Category

Christianity

A Simple Christmas

How do you want to feel this holiday season? Most of us would agree the nostalgia of Christmases past and the feeling that is evoked through those memories top the list. Evaluating what is important to your family and those cherished traditions continuing on is a good place to start. I remind myself that the countdown for Christmas day is a large part of the fun. It truly is a festive time, for the Savior was born! There is much fun adding momentum while waiting for the 25th to arrive. The key is keeping it simplified enough to actually enjoy the holidays. I can only guess that Mary felt pretty jittery with excitement and wonder as the day approached to give birth to the Savior. What a magnificent moment in history. With all of the tinsel and baubles and the shining lights surrounding us we can still point it all to Christ. When the advertisements never cease in displaying the “best” gift from their store we can focus on the One true gift while keeping it simple.

I’d like to share a few suggestions that I have found helpful. Give them a try if you like, maybe they will alleviate some of the stress that is induced this time of year, leaving you with a simplified, but glorious Christmas.

  1. Surrounding yourself with those who give life rather than drain it. We only have so much to pour out to others and wasting it on toxic people is throwing away our resources. Our biggest impact is on those whom our fruits can grow and prosper (John 15:1-17). Go ahead and shake the dust off your feet from those who don’t care to listen. (Mat. 10:14, 7:6)
  2. Focusing your time on serving. It is amazing how our unspoken needs are taken care of beyond our wildest dreams, while we are busy caring for another. Perspectives are also kept in check as we live in this “me, myself and I” society.
  3. Feeling free to take a few shortcuts. Go ahead and buy that ‘ready-to-assemble’ gingerbread house kit from the store -rather than making it from scratch if time is more efficiently spent elsewhere. Coming back to my previous statement of evaluating the really important traditions to your family and letting the rest go. (Note* It’s impossible to keep up with the Joneses, they aren’t real!)
  4. Shopping online. Save yourself from impulse buys. Not to mention gas, time and parking fees. If you don’t like online shopping and lean more towards the traditional way, it is helpful to look online for the item you’re searching for and to find the best price and which store has it in stock in your city.

We celebrate Christmas to remember the birth of Christ. The nativity story is beautiful. If we take it a bit further and think on the logical side of Jesus’ birth, Joseph and Mary would have had a long and hard journey. It certainly was no walk in the park to get to Bethlehem. Our lives at Christmas time are also intertwined with hurts, hardships and burdens.  Thankfully we have the perfect Present waiting for us at the end, and no matter how complicated things may get our joy can never be squelched. “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation for your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9. How awesome is that? Let’s celebrate!

May the peace of God be with you all through the holidays as you share in it with those you love.

Amber

“I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” 2 John 1:12

 

 

Relationship Vs. Academics {In a homeschooling environment}

One thing I love about connecting with other homeschooling parents is the reminder it brings to us on why we are choosing to educate our kids in the first place.

I have to admit, it is easy to lose sight of the end goal. When I am consumed with the day-to-day busyness of making sure I am not “failing” my kids by the public Board of Education standards, I can forget the masterpiece picture at hand.

As the new math lesson is being introduced and we go through it again and again all week- from various angles and the one child is still not grasping it and the others are…

When the child continues to struggle with reading and you have poured out hour upon hour of teaching, and trying again, which then creates a strong dislike for reading by the student…

The seemingly endless poor attitudes and whining at every subject and school assignment…

Constant bickering, fighting and horsing-around that never ceases when we all are living under the same roof and schooling under that same roof…

It is tiring. It is easy to crawl back under the covers in the morning instead of facing the day, or to just give in again because the fight has gone out of you. As homeschooling parents we also face the challenges of the inevitable “burnout” feelings. Then among the midst of these feelings a ray of sunlight creeps in-

Our oldest son graciously drops everything he is doing to teach a younger sibling a new technique…

Our oldest daughter hears of someone in need and immediately leaves to lend a helping hand. For the whole day, foregoing a previously arranged play date and her own workload. Without compliant and on her own accord with a joyful serving attitude.

Our middle son wanting to please and serve starts folding load after load of linen, and then proceeds to teach his younger sisters how to fold so they too can help.

Our youngest two selflessly (and maybe a bit miraculously ha!) share their portions and continue scooping cookie after cookie onto the pan.

Our son shares Christ’s love with another little boy who does not know God. He then reads his favorite bible story to him and gifts this little boy who so looks up to him, his very own bible.

focus-of-homeschooling-cultivating-hearts-for-the-lord-quote

It is times like these as parents we need to remember and dearly hold onto. Those glimpses and beautiful rays of light shining into the dark places sheds light on the picture as a whole. Not the here and now, but the very purpose we are put onto this earth. For this is what we were made for.

John 1:5 ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’

Psalm 138:8 ‘The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.’

God is incapable of lying. He is Holy. Therefore we can be assured of His promises. Nothing we come across in our days can snuff out Gods light.

Lets thank God for those people in our lives he has placed there to lift us up and point us towards Him. Let us also be willing vessels to lift others up.

School work will always be there.

Housework will always be there.

Life’s demands will always be there.

Our children may not always be here, nor will we always be here to teach them. Lets not let a Godly learning moment pass us by…

I pray we never let academics and what’s important to society -that passes away in the end anyway- get in the way of Gods work and purpose.

As fellow believers in Christ we are ultimately reaching for the same goal, we are fallen and reaching for His grace. Let’s extend that grace to ourselves as He has already done for us.

I am cheering for you!

Amber

“Your God… will rejoice over you with singing.”

Zephaniah 3:14-17

The {Gift} Of Giving

God sent his Son as the ultimate,

unbeatable gift of all time.

When He was crucified on that cross we were given the jackpot for all creation (John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him wouldn’t perish, but would have eternal life.) We now have the blessing and honor to pour out gifts and good deeds to others, as God has done for us. Take a moment to let this verse sink to the depth of your heart-

2 Corinthians 9:6-8

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.

I recently had the pleasure of watching our 3 year olds delight in picking out a special gift for their cousin, who turned 4 this past month. As we went from store to store picking up groceries and running errands we had needed, their focus was always thinking of another. The gift was picked with thought on what their cousin may like or need. I noticed the more they thought about giving, the more happy they became. The girls were not worried about what they could get, they were excited with the anticipation of giving and sharing in the festivities.

As far back as creation goes, God has delighted in pouring out blessings and gifts. The important thing to note here is God blesses us whether we deserve it or not. He also promises to bless is abundantly more when we choose to have an open hand to others.

Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return. Luke 6:38

Oh how important it is to give a gift to others! Gifts come in many packages-

  • Friendship
  • Prayer
  • Pearls of Wisdom
  • Grace
  • A kind word
  • Sending a card
  • Flowers to someone who needs cheering
  • Coffee shared
  • Hospitality
  • Bringing a meal to a busy family
  • A material blessing/gift just because
  • An appreciation note or thank you gift*

The last one gave me food for thought as it came to mind, how many people bless the lives of my children and my family (myself included) and do I show my appreciation enough? I certainly feel thankful and appreciative. However, have I voiced those feelings in the right direction or physically showed it?

I will always remember my friends story- Her husband was working long hours and had no time to go out and buy flowers for a special occasion, as unconventional as it may seem he gave cash to his wife and asked her to pick out a nice bouquet of flowers for herself. In the flower shop she picked out a dozen roses, instead of going home, cutting the stems and placing them in water to be admired, she turned around and gave them away- to her sister who she felt would be even more blessed by them. The gift that kept giving. A selfless action that left a heartwarming memory for everyone involved.

A gift comes in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes it is as simple as a compliment or as costly as a pretty ornament in thought of a friend or mother. There is a time and place for either, so long as we are thinking of others. God calls us to be good stewards and wise with our money, one factor to remember also is that He calls us to give above our budgeting and tithing. It’s easy to become tunnel-visioned to the point that it hinders the Holy Spirit’s prompting to bless another when you feel called to do so. The apostle Paul was greatly blessed by others who sent gifts from afar to help him during his ministry and while imprisoned, he then credited it to their account encouraging them in their giving.

Philippians 4:15-17

And you yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you send a gift more than once for my needs. Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.

-Amber


 

Benevolent

How do I want to be treated? How am I treated? I have been mulling these questions over for the past few days.

To be honest, I receive much more grace than I deserve; I am loved, cherished and always forgiven. Of course there are altercations with my kids that I have been mistreated or undeservingly judged (fairness is an illusion). However, when I analyze my own actions and heart  -I don’t line up with the gracious, benevolent mother I want to be. I have been asking myself how I would react- or at least feel- if I were constantly told I am not doing it right, half listened to, and maybe sternly told to go away for awhile because I’ve had enough antics for one day (I am wincing at my own words that are so often spoken to my own children in frustration)

Then I think of how adored and loved I am by God! When I picture Jesus surrounded by the little children, the words depicted in the Bible, it gives a clear picture of what he thinks of those youngsters and all those who belong to Him. They are not unimportant or told to go away. The very opposite happened in fact and we are told to be more like those children. God does not treat us as our sins deserve (Psalm 103:10). I want to be a benevolent mom, even when my kids’ behaviour doesn’t warrant it.

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32

I have read this verse many, many times, yet I have never seen it in the light that it should be applied to our children. How did I miss that? Of course it should! I practice forgiving strangers with road rage, others who may have unwittingly (or wittingly) hurt me and when reading Ephesians 4:32 I didn’t automatically think of my children. When attitudes abound and fights break loose sometimes what is needed is kindness and grace to turn around that behaviour versus stern discipline training.

With everything there needs to be a balance, and I think that is the hardest to figure out. When to be benevolent and when to stand firm and use grit. Bravely exercising justice rather than grace. Neither overreacting or under-reacting. I am in a quandary figuring that one out but, I have to start somewhere. So I have recently developed a 3-tier system,

1.) Minor Infractions- Practice grace, possibly letting them figure it out amongst themselves or with an explanation of why that may hurt someone or be unkind.

2.) Medium Infractions- Something kind said about the person or thing in question, along with an appropriate chore associated with the wrong-doing. (This may take awhile to resume whatever they happened to be doing, depending on the length of time it takes to come up something kind and sincere to say)

3.) Large Infractions- something that is harming their character and serious enough will require discipline from both parents and may take a day or so to figure out an appropriate and lengthy discipline technique to correct, taking time to think and pray on it is always the best option rather than hastily saying ‘you are grounded for 2 weeks and will have no friends or cousins over!’ Sometimes immediate discipline for larger infractions backfire because I can’t hold up my end of the punishment due to events outside my control.

The key I have found is being aware of the situation, which is easier said than done while being a busy mom to 5 young children. I have to be intentional and present while raising my kids by viewing the training up of a child as an all-important-high-paying-executive-job with benefits and bonuses. Don’t we all work diligently and harder knowing there will be a big pay-out at the end? I know I do! So I need to start putting that mindset into practice and keep looking ahead, treating my kids as the people they are (God’s child) Looking them straight in the eye and valuing who they are and what they have to say.

Happy week my friends,

Amber

I have loved you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3)

 

 

Not our Fight

“God does not allow hardships and adversity in our lives just to test our strength and faith, he also allows it to test the generosity, kindness and compassion of others” -author unknown

There is strength in contentment, knowing God is mercy, grace, love and redeemer. Throughout the old testament we see Gods wrath against those who have mocked Him, and his own people who have turned away from Him. Time and again, the Israelites lost their way and worshipped idols.

You saw the great disaster I brought on to Jerusalem and on all the towns of Judah. Today they lie deserted and in ruins…

Jeremiah 44:1-6

God used other nations to plunder them, until they were in such despair they cried unto Him once more. In the same breathe, he redeemed them when they turned back to Him.

The people of Israel are oppressed, and the people of Judah as well… Yet their Redeemer is strong; the Lord Almighty is his name. He will vigorously defend their cause so that he may bring rest to their land…

Jeremiah 50:33-34

Not only will God rescue us from our own makings, he will vigorously defend us. We should have a healthy fear of our God, our heavenly Father. The same God who redeemed them, was the same God who sent other kingdoms to destroy them. A first response to this could be one of unbelief, thinking how harsh God would be to his chosen people; however, God is sovereign and had their best interests at heart, wanting them to return to him where they could find rest.

Our Heavenly Father will always love us and make a way for his children to come back to Him. Sometimes the road is a hard one. How grateful I am for our Redeemer- Jesus. As we stand our ground and put on the full armor of God, we can rest and have peace that the fight is not ours; we have a safe-haven under his wings. We can learn something in every moment of our lives, it is up to us whether we will see it for what it is- an opportunity to know and serve God wholeheartedly, trusting in his goodness. We are not in this alone, He goes before us- and vigorously defends us. Even though we are undeserving, he sent his Son. How uplifting is that!

As a mother, how many times do we feel lonely in the raising of our children, the burden weighing on us heavily? As we seek to mold great character into the lives of these young ones, berating ourselves when we seem to fall short; their behaviour not mirroring what we want to see in them. While the devil is trying to plant seeds of doubt- God is working diligently and vigorously on their (and our) behalf, planting seeds in the inner workings of their hearts. We can rest easy knowing God is doing the heavy lifting, and leave the fight to him as he goes before us; following His lead and walking in truth. Don’t give those lies a foothold to grow. You are after all a child of God!

Whatever the day may bring, God is before you, behind you and beside you- holding fast to your hand. If you see another needing strength or help getting up, perhaps you are that vessel God wants to use to accomplish His work.

Amber

The Lord is my strength and defense; he has become my salvation.

Psalm 118:14