We All Hear Many Voices ... Which Will We Listen To?

Almost each morning as I get out of bed and pad in my bare feet, down the stairs to my kitchen to get a cup of tea, I hear my father's voice, "Put on your slippers or you will catch a cold!" It was a sort of mantra of his. I am a barefoot sort of person, so I overcome the voice and heed my own wishes. 

There are other voices that come into my head, competing for attention. Another from my childhood was, "Blondes have to try harder in life to look pretty, because they have no natural coloring and look faded out." (Not exactly the voice that should have been feeding my decisions or my self-image!)

There are many voices in our culture that cry out incessantly.

"You deserve a break."

"More clothes, a beautiful home, a nice car, beautiful decor will make you happy."

"Experiences for your children are necessary for them to think you are good parents--a Disney trip, more toys for Christmas, lots of meals at fast food restaurants."

"If you really want your child to get ahead, they have to have the right education. There is only one best way--private school! No, homeschool! No, classical education! Cram, push, expect, drive, press!"

"Finding the right partner will make you happy."

The voices go on and on. Satan is called the Father of lies. His desire is to distract us--to pull us away from God, causing us to disbelieve in His goodness, to deny Him, to be busy so that we don't even have time to hear the truth.

I often use a Celtic prayer book in the sleepy mornings to guide me into my day with some scripture. The other day, I read a little poem about John.

"The is John the beloved, who followed Jesus as the way,

embraced the truth and shared his life,

And at the supper of the Lord, leaned closer to Him to hear His words,

For those who lean on Jesus' breast hear the heart of God."

These words stuck in my mind--I want the voice I hear to be that of Jesus--I want to hear the heart of God.

So this week, I went back to John to see what words were flying around in John's head, what voice was informing His heart.

"I am the bread of life." John 6:48

"If any man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink." John 7:37

"I am the light of the world. I have come as a light into the world, that everyone who believes me may not remain in darkness." John 8:12

"If the son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed." John 8:36

"I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." John 10:11

"Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me." John 14:1

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, not as the world gives to you. Let not your heart be troubled or let it be fearful." John 14:27

"In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world." John 16:33

"My kingdom is not of this world." John 18:36

"Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe." John 20:29

That's the Voice I want to be hearing. In leaning closer to hear His voice, I have heard the voice which is always full of love, peace, comfort and courage.

Whose voice are you listening to?

The Green Ember Review & A Giveaway

Anyone who has known me for any considerable amount of time knows that I am a lover of stories. I am a voracious reader and I tend to agree with Erasmus in that “when I get a little money I buy books; if any is left, I buy food and clothes.” I have been known to hunt down out-of-print titles and stalk eBay for hard to find editions for months on end. I have broken the wheels on suitcases under the weight of my bounty from library sales. If it seems to outsiders like I am on a mission, it is because I am.

I believe in the power of stories. I believe that stories form us by nourishing our souls and ordering what our hearts love. I believe that stories provide the fertile soil in which Truth, Goodness, and Beauty can take root in our hearts and eventually grow into Wisdom and Virtue. I am drawn to stories that kindle the moral imagination and echo to us the whispers of the Great Storyteller. And when I find these kinds of stories, I want to shout it from the rooftops. That is why, over the past few podcasts, articles, and speaking events, you may have noticed me gush once or twice (or a dozen times) over my love for The Green Ember by S.D.Smith.

CLICK HERE to read more and to hear about how to find out how to be entered into the giveaway to win three books by S.D. Smith. 

 

Simplicity: One Key to a Lifegiving Summer!

"There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven-

A time to give birth and a time to die;

A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.

A time to kill and a time to heal;

A time to tear down and a time to build up.

A time to weep and a time to laugh;

A time to mourn and a time to dance..." Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

My sweet friend, Misty, is one of the most beautiful, soul-rich women I know. I loved this article she wrote for us and am now motivated to write out all of these ways I can simplify this summer. Let us know what you are doing to simplify and enjoy your summer. Thanks, sweet Misty, for this great encouragement.

Walking through powdery sand, fishing off the pier, building sandcastles, riding a trolley, and trying funny new doughnut flavors (maple/bacon or siracha, anyone?) were just a few of the fun experiences our family had last week. After several years of our summer family vacations being replaced by moves, cross-country weddings and other atypical life happenings, it was wonderful to have a few days of sun and sand and nothing else on the calendar. It was time for summer.

With the season of school days ending for so many of us, this is a wonderful time to think about creating new memories together as a family. As I brushed beach sand off the coffee table to replace my embroidery basket and gathered my youngest up on the couch next to me for a bit of reading last week, I thought about why we were enjoying our time there so much. There are a few things typical of a week at the beach which aren't typical of our regular, everyday lives, but there was one thing in particular that stood out to me which had nothing to do with sand and salt water or even spectacular sunsets: simplicity. Here are some tips on simplicity while vacationing with your own family this summer--and some ways to incorporate that lifegiving, simple summer feel into your life back home, too!

Simple Schedule

On Vacation:

We made time for several visits with family and friends--and those were highlights of our week! But one of the most wonderful things about vacation for all of us was that we didn't have to watch the clock. There were no classes or lessons or appointments cluttering up the planner or causing my phone to chime--a very welcome change from the usual. Consider *not* filling every moment of your vacation with activities. Even a trip to Disney benefits from a break in the afternoons for naps and a dip in the pool! Leave some time to explore the forest or seashore or even your own hometown.

At Home:

This summer, wherever you are, consider white space on the calendar your friend! Does your child really have to run here and there and from class to class? Or might some time left open, to allow them to be bored, even, be a surprising gift? Are there places nearby you've never had (or taken) time to explore together? Time to breathe is definitely lifegiving, and needed by everyone.

Simple Spreads

On Vacation:

One thing that's tricky about renting a house for the week rather than staying at a hotel is that there are still meals to be made--and who doesn't want a break from that? We decided early on to keep our menus simple, and shop early in the week for some inexpensive choices. Going out for doughnuts was a fun treat one morning, but bagels with cream cheese, a simple scrambled egg and cheese dish, fruit yogurt and cereal bars all made breakfast time easier for the mornings we stayed home--and meant no one had to be urged out of bed at a particular time. Cold-cut or tuna fish sandwiches with apple slices and chips or a bowl of soup made everyone happy for lunch, and dad was happy to grill burgers and hot dogs for dinner. We went out to eat just a few times, which was easier on our budget, too! One of our favorite meals was just a big platter of cheese and crackers, grapes, and watermelon slices enjoyed in the back yard next to the pool.

At home:

Making a simple summer meal plan is a great idea. You can even plan two weeks' worth of easy menus and just repeat that plan all summer long! Think about making big batches of potato or macaroni salad, tuna salad for sandwiches, etc. so you're ahead of the game for lunches and dinners; make homemade pizza dough and let everyone add their own toppings; consider having each of the kids be in charge of a meal or two on a particular day of each week. We like to eat on pretty plates and even pull out the china regularly, but in the summer, paper plates can be a mom's best friend (especially for lunch time!) Much of the typical stress of mealtime comes from not having a plan. Why not offer yourself some mealtime lifegiving peace in advance?

sandcastle.JPG

Simple Surroundings

On Vacation:

One thing I'm always struck by on vacation is how little cleanup needs to be done. A quick pickup and a run-through with the broom put everything back to rights in just a few minutes each afternoon. There's one simple reason ... we don't take ALL our things with us when we travel! Our lovely spot was bright and beachy, but gloriously devoid of clutter. Only a few choices for pots and pans, limited decor, no out-of-season clothes falling off shelves in the closets ... a lack of extra, unnecessary stuff makes for less stress and less work.

At home:

Summer has long been a favorite time for purging around here! Used-up notebooks from the past year, worn-out clothes, unused kitchen gadgets, old magazines, etc. etc. all find a home in the circular file, and the house will surely breathe easier for the newly reclaimed space. It's been said that we should only keep things we know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. The less there is, the less there is to be cared for and arranged and moved to be cleaned under!

Simple Style

On vacation:

I'll admit I failed at this one, this time. It's been so long since we visited Florida, I forgot there'd be no need for the sweater I brought for cool evenings (non-existent!) or jeans (too hot!) My boys packed their own clothes, which actually turned out surprisingly well. Next time, though, I'll definitely use a tip from the past: packing each day's outfits into a large ziploc bag and then packing those bags into their larger backpacks. That way, everything's in one place, you know there's enough underwear and socks (and also that those are being changed!) and you won't find yourself walking around town with a child in a red striped shirt and blue/green plaid shorts ... which may or may not have happened to me.

At home:

To capture a bit of vacations' wardrobe simplicity, it's time to sort closets and dressers and storage spaces at home. Kids have moved into new sizes, and some clothing has just worn out. I've never had luck with putting outfits together in any sort of Monday-Friday closet system, but I do find that if I locate a store with great sales I can usually get several outfits from one line which are made in similar colors so they're easier to mix and match. To avoid the stripes-and-plaid issue, I'll make sure future shopping trips focus on solid shirts and printed shorts! Fewer things in the closet=fewer things on the floor and in the wash.

Simple Satisfactions

On vacation:

Getting to go away for a week was a great treat for us, and one I don't take lightly. We drove rather than flying, which of course made for a few tussles in the backseat and more than one wail of "Are we there yet???" both coming and going--but saved us lots of money and also meant our truck was available to us once we got there! During quiet afternoons I read from a favorite poetry book a few times, and in the evenings we pored over The Burgess Seashore Book for Children (highly recommended!) so we could learn about all the new animals we were seeing. I found quiet each morning by waking early and carrying my coffee cup down to the sand's edge for prayer and Bible reading and the occasional podcast, of course! And we tried to make sure everyone made it out to the beach to watch the sun set every evening.

At home:

There have been many years a getaway family vacation was just not possible for us. But that didn't mean we couldn't enjoy some special time together during the summer! As my husband was growing up, his dad decided that rather than take a week or two off from work, he'd take every single Monday off all summer and their family would pack lunches and drive to the beach just for the day. You'd probably be surprised at how many fun things there are to do within an hour or two of your own home! Visiting a friend with a pool, running in the sprinkler, planting a garden, making s'mores in the backyard, riding bikes to the library or the park, even having a stash of cash for the ice cream truck's weekly rounds can all add up to a special summer. And don't forget to make time for some special read-alouds with your children--! Storyformed will be giving lots of wonderful tips on this all summer, and be sure to check our Lifegiving reading resource page, too.

And of course, we'll have our 10 Gifts of Heart series here beginning in June, with free scripture memorization printables, recipes, book suggestions, and tips for a wonderfully intentional, lifegiving summer! As Sarah writes in The Lifegiving Home ...

"Home is not merely a dwelling. It's not merely a state of existence. It's a story, a narrative spun out day by day, a story molded by the walls and hours and tasks and feasts with which we fill our time, reflecting the reality of the God whose love animates every aspect of our being."

~ Sarah Clarkson

What story will you write this summer? Here's to a simply spectacular, spectacularly simple season!

An Ode to Tired Mamas & A Podcast: Lighten Up this Summer

My view of snow-covered PIke's peak from a park bench of  yesterday,--just sitting and  breathing in the beauty.

There once was a sweet mom with children,

Who worked day and night just to serve them,

She cleaned and she cooked and she taught and she booked,

Till she died of exhaustion and left them.

Sally Clarkson

Today, I was sifting through some old articles and ran across this--a silly poem I wrote in 2008, almost 10 years ago. Funny--life hasn't changed much! But over the years, I have learned a little bit more about pacing myself or at least seeing when I am dangerously close to burning out. Then I take the time to figure out how to set boundaries, how to live a more sustainable life--and I am at that place again--on the way to burning out, but stopping before I get there. One thing I must share, you don't get to quit being a devoted mama when your children become adults and move out of your home. It is just as demanding, only with bigger and more expensive issues. :) That is if you want to stay in the realm of being their devoted friend, their encourager, the one who will draw them to God's love and solutions. So, the poem still applies.

Ok, ok--it's not great poetry, but I did think there should be a short dedication to all the moms who have given and given and given with nary a one to appreciate them. I got tickled the other day. I had written the blog about taking Nathan to dedicate him to the Lord after taking him out to lunch and then the little story about taking Joy out for her 13th birthday. A sweet mom who read the blog was probably sending a comment to a friend and accidentally pushed the reply button and sent her email to me which said, "She makes me tired!" (I have done this before much to my horror--meaning to send a comment to Clay and instead sending it to the person who wrote it! Grace and peace--don't worry!)

But, I do think this task of ideal mothering is such a tiring calling and we all put ourselves under so much pressure to be perfect when we have too many sinful children,  no support systems, no breaks, no full time maids,  and they all want to eat and wear reasonably clean clothes every day !  And we are responsible for their character, manners, education and spiritual outcome, sense of well-being and happiness! A lot to ask.

In light of this, I also received another letter from a sweet mom. She asked if I ever blew it and yelled at my children! Yes, I have sinned often in the presence of my less than perfect children. I have had to accept myself as God does--it says in Psalm 103, "He is mindful that we are but dust!" Oh well, God says, Sally is just dust anyway, what can you expect from her?" As Joel my son once well said when I was in a tizzy over the messy house. "Mom, we will clean the house and it will just get messy again. But when you are sad, we feel guilty, like we have done something wrong. But when you are happy, we feel happy and like we are the greatest family in the world. So, Mom, lighten up and we will all be ok!"

We moms are giving out at a much faster rate than we are taking in and so depletion and exhaustion and consequences thereof are normal. So blowing a top once in a while is verynormal. I love the verse in Proverbs that says, "Where there are no oxen, the stalls are clean." I have at least six oxen in my stalls all the time, so my stall is always in different degrees of clean-ness!

I just want to affirm all of you who are hard on yourselves. You are making a difference in this world-your work is eternal and extremely important. Don't give up what you are doing--ever, ever, ever. But, take a break. What will it take to fill your cup emotionally? Going out with a friend to an adult lunch where no one tastes of your food? Or being by yourself alone? Or sleeping? Take time this summer to put beauty and life and joy and fun and pleasure in your life.

Hope you enjoy the podcast today. Let us know what you think. And be sure to order The Ten Gifts of Heart so you can join us in 2 weeks for a new podcast series we will do together. This is a newer, reedited with a new cover version of 10 Gifts of Wisdom--either book will do! Kristen, Misty and I have had fun getting our summer fun ready for you. And our Story Formed Friends may just pop in with some great suggestions. 

 
 

We will start our summer podcast series the first Monday of June. Hope you will join us, read along and make notes to help plan a great year ahead. 

PS FOR THOSE IN THE COLORADO SPRINGS AREA, NATHAN AND I ARE GOING TO BE INTERVIEWED FOR A COUPLE OF DIFFERENT SHOWS ABOUT OUR NEWEST BOOK, DIFFERENT ON TUESDAY, 10:30. JOIN US IN THE GALLERY WITH YOUR KIDS TO BE A PART OF THE SHOW AND WE WILL COME OUT TO VISIT WITH YOU. SEE YOU THERE!

 

 

Welcoming Interruptions

 

A glorious summer day was upon us as the gusty mountain breezes made swaying giants of the tall pines outside my window. With a deep sense of leisure, I enjoyed this small dance of creation as I sipped the last of my morning tea. I had enjoyed a rare, uninterrupted morning quiet time in which I actually had a chance to read, look out the window, and linger over a new book I'd received from a friend.

For two months, while older siblings were out of town, we were once again a two-child household. I had almost forgotten how much easier life is with just two at home, and I appreciated this peaceful season with fewer needs to meet. I was also really enjoying the personality and antics of my younger two who were, for the first time, free to claim my undivided attention.

And so after an unusually relaxing quiet time I should have felt ready to tackle the day. I had much to do this summer by way of plans: clear the bulging closets of excess clothes (some of which had never been worn), slog through the stacks of papers that had taken over my desk during a busy spring filled with ministry and travel, and finish Joy's math for the year. Last, but far from least, I needed to finish a long book I'd proposed to write, which was due by September.

As I thought about my To Do list, I could feel its weight grow heavy on my shoulders. My head was still whirling a bit from the plethora of graduation parties and a recent wedding in our home for a friend. Clay was also helping me to start two new blogs, which required me to do even more writing. I had barely begun work on the book, but Joy would be out playing with a friend today, and so I had to make my time count when the kids were out of the house. I needed this day to write.

And then came the knock on my door.
In response to my hesitant "Come in," Nathan poked his head inside my door.

Nathan, then 18, had been busy all summer with his many friends who had just finished the high school portion of their lives. They had designated every single day of the summer as their last chance to celebrate and make memories before they went their separate ways to various schools, jobs, and internships. They banged in and out of the door almost daily, reminding me of hysterically bouncy and playful puppies frolicking, nipping, and growling at each other. Theirs was an endless circle of laughter, eating, talking, and "going somewhere"— not one moment was lost! Nathan worked as a pizza delivery boy in between and took the occasional weekend job for a local marketing company. I had given up any expectations of seeing him much during this busy season of life.

"Hey, Mom, my friends are all busy today, and I don't have to work until tomorrow. How about you and I go out to lunch together today or go out for coffee or something since I don't have any definite plans yet?"

My mind immediately began to calculate what it would "cost" me to change my plans and give them all up for the whims of my persuasive son. I was so late getting this book written; there were just two more weeks of free time before I had to travel again; and Sarah and Joel would be back soon. I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to not even contemplate the crammed agenda of the coming fall. Instead, I just looked up and smiled.

"Let me take care of a few details and make a couple of phone calls, and then my day belongs to you," I answered with as much enthusiasm as I could muster.

Now, I'll be the first to admit I didn't always respond this way when my plans were interrupted! I'm so grateful this time, though, that I was able to take a deep breath and think before I answered. I had made a decision that he and Joy would be the highest priority to me this summer, whatever it took. I knew that the window of opportunity for building my values, messages, and love for God into the lives of my two youngest children would soon close. So when my boy invited me in for time to make one more memory, I jumped at the opportunity!

There were those times when they were little that were the first of the times I was being trained to respond and change my plans: 

Crying from an infant's room, one more time when sleep was impossible.

A need to be rocked to sleep, held, sung to amidst one more ear infection.

"Mama, please play legos with me."

"Mama, read me a book."

"Mama, we spilled the paint all over the floor."

Yet, all of the times I was able to say "yes" are, I believe, stored up in their brains so that they could believe that God was willing to be patient, that He would listen to their requests when they prayed. What we do becomes a picture to them of how God responds. 

Jesus is the best example of having a gracious response to interruptions--we see His grace toward the woman with the issue of blood who touched Him while He was on His way to heal a deathly ill little girl; meeting with compassion the crowd that followed Him when He tried to have some time alone after His cousin John the Baptist was beheaded; and surely hundreds of times we aren't told about in the Bible. And so I determine to copy His example, and see interruptions as part of His plan for my day--especially when they involve the children He's given as gifts to my life.

Today, when you have to change your plans or find interruptions to the expectations of your life, look at them from God's point of view and understand that they just might be a divine appointment.

Summer Podcast Series!

Be sure to order 10 Gifts of Heart so that you can follow along with us to make notes in the journal section, to be able to underline the best parts of the book and to be able to make new notes for what you want to be sure your children have before they leave your home. Kristen, Misty and I have lots of plans for your summer inspiration and our Storyformed experts will be here to inspire. 

 
 

Storyformed Summer, Part 1: Staying In & a New Podcast

Hello Storyformed Friends! In this NEW podcast episode, Holly Packiam and Jaime Showmaker share ideas about how to be intentional with  SUMMERTIME! You may be dreaming of what you would like summer to be filled with, but in reality your summer days may look like all the others. 

Even if many of your summer days are spent indoors in your normal routine, listen as they share ideas for how to make time with your kids meaningful. And of course this intentional time involves reading inspiring books! In Part 2, we'll share ideas for getting outside and reading books that will inspire a love of nature.

In addition to the books mentioned in the podcast, you can download the Summertime reading lists (PDF's) for 10 year olds and 12 year olds. 

CLICK HERE to listen to the podcast and to download the summer reading lists.

The Heart of Hospitality

"Come in and sit for a while and let's be friends," were the best words I had heard in months. My sweet friend, also new to Austria, and our work in Eastern Europe, was the first person in three months to actually invite me to her home for a meal. I had gone to language school, found my way around this new strange city, and even learned how to buy groceries with my very limited German, but I longed for a personal touch. Loneliness as I had never felt it thrummed through every beat of my heart. I wished for someone to talk to who understood the "foreign-ness" of being in a country where few people fluently spoke my native language.

I even remember what my sweet friend served me that night--meatloaf, cottage cheese and steamed broccoli. Not fancy, but it seemed so familiar and I remember it as one of the best meals of my life, because is was served with such kindness and love. She extended the hospitality of Jesus to me and it warmed me to my toes.

This kind of heart-hospitality is the heart of my own home as well as my new book, The Lifegiving Table. I want to replicate that feeling of being invited in, welcomed, and understood to my children as well as friends who come to spend time with us. 

Hospitality comes from the same root word as hospital, hospice, and hotel. Behind the words is the idea that hospitality seeks to provide for, protect, and care for the person who stays in your home. Hospitality is really committing to caring for the emotional, physical, spiritual needs of someone as long as they are in your home.

So often, we consider hospitality to be something that symbolizes perfect rooms with lovely decor, a well-prepared meal in a Martha Stewart-styled evening.

Yet, the history of the word was much more about heart than it was about performance. The heart of hospitality is modeled for us in the last supper, when Jesus lovingly prepared for His last evening with His beloved disciples. He prepared for these weary men He called His friends by choosing a quiet room, away from the noisy crowds. Food was carefully cooked and laid out to appease their manly appetites. Each man was served by having his dusty, dirty feet washed by the gentle hands of their master.

Candlelight flickered as the shadows of the setting sun crept along the walls of the old room. The comfort of being well provided for set the stage for their hearts to be open to the final, lasting words He desired to speak to the hearts of the men who would carry the kingdom messages into a dark and demanding world.

This summer, plan ways to serve your family and friends tasty food and heart-felt fellowship that will stay in their hearts for a lifetime. 

Our home is the place where we offer the hospitality of Christ to our children, our spouses, our friends and to the needy who live with us inside our walls.

What kind of plans do you have for making your home a place of true hospitality, this summer?

*quick note--our Mother's Day bundle winners are ... Jeannine Condon, Barbara Bianchi,
Kelly G, Kathy Josefy! Please email your physical address to admin@wholeheart.org . Congratulations!

 

DRUM ROLL, PLEASE!

I am so excited to tell you that my newest book, The LIfegiving Table is now listed in Bookstore catalogues. It comes out in October and we will have lots of fun celebrating this launch with you. 

Our table was truly the centerpiece of our lives for shaping our children's hearts to love God, giving them intellectual strength and forging deep and close relationships. Can't wait to share it with you in October. 

And this time you can get it in a hard back version if you like. 

 

Writing a Living Story Through Your Children & A Podcast

Today, I am living my dreams.But it took a while to see the fulfillment of some of these dreams cherished over years.

I remember when I was 33 years old, I trudged through the snowy streets of Vienna where we lived, to a tiny little coffee shop down the street from our old home. The snow was a four foot wall on either side of the sidewalk where I slipped through the middle. Thirty-five days in a row of below 32 degree temperature necessitated me getting out of the house for a little while. I thought I might explode if I stayed there any longer. Sarah was almost 3 and Joel was barely 3 months old. My life was made up of nursing, changing diapers, trying to keep Sarah happy by playing with her inside our 100 year old, cold, 900 square foot home, and then the cooking, cleaning, getting up in the middle of the night and then doing it again. Somehow, this period of life seemed that it would never end, an endless merry-go-round of floating from one day after the other, but all very much the same.

Settling into my cushioned chair in the corner, I felt quite an adult. Ordering a melange, (cappucino), I got out my journal and started writing down how I felt about life. Someday, ..., I would like to....

Dreams, wishes, ideals, hopes spilled over from my heart to the lined pages.

"Some day, I would like to be a writer and be an author of books that encourage and inspire women."

I didn't know if God had seen my heart filled with hopes of faith, dreams, desire, but it was a sacred moment between me and Him that I will not forget.

Eleven years passed. Quiet times, teaching Bible studies, homeschooling my children, moving 5 more times, and making 1000 more meals, washing 2000 loads of clothes, and losing a fair amount of sleep, two miscarriages, and lots of life washed under the bridge. I prayed, worked, and built messages of life through seasons of years of putting one foot in front of the other.

My messages were not some "pie in the sky" out of touch with reality sort of messages. But, right in the messes of life, "God is here," "His beauty is in the moments," "His fingerprints are in my home, in the smiles of my little ones" sort of messages. He knew I needed years of authenticity in order to live through messages He was writing on my heart.

And then, my first book, Mom's conferences and speaking engagements began to bubble up. Eventually 11 books would spill out of my heart, but only when they had time to simmer right where I was living. I was writing the story of my life through the days I was living.

Faith, faithfulness and living and, ....., growing closer to God.

Each of us has a unique story to live and a unique story we are writing through the lives of our children. They will be the reflection of the story of the ways we invested our days, months, years.

I have always said that my children are the best book I have ever written. 

And then I happened upon this scripture:

You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men;

II Cor. 3:2
 

We are writing a story of what we believe, value, love through the ways we serve, educate and train our children. We are called to love, serve, inspire, help, give and He will direct the works of our lives and the ways we may each bring light--if we are willing to follow Him and do His bidding by writing His messages on their hearts, through their lives.

Each of us has a work to do for Him in this world. It starts with a choice to love, serve, and grow in Him today, right where you are. Today your children are a part of the story you are writing.

What kind of story are you writing with your children today? They will be a living letter of what you believed to their world when they are adults.

Kristen and I are so excited to share with you today some of the vision and details of the podcast series that we will be doing over the summer. We plan to have many ways to fill your heart, refresh your vision and to inspire you to keep going during the summer months when you may be a little bit freer of commitments.

We will be following a newly edited and somewhat rewritten book called The Ten Gifts of Heart. Watch the Blog as we will be giving away 5 copies when they are ready on Amazon. We expect to be able to see them appear on Amazon this week and when we see them, we will announce them to you. Get your own copy and follow along and write your goals and thoughts in the journal page of each chapter to keep to refer to at a later date. Tell your friends to join us as we shall have a grand time together. 

We at Mom Heart have been blown away by the many comments you all left this week. We will pick the winners later today. You are all amazing. We pray for you and can't wait to have a summer of inspiration with you. Thanks for participating.

Hope You Have a Wonderful Mother's Day! Still Time for the Giveaway Here ...

You are an amazing mom. Just take a look at your amazing children! Full of possibility and promise. They are your greatest gift and reward (Psalm 127:4).

Being a mother doesn't come free of struggle, difficulty, and hardship. Many moments in my life were filled with imperfect moments that overwhelmed me with stress. It is easy for us to sometimes imagine what else we could be doing. A more glamorous job, something overseas, something with meaning.

In the midst of the mundane tasks of laundry, cleaning, cooking meals, and bathing children, we often forget how incredibly important the task of motherhood truly is. God has entrusted us with lives to steward. We are responsible for the growth and education of these little lives that have the ability to flourish into world changers. Our children are the future of our culture. This generation will face many battles, and God has given us the job of preparing them for combat.

No meal, clean house, or blog article is more important than mothering your precious children. Psalm 127:3 says:

"Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward."

I am fully aware that in the midst of children fighting, a cluttered home, and extremely loud noises, you may not be viewing your children as a reward. Your patience, grace, love, and understanding in those moments of stress are what will cultivate your children into healthy, flourishing adults.

Never forget that God has a plan and a purpose for your life as a mother. He must think highly of you, as has trusted you with the most important job.

"The ultimate key to providing a nurturing environment in my home is me.

The physical surroundings can make a big difference. The lessons provided can be interesting. The curriculum I choose can challenge. 

In the end, though, what my children and husband need most from me is not a perfect home

or perfect training

or a perfectly spiritual role model

or a wife without faults--

but a mother and wife who is committed to doing whatever it takes to love them and make a living home for them and to fully live the life of Christ in the borders of this home in such a way, that they understand, feel, taste His reality."

~Sally Clarkson,

I hope you have a lovely Mother's Day. I know God is celebrating you!

It's been a treat to read all your comments about motherhood here--my team and I are praying for so many of you! I hope you'll win one of our prizes this weekend-- one of four motherhood book bundles! A copy in each of The Ministry of Motherhood, Own Your Life, and The Lifegiving Home. To enter (if you haven't already) just let us know ... what would be included in your perfect Mother's Day? Leave your answer in a comment below! We'll draw winners and announce them here on the blog Monday morning!

Stories to Inspire Motherhood

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Jaime Showmaker

I collect old books.  Or, I should be more honest and say that I hoard old books. One of my favorite pastimes is waffling through old, dusty, second-hand book stores (the more stacks piled up to the ceiling, the better), searching for those perfect hardback editions of my all-time favorite stories. I have dreamy visions of a home library that contains beautiful copies of any classic that my sons would ever need (or want) to read over the course of their school years.  I work to fill our home with books that I believe will help strengthen my boys minds and nourish their souls. My husband teases me mercilessly because whenever I go anywhere, I usually come home with a trunk load of heavy, tattered, cheap, but gorgeous old books to add to our buckling shelves, and I say I am building our sons' inheritance. So, of course, when it comes to gifts, I can think of nothing I could ever want more than a beautiful, old, beloved book.

Two years ago, for Mother's Day, my husband and boys surprised me with just that. It was a first edition, signed copy of Kate Douglas Wiggin's book, Mother Carey's Chickens. I had been familiar with Wiggin's classic Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, but it had only been in the previous year that I had discovered this lesser-known gem, and it had quickly become one of my all-time favorites.  I opened the spine and discovered that on the front flyleaf, yellowed with age, Wiggin had inscribed a quote from the book: "I'm just a mother, that's all," said Mrs. Carey with a smile." As I read those hundred-year-old words, written in faded ink above her signature, I blinked back tears. I was overwhelmed that my husband had tracked down such a valuable copy of one of my very favorite books and had given it to me on such a special day. But the tears were induced by more than gratitude over such a priceless gift. It was Wiggin's words in beautiful script that moved me: I'm just a mother, that's all. 

"A mother, living well in her God-ordained role, is of great beauty and inestimable value to the future history of any generation." -Sally Clarkson, Desperate: Hope For The Mom Who Needs To Breathe

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