Category

Christianity

Reflections & Wisdom Through Hardship

Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him.

Psalm 33:1

I believe our human nature makes it extremely hard to share how we are truly doing; certainly when things are not going well. We are tempted to feel ‘less than’ or ‘not good enough’ and almost always ‘not strong enough’. However God’s word is true (For the word of the Lord is right and true… -Psalm 33:4) and when we are in the midst of trials,  God promises that relying on him will ensure full victory (“… But victory belongs to the Lord.” -Proverbs 21:31) Let us be humble, honest; disposing our pride. When we open up with the good, the bad and the ugly, others will also feel safe to open up and that is where real connections are made. Jesus didn’t go it alone, he chose twelve men to surround himself with, and those men grew with one another in their walk. There is real value in relationships.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.” -2 Corinthians 4:7-12

Wisdom, character, empathy, thoughtfulness, joy, patience, perseverance… are ours to claim. I could go on for a long time with the things God equips us with during hardships, knowing there is always purpose behind it. Nothing is trivial or meaningless with God. (The Lord foils the plans of nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. Psalm 33:10-11)

 

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” -James 1:2-4
I’d like to share my testimony with you and the valley our family has been walking in. As hard as it is to pen down these words, I can only praise God and have the joy and peace that can only come from him. For it is only through him that we receive our strength, putting my pride aside here it is…
A scarce winter, a slow work force, a job change and sickness in the form of mental health have preceded us into the last 6 months. To the point that things have become pretty grim over here by North American standards. Our reserves being empty from the winter and not being able to make one of our payment arrangements this past spring with our gas company caused us to have our energy shut off. Meaning no hot water. For almost 4 months I boiled every pot of water to wash dishes and bathe kiddos… it was a lot of manual labor. Our pantry and fridge became non existent in the form of perishables and non-perishables, along with our deep freeze as the year is coming to a close from last year’s hunting season. Besides no hot water, struggling to eat and being a couple of months behind in all of our bills, we had to say no to the kids- swimming lessons, camping, our family trip we had planned, fun outings with family friends, and just the everyday summer fun things like ice cream and bubbles. And of course whenever I glanced at social media, it was sure to point out what fun everyone else was having this summer and where their vacations took them. The struggle is real. But you see, that is not where the story ends, nor is it finished. We are still biding our time for all our paychecks to come in, but God has continually been faithful throughout it all.
But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them…” Psalm 33:18-19
the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles…see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 34:6-8
I have kept a journal of God’s faithfulness and gifts over this past summer, and it consumes a whole page in my notebook (in point form I might add). Not to mention the invaluable lessons our children (and ourselves) have learned, the entreprenuership skills and creativity we have all acquired are nuggets of gold. When I’ve been able to live in faith daily, trusting Him to provide for each and every new day, he is able to step in and show me his love and faithfulness. I prayed, he answered. I pleaded, cried and petitioned, he answered. It was exhausting and uncomfortable on so many levels, but I will never be the same without this season of my life. And the glory! The glory I can give while praising him. With that background leading up to this point, I can tell you about the miracles, answered prayers and gifts he has provided us over this past summer. Which just so happens to be my favorite part. While trusting God, I pulled a ‘George Muller’ and did not ask friends or family for things we needed, leaving God the opportunity to answer our prayers and provide all of our needs.
–Delight yourself in the LORD; and he will give you the desires of your heart.– Psalm 37:4
  • I have a great fondness for cut flowers. They bring me so much joy, yet I maybe receive one or two bouquets a year. The rest of the time I enjoy flowers outside when they are in season. Shortly into this journey I was gifted a beautiful array of flowers and they made me smile everyday of the two weeks they adorned my kitchen table. Such a small thing, to brighten a whole household. It might not seem very significant, but you see those flowers were from a recently widowed, amazing woman who had no idea the hardships I was facing. Going away to visit family she wanted someone to enjoy those flowers, instead of them being left to wither in an empty household. I am blessed to know her.
  • Our kids love going to Bible Camp every summer. Every year we have been in a position to pay the full price. This year we had to break it to them that they couldn’t go. God had another idea, the morning of registration he provided a full campership fund for our second oldest to go to camp with his cousin.
  • Not homeschooling over the summer months has given me the opportunity to reopen my daycare for casual drop ins, the income generated from that has helped with groceries and letting the kids attend the town and country fair.
  • The coffee pot broke… And I thrive on coffee. My morning devotion and coffee go hand in hand, so does my coffee on the patio, and when I am doing dishes. All day long really. I took it in stride, for a day anyway. A friend caught wind of it and brought us out supper and her Tassimo machine with a full package of coffee pods as a love gift. Friends truly are God’s angels in disguise. Did I forget to mention the awesome dessert she included? Yum. God doesn’t just provide for our needs, he goes the extra mile.
  • Our oldest desperately wanted to go to camp, family stepped in and sponsored her, with enough leftover to even buy a t-shirt. Did I mention this camp includes red cross swim lessons? Level 6, check.
  • Lemonade stands and bake sales (planned and executed by the kids) all brought in revenue to pay for pool days, park program and ice cream treats. The generous spirit in our small town is no coincidence. This also showed our kids how hard we have to work to enjoy these privileges, ones which they no longer take for granted.
The list and stories continue of practical answers to prayer of our needs (and wants!!) including the love gift of a Costco grocery run in the middle of summer, to the sharing of freshly butchered meat, bounty from gardens and canned fruits and jams, along with home baked goodness and shared picnics.
–Carry each other’s burdens.– Galations 6:2 
~Too Blessed to Be Stressed~ An unrivaled gift I received is the knowledge and wisdom that you are never too poor to give and bless others, no matter the circumstances. A smile, an encouraging word, cookies or a cup of coffee all have value and can be shared with someone. Another valuable gift I have been given through this season has been the people God has surrounded me with, who lifted my family up in prayer, love and support and always there to lend a sympathetic ear or shoulder to lean on. I recently read an old adage which has much wisdom “Measure your wealth not by the things you have, but by the things which you would not take money.” Truth.
–We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up…May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other as Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.– Romans 15:1-6
I don’t know the bumps in the road life has thrown at you right now, but I know they are there. We are living in this irrevocably broken world and are all flawed people, making it a guarantee that we will face trials and hardships of many kinds. Surround yourself with others who keep you looking at the glass half FULL and in the direction of The One who can fill your cup. For with God the glass is never half empty. Knowing we are not in this alone, it is just as important to share in our burdens as well our successes.
–I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.– Philippians 4:12-13
-Amber

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)