Faith by Feasting: Giving Life to Your Table & Sarahstrone (LG Table #2!) Podcast

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Table-Discipleship Principle

Creating a lifegiving table is an intentional act of gathering, blessing, eating, sharing, and serving.

The story of the Clarkson family has been written at tables. Not with pen and paper, but with words and people, food and fellowship, talk and time. Whatever kind of table it might be—breakfast, lunch, dinner; picnic or deck; plain or fancy; small, tall, wood, metal, or rock; bare or cloth-covered; even the ground—it becomes our family table when we sit down together to eat and drink and be and belong. The delightful fruits of God’s creation we share together fill and fuel us as God’s life- breathed and image-bearing creatures, and our shared story grows from the table’s Spirit-infused life coming alive in us.

I believe that’s true for all of us.

When we sit at our tables, we’re not just an aggregate of individual family members eating and drinking to stay alive; we’re a congregation of communing souls hungering and thirsting to experience the goodness and beauty of the life God has designed just for us. Even the simplest supper, meal, snack, or teatime can become, in some way, a feast—a lavish celebration of the living God’s life and goodness. It’s not just about the physical act of eating, but about sharing and enjoying life as God designed and gave it to us. That is the essence of the lifegiving table.

Yet, something that I have realized and talk about in today’s podcast is that in order for this life to take place, our hearts must be prepared every day, every meal, every opportunity to share, from the fullness of my own heart, the truth, the encouragement, the affirmation, the challenge that I have cultivated over the years in order to pour into my children as a wise experienced mentor would do.

I fill my heart so that I can give wisdom, extend love, challenge their ideas and beliefs and shape the way they think about life.

Where there is no intentional host of a lifegiving table, it could just be one more meal eaten with no life passed on.

Our table time contains several key elements …

Bless: We Thank God

Eat: We Break Bread

Share: We Open Hearts

Serve: We Give Ourselves

Join me for a podcast discussion of these ideas, today!

Here’s a family favorite recipe …

Sarahstrone
A recipe I like to make when I’m in a hurry—one that seems to fill up the hungriest of my family—is a soup Sarah invented years ago on the spur of the moment. This was a great summer treat for us and definitely pleasing to my boys! Cornbread or muffins are a great addition to this satisfying meal.

2 links turkey sausage, sliced thin (We usually buy organic Italian sausages that are about the size of hot dogs and keep them in the freezer until needed. If you prefer smoked sausage or kielbasa, you’ll need about 7‒8 inches.)

1 onion, chopped
1 heaping teaspoon minced garlic or garlic paste
1–2 tablespoons olive oil
1 29-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 full can or a little more of water (Less water will yield a stronger tomato flavor.)

2–3 zucchini, thinly sliced

1 15-ounce can navy beans, drained and rinsed (We have also used other beans, such as pinto.)

1–2 teaspoons salt, to taste
1 heaping tablespoon dried Italian seasoning Grated Parmesan cheese and sour cream to garnish

Sauté sausage, onions, and garlic in olive oil in a large soup pan until onions are soft and sausage is slightly browned. Add the tomatoes, water, and zucchini and simmer 20–30 minutes until zucchini is soft. Add beans, salt, and Italian seasoning. Simmer at least 15 minutes more. (I think it tastes better if you just leave it on to simmer while you are doing other things—the flavors blend together better.) When ready to serve, spoon soup into dishes. Sprinkle each serving with grated Parmesan cheese, add a small dollop of sour cream, and enjoy.

Serves 6–8, depending on size of serving.

And find the books below!

Love One Another (Our 24 Family Ways #5)

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Way #5 

"We love one another, treating others with kindness, gentleness and respect." 

Memory Verse:

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

I John 4:11-12

It is sooo much fun for me to be with little Lillian. I am in love. Because she reaches her arms out for me when I walk in the room and smiles from ear to ear, I think I would give anything for this little girl who has wrapped herself around my heart. Love is irrational, isn’t it? She has done nothing to deserve my love except just being born. But because she is mine, I give my time, my sleep, my self to loving her and to loving Sarah by caring for Lily because they are mine. Its how God feels about you, beloved friends.

But then loving is not always so very easy, is it? That’s why we have to make it a commitment and make it a practice of faith, so that we can give even when we do not feel like it. Aren't there people in our lives that just rub us the wrong way, every time we are with them or in conversation? And we try to get along peacefully, but then, ... !

From the beginning, I could see that the personalities of my children clashed. Yet, one of the most foundational principles we practiced was that we belonged to one another as a family. We would choose to practice unconditional love for each other no matter what. Joy and Joel for some reason were often like oil and water. Sarah and Nathan would have power run-ins. And then, Nathan and Joel were so different, and then, …, and on and on.

Harmony in the home is not natural with immature, self-centered people. Yet, harmony doesn’t mean you have to sing on the same note, you just have to practice learning to “blend your notes” together so that their can be unity and beauty of expression.

Over and over when I would bring them together to say, “Were you gentle? Kind? Do you think your words were respectful?How could you have asked for help from your sibling in a different way? Let’s practice this now.”

Yet, some of my best memories the past few years have been seeing Joy and Joel come to the piano again and again--playing, singing, harmonizing for literally hours--as they are both singer-songwriter types; seeing Joel coach her as she practiced speeches and then spending hours judging at her speech and debate tournaments; coaching and encouraging each other through life, loves, thoughts, and becoming real, down deep friends; even sharing a flat as they study in Scotland. I never thought it would happen.

Moms often say to me, "When are they ever going to stop fussing? Will they ever be friends?"

One day.

Slowly, but surely.

Love must become a trained habit. Living by feelings is not a choice. We must help our children to "become strong inside" by choosing what is right, beyond negative feelings. Living in submission to the power of the Holy Spirit and choosing to practice love is what is at necessary here. Obedience to practicing love and learning to forgive is a pathway to maturity.

What we model as adults determines whether we have integrity as we teach our family  to follow "our 24 ways".

Choosing to love one another and practicing this love over and over again, shapes our expectations that we are each personally responsible for seeking peace, being loving, giving generously in relationships. When loving becomes a habit of thinking and acting, maturity follows and will be extended in all relationships.

Even in irrational relationships with family, believers, and others who perhaps will not speak to you anymore, or have decided otherwise to be at odds with you, you must model restraint and show respect because you are a child of Jesus. Show your children what it looks like to respect even those who have offended and sinned against you. When you model unconditional love in front of your children, they know deep in their hearts that you are choosing to control your feelings in order to sow love--and guess what? That is exactly how they will behave when they are tested as adults, because they learned integrity from you!

Oh no, you mean I even have to model this way in marriage?

All marriages have ups and downs. This is the main training grounds for parents to practice unconditional love in front of their children. Way 5, loving because He first loved us- is not an ideal which only the children are required to follow; we, too must follow our family ways, especially in marriage, sowing love and grace, kindness, gentleness, and respect with our spouse even when our feelings disagree.

When they hear the truth of the way and learn the verse, and then see that in their home, forgiveness is practiced over and over again; apologizing when necessary, offering respect, restoring the relationship, they are better prepared to:

Stay loving and faithful and forgiving in marriage

be a loyal and faithful friend

get along and learn how to honor and handle others at work

In short, training a child to choose to love by showing kindness, gentleness and respect will prepare them to go before kings or paupers and to become leaders in their generation. This is one of the most important areas of training, so our children can learn how to influence people with the messages of Christ--it starts with an attitude that says, "God has designed me to love people, to be humble like He was, to show respect and kindness."

Did fussing irritate me? Of course--it drove me crazy!

Did I ever wonder if my children would get along? Thousands of times.

Did I wonder what I was doing wrong? Of course I did.

But training is a matter of process and maturity. And it really is going deep into their hearts.

Fall, Beautiful Fall ...Throw a Party! Here's a Delicious Apple Nobby Cake Recipe!

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The palette of God's painting is the splendid world of color, where He crafts His beauty for our pleasure. Daily walks fill my soul with worship, as I look for the amazing detail He has added to the world goes to bring our souls joy!
The colors of fall and the billowing leaves blowing to His symphony give me great pleasure. I was sitting quietly the other morning watching the leaves literally dancing as they fluttered in breezes onto a lake that shined with waves whipping about in the wind. It was a symphony and ballet of natural beauty and delight.


Yet, one must take the time to notice, or the loveliness of the moment will be lost. Throughout our lives, I have done my best to take my sweet ones with me to observe God's artistry.

I would ask them to:
"Name all the colors you can see in the sunset sky."
 or say ...
"How many different shapes of leaves have fallen to the ground? Look at each design--they are as beautiful and as different as snowflakes."


To not take notice is to ignore God.


So when we create beauty and order, we are co-artists with God. Our artistry shows up in the color of our homes, the interesting ways we place books, pictures, paintings, and objects of interest, all reflecting His imprint on our lives.


So, in celebration of His art, one fall we once again we invited a long list of friends to come over for a harvest evening. A potluck of wonderful food was a highlight, with white chicken chili at the center (Sarah made it) and all sorts of offerings.
Finally, we ended with Clay on guitar, Joel on piano, and my friend Terri, who plays the violin, with a rousing series of soul filled singing. It was a night to remember as we worshipped and celebrated His art within us.

Even this year in Oxford, we will all be joining in a harvest party celebration just for fun. So many people I know are lonely. Giving a cup of cold water to another might just be having them over for tea and apple cake and warming their day. And if you model this as a way of life, your children will naturally assume they should be hospitable throughout their lives because it was what shaped them.

Make this a tradition. We have and are making it for a gathering this weekend. Bundt cakes serve a million people or (at least 36 slices! :))

Nobby Apple Cake--or Squirrel Nutkin Apple Cake as Joy so named it!

2 cups sugar (I use organic granulated sugar in the raw.)

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup oil

2 eggs

2 cups flour (1/2 cup extra for high altitude)

2 tsp. soda

1/2 tsp. cloves

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg 

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp vanilla

4 cups grated apples

1 cup chopped nuts (I add them to the top of those who want them.)

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Sift dry ingredients together and add into wet ingredients, mixing thoroughly. Fold in apples and nuts, bake in greased floured bundt pan for 40-45 minutes at 350. 

Drizzle powered sugar glaze over cooled cake and serve. 

Glaze:

2 cups powdered sugar

dash salt

warm water to thin

2 t. melted butter

1/2 tsp. vanilla

Mix glaze ingredients, add water as needed to thin, add more sugar if too thin. Drizzle over cake. 

Tastes best when warm or hot!

Enjoy each luscious bite and then go out and celebrate the artistry of fall!

 For more delicious recipes, see The Lifegiving Table!

Discipleship by Eating: Mentoring Through Thousands of Meals & Podcast

 A yummy breakfast recently in my home—fresh, homemade yoghurt from my little organic grocer, almonds, blueberries, strawberries, a little honey and croissants. Of course coffee and tea to top it all off!

A yummy breakfast recently in my home—fresh, homemade yoghurt from my little organic grocer, almonds, blueberries, strawberries, a little honey and croissants. Of course coffee and tea to top it all off!

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. 

Romans 12:2

Discipleship principle 1

All table time discussions, all meals made, all beauty given is to make Christ real, so that those who are with me will want to enter into a relationship with Him.

As I am studying the 24 Ways with my podcast friends and teaching Proverbs to my membership, I realized how much I wanted to reemphasize the power of the dinner table to discuss these things. Eating, asking questions, talking about the stories (What about the little boy in your stories who told the lie? what were the consequences? How can telling a lie in a hospital, a battlefield, a school change the outcome of situations?—Learn to ask questions to draw your children into a discussion that will cause then to engage and digest the scripture you are teaching them?

Think about this: How many hours a day do you spend on your computer, or phone or in front of the television? How about your children? Do you spend that much time at your table being friends, talking about life, sharing your values and wisdom? Which do you think will be the most influential? The voice of the one where you spend the most time will probably indeed win.

Thousands of times a day, we are accosted by messages from the world. Commercials, ads, the internet, television, social media: instagram, facebook, pinterest, twitter, magazines pour the messages of the world into our lives constantly. These messages will shape the values, convictions,  foundations of truth, view of morality in subliminal ways as well as active ways. We are also influenced by peer pressure where we see and hear these messages all the time. 

Yet, if we do not want to have our own hearts and minds shaped by these worldly values, we have to figure out how to build a home culture that is more appealing, more satisfying and delightful so that we will be the foundational influence in the lives of our children and for ourselves. In this podcast today, I will be reviewing chapters 4 and 5 from The Lifegiving Table and I hope it will further encourage you as to why investing in the value of our table is profoundly important to the shaping and nurturing of our souls as we seek to grow strong in Christ. 

Imagine, even if you just eat together 365 times each year, one meal a day, and start out with prayer of thanks to God, how in a lifetime, it will be over 7000 times that you and your children will practice remembering God as the center of your life together before you eat. It will place patterns in our brains with the habit of being grateful to God every day together as a family value.

What does it mean to be transformed, changed, and reshaped as an antidote to being conformed to the world? In this episode, I ponder these ideas as she discusses chapter one of the Life-giving Table and teaches us about how family culture has the distinct and grace-giving power to both change and protect us. I want women to understand how to inspire those at your table that instills a sense of "this is who we are" and "this is what we believe" into the hearts of her children as they gather at the table, and gives tools to not only create a vision to define our own family culture, but to practically cultivate a legacy.

I hope that you are encouraged by today's podcast.

Find more inspiration in The Lifegiving Table where I will be taking the Discipleship principles each Wednesday.

Listening to Correction and Accepting Discipline (Our 24 Family Ways #4) & Podcast

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Family Way # 4

"We listen to correction and accept discipline with a submissive spirit."

Memory verse: "All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness."

Nathan loved the story of the Black Stallion--a stunning, wild, untamed, powerful, jet-black horse that eventually became one of the fastest horses alive, or so the story goes!

When Nathan was a little boy and I would have to discipline him, I would explain, "Nathan, a great race horse like the Black Stallion had such potential to win a blue ribbon in races against all of the horses in the world. But until this strong, wild horse learned to submit to the reins of the jockey, it was just a wild horse with potential. To be able to run the race, he had to submit himself to the direction of the master, and accept the reins. Natie, you are like that great wild stallion--so much potential to be a champion--but you have got to learn to accept the reins of our discipline so that you can run your race in life like a champion!"

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So it is with us as adults. We have an incredible capacity to be strong, grow in intellectual excellence as we exercise the muscles of our minds, to be influential in ministry in our lifetimes, to leave a legacy of faith and integrity--but it requires that we also exercise our will, submit to God's discipline, and strain after His ways by following His heart.

Taking responsibility for my children's hearts and minds crafted me into a stronger, more mature adult. As I told them stories, my heart was engaging in great hero tales. What I was sowing, I was reaping in my own life.

Cuddled up on the couch, squished together in rapt attention, there were teachable moments as my children would look with wide eyes and open hearts when I would read them tales of conquerors and heroes--those who gave the strength of their lives to bettering or redeeming the world. Oh, how they loved great stories! And when their little imaginations were captured with those stories, I would seize the moment and say,

"To become a world class champion requires struggle, discipline, commitment and the will to submit to the process of developing greatness, and I believe that God has created each one of you to be a champion for His kingdom in your lifetime. I wonder how you are going to be used by God to change your world for the better?"

"Maybe one of you will be a great writer like C.S.Lewis, or a great composer like Handel when he wrote the Messiah! Or a war hero, or a missionary, or doctor--there are no limitations to what God can do through normal people who submit to His training and live by the power of His spirit inside of us!"

And so, what potential sits dormant inside of me that might bring me to serve and sacrifice in a heroic way? How might God use faithful adults who are willing to live into His discipline and exercise our wills and spiritual muscles.

Discussions of bravery, sacrifice, honor, submission to life lessons would ensue and these were the moments when the souls of my children and I were formed.

"What do you think it costs to become a great soldier?" I would ask.

"What if you were called to be a great writer--what kind of discipline would that take?"

"What if God wanted you to write great music that would encourage and comfort people all over the world? How would you become the best?"

And so on--capturing their imaginations with the principles of discipline was a part of inspiring all of us to submit to our discipline, training and instruction.

Of course, much of training is repetition, over and over and over and talking all along the way.

Yet, reaching the heart with training is as much inspiration as it is training. Both are necessary--training in truth and wisdom, practicing submitting to that training--but knowing that with the submission comes a reward.

God does not arbitrarily issue us commandments to be hard on us. His commandments, which must be obeyed, are for our best--to protect us, to bless us, to cause us happiness and to help us become the best we can be.

Understanding that bravery, heroism, greatness, --a champion made, comes from submitting to training and to discipline, is a truth that will allow all children and all adults to be teachable and trainable to greatness.

It seemed we had to learn to use this "way" often in the discipline and training of our children. "Our goal is for you to learn to obey. When you learn to obey mom and dad, you will practice becoming a trained child so that you will be able to hear God's voice and be able to obey Him."

If obedience is secured only through force, instead of securing the heart--and the imagination of the heart-- then the obedience will only take place when force is exerted.

Many wonderful adults and children have entered the world to find it a place of great temptation and allure. There are no guarantees of what choices our children will make or what their path will be.

However, I think for all of us, having a vision of why we need to submit--to understand that choosing to obey shapes our own ability to become strong inside in order to become someone morally strong and powerful to bring righteousness into the world--greatly enhanced our desire to actually do the submitting.

Just today, I was talking to one of my older children. They were talking about how so many of their friends "posed" as believers, yet their lives were a constant stream of compromises. Integrity means that there is a wholeness to ourselves. Our behavior matches our convictions about what is right. We must train, study, practice to become excellent people.

God is holy and excellent, sublime, awe-inspiring in His demeanor. He exhibits this through His love, that He is trustworthy, that He is good, that He is righteous, that He is a servant leader and so much more. We practice learning to be submissive because He modeled submissiveness to us when He was here on the earth.

Jesus, the prefect representation of God, modeled submission to us when He was about to sacrifice his life by dying on the cross. He said in Luke 22:42: "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done."

If Jesus submitted to God, we must be willing to submit to His will even when it doesn’t make sense.

What would have happened if Jesus had taken the easy way out? We would not have salvation and redemption. Sometimes being submissive comes with a cost, but in God’s economy, the cost will always be outweighed by the eternal rewards.

The goal of spiritual training in submitting to and asking our children to submit to discipline and to listen to  correction, wasn't just the behavior secured, but it was to help us develop a responsive and teachable heart, so that we would choose to bow their knee to God's ways, when we were with others or when we were alone where only God could see our hearts and our behavior.

Our children developed their own internal sense of wanting to become disciplined, trained adults who could pursue ideals of excellence for their Lord, because the motivation of their hearts had been secured.The training of them spread to our own hearts.

And so we told many stories of soldiers, athletes, missionaries, other heroes and explained that discipline and submission was the pathway to strength and character and we were their best cheerleaders as we trained, corrected and encouraged them toward the vision of owning their lives to become someone who would have a great contribution to make in their world.

What is your or your child's God-given personality?

What motivates their heart? Your heart?

How are you painting a vision for the person they will become when they learn to "take the reins?" How are you cultivating a vision for the person you might become when you allow God to take the reins and lead you?

The Gift of a Happy Mama & Surprise Podcast

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“Mama, I feel so much better in life when I know you are happy. You are sort of the barometer for how all of us are doing. When you are ok, I feel like the world has the possibility of having hope.”

The grid through which you see life will determine how you behave, and here’s an important truth: Children want a happy mama. Having a mama with a smile in her heart makes children feel filled up in their own little hearts, because mamas  are the compass that lead children to joy in life.

I do not intend to put burdens on mothers to cause them to feel as though they have to perform to be happy even when life is hard. But when we learn to choose to celebrate life, to cultivate contentment, we can give our children, husband and friends a sense of hope in their own lives.

Happiness is a choice that comes from a heart desiring to please God. It is an attitude of the will which says, "This is the day the Lord has made! I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

How to develop this attitude little by little is another thing all together. The more you practice and choose these heart expressions of happiness, the more happy your home will become!

Cultivating Happiness In Your Home

Before you even step out of bed, put your eyes on Jesus and talk to Him.

"Jesus, this is your day. I can only have enough strength for all that I carry if You carry it for me, and if You give Your Spirit's life into the moment of my days. Please help me to worship You today by choosing to be thankful for the gifts of my children. This is Your day, Lord and I want it to be a day when You are present every moment. I love You, Jesus, and am thankful for You being with me."

When you first see your children or husband after you’ve been apart, greet them with a blessing. Kiss your husband in front of your children---this makes them feel happy and secure. Choose to take time to tell him goodbye and kiss him before he goes to work.

"I am the most blessed mama in the world to have you as my little boy."

"Good morning sunshine. I am happy to see you this morning. Did you have any dreams?'

"Mama needs a kiss from you today because you are so very special to me."

"I am so happy to be your mama! God must have loved me to give me you."

When a child grows up with a blessing most every morning when he awakens, he feels wanted and affirmed deep inside.

Put on music at different points all day…

-when you do the dishes or chores with your children

-at the dinner table (instrumental so everyone can talk.)

-when you are in the car, when you have a sick child, when you are alive— in other words, all the time!

Certain music, scientists have said, can lower blood pressure, soothe the nerves, give people a sense of contentment, and help some children do better at math.

Place fun things in your day that you will enjoy, as well as your family. I instituted afternoon tea times because I wanted a civilized moment and it made me happy— a candle, a cuppa, and a small treat like a piece of dark chocolate.

I love to walk, sing, dance, have fun, and live with beauty and harmony, so I place things every day in my life that give me happiness or a sense of fun.

The more you cultivate happiness for yourself, the more happy you will be--and the happier your children will be! Practice being thankful every day--take time to look at the antics, and into the eyes  of your children and thank God for them.

May your days be happy and bright!

Keeping Your Soul Alive So You Can Thrive! ICYMI Podcast

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ICYMI—In Case You Missed It!

Many of you have heard me tell the story of Joel, as a teenager, when we had come home to a messy house after conference season was ended.

"Mama, don't you worry. We can clean up our messes like always, and then it will get messy again. But, please mom, what we want from you, is a happy mom. When you are happy the world goes well. When you are unhappy, we all feel guilty. So, mama, can you just chill today and be happy? Then we can all have a good day!"

Kristen and I have both pondered how to cultivate a long-term sense of joy in the life of our own homes. The beginning of joy is to cultivate an inner attitude that is willing to see every day as a gift, every season as one in which you can enjoy the presence of God.

We have realized that it is our attitude in our heart that will determine how peaceful we will be at each season. If you learn to expect limitations, difficulties, stress and life and children pushing back against your best efforts, you will have a more realistic view of what it means to be a mom. Depression often comes from disappointed expectations. If we are surprised or angry every time something goes wrong or a child has a new developmental challenge or they keep eating, wearing clothes and making messes, you will spend a lot of your motherhood years being angry and disappointed.

We will never change the stress level by being angry or bitter.

Often, when we fight against the very nature of motherhood, we find ourselves fighting against God.  

Funny that we want our children to change their attitudes, but somehow we feel we have a right to our own bad attitudes. But they end up draining our energy and stealing from the potential joy of life. Live into this season, accepting the limitations and learn to see each season as something God designed for a purpose. Don't try to rush life or push your children to develop or be independent too early.

This season is from God to slow you down, to train you to be more humble, more in the moment, more patient--to build the very character of Christ into the deep places of your heart. Learn and don't resist what He has built into this season and even though you will always feel exhausted, your heart will be more at peace, happier, if you know it has a purpose.

My Own Journey

Having three children in less than five years was a shock to my whole being. Not only had I not been trained for motherhood, I had not been developed to live a selfless life. No one told me about how much I would have to give, how much I would have to sacrifice--forever! Having grown up with two older brothers as the only girl of the family, my mama at times just wanted to spoil her little dolly. I was spoiled much of the time, left alone to fend for myself other times, but definitely not prepared to have multiple children, nurse my babes, have them naturally, and then homeschool them eventually.

Idealist should be my middle name. I wanted all of this, and to be the best mom in the world, but had no realistic idea of how to accomplish it. Today, I thought I would address some of the desperate times and a few ways I have learned to cope with them.

Always a new phase, always needs

The baby-toddler-never sleep years when you lose your body shape, have someone grabbing you all the time and are constantly in and out of different sizes of clothes (that is, if you have time to shop for clothes!) were daily, moment by moment a challenge to my centered-ness in life. Losing total control all the time, every day, day after day, was a shock to my system.

Is anyone really prepared for exhaustion that lasts for years on end? I wasn't. Besides having children in quick succession, which meant I always had immature little beings making messes, fussing, sleeping, potty training or making messy diapers and getting me up at night. I fell in love with my children--just had this overwhelming, deep affection for them, but still would blow my stack, be impatient when they pushed all my buttons and I felt vague desperate feelings.

I look back now and just wish I had understood baby years. And the pre-school years, and the teen years, and and and. Because I have lived through it all, I know I had God-given capacity to complete the tasks, and I am a richer, stronger person for my journey. God made each season for His own purposes. God made babies to be dependent so we could touch them, sing to them, bond with them, teach their little brains to believe in His love because of the way we tenderly cared for them and enjoy their sweet fat baby hand pats and smiles reserved for us. This is a time to try to just breathe, to try to notice the moments, to kiss often, smile into their precious eyes, and simplify. If you are feeling stressed because your babies push against your own schedule and expectations of life, know that you are normal. Feeling guilty for having these normal feelings is a waste of time. Just learn to grow stronger and more resilient one day at a time.

But seeking to bring gentle order, little by little, in each season of life is an essential part of having a more ordered, peaceful home.. Have eating times, play times, feeding times, bed times at the same time every day. When a little one or big one knows what to expect by the rhythms he lives in, he will be more secure and more calm. These are the anchors that bring order to the day. Babes who are held more during the day are quieter and more at peace. Teenagers who have lots of private "talk to me", "understand me" time are less likely to rebel against the mom and dad's ideals.

It requires so much of you every day, all the time--so to understand this is how to be an effective mom, learning to be a servant leader over and over again in every season, all the time, will help you to understand your long term call. I practically carried Joy everywhere we went, all the time, when I read to the kids, when I did things around the house, just kept her close and she was sooo much more calm and slept so much better. And during her young and elementary years, I sought to read to her, play with her and blow bubbles and rock her to sleep at night, just as my  teens were wanting me to stay up, talk to them, understand them, be their friend.  And, when I fell into bed exhausted,  then before I knew it, Joy would be up again wanting my attention, early in the morning. But now, I am sooo grateful that God led me through these years, because my children's hearts are tied closely to mine and we have grown into each other's best friends.

To live inside yourself thinking that at some particular time, you will have more time to yourself, or have more control, is an expectation that will probably be disappointed. Life does become easier when children are old enough to help, to do things for themselves, to learn a little more independently. Yet, each seasons requires a different kind of energy for us as moms.

Learning to see God's design in all the stages gives meaning to the journey. But to have the wrong expectations about life becoming suddenly easier brings disappointment. Disappointed expectations can lead to depression. Anger can result. So learning to accept the limitations of a realistic life and learning to see each day as a gift, a place to worship God by choosing to accept the limitations is the beginning of growth.

 Make Yourself Happier! Learning to manage your life so that you can refill your heart, mind and body on a regular basis is essential to good health.

Invest in your own soul's need for pleasure, because it is a God-given desire--make room for pleasure in your days, so that in spite of the seasons, you take care of yourself. Sometimes it is more important for a mama to take a nap than to wash dishes (and isn't that what paper plates are for?)

Sometimes it is better to go to dinner or lunch or brunch with a friend, or go to a movie that is romantic, to buy yourself a new dress or earrings, or go get a message, than to stay home and gaze at all of your problems and worry or focus on being depressed. Whatever you water is going to grow. If you cultivate fears, stress, worries, anger, then you will grow more anxious and darker every day. But if you learn how to release these issues into the file drawer of heaven, into God's hands, and then lighten your load, you will walk with more realistic joy and contentment. Learning to cultivate hope and joy, to water the faith and happiness of your life, is an essential commitment to becoming a wise woman.

These are my pleasures that keep me happier and stronger:

  • I make time with old friends--those who get me and still love me, who are fun, who know my limitations, heartbreaks, weariness, desires and dreams, and don't criticize or want something from me. These friendships have been built over many years. Having adventures together or just sitting on couches in front of the fireplace, chatting as the flames crackle and the night gets late fills up my soul.

  • A hot bath with candles late at night when NO ONE can disturb me is another treat I love. My clan doesn't go to bed usually until midnight, so I have to hide myself away when I just need a moment.

  • Sitting on the front porch watching the sun go down with something wonderful to drink and music playing out of my little Bose Speaker that goes everywhere I go. Peace, calm, beauty, quiet--so rare and so soul filling for me.

  • A one-woman 15 minute tea or coffee time in the middle of the day.

  • Ten minutes reading the psalms and then quick prayer, refocuses my mind on who God is and how much He loves me and desires to help me.

  • Going for long walks early in the morning or early evening--(the adrenalin builds up in me and I walk hundreds of miles a year to equalize my blood sugar  and heart attitudes.) It is a great way to build friendship with your children, too.

  • Travel--I love adventure and change, (I was ADD before my children were born!) so I have taken myself and the kids to new places if I could figure out how to save money to afford it or speak to pay for my travel--or stay with friends along the way.

  • I have learned the wonderful value of massages in the past couple of years. I save, save to make this happen on occasion.

  • Watching a beautiful movie or reading a long great inspiring novel gives me hope.

  • Dark chocolate salted almonds

  • Reading my little daily Bible time book, reading even a half chapter in an inspiring spiritual book--even a little progress helps-- and writing one thing I have thought or learned in my journal. Spiritual strength keeps my attitude stronger--longer.

  • Spending time, with one or both of my girls, shopping and doing girl things-- just hanging out on our beds talking.

  • Lighting candles all times of day (when I need atmosphere--not wo much when the kids were little--but when I needed to pretend that the mundane day would be special. It was a sort of visual reminder of what I needed to live int.) Having my music playing or buying myself flowers. Beauty lifts my spirit.

In making beauty for yourself, others around you will learn to love and celebrate life, and they will learn to take care of themselves, too. Even those little babies that seem to need you all the time will eventually mimic the habits you practice!

What is therapy to your soul? What 2 things will you do this week? Share your ideas--I may need a new one!

Honor & Obeying Parents (Our 24 Family Ways #3) & Podcast

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24 Family Ways # 3

We honor and obey our parents in the Lord with a respectful attitude.

Memory Verse:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother

(which is the first commandment with a promise)

so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.

Ephesians 6: 1-2

From the first days of life, we speak the attitudes of faith into our little babies. When we treat them with gentleness and respond to them with patience and treat them as little infants of great value, we are already training the value of honor and respect into their brain patterns.

We are living in a time in which everyone is fair game for criticism, every person can be devalued. Especially in online places, there seems to be no decorum that would suggest we should treat others with respect our of our respect for Christ.

If we do not teach our children the value of honoring us as parents, or adults in charge of them, or people in positions of authority, then they will never have a trained heart attitude that says, “I must bow the wishes and needs of my own heart in order to please God.

Children must be taught to submit, even as we adults need to remember that we are to be people who can submit. God is our King and maker and He is in authority over us. We must place areas of practicing this in real life in order for our children to understand what it means to fear and serve our wonderful God.

Honor is a value that must have precedence in a home, so that a child can understand the importance of  people, and  to learn to bow their knee before others who deserve respect.

Honor comes with humility—the ability to see others as more important than ourselves. To teach honor and obedience means we will have to cross our children, confront their selfish wills.

Hebrews says, “My child, don’t make light of the LORD’s discipline,

and don’t give up when he corrects you.

6For the LORD disciplines those he loves,

and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”f

7As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father?

Training and discipline and correction is what the 24 Family Ways is all about—training our children to live by Biblical values. This takes lots of time, over and over and over again training. Remember that you have taken many years to move from immaturity to maturity and probably if you are like me, you still have a ways to go. Patience is needed with all people who are in the process of learning to practice God’s ways.

The beginning of learning to value a fetus, an old, frail or infirm adult, or a person of different race or color begins with the heart attitude of learning to honor and learning to submit oneself to others.

hon·or

Definition: to show high respect or esteem

To regard with great respect

obey

to submit to the authority of someone

to comply with a law

Many years ago, I was taking Sarah, Joel, Nathan and Joy to a children's museum in Ft. Worth. We were standing in line behind what appeared to be grandparents with a little boy about 5 or 6. As we stood waiting our turn to enter, the little boy suddenly laid down on the floor, began screaming and then when his grandpa tried to pick him up, the boy started slapping and hitting and spitting on him.

Immediately all four of my children looked back at my face to see what I was going to do. Joel said, "Mama, don't you know? We always look at your eyes to see what we are supposed to do and how we are supposed to behave and react in life."

What do your children see when they look at your eyes?

Children naturally look to their parents for an example and model of what is expected.

One of the reasons, I believe, that God required children to honor  and obey their parents was to give them a visual and actual practice of what it would look like to give honor  and obey and value and worship to God.

How can our children learn the value of worshiping and honoring God if they have not seen it in the warp and woof of their daily lives?

It is very difficult to behave in belief and in worship to God--to understand that we are below him and are to bow to His holiness--if we have never been required to show respect to others in our lives.

There must be some visible, actual ways of teaching children respect and honor as a heart value so that they can learn the concept.

There are so many practical ways and tips to teach a child honor and obedience.

However, the most important thing to realize is that it starts with the heart. 

Respect, giving worth and honor to someone, is not a matter of forcing a child to submit to an authority  because the parent  is  stronger and bigger and can exert his power. Force of authority is the opposite of winning and training a child's heart to honor and obedience.

HOW DO WE TEACH THIS VALUE?

"Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence" I Peter 3:15

It begins with an attitude of gentleness and reverence from our own obedient and honoring heart. The power is in our own maturity to train in maturity.

A wise mother looks into the heart of her child to understand what is mulling around in the mind and seat of thoughts and motivation. Honor is passed on to a child when we take the time to know their personality, understand their heart attitude and to be able to say or evaluate if a behavior was merely foolishness or if behavior showed a disrespectful and rebellious heart.

I corrected my children so very often because of the attitude I could detect--when they were willful or prideful or selfish in response to a person or situation--much more than I corrected for behavior.

Wise behavior was trained and modeled and corrected over time. However the essence of training our children to honor and obey was an issue of teaching them to submit their wills out of a heart of respect, rather than out of us forcing them to comply.

Understand that all of us are sinful and selfish and that our human way is to "push against" anyone who infringe upon our rights. And so it is natural to be selfish and immature, but it is supernatural to be mature. 

To become mature takes a whole lifetime--at least I am still working on it. To grow in maturity and to become wiser, humbler and more discerning and submissive in my behavior has taken me years of input, training, understanding, conviction, reforming my ways and repenting--and it is a process, not a one time act.

And so it is with a child, hundreds of times teaching, correcting, loving, training, and over and over again.

For this reason, a parent should not think the child is intentionally disobedient all the time just to thwart the parent--all children are born with such a nature and all children will grow in strength and ability to obey when consistently trained and guided and corrected.

This is a process.

Ours is to wisely keep them on the path of righteousness and to give them the value and love for righteousness and to correct and train them as they are going.

Just a few practical ideas:

When our children were little, we taught them to address adults with "Miss" or "Mister"--as our children called our adult friends either Mister Brown or Miss Deb to show that there was a distinction between adults and children. Different parts of the US and different countries have ways of imparting this understanding of the distance between adults and children, but it is a necessary distinction which helps children to learn the attitude of respect--to see a difference in themselves and in adults and authorities.

Teaching manners  is a wonderful way to teach children to value the worth of other people. Giving up chairs so others have a comfortable seat. Letting other adults or guests go first in line at a buffet, or serving our guests food or beverages before we were served were small ways of building a pattern of giving honor to others more than ourselves, so that our children could understand the whole concept.

Writing thank you notes and noticing the worth of other people through words helped our children have a pattern for respect. Honoring those in position--a pastor, a teacher, the President, leaders--in front of our children instead of always criticizing them in our children's presence helped them to learn that we also honored people.

In a world of cynicism and sarcasm, we must rule over the influences of our children when so often media and the internet feels that any person and any office is something open to being criticized or being made fun of in public.

This creates a culture that has no sense of honor or respect. Guarding our words and behavior is so important if we are to instill a heart value for respect, rather than just trying to force obedience.

Even small babes can learn to honor their parents by teaching them to use self-control. When our babes were very young and they were whining or screaming, but old enough to understand us, we would place them in a crib and say, "I am so sorry, but mommy (or Daddy) cannot listen to you while you scream or whine (or whatever). When you choose to talk to me in a normal voice, I will listen to you."

It was amazing how quickly our children learned to talk in quiet, gentle voices--even as young, crying babes.

But for a child to learn honor, a parent must display honor. The way we speak to each other and to our children should be with pleasant, loving words and voices. When we expect them to learn civility and honor, we have to exhibit it ourselves in the way we treat other people. (generally speaking, of course --we all raise our voices or become angry or frustrated on occasion.)  And even if we do become angry or raise our voices, we should always apologize if we expect our children to apologize. We must exhibit the same behavior we are expecting of them.

How can we train our children to act respectfully if we do not behave in a civilized, gentle, respectful way?

But then there is the second part of the way: obeying our parents with a respectful attitude.

Though this is a big area, and I cannot possibly address it all in one small article, the process of teaching a child the pattern of obeying is a long term pathway of learning obedience, little by little.

Teaching children to obey is essential to their character and moral strength, but it is a process. The beginning of learning obedience is to learn a value like this one--We honor and obey our parents with a respectful attitude.

So many parents do not teach basic expectations but merely react to their children in frustration--without having ever laid down the training of expectations of what is to be obeyed.

This merely frustrates parent and child as it is difficult for a child to learn to obey if they have never been told what is expected of them--any more than I could expect to please an employer if I did not clearly understand what was expected.

Training little by little is the key to having long term obedience and honor.

Since Clay and I believe that parenting is an organic process, considering the personalities of children, the sex and age of children and the ways to reach the children's hearts, we do not give specific advice but wisdom principles to follow.

Consequently, the first place to start is in giving our children a pattern of what to expect by being with them all the time when they are little so that we can speak to their little hearts, needs, shaping their values and understanding of behavior by directing it.

The children whose parents are most engaged and involved when their children are little are, generally speaking, the ones whose children are easier to train, as the children have learned to expect attention and love and training.

And so we teach them this way, teach them the memory verse and use this way and verse as a way of correction:

What is our way about obedience? What do you need to do in order to obey mommy now?

And so that I do not write a whole book tonight, I will leave you with this thought:

How are you modeling honor and obedience to God in  your home, by your attitudes, actions and obedience--so that your children will have a true picture to follow?

Lighting a Candle in Your Family's Darkness

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"Mama, one of the things that most distinguishes you is that you are always a hopeful person. No matter what would happen, you always pointed us to hope."

How surprised I was to hear this, as I have often felt that I was a struggler through the many challenges that threatened to overcome us in our lives.

Many years ago, I realized that children long to have a happy mother. Our children are growing up in a time when media spreads the gloom and doom of catastrophes, fears and threats. When the mama spreads light and thankfulness--and hope in the darkness, then children feel secure and safe. But when a mama lives darkly, the children harbor fear, insecurity and blame themselves for parent's being angry or sad. Hope is not natural--it is supernatural. Hope comes welling up from deep inside because of a belief that God is good. That He will win in the end. That there is always hope when God is present.

Women who choose hope and who choose to trust God are those who, instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle. But it is a choice of the will. Hope is not a feeling, it is a commitment to hold fast to what scripture reminds us is true about God.

Knowing scripture, pondering and taking it into your soul, is what gives each of us fuel to live the Christian life, as we listen to the Holy Spirit guide us through the wisdom we have learned. The only way to live well is to live in fellowship with God. Nothing else will satisfy.

We live in an imperfect world filled with disappointments, devastation, and difficulty. Without hope, our lives can feel absolutely purposeless sometimes. In my own life, I have struggled with hardships I never could have seen coming. My heart has been broken, my faith has been tested, and I have had to push myself in ways that I couldn't have imagined. Circumstances will come our way, and we will always have a choice to make. We can choose to give up, or we can choose hope.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." -Romans 15:13

Oh to allow the Holy Spirit to fill me to overflowing with hope.

Hope it not just wishful thinking. Hope is an assurance that our king has ultimately won the raging battle. Hope teaches us that this is the broken place where we have the honor of believing Him who is fighting on our behalf.

Hope anchors the soul and keeps us grounded.

"This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil." (Hebrews 6:19).

When we have nothing else to rely on, our hope in God is what connects us to what is true. As Romans 15:13, above,  tells us, when we put our trust in God, we can overflow with hope. This hope from the Holy Spirit is such a powerful entity, it can make us truly unstoppable.

But faith is a choice that requires us to relinquish our fears, doubts and worries into the hands of God--like a child who says, "I will trust my mama and daddy because I know they are good and reliable." So we say, I will give this into His hands because I know He is good and loving and reliable.

Hope gives us the strength to take on our future. Hope can cure the incurable. No circumstance, no problem, no issue, no devastation is too large or too difficult for God to take on. However, we have to choose this hope. We must receive it. Sometimes, life can beat us down and make us feel absolutely defeated. But when we choose to carry the hope God has given us, we are able to overcome anything.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for,  (the conviction of things not seen.) Hebrews 11:1

My hope rests in God's character and ability to see me through. He who answers prayer. He who is always good. He who has overcome the world. He who has forgiven every sin. He who will never leave me or forsake me. I can leave my issues in the file drawer of heaven and know that He has the ability to work them out and to cause, "all things to work together for the good for them who love Him."

The God-given gift of hope is the best possible medicine for any hardship in life. My hope says that I am willing to wait on God's timing, God's way and God's will with a belief that I will look back and be amazed at the ways He showed his faithfulness. My hope is what carried me through health issues, struggles in my family, going five years without a salary, and so much more. Hope is the physician of each misery, and God has given us this gift to heal us from our pasts so that we may have a future that is full of joy and light.

Do your children watch you in your tests of faith and see you walking in hope and trust as an example to them of how they will need to live their adult lives?

Precious Heavenly Father,

I humbly acknowledge that you are faithful and that you see me and know my battles. Lord, I want to choose to be a person of hope because of my faith in you. Please take my burdens into your own hands, and through the Holy Spirit, restore my heart to peace. Let my choice to praise you please you, because my spiritual service of worship is to hope in you each day. Thank you for your patience and love for me. I love you, too, sweet Lord.

Ellie Holcomb, Delighting with Song & an Unforgettable Book & Podcast

 Congratulations, Ellie, on the birth of your precious little boy and the birth of your wonderful book and songs.

Congratulations, Ellie, on the birth of your precious little boy and the birth of your wonderful book and songs.

One of the pleasures of hosting a podcast and be engaged in ministry is the sweetness of getting to rub shoulders with women who deeply love the Lord and are kindred spirits. Ellie Holcomb is such a woman. Her deep love for God, His word, a joyful reverence for life and a deep love for children combined to give us such a wonderful time to visit recently.

Ellie’s whole life has been surrounded by music and she has invested her own creative artistry by not only producing music that inspires, but also the most wonderful new children’s book, Who Sang the First Song.

With captivating illustrations and a delightful story, your children will want to read this book over and over and over again until it is deep inside their little hearts. I know you will be lifted up as you hear our conversation together.

Ellie said, “ Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE to sing (in fact- my parents have been known to say that life with me as a kid was like living in a musical)! So I got curious about who sang the first song. What did the world sound like as God created it?! I loved these questions, so I set out to write a book so that we could explore not so much HOW God made the world, but WHY He created the world and each one of us. My sincere hope is that children (and the adults reading to them) would be reminded of who and WHOSE we are...and that as we remember how God created us and loves us, our hearts and lives would sing for the joy of being loved!”

-Ellie Holcomb

Ellie has also created songs to go along with the book. With Sing: Creation Songs, Ellie Holcomb created a beautiful, Scripture rooted, children’s musical project that fits perfectly with her current musical catalog. With this new collection, she wanted to write songs that were directly inspired by both God’s word and His beautiful Creation, so each song is tied to specific Scripture and full of rich imagery from the world around us. She wants children to be able to sing these songs and see evidence all around them of what they are singing.

I wrote most of the songs for this record during the spring, and I’m pretty sure I ended up moving outside each time I wrote,” she shares. “I was completely inspired by Creations’ song, whether it was the birds, or the stars, or the trees reaching high towards the heavens, or flowers blooming so colorfully that they looked ready for a party.”

I know you will love hearing her share about her love for children and love for passing on a spiritual heritage. I so enjoyed our time together.

To find Ellie in other places, just look for Ellie Holcomb and you will find her.


Sing: Creation Songs
By Ellie Holcomb
Who Sang the First Song?
By Ellie Holcomb