Letting Go When They Are Grown

It happens every time I see his name neatly typed out on mail from colleges: my throat begins to ache as I blink rapidly to stem the pending flow.

He’ll be our first to leave the nest just as he was the first to be birthed, and this year marks the beginning of that long, painful goodbye that I wish to avoid altogether.  Couldn’t time just stand still for a year or so?

Why does the letting go hurt so?

Knowing our time is limited taps into a grief that never quite left me after my years growing up as an MK (missionary kid).  My tendency is to just shut it out, pretend like it’s not happening, find comfort in denial, because that’s what I did for so many years without even realizing it. It’s easier to cut ties than to live with loss, after all.

But hiding away from loss means missing these bittersweet moments where pride and joy collide with that heavy sense of the approaching goodbye. If I let go of one, then I must let go of the other, and I don’t want to miss the joy of witnessing our firstborn take flight.

For the mama whose firstborn is nearly grown. Letting go takes all of the strength a mother can muster, but as Christian parents, we have a hope for their future that the world can't offer. Why then, is the letting go so difficult?

We’re losing little bits of him already in this, his junior year. He works hard at his high-level classes, and spends time on quite a few extra-curricular activities. Some nights we don’t even see him until after his younger siblings go to bed.

There’s this fierce, nearly primal, part of me that desires to cling, to hold him back, to draw my proverbial apron strings tighter. On the other hand, my more rational side recognizes that this is good, that he thrives on new-found independence, and that I was doing much the same at sixteen years of age.

 

And oh, have we been blessed with this boy, no…. this young man now. He’s been a firm yet gentle leader for his younger siblings, always encouraging them to do right. He loves the Lord and often willingly bears the burdens of others. He is slow to anger and respectful of authority. He’s not embarrassed to use his gifts for the Lord’s glory, either, not like I was at sixteen.

I admire his resolve and his confidence in who he is in Christ.

We really couldn’t have asked for an easier teenager, not that there haven’t been bumps in the road, but he’s never derailed.

I know I have to let go of my claim on him, for he was never mine to begin with, was he?

Children are a heritage from the Lordoffspring a reward from him.       Psalm 127:3 (NIV)

Why must letting go be so insanely painful?

It’s not that I don’t trust the Lord with my boy, I do. I know our Father has great plans for his future that I can only begin to imagine.

It’s not that I’m worried about who this young man will become because I already see hints of Master Potter’s hand at work, and I’m thrilled with the molding and shaping taking place in our young man right now.

The letting go hurts because the love is deep and real, and it’s had nearly seventeen years to grow in this body of mine that was once overtaken by his tiny life growing in me.

The letting go hurts because he is me in so many ways and his father in so many others.

The letting go hurts because somehow it feels like our family of six will never quite be the same again, as if this year is the catalyst for a chain of events that will forever alter the fabric of not only his life, but our lives, as well. One part of us will always be missing.

The letting go hurts because this mothering has become so entwined in my own identity that it feels as if a small part of me is slowly dying inside. I know my son will always need me, but not in the same way that he needs me now.

I suppose I expected to be used to it by now, this slow loosening of pieces of myself. After all, we’ve been experiencing firsts and lasts for over sixteen years on this wild yet exquisite journey we call parenting.

But somehow, these firsts and lasts feel so different. So final.

I know the letting go will hurt.

It hurts already.

The best comfort I have is knowing that our Father God once let go of a Son, too.

Our Great High Priest understands. He knows what is best.

I believe He will bring joy from this pain just as He brought joy from the pains of childbirth all those years ago.

For now, I will rest in that truth.

Jen :)

 

How to Overcome a Bad Day

Some days just getting started in the morning is the most difficult challenge we’ll face all day long.  It’s hard to overcome a bad day, especially when it starts out rough from the very beginning!

You know, the days when:

  • the kids wake up way too early
  • you feel overwhelmed by your to-do list
  • you didn’t get enough sleep
  • you’re so grumpy you feel out of control
  • it’s dreary outside
  • all you want to do is get back in your comfy bed and hide

Overcoming a bad day seems nearly impossible once it has already started!

What do you do when you wake up with zero motivation?

How do you get past a grumpy mood so early on in the day?

What do you do when you wake up with zero motivation?  How do you get past a grumpy mood so early on in the day? Try these 10 tips for turning a bad day around.

10 Ways to Jumpstart Your Morning (and overcome a bad day):

1. Go to bed earlier the night before! I know, I know – that’s the most obvious advice ever.   But it’s true.  When the twins were infants, I forced myself to go to bed not long after they did. I knew that if I didn’t go to bed right away, the next day would be miserable and difficult.  However, now that they are a little older, I’ve gotten out of the habit of early bedtime.  One of my work-in-progress goals is to go to bed earlier so that I can get out of bed earlier the next morning, (overcome the bad day before it even starts)!

2. Shower (or at least splash some cold water on your face). I know there are many mornings that showering first thing just isn’t an option, especially if you have little ones in the house.  I have found that on the days when I have to wait for my shower (or even go without), washing my face goes a long way toward helping my sleepy eyes stay open. The more awake I feel, the easier it is to overcome a bad day.

3. Spend time…

To read the rest, follow me over to Sharing Redemption’s Stories here!

You woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, and apparently the little people who live with you did, too. All you want is a few more minutes of sleep, but the to-do list beckons. How will you overcome the rough start? Try one of these 10 tips to jumpstart your morning!

 

 

 

 

The Superwoman Myth Resolved

In the first half of The Superwoman Myth, we discussed how the players of self and others contribute to this myth of womanly perfection.  Today, we finish with the final player.

The final contributor in the saga of the Superwoman Myth  is Satan.

He is the great deceiver and he loves that we fall prey to the myth!

What better way to convince us we are failures than to give us an unattainable goal?

He waits on the sidelines while we struggle and agonize over our own weaknesses, while we look around at all of the women who seem to be living out their faith so much better than we are.

I'm sure you've fallen prey to the lie of the Superwoman Myth before - you know, how you need to do it all and do it all well?!  Learn how to put those lies right in their place with this final freeing truth. The Superwoman Resolved

Debunking the Superwoman Myth

It is then that he strikes – in the middle of that doubt and fear that we’re not good enough, maybe even that we’ll never be good enough.  He knows that if he can get us to focus on our failures, we’ll take our eyes off of Christ.

1 Peter 5:8 warns,

“Be alert and of sober mind.

Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion

looking for someone to devour.”

But Satan is a liar.

The Father proclaims that we don’t have to be perfect because

Christ.

was.

perfect.

for us.

Amen?!  God knows that we are human and that because of sin we are flawed, but the Good News?  He chose to love us anyway!

Romans 5:8 testifies,

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:

while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

When God looks at you, He already sees perfection because of the sacrifice of His Son. That work is already complete!

So, how do we become the best version of ourselves (the one we were created to be), without crossing over into the abyss of worry and guilt that Satan wants us trapped in?

How do we show ourselves grace and avoid falling prey to the Superwoman Myth?

The answer lies in Christ.

I'm sure you've fallen prey to the lie of the Superwoman Myth before - you know, how you need to do it all and do it all well?!  Learn how to put those lies right in their place with this final freeing truth. The Superwoman Resolved

 

We can become the best version of ourselves by abiding in Him, by spending time in His word and in His presence.

It really is that simple.

It’s not in the details of our living, but in the attitude and mindset behind the way we live that matters to the Lord. 

When we realize that He purposefully created us with a unique role to fill, we can stop looking down on His creation (self), stop looking around at everyone else, and instead focus on Him and His love for us.

When we relax in His gracious love, we allow Him to do the work necessary to develop Christ-likeness in us.  We can be at peace with ourselves knowing that He will continue the work in us and that our Father God already loves us anyway, no matter what!

…………………………………………

Now, let’s take a peek back at that one personality flaw we chose during part 1 of the Superwoman Myth.  Let me ask you some questions in relation to your flaw.

Did God create you?

In His wisdom, did God create your personality this way?

Consider this:  Does God create by accident?  Does He create things that are inherently bad? (Think back to the days of Eden.)

No!

Therefore, we can safely assume that the things we dislike most about ourselves are characteristics God intentionally gave to us or allowed us to have.

And …

In their purest, God-given form, those personality “flaws” are not bad. 

Yes, personality “flaws” can certainly lead us to sin, but in and of themselves, they are pure, God-given traits meant for our benefit.  He give us these traits,  perhaps to teach us, maybe even to teach others, and in the process, to bring Him glory.

So, now how do you see your “flaw?”

Is it possible that with Christ’s help your flaw can become the thing of beauty He intends it to be?

I believe so.

That’s why my life verse is Philippians 1:6.

“Being confident in this; he who began a good work in you

will carry it until the day of completion in Christ Jesus.”

My sisters in Christ,

                     don’t

                             fall

                                   for

                               the Superwoman Myth.

Don’t believe the lies from self, others, or Satan.

Instead, listen to the voice of your Creator God, the Father who lavishes His love on you!

I'm sure you've fallen prey to the lie of the Superwoman Myth before - you know, how you need to do it all and do it all well?!  Learn how to put those lies right in their place with this final freeing truth. The Superwoman Resolved

He doesn’t ask us to be superwomen.

Instead He just wants us to be the women He created us to be.

Work-in-progress women.

Jen :)

Sharing with: Tell His Story, Grace and Truth

 

How To Give Your Kids a Good Christmas

I woke up feeling a little sorry for myself this morning, sorry for my family, too.  It hasn’t been the Christmas season we expected or wanted, and I’m left wondering: how do you give your kids a good Christmas when nothing seems right in your world?

We’ve spent the entire month of December ill now.  Influenza spread slowly from one family member to another.  Several children ended up with  infections. My asthmatic lungs were hit hard and our physician threatened me with hospital time.

Thankfully, it was just bronchitis and not pneumonia.

Just bronchitis, ha.

A pharmacy worth of medicines clutters our kitchen counters still – fever reducers, cough meds, antibiotics – you name it, we probably have it right now. Or at least that’s the way it feels. :)

Is life turned upside down right now for you? And it seems so much harder because...it's Christmas? You can give your kids a good Christmas without health, without money, without extravagance. You can give your kids a good Christmas by...                  How To Give Your Kids a Good Christmas

Then, this weekend during our church Christmas program practice, our middle boy began complaining of stomach pain. By the time we had removed costumes and were ready to leave, he was on the floor curled up in a ball, crying. It frightened me because he is our tough cookie, the kid who rarely complains of pain.

So, when he started to scream that his stomach hurt, I left immediately for the closest ER!

We spent a day and a half at the hospital under observation, with many people praying – the world over. The surgeon mentioned appendicitis, but his symptoms didn’t fit exactly. Finally, his white blood cell count dropped, his pain subsided and we were able to go home.

We were overjoyed!  He talked about playing with his little brother and sister and how happy he was to come home in time for Christmas.  I grinned in the front seat, glad to have my funny, enthusiastic boy back. We were almost home.

All seemed right in the world again.

And then, suddenly it wasn’t.

Our oldest son woke in the middle of the night with an asthma attack. Then, I got sick and so did he.  On top of that, the only little one who didn’t already have an ear infection complained that his ear hurt.

I’ll admit, friends, my heart travelled straight from rejoicing to complaining because it’s almost Christmas and it just doesn’t seem fair, really.  Our children were only back at school for a week, and already ill again!

How can you give your kids a good Christmas when everything goes wrong?

How?

I know I’m not the only one struggling for joy right now.  In fact, I’m certain that many of you are experiencing trials much deeper and more painful than ours.  If I really knew the depth of them, I’d probably be ashamed of my own complaining.

And maybe you’re a mom like me who doesn’t really mind so much for herself, but for the kids!

Maybe you lie awake at night worrying about life circumstances.  Maybe you’re experiencing the pain of loss or separation from loved ones. Maybe your finances are in such a state that you don’t even know where your next meal is coming from.

Maybe you catch hold of joy for a few moments only to  quickly lose it again.

Whatever your lot might be this Christmas, know this: you can still give your kids a good Christmas.

You can give your kids a good Christmas without health, without money, without extravagance.

You can give your kids a good Christmas in spite of pain, loss, broken relationships, and whatever other trials you might be experiencing.

You can because He came.

Luke 2

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

He came!  Emmanuel, God WITH us – that’s what Christmas is really about. Christ, the Hope of the world, in human flesh, for love of our wandering hearts.

We have to let go of this expectation of holiday perfection and embrace the reality that human life is flawed, messy, painful, even at Christmas.

Christ came right into the midst of that mess, born in a stable – there’s nothing clean about that.

You want to give your kids a good Christmas?

Let go of the worry.

Embrace Christ.

Is life turned upside down right now for you? And it seems so much harder because...it's Christmas? You can give your kids a good Christmas without health, without money, without extravagance. You can give your kids a good Christmas by...      How To Give Your Kids a Good Christmas

Show them Hope, Love and Peace.

Teach them of the Savior who willingly left Heaven’s splendor to suffer alongside us here on Earth. That’s a Love like no other, my sisters in Christ. He chose us. He chose pain. He chose death, so that we might experience life in abundance.

He did it for you, for me, for them.

He did it “for all the people.”

The wonder of Christmas has little to do with presents and food and fun.

The wonder of Christmas is the keeping of a thousands-of-years-old promise, hundreds of promises, really.  The wonder of Christmas is Christ.

Romans 8

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves,waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

Do you feel it, friends?

The joy of Christmas is spreading right through us.

It cannot be contained. The whole of creation leaps with joy – He is born! Promise fulfilled, salvation at hand, redemption nigh. Hope in human flesh.

How to Give Your Kids a Good Christmas, Is life turned upside down right now for you? And it seems so much harder because...it's Christmas? You can give your kids a good Christmas without health, without money, without extravagance. You can give your kids a good Christmas by...

Here’s how to give your kids a good Christmas: tell them the story of Jesus.

It’s the only thing that truly matters.

Clinging to hope and joy along with you this Christmas season,

Jen :)

Also sharing with: Monday Parenting Pin It Party, Mama Moments, Mom’s the Word, Wholehearted Home, Missional Women, Tell It To Me Tuesdays

All the Words That Need Telling

“You’re the best Mom ever!” She proclaims, as she grins and squeezes me with her small arms, and my heart nearly bursts for the joy of hearing it.

“Well, you’re the best daughter ever!” I smile back down at her.

All the Words that need telling, tell kids you love them, tell people the gospel

And it’s true. She may be my only daughter at this time, but she is also the best. I know she needs to hear those words; I know she needs me to tell them to her.  I know because I need those words, too.  I need the “I love you”s, and the “you’re the best”s, and the “you’re the beautifulest mom ever”s, and the “I missed you”s.

So, if I, the grown up, need those words to be told, how much more does my little five-year-old bundle of sweetness crave those words?  So much more. So much more.

So I tell her all the words that need telling – the words about love, the words about like, the words about her character, and the words about her Savior – because she needs to hear all of those important words. She needs to hear them often.  She may only be five now, but soon enough she’ll be heading to high school just like her oldest brother. And then she’ll leave for college (Lord-willing), and who will tell her all the words that need telling then?

We’ve only a few years, sisters, a few short years to tell all the words that need telling.  Only a few years to tell of our love for them.  Only a few years to tell of the Savior’s love, too.  And they need to hear them because love is so central to the Gospel, so important.

Don’t be shy; don’t hesitate.

Even if the words don’t come naturally to you, tell the words today, all the words that need telling.  We are never guaranteed tomorrow.

Deuteronomy 11:18-19

18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on

your hands and bind them on your foreheads.

19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road,

when you lie down and when you get up.

Tell Love

and Truth

and Kindness

and Peace.

And do it today!

Jen :)

It’s Five Minute Friday and after taking a few months off, I’m so happy to be joining my sisters in Christ over at Kate Motaung’s blog.  We gather there ever Friday (some of us on Thursday evening) and write a fast and furious five minutes on a one-word prompt.  No planning, no editing, no second-guessing.  Just the written word.  Come join us!

I’m also sharing this post at:

Missional Call, Essential Thing DevotionsMissional WomenMom’s The WordA Mama’s Story, Monday Parenting Pin It PartyCornerstone Confessions

When Gratitude Comes Hard

 

Some days the gratefulness comes easy like those lazy days of summer when the sunlight lingers and the breeze flutters warm and balmy. No deadlines looming on the horizon. No crazy schedule.

Those are the days when the kids frolic outdoors like all of the Wild Things that they are. We’re happy and healthy and carefree.

On other days, the story isn’t quite so bright.

The winter lingered a little too long and leftover cabin fever rules the day. Laundry piles up in one messy mountain, and the littlest boy who’s been potty trained for more than a year now, wets himself not once, not twice, but three times in one day for some unknown reason.

Grateful, gratitude, hard times, motherhood

 

These are the days when children bicker and whine and complain, and we find ourselves unable to help them because the bickering and whining and complaining is going on in our hearts, too.

But in Lysa Terkeurst’s book, Unglued, I read about turning that attitude into gratitude, and I know it can be done.  Because who wouldn’t feel grateful for a healthy child, or food in the fridge, or soft beds to sleep in?

So even when the gratitude comes hard and we must dig deep to find the good in our day, it still comes. It still comes.

And I’m so grateful.

Grateful for grace and the promise of a God who will never give up on me, never quit working in my life (Phil. 1:6).

Grateful for the blessing of a Mom (and Dad) who love the Lord and taught me the truth of salvation.

Grateful for a house full of rowdy, messy children who simultaneously make my days exhausting and wonderful.

Grateful for 15 years wedded to a man who continues to seek the Lord and love me even when life gets a little crazy.

And for so many other things,

I give thanks.

No more attitude, just gratitude.

Because He is good.

All the time.

Jen :)

It’s Five Minute Friday once again, where we gather at Lisa-Jo Baker’s place and free-write for five(ish) minutes on a one word prompt. This week the word is Grateful. Join us if you like!

You may find me sharing at any of these lovely places or here:

Inspired Bloggers Network,

Christian Mommy Blogger, Missional Women, My Freshly Brewed Life,

Beauty Through Imperfection, Managing Your Blessings

 

Bad Guys Are Real

Bad Guys Are Real, sin, grace, eternal life

I love how she chatters when it’s just her and me in the van, her sweet, soft voice breaking through the unusual quiet as we travel. I point out two military jets flying overhead and she asks if they are carrying a lot of people.

“Well, no, these jets are carrying soldiers who work hard to protect us, protect our country,” I explain.

“They protect us? Like from bad guys?  Mommy, are bad guys real?”  Her voice gets quiet.

I want to tell her, “no.” I want to make her feel safe and secure, but the truth is that bad guys are real.  “Yes, they are real, sis. Some people want to hurt others and do bad things.”

From the front seat, I imagine her eyes growing wide with this information. “Because they don’t love God?” She questions, so smart yet so innocent for all of her five years.

daughter, are bad guys real?, good vs. evil, sin, Jesus, grace, eternal life

I want to tell her, “yes.” Yes, bad guys are bad because they don’t know or love God.  They are bad because they hurt others.  They are bad because they have evil inside, and they do unspeakable things.  That would be the quick and easy explanation, right?

But it’s not the whole truth, is it, this idea that some are bad and some are good?  The truth is we all have evil inside.  We’re all bad in a sense; it’s called sin.  So once again I stop myself from making it sound that simple in favor of telling her the truth.

bad guys, none righteous, we all sin

“Well, yes, some bad guys probably don’t know God or love Him.  But really we all have the ability to be bad.  We all have sin inside of us, and we all make wrong choices sometimes.  It’s only because we believe that Jesus paid the punishment for our sins by dying on the cross that we can choose good instead. That’s the only real difference between the bad guys and the good guys – Jesus.  Without Him we would all be bad guys.”

She falls quiet then for a while, and I know she’s thinking about what I said. I hope and I pray that she really gets it.  That there is nothing good in us, nothing deserving, nothing “better than.”  

Because more than anything I want my sweet, dark-haired beauty of a daughter to know that she cannot, she cannot, be good on her own. She needs Jesus. She needs grace.

bad guys, wages of sin, unrighteous, sin leads to death, eternal life is a gift

Even more than that, I want her to realize that we all need it, this grace, this unmerited, unearned, undeserved, unfathomable gift from a Father God who deigned to love us, a bunch of bad guys, enough to sacrifice His one and only Son.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us,

in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Rom. 5:8

Yes, my daughter, bad guys are real.

But praise be to God,

Jesus is real, too.

Jen :)

Sharing with: My Freshly Brewed Life, Managing Your Blessings, Mom’s The Word, Wholehearted Home, Messy Marriage,

Jennifer Dukes Lee, Rich Faith Rising

You may find me linking with any of these lovely blogs.

 

 

9 Ways to Save on Kids’ Clothes: Part 1

Quite a few months ago, I mentioned in 5 Ways to S-t-r-e-t-c-h a Budget that we save a lot of money on clothing for our children, and I promised to share details later on.  Well, I’m finally getting around to it! :)

Clothing expenses can easily burden a larger-than-average family, especially a family living on a single income.  In our home, when we have a budget issue, our first method of attack is to pray.  We try to pray for our needs before we even begin to attempt to meet them (of course, we don’t always remember to pray first).  And when we remember, we pray for wisdom to be good stewards of the finances God has blessed us with, as well.

Here are 9 specific ways in which we save money on clothing for our children.
Families living on a tight budget or a single income have to be creative in finding ways to save money, especially when it comes to clothing those rapidly growing kids. Read more for 9 Ways to Save on Kid's Clothes!

Clothing for Free!

1. Hand-me-downs

Since we have three boys, this money-saving technique worked very well for us until we had our first girl (aside from our oldest’s tendency to wear holes in the knees of his pants in his elementary years). :)  Save the clothing that isn’t stained or sporting holes in a well-labeled, clear plastic tote for the next child.  

Pros: no expense necessary after the initial purchase!

Cons: some items will wear out after several children.

  • Tips:  Do not get rid of clothing (even if your youngest child is a different gender from older siblings) until you are certain you will not be having more children!  Also, buy quality clothing whenever possible (find out how to save on new clothing in part 2 of this post) because the clothes will last longer. Finally, If you have no hand-me-downs to begin with, be willing to accept them from others in your circle – family, church family, friends, neighbors, etc.  I can’t tell you how many times even our neighbors became the answer to prayers for our clothing needs, especially when we found out we were having twins!

2. Swap Clothing

Find a friend or group of friends to swap clothing with.  For several years, I swapped cloths with a friend who had a son older than our youngest boy and a daughter younger than ours.  So, she traded her toddler boy clothes for my toddler girl clothes.  We also received clothes for our daughter from church family; these clothes had been through two other families before ours!  Search for a large, organized clothing swap in your area, or even organize one of your own.

Pros: No extra spending necessary!

Cons: Storage space needed for totes.

Gently Used Clothing

3. Thred-up

Thred-up (www.thredup.com) is an online site for both buying and selling quality, second-hand children’s clothing (and women’s, as well).  Once you sign up for a membership using your e-mail address, you are free to purchase.  If you want to earn store credit by selling items you no longer need, you’ll want to request a bag from them.  Fill the bag up as much as you can, send it in and they will give you a price quote.

Pros: receiving credit for clothing you send in; clothing is well-screened.

Cons: online only store means no trying things on; paying for shipping costs as well.

4. E-bay 

E-bay is another online site for both buying and selling, although it’s not solely for clothing.  Again, you can sell your gently-used items to earn money to buy what your family needs.  Additionally, you might find brand new clothing listed for lower than retail.

Pros: ability to earn by selling.

Cons: clothing isn’t screened; can’t try on clothes; shipping costs.

  • Tips: when buying on e-bay, please be careful to choose a seller with a high feedback rating.  Also, if you need a large amount of clothing, listings for clothing “lots” will give you the best value for your money.

save money on clothes, budget, big family, tight budget, one-income

5. Garage Sales

My favorite way to save money on clothes is to buy them at garage sales.  By far, yard sales average the lowest prices for gently used clothing.  I’m a bargain shopper, so shopping at yard sales is just a lot of fun for me, especially when I find items we really need.  Of course, not all garage sales are equal, so I still watch prices carefully.

Pros: fun to shop; best prices.

Cons: seasonal in our area; quality of clothing varies.

  • Tips: when buying at garage sales, you can buy more than a year ahead if the price is right and if your budget allows. Buying ahead will save you money in the long run.  Be sure to store your items in well-labeled, clear plastic totes or you may forget/overlook some like I did last year!

…………………

Click here for part two of 9 Ways to Save on Kids’ Clothes , including more ways to shop for gently used clothing and how to take advantage of end of season clearance sales to buy brand new clothing at second-hand prices!  Until then remember: when you are offered hand-me-downs or when you find great prices at a garage sale or even the clearance section, think long-term. Don’t accept or buy only what you need for the current season (unless it will break the budget to do otherwise), but plan for a size or two ahead!

Of course, as with anything in life, learning to save money is another one of those work-in-progress areas. The best way to be a good financial steward is to cover all of your budgeting and spending decisions in prayer.  I know I often forget to go to the Lord first even though He promises to provide.  I’m not always the best at trusting in Him to provide, but He is able, sisters!

Jen :)

You may find me linking up at any of these wonderful places.

Counting Bedtime Blessings

Bedtime Blessings, counting blessings, motherhood, love

It’s past midnight now, yet I sit sleepy-eyed in the too quiet house.  Our four children are all tucked safely into bed and my husband snores beside me.  An extra chill hangs in the air as temperatures outdoor have dipped below zero once again.

I should have gone to bed long ago, but the quiet is so peaceful and I’m feeling so thankful.  Not for any one thing in particular, really, but for many small things all at once that pile up to one pretty spectacular life that I just don’t deserve.

And it’s because of Him, our Creator God, that I am gifted with this one life, this one year, this one day never to be repeated again.

So, I’m thankful because in the midst of trial, I’m finally seeing some of the good.  I don’t always see it, don’t always “count it joy,” but today I can see the progress.

Today I realized that this time of trial has greatly strengthened our marriage.  I’m able to  appreciate my husband in ways that I haven’t been able to before.  He’s been my comfort in times of need and my encourager in times of weakness.  We’ve regained that sense of companionship that so easily gets lost in the daily urgency of parenthood and of ministry. I’m counting that a victory!

Even more, after finishing only part of the laundry and part of the coupon clipping, I felt free to stop and just “be” with them, those fabulous  kids who amaze me with their zest for life and their love for others.  And again I’m thankful because I don’t always take the time to stop and read books or play legos or look at drawings or dance. I can’t always resist the desire for domestic perfection, but I’m never sorry when I do.  Another victory I’m claiming!

And I, I walk away the richer for it.  I fall even more in love with these creatures the Lord has entrusted to us.

bedtime blessings, counting blessings, love, family

I notice the way my daughter’s bedtime hugs and kisses always come with compliments like beautifulest or sweetest or nicest or bestest.  And when I pay her a compliment in return, her face fairly glows with joy.  She’s my enthusiastic encourager.

I notice, too, the way our youngest son really hugs me back, both small arms around my neck and a nice squeeze (but not too hard), maybe even a few pats on the back.  He lingers there, not old enough to be embarrassed yet by sitting in Mommy’s lap.   He’s my sweet snuggler.

I can’t leave out our middle son, our macho man, who seems unusually happy and eager to please this evening (bedtime is normally met with his frowns).  In fact, he asks me to stop reading before his bedtime story is finished so that he will have time to pick up his blankets from the floor (shocking!), the leftovers of a massive tent-fort built on this unexpected snow day.  It delighted me because…he’s my energetic entertainer.

The only one left is our oldest son, quick to help, slow to anger.  His shoulders seem to grow broader by the day as his voice deepens.   He’s developing a hunger and thirst for the Lord that thrills this mama’s heart.  He’s my gentle leader of the pack. :)

What really struck me this evening, though, was the sense of peace that pervaded the air here.  The transformation that love in action has on our children is profound.  When they know that in this moment right here, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they are incredibly loved, that they are valued for who they are, then they blossom right before my eyes.

No tears at bedtime, no scowling, no stalling…

I can see it on their smiling faces, that in just a few lovely hours, they’ve been filled to the brim so much so that it just overflows in return – love and joy and peace.

bedtime blessings, great love, God loves us, children of God

Suddenly, I realize that it’s no different for me.  How much easier it is for me to obey my Heavenly Father when I’ve taken time to revel in His love for me, His perfect, unfailing, unconditional love for me.  Not for everyone else, but for me.

How quick I am to chose right instead of wrong.

How strong I stand in the face of temptation.

How peaceful I feel.

And in me, the joy is unspeakable because it’s true.  My Father God loves me. He’s patient with me.  He comforts me.  He rejoices in me.  He blesses me with an abundance of good things.

And even on the tough days, when I act like an ungrateful child, He waits for me.  And when I sink to the ground in absolute despair, He sits beside me.  And when I’m ready to press on, He helps me stand.

Isn’t it the same for all of us, sisters?  If we could just live every day with this soul-deep thankfulness for who He is and for who we are because of Him, then being the women of faith we should be, the ones we really long to be, wouldn’t be half as hard!

Instead, the work-in-progress would come easy to us.  The victories frequent rather than few and far between.   It would spill right over the edges of our very selves and stream out to everyone around us, this supernatural love.

All of those good things that we cannot manufacture on our own?  They begin with Him, through Him, from Him.

Because He is good and His love endures forever.

We can be confident in that Love, sisters, for it tells us who we are.

It brings us victory!

Jen :)

You may find me linking up at any of these places.

Energy-burning Indoor Fun for Kids

Winter wears long around this time of year for those of us who live in the Midwest.  Usually, our family enjoys the snow because it allows for sledding, building snow forts and snowmen, snowball fights, and other gross-motor, active fun.

However, with wind-chills well below zero at times, winter means a lot more time is spent indoors.

Even in the summer, several rainy days in a row can send my active, high-energy kids into a cabin fever frenzy!

What can you do when you’re stuck indoors and the kids are bouncing off the walls?

This big list of active indoor fun for kids might just help burn off some of that excess energy! 

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What can you do when you're stuck indoors and the kids are bouncing off the walls?  Here's a big list of active indoor fun for kids to help burn off energy!

Indoor Fun for Kids:

Snowball Fight – Yes, you can have a snowball fight indoors and burn a lot of energy doing so!  I learned this game from a birthday party we attended recently.  You will need a stack of white paper (newspaper will suffice if you don’t have white paper).  Crumple the paper into balls – the more you have, the more fun it will be.  Dump the paper snowballs into the middle of an open area and let the kids go wild!

Tip: It’s even more fun if you create some obstacles to hide behind.

Bounce around – Several years ago when the twins were younger and I frequently babysat children in our home, we invested in a small bouncy house from Blast Zone.  It had the best reviews for durability (the material feels just like commercial bouncy houses), and it’s still going strong 3 years later! Our twins are now 7 and they can still both jump at the same time in it. It’s been a lifesaver on several occasions when the weather kept us indoors.

Another less expensive option would be a small, indoor trampoline like this Little Tikes one, or even an exercise ball.  If all else fails, you can always resort to letting the kids jump on your bed (I do!). Jumping uses a lot of muscles group, so it  burns off excess energy quicker – very helpful indoor fun for kids!

Ball pit – When our youngest son was a baby, he needed some physical therapy.  One of the things his therapist did was to create a small ball-pit using a laundry basket filled with balls.  At first, he hated it, but eventually he grew to love it.

Let the kids enjoy active indoor fun by jumping into the pit, swimming in the balls, throwing balls, and so on. Frugal ideas for ball pits: laundry baskets, plastic totes, inflatable kiddie pools, or large cardboard boxes.

Indoor Skating – I’ve found two different ways to create indoor skates.  One is to tie wax paper around the bottom of your children’s feet and let them skate away.  The other is to use kleenex boxes (or other cartons) as skates – just insert feet into the opening. We only had one usable kleenex box, so I improvised with a juice pouch box. ;)

What can you do when you're stuck indoors and the kids are bouncing off the walls?  Here's a big list of active indoor fun for kids to help burn off energy!

Climb, climb, climb – Recently I was reminded that kids of all ages love to climb.  My husband brought a step-ladder indoors to do some repairs.  When he finished, our four-year-olds spent a good thirty minutes climbing up and down, up and down (with supervision, of course).  Other options – smaller kitchen step-stools,or a stool your kids might use in the bathroom, stairways, boxes, etc.

What an easy, indoor fun for kids that doubles as an energy-burning activity that uses items you most likely already have at home!  Our active boys especially liked to climb, but we were equally surprised by our daughter’s skills (earning her the nickname, Monkey).

Activity Dice –  Create a large dice from cardboard or cardstock (the bigger the better in the eyes of children).  On each side of the dice, list a different activity to be performed.  Examples: do ten jumping jacks, flap your arms like a bird, twirl in circles until you’re dizzy, hop up and down, jump like a frog, crab-walk, do a somersault, etc.

If your child is old enough to find this activity boring, try making it into a competition – game changer! Our kids really enjoy this type of active indoor fun for kids!

Dance the wiggles away – We have Just Dance Kids’ version for the Wii that our younger children really love.  However, we also frequently dance to music on the radio or our oldest son’s ipod. :)  One of my friends suggested playing “freeze” by pausing the music and having everyone freeze in place.

Another “freezing alternative is to turn the lights off and when they come back on, everyone has to freeze in place (while music continues to play, of course).

This song is perfect for freezing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7JoCCR4OsM

Or try this active song that was an immediate hit with our younger two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3dXoiCMyyu4

Dancing burns a lot of energy and keeps everyone entertained at the same time.

Geronimo! – We love this classic.  Create a huge pile of pillows, blankets, beanbags, stuffed animals, etc., near a couch or the bottom of your stairway.  Jump away!  Our children have spent endless hours getting out extra energy this way when we’re stuck indoors.

Pillow Fight - Caution: if you have a child who tends to get aggressive, prepare for possible injuries.  It’s a good time to work on self-control. :)  Even our teen boy likes to pillow fight when the whole family is involved.  What better use of family time than to burn off some stored up energy?

Family wrestling - Nothing is more tempting to children than when Mom or Dad lay on the floor.  For some reason, our four kiddos love to sit on us, climb on us, bounce on us, and so forth. Family wrestling is also a good opportunity for Mom to sneak attack Dad’s feet (he can’t get away with four kids piled on top-ha!).  As with all active fun, it usually ends when someone cries.

Spikeball - We created this game using punch-balloons leftover from a birthday party.  To begin, we spread out in the largest room in our home.  Then we “spike” the punch-balloons across the room at another person.  Each player receives points for hitting another player as long as it is not a face-shot (we had to ban those during a particularly crazy game).  :)

It’s a mad frenzy trying to snatch up the punch-balloons and spike them at others while also trying not to get hit yourself.  You could also use a regular balloon, but punch-balloons are just a little heavier, bigger and bouncier, so they can travel farther.

Tip: it’s more fun and crazy if you have more than one balloon. Second tip: if you have a wide age range like we do, be sure the littles get their fair share of turns or you’ll endure much pouting.

What can you do when you're stuck indoors and the kids are bouncing off the walls?  Here's a big list of active indoor fun for kids to help burn off extra energy!  Save it for those rainy summer days or snowy winter ones. 25 Ways to Burn Energy When You're Stuck Indoors

Other balloon fun – Balloons are great for quick and easy active indoor fun because you can play so many different games with them.  Play don’t let the balloon touch the ground, or blow the balloon across the floor.  You can even play an indoor version of hockey with a balloon and pool noodles (cut them in half for smaller players).

Play volleyball by hanging a string or a blanket between two chairs for a net.  Hang balloons from the ceiling or a doorway just out of reach and ask children to jump up and touch them. Put a balloon between the knees and race from one end of the room to the other without dropping the balloon. Tie a balloon to their feet and try to step on each other’s balloons. The options for energetic fun are endless!

Indoor Obstacle Course – This is an often-requested favorite at our house and with our children’s ministry at church, also.  First the kids help to create the obstacles using chairs, card tables, tunnels from a Playhut set, brooms for hurdles or limbo sticks, hula hoops to hop through, inflatable swimming rings in place of tires for an agility hop, etc.

Once everything is set up, they race through it over and over again! I can’t wait to try this winter-themed course that involves climbing a “snow mountain.”

Sliding - If you have a slide you can bring indoors, you can entertain toddlers and preschoolers for quite some time. Since our kiddos have outgrown our slide, we turned our stairway into a giant slide (something I pinned a long time ago on pinterest).

The only thing you need is a few large, wide sections of strong cardboard.  If you use an appliance box, be on the lookout for staples that will need to be removed first!

What can you do when you're stuck indoors and the kids are bouncing off the walls?  Here's a big list of active indoor fun for kids to help burn off energy!

Nerf/Koosh Gun War – Two of our boys received Koosh ball guns for Christmas, and not long after I happened to find refill packs of balls on clearance at Walmart – score! :)  We also have a couple of Nerf dart guns and a foam disc shooter from years past.

Sometimes we sneak attack our teenager or Dad, but usually we play all together.  Gather up the ammo and have fun chasing each other all over the house.  Tip: it’s important to establish some ground rules first, such as do not shoot at the face and do not shoot at windows, etc.

Play Basketball - We also have been gifted a Little Tikes basketball hoops, as well as a classic Nerf hoop that hangs over the door.  One way to burn lots of energy is to play basketball free-for all.  Much like spikeball, there are few rules to this game other than to get a hold of a ball whenever you can and put it through the hoop.

If you like a more organized game, you can take turns shooting or see who can make a shot from the longest distance, etc.  No hoops in the house?  Improvise with a trash can or bucket and a small ball or even wadded up piece of paper.

Scary Hide-n-go-seek - A variation on the traditional game, this version is played in the dark, indoors and is another one of our most-requested indoor games.  We turn off all of the lights except one or two dim ones (for safety).  Something about hiding in the dark with the chance of being spooked really gets the adrenaline pumping.

Of course, if you have little ones who are scared of the dark, you’ll probably have to hide with them. And if you have a dog, chances are he or she might give away your hiding spot by sitting and staring near you or barking. ;) This is a favorite from our indoor fun for kids list.

Wii activity - In addition to our Just Dance Kids game, we also have Wii sports and a few other games that require activity.  You can often find gently used games at a greatly reduced price at places like Game Stop or on E-bay or Amazon. Here are a few that will encourage movement:

Go Vacation

Just Dance Kids

Wii Sports Resort

Sword-fight – Our boys (and often our daughter, too) love to sword-fight with their light-sabers, but inevitably someone gets hurt and we have to quit.  So, I really, really love this pinterest idea for creating light-sabers from pool noodles cut in half.  Sometimes we make it a whole family activity and even the teenager joins in with us! What a fun way to be active indoors!

Kid Olympics or Ironkid Challenge - We did this once for our AWANA kids at church during the last Summer Olympics.  We used frisbees for a discus throw, pool noodles for a javelin, relay races, etc.  We even ordered plastic medals online, but you could easily create your own indoor version.  Why not have an awards ceremony, too?

Wipeout – I love this idea for energy-burning fun that came from a friend of mine.  Use couch cushions, etc. to create a course inspired by the tv show Wipeout!

Giant tent fort - While this activity doesn’t burn quite as much energy as some of the others, it still burns some and it takes a good amount of time to do.  Our kiddos recently spent the better part of a day creating this giant fort using a card table, a piano bench, kitchen chairs, plastic totes, a step-stool, and anything else they could find.

We left it up for days until they got tired of it.  Any activity that holds interest beyond a day is a winner in my opinion! :) And if you don’t want the mess of getting all the blankets out, consider this pop-up princess castle or this fun teepee!

What can you do when you're stuck indoors and the kids are bouncing off the walls?  Here's a big list of active indoor fun for kids to help burn off energy!

What can you do when you're stuck indoors and the kids are bouncing off the walls?  Here's a big list of active indoor fun for kids to help burn off energy!

Treasure Hunt - This was another friend’s high-energy suggestion.  Create a treasure hunt where the clues involve some sort of physical activity such as jumping jacks, push-ups, and so forth.  Of course, you need a fun treasure like this, or a special snack or maybe new coloring books.

Convert the garage -If you have a garage, consider moving your vehicles and opening up space for indoor bike-riding, roller-skating, skate-boarding, scootering, or even an old-fashioned game of foursquare (use chalk to draw the lines). I’ve also seen hanging ladders, ropes, and sets of rings available for purchse to hang from the ceiling or doorway (guess what’s on my wish list?!).

If your children are very young or you have the inside space, you might consider bringing a tricycle or scooter indoors. How fun would this doorway swing be?!

Put on a Show - Our children, like most, enjoy performing for any willing audience.  Our shows usually consist of lots of break-dancing, twirling, and kung-fu-type stunts.  Set up a stage area and a seating area and settle in for lots of laughs. (Thanks to another one of my friends for reminding me of this!) While you laugh, they’ll be expending lots of extra energy.

BONUS IDEA for Energy-Burning Indoor Fun for Kids:

Work the Maze – Create a laser-beam maze in a hallway or other narrow space using yarn or even crepe paper.  See who can get through without touching or breaking any of the lines. Instant indoor energy-burning fun for kids that takes only minutes to create.

Armed with this list, I now feel prepared for the pending snowstorm heading our way (and any rainy days that might come our way this summer).

 Once you’ve drained off the extra energy, your children might settle down enough to attempt some of these fun indoor activities from Coffee Cups and Crayons.

Do you have more ideas for energetic, gross-motor indoor fun?  We would love to hear from you in the comments!

Jen :)

Related articles:

Our Big List of Favorite Games  (categorized by age)

Top Free Resources for Pre-K

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