New Year’s Resolutions?

bad day turtle2016 is already here! Where is time going? “Slow down, Time!” Each year as time goes by, I have decided not to do a New Year’s resolution. Why? Because I don’t want to fail. I have enough stress, enough struggles, enough loss, and enough pain that I never think about setting another goal which I might not reach.

I was driving down the road the other day as the Christian radio announcer spoke out the alarming number: 8%. Of those who set New Year’s resolutions, 8% are able to fulfill them. Really? Really! Why is it that such a small number of people will achieve their goals? I think it comes down to the fact that we are sinners. We sin. We fail. We try to depend on ourselves; we strive for perfection; we try to do it alone, instead of looking to the Lord for strength, hope, love, peace, joy. Those who do not know Christ have no power over sin and failure, loss and then shame.

Shame and failure: that may be the real reason that I don’t set New Year’s Resolutions normally. Last year, I just set a goal to be joyful. Yep, you guessed it. I was NOT one of the 8% and felt shame that I did not achieve that “simple” goal. I had given myself no grace and no “half-way.” I either had to be joyful each day or I was a failure. I didn’t even write about my year and what I was reading. I stopped reading the encouraging book. I relied on myself and I failed. I have not set resolutions in the past, because when I did, I knew I would fail.

However, the first week of January of 2016, I decided that one who does not set some sort of goal, she will never achieve anything! Maybe I needed to rely on God for the outcome, get over my perfectionist tendencies (at least some), and set a goal to work toward.  Thinking about what I would like to achieve, I realized I wanted to be healthier, in better shape, more focused on my boys and the Lord, more learned. In a word, I wanted to move toward perfection. EEK! It sounded like failure just thinking through all those things. But, after some prayer, here is what I have decided.

  1.  I know. I know. You are thinking FLOSS! Her goal is to floss? Well, yes it is. Our teeth and gum health will reflect our total health. I had a dentist who used to jokingly warn me, “Only floss the ones you want to keep.”  So, my first goal is floss, but notice that I did not write floss daily or floss 3 times a week. Grace, dear friends. I will floss when I think about it and let me confide in you, I have already flossed more this month than all last year (though it has not been daily)! I am already in that 8%. 🙂
  2. Copy Scripture. This could get really big and almost ugly if I let it. But instead, I looked at the books of Ephesians and Philippians, and they both had the same number of verses in the books. I love both those books in the New Testament, written by the Apostle Paul. So, I started copying 4 or 5 verses a day and reading what I had written before that day. I am finishing the first chapter of Philippians today. When I finish the book, I will start on Ephesians. When I complete that, I will start with Philippians. No stress. Just copywork for the spiritual heart and mind! 🙂
  3. Move more. Again, how can I go wrong, right? 🙂 Yet, I want to be intentional about moving–park and walk to the store, run around with the boys, work out in the evening, move around while teaching or cooking, dance in the kitchen. But, I don’t have to do this daily or a certain number of times each week. I just want to intentionally move more. This month I added to my calendar that this goal might look like “lifting 2 times/week.” Each month I may decide to do a mini goal but maybe not. I have not been able to lift twice this week, and I don’t want the shame of not accomplishing it. I might have to do that before I go to sleep…or I may just give myself grace to do it tomorrow.
  4. Be intentional about the boys is my last goal. I am learning that it is the little things that matter. I was becoming annoyed that the boys’ clothes were all over their rooms, not in drawers. WHY? After some time I realized that they believed the clothes would not all fit into the drawers. At the change of the seasons, I put all the clothing into the drawers so I knew they all fit. How then is it that after a couple of week the clothes no longer fit?! Parent Realization #309: The boys did not know how to properly fold their clothing so the clothes turned out too wrinkled and “large” to all fit. Each week, I wash the boys’ clothes in separate loads, and they fold their own clothing and put it away in their rooms. Last week the boys each had their loads, and I went through folding lessons again (ahem). Showing them again how to fold jeans and long sleeved shirts. Paying attention to the details really does make a huge difference. And guess what? All the clothing fit in the drawers!

As this month moves into the next and the next, I hope to be flossing, moving, copying, and paying attention to the details of my boys’ lives. But no matter how many goals I am meeting for myself (or not), I pray that I will continue to be leaning heavily on the arms of my Saviour and Lord: Jesus Christ. If I am in His arms, I cannot go wrong. And maybe that was the trouble with the past, the shame and feelings of failure. I wasn’t resting in His arms and His love. I am His child and He loves me just as I love my children, unconditionally (flossed teeth of not).

Love your boys. Love your family. It will be what they remember & is a goal worth achieving!

Simplifying with JOY

Colin

As the new year starts and we take on 2015 with eagerness, I am thinking about what I am reading and what I am planning for the coming year. Living on a farm in the Midwest, we have cold and snow. We have time to think and plan this time of year. I also make the time to read. I seem to gravitate toward books that pertain to what I want to accomplish. (Okay, sometimes I read just for pleasure…) Right now I am reading

So, what do I want to gain from all this insightful reading? I hope to reduce the STUFF in our home. I would like to rid us of things we do not USE or LOVE.What a concept! Looking around my desk right now, I have items ON MY DESK that I might use, might read, might refer to, might want. You get the picture. I often don’t use, read, refer to or even want the items in the future. Why keep them? Somewhere deep inside I have a strong feeling of warning, that I am guessing came from the generation which lived through the Great Depression: We have to keep THIS because we don’t know if we will be able to get something like it in the future, OR the parts for THIS could be used for something else in the future! Eek! This is a terrible concept to live under because it makes us so owned by our stuff. I am cleaning, organizing, moving, storing, reorganizing…on and on. I doubt that the Lord appreciates things or the time I spend “messing” with them. I want to free myself and my home of these items that we will never miss.

Let me be honest here, though. As I was reading through minimalist websites and looking at pictures on Pinterest, I had some realizations.

1. I am NEVER going to have a house that looks like those pictures.

2. I do not want my HOME to look like those pictures. We have a home and not just a house. Many of those pictures appear stark, sterile, and sadly “un-homely.” I want my boys to have a comfortable home and a warm home full of color, fun, crafting, learning, and love. I do not want bare rooms, but I do want less of what we do not really need or want. I desire to have organized and orderly rooms. Everyone thinks more clearly and is more creative here in clutter-free spaces. Since we home school, we also need the order for us to be able to learn and study.

Going back to having a home full of color, fun, crafting, learning, and love connects to Ms. DeFeo’s book. I am always looking for ways to add virtues to our home, but mostly, I want to hear more laughter, feel more joy.  Lately, I have been smiling more at my boys.  It caught one son by such surprise that he actually looked behind himself to see where I was looking.  Another day, another son asked “What?” when I smiled at him.  This is a sad realization for my Momma heart: they do not see me smile at them enough.  So, I have been smiling more and making things a little more fun. I am implementing little ideas from the book, too. I hope to get some joke books at the library and add in more giggles (even some guffaws) to our home. Adding in the fun is so important, but I think I get so stuck on doing life and getting all the boxes checked off my list that I forget to LIVE life. I added joy to our Bible time before school, looking up verses & talking about ways to inject more JOY into our daily lives. I only have a few years (though some days it feels more like centuries!) to be with my boys: loving, living, laughing, and sharing joy. So very soon they will move on and more out, and this Mom does not want to look back on these precious years with regret!

January starts the month of focusing on JOY for us, just like the Courtney DeFeo’s book suggests, and this month we will begin to reduce items in our house.  A couple of days ago, I went through my closet and removed ten items (Yes 10! Ten things just taking up space that were not really my color or no longer my style.) I want to keep doing this purging. We are going through toy boxes next week. If we don’t use it or love it, it needs a new home.

I have no misconceptions that either of these goals are obtainable in only one month, but these are long overdue and we have to start somewhere.  I will try to update you from time to time.

How about you? Do you have plans for the new year? I would love to hear about what you are working on this year.

Remember, no matter what you are doing to Love Your Boys!

Leesa

Raising Men…but not yet.

I want my boys to grow up to be strong men who are loyal and hard-working, honest and kind. We work toward this daily with our training and teaching, as well as our discipline and work. It is not an easy job because we will not know how it turns out for some time now. I want to keep the perspective though.They are still young boys and not yet men.

thru the lens

I want them to envision what type of job and responsibilities they will have. Sometimes I talk to them about their wives and future families. I want them to think about and discern the type of wife and mother of their children they hope to marry. I want them to create an imagine of themselves as independent men and caring, loving husbands. Mostly, I want them to see themselves as Men of God, standing for His Word and loving those who need Him. But they are not there yet.

Recently we have visited many friends and family as well as local libraries and stores. I have repeatedly heard folks, both men and women, asking other children if they have a boyfriend/girlfriend. I have heard teasing about children “dating” and if they are holding others’ hands or kissing. Mostly the children being asked are embarrassed and giggle. But, each time we talk to children about more adult or mature topics, we are encouraging them toward that end.

According to the US Dept of Heath for Adolescent Health, in 2013 there were 26.6 births out of 1000 in the US to teen moms (15-19) and for 1/6th of those, it was NOT their first birth.  89% of those births occurred outside of marriage, according to the notes. On the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies website, in 2013 there were over a quarter of a million (274,641) teen births. This is saying nothing of the terminated pregnancies, just births. The site also notes that teen pregnancies have declined in the last decades; however, it still states that a staggering $9.4 was spent in 2013 on childbearing for teens. They also noted that even though the rate is down, 3/10 girls will become pregnant before they is 20 years old.

Now, I know that statistics can be arranged to look good and bad as the reporter would like, so I often do not put too much stock into them.  When I wanted to know about the US National teen pregnancy rate, I did what all educated folks do today, I googled it! 😉  But joking aside, as you well know, teen pregnancy is something that affects all of us. We don’t need statistics to tell us that it is alive and well all around us. We all know young women who became pregnant before they were ready to be.

So, what am I really talking about today? I am talking about the adults in the lives of children speaking life and love and perspective into their lives. Speak respect and truth. I am talking about adults NOT asking a kindergartner if he has not been holding a girl’s hand. I am encouraging parents not to tease fourth graders about not “going with” someone. I am begging parents not to put clothes on a little girl which draws sexual attention to her body. I am praying that family will not laugh at my boys when they don’t have girlfriends in the 8th grade. I am talking about adults allowing children to be children.

Recently, I have come across Facebook posts with photos that make me want to say, “Get some perspective! Let them be children!” One was of two first graders, one kissing the other on the cheek while they held hands. The caption said, “First Loves.” Another post was of two tween/teens wearing “I am his” and “I am her” t-shirts. The kids had interlaced arms and big grins. Another still showed little girls going off to school with parental comments noting that their “style” will really draw some (boy) attention. I know that we often joke and tease and think it is cute for children who seem to be doing adult things, but if we encourage our kindergartner to dress like a 25 year old, our first grader to hold hands, our third graders to kiss, our sixth graders to be “claimed” by someone else, how long will it be before they are moving forward to more mature and adult activities: the activities of marriage?

Why not let them be children? Why not encourage them to be kind to others and to play and run? Why not encourage them to work their bodies hard and respect themselves? Why not love them and teach them about marriage IN THE FUTURE?

If you ask my boys about girlfriends, I hope they will (politely, ahem) tell you that they are not old enough to support a wife.This might sound odd in today’s standards, but I want my boys to think about attachment with intimacy connected to permanence and marriage. I don’t want it to be thrown out when the t-shirt is too small to wear anymore.

We, as the adults, are where it starts.Talk to your boys about being good husbands and dads. Share stories of men doing just that. Show them examples and work on skills with them. Build up women as ones to be loved and cherished, protected and honored. Keep intimacy for marriage and forms of pre-intimacy to closer to marriage.  The sooner they start on the path, the sooner they will arrive at it.

Love your boys! They will one day be men…but not yet!

Sites I used:

http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-health-topics/reproductive-health/teen-pregnancy/trends.html

http://thenationalcampaign.org/data/landing

I am doing the best I can

 CleaningLady

“I am doing the best I can!”

 I say this often.

I mean it often.

Or, do I?  Am I really doing the best I can?  Yes, most days I am doing all I can– in my own power– to help grow these four little boys into men.  But it isn’t enough.  I am failing.

One day I had a realization.  I am not enough.  You heard me.  It’s true. I am not enough.  I don’t have the patience to home educate them.  I don’t have the love to listen to any more stories about LEGOs or blocks or whatever they are building today.  I don’t have any more energy to clean, wash, bathe, or did I mention clean anything else!  I don’t have enough.

Luckily, I don’t have to have enough of anything.  The Lord does.  So, now when I hear myself say this little phrase, I stop.  I am learning to rethink it.  I need to remember that I must rely on Him, the Lord Jesus Christ, to do it.  Doing the best I  can is not the same as falling into His arms, so He can work through me and do the best.  I am nothing without Christ and so I need to live as though I am in His arms, letting Him do the living, loving, and growing of these little men. When I hear myself say these words.  I stop myself, right where I am, and pray. I thank the Lord that He is enough and that He is working through me.   I must stop MY doing and let Christ do it.

Do the best you can today and let the Lord work through you! 🙂

What do you do when you feel you are not enough?  I’d love to hear about it.

Oh, and love your boys!

Leesa

Mining gems to share with your sons

diamondsI remember when I learned I was expecting and wanted so very much to have a son, the son of a farmer to carry on after dad. I wished, hoped, even prayed for a son for my husband. When my sister did one of those crazy “urinate in a cup and add it to Draino” experiments (or some other chemical—this mommy-brain can no longer remember), it turned the color for a daughter. I remember being so upset at first. Then we found out through an ultra-sound that it would indeed be a son. I cried! I still remember how happy I was to give my husband a son, though he had never mentioned a preference of the sex of our child. He is the only boy of four children and his father is the only boy of four children. I felt like I was doing my duty as a farmer’s wife and was so excited.

When our second child’s ultrasound displayed boy parts, I cried again:  another son; I must be some sort of queen! At the third ultrasound, I cried again…another boy? Really. I was so happy but at the same time was wondering if I had hoped too much! And, at the fourth ultrasound? Yes, more tears for yet another son was to join our family. Four boys. Four boys! What do I do with four boys?

While I am very thankful for my sons, I am daily reminded that I do not really understand boys and their ways. I do not understand why all air that passes from the body—in any way—is funny. Really? Yes, apparently it is. From my conservative husband to our  19 month old, they all laugh– every time. I don’t understand why they run, hop, jump and push when we COULD just walk. I do not understand why they all compete for attention and power over the rest of the family. But what I do know is that God knows. He understands. He will help me to love my boys and lead them toward Him.

Moms of boys…according to one report over 90,000 more boys are born each year than girls. This has been the trend, the report noted, since 1940! That’s a lot of boys and thus a lot of moms of boys out there. I started thinking about what it means to be the mom of a son and what God’s word says about moms of sons. I looked up Mommas of boys in the Bible to see if I could glean something from them. There are several moms presented but two caught my attention. One is from the Old Testament and her name is Jochebed. The other is from the New Testament and her name is Eunice. Both women show us what we need to be doing as Mommas of boys.

Jochebed was the mother of Moses. She was married to a man named Amram and was of the family of Levi. What I learned about Jochebed is that she knew her scripture and she acted on the facts of scripture. In Genesis 15:16 God, who is making promises to Abram (later Abraham) about the nation that will come out of him, tells that in the fourth generation the nation (Israel) would come out again from God’s judgments. The 4th generation…Levi is the first generation of the nation of Israel. Levi’s son is Kohath, the second generation. Kohath had four sons, one of them is Amram; he was in the third generation. Yep, the same Amram who is Moses’ daddy is in the 3rdgeneration. So, when Moses was born to Amram and Jochebed, he was the 4th generation of this nation. (Gen 6:16-20 shows the generations.) Moses would fulfill scripture. Also, during the time of Moses’ birth, Egypt’s pharaoh, who was holding the Israelites as slaves, started telling the midwives to kill all the Israelite baby boys when they were born so the slaves would not overtake the Egyptians (Exodus 1:16). When Moses was born, Jochebed saw that he was a “goodly child” (Exodus 2:2), and she protected him in the now famous Bible account of her hiding her son in bulrushes in a tiny basket-boat. She knew scripture and she acted on the facts of scripture. She knew that her son could fulfill that scripture and she helped to preserve him. Jochebed also, through a series of events, was able to nurse her own baby son and teach him who he was as an Israelite until he went to live with the daughter of pharaoh as her Egyptian son. Jochebed’s teaching would carry Moses through many days of his life. He was not a perfect man, but he knew who he was and who Jehovah God was.  Later in Moses’ life, he would follow God on his own. He would lead Israel out of Egypt and he would fulfill God’s scripture.

The second mom is only mentioned in one verse. Eunice is the mom of Timothy. Timothy is a helper and mentee of the Apostle Paul. In 2 Timothy 1:5, Paul tells us, “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee [Timothy], which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois and thy mother Eunice, and I am persuaded that in thee also.” Unfeigned according to Webster’s 1828 dictionary is “not counterfeit; not hypocritical; real; sincere.” Timothy’s faith was real, sincere and not made up or put on. It was real. Wow, an unfeigned faith, isn’t that what we all want for our children? Paul notes that this faith was in generations of Timothy’s family. Timothy’s father was a Greek, an unbeliever, so Timothy learned scripture from his mom. She knew it because of her mom, Lois. The truth of scripture being passed from generation to generation does not happen without effort: our effort. I like that God included a mom teaching her son about the truth of God’s word. So, know we can do it, too.

As moms of boys in our society today, we need to be passing on the truth of God’s word. We need to be teaching our boys—and daughters too, for that matter—so they come to the realization that they are sinners and in need of God’s great love and salvation. Then we need to go further, teaching them to rightly divide God’s word so they know the parts of it that are written directly to them today verses and what was written to others for only our edification. We can do this, Moms, but that means we need to know scripture ourselves. We need to study God’s word, to mine out small gems of truth and know it. Teaching our children will happen as we go through the days and nights with them, not just at set times of study. We need to be ready to share gems of truth from God’s word. I know, Momma friend, that during sipping years and diaper years and runny nose years, it is hard. I am there with you. But, sweet friend, now is the time. Pick one gem from God’s precious word and add it to the treasure chest in your child’s heart. Do that often. Your son needs God’s word and you are the Mom to help him learn it.

A dear friend once told me that only sons can grow to be men of God. So, at our house, we are growing up men of God. We want men who will continue to mine out gems of truth to pass along to their children and grandchildren. God needs you, Mom, and you can do it!  Your son is worth it.