Friday, April 22, 2016

Making Over My Evenings: Day 1

"A successful morning begins the night before"

I can not tell you the number of times I have heard that little quote. I used to hear it all the time when I was in high school. 

I heard it again in college as I was pulling all-nighters trying to get through semester after semester. 

Once I was married and working as a full time preschool teacher I heard this quote time and again during staff meetings and teacher training times, reminding us that we need to prepare ourselves the night before to be on our toes with lots of little ones in our care each day.

And then I had children. And again I was reminded that to be on top of my game with my own kids I need to be prepared before I got to bed the night before.

And I have been HORRIBLE at that. 

I do really well for a few days, then something, usually the weekend, gets in the way and I get off track.

Normally by the time 7:30 hits I am just done. The only thing on my mind is getting whatever activity is taking place (usually dinner) wrapped up and getting the kids in bed so I can go "off the clock" (as if mom's ever go off the clock!) at least for a few minutes. 

Tuesday, after a fairly long day, something just clicked on in my head. As the day was winding down I just stopped and took a breath. It was then that I made the decision to begin establishing a nightly routine for myself and the kids. It was time to get our evenings in order.

I just love how God works. Just 24 short hours after I made the decision to begin a huge change within the atmosphere in our home Crystal Paine's "Make Over Your Evenings" 14 day online course went live.

Photo Credit: Money Saving Mom

Not only did it go live, it was on sale!

I jumped at the chance to gain access to these amazing resources for such a low price!

Back in February I went through her "Make Over Your Mornings" 14 day course and it was wonderful. While I haven't managed to get all the principles put into practice, my mornings go much smoother when I get at least part of them in place.

This morning I dove into Day 1. Today's lesson focused entirely finding the "Why" behind the "What"

Just like exercising, going back to school, or learning a new skill you have to know why you are doing something if you are going to be 100% committed to it. If you don't know why you have set out on your journey you won't know where you are going.

Crystal asks 5 basic questions to get you thinking about why you want to change the direction your evenings are going.

All 5 questions focus on identifying why you are frustrated and what challenges you are facing that has lead to enrolling for the course.

For me my biggest frustration is waking up feeling like I am already 10 steps behind when I have to come down the stairs and clean the kitchen before I can even think about cooking breakfast. I also hate that I have to scramble to make things presentable when anyone knocks on my door because we all just dropped things in the middle of what ever room we happened to be working in.

My Why can be summed up like this:
My "Why" for taking this course is that I want to establish easily manageable routines for me and my family that allows us all to maximize our time together each day and helps to set a more peaceful tone throughout our entire house."

Right know our evening routine looks something like this:

Yes she is upside down in the picture. That is how she was laying next to me on the couch.
 We start with some evening snuggles while we all wind down for the evening after dinner.

Once our show is over we make our way to the bathroom for face and hand washing and brushing of teeth. We also take the time to do any last minute picking up of toys from the living room and making sure all the dishes are in the kitchen.

Once we are done with that we make our way upstairs for a quick devotion reading and bed time prayers.

Once that is done I tuck each one into bed and I tell them both the same thing every night.

They repeat it back to me and then we hug and kiss and it's lights out.
I make my way back downstairs where I either sit and work on homework OR I clean up the kitchen in preparation for the next day. 

Now let me tell you, this is only a week into this routine but so far I am already feeling like things are calmer in my home and the tone is a lot less demanding. We are all getting the time that we need to wind down and mentally prepare ourselves for bed. I am looking forward to diving further into this course over the next 2 weeks. Check back next week to find out how the course is going!

Talk to me...

Do you have an evening routine or something you do to wind down for the end of the day? 

Have you ever taken any of Crystal Paine's Courses? If so, which one and how did you like it?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Letting Go Of Perfectionism

Perfectionism is defined as a "refusal to accept any standard short of perfection"

Refusal to accept ANY standard short of perfection.


I have to say that if you were to look that definition up in the Websters Dictionary I would not be shocked if you saw my picture next to it.


Anyone who has known me for an length of time would tell you that. Even now as I sit here trying to write this post I have started, deleted, and restarted it at least 5 times because it just isn't coming out the way I think it should sound.

Perfectionism is something I have fought all my life. When I look at that definition I realize that the standard for perfection that has been set is one that I have made up on my own.

I have decided what is good enough and what just won't cut it. I have allowed my perceptions of the world and how I believe people perceive me to dictate the standards that I have to live up to rather than focusing on God's standards. I do this in my home, with my husband and my children, and most especially in my scholastic endeavors.

Every semester I begin with bright eyes and high hopes. I buy my notebooks and pens, folders and binders and I am ready to go. The minute my syllabus and book list is available I am printing it off and memorizing assignments and due dates.

And then it hits me. That nagging feeling that I will never make it through this semester alive. I immediately start to second guess myself wondering if I can really manage to accomplish all the things that will be required of me.

As the semester goes on and assignments come do I sit in front of my computer and I stare at an empty screen more often than not with tears streaming down my face that I just can't write this paper or complete this assignment. The words aren't coming out perfectly and I just know I will fail the paper because it sounds more like a 2nd grader wrote it than a 30 year old graduate student.

I turn in the assignments and I hold my breath for weeks as I await grades. Then finally low and behold not only do I pass the assignment, I do exceedingly well.

My final assignment is to write a summary of the book "God is My Strength" that I wrote about here. As I have looked back over my assignments in preparation for writing the summary I have come to realize that

The truth is there is no such thing as perfectionism. Perfectionism is an ideal designed by Satan to distract us for our real focus. In Galatians 1;10 Paul asks

You see, the more we strive to win the favor of people the hard it will be to achieve. There is absolutely NO way we can please people. No matter what we do someone somewhere is not going to agree with what you have said or done. Someone somewhere is going to be better, faster, stronger, and more capable than you.

However, Paul also reminds us in 2 Corinthians 13:11 that

When we turn our focus off of ourselves and what is going on in the world and on to Christ our weaknesses, our imperfections, are made into our strengths. The more I have focused on relying on the Lord throughout the semester the less I have stressed about my assignments.

As I wind down this semester and I begin to look toward the next round of classes starting in August I find myself being drawn back, yet again, to more of Paul's words

As long as I continue to do everything with the mind set that I am striving to please God and God alone whatever product I put out will be 'good enough". Not only will it be good enough it will be fit for a king.

Today, I am letting go of perfectionism and grasping on to perfection in Christ Jesus.



Monday, April 18, 2016

Why We Chose to Home-School

Photo Credit: Dusty Marshall (my awesome hubby)

I love learning. I absolutely love it. I think that if I had enough money I would just stay in school forever.  Don't get me wrong, I know you should always be learning and not rely on some type of formal education to be the only source of learning. But there is just something about sitting around with a group of people all soaking in the same knowledge from someone who has spent time gathering that information to pass on.

And I also love watching people, but most importantly children, learn.

I love seeing the light bulb go on when a concept that has been challenging them for weeks finally makes sense. I love the enthusiasm that comes along with the idea of learning from young children.
I truly believe that is one of the number one reasons why, from the time I was junior in high-school, I wanted to home school my children.

While watching my children learn and grow, being the one that sees the light bulb go on each and every day, and not some person, is a GREAT reason to home-school in my opinion, it is not a good enough reason alone to make the decision to do so. So here are 3 main reasons why, as a family, we made the decision to home-school for as long as we can.

We have 100% control of where our children are going to be and what they will be learning.

The world is a scary place these days. From teachers acting in appropriately with students to a rapid increase of unpredictable violence, the idea of sending my children off for 8 or more hours a day with people I barely know is just not all that appealing. Couple that with the increase in government involvement when it comes to the content that is being delivered and I am just not all that confident in the public education system. 

I don't believe that there is a bright line in Scripture where it tells us that everyone who is a Christian should immediately take their children out of the public school systems and all educations should be done at home. However, I do believe that the Bible is clear that we are to be the NUMBER ONE educational resource for our children. God gave us these precious gifts and it is our responsibility to make sure they know what they need to know.

And what they NEED to know is Jesus Christ. It is our responsibility to be sharing the love of Christ to our children constantly. Deuteronomy tells us exactly how we are supposed to be doing that:

The reading, writing, and arithmetic that are necessary in life to find a job and be a productive member of society are important and should not be disregarded, which is why we believe that we can incorporate everything they need to know to survive along with everything the need to know for salvation.

 I love the idea of a super flexible schedule to allow us to do things as a family that we want to do.

We have a family member who made the decision to home-school all 3 of her children and she (whether she knows it or not) has been one of my biggest inspirations to take on this home-schooling journey. While we are not close, thanks to the joys of social media, I have watched her be able to take grand adventures with her family during times that most people are tied down with classroom requirements. However, with the freedom of home-schooling they are able to go where they want, when they want, and not have to question if it will interrupt someones school schedule. 
My mom, who has also been a great inspiration and encouragement toward my home-schooling decisions, always instilled in us that everything can be educational if you try hard enough. As we would take family vacations in the summer we stopped at the historical markers along the road and we visited the obscure monuments so that we could learn just a little bit more. With the freedom that home-schooling brings we have the opportunity to make everyday an adventure. If we are studying wild animals, instead of sitting at a desk reading a book about them we can jump in the car and drive to the zoo for the day to get real life experience.  If we are studying nature, we can jump in the car and drive to a park to see the world around us. When you home-school the only boundaries are the ones you put on yourself. 

We are in the Ministry. We never know where God is going to take us next.

Probably one of the biggest reasons, beyond instilling a love of God's word in my children, is that we are living life in the ministry. And with that comes the possibility of moving at any time. We never know where God may be calling us and I would rather know that my children's education will stay consistent. There won't be any of the hassle of withdrawing from schools, re-enrolling in new schools, and trying to figure out if our kids are ahead of or behind the other students in a new place. 
We will be able to stay constant. If we have to take some time off for a transition, we can do that and it won't be a challenge to get back on track and caught up. 

These are the main reasons why we have made the decision to home-school our children. I am not going to say that things will be perfect all the time. In fact, we are only part of the way through our first official year of home-schooling and things have been tough at times. There have been days when I have seriously contemplated driving down the street to the closest elementary school and just leaving my son there. But then we have our GREAT days and I am reminded of why WE made this decision. Home-schooling isn't always the right choice or even a realistic choice. It is a decision that I believe is to be made with a lot of prayer and guidance. I talked with A LOT of people and looked into a lot of different options before I made up my mind. 

I am blessed to have a lot of support from family and friends as well. I am pleased to say that I have come up against very little criticism. But I am sure, as time goes by, that will change. And I am ok with that. Because at the end of the day, I know that after my time in prayer and discussion with my husband, we have made the decision that is right for us. And that is all that matters.

Are you a home-school family? What lead you to make that decision? If not, what type of education do you choose for your children?

Friday, April 15, 2016

Is God Really My Strength?

I live my life 90% of the time in a very negative head space. I constantly ask my self if I matter in the world. I live life with a lot of insecurities.

This semester one of my on going assignments has been to read though a book entitled:

God is my Strength: Fifty Biblical Responses to Issues Facing Women Today

Each week I was assigned a section or "chapter" and to read through. Then I had to find some biblical principles that jumped out at me that I wanted to embrace in my life. Lastly, I had to take those principles and apply personal applications to my life. 

Over the course of the last few weeks I read through the sections on friendships,the section on  my God and the sections focused on myself. Next semester I will continue to the end of the book on the section about my home.

However, as I sat down to take another look at what I had written throughout the course of the semester I began to ask myself the question 

Is God really my strength? Have I truly been applying the principles that I drew from my readings into my daily life?

As I have really stopped to think about it I am sad to say that I don't think I have really been taking to heart what I have been reading through this semester.

The biggest area I have been struggling in is feeling inadequate. Feeling as if I have absolutely NOTHING to bring to the table. I have nothing of value to contribute to a conversation, an event, or another person's life. I have felt for much of my life that when God was handing out the gifts he somehow missed over me in the process.

Then, tonight, as I was reading through my assignments I came across this reminder:

"If you compare, force, or entertain expectations that are beyond your God-given capabilities, mediocrity, frustration, phoniness, or total defeat is generally predictable"
~Patricia Ennis

Once I re-read through that I had to stop and ask myself if I was trying to force or entertain expectations that are beyond my God-given capabilities? Is that why I have been living my life frustrated and feeling totally defeated? 

The answer: Most likely

I have had a desire for a long time to "be somebody". I can't even really tell you what that means but here I am 30 years old and I always thought by this time of my life I would be some high-powered somebody. Maybe that was a high-powered attorney, or possibly a big name child psychologist. 

And yet, here I am spending my days arguing with a tiny version of my self over whether or not she needs to take a nap or go to the bathroom in a princess potty chair that sings every time liquid touches the bottom of the sensor. There are days that I don't even bother putting on real pants. My sweats or my yoga pants are just fine because bending over 18 million times in jeans is not all that comfortable.

I have become a master of buying groceries for my household of 5 for less than my allocated budget more often than not without the hassle of coupons. And once that food is brought home I have figured out how to make it all fit in my tiny fridge and freezer that looks like it belongs in munchkin land with the lolly-pop guild. 

And I provide a fun and caring environment for 2 other children 4 days a week allowing their mother to do her job knowing that her children are in a safe place so she doesn't have to worry about what is going on with them.

So the more I stop comparing, maybe not to someone else in the world, but to what the ideals I had made up for myself were, and I start being me I am able to really see that I may not be some big high-powered somebody in a corner office somewhere. But I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

I am being me, just as God created me to be.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb
Psalm 139:13

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Taco Tuesday (posted on a Wednesday)

This semester I have been working on a major research project with a major focus on childhood obesity in today's society. Though out the course of my research I have really stopped to evaluate how I am feeding my family, especially my children. What kind of example am I setting on a daily basis with the meal choices I am making for our family?

One thing that I realized is that I am really bad about getting enough veggies into my families meals. Partly because I get busy and forget and partly because I don't really want to deal with the arguments that will come along with dinner.

Last night I had tacos on the menu. Everybody LOVES a good 'Taco Tuesday'! However, as I was looking at the portion of ground turkey that I had pulled out I realized that I really didn't have enough to feed 5 people. 

That was when I decided to try and bulk it up.

I started with some diced onion and shredded carrots.

I browned those in a bit of olive oil and some garlic. I tossed in some green chili because green chili always makes things taste better.

Finally it was time to add in the meat. We basically only use ground turkey for a number of reasons. The biggest one is that it is cheaper than ground beef.

The final touch was a bit of taco seasoning that I made up from a recipe I received during one of my Seminary Wives classes.

To fill up the taco shells I added in some refried beans with some cheese and garlic salt.

I topped that with the taco meat and lots of shredded cheese.

My goal was to get my kiddos to eat more veggies without knowing that is what they were doing. And I think I can say that I was able to make that happen.

Both kids stuffed down 2 whole tacos and were asking for more by the end of the evening. I would call that a dinner SUCCESS!!

How do you get your kids to eat more veggies? Do you have any secret tips or tricks? Let me know in the comments. 

The Holidays

The holidays have always been an important time of year to me. From Halloween on it has always seemed like my siblings and I would put away our bickering and get along at least until new year. I don't know if it was because we knew Santa was watching or if it was because we were to busy during this time of year to really fight but either way were friends for the most part. Now that I'm "grown up" with a family of my own I look forward to this time of year when we all get together with our little family units and we become one VERY BIG family unit. (If you knew how many people I was talking about you would understand.)
However, this year, due to finances, class schedules, and work schedules the holidays are a little smaller than I would like.
For Halloween we had a good time. We took the kids trick or treating at the Ft. Worth Stock Yards and we went to a fall festival at a very speial frineds home church. Candy and fun was had so Halloween was a success.
For Thanksgiving we spent the afternoon/evening with some of my cousins that I haven't ever really spent much time with. It was a wonderful afternoon of conversation, laughing and lots of food. There were 7 children at or under the age of 7 years old running around the house and my kiddos got along great. It was special to me that we were invited to participate.
Now on to Christmas.  At first it was looking like we would be spending Christmas here in Fort Worth just our little family. Then Dusty's work schedule opened up a bit so now we will be traveling about 6.5 hours to spend the holiday with Dusty's mom and step-dad.  I am looking forward to this trip because this will be the first time we get to meet Dusty's step- brother. And we haven't been to see his mom since we got married.
When it comes to decorating for the holidays I like to go all out crazy. The more decorations the better. Its the only time of year I really get to do this. However, with the help of Pinterest I might be decorating for every holiday and season of the year!  With our financial situation the way it is though, I was/am really limited on what we can do. So this year has become an almost entirely homemade Christmas. I used items I had in our little storage closest plus awesome finds at local thrift stores and Big Lots to put together my winter wonderland.

A different direction

When I first started this blog I had these big dreams of being one of those people that wrote profound things that would change the world. Ha, then I got to Fort Worth and life happened. Between school, church, Dusty's work schedule, and trying to maintain the house I was lucky if I had time to eat a meal or use the bathroom during the day. So needless to say the profound words of whatever just didn't happen.
So with that said I have taken time to reevaluate my direction.  I have decided that I'm just going to be writing what I feel. From now on, during the kids nap time I hope to take a few minutes to sit down and just empty out my head. So for anyone that reads this, here is your warning. I have no idea where this might be going but I can say that it will be real.  A real behind the scenes look at life at seminary. The good, the bad and the ugly.