Grant has a story to tell

I wrote this story in 2011 and each year on Grant’s birthday I try to post it again to remind you (and me!) of God’s faithfulness.

223132_10150227969075600_2996515_nNine months ago, Rick and I were perfectly content with our 4 kids.  We both felt “done” and were already giving away all the maternity and baby stuff.  Honestly, the thought of getting pregnant again made me literally ill.  I had NO desire to go through that again and certainly didn’t feel like I had any extra capacity for another pregnancy.  Around that time, God was working big time on both of us.  God had begun a true revival of Rick’s heart.  It was amazing to watch.  I was trying to keep up, tagging along, reading the same books.  We both became very convicted of WHO was in control of our lives… was it us or was it the Lord?  He was asking us both for full submission and surrender.  I heard him ask, Would you move for Me?   Would you let Rick quit his job if I asked him to? and then the BIG one, Would you have another baby if I wanted you to?  Oy.  It took some time, some real killing of my flesh and some tears, but in August I finally said, Yes, Lord to each of His questions.  And certainly the last one was the hardest.

On October 16th I found out that I was pregnant.  I’d like to say that I skipped around the house in joy, but that’s not what happened.  I wasn’t thrilled.  I was overcome with fear of dealing with a tough pregnancy while parenting these 4 kids.  I felt totally incapable.  But in the midst of those feelings, there was a deep assurance that I was in God’s will.  For surely this had not been my idea.  And when we’re in God’s will, we know He is with us and for us.  So I prayed a very specific prayer that night.  I asked God for three things…1) That I would not have headaches (with Anne Claire I had a 1-month long headache)… 2) That I would not be nauseous… 3) That I would not have my typical contractions beginning half-way through the pregnancy.

Now 7 months later I can testify that God answered ALL of those prayers completely.  NO headaches, NO nausea, NO early contractions.  This has truly been my easiest pregnancy!  I could go on and on about just this part of the story because it was so truly miraculous and personal.  But the best part is still to come…

Throughout this time God was still doing amazing things in Rick.  In 10 years of 206754_10150204109830600_48872_nmarriage, I have never seen him reading the Word or praying more.  And he began fasting consistently.  In January he went on a mission trip to Ecuador and saw God do mighty miracles, including healing the blind.  His faith was growing day by day.  When he came home, he told me that he was looking for the next step and asking God to stretch him (FYI husbands: You should ask your wives’ permission before praying a prayer like that!)  Neither of us knew that God was going to quickly take Rick up on his request.

In February we went to the doctor to find out the sex of the baby.  As I signed in, I was handed a bill for many thousands of dollars.  Long story short, our insurance had changed at the beginning of the year and we were now required to pay my entire doctor bill BEFORE we could go to another appointment.  Needless to say, we did not have that money on hand and had no idea where we would get it.  We were given until April 8th to pay the bill.

215397_10150227963145600_361931_nWe discussed the idea of finding a different doctor who’d let us go on a payment plan.  We also discussed applying for some kind of gov’t assistance.  But Rick felt that this was it – the stretching of our faith that he had been asking for.  He said that we should pray and believe God would provide.  I went along with his idea, though struggling to have the faith to move such a huge mountain.  So we prayed, we read the Word.  It was such a sweet time.  We even told the kids about it and began praying with them.  At night, Luke still asks to pray for baby money.  The week before April 8th we all fasted one thing per day… candy, sweets, TV, etc.  Then every night we prayed as a family.

But April 8th came and there was no magical money in the mailbox, no unexpected gifts.  Only our tax return which we needed for something else.  That morning when I left for the doctor, Evie said, Mom, don’t forget to call and tell us what God did.  Yikes…. The pressure was on.  I walked up to the counter and, sure enough, I was again handed a bill for many thousands of dollars.  I must have looked as terrible as I felt because they agreed to split the bill in half.  I handed over several cards and cobbled together the money, mostly from our tax return.  I texted Rick the bad news.  I couldn’t stand to hear his disappointed voice.

That was a hard day.  Not because of the money, but because we had to tell the kids.  Why had God not provided?  He would have received so much glory.  It would have been such a faith-builder for the kids.  We didn’t understand.

But Rick had an idea.  He sat us all down and read a story from Hudson Taylor’s biography about a time God provided, but not when Taylor had expected it.  He also had us recount all the ways God had already been faithful to our family (i.e. healing Rick’s dad of cancer, providing our home and his job).  We thanked God for all of those things.  I don’t know if I have ever been more proud of Rick.

So the second half of the money was due May 10th (this past Tuesday).  So again we prayed, but it was hard to muster up the same level of expectation.  It showed me that I have so far to go in my level of faith and perseverance in prayer.

But then it happened.  Out of the blue one Thursday afternoon, Rick checked the mail and there it was.  One sentence on my doctor’s letterhead.   

This letter is to make you aware that your account is paid in full for your OB Prepay…

We both looked at each other in astonishment.  How was our account paid in full?  We had only paid half.  Being the skeptic that I am, I immediately contacted both of our moms, but they both said they had NOT paid the bill.  We were baffled.  Again, being the skeptic that I am, I feared they had just made a clerical error.  I couldn’t be completely sure until I walked into the OB and talked to them face to face.

So Tuesday morning I packed that letter in my wallet and drove to the doctor.  I checked in and sheepishly said, Do I need to go over to the payment desk?  I heard the most beautiful words, Nope.  You’re good to go.  You can have a seat.  It was true.  The bill was paid in full!  We don’t owe them any more money!  Praise the Lord!!

199203_10150204111290600_3047896_nDo you know who paid that bill?  GOD paid it.  Not in the way we expected or even the way we prayed, but He did it.  And He gets all the glory.  Praise the Lord for his incredible goodness!  In March, Fran Busch gave us this scripture from Psalm 31:19-21 Oh how GREAT is Your goodness…which you have prepared for those who trust in You…Blessed be the Lord for He has shown me His marvelous kindness!  (I love the idea that God’s goodness was already prepared for us even before we had the need).

So this baby has only been alive for 33 weeks and look at all God has already done for 265124_10150300097680600_3943236_nhim and because of him.  Maybe now you see why we chose the name “Grant Fidelis” meaning “Great Faith!”   I can’t wait to tell Grant about what God did.  I am reminded of this verse that the Lord gave me at the very beginning of my pregnancy.

Psalm 22:30-31  Our children and their children will get in on this as the word is passed along from parent to child.  Babies not yet conceived will hear the good news – that God does what He says.

 

RSV :: Hudson’s Story

With 6 kids and a limited income, I’ve become an expert at researching my kids’ sicknesses and staying out of the doctor’s office whenever possible. Despite all the wonderful medical info online, I often find myself drawn to personal stories written by parents describing their experiences with their kids’ illnesses. Since we’ve experienced hospitalization with RSV, I thought it was my turn to write a story in hopes that it will be helpful to parents looking for answers.

Please note that I am a stay-at-home mom, not a medical professional. Please consult your doctor concerning your child’s illness.

 

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Meeting their baby brother

Hudson :: Background

Hudson is my 6th child. He was born much like the rest… fat and healthy at full-term via a vaginal birth. He came home from the hospital right away with no issues. Unfortunately he was born in December and straight into flu season.

How it began

At 3 weeks Hudson became very congested which caused very noisy breathing. I figured it was just a cold. But when his temp went above the infamous 101 mark, I took him to the ER in the wee hours of a Sunday morning. Of course by the time they took his temp, it was down in normal range. They took a urine sample and hooked him up to the oxygen and heartrate monitors. Being that it was 3am, he quickly fell asleep. With nothing else to do, I watched the monitor and noticed that the oxygen saturation would occasionally fall to 88, even 87 once. This would sound an alarm but no one would come in the room. As the number went up, the alarm went away. This happened again and again. Finally I googled “oxygen saturation” and learned that a reading of 87 is very dangerous. I mentioned this to the nurse when she checked on him, but she told me it’s normal for O2 sats (as I learned they are called) to drop that low when infants sleep (this was not correct). We were discharged a few hours later and basically told those dreaded words, “it’s just a virus.” I felt like they were treating me like an over-reacting mom. I wanted to scream… and probably should have… I have 6 kids and I know what I’m doing. Why in the world would I come here at 3am and pay gobs of money if I didn’t think it was serious?!

When I started to worry

A day or 2 went by and I noticed Hudson was very sleepy and not feeding well. He was also spitting up all the time, which is unusual for my babies. His noisy breathing was still there and so was his fever. I remember looking down at him in my arms that morning and thinking he just doesn’t seem well. I started messaging some nurse friends of mine with some questions. One of them stopped by and looked at him. “They didn’t check him for RSV in the ER?” she asked. She seemed amazed by this. I really started to worry.

How I figured it out

Hearing about RSV set me off on a flurry of googling. That night as Hudson lay in my bed breathing loudly, I read everything I could find about RSV. I found some great YouTube videos (like  this) that explained all the terms I was reading such as cyanosis and retractions.  They explained that RSV can cause bronchiolitis, among other things (this video was very helpful). That night I barely slept as Hudson quickly deteriorated. From my research I learned to count his respirations. They were definitely above the limit. Using the light from my phone I looked for the retractions I’d learned about and noticed his sides sucking in around his ribs as he breathed. And I felt so dumb as I remembered that earlier that day the skin around his mouth had seemed bluish… and I’d just thought it was a newborn thing. I now know that he had all the signs of RSV and was entering respiratory distress.

When they finally took us seriously

The next morning we went to our pediatrician. As soon as they put on the oxygen monitor we all saw the reading… 88. There was a flurry of activity. They tested him for RSV (it was positive.) They put him on oxygen and then gave him a breathing treatment. Within an hour’s time I was driving him to be admitted at the hospital.

The hospital stay

Hudson spent 5 days in the hospital with RSV-caused bronchiolitis. Although it sounds very serious (and it was), the stay was very uneventful. He received IV fluids for 24 hours due to dehydration from poor feeding. He received oxygen through a nasal canula and they slowly  weaned him off of it until he could keep his O2 levels at 97 and above for 4 hours. They also did deep nasal suctioning, which is just as violent as it sounds!  Basically they were just supporting him as his own body recovered from the virus.

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Right after the nasal canula was inserted

 

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After a long night he was taken off IV fluids and I started mine!

 

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Even though he was sick and drowsy, he still managed to fuss whenever it was my turn to eat 🙂

 

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After 5 days of staring at these numbers, a reading of 99 was a beautiful thing! This was the day we were discharged.

 

The good news

At discharge I was told that Hudson would very likely develop asthma and have frequent bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia. Although it took over 5 weeks to fully recover, he is now 14 months old and I’m happy to report that he has been mostly healthy. However, when he does develop a cold the doctor can hear some slight wheezing (I never can hear it.) After a few days of nebulizer treatments he is fine. We continue to monitor him closely and watch for signs of asthma, but I’ve been thrilled so far at his health!

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Hudson at his first birthday!

What I learned

I am my child’s BEST advocate and so are you. I often wonder what might have happened if I hadn’t done so much research on my own. I could have easily assumed that the ER doctors had done a thorough exam and left it at that. So my advice to you is to follow your mother/father instinct and advocate for your child. As a PA friend recently told me… the doctor only sees your child for a small window of time. You have been with your child 24/7. You know best what their symptoms are and what is and isn’t normal for them.  Don’t be embarrassed to go back to the doctor for the same issue. And be willing to get a second opinion if you’re not sure the first one was accurate or well-thought out. Doctors are just people who can miss things and make mistakes. You are the expert on your child.

I also purchased this pulse oximeter for use at home. Did I mention that I’m cheap and hate to go to the doctor? This has saved me many trips when I’ve just wanted to check his O2 levels.

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Having my own pulse oximeter has been so helpful!

If  you have any questions, feel free to comment below. Thanks for reading!

What the kids & I are into these days No. 2

After my previous post What the kids & I are into these days, I really enjoyed the feedback from you all about the products, shows, etc that your family is into.  So I thought I’d write another post and keep the conversation going!  So here are a few more things rocking our world right now.

Sling TV

slingWe have been cable-free for most of our 15 years of marriage, mostly because we are ridiculously cheap frugal.  So we normally have an exterior HD antenna (like this one) for our local channels and Netflix.  This works GREAT, especially since it costs a whopping total of $8/month.  The only drawback is that we can’t watch many sports.. and we love us some football around here.  So last fall we decided to cancel Netflix and give Sling TV a try.  We loved it!  I’ll do my best to explain it.  Sling TV is an a la carte live cable service with no contract.  Their basic package is $20 a month and includes CNN, ESPN, Disney Channel and lots more (see pic).  Not only can you watch shows live, but there are also many previous episodes available to watch.  You need a device to stream Sling and we purchased a Roku to do this.  If you prepay your first 3 months of Sling TV, you can get a Roku from them for 50% off (info here).

What we loved:

  • Watching live sports
  • Disney movies
  • Live news
  • Movies on AMC
  • House Hunters, Duck Dynasty and of course Fixer Upper!

What we didn’t like:

  • Commercials.  We’re SO not used to commercials since we’ve had Netflix for so long.  I am amazed at how evil some of them can be!  So I had to stay close if my kids were watching.
  • There wasn’t as much for kids as there is on Netflix.

So we kept Sling TV through the football season, then cancelled it and resumed Netflix for the kids and to save money.  We’re planning to switch back when football season is here (go Noles!)

The Book of Virtues

book of virtuesI love to read aloud to my kids.  And I love classic literature.  The Book of Virtues combines both, so it makes the perfect addition to your home library.  Right now we are reading one or two short passages each morning.  The book is a collection of “moral stories” and is categorized by character quality, such as self-discipline, compassion, etc. You will find classic poems, Bible stories, writings by America’s founding fathers and much more.  Here’s an excerpt from one of our favorite poems called Boy Wanted…

A boy who is polite to every man and respectful to every woman and girl.

A boy who does not smoke and has no desire to learn how.

A boy who never bullies other boys or allows boys to bully him.

A boy who, when he does not know a thing, says, “I do not know”; and when he has made a mistake says, “I’m sorry”; and, when requested to do anything, immediately says, “I’ll try.”

How great is that?!

Trikke Carving Scooter

trikkeMy kids don’t play with toys.  I don’t get it.  But I’ve given up.  The truth is that they want to be outside playing with their friends, climbing trees, building fires, chopping down trees, fishing and piling way too many people into a paddleboat.  So when it’s time to make Christmas lists for the grandparents, I’m always on the hunt for anything that they can use outside.  Two years ago I hit the jackpot with these Trikke Carving Scooters.  Granted, these things are expensive, but hear me out.  They are equally fun for my 4 year old and my 13 year old, meaning this toy has lasting power!  It can either be powered by one leg like a traditional scooter, or by standing on it with both feet and twisting your body back and forth.  And they go really fast if you want them to.  I can’t say enough about how much we love these!

 

Now it’s your turn!  What is your famiy into these days?

 

What the kids and I are into these days

I always love to hear what other families are into.  So I thought you might be interested in what the Schuesslers are loving these days.

Annedroids

annedroids

Annedroids is an original Amazon live-action show for kids .  It’s free for Amazon Prime members and there are 2 seasons so far.  I watched 3 episodes with my boys ages 4, 8 and 11 and they loved it!  It’s basically a kid’s dream come true.  Inventions.  Robots.  Full access to a junkyard.  And I love it because they sneak in tons of science facts, plus it’s super clean.

Math Games

We stink at learning our math facts.  Sure, we can recite the entire timeline of the world, but 7 x 9?  Ummmmm…. So, I’m on a mission to fix that.  I’m a big believer in traditional math, which means using flash cards and drills.  But I knew I needed more than that to keep my kids attention.  So here’s what I did:

  • I read a few articles about teaching math facts like this one and the comments on this one.
  • I printed out the instructions for various card games like Subtraction War, Race to 27 and Flip 3, Pyramid, plus a few more that you can find on my Math Pinterest board.
  • I printed out some dice games like Gain & Loss
  • I put these inside page protectors in a binder 1457148795782
  • I grabbed a small plastic bin at Target and filled it with all my supplies: dice, playing cards, dry erase markers and baby wipes (for cleaning off the page protectors.)  I keep this with my binder.  I find that having everything in one place is SO helpful for me.
  • I made flashcards for my kids according to what they are working on.  I put these in index card boxes that I found at Walmart.

So each day I gather my 6, 8  and 11 year old and we do a mix of games and flashcards. We’ve done this for a week now (in place of our usual math curriculum) and I’m already seeing great results!

Classic Starts Series

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When I was only homeschooling one or two kids, I was able to read them the classics, start to finish, and we loved it.  But now that I have 6 kids, including a nursing baby, it just isn’t the season to read a 300-page book.  In fact, we started both Anne of Green Gables and Little Women last year, only to give up on them.  This is where the Classic Starts series comes in.  They’ve taken books like The Swiss Family Robinson and abridged them for a 3rd-5th grade reading level.  Please and thank you.  Now we can finish a good book in a decent amount of time and feel a sense of accomplishment.  And it’s easy enough to read that you can pass of the book to one of your kids to read while you change the baby, corral the toddler or fetch the preschooler out of a tree (true story.)

Catan

catanApparently we are late to the game when it comes to Catan, but we have discovered it and we love it!  This was a gift to my husband for Christmas and he and the kids (ages 8-13) have played it at least 10 times since.  I won’t even try to explain how the game works, but it’s full of strategy and math, which should make any mom happy.  And we love things that we can do as a family with multiple ages.  Beware, this game is a little pricey, but I tracked it with my favorite Amazon-tracking site camelcamelcamel and waited until the price dropped. It’s been worth every penny!

Magna Tiles

magna tilesI’m sure you’ve seen these at the store and thought “Sweet heaven I could feed my family for a week for the price of those dumb magnets!”  But stop.  You need these Magna-Tiles.  It would be worth eating ramen noodles all week if it meant having these glorious beauties in your home.  I’ve never had a toy that ALL my kids love to play with and that keeps their attention for so long.  Plus, major bonus points for not having tiny pieces (I’m looking at you Legos.)  And it has that open-ended, creative play that keeps kids coming back.   Put this on your kids birthday or Christmas list for Grandma.  If it’s all they get, I promise that no one will regret it.  (And thank you to our Grammi for buying ours!)

Plugged In

I doplugged inn’t know about you, but I have been burned too many times by movies/TV that I thought was safe for me or my kids and wasn’t.  So I love pluggedin.com, a division of Focus on the Family.  I use it to look up pretty much everything that we watch and it has saved us more than once from renting or something that we’d inevitably have to turn off.

So those are a few things we’re into these days.  What about you? Any great products, sites or shows that you’re loving?  Share it in the comments!

Why I’m a little tired of being called a super mom

I could never do what you do.

Better you than me.

I don’t have as much patience as you.

These are the top comments I hear from other moms when they hear that I have lots of kids or that I homeschool.  And I’m here to say that those 3 statements couldn’t be any further from the truth.

You can do what I do.

You would probably do it better than me.

You SURELY have as much patience as me.

BThere is a myth that large-family and/or homeschooling moms are somehow a cut above the rest.  That only a select few can succeed at such a feat and the rest of moms shouldn’t even try.  As my tween daughter would say, that’s “riDONCulous.”

Just like a runner finishes a marathon or an accountant finishes an audit or a nurse graduates from school, any mom can raise lots of kids or homeschool.  And just like running, business and college, it’s not easy or for the faint of heart. Dare I say it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done?  But it should be hard.  Molding little tyrannical toddlers into responsible adults is no small job.  But it’s doable.  And worthy of being done.

So why shouldn’t you do it?  Why shouldn’t you be the one to raise a bunch of beautiful babies who go out and change the world?  Why shouldn’t you be the one to teach those minds of mush what they need to know?  Why not you?

But I must confess that I do have one secret weapon.  And I’m guessing many moms in my situation would agree.

I have Someone who steps in and takes over when I am spent, done, gone, about to run away.  He made me a promise a long time ago that when I am weak, He would be strong on my behalf.  I’ve taken Him at His word and found him to be completely trustworthy.

You have access to this same secret weapon.  His name is the Lord of Hosts. God Almighty.  He is the source of patience.  The source of order.  The source of organization.  The source of love.

How many times have I cried out to him (usually by about 8:00am,) okay Lord, I’m all out of patience!  I need to draw on yours now.  And He delivers.  Every.single.time.

So, yes, mom… you can do it.  Because He has all that you need.  He loves those babies even more than you do, if you can imagine it.  He spent 9 months crafting them in perfection in your womb, just the place He chose for them to begin.  And He has big plans for those mini monsters.  Plans for them to learn, to influence and to thrive.  Surely He will give you all you need to partner with Him in this incredible role of Mom.

Why is everything so upside down? Thoughts from an angry pregnant mama

Within a few miles of my house is a place where babies are killed, their parts harvested and sold to the highest bidder.

How did we get here?

How is this allowed?  Legal?  Openly admitted and applauded?

How have pro-life people become the bad guys?  The ones who are shamed, marginalized, mocked?

How did the world get so upside down?

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, watch this video of a Planned Parenthood executive discussing the sale of baby body parts to a biomedical firm:

I don’t have all the answers and I’m just as guilty as anyone of being a fair-weather pro-life advocate.  My attention span has been too short and my focus too easily distracted.  But today, right now, I’m fired up.  I’m angry.  I’m FURIOUS at what we have become and allowed.

How do we come back from this?  How do we stop the tsunami of depravity that seems ready to sweep us too far gone?

Here are my simple ideas….

Obey God’s first commandments from Genesis…

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.

He tells us to enter into male/female unions and to reproduce.  Then he tells us to rule over the animals and the earth.

Why does a turtle’s life matter more than a human’s?

We have come so far from these simple commands.  In fact we celebrate the opposite.  We celebrate same-sex relationships, sex outside of marriage and any attempt to prevent or end pregnancy.

We have the “rule the earth” thing upside down too.  Instead the earth rules us.  We have elevated animals and the environment to a place God never planned.  Never was this more clear than our recent trip to the beach where we saw the sea turtle nests roped off on the beach and signage spelling out the criminal penalties for disturbing the nests.  Imagine if I had broken the eggs and sold off the baby turtle parts as souvenirs?  I would be hauled off to jail.  But there would be no (criminal) consequence to doing that to the 18-week old child currently living inside of me.

When we disregard God’s earliest commandments, what can we expect?  To be blessed?  To have His favor?  Like a good parent, His rules are there for our benefit.  They are like an umbrella to protect us.  When we willfully step outside the umbrella, we should expect to get wet.

Take practical steps to defend the unborn…

I like to DO something in these situations, so here are a few suggestions

  • Find out if your elected officials received campaign donations from Planned Parenthood here and then let them know how you feel.
  • Sign this petition asking Congress to investigate Planned Parenthood.
  • Visit your local abortion clinic to pray, protest and reach out to mothers.  In Central Florida, this group organizes monthly kid-friendly protests at a local clinic.
  • Financially support the pro-life organization of your choice.
  • Babysit for a friend so she can participate in pro-life activities.

Live a pro-life lifestyle for others to see…

  • Don’t have sex until marriage.
  • Don’t enter into unGodly relationships, including same-sex ones.
  • Fill your heart with God’s view of family and children (Psalm 139 is a great place to start)

    Take every opportunity to love on a pregnant mama!

    Take every opportunity to love on a pregnant mama!

  • Submit your family planning decisions to the Lord.  Really ask Him what He wants and then be willing to be obedient.
  • Celebrate babies!  Give generously at baby showers, take meals to new moms, rejoice when a new pregnancy is announced.
  • Don’t let your life become ruled by animals or the environment.  Love those pets, but keep a healthy view of their place in God’s economy.  Be a good steward of the earth, but don’t let environmentalism become an idol or controlling factor in your life.
  • Teach your children these truths.  They won’t hear them anywhere else!

As angry and disappointed as I am, I find such hope in the fact that we know how the story ends.  God wins.  The enemy loses.  Death is conquered and the grave is overcome.  Those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ will live forever in a place without tears or sadness or sorrow.  But in the interim, will be shine brightly in our ever-increasing darkness?  I hope so.

Laundry.  It never ends.  Seriously, every single day my children insist on wearing clothes.  Why?  What is this obsession with being dressed?  Don’t they know that what they are collectively wearing will have to be gathered, washed, dried, folded and then eventually (someday, maybe) put away?

Apparently nudity is frowned upon by society, so the laundry struggle will continue.  Around here than means about 12-15 loads per week, plus crisis laundry (bed pee, sports uniforms, mud ball fight aftermath, you-have-to-wash-my-favorite-princess-dress, etc.)

This means that my laundry room can become a hot mess.  Since it’s summer and we are taking a blessed-thank-you-Jesus break from homeschooling, I feel like I should attempt some productivity.  So the laundry room got a 4-hour deep clean.  (aka don’t be impressed by the cleanliness because that is not the norm!)

Since I’ve found that laundry is a common struggle among my large family friends, I thought I’d show you how I organized mine.  You’ll quickly see that it’s not cute, a chandelier is conspicuously absent and my appliances are from the stone age.  But it is a nice-sized room and I am grateful for it.  (I apologize for the grainy phone photos.  Who has time to walk all the way to the car to get their real camera?!)

Large Family Laundry

My momma always said, “A place for everything and everything in its place.”

Large Family Laundry

 

More about the gift box.  I’d love to hear your sock solution!

Large Family Laundry

 

In the summer my kids wear swim suits so often that it makes no sense to put them in their drawers.  Plus it makes it faster to pack up the pool bag.

Large Family Laundry

 

ProTip: Spray your stains right away, then throw them in the wash or the hamper.  Actually the longer it sits before you wash it, the better.  The resolve spray is especially great at ketchup and yellow infant poo!

Large Family Laundry

 

 

So there you have it.  My non-glamorous laundry room with grout that desperately needs cleaning!  Maybe that will happen next summer!

Time with God:: How I manage to stay connected in the midst of kids & chaos

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Because if I go read my Bible in my room for 30 minutes, the 2yr old will find the chocolate cake batter!

I was 19 and away at college.  I would wander out of my red brick dorm and across the street to the breezy outdoor amphitheater, complete with white columns among a pristine lawn.  There I would sit with my warm coffee, full journal and frequently-read Bible, praying and reading and writing complete sentences.  THIS is what a “quiet time” with the Lord is supposed to be… or so I thought for many, many years after.  But I found it impossible to recreate that sublime moment as my blessed life brought me a house to care for and babies to puke on its floors.  On those few days when I could actually FIND my Bible, I spent the entire time re-reading the same chapter five times because each verse had been interrupted with butt-wiping or fight-settling or snack-providing.  And at the end of my so-called quiet time, I felt more stressed than when I had begun and more prone to giving up on the whole idea.  And maybe I would have if it hadn’t been for the GUILT. See, I was a youth leader. I was a small-group leader.  I SHOULD BE HAVING PEACEFUL, ANOINTED, INSPIRED TIMES WITH GOD EVERY DAY. But I wasn’t. I was fighting to read a chapter that I wasn’t even comprehending.

Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you are there. Well, girlfriend, I am 12 years and 5 kids into this parenting adventure and I have some advice for you.

Give up on having a daily quiet time.

At least that white column, hot coffee type.  Girl, you are in a new season and you need a new strategy.  I feel like I’ve finally found it and MAN is it liberating!  Now, slow down.  I didn’t say to give up on connecting with the Lord.  That is more necessary now than ever!!  I mean, what did I even have to pray about in college?  Which elective to pick?  What to wear on my date?  Oy.  NOW is when we need to cry out, ask for wisdom and draw on His strength.  But not in the same way. New season.  New strategy.

So how do we do it?  Here’s what’s been working for me.

work willingly

A dear friend gave me this and I’ve had it by my sink ever since. Such a great reminder!

Put Bible verses up in my house

No, you don’t need the help of Pinterest or a trip to Hobby Lobby.  (unless you want to go to Hobby Lobby, then by all means use this as your excuse)

Just grab some computer paper and your Bible and write down a few verses that encourage you.  Tape those things around your house. No tape?  Band-aids work great! I put mine by my kitchen sink, washing machine and fridge.  Which means I’m guaranteed to read those verses about 100 times a day!

Listen to worship music

Whether you use Pandora, Spotify, or YouTube, make yourself a good playlist.  And if you’re not tech savvy or want to cry at the thought of anyone having enough free time to make a playlist, just go to YouTube and search “worship playlist.”  Hit play.  Done.  Do this while you wash dishes, make dinner, fold laundry, nurse the baby, whatever.

Listen to quality Christian teachers

During the day, put on a video of a good Christian teacher.  Some of my favorites are Beth Moore, Francis Chan, and Matt Chandler.  Even if you only catch bits and pieces as you walk in and out of the room (what is this “sitting down” thing that people speak of?), that’s fine.  And it’s great for your kids to hear too!

Follow Christian people & organizations on social media

Let’s face it.  What you see while you scroll through Facebook / Instagram / Twitter really does affect your perspective. Next time you’re sitting in a car line  or sitting at the 22nd pediatrician visit this month, go through your social media and delete all the trash, all the new age nonsense, all the gossips, etc.  Then start following some people or organizations that post truth. Some of my favorites are GraceLaced, Lysa TerKeurst, Franklin Graham, Reinhard Bonnke, and Dr. Henry Cloud.

Read the Bible and pray with your kids

Did I lose you?  Has your mom guilt already overcome you?  Wait, hear me out.  This is what it looks like at my house.

Me: “Kids!!!  Grab your Bibles and come sit down.”

{10 minutes of searching for Bibles, me included}

Me: “Let’s read [whatever pops in my head / a story that’s been on my mind / something my church has been teaching / today’s Proverb]”

Big kids take turns reading the verses.

By now your littles may be coloring on your walls or sitting on your head (I wish I was making that up).  So you might be done for the day.  But maybe, just maybe, the Holy Spirit’s sweet peace has descended on that room (try it, it happens!) and maybe there’s time for a few questions.  Ask the kids what they thought.  Explain the verses to them.  Make some sort of practical application.  Now take turns praying.

{10 minutes later… after THAT child has prayed for every known creature and situation in the entire universe}

You’re done.  You did it!  No one died!  And guess what?  You learned something too.  There is NO better way to learn something than to teach it.  Trust me.  I’ve just figured out compound interest, thanks to homeschooling!

Talk to your kids about God during the day

Isn’t the sky gorgeous?  God painted that!  He paints a new one every day!

Why do you think God made a caterpillar to turn into a butterfly?

Did you know that God made this tangly hair?  Let’s brush it and see if we can count it.  Did you know He knows the exact number?

I’m sorry your tummy hurts.  Let’s ask God to heal it.

That was very naughty.  God says that children should obey their parents… and he promises long life if you do!

I promise you that these types of comments will do so much to direct their AND YOUR hearts toward the Lord.

Pray all day long

Who said prayer had to be a 30-minute event that happens in a closet?  Here’s what my prayer life looks like these days.

Lord, thank you that my children like to greet the rising sun, so that I can see your sunrise… and forgive me for maybe not meaning that.

Lord, help me make breakfast for 5 kids with 2 bananas and 3 bagels.

Lord, forgive me for yelling at the kids and lecturing them about how starving kids in Africa would die for a breakfast made from 2 bananas and 3 bagels.”

Lord, our attempt at a family devotional was a disaster.  Help me to do that better next time.  Give me a better strategy.

Lord thank you that I get to stay home with these kids, an answer to prayer from a long time ago.

Lord thank you that we have the money to pay for these clothes and this washing machine that I get to spend so much time with.

Lord, it’s 3pm and I don’t think I’m going to make it through this day without hurting someone.  Please be my strength.  You say that You are strong in my weakness.

Lord, I just heard about someone who is sick / hurting / lonely / poor.  Please be with them and thank you for giving me a new perspective on my wonderful life.  Help me to stay grateful.

Lord, we made it through another day.  Those sweet babies are the world to me.  What a privilege it is to raise them, even though I am currently wearing more than one of their bodily fluids.

So there you have it.  My uber-spiritual prayer life.  Now, is there time for true intercession, true undivided time with God? Of course!  It’s tough to manage, but it is necessary.  But I think in this season, God is okay with our one-liners.  You see, He already knows the cries of your heart.  It is our choice to cry TO HIM that is so pleasing to Him.

So be at peace sweet mama.  Make some intentional efforts to weave your connections with God into your day.  And then relax.  He is with you.  Look to Him for all you need and cut yourself some slack.

Screen Time :: How we cut back

I hate TV.  The brain drain.

I love TV.  The silence.

I hate TV.  The questionable messages.

I love TV.  The silence.

So what’s a mom to do?  Sure, I could throw the TV out, but honestly, I like to watch TV sometimes.  Hello… Downton Abbey!  Football!  But my kids were watching too much.  In fact, they were watching more before breakfast than I wanted them to watch all day.  Plus we have a PS3, 2 iPod Touch’s and 3 computers.  It was getting out of control.

My Cinderella watching Cinderella for the first time.

My Cinderella watching Cinderella for the first time.

I scoured Pinterest for ideas, but I’m not down with charts, cute popsicle sticks in jars or basically anything I have to keep track of.  So I came up with my own lazy simple system, which we’ve used since July… and it works!  So here goes…

No TV in the morning.  Wow, they get up and do their chores and get ready!  It’s a beautiful thing!

After school, you can only watch TV by earning it.  I made a stack of index cards.  Each one has a chore or activity on it.  Each day I pick what goes on top.  When they want to “earn” screen time, they have to do that activity.  Examples:

  • Listen to 15 minutes of math songs
  • Listen to 15 minutes of Classical Conversations memory work
  • Read for 15 minutes
  • Play piano for 15 minutes
  • Ride your bike or shoot baskets for 15 minutes
  • Do a household chore (like sweep/mop kitchen, pick up family room and vacuum, etc)
  • Clean your room

Each of these earns 22 minutes of screen time (the typical length of an episode.)  Each kid can only earn once per day.  The other kids can watch what they pick.  So since I have 3 kids doing this plan, it equals about 1 hour of total screen time per day… about what I am comfortable with.  Of course, there’s plenty of “free” screen time, like when we watch something as a family, or when I am at my limit and gosh-darn-it someone turn on the TV!

It’s beautiful.  They don’t beg for TV.  I don’t have to remember who watched more or whose turn it is to pick.  And I’m getting them to do all of those activities without me even asking them to!

The littles watch TV on an as-needed basis.  So they may watch some while we do school or while I make dinner.  Once they start school, we’ll switch them to this plan.

So that’s what works for us.  Each family is different, with different convictions and styles.  But if you’re looking to cut back on screen time, I suggest you give this a try!

Look up

I’m a helpless news junkie.  The kind that knows exactly what time BBC America comes on.  And what time it’s replayed in case I miss it.  NPR and talk radio round out the top 3 pre-sets in my car.  My Twitter feed looks like it belongs to a White House pool reporter.  While this obsession interest provides for some great mommy brain stimulation, it can also be incredibly depressing. Because the news is awful.  Horrible.  Vile.  Perverse.  And that’s just my local 11pm newscast.  As you move from there to the national and international stage, the news becomes overwhelmingly dark, almost too much to wrap your mind around.  Sex trafficking?  Hostages burned alive?  Children tagged and sold in open markets simply for being Christians?  Tens of millions of babies aborted on our street corners?  Child pornography flowing like water across our airwaves?  It’s simply more than I can bear sometimes.

What do we do with this evil?  Some of you may choose to look the other way.  Some of you may choose to join it.  Some of you may look down in shame that you do nothing.  But I have found that the only place to look is up.  The only answer to the horror that surrounds us is God the Father.  The God of the Bible.  The God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob.  You see, the presence of this awful depravity is proof of God’s existence.  How can there be dark without light?  How can there be evil without good as its counterpart?  How can there be lies without truth?  God stands alone as the perfect specimen, the ideal form, the classic exemplar.  When men and women reject Him, turn from Him, walk in their own way, they do so at their own peril.  Because walking away from the Light must be equivalent to walking toward the darkness.

Friends, we were not created to live in darkness.  We were fashioned perfectly to walk with Him in the garden [of Eden] in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8) but instead, God found us hiding in shame.  Why?  Because we chose against Him.  We chose the forbidden fruit.  Darkness instead of light.  Self-gratification instead of obedience.  And so, we left Him no choice.  As a holy, righteous and pure God, He could not abide with rebellion.  Like a bright light suddenly casts off all the darkness, so Adam and Eve had to be cast from His presence.  How it must have grieved the Creator to be separated from His creation.  In fact his grief was so great that then and there He set a plan into motion to rescue those lost and wayward children from their own depravity.  He signified this by the first ever shedding of blood.

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.  (Gen. 3:21)

Adam and Eve could have never known the significance of this act.  But God knew.  He knew that several thousands years later, after seeing His people suffer from the consequences of sin and rebellion, He would put an end to it once and for all. An end to the rituals of blood sacrifice.  An end to the rigorous requirements of Jewish law.  And ultimately an end to the evil that had entered the world with the bite of an apple.

Look up He chose for Himself one last sacrifice.  But this couldn’t be an animal.  No, even the most pure and spotless lamb wouldn’t do.  The only sacrifice that His righteous nature could abide was that of a perfect human.  And so God looked around, found none who was righteous, and chose from His own family.  His Son, Jesus.  We know the story of Christmas, of the carpenter and of the miracles.  But that was all just the preamble to His ultimate purpose.  On that fateful Good Friday, Jesus accepted His role as our scapegoat.  He opened His arms and embraced every vile, disgusting, depraved act or thought we have ever or will ever commit.  This blanket of filth enveloped Him and it killed Him.  Our precious Lord lay dead on a tree.  But, my friends, the story is incomplete.  Though his body lay in a borrowed tomb for three days, His spirit descended to the depths of evil itself, depositing our awful deeds in the fiery pit where they belonged.  Then Sunday morning came.  His limp body inflated with life and He walked out of that tomb, free from stench of sin and rebellion.

This act both reviled and pleased the Father immensely.  Imagine watching your only child tortured and killed, yet knowing this martyrdom would be the salvation of all that you love.

So is that it?  No, because my nightly news is still full of the horrors of sin.  You see, God has done His part.  His Son fixed the problem with His death on the cross.  We are no longer banished from the garden.  We are no longer sentenced to death for our rebellion.  God has offered us a robe of righteousness, meaning that any of us can accept the blood sacrifice of Jesus that washes away all of our sin.  Any of us can stand in the presence of a Holy God and be loved, accepted and welcomed.  We can turn from the darkness and walk in the light.  But the choice is ours.  He does not force it upon us.

Where are you walking today?  Is your heart heavy with guilt, shame, lust and anger?  Do you feel as if all around is dark, Look upthe way is unclear and the night is closing in?  My friend, this doesn’t have to be your life.  Look up.  Ask the Lord to wash your heart clean of all that is unholy.  Receive his forgiveness and the sacrifice of His Son.  And take His hand as He brings you into the light.

The evil that we see does not get the final say.  There is One who stands watching, waiting, pleading for a dying world to simply look up.