Monday, November 25, 2013

I Should be Cleaning, or Should I?

There was a time when the current state of my house would have unnerved me to the point that I could accomplish nothing before tending to the domestic duties loudly calling my name.  Over the years I have learned that there are many more things that have a much higher importance than a home so clean it could grace the pages of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.  Does that mean that I like a messy house?  Absolutely not!  I function best in a home that is orderly and clean.  However, life is messy, time is limited, and kids are only young for so long.  Then, it's over.  Children graduate, and as time frees up the house gets cleaner.

The part that was most challenging for me is that I had a small taste of freedom, and a near perfectly clean home was my norm.  In a way I do miss that.  Who wouldn't?  We raised seven children to adulthood.  We have 12 grandchildren and one more on the way.  We were shifting gears where our focus would be more off our children and more on ourselves and our grandchildren.  It was a welcome change of pace.

Then, we were thrown our first curve ball.  It's one we're ever thankful we caught!  Thanks to that unexpected jag in the road we now find ourselves proud parents of a soon to be four-year-old.  After seven children raising one was like a vacation...seriously.  Life was still slow paced, and we were taking time to smell the roses, and the scent of a very comfortably clean home.  Active homeschooling was still years in the future.  This was our time.

Enter curve ball number two, and three if you will.  Apparently, God has a lot of confidence in our ability to rear children.  We now find ourselves the proud parents of an eight-and-a-half-year-old, and a soon to be three-year-old.  Biologically they are our grandchildren, but legally we are their guardians.  We now find ourselves neck deep in homeschooling, and child rearing.  Thankfully, we are entering the other side of potty training.  (Two at once I might add!)  Through their presence in our lives God has been teaching me what is truly most important in life.

News flash!

Having  a spotless home is not even in the top 10.  Who knew?  (Yes, I am saying this tongue-in-cheek.)

These past few months have been extremely stressful for our family.  More stressful even than becoming a teen mother.  (I'll save that story another time.)  But, seriously, I never thought anything could ever top that.  Welcome to adulthood, a full contact sport!  The girls have now been with us a full year, and our family experienced some boat rocking that unsettled us all for a bit.  We're now coming out the other side, and recovery is taking some time.  Schedules have been thrown off, and many messes have been made.  We're working on finding our center again.

With the inclusion of two new young souls in our home there came a lot of lessons to learn.  Most of them had to do with ourselves.  You know?  The you that exists deep down inside.  For me, the current state of my home would always dictate a lot in my life.  It dictated how I felt about myself.  It would dictate to me my success or failure as a wife and mother.  It dictated to me whether or not I had time to spend with my children.  It dictated to me when I got up in the morning and went to bed at night.  It dictated to me whether or not I had company.  That's a whole lot of control to give to a house.

So, I took it back!

Now, my children come first.  The dishes can wait.  When my friends come over they may see a basket of laundry around, the counter may have dirty dishes stacked on it, the family room will surely be littered with toys, and in all likelihood my floors will be in need of a good sweeping.  Be sure to help yourself to the broom in the corner.  (wink-wink)  However, my perspective has changed.  I can look at my messy house and tell that I have been making time for things that matter for eternity, not just the moment.  I no longer get up early to sweep the floors, or pick up the family room.  If this mamma rises before the sun it's to spend time with her creator, and maybe throw another log on the fire.  I don't even sweep up the wood mess right away.  Gasp!  Now, I can look at my messy home, especially when it's a little past lived-in, and see that I have been up to something good.  I am investing my time in what matters most.  That makes everything sparkle!

My List of Top 10 Things MORE Important than a Clean House:

10.  A Happy House
  9.  A Healthy Family
  8.  A Means of Supporting our Family
  7.  Fresh Air, and Time to Enjoy It
  6.  Freedom to Home Educate
  5.  Freedom to Worship
  4.  Time with Friends
  3.  Time with Children
  2.  Time with My Husband
  1.  Time with God

Those are things that surely matter most.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Living in a Spirit of Gratefulness

Gratitude is a lifestyle choice.  When we choose to focus on the things that are good around us we can do great things for ourselves, our families, and our community.  Choosing gratitude literally changes our lives spiritually, physically, and emotionally.  There are many resources available to scientifically show the benefits to us, as well as those around us, when we practice gratitude in our daily lives.  The more we are aware of the abundance in which we live the more we are able to give of ourselves.

As a child of God, wife, mother, home educator, and nana it is important to me to feed my soul so that I have enough left of myself to give to those that count on me as well as those that God puts in my path during my day to day living.  Over the years I have learned a few simple ways to keep my spirit fed, and I have gathered a few tools that help make the task a little more simple.  To maintain full disclosure you must know that I have neither maintained all of these practices during all phases of my life, nor have I practiced them all simultaneously.  They are simply things that I know from experience that are beneficial to a strong and consistent spiritual walk as well as a healthy outlook on life that keeps my focus where it should be in order that I may be as healthy as I can to perform my God given responsibilities in my daily living.

There are many resources for the study of God's Word.  I have a couple favorites.  The first is the Women of Faith Bible Study Series.  This is a collection of guides on various topics that can be studied alone or in small groups.  Normally when I do these studies I space each chapter over a week's time.  It is easiest for me to find say 15 minutes preferably at the start of my day, but anytime throughout where I can sneak in a few minutes works for me, so these studies are ideal.  I recently discovered that Women of Faith also has a free app that offers an abundance of free resources.  My second favorite resource is available through YouVersion.  It is a bible app that I access through my computer, smart phone, and my Kindle Fire.  It is free, so I am very grateful for that.  :)  Personally, I use it primarily for the actual bible studies that it offers.  There are literally hundreds available.  It is easy to sign up, and the "catch me up" feature is my favorite.  Anytime I manage to fall behind, and this happens more than I care to admit, I can simply ask it to restart from the last date that I completed.  On any given day I do anywhere from one to say three or even four studies.  I am currently doing a parenting study and a faith study.  In the past I have completed studies on the topics of marriage, Christmas, Hosea, Finances, and Easter to name a few.  The list of topics is limitless.

One of the most beneficial practices to my mental health and my ability to maintain a spirit of gratitude is journaling.  Over the years I have kept my gratitude journal in various formats.  It is simply not necessary to spend a bunch of money on a fancy journal.  You can write in the data processing program on your computer, keep a blog, write in an actual journal or even a simple pad of paper.  I have a simple strategy I implement when journaling.  I begin by listing five things that I am grateful for which can be anything from a patch of daisies I saw on the side of the road to surviving a car accident to the health of my children.  If we stop to think about it there really are so very many things to be grateful for in our lives.  Too often we get so caught up focusing on the negative that we forget the many things we have to be grateful for in our daily walk.  After listing the five reasons I am grateful I continue to write a minimum of three pages in my journal.  There is no rule to the content of this writing.  It is simply required that I write.  It is fine if it is aimless.  The simple act of writing is good for our mind, body and soul.

I love exploring and sharing on Pinterest.  One thing I discovered on one of my creative exploits is an idea that I like a lot and will be implementing in our home for the coming year is a Thankful Jar.  The concept is a simple one with big implications.  You keep a special jar on the counter or another location where all family members have easy access.  As things happen throughout the year that are a reason to give thanks they get written down and dropped into the jar.  On New Year's Eve the family gathers and reads about all the reasons they have had to be thankful for over the past year.  Focusing on what we are grateful for on a regular basis more greatly impacts our lives than when we just do it sporadically.  

As a home educator I am always looking for different ways to instill positive habits with lifelong implications into the daily practices of my children.  There are many ways we can teach our children to live with a spirit of gratitude.  In our home we pray at meals and bedtime and anytime that a special need arises.  I always model prayer by beginning with reasons we are thankful.  For me this is the easiest way to consistently model gratitude to our children.  We also practice the apparently dying art of hand written notes of thanks.  I hold it in high importance to openly express thankfulness to others for gifts, both material and intangible.  There is nothing quite like receiving a hand written note of gratitude to warm our hearts and boost our esteem.  We also consistently go through our belongings for things that no longer fit us or items that have outgrown their usefulness to us.  We keep in mind our favorite charities, family members and friend when deciding who might benefit from things we can no longer use, and the kids participate in the actual act of preparing and giving the items.  Also, as a family we are always looking for ways we can serve others within our own home, our family, our church family, and our general community, even the world.  This year our family is participating in Operation Christmas Child and Friends of Foster Kids, as well as donating to Grace Centers of Hope through our business.  We involve the kids in all these acts of sharing as much as possible.  Our family has also sponsored children through Compassion International for over 10 years now.  We currently have a boy in Bolivia and a girl in India.  On occasion I have the kids color or draw a picture to send to them.  There are many ways to involve our children in world wide outreach as well as within our communities if we just take the time to look for the opportunities around us.  Currently, a group of children within our local homeschool group is collecting food for an awesome organization right here in our county call Hunter Hospitality House.  My children will be helping me go through our cupboards to put together a bag of food to donate from our family.  They love to be included in these activities, and you can just see their little eyes light up when they participate in the giving.  Our 4-H Club also participates in the adopt-a-family program through The Salvation Army each Christmas season.  All of these activities foster a spirit of giving in our children and unite us as a family in the act of giving.

As you can see, there are many ways for us to learn about, practice, and teach the art of living a life of gratitude.  The implications for ourselves as well as others are limitless.  The key is to start.  Choose an activity, and begin.  Based on my experience the best place to start is with ourselves.  When our spirits are well it will simply spill over to the others in our lives.  Caring for ourselves first gives us the strength and knowledge to share with those around us.  Just like the oxygen mask in an airplane, if we first fill ourselves with gratitude we can then share it with others.

"Give thanks in all circumstances; 
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

- I Thessalonians 5:18

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Transition: A Matter of Perspective

Life has had many twists and turns over the past few years.  I find myself in a constant state of transition.  It can really be exhausting as much as it is anything else; exciting, nerve wracking, challenging, inspiring, etc.  Sometimes I wonder just how much intensity I can possibly take.  That's a dangerous thought to ponder.  You just never know what might be around the next corner.  Trust me.  Life really is a mystery.  Just when you think you might have something figured out everything changes.  I honestly don't think there is much of anything that can throw me, catch me off guard, or shock me anymore.

It's like you become seasoned experiencing so much in such a short time.  I mean, seriously, 40 years really isn't a long time at all.  Sometimes I wish we lived as long as they did in Bible times.  If you think about it, even if you lived a full 100 years it really isn't that long at all.  It takes us a good 30 or 40 years to even figure out what is really important.  Just about that time our bodies start betraying us.  I recognize that most, if not all, of our health maladies are self-inflicted through diet and lifestyle.  With the corruption of our food system and the lies we've believed about what is and is not healthy we practically have to be a private investigator just to know what we should or should not eat.  That aside, just imagine what you could accomplish if you lived to say even 300 years.  The possibilities would be limitless.

On another perspective, what if we hadn't transitioned to a work based society.  What if children still had responsibilities that made them real contributors to society?  What if we didn't base our life on artificial time lines?  What if we weren't limited by our age?  What if we grew up thinking we could do anything and those around us supported us in our ideas and explorations?  What if our society was really based on loving our neighbor?  Oh how different things could be.

With those questions in mind I have been actively transitioning my perspective.  Beauty is the simplest thing to seek on a daily basis.  So, I started there.  It really is everywhere.  I often wonder if people truly behold the beauty around them, or do they just take it for granted.  Life is way too short to take anything for granted, and the beauty around us is free for the taking.  Granted, it can be more challenging dependent upon your environment, but I have grown to believe that more depends on our perspective.  After all, we are in control of how we perceive all things.  Really, we are.

Another one I challenged myself with is the issue of being judgmental.  I made a conscious decision to stop judging others.  I mean do we ever really know the reason behind that person cutting us off on the freeway, or why the cashier at the store was rude to us?  We really do have no way of knowing why someone we don't know on any level does what they do at any given moment.  It is a choice to not take things personally and to not stand in judgement of others for any reason.  Really, it is not our place.

The most challenging transition I have been working on, and it remains unconquered for me for the time being, is learning not to base my emotions on the attitude of others.  We really can control how we react to what others do and say to us.  We do not have to meet anger with anger or spite with spite.  I am a very emotional person, and I recognize the possibility of maintaining calm in all circumstances.  It just seems so impossible to me at the moment.  Where do we draw the line?  Why do we give up so much control?  It really is up to us how we feel about the actions of others in relation to us.  Really, it is.

So, my reality is that God in his infinite wisdom finds it necessary to lay a heavy load on my shoulders.  I accept that wholeheartedly.  I do not know why, and that is okay.  However, it was suggested by a dear friend that I am such a capable person how else would God show me that I need to rely on him for all things?  There is sound wisdom in that observation.  If he didn't give me a heavy load to carry, I would likely walk easily off relying on self and forgetting that He is the source of all my strength.

I accept my burden and grasp my lessons:

Beauty is all around us and free for the taking.

     "O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness:  fear before him, all the earth." - Psalm 96:9

I will judge no man.

     "Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man." - John 8:15

It is up to me how I react to others.  Period.

     "She opened her mouth with wisdom, and in her tongue is the law of kindness." - Proverbs 31:26

My life may be in constant flux, and I accept the persistent presence of constant transition, but I know that my God is present in all circumstance.  I accept my burdens and my lessons and will ever rise to the challenge.  Life may beat me up, batter my bones, and drain my energy, but I will rise to the challenge with the strength of my Lord.  Above all I will do my best to honor him and reflect his love first to my family, and then to all those he puts in my path.  Life really is more beautiful with an adjusted perspective.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Just for Fun

Snagged Tag

I snagged this tag from Juliana's Lair .

1. Where is your cell phone? Right beside me.
2. Your hair? Long
and straight
3. Your mother? Hands off.

4. Your father?
5. Your favorite food? Raspberries; even better Raspberry Cheesecake!

6. Your dream last night?
I know I did, but I've forgotten the topic.
7. Your favorite drink?
Water with Lemon
8. Your dream/goal? To live a self-sustaining lifestyle very close to the land.
9. What room you are in?
10. Your hobby? Research
11. Your fear?
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years?
Right where I am.
13. Where were you last night?
14. Something that you are not? Judgmental

15. Muffins? Lemon Poppy Seed
16. Wish list item?
Pressure Canner
17. Where you grew up?
SE Michigan
18. Last thing you did? Loaded the wood burner.

19. What are you wearing?
Comfy Pajamas
20. Your TV?
34" Flat Screen 
21. Your pets?
Two cats, one dog, and a few fish.
22. Friends?
A few close ones.
23. Your life? Full

24. Your mood?
25. Missing someone? Children out of state.
26. Car?
27. Something you’re not wearing?
28. Your favorite store?
Aside from resale, Kohl's.
29. Your favorite color? Light Blue

30. When was the last time you laughed? A lot Saturday night!
31. Last time you cried?
Not too long ago.
32. Who will resend this? Not re-sending, publishing to blog.
33. One place that I go to over and over?
 The St. Clair River 
34. One person w
ho emails me regularly? My mom.
35. My favorite place to eat? The dining room with my family and friends.


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