Friday, June 24, 2016

Letting Go of Excess: 7 Experiment Part 2

**This is taking more time that I realized it would! With life getting in the way I just haven't had the time to sit down and write out my thoughts like I had hoped I would. I am working on fixing that.**

Here we are time to dive into another week of Jen Hatmakers 7 Experiment.

A few weeks ago, I got half way through the Intro and I have really been looking at and evaluating how I perceive wealth over the last few days.

This week has taken a bit of a different direction. We are transitioning from the initial shock of realizing just how better off we really are in comparison to the world to more of the "how do we change" discussion.

Jen begins to talk about fasting.

Fasting can be defined as "abstain from all or some kinds of food or drink, especially as a religious observance"
Fasting in the Bible happens a lot. Fasting generally took place for one of six reasons: Mourning, Inquiry, Repentance, Preparation, Crisis, and Worship. All of which were intended on shifting the focus off of self and on to God for a set period of time.

God talks a lot about fasting, but the important part isn't about the what the individual is giving up but the heart behind the why. Isaiah 58:3 points out that fasting was taking place for their own pleasure and glory and all the good things they were doing were smothered and ignored.

How many times have I done that? How often have I made a big deal about a sacrifice I am making "to better serve God" but really I am looking for the praise of man?

What a waste of mine and God's time!

Jesus then talks about the very same thing in Matthew telling the people not to overact when fasting but to go on about their normally scheduled routines with only the knowledge of the fasting between the individual and God.

So now for the me of it all:
"How do you feel about abstaining or fasting (from food or anything else)? How do you do with restraint on the whole?" *question for the reader on page 22

The answer to that question? To be honest, not so well. First of all I LOVE food. And I find it hard to really justify a reason to fast. (sad I know) Secondly, I HATE having to do different things for myself and the rest of my family. Since we have a 6 and 4 year old in the home fasting is not something the whole family can do. We really value family meal times so I don't push food fasting very often.

As for restraint as a whole, well I have to say I am not so good in this area either. On a scale of 1 to 10 I would have to say I fall in the 3 or 4 range when it comes to discipline and restraint. Part of this is because I just have no control. And part of it is because I don't like having to be the bad guy that says no all the time so I just don't.

And here we go! Time to get into the meat of the 7 Experiment: A Fast From Excess

"If our excess is at the root of the problem, lets fast't from it." Pg. 23
We are the rich, young rulers. While we sit in our air conditioned homes, cars, and buildings others are wondering where their next meal will come from or how they will provide for their families. We give to missions offerings, sponsor children we see on television or through programs on TV, and feel like we have contributed to the 'cause'. All the while we are wondering why we can't feel truly connect to God.

So thus the need to fast from excess. Over the next 16 weeks I will be journeying down a path of fasting in areas of food, clothing, possessions, media, waste, spending, and stress (ha). And I have to say that I am pretty excited about this process. I am really looking forward to the process of simplifying things so that I can really connect with my family as well as God more.

Jen concludes the intro lesson with reminding people that fasting for the wrong reasons is just simply narcissistic. She encourages the reader to have their ducks in a row so to speak and to get things in order before beginning on the journey. Lately, I have really been struggling with the "why" behind a lot of things in my life. What is the purpose for the turn of events that my husband and I keep finding ourselves mixed up in. What is God's plan in it all. So for the next 16 weeks that is going to be my focus as I embark on this journey. Searching for God's plan in the simple as I reduce the noise around me. I hope you will come along on this journey with me.

Next week we jump into week 2:Food. So have you ever fasted from any type of food? If so, what and why? Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Keeping Kids Minds Engaged in the Summer

Hello all!

It has been a few weeks since I have had time to sit and write and mostly that is because summer is in full swing here in Texas. Its getting hotter earlier in the day and staying that way later into the evening. That means it is becoming more and more of a struggle for me to find things to keep the kids engaged throughout the day.

Recently we made the decision, in an effort to save some money, to cancel our beloved Netflix and Hulu video streaming accounts. We do still have access to the Amazon prime streaming services but frankly that just isn't as good as the other two in my opinion (but that is a discussion for another day).

This means that our TV viewing options are fairly limited. And that really isn't a big issue for us. I have tried really hard to not have my kids spending all day everyday but with it being so hot outside more time is being spent inside.

One of the things I have had to do to limit the amount of bickering that goes on between 4 children when they are bored is get creative with my thinking.

So here are a few things I am doing to keep the kids engaged during this summer.

1) Playing outside early in the morning.

I am trying really hard to get the kids outside to play by 9 AM. And we are outside until about 11 or 11:30. Sometimes I just let them play and use their imaginations all on their own. Other times I plan a game, walk, or some other type of outside activity. It really just depends on how well they are getting along. Sometimes the just need a bit of guidance and direction to cut down on the bickering and fighting.

2) Reading Books Aloud.

I love reading. I love jumping into a new adventure and I really want my kids to find joy in books as well. Recently I stumbled on a blog/podcast called "Read Aloud Revival" and I am just LOVING it. She talks so much about how to engage with children, what types of books to read to your kids, and the benefits of reading aloud to our kids no matter what the age. 

My mom used to read books to us all the time. She read us the entire Harry Potter series, the Lord of the Rings Series, along with several others. Reading was just something that we did in our home. And I have continued that on with the kids at our home. 

During lunch I have begun reading to the kids while they eat. And on top of that we are filling out a chart for our local Half Price Books summer reading program. This encourages me to read to them and for them to enjoy and listen because at the end of the summer if we complete the chart we get credit at HPB for new books. 
HPB Summer Reading Program

The current book series we
are reading together at lunch.

3) Indoor games, play dough, and crafts

We are a homeschool family so everything can be turned into an educational experience if we try hard enough. And that means that with a bit of flour, salt, water and food coloring we can be sculpting the next greatest master-piece in a matter of seconds. Board games are learned and mastered in an afternoon. And coloring a picture or gluing a few things together can help an afternoon go by quickly. Pinterest has become a friend of mine as I search for fun activities to keep them from being bored.

4) Good ol' fashioned imagination

My kids have more toys than they know what to do with. This means there are tons and tons of opportunity to use their imaginations to play and explore. If this means that the boys are in one room playing superheros and the girls are in another playing with their baby dolls then that is what it takes. They need the opportunity to create worlds on their own and I don't need to be right there to direct their activity all them time. 

Keeping the kids engaged is a challenge that is not one that is easy to accomplish. However, I have found that with just a bit of  forethought and preparation the summer can be just as enjoyable as the rest of the year, IF NOT MORE!!

And as an added bonus, on days that aren't unbearable to be outside we will make a trip to the zoo!

What do you do to keep your kids engaged during the long summer days when it's too hot to be outside? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Raising Up Men and Women of Honor

Raising children is hard. I don't think that anyone out there would argue that point. At some time in life these little people decide they want to be independent and make their own choices and decisions. And they want to test boundaries and they want to take risks.

As a parent we want the absolute best for our kids. Letting them test the boundaries and take the risks and become independent is not always the easy thing to do. But at some point we have to let them.

Recently, I started listening to more podcasts and watching less TV. However, I was at a loss on where to look. Luckily, the blogosphere did not disappoint and I was introduced to a number of wonderful podcasts when I asked what to look for.

One of the ones that I have fallen in love with is The God Centered Mom Podcast. She is a mom of young boys and I just love listening to her and the individuals she interviews share great tips and tricks for all things parenting while keeping things centered on God and not on the chaos that is all around us.

In a recent episode she interviewed Emerson Eggerichs, author of the book Love and Respect. He has just put out a book titled "Mother & Son: The Respect Effect" and in this book he talks about how just as a grown man craves and desires respect so do our young boys. It is in those early ages that our boys really start yearning to be respected just as much as they need to be loved, especially by their mothers.

During the podcast Heather MacFadyen (the God-centered Mom) and Emerson discussed how to really instill this respect talk into your relationship with your sons. Heather mentioned that while parenting her boys, especially when it comes to discipline, she asks them if they want to be men of honor and how can they go about striving for that.

I really started thinking about this concept so I did a little bit of digging to find out just what she was trying to say to her boys.

Honor is defined as "esteem, value, or great respect" 

I looked through the Bible to find where God talks about honor

1) Show honor to receive honor. Ephesians 20:12

2) Know God's commandments and put them into practice.  Psalm 119:9-19

3) Set an example of how to live for the Lord no matter how old you are. 1 Timothy 4:12

4) Say what you mean and be true to your word. James 5:12

Over the past few days I have been putting that into practice with my own son who will be 6 in just a few days. The difference in how he responds is outstanding. He is striving to be the young man I am raising him to be. By simply sharing that I have a respect for him as a person, and that I know he desires to be an honorable warrior but he just needs to redirect his actions to do that he is a completely different child. The desire he has to be an honorable man, a man that is respected is shining through with each passing day. 

However, the more I thought about this the more I realized that while my son is striving to become a man of honor I also have a daughter that needs to grow and thrive. She needs the tools to become a woman of honor as well. And all of the principles above apply to girls as much as they do boys. And while my son will grow to be a warrior my daughter will grow to be a woman of grace.A woman who will be praised just as the woman described in Proverbs 31:10-31.
Photo Credit:Pinterest

Photo credit: Young Wifes Guide

Are you raising men and women of honor? How do you work to instill these values in your children?

Friday, June 3, 2016

Letting Go of Excess: 7 Experiment Intro Part 1

Recently my mother along with the ladies of her church made the decision to challenge them selves by going through the 7 Experiment. This is a book turned Bible study written by blogger, author, and pastor's wife Jen Hatmaker The study takes you on a journey of breaking away from the bondage of excess.

Lately, I have been really struggling with the feeling of just having too much. From too much information instantly to way to many physical possessions, I feel as if i am busting out of all my seams. I have started on the journey by decluttering my home but I still feel like its just not enough. When my mom recommended going through the 7 Experiment study I decided that it just might be the think I need the most right now.

So here I go.

The first week is the Intro. Setting the scene for the purpose behind the project and opening you eyes to all the junk you have piling up in your life. The first "reflection" question of many is:
"Good Reader, what have you wished you could 'just have' lately?
The answer to this question many things.

New clothes, meals I don't have to cook, supplies for projects I want to complete, and the new home school curriculum that I don't need until the fall are just a few.

From there Jen goes on to highlight that no where does "being rich" and "having stuff"come out smelling like roses in the Bible. In facet, in Matthew 19:16-22 we find out being rich makes things very hard when striving to follow Christ.

Jen then asks
 "What have the residents (the lazy, apathetic, and entitled voices) in your brain always told you about what you own? 
Let me tell you, I have always believed that I have just what I need. I am not one to be extravagant, I mean, we are in Seminary for goodness sake. We don't go out and flaunt our money around and we certainly don't have the best and brightest of things in the world.

And then those "intruders' began to sneak in and question all that I believe about myself and my family. How are we prioritizing our finances? Do we really NEED all the stuff we have? How are you reaching out and providing for others that have less than you?

In the next section Jen talks about how she came to realize she is one of the "rich folks" that people talk about. As I read through I realized that, while we don't have nearly the lifestyle she and her family have we are not all that bad off. We have food in the pantry and fridge, we have a roof over our heads, and we have all the things we need to get by. So according to many standards in the world, yes we are rich.

The story in Matthew continues with Jesus telling his followers just how hard it is for a rich man to enter heaven.

The disciples were truly shocked at what Jesus said. Jesus went to the furthest extreme for them to understand this difficult task and they were indeed blown away. Did this mean on one would ever make it to heaven? 

So why are wealth and possessions such a bad thing? Are they a bad thing? The "churchy' answer is that you can't serve 2 masters. You can't hold on to your wealth and possessions with one hand and cling to the Lord with the other. It won't work. You have to jump in to one side or the other with both feet. Wealth is a distraction. It takes away from from the real need in life. How many times have we witnessed people throwing as much money at a problem as it takes just to make it go away? For that matter, how many times have I done that myself?. But the truth is the separation that we have from God can't be mended with money, possessions, or power. 

Taking stock in how we perceive our possessions and our wealth can be a very sobering exercise. Jesus made it clear that the people who build up their treasures here on Earth already have their reward. The question is where are you storing up your treasures?

This week I hope to spend extra time in prayer on this topic as I prepare myself to continue this experiment. 

Where are your treasures stored up?

Thursday, June 2, 2016

POST 100!! And how I broke up with TV.

WOW!! I can't believe that this is my 100th post. Now for some that may not mean much but for me it is exciting that this little corner of the internet is still going strong. Ok..well..maybe not strong but I am getting there.

A few years ago my husband and I made the decision to do away with cable television. Now I will tell you this was not an easy decision because we are both HUGE sports fans and we enjoy watching a good game of football, basketball, or baseball together. Of course the best way to watch these types of things is in person, but since that is a bit costly we took what we could get on TV.

The alternative that we choose to go with was Netflix and we have loved it. And recently with all the great Netflix original shows and movies it has been like we never gave up anything at all (other than the sports). We also took a spin with Hulu for access to current seasons of some of the shows we really enjoyed watching. Again, we have really liked having both the services.

We have had both of these for a few years and things have been going wonderfully. But over the last few weeks I really began to notice how much time I was spending watching TV rather than being productive. I also realized that I have a tendency to become WAY to invested in the fictional characters lives that I was watching. I also took on personality traits of the characters that I like and that isn't always a good thing.

So last month I made a decision to watch less TV. But that also meant that I needed something to fill in the silence when I am cleaning, cooking, and most of all...FOLDING LAUNDRY.

One thing I have started to do during those times is listening to Christian homemaking podcasts. I have really been enjoying listening to women who are currently in the same place in life that I am in as well as women who have been doing this for more than 20 years. I find that even though I can't be right in the same room with these women and that I don't know them as a personal friend I feel like the Titus 2 model is being carried out.

Here are two that I just LOVE:

Homemakers By ChoiceFor more than 25 years Donna Otto has shared inspiration and practical wisdom. She is an Author and founder of Homemakers By Choice, a national organization which offers weekly teaching for a new generation of "counter culture" women who have made the choice to stay at home. To hundreds of young homemakers, Donna has been the wise, fun, Godly Aunt every young woman wishes she had. Each teaching session encourages women in their role as a woman, wife, mother, and keeper of the home.

The Homemaking Foundations PodcastThe Homemaking Foundations podcast exists to give you the tools, inspiration, and encouragement that you need to craft a Gospel-Centered Home! Join Jami, author behind, as we explore various aspects of homemaking including Biblical womanhood, marriage, healthy living, organizing, cooking, and so much more! If you feel like your home is out of control - or if you ever feel overwhelmed in your role as homemaker - then join Jami each week as she interviews other homemakers and provides Gospel-Centered encouragement for bringing Glory to God every day within our homes.

Both of these great Podcasts help to take my mind and my attention away from the distractions that today's television.

In the evenings I still watch a bit of television with my husband as that is what he likes to do as a way to unwind and for us to spend some quality time together after the kids go to bed. However, the time we spend in front of the TV in the evenings is significantly less than what is has been in the past. Now, once we are done with one episode of something we spend time talking, reading, or we head to bed early for a decent night's rest.

What Podcasts do you listen to? How do you pass the time while cooking or cleaning? Let me know in the comments.