Friday, March 27, 2020

Ideas for Home ~~Redeeming the Time

A few weeks ago, I shared a blog post titled Making the Best and wrote about how our acceptance of our situation reflects a surrendered heart toward our Heavenly Father. So many times, "acceptance" of our situation is a hard pill to swallow~we all need the Lord's "humbling" hand and that heavenly perspective given to us at various times of our life~~what a mercy that the Lord is patient with His people . . . 

And now, we come to a time when many of us are "stuck" in a  situation that is beyond our control. A virus that no one has ultimate sway over has spread to our country and most of us have been "sent home," so to speak, in order to stop the further spreading of this illness. 

Whether we like it or not, and whether some of the sheltering measures are "right" and in the best interest of our country or not, here we are and our acceptance of our situation will determine the attitude of our heart (ultimately) toward God. We can "stay home" in our "pouts," or we can make the best of the situation. It will be a daily and hourly choice for us. 

Our family lives in the rural Midwest and we home school our children and stay home a lot (much of this is due to the fact that my husband and I share a vehicle and he needs it to go to work) but I do get out with our children occasionally--usually once or twice a week to run errands and then during the weekends for church, etc. :-). Our Governor issued a 30 day sheltering order and so we are anchored here at home for now. Oh; how I am missing my occasional Dunkin' Donuts coffee! But don't worry; my husband has kept me well supplied with creamer so that I can make my coffee at home . . . I figure that this 64 fluid ounce bottle should last me at least 3 days in proportion to my coffee consumption . . . ;-). 

During this time, I've been thinking about some creative ideas that might encourage you as a family as you stay home for the next (indefinite) amount of weeks . . . these are ideas and activities that our family has benefited and been blessed from over the years or that we have benefited from individually. Maybe one or several of them will pique your interest and be a blessing to you and to your family during this time  . . . please feel free to share your ideas below in the comments as well! 

  • Memorize Scripture. This is a wonderful time to memorize Scripture together as a family or individually. Plant the Word of God in your child's heart from the time that they are young and it will have a lasting effect upon their lives. Use the extra hours that the Lord has given to your family during this time to place the Word of God in your hearts through Bible memorization. And it doesn't need to be boring! Set a goal of a certain amount of Scripture verses that your family can memorize together and then decide together on a reward for your children or for the entire family when the goal is reached. My children and I have done this together over the past several years and it has been an incredible blessing to them and to me. The Word of God will always bless and will never "return void." 

  • Plant a garden. We are "exiled" ;-) at home at the perfect time to pursue this! If you have a small yard, put together a few boxes with scrap wood and fill them with garden soil. If you have a larger yard, plan a bigger garden if you would like to. This is a great project to work on with your kids over the next few weeks, from starting seedlings inside to tilling your soil and readying your garden to plant. Talk together about what seeds to plant and research how to grow the different vegetables and herbs that you choose to grow. Get your hands in the soil and thank the Lord that you and your family can spend some time outside together during the long days at home. It will also give your family a fun summer project to pursue together as you weed and take care of your plants.

  • Plan and prepare a puppet show or skit.  This past winter was a long one for me and for my kids who were home a lot. We decided to use the month of February to plan and prepare a puppet show and special celebration of Purim. This lightened up the long winter nights at home as we made puppets, read the Book of Esther together, and wrote the script together for the play. We invited our family over and everyone brought a "Jewish dish" to share for the day of the play. This was such a blessing to us all and helped to get us through those long days of winter in the Midwest. This time at home is the perfect opportunity to do something similar with your kids. Pick a story from the Bible or a favorite book and plan and prepare a puppet show or skit. Use the time at home to develop closeness with your children as you work on a project together.

  • Watch a good, edifying film. A verse in the Bible that has always convicted me is "Turn my eyes away from looking at worthless things . . . " (Psalm 11:37). There is so much "froth" available to us that we need to sift through it and find the things of substance. It's funny, but some things we know are just "wrong" and we stay away from them. But we also need the Lord to give us the discernment to turn our eyes away from what the Word of God terms "worthless" things--things that won't benefit our soul and will just drag us down with distraction and meaningless nonsense. As humans, we are all prone to this . . . how we need the grace of God! However, in my "travels" I've also come across many films that edify me (and others as well, I'm sure) in my faith and point my gaze toward my Heavenly Father. The following are some films that have really blessed and nourished my heart and that I would heartily recommend to you for watching during this time of social distancing. These are all in the Christian film category--there are many "secular" films or films without an overt Christian theme that I love as well, but I'll only include the "Christian" ones on this list for now--Here a few of my "favorites"--a lot of these would be great to watch for a fun date night in with your spouse--they are not (in my opinion) for young children (except maybe certain parts of the Ten Commandments). But they are wonderful for young adults/adults . . . here you go! :-) 

                 ~Bella: One of my favorite films with a strong pro-life message that is not "forced." A sensitive look at a young woman's life as she considers having an abortion. This artistic film is a beautiful one with careful well-executed humor in light of the overall heavy theme of the film in general. 
                 ~Old Fashioned: Those of you who know me well know that this is one of my absolute favorite films--one that I could watch over and over again. I love the sensitivity of the male character in this film and the way in which he treats women in general with love and old-fashioned respect~~something very rare in today's society, even among believers. You may read my review for that film HERE
                 ~Love Comes Softly: Another sensitive, beautiful film based on one of Janette Oke's novels. I love the theme in this film of "beauty from ashes" and again, the way in which the male character treats the female character with sensitive love, compassion, and patience. 
                 ~Chariots of Fire: If you have never seen this film, you are missing out on one of the best films ever made (in my opinion :-)). Chariots of Fire tells the story of Eric Liddell, Olympic athlete (and then later a missionary to China) and his decision not to participate in the Olympics on the Lord's Day in accordance with his personal convictions. 
                 ~Fireproof: This film has more of an overt Christian message which is done in an evangelistic way. This is a great film for couples and reinforces the importance of being faithful to marriage vows. 
                 ~The Ten Commandments: Such a great, classic film! A wonderful film for families with older children. The Ten Commandments tells the story of Moses and of how the Lord used him to deliver the Israelite people from slavery in Egypt. 

I hope and pray that these ideas/suggestions will be a blessing to you! May we each of us continue to keep our eyes fixed upon the One Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life amidst all of the chaos and uncertainty and be on our knees. 

Much love,

You might find me on these link-ups:

Inspire Me MondayLiteracy Musing MondaysThe Modest MomRaising Homemakers, Classical HomemakingA Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Woman to Woman Ministries,  Testimony TuesdayTell His Story,  Imparting Grace, Thought Provoking ThursdayGood Morning Mondays,  Counting My BlessingsThe HomeAcre Hop, Mommy Moments Link UpGrace and Truth LinkupFaith Filled FridayRaRaLinkupWord of God SpeakBooknificent ThursdayCoffee For Your Heart Weekly LinkUpYou're the Star Blog HopHomesteader HopFresh Market FridayHeart Encouragement Thursday Sitting Among Friends Blog PartyFabulous Warm Heart PartyOh My Heartsie Girls Wonderful Wednesday LinkupWriter WednesdayTea and Word

Monday, March 9, 2020

Tackling the Sunday Morning Grumpies~~Practical and Prayerful Ways

For those of you with little children, you know that Sunday morning presents a whole list of challenges. Between making sure that everyone is awake on time, laying out clothing for church, preparing breakfast, and making sure that everyone really is in the van when the family departs for church can be a challenge that not even the bravest of men and women are willing to face. ;-) 

And then, on top of all of those challenges, there is often the added bane of what I call the "Sunday morning grumpies." Why is it that generally happy children succumb to these? Is it just me or does it seem that Sunday mornings often have the blight of an extra level of morning grumpiness? Just on the the day when we should be hearing the sounds of birds singing, sweet hymns playing in the background, and feeling a general lightheartedness, instead we hear the bickering of children, the shuffling of feet, and experience that general feeling of unrest and irritation that just crawls under the skin and settles there like a worm in an otherwise very lovely apple. 

What is it about Sunday morning? Sometimes I believe (truly) that Satan goes through extra pains to make sure that we will not go in the right spirit to worship God. He hates it when God's people go to worship Him in spirit and in truth, and so he tries to create chaos and havoc. He attacks the day of worship with a vengeance and tries to defeat the Lord's people in whatever way that he can. But we are called to resist the devil and his devices. There are practical ways of doing this as well as prayerful ones. I want to share some ideas that the Lord has opened my eyes to through the years that I've had with little children--this is still a work in progress--but here it goes--perhaps some of these ideas will be helpful to those of you with little ones. 

How to Counteract the Sunday morning grumpies . . . 
  • Prepare ahead of time. Lay out clothing the night or day before to minimize upheaval on the morning of church. Make sure that older children have done this as well; get them into a habit of laying out their clothes for Sunday and making sure that the clothing is pressed and ready to go. Prepare any bags for little ones (diaper bag, activity bag, etc.). Don't bring too many things to church, but bring what is needful for your children at their present age. Let little children bring one stuffed animal or doll to church to hold during the service and allow them to dress the doll or stuffed animal in special Sunday clothes! This helps a child to become excited about church and to give a feeling of "special-ness" to attending church.  Prepare breakfast ahead of time if you make something from scratch or have muffins, etc. ready. Keep breakfast simple on Sunday to minimize the mess and to place the focus upon going to church and worshiping God, not upon an elaborate breakfast.
  • Talk to children during the week about how special Sunday is. Remind them that God's house is His special place where we go to worship Him. Remind children not to run or raise their voices loudly in the church building. Set the place of worship apart in your heart and in your speech directed toward your children. God's house is a special place of reverence. Remind children of how blessed we are to go to church and to worship God in this country without fear of persecution. Church should never be talked about as a "chore" but rather, a blessing and a privilege. Showing this attitude toward church will help to encourage your children to view church as a wonderful, special place. 
  • On the morning of church, wake up a little earlier than usual to make sure that everything flows smoothly. Get children up a little earlier as well. Use Saturday to sleep in, if your family does that, but keep Sunday as a day of preparation and praise to our God--take a nap later in the afternoon if you need it! Spend some time in prayer before waking up the children so that your own heart and mind are refreshed and ready before the bustle of Sunday morning activity begins. 
  • Play quiet and reflective music as the family eats breakfast and prepares for church. A hymn CD helps to put everyone in the spirit and mood of worship. I would avoid loud praise and worship music on Sunday morning, personally--there may be a place for this if you enjoy praise and worship music, but I would avoid "revving" everyone up on a Sunday morning. Rather, encourage quiet, peaceful hearts of reverence before the Lord.
  • And finally, pray. Pray before Sunday. Pray during the week. Pray as your family prepares for church. Address any "heart attitudes" that you may see in yourself or in your children. Ask the Lord to give you hearts of joy as a family to worship the Lord together with other believers. And the prayer of faith will be answered. 
What about you? Do you have any ideas to counteract the "Sunday morning grumpies?" I would love to hear them! The Lord bless you as you serve and love Him together as a family. 

Click HERE for another post that might be an encouragement to you! 

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Monday, March 2, 2020

Making the Best

We moved into the old farmhouse a few years ago now. And there was so much work to be done! The walls were made of old plaster and were visibly cracking in places--even a fresh coat of paint didn't help them much! The attic floor needed to be reinforced; I was concerned that someone was going to fall into the dining room from a height ;-) and join us for dinner unexpectedly! ;-). There were major issues (we needed a well; the windows needed to be replaced) and minor issues (the mice were a little too cozy and settled; though I do like mice in moderation--just not in my house ;-), the walls needed fresh coats of paint) and we knew that we could only tackle a little bit at a time. 

The Lord led us to this home in the Midwest and I love the old farmhouse dearly. But there was (and is) an awful lot of work to be done. 

One of the "minor" issues was the lack of cupboards in the kitchen.  Actually, there were no cupboards--just an antique buffet that the former owners used to put their dishes and other items in. It was beautiful and big and immensely heavy--with see-through glass windows that didn't do any justice to my (lack) of pretty dishes  and to my abundance of child-friendly glassware and sippy cups. Any woman reading this immediately shudders. How does one survive without adequate kitchen storage space? Is it even possible? 

So I did the best that I could. I arranged my dishes and plates and other miscellaneous items in that great big glass-windowed shudderingly-see-through cupboard-buffet. I used the drawers for cookie cutters and other such items; the opposite side of the buffet is a house to my small appliances (blender, food processor, etc). An obliging closet upstairs and our attic houses some of the other kitchen appliances. 

I was not entirely happy about this arrangement but decided to make the best of it. We would get cupboards for our kitchen in due time. And I have read too many missionary biographies about small spaces and "making do" to whine and pout too loudly . . . 

But in this little heart of mine I was dissatisfied; I really was. My usually-very-organized- neat self balked against the lack of proper storage space. As time wore on and the dearth of cupboards in my kitchen became less and less of a priority in light of the more major issues that kept surfacing, I began to despair of my dishes ever receiving a proper home. 

And then there was the drawer in the kitchen that attacked me. It was the only place that I could put the utensils in--but the problem was that it was just too close to the hutch, which was too close to the stove, which had no place to go because of its positioning in the kitchen. And we needed a stove; so getting rid of that particular appliance was not an option--even with our commitment to rural living. ;-) So back to that drawer--it stuck when I was attempting to squeeze something out of it and shaved back a large chunk of skin on my thumb--there was a dizzying amount of blood and I still bear the scar from that particular battle (the drawer won). 

In response to all of these "issues" that caused me chagrin, I "left" the buffet--it was a bane and a blight to happy kitchen living. "It's useless!" I thought, and just let a little dust collect in its inner corners. The dishes and cups were neat, but not as neatly ordered as they could have been. My cookie cutters were a bit jumbled in another drawer and my gift wrapping drawer needed to be organized. I looked at that buffet and it looked back at me and I just couldn't wait until I could tell it that its lease was up. We scowled at one another; I refused to dust its inner corners; it refused to open properly for me and we were really very spiteful to each other ;-). "You're too bulky!" I told it and it squinted at me through one of its under-windexed windows.  We refused to speak to one another for a while and I very begrudgingly gave it a bath with magic erasers only when it pleaded. 

And then the Lord spoke to my heart. I'm a believer that the "hidden" places matter. The dust under the bed, the crumbs carefully concealed beneath the legs of the table, those things that are sometimes neglected because no one really sees them. But God does. I read a story about Amy Carmichael and about the way that she emphasized to the little girls in her orphanage that they should sweep the corners when they cleaned and not be neglectful of the dirt that "no one sees." Because God does and we do our work unto Him. 

I felt convicted that I had purposely been neglecting the buffet because I was irritated in my heart that I didn't have the right storage space. I humbled myself before the Lord and made peace with that buffet. 

We have been on friendly terms since. 

I saw an idea in one of my Mom's old country magazines where someone had covered the open glass windows of their "unsightly" cabinets with pretty fabric. There it is; I thought! And the next time I was at the local Mennonite dry good store, I purchased enough to cover the open glass windows. Painstakingly I tacked it on and re-organized my cups, glasses, appliances, and various other items finding a home in that buffet. I knew a peace sweeping over my heart as I accepted the buffet as the Lord's present will for my storage and trusted that in His good time I would have proper storage space. I look at the buffet with new eyes and I daresay, it looks back at me with a gaze of mutual respect. :-). 

The point is here that when the Lord at times, in His perfect wisdom, chooses not to change our situation, whether it be in great or small things (such as in the case of this buffet) we can either accept His will or balk and pout. I knew that it wasn't His timing that we put cupboards in our kitchen. My acceptance of His will was more important than me being able to immediately organize my kitchen the way that I would like to. 

And yet, in the meantime, the Lord gives us creativity and grace to make the best of our situation. When we don't have the money to buy books that we might like, He gives us libraries. When we are not able to travel or to go on vacation He gives us lakes and parks and places to enjoy His creation. When we longingly wish for a new dress, He opens our eyes to see what is already hanging in our closet .

When we make the best, He gives us new eyes--the eyes that redeem seemingly useless things to have use again and to be used for His present purpose. 

I have experienced this countless times in my life--I can either "make the best" of something through His enabling joy and power --or sit in my pouts before God. 

Is it wrong to pray that He will change our circumstances? That He will give us proper storage space, that He will open doors in whatever area of our life that we are praying about? Absolutely not. But as Amy Carmichael says, "in acceptance lieth peace." If the Lord is speaking the words "Wait," into our hearts, our response must be acceptance of His present will for us. He will give us the grace to wait. 

So we make the best. We don't rebel. We trust our kind, loving Savior--we talk to Him about how we would like Him to change our circumstances. And then we move forward. We are faithful in the small things. We clean the corners of our cupboards. We neatly organize our dishes. We talk to our children about being faithful in little things and we especially show them by our example. 

God is faithful in the small things. He makes the best of concrete and allows violets to grow through its cracks. He makes the best of unkempt lawns and allows dandelions to grow up in them to feed the birds. He scatters rays of sunlight through gray clouds. He dresses the birds beautifully in the long and cheerless winter. God makes the best; so should we. 

So we make the best too--with cheerful hearts in the joy of the Lord which is our strength. We trust the One who knows all things and who is infinitely wise and good--

And we make peace with old buffets. 

You might find me on these link-ups:

Inspire Me MondayLiteracy Musing MondaysThe Modest MomRaising Homemakers, Classical HomemakingA Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Woman to Woman Ministries,  Testimony TuesdayTell His Story,  Imparting Grace, Thought Provoking ThursdayGood Morning Mondays,  Counting My BlessingsThe HomeAcre Hop, Mommy Moments Link UpGrace and Truth LinkupFaith Filled FridayRaRaLinkupWord of God SpeakBooknificent ThursdayCoffee For Your Heart Weekly LinkUpYou're the Star Blog HopHomesteader HopFresh Market FridayHeart Encouragement Thursday Sitting Among Friends Blog PartyFabulous Warm Heart PartyOh My Heartsie Girls Wonderful Wednesday LinkupWriter WednesdayTea and Word