Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ready, Set, Pray!

Have you taken time today to commune with the Creator of Heaven and Earth?

I know there are days when I don't spend that time with Him, and I let the day get away from me. I guess sometimes I feel like I need to spend an hour in prayer in order to be effective. Life with little ones can make for an unpredictable morning, and sometimes, even if I'm up early enough to get that time in, they might "thwart my plans" and get up early too!

Well, friend, prayer does not have to take a long time in order to set your day in the right direction or to touch the lives of people in need! Can you spare five minutes? How about three? By all means, if you can take that hour, you should shoot for more time, but sometimes, that just doesn't happen in a home where the needs of little ones are immediate.

Here's my challenge for you- and something I've been challenging myself to do recently: Step one- Set a timer for five minutes. Step two- Pray!
I have found that doing this causes me to be more focused on what I'm praying, and I know that the time is drawing to a close rapidly, so I am much more purposeful about what I'm praying for. Sometimes, when the timer stops, I keep going. Other times, when it stops, so do I. But that's much better than not praying, not interceding for loved ones, not asking for God's wisdom and perspective on situations.

How much time do you have today? Will you take me up on my challenge? Let me know how it goes!

Linking up to Good Morning Girls for Women in the Word Wednesdays!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Miscellany Monday

Miscellany Monday @ lowercase letters
1. Been quiet around here lately!
I can only say that stuff has been pretty crazy. Between battling colds, food poisoning (yuck!) and the accompanying exhaustion...well, I don't have a lot of bloggy motivation! I know you all are hanging onto the edge of your seats waiting for me to post something! Ha ha. But anyway, I feel like it's been forever since I've posted regularly. I'm trying to get back into the swing of things!

2. My new favorite face scrub.
I once heard someone say that you should only put something on your skin if you would feel comfortable eating it! (Well that eliminates my whole beauty regimen, how about you?) I discovered that mixing honey (a couple tablespoons) with granulated sugar (maybe a tablespoon or so) makes a great face scrub! It's really awesome.

3. Joseph
I just finished reading Genesis this morning. I've read it several times, but I just love the story of Joseph. That never gets old. Every time I read the part where he reveals his identity to his brothers, I have to fight back tears. Seriously. Give it a read sometime if you never have. (Genesis 37-50)

I love this Scripture:

"Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive." Genesis 50:19-20

4. Clothing overload
Man I need some help in this area! I managed to unpack two large boxes in our master bedroom today. (Yes, I'm still unpacking). But I came to the stunning realization that we have way too much clothing! I have a ton of clothes in various sizes- ranging from before my pregnancy with my son (4 years ago) to maternity clothes to "transition clothes" (I gained 60 + pounds with my two pregnancies- and took a while to get the pregnancy weight off). Well, I don't want to get rid of too much of my stuff, because I may need it again. My husband also has a ton of clothes! So I need to figure something out!

5. Hanging on to the beautiful weather
For the next few days, the weather is going to be perfect! It will be in the 90's by the end of the week, though! Ugh. That's one thing about living in the desert! We have a very short spring. On the bright side, that means it's flip-flop weather! My favorite. (My apologies to anyone still looking at snow!)

6. Tacos
Somebody stop me. I think I'm obsessed with tacos. I love making them at home too. The best way that I have found to make them is to use a pound or so of ground turkey or beef, and season with a combination of kosher salt, chili powder (about a tablespoon), cumin (a couple tablespoons- I love cumin), and then add about a teaspoon of cocoa powder, and brown the meat with a chopped onion and a few cloves of minced garlic. Yum! Fry some corn tortillas in coconut oil, and you have the perfect taco, in my opinion. ;-)

Friday, March 25, 2011

From Pride to Prayer

At times, I find it so difficult to ask for help in my day to day life. Can you relate? I may need help, but hesitate to ask for various reasons. Maybe I feel like I don't know someone well enough, or I feel like my request may be unreasonable. I'm not sure what they will say, so I don't ask. I don't want to make myself vulnerable to their reaction to my request. I feel like I would look silly if I admitted I couldn't do something on my own.
It's the same way with prayer! God has something that we need and yet...we don't ask for His help. Is it pride? We think we can manage without His help. Sure, things would be a whole lot better if we could have God move in our situation. The Bible tells us He is more than willing to help us...and yet, we refrain.

Some of this may not sound like pride- maybe more like fear. But, if you think about it, the fear that's keeping you from asking is the fear of appearing to be weak or inefficient or unable to do something on your own.

God does not desire for us to be bound by pride! He invites us to ASK!

‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’ Jeremiah 33:3

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." Luke 11:9

God honors those who ask! Even those who keep on asking! Consider this story from Luke 18:1-5:

Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’”

The widow could have given up after one rejection- I know I probably would in many situations- but she kept on asking. Her "continual coming" made the way for her.

We need that kind of persistence in our prayer life! We need to be determined that we will let go of pride and humble ourselves to ask God for what we need, and to ask on behalf of others in need as well!

Has pride ever kept you from approaching God in prayer?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Religion or Relationship?

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." Matthew 11:28-30 Message
I love this Scripture! In my experience, this it what it's really like following Jesus. The only ones who burden us are ourselves (or other well-meaning people) who think that God requires us to work for our relationship with Him. Sure, we do have a part to play- just like with any relationship. But God wants to give us so much more than He requires from us!

As wives and mothers this perspective is so freeing. We need the "unforced rhythms of grace" at work in our lives on a daily basis.

God offers us a relationship. He gives us strength and wisdom for everyday. Peace. Hope. Love. All that good stuff! He gives it to us, so we can give it to others. Our husband. Our children. Our home. Our ministry.

Walk with Him today! Don't be afraid of "giving up too much" for the sake of His Kingdom. Just take it step by step. Go as He directs. You won't get overwhelmed or burned out!

Is your walk with God about religion or a relationship?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Five Great Reasons to Visit Your Local Library

Do you guys remember this commercial??? Pure awesomeness! The song got stuck in my head while I was writing this! :)
  1. Free Resources- From books, to DVD's and CD's, to computer usage, most of the resources at the library are free! We have started making the library a weekly trip. We get all kinds of movies and children's books (and books for me, of course!) There is no cost involved in getting a library card- unless of course you aren't a resident of that city. Watch out for fines, though. They usually are minimal, but they can add up- especially for items like movies and music- those late fines are usually higher than books. (Some libraries raised the cost of fines to increase their revenue in the struggling economy).
  2. Children's Programs- Things like story time, and even school-readiness programs can be found in the children's area at your library. Plus many have puzzles, and other toys to engage your child. You can sit and read a book or magazine yourself while your little one is playing with the toys or perusing the children's books (just a thought). Two nearby libraries that I've visited have small semi-enclosed areas for preschoolers complete with board books, puzzles and other activities for little ones to engage in. Maybe they have something like that in your area, too!
  3. Volunteer Opportunities- Due to the economy, many libraries are desperate for help. Whether it's an hour a week, or a couple hours a month, I'm almost certain your local library can utilize your skills somehow! (Expect to be fingerprinted and background checked.)
  4. New Friends- Guess where all (okay, maybe not all- but many) of the other moms with little ones in tow go to get out of the house? You guessed it, the library! Check out story times, or if you just want to connect with grown-ups, check out a book club, or even see about forming your own if you don't find one of interest!
  5. Exposure to New Things- Just today, the children and I participated in an activity at the library that gave me some new ideas to try at home. Plus, the more I bring them to the library, the more their eyes are opened to new topics to read about. As we're walking down the aisles of books, my son says, "Mom! Look at all the books!" There are so many novel (har har) things out there that can pique their interest and get them (and you, too!) excited about learning and doing.

Have you visited your library lately?

Linked to:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Capture the Everyday- Favorite Toys in Our Home

Today, I'm doing something just for fun- linking up at Adventuroo for "Capture the Everyday," a weekly series where you are given an assignment to capture a glimpse of everyday life. Click on over to visit Melissa's site to peek into everyone else's every day!

This week's assignment is "Your Kid's Favorite Toy".

Right off the bat, I knew what my son's favorite toy is. It's actually a toy that belongs to my son and daughter, a gift from their uncle. My son enjoys it a whole lot more right now, though.
Just to confirm, I asked Preston (hey, look at me- I just gave my boy a blog alias!) what his favorite toy is, and he said, "Uncle John's blocks!" Well his uncle made these special blocks by hand, and hand painted them as well with help from his daughter. Each block is color-coded and each group of same-colored blocks is a unique puzzle. Very cool.

My son uses them to "build words" and every once in a while, I'll come across a word that he has "built". Like this "mega-word":

My daughter loves this toy:
This was a birthday gift that Katie received a few months ago. She loves this thing! It plays several different songs (all tea related), but also "tea"ches (don't mind me) about shapes and numbers. We've even come up with hand motions to go with one of her favorite songs, and she just started trying to copy them the other night. (It was adorable, in case you were wondering).

What are your children's favorite toys?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Early Reading Success!

The Bible says in Proverbs 22:6 (Amplified):

Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it.

Reading is such an important part of a child's education. Children that read easily have an easier time learning other things as well. The ability to read early on will make parenting that much easier once your child starts on the path of formal education (whatever that looks like for your family).

In addition, I have heard from a few homeschooling moms that helping your child learn to read can be the most challenging thing, and so it's much better to get it done earlier rather than to wait until you think it's time to start officially homeschooling (or waiting til they reach kindergarten age- if you are taking the public or private school route).

I've compiled a list of things that we have done as a family that I believe have had an impact on our son's ability to read at a young age. (By the way, we discovered his reading ability one day when he was not quite 3 ½, when someone had given him a book as a gift that he had never seen before. He opened it and just started reading it, to our amazement. He had been "reading" books that we owned that had been read to him hundreds of times, but we figured it was just more from repetition than anything. But we knew that it was the real deal when he knew all the words- with one or two exceptions- from a brand new book!) This list is all things that we have personal experience with.

In addition, I feel like when people ask me "how did he learn to read?" I could easily point to any one of these things as giving him an advantage. Not all of these suggestions will work for every family, naturally, but I feel that each thing is helpful in and of itself.

  1. Be a family of readers- Keep books in your house (and not just for decoration!) Magazines are good too. If your children see you reading from an early age, they will be more likely to pick up on the behavior. Like so many other things, a love of reading is caught not taught!
  2. Read to baby in the womb (assuming you still have that option :D)- After around 20 weeks, baby's hearing begins to develop. Your speech patterns as you read will help get them used to the "sound of reading" (as well as normal speech patterns). I did this with both of my babies. I think, even if it doesn't do anything to help them to read more easily, it's still a great way to bond with your child before birth!
  3. Breastfeed- Did you know that a typical child who was breastfed has an IQ about eight points higher than average? I've read that this can be due to socio-economic status and other influences, but again, it's a good thing to do even if it doesn't increase your child's IQ (but, based on my experience, it really does help)!
  4. Sign with your baby using American Sign Language. Simple signs like like the ones related to events that happen repeatedly throughout the day (think meal times, diaper changes, etc) help your baby communicate. Studies have shown more rapid learning and speech development in babies who learn sign language. If you don't know how to sign, there are probably thousands of videos online that you can watch to learn various signs.
  5. Take them to the library! You will be exposing your child to great programs (like story time), as well as showing them so many different books that are available. Our library has no age restriction on getting a library card, so our son now has his own. (I still hang on to it, of course, but I think he enjoys having his own card and interacting with the librarian himself- plus it's teaching him responsibility). 
  6. Last, but not least (this actually may be the most important!) Read to your child! Start young and stay consistent. Even if your child doesn't show much interest, keep offering. We started reading to our son regularly when he could sit supported. He was very interested in the various books we would read to him. We started our daughter out at about the same time. She was not quite as interested as he was, but she's starting to come around now (at 16 months). She'll bring a book and put it on my lap while I'm working on computer stuff or when I'm sitting in the living room.  

A few more tips for reading to your children:
  1. Read what they're interested in. Don't get discouraged if it seems like they want to read Elmo's ABC's 16 jillion times per day. That's okay! The repetition is a good thing!
  2. Don't feel like you need to spend a lot of money for books. In fact, you don't have to spend any money! If you have a library card, you can get all kinds of cool children's books for free. Also, many libraries sell books that have been donated or discarded. You can get great books for a quarter or even less sometimes. Also, check out the dollar store, or Target's dollar section. They always have cute board books that your little one would love.
  3. On second thought, the less money you spend on books, the better! Little ones like to chew on books, tear them, or otherwise mistreat them, so keep the nice books up high so you can monitor their use!
  4. Most of all, have fun! Don't feel the need to become obsessive about their early reading habits. As I stated above, if they see that you enjoy reading, and that you have fun reading with them, they will grow to love it. 
What about you? If you have preschool age children, do you read with them regularly? What has been your experience with older children? Share with me in the comments!