My 3 yr old daughter took this pic of me

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Learning to Cherish my Little People

I have 4 best friends that I spend nearly all my time with. Their names are Matthew (my husband), and Logan, Jasna, and Daisy - my little people. I have spent a lot of the past 10 years "caring" for these little people, meeting their physical and emotional needs, but not really knowing them. People preach about "quality time" and carting your kids to as many activities as possible to help them be "well rounded" and "socialized". I have tried these ideas out and they've been ok, but not ideal.

I am taking a different approach.
We have learned to stay home A LOT. We work together, play together, laugh together, cry together, pray together, read together, and so much more. We're not always running here and there and we do our best not to be consumed with "busyness". Even school takes a backseat to our family time. Learning is very important, but bookwork is not as important as building relationships with your family. 

Recently, it was laid on my heart that I don't truly know my children's hearts. Sure, I know how they act up and what they don't like to eat and what they want for Christmas and who their friends are and if their laundry needs washing or noses need wiping. I kinda know what to expect from them in different situations. Some are more "well-behaved" than others. But now I am learning to see the inside of my little people.

My 3 year old is a delight and a joy - half the time. The other half is quite the opposite. Opposite of delightful and joyful. We've been in a back-and-forth battle with behavior. When I see my little girl throwing a HUGE fit, I am choosing to no longer take it personally and to no longer see it as a battle of wills. I see a little girl who needs guidance and love - MORE THAN ANYTHING! She doesn't know what she wants or what's good for her. She doesn't know how to do life. No one has taught her, and so she's trying to figure it out.

A lot of adults can't even figure out how to do life well, much less a 3 year old.

So part of my job description is helping her learn how to do life. Minute by minute, day by day. Gentle words with kindness and patience and long-suffering is needed to bring about the change in their habits and lives. They're not going to do what's right just because they know what's right. We need to help them get there. Day by day. Tantrum by tantrum.

There is a balance that is hard to find and that is being the AUTHORITY in their lives, but mixing it with gentleness, kindness, and mercy. Authority doesn't have to be harsh. It is firm, but it is loving. In order to have authority in my kids' lives, I have to have a relationship with them. I can't just boss them around and expect that my instructions are going to be heeded. I have to have their hearts. I have to fellowship with my kids.

How do I have my kids hearts?

Take time to talk with them. Listening to them and letting them guide the conversation. With my 10 yr old son, we talk about Bowser's Inside Story (his DS game he plays all the time). He talks about battles and aliens and all kinds of weird stuff. So I really listen. I ask him questions about how he defeats the enemies (and sometimes we talk about our Spiritual enemies and how we defeat those). When I talk to my 3 yr old daughter, it's all castles and princesses and beautiful tea parties, etc. We talk about life, but in her terms and on her turf. (at a tea party)

She said to me, yesterday, "Mama, when you're angry with me it makes Jesus bery sad, so please you be happy with me?" This was out of the blue, while she was playing. It made me chuckle, but it's good to know she's thinking about these things. Sometimes she'll correct her older brother with words she's heard from me. (sometimes that's good, sometimes not lol)

My point in all this is that you can't just herd your kids around like cattle. Making sure they're fed and clean and rested isn't enough. It doesn't take a lot of time to have a relationship with your kid, it just takes being intentional and consistent.

Example: (probably shared this one before, but it's one of my favorites)
At 11 pm a couple weeks ago, I was putting my 3 yr old in bed. (she is usually in bed by 7, but had had a very long nap). She hung her head and said, "Mama, you agot (forgot) to have a tea party with me." followed by a sigh. I looked at the clock and thought, "Why not?" I raced her to the kitchen table, pulled out my tea cups and saucers, poured the imaginary tea and we both said, "Cheers!" and drank up! The tea party took 1 minute. 1 minute. And I tucked a very happy girl in her bed that night.

I'm not saying that we need to cater to our kids and that they should get their way all the time and always have what they want. I just think we could do a little more in the relationship building department. If they love you and they know you love them because they've experienced your love and time, they will listen to what you have to say. They will respect your authority. How much better to have a kid do what you say because they love you and want to please you, than to have them do it out of fear or because they HAVE TO OR ELSE! That's not going to build a lasting relationship.

Just a few things I've learned about my kids lately:
-Jasna can't wait to get to heaven to see Jesus' "castle". She is very affectionate and helpful. She helps pack Daddy's lunch every day :)
-Logan longs for dates with his mom, with no distractions. (ie. little kids, phones, computers, etc) He is great with his baby sister and is a very thoughtful child.
-Daisy loves to be with me and under my feet. She is learning to play games now! I tell her to say "Mama" and she'll say "Dada" and then throw her head back laughing! What a goof! :)
 I can't wait to learn more! What a blessing it is to be with these little people all the time! I've always got my friends over. There's always someone to talk to, someone to encourage, someone to help, someone to play with, someone to teach, someone to listen to. It's comforting and quite enjoyable :)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lovin' Yer Hottie :)

My birthday. Valentine's Day. Our Anniversary. Mother's Day. The anniversary of when we started hanging out. The anniversary of when we started going out. The anniversary of when we bought the rings. The anniversary of the marriage proposal. Christmas.

These are all "special occasions" where it would be so nice for my guy to do something extra special for me.

I love it when he buys me roses or other flowers. I love it when he surprises me with wine and chocolate. Or a note. Or a poem. Or a date. He picks out the "perfect" gift and can't wait to see me open it. We want our guys to say sweet nothings to us and adore us and spend "quality" time with us. We want them to listen to how our day went and to our dreams and desires. We expect a lot. Most of us do, anyway.

But what are we doing for him? Are we doing special things for him on all of these occasions? Or are we just anticipating what he's gonna do for us?

Guys don't want flowers.......well, not usually ;) But they want you to hang out with them in the garage or watching the hockey game or listen (for the eighteen-hundredth time) to them go on and on about their passions, which definitely aren't our passions. (Make their passions your passions, too.) They want a hug and a wink and......well, you know. They want a wife who doesn't always have a headache ;) (To loosely paraphrase Sheila Wray Gregoire) They want a hot wife! Not a frumpy, grumpy, boring wife. Not a wife who complains at them the second they get in the door, or is too engrossed in whatever she's doing to say hello and give him a big kiss when he comes home.

Not all guys are the same, (contrary to popular opinion) but they each have their own unique desires. Besides s x , I mean. (I did a great job camouflaging that, didn't I lol) I challenge you to try to figure out what it is that is gonna make your guy know you love him and that you took the extra time to make his day.

Here's what mine likes:
1. Clean laundry - ALL THE TIME. He wants to go in the closet and find what he wants to wear, clean and not wrinkled.
2. A clean house when he gets home from work. He works hard all day. It's hurtful to him if he comes home and the house is a disaster. This is his place of peace that he looks forward to coming home to. Nobody wants to come home to a disaster, day after day.
3. Good food. Enough said, eh?
4. Late night snacks (often involving some kind of cooking)
5. Going to bed at the same time as him.
6. Watching tv with him.
7. Putting effort into my appearance. How do I know this? Cuz he SAYS something every time I do.

This list is not exhaustive, by any means, but you get the idea. Guys like dumb things. If I came home and he had cleaned the house for me, that'd be nice. BUT I'd much rather flowers and chocolate and wine. Who cares if the dishes are done???!! Not me. But he does. This isn't about doing stuff that YOU think is special or thoughtful, but what HE thinks is.

-Surprise him with a massage, without asking for one back. No puppy dog eyes, either ;) lol
-When he's in the shower, heat up his towel for him for when he gets out.
-Make his favorite meals......often.
-Write him a note, telling him what you like about him and that you appreciate him, and leave it in his lunch or on his pillow.
-Wear something......ahem.......interesting and fun to bed instead of your big old lady nighty :)
-BRUSH YER TEETH! and more than just when yer goin' out! (I'm guilty of this sometimes) *head hanging in shame*
-Make him a coffee or hot chocolate or whatever he likes every morning. or night. or whatever.
-Tell him you think he's a hottie and how much you love him. Cuz he is, right? And you do.
-Tell your girlfriends how amazing he is. When and if it gets back to him, he's gonna feel good knowing you talk GOOD about him!


See how many times in the day you can say something positive instead of negative. Too many of us become complainers and nags without even realizing it. It just becomes a way of life and a way of communicating. I mean, look at small talk with a stranger......complaining about the weather, right? Say GOOD things ALL THE TIME and your environment will be sunnier :)

Oh! And I gotta quote my friend, Tyler, (who was quoting Kevin Leman)
If you don't have a love affair with your husband, someone else will. ~ Kevin Leman (7 Things He'll Never Tell You, But You Need to Know)
That affair might not be with another woman, but with his job or his hobby or his friends. You get my drift.

That's all I got right now.

I'd love to hear some of the ways you make your man feel special! (G-rated, please lol)
Gotta run, goin' to watch some tv with my hottie :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Peace in Chaos

I have peace in my heart instead of anxiety. The circumstances don't line up with my desires, necessarily, but I can stand in peace and joy in the midst of the crazy storm because.......well, this song by Tim Hughes describes our journey well. It doesn't matter what's happening, our focus changes everything. No matter what happens, I can have joy, now.

God in my living
There in my breathing
God in my waking
God in my sleeping

God in my resting
There in my working
God in my thinking
God in my speaking

Be my everything
Be my everything
Be my everything
Be my everything

God in my hoping
There in my dreaming
God in my watching
God in my waiting

God in my laughing
There in my weeping
God in my hurting
God in my healing

Christ in me
Christ in me
Christ in me the hope of glory
You are everything

Christ in me
Christ in me
Christ in me the hope of glory
Be my everything                              -Tim Hughes

I speak God's truth daily because it is truth. When you know truth, it keeps you from believing the lies and falling into despair when things aren't going as planned. God is the "boss", I am the "employee", He makes the final decisions, and carries my heart through it. I have peace knowing that the Creator of the Universe is handling my affairs and has my best at heart. He knows my wants and needs and the deep desires of my heart.

Matthew 7:7-11

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find;knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him forbread, will give hima stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" (emphasis mine)

I don't think that this means that everything we ask for we will get. That wouldn't be good for us. We wouldn't let our 3 year old eat the whole birthday cake if she wants to. It would make her sick. God loves to see us delighted and blessed, just as we love to see our own children delighted and blessed. Knowing this, takes away my anxiety.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Extra Blessings (Foster Babies)

Our youngest right now is a baby girl we call Daisy. She is a foster-to-adopt placement and we've had her since she was 3 days old. She is the delight of our family and a remarkable baby on all levels. We were told she would most likely be a cranky baby, but she has been one of the happiest and most content babies I've ever encountered. She has slept through the night, 12 hours a night, since she was about 3 months old. She is beautiful. Stunning might be a better word. She has become everyone's favorite in our home. The other kids adore her. We are so blessed.

We became foster-to-adopt parents after I nearly died with the delivery of our second child, Jasna. It was a crazy ordeal that led to an emergency hysterectomy, for which I was grateful actually. My babies were both over 10 lbs at birth, which was no small feat for me, standing at 5'2". It just seemed like the natural next step for us to become fost/adopt parents. We LOVE kids. We had talked about wanting to adopt at some point in our lives, before we even got married. So this just sped things up a bit.

It's a hard journey though. Our first placement was great. 2 brothers, then aged 1 1/2 and 4 and we had them for several months. They were returned home to their mother, whom I must say was and is very deserving of them. She worked so hard for them, and they are happy back at home with her now. Her and I have become great friends and our kids still play together. It is a HUGE success story, and a rare one. So we didn't experience much heartache in that situation, because they are doing so well and because we have become good friends with that family.

So then Daisy came along and we have enjoyed her sooooo much! It really feels like she is my own child, born of my womb. It is so hard to know that she is not really mine and may not ever be mine. To go on, and not know the end result, is a challenge at times. It pulls my heart strings. Today is her first time going on a visit, she's 10 months old. She just left and the tears fell freely as I watched her be driven away by a stranger. I know it's only 2 hours that she'll be gone, but this is a new phase for us and I pray for her safety on the roads and for her little spirit. We can't explain to her what's going on or why we are sending her away. I don't let her see my pain. I know God is watching over her and taking care of her when I can't. His will is perfect. His plan is perfect.

The thought of letting go is hard. The pain is not only my own. It is my husband's pain and my children's pain, too. My 3 year old said to me, after Daisy was picked up for her visit, "If you give my sister to a different man, then I won't have a sister anymore." That was hard to hear. I am honest with my kids about the possibilities and encourage them to take everything to God in prayer.

So I pray every day, a selfish prayer, that God will let us keep her. And I pray for the hearts of my children and foster children.  But I also try to accept whatever may happen. God knows what He's doing. He knows the big picture. All I can see is right now and how we're feeling.

This morning I read Hebrews 4:16
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Money Money Money

We all use it every day. It's stressful, complicated, great, and annoying! I have "kept track" (lol) of our finances over the last 5 years and it's been interesting. My approach has been pay the bills on payday if there's enough money left over after food and gas. Due dates? Too many to remember or keep track of so just pay when the money comes in. This has not been working so well for us. And my filing system has been lacking to say the least. Oh I have everything in file folders in file boxes, but the stuff that comes in, before it gets filed, is a mess. Heaps and piles of papers stacked on my desk. And who has time to spread it all out on the floor and spend 4 hours categorizing and filing? Not me, that's for sure. Then 3 things changed.

I went to a Crown Financial seminar at my church.

I stumbled across Hannah Keeley's website.

I bought a letter organizer for my desk to sort papers into as they come in. I'll be buying more of these, but so far I just have one. They cost $14.95 at Walmart.

If at all possible, go to a Financial seminar. Crown Financial was impressive. They really want to help people out of their messes. Hannah Keeley's passion is helping moms in all aspects of their lives, including finances. She has a bunch of free stuff, forms and such, on her website. You sign up, which involves putting in your email address and choosing a password, and then you can access the free downloads. I signed up months ago and have never gotten even one email from them, unless I requested it. They don't harass you with ads etc, so no worries about signing up.

The first thing I did was make a gorgeous money binder. It's so pretty and fun that it makes doing the finances fun. Pour the coffee, turn on the music, bring out the binder and hum my way through it. Everything is perfectly laid out and organized and I can find any info I need at my fingertips. I used Hannah Keeley's forms as well as making some of my own, to suit our needs as a family.

These are the categories in my binder:
  • Monthly Budget and Legers - There's one for each month. The budget shows the amounts I think it will cost for the various categories for the month and then there's a column for what it really cost and the difference. The ledgers keep track of each purchase. You can just print off your bank statement if you'd rather, but I like to write down each category, highlight it, and put the amount. I have a different color for each of my categories, so that it is easy to add it up at the end of the month and know what we spent on said category. For example, green is gas. I highlight all the gas purchases green and then add up all the green ones at the end of the month to get my total. Make sense?
  • Budget - This tab has the forms for figuring out your budget. There's 5 sheets. I like to keep it in my binder so that I can find out, for example, how much prescriptions cost monthly, if I need to know.
  • Debt Destroyer - ever heard of snowballing? You write down all your debts in order of smallest to largest. You write down the totals you owe on each and the minimum payment for each. You pay the minimums on all the debts each month except for the smallest debt. You pay as much as you can on the smallest one until you've paid it off. Then, whatever amount you had been paying on the smallest debt gets added to the minimum payment of the next smallest debt, til it's gone. So no matter how much debt you get rid of, you are always paying the same dollar amount each month on debt. This gets rid of your debt a lot faster. 
  • Tithe and Cheques - I made this form. We don't use cheques hardly ever, except for tithing. So it made sense to make a form with this title. It has 4 columns: Date, Cheque #, Paid to, and Amount. Any cheques we write, the info gets written on this page, instead of on the back of the checkbook. 
  • Due Dates - I made this form, too. It has 3 columns: Name of Bill, Details, and Due Date. I listed all our bills that we pay monthly, including debts and mortgage etc. In the Details I put down if it is an automatic withdrawal and, if so, from where - Checking account? Credit card? Then I listed the due date and grouped like with like. So all bills due on the first are listed first, all the ones due on the 10th are together, etc. Makes it easy to see, at a glance, what's due and when. 
  • Account Ledgers - Each bill has it's own page. It lists the bill name, the date, the amount you paid, and any balance leftover. One page records the payments on that bill for the entire year. This way you can see what you paid, what to expect to pay, and if your payments have been going up or down. 
  • Current Bills/Receipts - This is a pocket folder in the back of the binder. As bills come in, they go into the pocket. When they are paid, they get filed. The receipts that collect for the month are put in the other pocket and then filed or shredded at the end of each month - something that should take no more than 10 minutes. 
  • Income for the Month of _______ - I made this form to keep track of our various income. Stuff from the government, our regular paycheck, the car parts Matthew sells, tips, etc. It has 3 columns: Date, Source, and Amount. Pretty self explanatory. With this form, we know what we've got to work with and there are no surprises. It also helps to see if your income is varying month to month. 
  • Cash Spending - This is the last one, and I made this one, too. We often have cash on hand from selling something or withdrawn from the account and there's no way of keeping track of what happens to it. This has 5 columns: Date, Description, Debit, Credit, and Balance. Self Explanatory. 

All I needed to buy for this was a binder I liked (about 5 bucks), some dividers I liked (2 bucks) and some tabs to separate the monthly budget and ledgers. I also have a label maker, so I used that to label everything, so it looks great.

So now, we know what's going on, we know what we've got, what our expenses are, and where we're gonna be at the end of the month. No surprises. This is such a huge part of life, that it pays to do it well. Literally. Hope this has been helpful to you guys and I would love to answer any questions. There are great resources on both of the sites I linked earlier and you can get lots of these forms and more for free on Hannah Keeley's site.

 I even labeled it $$$
 Isn't it cute? :D

Friday, April 1, 2011

I'm free

There are things in life that seem to get the best of us no matter what we do. We try so hard to stop some bad habit or addiction or whatever and we ask forgiveness and vow to never go there again....and then the next time the temptation is there, we do it again. If you are a Christian, this is very distressing because we are supposed to have self control and not give in to the things of the world. It's like being on a hamster wheel. There's no way off. So we think.

That is Satan's lie. And he trips up so many of us with it. He's chuckling as we are drowning in guilt. He knows he cannot have us because we are children of the King, but he is doing his best to keep us from living in freedom. He's trying to sabotage whatever he possibly can.

The message at my church this past Sunday was thrilling. I wanted to jump out of my seat. I am attaching a link at the end of this post and I would highly recommend taking the time to listen to it. If you want to live life free from guilt, that is.

In a nutshell, this is what you need to know:

1. We are all born in sin - Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Psalm 51:5

2. When we become Christians, our sin is paid full.  We are no longer under condemnation. 

3. We are still capable of sin, but our focus is not to stop sinning. Our focus is to listen to the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.

Our focus is on God every minute of every day. As we focus on Him and become best friends with Him, the things of this world will fall away and become disgusting to us. Not because of anything we can do, but because of what He is doing in us. As Mike Shellenberg, who preached Spinning Our Wheels at our church last Sunday, put it* - When we stop focusing on the Holy Spirit and God's will for our day, we go back to our 'default' setting which is our sin nature. We shouldn't be surprised. It's our default setting. We don't need to feel guilty, but just say, "Hey, Lord, I messed up. I guess I need to refocus my heart back on You. Please forgive me." No need to dwell in guilt. Sin no longer has any power over us. Sure, we can still go there, but God has removed our sin from us as far as the east is from the west. It has been paid in full. (*This is not a direct quote, but more of a paraphrase)

So don't get all caught up in the dos and don'ts; the law. Yes, there are things we should do, and things we shouldn't do, but those things will follow naturally if our heart and focus is in the right place. And that right place is on Jesus. So how does one go about "focusing on Jesus" in a practical, day-to-day sense?

When you wake up, don't even get out of bed before giving your day to God for His glory and purposes. Tell Him you are available to Him for whatever He has planned for you. Then go about your day with this in mind, looking for those opportunities to show the love of God to everyone who crosses your path. Your kids, the telemarketer, the bank teller, the guy who cuts you off in traffic, your ex, whoever.

When things are getting tough in your day, breathe and take 10 seconds to pray for peace and clarity and direction.

In every situation, ask God what He would do and what He wants you to do.

When you mess up, say sorry and start over.

This is the second time I have blogged about this topic, but it is sooooo important. It really is. This is HUGE!!!  My friend was over today and while she was reading her Bible at my kitchen table she noticed that the exact same verse was found in two different places in the Bible. Why would God put something in the Bible twice? Probably because He thought it was that important. Maybe you missed it the first time, so here's another chance to get the message. That's kinda what I'm doing. Please please take the time to listen to the message in the link at the bottom of this post. You won't be sorry. I'm gonna share a couple verses from Romans 8:1-6

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (emphasis mine)

This song comes to mind -

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

The first link is the notes that go along with the message, the second link is the message Spinning Our Wheels.