Parenting Tales, Points to Ponder, Uncategorized

The Weight of Words

I should’ve seen the comment coming, but I didn’t.
Usually it happens that way. Sometimes there’s the usual suspects that you can brace yourself for and know something not-uplifting will likely come out of their mouth upon seeing you.
Then there’s the ones that take you by surprise.
Surprise or not a surprise, those words sting. A lot. And it doesn’t matter if you’re 4 years old or pushing 40, they still hurt. If you’re anything like me, though they may have been forgiven decades ago, those words can still smart at the oddest times many years later.
I’ve been wanting to write about the weight of our words for a long time now, but something happened last night that prompted my heart to write about it in a vulnerable way this morning.

Ephesians-4-29-MYB-e1380484295267
You see, it started like this….
We were up at my parents’ house last evening for a Memorial Day picnic. Things were going fine and we had the surprise of an older gentleman who worked with Jeff and I  years ago showing up to eat dessert and visit with my husband and I and generally catch up with everyone. When he had his visit in, he got up to leave and shook Jeff’s hand, then came over to me for a hug. This older man gave me a long, heartfelt squeeze, then loudly proclaimed, “Boy, I’ve always loved big women.” Everyone laughed. I could feel my cheeks starting to redden, and he went to joke about how my husband must like them too and made a joke about big barns or barn doors or some such nonsense. Everyone seemed amused at his antics. Everyone except me. I think I was a little flabbergasted and most definitely embarrassed. I saved my tears for later on when everyone was in bed and then broke down in front of my poor neighbor at the bus stop this morning.
Why oh why did this affect me so dearly? Especially as a supposedly confident, grown woman now pushing forty? I know I’m not alone. I have tons of sisters out there who have had to deal with similar things throughout their life and I’m sure can testify to how much it hurts.
I’ve never been petite, or svelte and willowy, or lots of the other things our culture reveres as a standard of beauty. Growing up as a tall, big kid, I have always had to field similar comments here and there. I have heard a whole litany of them. I can remember almost every one too. Even if 10 people could tell me they think I’m smart or kind or beautiful, that one comment about my weight or whatever else can easily drag me down in a tailspin and make me stew and generally feel terrible about myself. I could write a whole article (or series) about the topic of weight/size/etc, but I’ll save that for another time.
Here’s what I have to say to everyone—watch your words. Words hurt, even if they weren’t meant in a mean-spirited way. And I’m not just referring to weight, though that is a majorly sensitive one, especially for women. If I’ve gained weight, you really don’t need to tell me. I can assure you that I realize it already and am probably trying to quietly work on it. Though weight is a main one, it can really be anything. Maybe it’s parenting. Or your job status. Or your house. Or name-a-subject. Words are powerful, especially in this day and age where we are bombarded with them. Whether spoken or written, let’s use them wisely.
If you’ve used your words in a way that hurt someone, whether intentionally or no, please consider apologizing to that person. I am far, far from perfect, so I’m sure that I’ve said (or written) my share of hurtful words in the past. I know I have. I apologize to anyone that I may have hurt in this way, truly I do.
Parents, we especially need to watch what we say directly to, or in front of, our kids. You never know what they will hold onto, whether it be good or bad. We have a responsibility to build our kids up, not tear them down. I’m amazed at what my kids remember me saying to them or just in earshot of them. Usually it’s a very humbling experience to hear back what they remember me saying. Though I’m generally one to speak love and encouragement to my kids, I’m far from a perfect parent.

Lord help us all, right?
Lastly, I’m going to address those of us who have been hurt by words from someone else. They may sting for a long time, but let’s try to forgive. We live in a fallen world and these things are going to happen. What’s most important for me to remember is how much God loves me and treasures me. He thinks I’m awesome, no matter how imperfect I may be. And he thinks you are too!
Let’s use our words wisely this week.

Parenting Tales, Points to Ponder, Uncategorized

What I’m Into: May 2016

Happy late May. Our May has been SO gray here, but I’m thrilled to see more spring & summery weather in our weekly forecast. In fact, today is beautiful and I love having the windows and doors open. There’s nothing like it!

Here is what our family is into this May:

*Crazy Russian Hacker. If you have no clue what I’m talking about, look him up on You Tube. He does all kinds of science experiments and hacks. My boys are a little obsessed with him right now. I find him pretty amusing too.

*Canada Wintergreen Mints. I remember these minty Pepto-Bismol pink wafers from when I was younger, but hadn’t seen them in a long time until recently. I picked up a bag and have been sneaking in a couple a day. I’m a sucker for most anything minty. Love them.

*Earl Grey Tea. Though I am a serious coffee lover, I do enjoy the occasional cup of tea. (Especially since we’ve had all these yucky dismal days!) I really enjoy Earl Grey, which I like to brew nice and strong. Sheesh, I also just realized that I sound like a total old lady with my pink mints and tea bags;)

*Abide With Me by Matt Maher.  I absolutely, positively am in love with this song right now. It is such a great one that captures a bit about what it’s like to walk with the Lord everyday. Click on Abide With Me to give it a listen.

b40b59fc48510b833e329a7a4b905d2c

*Colossians 3. My husband and I have been working through this chapter as a couple and in leading a group of young adults in Sunday School. The above verse was one I had adopted last year as a verse to dwell on and try to live by. The whole chapter is awesome though.

*Poppies. This is the right time of year to see vibrant poppies blooming along the road in certain spots. We just planted several in a flower bed in our yard, so I’m hoping they make it! I think they are SO beautiful.

I hope that you are finding beautiful and encouraging things in your day to day life as well, whether it be big or small.

Points to Ponder

My Life Verse for 2015

I have some exciting news!

Well, it may not be that exciting for you, but it definitely is for me.

I found my personal verse for 2015. It just about jumped off the page of my Bible at me yesterday as I was actually reading over a passage on the opposite page.

b40b59fc48510b833e329a7a4b905d2c

Last year I didn’t really have one verse that I focused on.

I’ve had ones in years past, and once I had the same verse for 2 years in a row. (1 Timothy 6:6, look it up!)

This particular verse from Colossians is one that I’ve always liked and had memorized a long time ago. I even have had it written on a note card and stuck in my Bible along with some others that I’ve accumulated over the past few years. At the end of 2014 I had been praying to find one verse that really spoke to me to focus on for this year.

A good one, isn’t it?

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”  -Colossians 3:23

To me this means that I need to try my absolute best at whatever jobs the Lord has given me. No half-hearted stuff. Do it with passion and give it 100%. Don’t get caught up in being busy with so many “good things” that I am not doing my best at any of them.

Do it for God, not for man’s approval. Because really, that’s what matters anyway, isn’t it? I’d much rather please God than worry about what so-and-so thinks of me.

Honestly, I think I’ve gotten slightly better at not caring what others think, especially as I’ve progressed well into my 30’s. I think I know more about who I am, what I believe, and what I do or don’t stand for. I’m definitely more confident in who I am than I was maybe 10 or 15 years ago. No longer am I the meek, mild doormat that I probably was at one point.

Even my husband told me recently, “You know, you’re a lot more aggressive than you were when we met.”I was like, “Is that a good thing or a bad thing??” He assured me that it was a good thing.

Well, as long as I am pleasing to my Maker, then I am doing okay.

Pray for me this year as I try to live out this verse. I know I will likely stumble along the way, but I know my God gives me grace every day.

Blessings to you this 2015!

—Rachel

Points to Ponder

Some Small Resolutions for 2014

I have never been one for making big New Year’s Resolutions.

Sure, I’ve had some here and there, and I would stick with them for awhile. However, I tend to think that by declaring some grand resolution that is far out of reach, it sets one up for failure.

I also tend to be the hardest on my own self if I fail at something.

Therefore, this year I just have a handful of small things that I would like to strive for. Some are serious and some may seem silly, but this is what comes to mind for me.

1. Learn at least one new skill. You’re never too old to learn something new! Some things I’ve taught myself in my thirties so far: how to sew, knit, crochet, blog, make good bread….I’d like to continue adding on to this list!

2. “Eat the frog.” If you’ve never heard this expression before, it comes from Mark Twain.

“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

He was expressing that you need to do something that seems difficult or that you’re intentionally putting off first, then do the things that are easier for you after that. I have a habit of procrastinating on the things I really am not looking forward to. Anyone else with me on that one?? Maybe this will be a kick in the pants to do those things first (basically, get it over with!) before tackling what I enjoy doing.

3. Make more things from scratch. Yeah, you may already think I’m a little over the top with this already. However, there’s a lot more things I could make on my own if I really tried.

4. Memorize 3 new passages from scripture. Someone really needs to light a fire under me on this one! I think scripture memorization is important and I am convinced that we need to have the Word of God written on our hearts and ready on our lips even more than ever. Our current times are SO stinking troubling that it about scares me. We Christians need to be ready to speak God’s Truth for all those times we feel Satan’s arrows being unleashed. Our kids need to learn this too.

5. Don’t wear sweatpants. Or yoga pants. I have this horrible habit, on days when I don’t have to go anywhere, of putting these on to exercise in and then remaining in them all day. Why oh why do they have to be so comfy?? I’m sure my better half would rather come home to me in something cute, or at least in something that looks like I’ve tried. (For the record, I’ve never gone out in public in pajama pants. Just so you know.)

98234835592467187ofWPCLAhc

Also, for the record, this is not my husband. Just so you know.

6. Send more snail mail. Yes, you read that correctly. I used to be quite good at handwritten cards and notes of encouragement to people via the good ole’ postal service. Over the last few years I’ve slipped on this one, but I need to pick it back up. E-mails, Facebook postings, and texts just aren’t the same.

7. Drink more water and less coffee. Easier said than done.

Well, I realize that’s a pretty short list. I’m sure I will add on to it as the days of 2014 progress, but I think it’s a good little start.

Do you have any “small” resolutions that you want to tackle this year?

Parenting Tales, Points to Ponder

How We Do (and Don’t Do) Christmas

I realize that every family has their own traditions and ways to celebrate this season. The signs of Christmas are everywhere as it is less than two days away.

Lately I’ve been pondering this and thinking about how we celebrate Christmas as a family. Please don’t take this post as a personal assault or think I’m getting all judgmental on you. Really, I’m not. Try not to judge me and I won’t judge you, okay?? However, I am really fed up with how commercialized Christmas has gotten and, to be completely transparent, fed up with parents who have bought into this and spoon-feed their children the commercialized version of Christmas.

So, before I go on a huge long rant about Santa, Elf on a Shelf, and people going in to debt to buy their kids a bunch of junk they don’t even need, I’ll just share what we personally do–and don’t do.

What We Do:

-Each child gets around 3 gifts, not a whole pile. Usually I give them each one main thing they really want, followed by two small items they need or something just for fun. (Just as an example, we are giving Andrew a Plasma Ball that he had been asking for, along with an origami book and one other small item.) They also each have a stocking with a couple of little items, usually something like stickers, a new toothbrush, or candy.

download (2)

-On Christmas Eve, we attend our church Christmas Eve service. It is typically about an hour long and not late at night. At the service there is usually Bible readings, special music, and we also have communion together. After coming home, the children get to choose one thing out of their stocking to open.

-Christmas morning we typically have a nice hot breakfast before opening any gifts. One or two kids will help Daddy cook for everyone. Our kids are always early risers, so they don’t really get up earlier than usual.

-Before opening gifts, I like to have someone read out loud about the birth of Jesus from the Bible.

-When opening presents, I sort them into piles. Each kid gets to open one gift, then the next one will open one, and we keep going around until all are eventually opened.

-The rest of Christmas day is spent visiting our families and enjoying meals with all of them.

-This next one is new, but something I know some other families do: My children requested just the other night that we make a Birthday cake for Jesus and sing to Him. Sure, I said, so I guess we’ll be baking a cake on Christmas Eve.

What We Don’t Do:

-Make a huge deal about presents. Sure, we exchange them, but the emphasis of our celebration is not about getting stuff. It’s just not.

-Spend a lot of money. I just shake my head at how some Americans indulge their children in material things, but especially on the holidays. I shop ahead during the year, hunt for sales, and even buy yard sale or thrift store items if I think it’s something they will really like. We have never gone into debt or seriously compromised our budget due to Christmas shopping. And yes, we have 5 children and one income. It can be done.

download

-Santa. Or Elf on the Shelf. I grew up in a household where Santa was pretty much forbidden. No Santa anything. My parents are absolutely wonderful and I thank them for not putting an emphasis on Santa, but instead placing it on why we really do celebrate Christmas. I won’t go off on a huge tangent about Santa here, but I could. I won’t, and I’m not judging anyone who does do Santa with their kids. I’m not quite as strict as my Dad about Santa and we do have a few Santa decorations and stuff that has been given to us, but we make it clear that Santa is just a pretend character based on a generous man who lived long ago.

-Try to make things perfect. This one’s mostly for the Moms out there. It’s great to try and make things nice for your family. Things like magazine articles, blogs, and Pinterest make me want to have everything “just so” for the holidays. You know exactly what I mean–a perfectly decorated house and tree, perfectly wrapped gifts arranged just right, a perfect Christmas card to send out to friends and family, a perfect array of Christmas goodies and succulent holiday meal, and a sparkling new outfit to wear on Christmas day. Really, do you ever wonder if we just set ourselves up for disappointment when thinking this way? We are imperfect people and nothing is going to be picture perfect when we plan it that way. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s just not. I have gotten lots better about this over the years. Seriously, you may just laugh if you saw my kid-decorated artificial tree, not-too-decked-out halls, and non-planned Christmas outfits. But you know what? It suits me just fine and I have embraced my more relaxed approach.

That’s my “in-a-nutshell” version of how we celebrate Christmas. Basically, we try to not emphasize what this world can give us and focus on what God already gave us, over 2,000 years ago.

Nativity Scene

The one perfect gift. Jesus.

God in human form, sent here to save us from our sins. All of us imperfect people, undeserving of His grace and love. Not even able to fathom His love for us.

Emmanuel, God with us.

May you have a blessed Christmas and, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the season, remember why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

Points to Ponder, Uncategorized

Focus on Dancing

Today I am extremely pleased and excited to introduce my friend and sister in Christ, Ashly Ash, as a guest writer. I pray that you are inspired by her story and the wisdom that she has to share with us. 

*******************************************************************************************************

Focus On Dancing

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11)

I often get a lot of questions from people in regards to happiness.  I tend to be a very happy and upbeat person most of the time. I’m sure my family has seen the darker side of my struggles as I muddle through difficult times; but in general, within a few hours of tragedy I have handed it to Jesus and allow him to turn it into a triumph.  My life hasn’t been an easy one and the fact that I lost my right leg to cancer at the age of four certainly makes for an obvious “question mark” as I walk about smiling despite the obvious tragedy that has befallen me.  Some people think that I am happy because I lost my leg at a young age and therefore grew up knowing no other way of life. While that certainly would be ideal I can honestly say nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, growing up without a leg means missing out on much of what other children and adolescents experience.  The difficulty performing every day tasks certainly doesn’t set up parameters for a happy life.  Neither does the blatant reminder every step I take that I am not “normal” or even capable of doing things such as carrying my own beverage without assistance or devices of some sort. (Jeremiah 31:13) So the question usually remains, “You have one foot in the grave, quite literally, and are still not bitter?!”

image

Let’s first take a bit of a journey into my everyday mindset.  My husband and I recently took a trip to Alaska.  We stood before glaciers in awe and filled with wonder as hundreds of waterfalls cascaded down the mountains around us.  As our ship sailed through the bay sea otters and bald eagles floated past us on icebergs.  Orcas and humpback whales were everywhere as they surfaced.  Dolphins followed our ship and schools of salmon raced for river mouths in order to spawn. We hiked on a mountain top and watched the morning dew drip from the grass and leaves.  The fog lifted slowly and revealed to us the surrounding valleys and river that the Gold Rush started in!  In short, we realized exactly how insignificant we are in the great scheme of the created world.  (Psalm 24:1)

photo

Our God is so magnificent and amazing that while I stood on the mountain with my hands and heart raised to Him not a single person in the entire city below could see me I was so far away.  Yet there I stood with the God of all creation watching and even caring about my small gesture of worship!  (Matthew 6:18) I realized how busy God must be maintaining all of His creation and He cared about me in such a microscopic way during that hike.  I felt such a peace in my heart and body as the trail was rough and the prosthetic leg started to rub me in all the wrong places.  The Lord cared even for my pain and nudged me towards resting places and gave me the strength to go on.  Small sights of beauty seemed to throw themselves in my path to give me a moment of pleasure as I pressed onward.  I realized more clearly than ever that I am not simply an error or screw up because of having one leg; I am a part of this great creation!  Not as a “survivor”, not as a “one-legged girl” (AKA Pirate), but rather a uniquely created human being with a purpose in this world only I can fill.  I am not accepted in spite of my disability, but because of who I am through my disability.  The God of this entire earth not only cares about me but sent His son to die that I might live life fully and enjoy it. (Jeremiah 1:5, Job 33:28)

photo (1)

It is so easy to be joyful when we are surrounded by the grandeur of nature or being waited on hand and foot in a dining room.  But you know the thing that impressed me the most was after we returned home.  With the house freshly cleaned I stood in the kitchen working on the first meal since our return.  I stood over my great grandmother’s cast iron pans and looked around.  I saw the remains of our fruitful garden from the kitchen window, the coziness of fall decorations scattered about my home, the dogs laying expectantly at the very edge of the kitchen in hopes for a call or a crumb…and I realized I felt the very same feeling that I felt when standing before the glacier.  I was in awe.  In awe of a God that would bless me with so much in such small ways!  In awe that no matter what the circumstances are I have the peace and joy of the Lord within me!

Why am I full of joy?  Why am I always smiling despite being thrown under a train from the age of four?  Because I decided along the way that God would captain that train and I wouldn’t be crushed but I would be a co-captain!  (Romans 12) Jesus died for me to have a purpose and to fill the one spot in the Body of Christ that no one else can fill (two legs, no legs, survivor or celebrity); only I can fill the place designed for me.  As I grow older I realize that because of this I can accept my past, present, and future without worry or fear, and along the way encourage others with the simplest act of my present smile despite past pain.

image (1)

Happiness, I believe, is dependent upon circumstances.  Things make us happy, people make us happy, and situations make us happy.  But joy flows from within.  It springs forth from inside of us because it is a fruit of the Spirit.  No matter the circumstance, no matter the situation we can live in a state of joy.  (Zech 2:10) Not because of denying the circumstances but because we know our life is surrendered to the God of all creation and He alone is in charge of the outcome.  He alone will work every evil thing that has happened to us in our life for good. (Rom 8:28) It is awful to see people suffer from so many things that they didn’t deserve.  Traumas, handicaps, abuse, etc. are rampant in our world today but I know in my heart that while God didn’t intend for these things to happen to us He will make our paths so straight that when we finish the race of life our outcome will be supernaturally better than it ever could have been had we remained untainted.  (Prov 4:11) How is this possible?  Because our God is the creator and He will create a beautiful journey and polish a shining finish brighter than we can imagine!

Instead of focusing on the fact that I have one foot in the grave I choose to focus on the fact that I have one foot in the future!  As long as I remember I have always wanted to dance and I believe I am whole in Christ and will one day dance before Him!  (Psalm 30:11) So I ask you to smile with me, express the joy that is within you and let go of your circumstances.  Be blessed and focus on every good thing so that you too may bless others.  Let’s dance together through the finish line!

“I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”(Acts 20:24)

“Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’” (Psalm 126:2)

Craft/DIY Ideas

Book Page Lid Ornaments

This is a project from my archives from last year. I loved these and am planning on making more for this holiday season.

************************************************************************************************

What do old hymnal pages and canning lids have in common? These holiday ornaments, of course!

How did I make them? If you’re a crafty soul like me, I’m sure you can figure it out just by looking at my pictures. However, I’ll give you all a quick tutorial just in case.

Start out with a canning lid and a page out of an old hymnal or old sheet music. I’ve gotten old hymnals from used book sales for super cheap and used them for a different project in previous years. Using the lid as a template, trace and cut out a circle from the music page. I also went around my edges with scalloped-edged scissors just for extra embellishment.

Using Mod Podge and a paintbrush, I lightly covered one side of the lid and pressed the page onto it. You could use either side of the lid–mine are reddish around the edges, so I wanted that to show a little. As some of the pictures show, I also did a couple with the gold showing from the flipside.

I left a couple of ornaments just plain, but added a rolled fabric flower and a button to some as well. In order to hang it, I also hot glued a loop of thin wire to the back. Ribbon would certainly look pretty cute too.

I’m sure there are lots of other ways to embellish these. I plan on making more, so feel free to leave a comment with any suggestions you may have.