Friday, 28 September 2012

Being the best...


Over the last week we’ve had a look at a couple of suggestions from Elizabeth George on how to get into the habit of making our house a home. There are a couple more in her book, but I just want to highlight two more before we move on.  Today we will look at ‘being the best’ and tomorrow we will take a little peek at what it means to ‘be creative’.

Being the best…

I don’t think I have ever been the best at anything. Growing up I was able to learn a couple of different musical instruments (piano, guitar, violin and flute) but I never stuck at any of them long enough to get good or be the best at it. The same can be said of my hobbies – I did ballet, horse-riding, crafts like cross-stitching and knitting, sports like netball, hockey and even kickboxing, and singing in choirs or in church – but again nothing was practiced enough or followed long enough to make me skilled at it. As my mum used to joke, I am a ‘Jack of all trades’ and a master of none.

I am also a bit of a perfectionist, although you wouldn’t be able to tell that from looking at my house! The problem is that my ‘perfectionism’ problem means that I won’t start something until I know that I will be able to complete it and complete it perfectly. This causes all sorts of problems, mostly because if I don’t have the time to a job in its entirety then I think there is no point in starting at all to only do a little. When you add this to a house of four boys who don’t know the meaning of ‘playing quietly’ I’m in trouble!

But over these last few weeks I have come to the conclusion that while I am never going to be perfect, it shouldn’t stop me trying to be the best.  Slowly but surely I have started to de-clutter my house, finally coming to terms with the fact that I can’t do it all and finish it in one sitting. I am working my way round, room by room, in do-able chunks, but I am actually DOING it and finding a sense of achievement I haven’t had in quite a while. My plan is now to work through each room, following a ‘De-clutter, Deep clean, Decorate’ action plan, meaning that by Christmas my house should look very different! I may even take before and after pictures, but I’ll let you know when we reach the ‘after’ phase!!

I want to be the best at keeping my house – not the best in the world with a spotless house that no one wants to sit down in, but the best I can be, putting my time, effort and resources into learning, reading and practising what I need to, in order to turn my house in a home and a haven for us all. I am actively reading blogs and house-keeping books to help get me into a routine and I’m always open to suggestions on how to do things!! I long for my children and husband to be able to say…

“There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,
but you surpass them all!”
Proverbs 31:29

And so I will keep working and trying to learn how to be the best that I can be.
 
 
In the midst of this practical breakthrough, however, came a spiritual breakthrough that has astounded me. The other day, in the middle of my mini breakdown, some friends of mine who were praying for me sent me some beautiful verses to read and think about. Not only did these verses help to focus my wayward mind and ground me, but they inspired me to look at life from a slightly different viewpoint.

I am the best at something. I am the best at being me – the daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, Child of God and daughter of the King – the woman that God created. God doesn’t make mistakes, and He created me exactly the way he wanted to. It’s true that I am on a journey with Him and that He is moving me from where I was (in the depths of my sin) to where He wants me to be (Christ-like), but in the midst of this, I am exactly where I should be and who He created me to be. I am the best wife Alan could have – because God brought us together. I am the best mother the boys could have – because God chose to bless me with them and chose to make me their mum. And I am becoming the best woman I can be – because through Christ, God looks on me and sees me holy, blameless and without fault (Col 1:22).

I may be on the journey and have a long way to go, and I may stray from the path a thousand times a day, but I take great assurance and peace knowing that God is on this journey with me, to turn me back to the right way, to help me conquer those things which pull me down and to help me become more Christ-like as I learn more about Him.

I hope this has encouraged you practically to go and learn how to be the best at what you do, but also spiritually to see that when you are walking closely with God, He helps you to become the best version of you that you could ever be. And through it all, we can glorify Him.

Keep shining…

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Reality...

We interrupt this series with - an abrupt dose of reality…
 
 
Today has not been a good day for me. It started off wrong, with the boys sleeping in (and me sleeping well past my alarm because the house was so silent) and having too much to do in a short space of time. Unfortunately it only seemed to go downhill from there, ending up with a morning that involved several arguments with my hubby and most of my kids.
 
I’m not proud of this morning. As they left for school, the eldest came and gave me a big hug, saying ‘I love you, Mum’. He’s such a sensitive soul, and he could obviously tell all was not well in my head.
 
Truthfully it was a whole lot worse than that. The morning’s activities had left me vulnerable and open to the lies that the devil loves to feed us. I felt like a total failure. Not only could I think about the conversations (or shouting matches) from earlier, but all I had to do with open my eyes and take in the dishes still on the dining room table, the mountains of ironing in my kitchen and the mess of the bedrooms (mine included) to realise that it wasn’t all lies. And that made it even worse.
 
I am a failure. I am not good at time-management, not good at housekeeping and definitely not good at wifey and mummy things at the moment… all things I have known for a while, but things I was content to ‘work on’ as I went along… until they all collided together this morning, making me feel as if my whole life was a waste, worthless and that I was totally unneeded.
 
I just wanted to curl up into a little ball, fall asleep and wake up in glory… but then again I kinda felt as if this morning’s activities and my failure in life in general might actually exclude me from there too… so I was really in a bad way.
 
It reminded me of a song by BarlowGirl called ‘Never Alone’. Take a listen…
 
 
 
 
As I listened to it I felt it resonate in my bones. I had spent the morning crying out to God, but hearing nothing back. I tried shouting, screaming and sobbing my heart out but nothing changed. No great revelation. No great escape. Nothing that made me sit back and say ‘wow’.
 
But at the same time I knew that my wonderful group of friends were praying for me. I knew that God was watching over me, no matter how mad I was or how distant He seemed. One of the lines in the song says
 
‘We cannot separate
You’re part of me
Though you’re invisible
I’ll trust the unseen…’
 
I knew that no matter how low I got and how much I felt like a failure, God had taken this failure and made His home in my heart. He decided that I was good enough. He decided that I was special. He called me to be His.
 
It’s this thought that steadied me. It lifted me out of the pit and placed my feet back on the Rock.
 
I will still struggle – every so often my craziness catches up with me and I hit rock-bottom. I know I have a chemical thing going on (bad post-natal depression that still rears its ugly head every now and again) but I also know that the devil thinks he can get me when it hits and I’m vulnerable… but today I was able to tell him to get lost!!
 
 
Thank you girls for being there to pray for me – you know who you are and I thank God for you. Everyone needs girls who will pray when you ask – and especially when you can’t yourself. God answers prayer in amazing ways – and tonight as I go to bed, I can thank Him that all of my wee family are happily tucked in, knowing that God loves them, and that nice-mummy has returned, ready for another day!
 
Keep shining…

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Discipline 5 - Be there!

So… last week we started looking at how we can be better at making our homes the haven that they should be and going through the 10 disciplines that Elizabeth George suggests. Today’s discipline is a big one!
 
I don’t know about you, but when I sat and wrote out a schedule yesterday, I felt a bit overwhelmed by all I had to fit into it, and then trying to figure out what was and what was not ok to leave out! Today’s post is about that exact thing!
 
In order to get our houses to be the homes we’ve always dreamt of, whether as a haven to our world weary family, or just in an aesthetically pleasing way, we need to BE THERE! There is no way in this world, unless you employ a cleaner, a chef and a full time masseur (sorry that last one was me dreaming a little!!) that you can have as busy lives as we all have, and still create a haven at home. It is impossible, and if we try to ‘do it all’ then we are setting ourselves up for failure and all the feelings of inadequacy and baggage that comes with it.
 
Don’t do this to yourselves ladies! There are enough people in the world trying to knock us down and watching us to see if we fail, that we really don’t need to be making life harder than it is. I know that I can be my own worst enemy. I self-sabotage my diet plans, my schedules (when I get around to making them) and my house. I get easily distracted, get easily fooled into thinking checking something online is more urgent than doing my ironing, and can easily tell myself that there is no point in starting something because I’ll never complete It and I don’t want to fail again.
 
But Christ died to give us freedom! True freedom – the freedom to leave all the guilt and shame behind and arise each new day with the joy that only He can give! We need to aim to get up each morning, being realistic with our schedules and our day plans, knowing that He will help us to get what’s really important done, and that everything else can and will be ok waiting!
 
Our challenge today is to take our week plans, look and pray through them and decided what – not if there is anything – WHAT you can take off and say no to, which will free up more time for you to create a haven at home, in turn giving you more time with your family and with God.  We all take on too much, are too busy and if you’re anything like me, hate to say no to people. But this doesn’t help us to make realistic plans, and you can end up running yourself ragged as you try to keep up and do it all.
 
Our verses today are found in Ephesians 5:15-17 and read
So be careful how you live.
Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.
Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.
Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.
 
We need to make sure that we plan realistically what we can achieve during each day, give it over to the Lord and trust that He will help us to complete the important things and not to worry about everything else. We need to plan more time at home, whether it’s scheduling in cleaning the bathroom (horrid job!) or getting the family round the table at the same time for a meal – we need to be there and we need to make sure when we are there, that our focus is on the Lord and what He has for us to do for our homes.
Keep shining…

Monday, 24 September 2012

Discipline 4 - Be on schedule!

For the fourth discipline in this mini-series, ELizabeth George suggests that we sit down and make out a schedule for today and the rest of the week... and then try to stick to it.
Oh my... I have to admit at this point that I hate the word schedule... truly and utterly hate it! The very word conjures up images of perfectly laid out schedules that I couldn't follow if I tried, and the feeling of failing is not something I enjoy or want to put myself through by choice!
Don't get me wrong - scheduling is a wonderful tool that I wish I could utilise successfully in my hectic life, I just haven't found a way to do it that works yet!! I have looked at countless examples of other people's schedules, and found, to my disappointment, that you can never follow someone else's schedule because their life probably looks nothing like yours! (I know - its common sense but it take me a couple of tries before I realised this fact!!)


The one great thing about scheduling is that if it works, you manage to get everything you planned done in the time scale you allotted, and you finish the day feeling fulfilled and much happier than if you messed around and got nothing completed.

My ideal day would include all the necessary housework, time with my husband and children, time with God and some time doing something I enjoy - like crafts or cross-stitch. God blessed us with 24 hours in our days and I can't complain that I don't have enough time, because I know that its how I schedule it (or don't in my case) thats the problem.

So my challenge to you all today is this - let's take Elizabeth's advice and write out a schedule... and if you do decide to join in, please let me know if it works for you!! Taking one day at a time I intend to try to make a schedule that fits my family, and I promise if it works I'll let you know!!

But when you are making out your schedules, remember the main points - you need to prioritise time with God (put it in first) and you need to give your day over to God before it begins. I always find my days go better, scheduled or not, when I have taken the time to give it God before the chaos starts, and allow Him to work divine appointments and off-schedule moments in when He wants to.

Ann Voscamp has a great page that she uses to plan out her day and one for her week. Its a bit of a mixture of scheduling and daily planning, but it is very useful as it has dedictaed areas for writing down your passage of Scripture from your time with God, and any memory verses you may be memorising.


No matter which way we plan our days, everything we do needs to bring glory and honour to Him, so as we make our daily schedules remember to keep shining... :)

Friday, 21 September 2012

Discipline 3 - Know the basics

This is one that really threw me and yet it is so necessary to making our homes a haven for our families. We need to make sure we know the basics.

There were four girls in our family, and as we were growing up, my mum made sure we were all taught the basics of keeping a house. We all learnt how to cook, clean, iron, sew, garden and how to wash and dry clothes correctly. It all seemed very simple, and it is when you break it down, but somehow in my journey from childhood to homemaker, I seem to have lost touch with it.

Where it would have been second nature on vacuuming days to plug the vacuum in and do the whole of the upstairs (we lived on a farm so there were seven rooms and two hallways upstairs) it seems alien for me to do the same thing in my own 3 bedroom house. Weird?! And its this weird phenomenon that has me baffled when it comes to housekeeping in general. How can I have lost the ability to see what needs done, think things through and then actually do them?

One of the answers is obvious - a great degree of laziness which finds me looking at my ironing from a comfy seat on the sofa rather than doing it - but I also think that I am overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things I am meant to do as a wife, mother and homemaker.



But God didn't design me to be overwhelmed. He designed me to be a wife, mother and homemaker whose desires and will matched His, and whose life glorifies Him with all that she does.

Proverbs 31 is one of my favourite chapters and if you get a chance to, sit with a cup of coffee and read through verses 10-31 slowly and carefully.  It is a very useful exercise to sit and jot down how many and what tasks she undertook for her household. I used to get very annoyed reading about this 'superwoman' of God - someone who manages to do 10 times the amount of things I have to do, and manages to stay in control and on top of it all. And she sounds like she probably has a smile on her face too!! :)


But one speaker had a different view on the Proverbs 31 woman and I thought it was lovely. If you read it with the thought that this wasn't someone we were trying hard to be, but the woman God has created us as, it takes on a completely different meaning. It is amazing to read the verses and realise that God can actually do all of this through me if i let Him have complete control of my life. It is all do-able and smile-able at - if we look at it as something God helps us do and something we do in His strength, not our own.


Take a few minutes and read back over those words, imagining God telling you that this was who He created you to be - digesting the fact that you have all of these abilities inside you, if you just give your life totally over to Him. Don't worry - I'm not suggesting that He is going to tell you to go out and buy a field tomorrow... although you never know - He just might!! :)

Just remember as we seek to glorify Him and honour Him in our homes, we need to keep praying and keep asking Him to help us to do the basics - knowing that He can enable us to do so much more.
Keep shining...

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Discipline 2 - Pray for your home

Keeping with our verse from yesterday - Matthew 6:21 - we want to think more about where our hearts lie and where our treasure is. When I began to think about this I assumed that my treasure would be my husband and children, after all we're told not to collect earthly treasures down here but heavenly ones...

Then I encountered yesterday's challenge - to make my treasure serving my husband and children by making my home a place they can relax, be themselves and be loved. That changed everything. I still think of them as my treasure, rather than my house, but in that, I need to make sure I am doing well by them  and not expecting them to live in a pig sty. 


Today's discipline is all about prayer. We have spoken before about the importance of prayer in all we do, and this is where the miracles happen! It is virtually impossible to hate or despise someone or something you are praying for - I would suggest you try it but I don't want to think of anyone hating anyone out there!! But also, it is impossible to neglect something you are praying for. You automatically start thinking more about it, start focusing on it and doing more about it. It is true for everything in life - people, diets, exercise, building relationships - and it is true for our homes. When we take the time to pray about managing our homes and keeping it as a service to our loved ones rather than a chore, the difference is amazing!

I am only just starting to find this, as I washed up and cleaned the kitchen last night after dinner, and my son came in and complimented me on the tidiness of my kitchen! It is very humbling when your children thank you for something you should have been doing their whole lives. But ladies, it is also an amazing feeling to know that something that once was mundane is now something I can do in love - I'm not suggesting it's a joy yet - and I am not singing while I work!! But I am learning and I am loving the process! :)

Have any of you experiences this as well or am I the only odd one here? 
Please feel free to share your experiences! 
Keep shining... 

Monday, 17 September 2012

Discipline 1 - Be dedicated to managing your home

Homemaking is hard. It is definitely the hardest part of being a wife and a mother for me. And no matter how many times I wash the dishes, launder the clothes or pick up the toys, there is always something else to do, or more clothes and dishes being used!! It is a never ending cycle that can drive you crazy if you let it.

For me, one of the main problems I have with homemaking and housekeeping is my attitude. No matter how many times I say Colossians 3:23 to myself, I still grumble over having to clean walls with dirty hand prints up them, for what seems like the thousandth time. 

But I don't want it to be like that. I long for the day when I can enjoy serving my family in this way, keeping a lovely clean house for them to enjoy and for all of us to relax in... that day just hasn't come yet. 

I am just too pre-occupied with everything else I have to do in my life - school runs, helping at the school, doing Bible studies, meeting women for coffees, running to and from all the extra-curriculum activities, church activities and trying to carve some 'me time' out of the week... There just seems to be too much to fit in and when faced with the choice, homemaking always gets pushed to the end, never to be done unless we've totally run out of clothes or dishes. 

I need to adjust my thinking, focus on what is important and get an very big attitude adjustment... and fast. My little boys arent going to be little for long, and I really want them to grow up knowing that their home was a place of love and peace - not lost undies and a mad dash every morning trying to find socks that match. 

Matthew 6:21 tells us quite clearly that...

"Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be"

Where is my treasure? What is really important? Is it helping out in school so that I look good? Or helping out at home so that everything is where it should be when the boys need it? Is it meeting three or four women for coffee to discipline them in their journey with God... or making sure that my 11 year old son has a space where he can have a quiet time in peace and tranquility without a mad woman shouting her head off because everything is going wrong again??

This has been such a challenging post to write... and it's just the first discipline! I can't imagine what the rest are going to be like! I hope that you will also be challenged - challenged to make our houses into homes that radiate God's love and peace to lall who enter. 

Keep shining....

Managing your home...

I am so excited about this section of Elizabeth George's book!! So far we have looked at managing our spiritual lives, our bodies, our marriages and our children... and now we get to have a look at how to create heaven on earth by managing our homes. 

I want so much for my house to make the transaction into becoming a home where my children can relax and where my husband has somewhere to turn off from everything in the outside world. I truly want to create a haven - a piece of heaven on earth - somewhere each family knows that they are loved and accepted unconditionally. 

But for me, the state of my house doesn't reflect that at all and I struggle to find the balance between getting the house tidy and my vision of perfect, and doing everything else in my busy life. This is probably one of the key reasons I wanted to read the book in the first place, so I am very excited to hear what gems Elizabeth has for us now!

The first things we want to look at are Elizabeth's thoughts on what God's guidelines are for homemaking. She suggests that there are four things we need to think about. 

  • We need to build our home - Proverbs 9:1 tells us that a woman's house is built on wisdom. We want to learn to build our house so that through good sense and a wise woman, it can be strong, and not easily torn down around us. 
  • We need to watch over our home - Proverbs 31:27 is a wonderful verse, which I often quote to myself, especially when I am sitting on the sofa looking at the like of ironing on my floor!!  "She carefully watches over everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness" - definitely a key verse to help us to understand how the wise woman behaves...
  • We need to manage our home - taking care of our homes can be a wonderful way to stay out of trouble!! 1 Timothy 5:13-14 is an example of how focusing on taking care of our homes and being homemakers can stop gossiping and idleness from wasting our time and days. 
  • We need to love our home - Titus 2:3-5 tells us that we are to love our husbands, children and our homes. We need to stop thinking of homemaking as a chore or as something that stops us doing what we want to do, but as something that truly blesses our family and can show them our love for them in a very practical way. 

Over the next two weeks we will be looking at the 10 disciplines for managing our homes. I know that this is something I really need to work on - you don't want to know what my poor husband thinks of our house at the moment - I call it a work in progress!! So I hope you'll join me as we seek to glorify God through our homes!

Keep shining... 

Monday, 10 September 2012

Ten disciplines... part 3

The last couple of disciplines....

7. You shall discipline your children…

There is nothing worse than children who are badly behaved. There are no winners when you let your child get away with doing what they want and disobeying you. It may be easier for you to sit back and keep them happy by supplying their every want and letting them do whatever takes their fancy, but in the long run it will not only be detrimental to you as you’ll have far bigger authority issues to deal with later on, but it will also be detrimental for them. They need to learn that right and wrong exists and that there will always be consequences for their actions. There are lots of different ways that you can discipline your children, but the one thing that must be present is love. Discipline that is carried out in love can be used to help us to build up our boys and girls to be men and women of God. If we make sure that God is first in our lives and we are doing everything from this point, then we will be using the Holy Spirit as a guide and will be moving in discipline from a love point of view. Children need boundaries and we need to give them to them.

This isn’t something I am an expert at. I struggle as much as everyone else, especially as I have 4 boys and my eldest, who is almost 11, is so like me that it’s scary!! All of the things that I get annoyed at or that I shout at him for, are things I can identify in my life that are problem areas, so as I deal with him, I am having to deal with myself as well. But the main thing that makes me want to discipline my children in a God-glorifying way is that by showing them right and wrong, the consequences of their action and God’s love for them helps us to lead them to Christ and show them the gospel in their everyday life.

“Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children.
Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.”

Proverbs 13:24

8. You shall be your children’s #1 encourager…

We all need encouragement. And believe me when I say that your children need it as much, if not more, than you do. If you think back at times in your life when you were worrying about something and somebody came along with a little word of encouragement, you can see how much it means to you. I’m sure that you can think of at least one person in your life, whether it was a parent, a teacher or a friend, who was always there when you needed a little pick-up and just had the right words to help you.

How wonderful would it be if our children could look back in 10 or 20 years and say “My Mum was always there for me and always encouraged me…” I want to be the encouragement my children need, to be there for them to talk to, to be there to give them advice and Scripture and to be there to prayer for and with them. There is nothing more wonderful than to see my son’s face when he has been worried about something and we’ve had a chat, and prayed Scripture together. The look of peace that comes over him helps me to understand exactly why I love being a mum!

“Worry weighs a person down;
an encouraging word cheers a person up.”

Proverbs 12:25

9. You shall nurture your marriage…

One of the best things that we can do for our children is to make sure that our marriage is strong. Not only does it give them a sense of security, knowing that there family life isn’t about to fall apart, like so many in their class, but it also gives them a great example of what to look for when they enter that season of their own lives . So many people now don’t have a family behind them and so many are being brought up by single parents. If that is your situation then don’t despair – God has promised to be a Father to the fatherless and He will help you to do the best job that you can do. But if you are part of a couple, then I urge you to make sure you put time and effort into your marriage, strengthening your family and your children as you seek to glorify God. If you want help with this we have a special marriage group where we work through challenges, like the Love Dare or 31 Days of Praying for your Husband, and just encourage each other in our marriage journey. If you want to join in let me know!

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”

Colossians 3:23

10. You shall make each day fun…

Yet again we are reminded how very special each day with our children is. Each day here on earth is a gift from God, even though we know how amazing heaven is going to be!! But for us now, as humans who love the fellowship and fun that we have with family and friends, each day here is a gift which we need to make the most of. With children we can have plenty of days that we just wish would end – I know because I had one yesterday!! – but it is so important to stop , take a good look at what the problem is and give it and the day to God. It is amazing how 5 minutes of peace and prayers can make your day take a different turn and can brighten up even the darkest hour. Let’s make our days fun and give our children memories that will last a lifetime!!

“This is the day the Lord has made.
We will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Psalm 118:24

Hope you enjoyed this section of the series – I have certainly been challenged!! Tomorrow I’ll post some links to a few wonderful blogs and sites that have some great articles on raising children and some great encouragement for mums.

Keep shining… J

Friday, 7 September 2012

Ten disciplines... part 2


The next two disciplines…

5. You shall take your children to church…

Some of us take it for granted that we were brought up in a Christian family or going to church every week, but this is a gift that you can give your children that can help teach them something very special. Not only are you teaching them more about God by bringing them to church, but you are installing in them the importance of community and fellowship in their life and faith. We can’t do this alone… and we weren’t created to. I know some Christians who don’t think they need to be part of a church, but I don’t believe that to be true. We read in Hebrews 10:25 –

“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.”

If you find a church where you are getting good Biblical teaching and good fellowship, then stay there, see what you can give into it and train your children up to be a fully functioning part of the body. They will see you and take your example to heart, so make sure you are REALLY there, not just going on a Sunday to be seen and not listening to what’s being taught. And if God hasn’t told you to leave – don’t even consider it!! It’s not about what the church can do for you… it’s about how you can be part of the body of Christ, the church, and help to build people up, glorify God in all you do, and reach the people in your neighbour with the Gospel.

Ladies, I am totally speaking to myself here. For years I suffered from panic attacks, brought on by post-natal depression and I had been unable to regularly attend my local church. While this was a perfectly honest reason THEN, it no longer applies. Yet I still struggle to go out every week with my family. It has become so much of a problem that my husband often has to take all four of the boys out to church with him, while I sit at home…  And every single week I feel it. I feel the fellowship that I should have, but don’t. I feel the fact that I have so many ideas for church, but don’t feel as if I have any right to voice them (even though I still do sometimes!!) as I am not properly a part of the church. I love my church and really want to get fully involved, to help build it from strength to strength for God’s glory, so trust me when I say that today’s post is really for me instead of you!!

 
6. You shall choose your children above all other people and pursuits…

It is very easy as a mum to believe the lie that we can do it all or have it all, especially when celebrities with perfect hair and perfect children are telling us that its easy! But we can’t. But I believe we weren’t meant to! Let’s face it, most times when a celebrity gets back into their size zero skinny jeans a couple of weeks after having a baby, it isn’t because of their amazing metabolism! They have an army of people in their lives – from make-up artists, personal trainers, nannies, maids, chefs and of course personal assistants! But most of us don’t have that! When we try to be all things to all people and do it all, we will ultimately fail at something, and most often it will be where you are at your most natural and at the place you feel most comfortable. For the majority of women it will happen at home. If you work out of the house, are involved with every committee and organisation your church has to offer, or you let your hobbies and interest fill your time, you will end up tired, frustrated and most likely not at all amused when your 5 year old comes down the stairs to tell you he just saw his 3 year old brother drawing a picture on the bedroom wall.

But we need to make sure that when we are trying to balance our busy lives that our children don’t get lost into the mix. Children, as we’ve been reminded earlier in the chapter, are a gift from God, and as such should come third only to God and your husband in your list of priorities. With God first, your husband second and your children third, you should be able to balance your life and your time accordingly, giving them the focus and attention that they so desperately need from us.

My husband is away this week and I have to admit that I have struggle with the boys. They didn’t seem to be in any kind of a ‘listening to mummy’ mood at the start of the week, and then I realised that I was part of, if not the whole of the problem. When Alan is away I tend to spend the first couple of days in a comatose state in front of the TV, catching up on all the shows I’ve taped and not sleeping for more than a couple of hours. This is always the case, and I’ve tried many times to break the cycle, but this was the first time I noticed the effect it had on the boys. They too decided to do nothing and just relax… a little too much!! So this morning it was back to porridge and giving them the attention and focus that they needed to get them, back into routine and being the wonderful helpful children they usually are!

 I did tell you today’s points were more for me today than any of you!! I have definitely been challenged and hope that you have too… if you needed it!!

Keep shining… J

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Ten disciplines... part 1


1. You shall centre your life on the Lord

As we’ve said a number of times already, no matter what we try to do, nothing will succeed unless this is in place. We need to have God at the centre of everything. Deuteronomy 6:6 says

“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.”

Before we can give begin to think about teaching and training our children in God’s word, we need to make sure our hearts are right and that our lives are centred on God and His will for our lives.


2. You shall model true godly character

It is so much more important that we SHOW our children how to live, rather than just TELL them. Anyone can tell a child what to do, say and how to live, but it is so much more effective to show them by the example of how you make decisions and live your life. Timothy’s mother and grandmother are perfect examples of this –

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2 Timothy 1:5)

We need to make sure that we are showing our children a good example of living for God, rather than just preaching at them.
 

3. You shall pray for your children

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James5:16)

Put the word ‘mother’ in there instead of person – we can make such a difference if we pray consistently for our children. A good idea is to follow one of the ’31 days’ programmes, which give you a different characteristic to pray for each day.


4. You shall be there

Oh this is a good one!! The challenge here is to spend a few moments looking at your calendar from last week. How many times were you at home when your children were at home? How many nights did you have to spend away from the house instead of being there with them?

I know that this can be a contentious issue and that some of those things that took you away from the house were necessary…but maybe some weren’t. For example, this week I am at home all week but out on Saturday night at a 40th birthday dinner, so I don’t feel bad. But there have been weeks were I have been out at meetings etc during the week, so to go out on the Saturday as well doesn’t work. 

If in doubt, you need to spend some time in prayer, asking God to see if there are any ways you can ‘be there’ better, or if there are things in your life you can do without or change in order to be there more effectively.

All of these things are designed to help us to be better parents and better at managing the gift God has given us. Stay tuned for the next three disciplines!!

And keep shining… J

 

Monday, 3 September 2012

Managing your children...


As we move onto the topic of managing our children, I realise that this can be a mine-field, causing an avalanche of emotions for a variety of reasons. We are going to cover this chapter in a week – so please bear with us!

People who have children can be very territorial over the methods they use to bring up their kids, and the ways they have decided to discipline and reward them. There have been wars and rumours of wars in families because someone happened to mention something wrong with a niece or nephew… or dared to shout at a child they thought was in the wrong. No one wants to be told that what they are doing is wrong… and people can become defensive even when nothing has been said! I know, as my wonderful little sister has a huge range of very different ideas of child rearing than me, and I have to really focus on not thinking she is criticising my ways, just because she chooses to try something different. (Love you G!!) So I’m not even going to go there!!

The second reason that this section of the book is being covered in a week rather than two is that I want to also be sensitive to those of you who maybe can’t have children, or those of you who don’t have any due to choice. I want this to be an inclusive blog, encouraging us, but I know too many people who have been hurt by people going on and on about their kids (of which I am very guilty) and not being sensitive to their inability to conceive. If this applies to anyone I know personally – let me apologise now. This is such a sensitive topic and I think most of us just don’t know how to let you know we are here for you and love you and are praying for you.

So as we race through the topic of children, I want to concentrate on the Bible and on using Scripture to remind us of the blessing children are to our lives, and to help encourage each of you in this wonderful journey of motherhood.

We’re going to start by looking at four different ways we need to focus on our children.

TEACH YOUR CHILDREN

Now I’m not talking about the whole school / home-school debate here! Most of the children around us go to the local school, although I do know several wonderful ladies who home-school their children. Personally speaking I wouldn’t have the patience to do it and I am extremely blessed to have a school close by, where each of my four children has a Christian teacher this year.

No, when I talk about teaching our children I am talking about the type of teaching that we read about in Deuteronomy 6:6-7.

“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

My husband and I are very lucky to have two boys who have already made a personal commitment to God, and two others who love Him but aren’t quite old enough to have made a proper decision yet. It is one of my greatest joys when one of the boys asks us a question about God or when my eldest chooses to read his Bible over any other book. Each morning we read the Bible over breakfast and each day we put on the Armour of God – we actually DO the actions with each bit and talk about why we need to put it on – you should see us all standing in the living room putting on our invisible armour – hilarious but such a special time!!

God has given us the blessing of children, and has given us a very clear command that we are to teach our children His ways, His Word and His love. Whether it’s a conversation in the car on the way to school, a question asked as you do the dishes or a prayer said before bedtime, we must focus on telling our kids about God and what He has done for them. And to see them respond is perhaps one of God’s greatest blessings to us – truly tears worthy!! J

TRAIN YOUR CHILDREN

Again, I am not going to go into specifics here – there are lots of brilliant websites and blogs that can take you through what you should and shouldn’t do in training your children. The important thing here is that we take the time to train them. And believe me when I say that to do it properly and consistently take time – a lot of time. It is very easy to focus on it one day when we’ve had a great night’s sleep and feel on top of the world… but rather much harder to keep doing it when your toddler has been up all night being sick (or naughty!) and you feel at the end of your tether. The one thing I would say is that you never have to do this alone. God is our refuge and strength, especially on the days when everything is going wrong and it seems much easier to put the kids in front of a DVD and get a takeaway rather than make something healthy and putting them to bed at the right time. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for a little TV and am very fond of takeaways – but not at the expense of training my kids to do right and certainly not because I am too tired to care - although to be honest I have done both…

Proverbs 22:6 reads

“Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it”

Ladies, if you have children, we need to take the time to focus on training them well. As one Pastor said we aren’t called to raise ‘good little boys and girls’ – we are called to raise ‘GREAT MEN AND WOMEN OF GOD’ – the next generation of leaders for our country and the next generation of missionaries to the world. Let’s take the time to focus on it and give them the best start possible.

LOVE YOUR CHILDREN

This one is self-explanatory, but sometimes we need a quick reminder! In our house, most days by 8pm I have a very quiet house. My youngest three boys are sleeping, my eldest is reading quietly in his room and this mama has some time to herself. When I sit back with my cup of coffee and relax, it is very easy to think with love about the four gorgeous children sleeping like angels in their beds… HOWEVER… if at 8pm the picture looks different – if one of the little ones won’t go to bed, my eldest is still doing his homework and dragging his heels at it, and I have a splitting headache from the noise of the crying tot, I can very easily focus on wishing for peace, quiet and wishing they would all just GO AWAY and go to sleep quickly. Although I love my children with my whole heart, sometimes it can get lost on nights like those…

But the Bible tells us to encourage each other to love our children, and to take the time to focus on that feeling…  Titus 2:4 says

“Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children…”

So the next time your evening goes a little awry, stop and remember that no matter how they are right now, they are still your little angels, and a true gift from God!

PRIZE YOUR CHILDREN

Following on from loving your children, we need to cherish them and appreciate the gift that they are. I mentioned at the start that I know a couple of beautiful, lovely women who can’t have children, and my heart totally goes out to them. The thought that I would be in the same boat only crossed my mind when we got married and I started to think about starting a family. I automatically assumed it was going to happen exactly as I had planned – four kids, evenly spaced out and all angels!! After a very short period of time it did work out like that, but I can remember the first could of months when I found out I wasn’t pregnant and feeling as if my world was going to fall apart. Even though it was only a few months before I did get pregnant, it was then that I realised that having children isn’t about me. It is a gift given to us from God our Father, and when I did get pregnant I was ever so grateful to Him.

I have no idea whatsoever why God blesses some of us with children and why some wonderful godly women have their wombs closed, and I guess that is one of those questions that will only be answered in heaven, but for those of us with children, never ever take them for granted or stop thanking God for them.

Psalm 127:3 tells us

“Children are a heritage from the Lord,
offspring a reward from him”

And I truly hope and pray that we never forget that God blessed us with the gift of life growing inside of us, or with a child desperately needing a home which you had available… whatever way you became a mama, God knew what He was doing when He picked YOU to be the mother of these children, and no one else could do a better job. In the midst of the hardest times in my life I cling to the fact that God picked me to bring my four boys into this world – little old me with all my faults and insecurities, all my impatience and shouting, all my love and cuddles… He picked ME. No one else.

I pray, over the next week, as we look at the ten disciplines and tips on how to love and be there for your children, that we will feel closer to our children, focus on loving them more and of course, grow closer to God our Heavenly Father in the process.

Keep shining… J