my petty, short-term suffering is unbearable, that it shouldn’t be required of me.  The shame of my sinful pride.

And the perspective!

The perspective of realizing there are so many others suffering much, much worse evils around the world.  People struggling just to survive.  People dying for their faith.  People dying without any Hope.

The perspective of remembering Who is on my side – how could I forget?  Has He not proven Himself faithful time and time again?  And still I doubt, like Peter who saw the 5,000 fed, yet feared the wind and the waves, walking toward Christ, yet slowly sinking.

The perspective of remembering Who is on my side – how could I forget?  Has He not proven Himself faithful time and time again?  And still I doubt, like Peter who saw the 5,000 fed, yet feared the wind and the waves, walking toward Christ, yet slowly sinking.

So, I saw red today.

My face turned red.  Tears fell.  I shouted angrily at the Lord, even if only in my mind.

And then He showed me Red.

Red blood dripping from the sacrificial Lamb, the perfect Son of God who deserved only glory, not death.

My salvation and my forgiveness.

The One who understands true suffering.

It was the day I saw red, and I told the Lord it wasn't fair.  Whenever I get to that point, He only needs to say one word to me...

Forgive me, Father, for my faith is weak and I sometimes doubt.

But You, You are good.

Even when I am not.

And You love me, even when I fail to love You.

Thanks for reminding me that I’m a work in progress, and that work is not yet complete.

I have Hope in You.

Jen :)

 

Okay, I’m pretty sure I bent the Five Minute Friday rules again today, and this is way more personal than what I’m comfortable sharing. In fact, I’m downright embarrassed and a little afraid.  But… when I sat down to write, this is what came out at the end of a long day, concluding a long week.  And I can’t hide it away as I would like to, or I wouldn’t be a truth-teller.

My friends, we all have sinned. And we all doubt.   Even missionary kids.  Even ministers’ wives. Even faith bloggers.  :)  If you’re struggling today, I want you to know that you’re not alone.  And that He loves you anyway.  Just listen to the words of the song below.

Read more encouraging words from another blogger who’s having “one of those days” here.

How to Host Game Night with Young Children in Tow

I’ve read a lot lately about hospitality and how important it is for Christians to be reaching out to those in their community.  One of the easiest ways for our family to entertain guests is to host a game night.  We love playing games of all sorts, and game night gives us an opportunity to develop relationships with others in a relaxing environment.

Perhaps my favorite reason for hosting a game night is that there is no need to prepare a fancy meal for lots of people – just have each family bring a snack to share.  You provide the dishes, and beverages.  ( Honestly, ours are usually disposable – paper plates and plastic cups.)  You don’t even need any special decorations, just table space!  It’s the perfect way for someone like me, who is not gifted in the area of hospitality, to have people over. :)

However, sometimes hosting Game Night involves entertaining young children as well as adults.  Even if you are having a family game night with just your family and attempting to play a game older children might enjoy, you still need something for younger children to do. Parents can’t play if kids aren’t occupied. :)

10 tips for Game Night

 10 Tips for Hosting Game Night with Young Children in Tow:

  1. Play their games.  Depending on the age of the youngest children, choose a few games they can play and enjoy, too.  See my post about Our Big List of Favorite Games for ideas on what games appeal to a wide range of ages.
  2. Give them a role.  If they cannot understand enough to play but want to be involved, give them a role to play in the game (handing out pieces, handing out money, etc.) or put them on someone’s “team.”
  3. Give them their own pieces.  If the children are too young for a role, give them their own pieces to play with next to the game (as long as they aren’t small enough to choke on).  If the kids are young enough, they won’t even care if the pieces even go to the game you are playing. Cards especially seem to do the trick, and you can find children’s decks at the dollar store!
  4. Give them child-friendly snacks.  The peace will only last as long as the snacks do, but fun snacks will buy at least a little time before you have to move on to something else.  Some of our favorite kid-friendly snacks are goldfish crackers, bite-sized cookies, grapes, cucumbers, pretzel sticks, cheese, etc.  Finger foods are fun for children, but I would avoid any messy snacks.
  5. Give them their own game space.  This approach works best if you have more than one child who cannot play because they can help entertain each other (one of the many benefits of having twins!).  Be sure to give them an activity they can do on their own with little to no help from mom or dad.  If they are old enough, you might give them a game of their own to play, especially if an older child can help.  Other activities such as playdoh, coloring, puzzles, building, etc. will provide distraction, too.
  6. Put an older child in charge of entertaining the younger children.  Some older children may not find this appealing, but on occasion, our oldest really enjoys entertaining the littles.  He is really great at using his imagination to make up pretend games for them and other children, too.  Of course, now he’s getting to the age where he would rather play along with the adults, but our middle son is just now starting to entertain from time to time, as well, although not for a long period of time.  If older children are not an option, then….
  7. Hire babysitters.  If you have no older children to entertain the young ones, consider hiring family members or youth from church for the job.  This is especially helpful if you have a separate area, such as a playroom or a finished basement where the kids can hang out.  Even a child’s bedroom will work!  Parents are nearby and still on hand if any major issues arise.
  8. Pull out the “company” toys.  In our home, we have a few toys that seem to be popular when there is a whole group of children in the house.  Some of them, we save specifically for special occasion use.  One is our set of Playhut tents (they are pop-up type tents and tunnels that connect).  Another is the basket of dress-up clothes (I add to this each year after Halloween when the costumes go on 75% off clearance or when I find them at garage sales!).  Duplo blocks or Legos (depending on age) are toys that groups of children can play with together (Duplo blocks or the off-brand Megablocks are easy to find at garage sales, too).  We also have a play kitchen with pretend food that has seen a lot of use.  These “company” toys should be toys that multiple children can play with at the same time in order to avoid disagreements.  Also, be sure to put away any toys that you foresee causing problems, such as our boys’ star wars lightsabers.  Any time we have company, those end up in the closet because they seem to cause accidental injuries. :)  In addition, you’ll want to put away any favorite toys that are special to your children.
  9. When all else fails, we put on a movie!  Usually, this is a last resort when other techniques aren’t working or when it’s  too close to bedtime but the parents aren’t done playing yet. :)  If you don’t have children of your own, be aware that very young children often won’t sit for an entire movie.  In fact, they might not be interested in it at all!  Usually by the time we decide to put in a movie, it’s bedtime for the younger ones, so we offer it as entertainment for any older children.  It helps to have a movie that the children haven’t seen very often or recently.
  10. Put them to bed. When our twins were babies, we either had to take turns playing games or wait until their naptime or bedtime. In fact, at first we would only host game nights close to those times so that we could enjoy our company. If your friends have young children, too, you could always offer another bedroom or space for their children to sleep if needed.   It’s a great idea to hang on to at least one pack-n-play, even after your children have outgrown it, for times like this.

I hope these tips inspire you to try out family game night or to host friends or neighbors for a game night party of your own!  It really is possible to host and still have fun even when young children are involved, as long as you know what to expect and how to help the kids have fun as well.  If you’ve never hosted a game night before, I suggest starting small with another couple or family  that you know well.  Then, you can work up to multiples couples or families at once!  Game night really is a great way to build fellowship with neighbors, with friends, with family, with small groups, with Sunday school classes, and more.  Why wait?

Jen :)

I may be linking up at any of the blogs listed on my Favorite Link-ups tab.