Category

encouragement

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

Stopping Burnout In Its Tracks

“Oh no…” I moan to myself as the tell tale signs of burnout come creeping in. The short temper, irritated at …well nothing really. The gloomy looking future as my perspective is clouded. Don’t forget the pity party that sneaks in there too.

We are wired as parents to keep going and going, like the energizer bunny. Funny thing is we don’t have that long lasting battery. Unless we recharge or put new batteries in -we are hopelessly frozen in place. We are no use to anyone around us. In fact we may be doing more harm than good when we sacrifice our well-being to continue taking care of the demands of life when our current gas tank is on ‘E’.

It was recently pointed out to me from the opposite gender how wives/mothers need to get paid too. This can look different in many ways, but they all have a common denominator with the end result being refreshed and renewed. Many studies have been conducted in the work force revealing if you want your employee operating at top-notch there are steps to take to ensure productivity. This is not intended to encourage you to only think about yourself, but rather the opposite so you can give your best to others. If we are divided too many times over with programs, boards, volunteer work, activities and so forth we will only be able to give 5% to each category and sadly leave our family with cold, stale leftovers. My life has collided with burnout more often than I would like to admit, so I have been consciously seeking, trying and testing different ways to stop burnout in its tracks before it consumes me again. We are all so very unique and different that what fills me up may not necessarily fill you. Here are a few ideas I have had success with to help before it hits with full force…

Recognize what brings you joy. This may sound simple enough, but as life keeps moving forward and changing my interests have as well. I am still that person I was before I married and had children. I am also in a very busy season of life right now so I try to keep it simple. Coffee with a good friend, a supper date, or even a hair cut. Those things make me feel like an individual and not the “invisible mom”.

Volunteer in areas you actually enjoy and realistically have time for. Almost everyone I know volunteers in some shape or form. I am a planner so I really like putting together fun activities, parties and crafts for kids programs. It really takes the “work” right out of it when I enjoy it. Life stages change however, so I have to analyze how much I can actually do on a yearly basis.

Scheduling in breaks. When I have a block of time carved out in the day/week/month I am more likely to be more patient and have a better outlook. Similar to a small light at the end of the tunnel. When I can see the bit of light coming, I can breathe deep and keep going knowing my mind/body will have a chance to rest eventually. I try to combine what brings me joy with these scheduled “breaks” for the biggest impact on my state of mind.

Prepare for the worst and make an action plan. The signs begin to emerge that life is demanding too much and taking its toll, burnout may be around the corner. Plan for it. Which balls am I juggling that I can drop or delegate? For myself this may be taking a “snow day”. All activities for the day get cancelled and we stay in our pajamas and lounge around, reading a good book, baking cookies or drinking coffee all. day. long. The minimum gets done for housework and ordering pizza in for supper sounds fantastic. Other times this is simply impossible due to other obligations, so I make a mental list of what has to be done and what I can cut out later that week.

What are your thoughts on overcoming burnout? What helps you when life spins out of control? Are there certain steps you take to get a good grip on the reigns again? Whatever secret weapon you have I would love to be in on it, feel free to email or write it in the comments section, it’s always a joy to hear from my readers!

 

“As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” Psalm 42:1

“And to be renewed in the spirit of your minds…” Eph. 4:23

“Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered” Proverbs 11:25

-Amber

 

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.

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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

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)

 

 

Seasons {of life}

Different seasons in our lives reap different blessings (and different work!) … so why is it I find I am constantly trying to attain what others can, and are doing in their different season of life?

From the moment I married, from the moment I had our first child- all the way to our 5th, I am still doing the same thing! I’m constantly in a battle with my thoughts- I am not doing enough, or where I should be. When we first married and had our firstborn for example, the people I knew that had children the same age as ours were 10 years+ my senior and married even longer. Yet that did not penetrate into my rationalizing of where we should be. I was striving to be where they were in a few meager months that had taken them a decade to build. I eventually figured it out after awhile, although I have found it creeping up again as we are in the 10+ years of marriage/children stage of life. This time though, it looks very different.

I find myself reading blogs and Pinterest posts on how to stay ahead of the game and keep the house neat and tidy with a rotating schedule and de-cluttering systems. Even I, have written on these subjects! They. never. work. for. long. … in our house anyway during this season of our lives. I keep feeling like I have utterly failed as a mother and homemaker when comparing my state of home and children to another. Oh, I know better. When I look at the big picture that is, sometimes however- I can get so darned tunnel visioned! Seasons. Its all about the seasons. I am opening my eyes to the truth that even if others have children the exact same age or a tad older/younger, less or more- we can be in two very different seasons of life. There are too many varying factors to have any one family be in the same season as another. Once in awhile we meet in the middle at the same time just to have a factor change course, and yet again- different seasons. Our three year old twins are very dependent upon me compared to our first two children, then there is our third child who is smack dab in the middle, along with a husband who works very long hours with no holidays.

I somehow have been wrapped up in the mantra that the kids are all old enough- I should have a spotless house and weekly meal plan running smoothly. Please, I know your silently balking at me- I am balking at the lunacy of it as well. It sounded so realistic in my thoughts until I tried (and tried again) putting those ideas into practice, along with failing (and feeling) miserable in the process.

I suppose no one ever tried to shovel snow in the heat of an August summer day, or harvest their garden mid February- that would be absurd! However here I was trying to attain something that was not in season.

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At the beginning of this post I mentioned the different blessings we reap in the seasons of our lives. There are always more blessings than drudgery. The trick is focusing my thoughts on the blessings and tuning in to where I am in the here and now. I am trying that, today. Verbalizing my many blessings helps. Looking at my life and family around me with a fresh and new perspective also is key. I may have scuffed walls, dirty floors and painted toe nails on the dog- but one thing is certain, I receive many hugs and kisses and cuddles throughout the day. I have snuggles with my children periodically morning through night, where we curl up in the rocking chair and just sit, or read a story. The first person my children want at their side when they get hurt or have a problem is me, their mom (unless dad walks through the door!) I am blessed to have a husband who supports a wife and children so I, their mother can raise them and school them. … I just need to keep following down the path we are on and enjoy the messy season of life we are in. Anyone who would like to judge me can either come over and change what they don’t like or we can come their way to play and mess their house up instead 🙂

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I hope you have found some encouragement in my thoughts and challenges I have shared here today in my post. I know everyone else’s life can look a little more rose-y than our own at times and hope my experiences may resonate with you in some small way. Wishing you many blessings to your weekend!

Amber

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?

Ecclesiastes 3:1-9