Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Toddler Quiet Book: Part 1

So I thought I'd finally share a project I made a couple years back for my third-born's second birthday. My goal for this quiet book was to make it with as few pieces that could fall out as possible. (I was getting tired of keeping track of the many pieces to the other quiet books I've made.) I was fairly successful. The only things that fall out now are the paintbrush from the page shown below and some hair accessories on a page that I'll show you another day.

All of my kids love this artist page so much. It's such a simple idea but it fosters so much creativity on the part of the children.

I'm hoping to use this clock page as an educational tool when my children are old enough to start telling time.

I'm looking forward to sharing my other pages with you in the posts to come!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Best Baby Item for the Pool

Whenever it's time to take the kids to the pool, I always reach for one item first (after I take a deep breath, of course). The item may surprise you. It's a baby sling.

It's simple, really. I started using it years ago when my elder children were babies. I wanted a way to be able to take my baby in the water with me, but I wanted a surer way to keep track of a slippery, wiggling, excited baby than just my trusty arms, especially when I had more than one child to keep track of . . . Enter the baby sling.

It answers my needs perfectly. It's lightweight. It can hold my baby arms-free if needed (though I usually keep one arm around him). It doesn't get yucky in the water, and if it does, it's much cheaper than some of my other carriers to replace. My babies have all loved it as well because they feel they have some freedom with their arms and legs to enjoy the water while still feeling secure.

All in all, it's been a great and simple tool to make pool time with a baby an enjoyable and safe experience. I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Lessons I've Learned From Living in a Third World Country

For those of you who know me personally (or perhaps you’ve read it in a previous post here), you know that my family and I have lived and worked in a third world country in South America for almost six years now. While there have been many challenges and frustrations with living in a foreign culture, I want to focus on the positive tonight. I’m going to share some lessons I’ve learned from living here. There may be a sequel to this post in time as I process and learn more, but for now, here are five lessons for you to ponder over.

1. I’ve learned contentment. Without going into gritty and unpleasant details, let’s just say that some things that I’d been used to having easy access to in the past are hard to find here. And the mail system here is, well, lousy. So that meant that I had to learn to do without. And that lesson was so vital. It opened my eyes to a whole new world. A world where everything isn’t just a click away from being delivered to your doorstep. And the simplicity, the freedom from materialism was so refreshing. I learned to either do without completely (and to be content with that), or to find another way to meet the need, or to stir up my creative side and make a substitute myself. Which leads me to my second point . . .

2. I’ve learned creativity. I have done and made things here that I would never have dreamed of doing back in the US where I had everything available at my fingertips for a relatively cheap price. My creative skills have skyrocketed since living here, and my ability to think outside the box has also improved. As an example, here is a picture of a mother/daughter tea I organized recently.

I wanted to have tiered serving trays in the middle of each table, but the few options we found were far too expensive. So my husband and I made them. And they turned out perfect for the event!

3. I’ve learned patience. Living in a third world country means paperwork (and sometimes maddening inefficiencies). But it also means an opportunity to learn patience. The people here have way more patience than I do. They just accept the fact that they are going to wait in line for an hour, or that they are not going to get exactly what they want the first (or maybe even the tenth!) time they ask for it. I’ve been so humbled to contrast my own demanding, impatient spirit, used to getting her own way in everything. I’m still not as patient as these people are, but I’ve definitely grown a lot along the way. (I’m not praising inefficient government agencies, just focusing on the positive lessons I’ve learned through the process of working with them.)

4. I’ve learned what it means to put people first over projects. The culture here is very people-oriented. Schedules and projects take a lesser priority over people. While this understanding can bring challenges at times, there is a beautiful aspect to it as well. People are more important than things or to-do lists, especially from a spiritual perspective. I have a chance to live out this perspective every day in my own household, where I try to manage the needs of my four young children and keep our home in order and our schedule on track. By nature and by upbringing, I am a more task-oriented person. I’m a list person, and I love to check things off my to-do list each day. But there are so many more important things for me to do that never get put on that list. Like wiping tears away from a sad toddler, or nursing a baby, or having a conversation about Jesus with an openhearted child. My heart’s cry is that I would continue to learn this important balance between meeting people’s needs and getting things done. But if I have to err on one side or another, I’d rather it be on investing in the lives of people.

5. My eyes have been opened to the needs of the world. Living in the US, I took for granted so many things that I just assumed everyone in the world had. Like a reliable mail service. Or clean, potable water from the tap. Or consistent power. Or climate controlled houses. Or the freedom to wear whatever I want. Or the right to worship God as I please. The list goes on and on. Some of these issues I was aware of before moving here, but many I was not. Honestly, I have still more to learn on this subject. But I have new compassion and greater understanding of the challenges others face in daily living, and I have new gratitude for the blessings and conveniences I do have.

Overall, I’m so thankful for the opportunity I’ve had to learn and grow through this time of living overseas, and I welcome even more lessons as God continues to refine my perspective and show me more of His heart for the world.

Have you visited or lived in a foreign country? What were some of the lessons you learned?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Discipling the Generations: Part 5

This is the fifth and final part in a series talking about discipling the generations, especially young people. I took a couple weeks' break over the holidays to post on other topics, but I wanted to finish off this series. We are looking at aspects of Jesus' life and example of how He worked with His disciples. 

The final point I want to make is Jesus had a deep, significant relationship with each of His disciplesJesus knew His disciples and their needs. He lived with these men and did life together with them for three years. Keeping close track of twelve people in this way is exhausting! And that doesn’t touch all the ministry that Jesus did outside of His inner group. 

While we probably can’t keep up the schedule Jesus did, each of us can pray for one or two young people that we can take under our wing to mentor and disciple in the ways of the Lord. No matter the culture or generation one comes from, having a significant relationship with a person that helps point us to Jesus is life-changing. Let’s you and I be the ones to reach out to someone for Jesus!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Homemade Christmas Gifts

This post is perhaps a little late, but as I promised I would show you pictures of all the handmade Christmas gifts I made for my family this year, I thought I would go ahead and post them. Perhaps they'll give you ideas for birthday or Christmas gifts for this coming year! Let's just say, everyone loved the gifts I made them. The kids wear their new pajamas every night!

The pajamas pictured above were for my eldest. I bought a pajama pattern to make his and it turned out pretty well, though I must say, having never made pajamas before and not having much experience working with knits, I did have a lot of learning to do with these projects. His pajamas were a bit big, though I used the smallest size it came with. But he'll have it to wear for a couple years at least now.

The pajamas pictured below were for my third child. You probably noticed instantly that the pattern on the top is going the opposite direction of the pants. I unfortunately didn't notice it until both pieces had been sewn and finished. Another lesson learned. Oh well. My little boy hasn't noticed it at all and he loves his new pajamas. I panicked a little when I realized that the pattern I originally bought to use for both boys ended up being way too big. I used the smallest size for my eldest and it still came out too big for him. So I ended up searching online for some free patterns and tutorials to make this pajama set. In the end, despite the pattern mix-up, I think it was my favorite. I love the raglan sleeves on the top. Here is the tutorial/free pattern for the top, and here is the tutorial for the pants.

Here is the ornament I made for my baby. You can find the free pattern for it here.

And here is the ornament I made for my daughter. You can find the free pattern for this here.

The day before Christmas, I decided to make an ornament for my husband. He had never had his own named ornament as a child, so I thought it would be fun to include him in on the fun (plus I needed another last minute gift for him). I just found a cross picture I liked and used it as my pattern.

Here is the ornament I made for my third-born. I copied something I saw off Pinterest for this one.

And finally, last but not least, I refashioned an old t-shirt and pair of pajama pants belonging to my husband into a very sentimental pillow that now resides on our bed. Our first child was born in the middle of December of 2011, and my husband's dad found this t-shirt on a clearance rack at Walmart and snatched it up for my husband. I have some very cherished pictures of my husband wearing this shirt as he held our newborn son. He wore it proudly for several years until it became too dilapidated to wear in public. I saved it just for this purpose. And the well-loved old pajama pants made a perfect complimentary backing to the pillow, I think. (Remember the raglan sleeve pajama shirt from above? I used bits and pieces from this old t-shirt to make it up as well. So I got a lot of mileage out of just one t-shirt!)

The handmade Christmas gifts were a big hit and will be far more meaningful for years to come than any toy or trinket I could have bought. Planning ahead of time and starting a couple months early helped to make the projects manageable and not stressful. I honestly had a lot of fun planning and making these gifts! I encourage you to try to come up with a few things to make your loved ones when Christmas rolls around once again.

Monday, January 1, 2018

New Year's Goals

Happy New Year, everybody! Normally I post on Tuesday evening, but since this is the beginning of a new year, I thought I would write tonight about some of the personal goals I'm making for this coming year. I am excited about this new year and what the Lord has in store for me and us as a family.

One of the goals I have is to read the Bible in a year. I've tried various reading plans over the years, but I'm excited about the new one I'm going to use. It has reading plans for 5 days each week, with the other two days to use as catch-up. Also, it's in chronological order and has a reading in the OT and NT each day for variety. You can find the reading plan here. Interested in a different reading plan? You can find many excellent types at this website. Check them out and pick one for the new year!

Another goal I have just for this month is to do the Scripture writing plan that this sweet gal posts on her blog each month. The theme for the month of January is Wisdom, and I feel I'm in need of that more than ever! You can find her plan here.

Another goal I have is to get in better shape and make priority in my schedule to exercise. I'm specifically wanting to target my core to help correct some issues I've been having with my pelvic organs. In order to accomplish my goals, I paid for a year's membership to a website called Fit2B. I really like Bethany Learn's gentle approach to exercise and the fact that she has workouts for all fitness levels. All her exercises are "tummy safe," meaning they will help (and not further damage) those who have diastasis recti. I am confidant that if I am faithful, I will see significant healing and improvement in my core strength.

Those are some of my major goals, but I've also written a few minor ones including handicraft projects I'd like to accomplish this year. We'll see how much I get done by the Lord's grace!

Have you made any personal goals?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Discipling the Generations: Part 4

This is the fourth part in a series talking about discipling the generations, especially young people. We are looking at aspects of Jesus' life and example of how He worked with His disciples. We’re going to look today at Jesus’ intentional work of growing His disciples.

The first point I want to emphasize is Jesus intentionally challenged His disciples with tasks meant to stretch and grow them. He taught them, equipped them, and then sent them forth to serve various times, always bringing them back to debrief and make sense of what they’d experienced. For a disciple to truly grow and mature, these times of stretching are critical. It isn’t enough to simply feed your disciple head knowledge. They must learn to apply the Word of God in their daily life. Sometimes, life events will help them along without any involvement from you. But other times, they may need encouragement from you to do something that will challenge and strengthen their faith. Like Jesus, we must be sensitive to these opportunities in the lives of those we have been called to train.

In addition, Jesus used significant events to make impactful messages sink deep in their hearts. Like the feeding of five thousand. Or the raising of Lazarus. Or the storm on the sea. Crisis moments in our lives can become huge “ah ha!” moments of spiritual truths. Sometimes a mentor is all we need to help us see the light. When we are all wrapped up in our own busyness, it’s hard to truly be there for a friend experiencing a crisis moment. But that is exactly what Jesus wants us to do, not only to help them bear the burden, but also to point them towards the light and truth of God and His everlasting Word.

Take a moment to prayerfully consider who in your life is going through a crisis moment right now. How can you be an encouragement to them today?