Monday, May 31, 2010

Cheers for charts!

The kids and I have done most of our chores, most of the days, for the past 2 weeks!  Considering that I was pretty sick about half of that time, I think we did pretty good!  Tabby and Oliver are getting much better about doing their jobs without as much complaining.  Plus they really enjoy putting the little star magnets on their chore chart and getting rewarded for completing tasks.  They get a reward of some kind every 2 or 3 days, which seems to work pretty well for their ages.

I'm feeling much more confident in my ability to keep up with housework as a result of my own chore chart.  Funny, though, I think I'll need to be careful not to become too obsessive.  The more time I spend doing things like scrubbing all the walls, the more aware I am of the dirt and grime that I haven't yet cleaned.  Not all of my chores were accomplished on the exact day scheduled.  There were some I did a day or two late, and a couple I did a day early.  But the important part is that almost everything got done.  The one thing I skipped was cleaning one of the bathrooms.  The best part has been having a meal plan, knowing what I'm going to cook each day, and planning my grocery shopping accordingly.  Unfortunately I don't get rewarded this time around like the kids do.  At my age the expectations are much higher.  Or maybe I just have a mean task master!  At any rate, I think I'll wait to reward myself until I manage a two week stretch without skipping any of my jobs.

As I mentioned, I was sick quite a bit the last couple weeks... which brings us to a whole new topic.  I am going to the Democratic Republic of Congo in July!  It was getting the immunizations for this trip that made me so sick.  Hopefully it will all be worth it and I'll be healthy now while traveling.  While in the Congo, I will get to spend time with my sister-in-law and her family who have been living and working in the Congo for the past 3 years.  I will get to spend time with my nieces - 2 of whom have grown a bunch since I last saw them, and 2 I'll be meeting for the first time!  Plus we will be taking supplies to, and spending time doing what we can to help out at an orphanage.

I will miss my little Tabby and Oliver terribly while I am gone.  Two whole weeks.  But I am also excited to see what God has in store for this trip.  I pray that the supplies we take, the projects we do, and the love and attention we are able to give the babies and children will truly have a lasting impact on their lives.  I imagine my life will be forever changed by this experience.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cuteness and Compliments!

Tabby Cat, Baby Oliver, and I went to Balboa Park yesterday with friends.  We watched The Tortoise and the Hare at the puppet theater, rode the trolley, had a picnic in the grass, went in the Botanical Building and the Timken Museum of Art.   It was all lots of fun.  The best part of the day for me came as we were getting off the trolley after riding back to where we had parked.

Baby Oliver (i.e. my 2 1/2 year old son) paused by the young lady sitting in front of us.  He looked at her bright red and very curly hair and said, "Your hair is SO beautiful!  Can I smell it?"  She was absolutely beaming!  And she did bend over so he could smell her hair.  Baby Oliver sniffed her beautiful hair and said, "You smell like strawberries!'  Which is also quite a compliment; there isn't too much he loves more than strawberries.

It was a very sweet and funny moment that I will never forget.  It reminded me of a couple things.  Taking the time to say sincere compliments to others really can brighten up their day, week, or more!  Also, I really need to keep an eye on my little flirtatious son!  Imagine as he gets older...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Living in His Grace

I am embarrassed to put the following in writing, but I want to be honest about what God has been patiently teaching me.  For the past year or so I've been whining and feeling sorry for myself because we needed to move from a spacious house into a less spacious, but still nice home.  Admitting it makes me realize just how shallow I've been!  My sincere apologies to all of you who endured listening to me!

Here are the questions I am considering.  What are my true NEEDS vs. wants?  Have I ever been unable to feed my children multiple healthy meals each day?  No!  Have I had to wonder if we'd have a warm and safe place to sleep at night?  No!  Have we always had some clothing to wear and safe water to drink?  Yes!  I've been concerned by things like not having a private yard and having to park a bit of a distance from my front door.  I've complained about it.  I've whined about it.  I've been self-absorbed and worldly in my thinking.

Please don't misunderstand me on this.  God still has a lot of work to do!  I continue to have days when I really want unnecessary things.  I still hope to someday have a home with a yard for my kids.  One of the main things I've needed to learn is to be content and thankful no matter what my current situation is.  The biggest thing that is helping me change my attitude and focus is realizing that the more unnecessary things I do without, the more I am able to give to others who have true needs.

God, I am so sorry for this terrible attitude.  I apologize for my selfishness, my pride, my lack of trust in you.  I'm sorry for not having a thankful heart when I've been SO richly blessed.  I thank you Lord for your grace, patience, forgiveness, and abundant provision for me and my family.  Please help me to remember this lesson all the days of my life.  Please help me to continue to grow in the knowledge and understanding of your truth.  Thank you for my salvation that is so completely a free gift, a gift given with immense grace.  Thank you for making me a new creation and for continuing to mold and shape me.  Thank you for my daily bread!  Amen.

The following passage is what God spoke to me regarding this subject.  I don't think I'll type it out for you today.  Go get your Bible!  And if you are reading this and don't have a Bible, leave me a comment and I will send one to you.

Here is the passage - Luke 12: 22-34.  Does this speak to you too?  Read it again, and again if needed.  I sure have!  The topics in this scripture have been huge in my life lately.  It is likely they'll show up again in future blogs.

Monday, May 24, 2010

One of "those" days

This is taken from my journal in February, but could fairly easily describe a day like today or many others over the past five years.

I am in a bad mood this evening.  The day started off great.  I went to MOPS and we had a wonderful speaker, Sylvia Lange.  Her heart is focused on helping impoverished children worldwide; and sharing the truth, joy, and love that Christ offers us.  Her music and talk blessed me immensely... and then I came home with the kids.  They were being so naughty, mean to each other, and whiny.  And I've been so impatient and frustrated.

I feel like I have the worst behaved kids on the planet today.  Which must mean I'm doing things terribly wrong as a mother.  Why don't they listen and obey?  Why do they hurt each other?  Why are they so whiny?  I know in part it is because they are 2 and 4 years old.  And I know much of my emotional response and impatience today are caused by hormones.  Yuck!

But I also wonder if it could be largely a spiritual attack.  I want so desperately to make a difference in the lives of hurting children in the world.  I want to add to my family through adoption.  Then I have days like this.  And my mind screams at me, "You are not capable of that."  "You will always be a depressed and anxious mess."  "Who are you to think you can make a difference?"  "You can't even do a decent job raising your own children."

I want to be realistic.  But I also want to have faith, to be bold in Christ.  "God, what is your truth?  What is your plan for me?  Can you use me in this stage of life?  Or are my dreams and desires in place for sometime in the future?"  So tonight, instead of dwelling on my bad mood and doubts, I'm going to do my best to replace those thought with God's word and truth.  Here is where God is leading me this evening.

James 1 (all of it!)  The following passages in particular. 
James 1: 2-6  Consider it pure JOY, my (sisters), whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

This whole chapter, the whole book of James really, is SO applicable to me right now, I could write it all down.  I encourage you to take the time to read James!  That being said, just a couple more parts that stand out to me currently.

James 1: 19-22
(Shauna), take note of this: You should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for your anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.  Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.  Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourself.  Do what it says!

James 1: 26-27
If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself ad his religion is worthless.  Religion that God our accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Please God, work in my heart and mind.  Help me to serve you fully, despite my weaknesses and limitations.  Please give me wisdom as a wife, mother, friend, and as your hands and feet in this world.  Please help me to listen to your truth and not the lies of this world or my own emotions. Amen

Cleaning Schedule for Mom (me) and Meal Planning

As mentioned in the previous post, I made a chore chart for myself too.  If I knew how to put it in chart form here I would, but sadly I'm not willing to take the time to figure it out today.  So I'll just include a general list of what I'm planning to do.  The first week was a success!  I got a magnet for each day I did all my chores, just like the kids : )  Now I just need to determine what my reward will be.  Maybe just a much cleaner home...

Week One:
Monday- wash sheets & vacuum
Tuesday- clean master bathroom & sweep and mop all linoleum and tile floors
Wednesday - clean kitchen & vacuum
Thursday- dust living/dining areas & clear clutter
Friday- do a "spring cleaning" project & vacuum
Saturday- plan next week's menu & grocery shop
Sunday- a "day off" or finish any chores I missed during the week.  Today this involved 7 loads of laundry and 3 loads of dishes, plus putting away clutter and dusting that I hadn't done Thursday.  Oh yes, vacuuming AGAIN, having young kids and a dining area with carpet is really not a good idea!

Week Two
same as above except...
Tuesday- clean main bathroom & sweep and mop
Thursday- dust bedrooms and blinds & clear clutter

After that, I'll start again with week one and hopefully keep the cycle going.  Every day includes laundry, dishes, and cooking of course.  The spring cleaning tasks I did this week were cleaning the patio and washing the bathroom walls.  Other things on my "spring cleaning" list include washing the rest of the walls, washing windows, organizing the filing cabinet, steam-vacuuming the carpet, and selling or donating items we don't need.

The weekly meal planning on Saturdays is especially important for me.  I don't mind cooking, but always have a hard time deciding what to make, with dinner being the worst.  We also have been trying to cut back on our food budget as much as possible while still eating a healthy diet.  Having a plan really helps!  Plus I despise shopping, detest it, abhor it...  With a plan in place I know what we'll be eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a whole week.  I can do all the shopping just once a week, hopefully without kids.  And we're not so tempted to eat out or order in due to a lack of food in the fridge or ideas in the brain.

I'm wondering if I'm over-ambitious currently.  I feel like I need to be because I've been "under"-ambitious for so long.  Time will be my deciding factor.  For now, I'm glad to have accomplished this much this week.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tabby Cat, Baby Oliver, and Chore Charts

I've been trying to decide on internet privacy related matters, for now my children will have fictitious online names.  They have chosen the names themselves!  For the past 3 years, my daughter (5 years old) has referred to herself as "Tabby Cat" when she pretends to be a cat.  And for the past 1 1/2 years, my son (almost 3) has called himself "Baby Oliver," his kitten persona.  They commonly introduce themselves to new acquaintances this way.  The adults look at me like I'm crazy and don't know how to name my children.  At the mention of Tabby Cat and Baby Oliver, just remind yourself, 5 year old girl and 3 year old boy.

It was way past time to get more organized around here!  A year or two ago I read a book by the Duggars; you know the family with 19 kids?  Michelle, the mom, wrote about how hectic their household was when she ONLY had 3 or 4 kids.  Then she realized the importance of planning, scheduling, and organizing.  Yes, I thought, it would probably be a good idea, but it takes time to make a schedule.  Plus I might feel compelled to follow it, and I really like being flexible and stressed.  Wait, I like the idea of being flexible, I really hate being stressed and always behind on my chores with no energy to complete them.

I have two cats, um kids.  I want to adopt at least two more (yes, real children, not felines).  So now is the time to get organized and start training Tabby and Oliver how to follow a schedule and be responsible for the things they are old enough to do themselves.  Training myself, of course, is much harder than teaching them!

Last week was the start of a new chapter around here.  Here's hoping it lasts!  The kids got a new chore chart that allows them to put a magnet by each chore they complete, for each day of the week.  Here are the chores we started with: 

Make Bed
Brush Teeth (by themselves in the morning, Joel or I brush their teeth before bed)
Take Dishes to Kitchen Counter
Water Plants
Pick Up Toys (one magnet at the end of the day, not one each time it needs to be done)

This adds up to 5 chores per child each day.  Oliver needs help making his bed, and Tabby is usually glad to help as long as she gets to put his magnet on the chart for him.  Our first week with this went pretty well, the hardest thing for them is picking up their toys.  Oliver especially will sometimes choose to have many of his toys put in time out for a week or given away.  I think the sheer volume of his toys stresses him out because he never misses any toys when they are gone.

Due to the fact that they are young and just starting out, they are getting pretty big rewards to begin with.  They got to do a special craft after getting their first 10 magnets.  A trip to the zoo for 20 magnets.  And a gift for 30 magnets.  They were able to earn all of these this week which means they both did 30 of the 35 possible chores for the past 7 days!  I decided the gift will always be something consumable or something they need or could really benefit from.  This week I made them each a new hooded towel.

Of course, if the kids get a chore chart, so does mom!  I'm trying to decide if I should get rewards too.  It might be a good idea...  This post is plenty long, so more about my own chore schedule will come later.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Oh Pooh, you are so smart!

Can you believe so much can be learned from "the bear with very little brain?"

From The House At Pooh Corner, by A.A. Milne, chapter 8:
"Let's go and see everybody," said Pooh.  "Because when you've been walking in the wind for miles, and you suddenly go into somebody's house, and he says, "Hallo, Pooh, you're just in time for a little smackerel of something," and you are, then it's what I call a Friendly Day."
Piglet thought that they ought to have a Reason for going to see everybody, like Looking for Small or Organizing an Expotition, if Pooh could think of something.  Pooh could.
"We'll go because it's Thursday," he said, "and we'll go to wish everybody a Very Happy Thursday.  Come on, Piglet."

Here are today's Pooh Lessons; very fitting because today is a Thursday!
1.  I should always have a little smackerel of something to share when Pooh, or anyone else, stops by.  I would like to make each day a Friendly Day for others.
2.  I should visit others just because it is "Thursday" or any other day.  I should especially remember to visit Eeyore who is always so surprised that someone thought of him.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Another journal entry from December

A question was posed to me regarding my faith and if I had any doubts in God's promises.  Answering truthfully, I know in my mind that God can do all things and heal all things.  But my heart hasn't trusted that He will choose to heal me from depression and anxiety.  I have long struggled with the fact that my times of severe depression keep me from serving others as God has purposed for me to do.  Depression has so often caused me to be miserable and ineffective in life.  The following is a bit of God's response to me regarding my doubts.

John 15: 1-17   "I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.  You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.  Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.  This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
  As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love.  If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in His love.  I have told you this so my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.  My command is this:  Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his masters business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last.  Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  This is my command:  Love each other."

Some of the things that stood out to me in this passage:
1.  God (the gardener) cuts off every branch that bears no fruit.  I believe that includes things like disabling depression.  And he prunes the other branches so they will be more fruitful.  God has been working on lots of pruning in my life this past year!  And there is lots still to be done.
2.  "If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
3.  "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.  This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
4.  "I have told you this so my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete."  That one stood out a lot.  I view joy as the opposite of depression.

This is the prayer that followed as a result of meditating on this passage of scripture:
Dear God, you know my heart.  You know my desire to bear fruit, my desire to show your love to others.  You know my doubts, too.  Please forgive me for my lack of faith.  I claim Jesus' words in my life Lord.  I am clean in Jesus, with Jesus I can bear fruit, for God's glory I can ask for what I wish (healing), Jesus provides me with his complete joy, God chose me and appointed me to go and bear fruit - to love others.  I praise you God for your promises.  And I ask you, in Jesus' name to heal me from the disabling effects of depression.  Thank you God!  Amen.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Governing Authorities

Romans 13: 1-2   Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.  Therefore, whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

Wow!  Do you have a hard time wrapping your brain around that one?  I sure do.  The authority that exists is established by God.  Now, I must admit that I really don't trust the vast majority of government leaders.  But I do trust God.  Some of the world's leaders, past and present, are just plain awful.  They were put into place by God?  Yes, that is exactly what this passage says.  I am supposed to obey the governing authorities, unless of course the laws go against a command given by God.  He is the ultimate King.

So what do we do when those in leadership aren't acting according to God's will?  Speak of them with respect.  Pray for them and for the choices they make.  Do you have other ideas or thoughts on this topic?  I'd love to hear them!  The following is just one of many verses I looked up regarding prayer.

Philippians 4: 4-7   Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again:  Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lessons from Pooh

An excerpt from The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne, Chapter 6:

... (Pooh) tripped over something, and the fir-cone jerked out of his paw into the river.  "Bother," said Pooh, as it floated slowly under the bridge, and he went to get another fir-cone which had a rhyme to it.  But then he thought that he would just look at the river instead, because it was a peaceful sort of day, so he lay down and looked at it, and it slipped slowly away beneath him... and suddenly, there was his fir-cone slipping away too.
"That's funny," said Pooh.  "I dropped it on the other side," said Pooh, "and it came out on this side!  I wonder if it would do it again?"  And he went back for some more fir-cones.  It did.  It kept on doing it.  Then he dropped two in at once, and leant over the bridge to see which of them would come out first; and one of them did; but as they were both the same size, he didn't know if it was the one which he wanted to win, or the other one.  So the next time he dropped one big one and one little one...
And that was the beginning of the game called Poohsticks, which Pooh invented, and which he and his friends used to play...

Lessons to be learned:
1.  Read the original Winnie the Pooh Books and poetry by A.A. Milne.  It is great!  Read it to your kids, too.  Read lots of great classic literature!
2.  Spend time enjoying nature.
3.  Experiment and let your creativity flow.  This is how we learn and grow and is especially important for kids.  Unstructured, relaxed time is so beneficial.
4.  Spend time playing with your friends!
5.  When frustrating things happen, just say "Bother!" and move on.

I'm probably missing some great lessons that can be pulled from this.  These are just a few that stood out to me.  My daughter just turned 5 and for the past year or so we have been reading many great chapter books for kids.  At first I was surprised by how long she was able to listen and how well she was able to narrate the story back to me.  Sometimes she was wiggly, sometimes she colored or cut paper while I read, but those things seem to aid in concentration for young kids rather than distract.  I was also surprised by how much I've enjoyed reading these books with her!  We've had lots of fun laughing together and we've learned together as well.

Some of our favorites:
1.  Charlotte's Web by E.B. White (we also enjoyed Trumpet of the Swan and Stuart Little)
2.  Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
3.  Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books by Betty MacDonald (I edited the content a little as I read them, also if you have kids who like to try everything they hear you may want to avoid these!)
4.  Casey the Utterly Impossible Horse by Anita Feagles

This is just a brief list.  I'm sure I've forgotten some!  And these are just the "chapter books."  We've had so much fun with picture books, too.  That list might show up in another post.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

My journal entry from December

Reading through my journal, I stumbled upon this today.

There is so much on my mind.  I have a great desire to educate my brain, to teach and train my children, to exercise my body, to do away with my bad habits, to reach out to others and make a positive difference in the world, and to draw closer to God and dive deeper into spiritual understanding.  I know I can't make all these great changes 100% effectively all at once.  Where should I begin?  I could spend all my spare time in any one of these areas.  In the meantime, my home is a dirty and messy area and is making me feel crazy!  Every day seems to require more energy than I have.  I long for more energy, more discipline of my time, more patience for how things are.  How do I balance between being joyful and content with life while continuing to strive for higher goals?

Dear God, please remind me to daily seek your will, your wisdom, your strength.  I am helpless on my own - overwhelmed by my desires for perfection.  You don't require "perfection" as I view it.  Instead, Lord, I give You my heart and will.  Thank you for being a gentle and patient God!  Amen.

The blog adventure begins!

Almost 5 years ago I felt compelled to start a blog. I’ve always been a writer at heart and was in need of a way to express myself. Had I actually started blogging back then, the content would have been so different than what it is likely to be now. My focus then was simply me and my baby girl. The posts would have been about my pregnancy and birth experience, my daughter’s habits and development, and the baby products I loved.

Today, my focus is on living in the love of Jesus Christ. He is my passion and every day I strive to learn and follow in the path Jesus has for me. And what an amazing and exciting journey He has in store for me! Who knows what this blog would contain if I waited 5 more years to start it…

But for now, I plan to write about some of the things Jesus has been patiently teaching me. It is amazing what God has to say when we pause and listen and open our hearts to saying “Yes” to what He has in store. Topics that are likely to show up here soon: orphans and adoption, homeschooling, learning to live with “less,” dealing with depression, and of course parenting (because that is what I do every day). I write because it is therapeutic for me, and also with the hope that somehow the lessons of my life will touch the hearts and lives of others.