Connecting Emotionally

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This last week has been an extremely challenging week. My son and I tend to have good days and bad days, but for some reason we have been having several bad days in a row. If you want in on the secret of why, I’m glad to tell you. Someone had sent me some links for a seminar done by Cinda Osterman. I have been struggling for quite some time trying to figure out how to be a parent that truly reflects Christ to my children, while at the same time being a firm and loving mom, and being in charge of my home. My son really struggles with needing to be in control of my home. Even though he is five, he is very determined to control the house and to parent us.

A few weeks ago after watching Cinda’s series on Vimeo, my husband and I decided to rededicate our lives and family to Christ. I decided to start getting up at 5 a.m. and doing my worship in spite of the obstacles to do so. Of course, the devil didn’t want to lose us so easily, so he is fighting us in any way that he can. My son and I are the biggest area he can attack in my life. At first he tried the kids waking up at 5 a.m. Seeing me persisting in my worship, he wasn’t happy with that and stepped it up a notch. The following Sabbath there was an announcement at church that the pastor was holding a class that was meant to improve your intimacy with God. I was not prepared to stay, but I decided to stay anyway, as I needed to take the class.

During the class I tried hard to listen and keep under control my two very energetic kids. But, I ended up leaving halfway through as it just wasn’t working. (Of course the devil wanted me to be discouraged.) I asked God what He wanted me to do, and after talking to Pastor, he said that he would find a way to make it work because he knows how much I not only want the class but need the class. (Of course the devil wasn’t happy once again.) I was learning to persist… The following Thursday my daughter got “the runs.” Not only did she get them, but it was dripping out of the side of the diaper and going through three pairs of pants from diaper leaks in two hours! I cancelled everything on my plate and gave lots of baths that day. Friday, it was just as bad. To be honest, I have no idea where it all kept coming from as she wasn’t really eating.

Sabbath morning I woke up and was planning on not going to church. As I was doing my worship (the kids were finally sleeping through my morning worship), the Cradle Roll teacher texted and asked if I was going to be there. I texted her back and said that I was thinking I didn’t want to go because of the issues with Abby for the two days before. As I wrote the text, I don’t know how to describe it — God spoke to me.

“Bitsy, You believe that I am God, right?” I was kind of surprised by the question.

“Uh, yes, Lord!”

He replied, “So you believe that I can do anything, right?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“Well you say you believe it, but you won’t act on your faith.”

I was a little confused for a minute. “But Lord, I can’t go to church; there is no shower there, and what if it’s contagious?” (Half of our congregation is older; they don’t recover so well from things like this.) “And, how am I going to sanitize a mess that is dripping down her legs and running onto the carpet, especially in the middle of church.”

So he responds. “Bitsy, you need to make a decision. You either believe I am God, and I can handle this, not to mention do anything you need — and you go to church; or, you don’t believe Me, and you sit there all day and miss out on Me showing you my power. Not to mention not allowing Me to build your faith in Me, which you are always asking me to do. So, what are you going to do?”

Talk about a slap in my face! But, He made it clear the way that I have always wanted Him to. So, I decided to go. When I did, Abby woke up and came out. “Mommy, I’m poopy!” I, in my still lacking faith, looked in her diaper. He had already answered my request! So, we went to church.

It’s hard to be like a little child, but each day I am reminded of the trust that we are supposed to have in our relationships with Christ. The trust that my children model to me helps me to understand more of what I am supposed to be like toward Christ. The issue I see is that I need to be emotionally connected to Christ in order for my children to be emotionally connected to me. How do we achieve that? I am still learning that myself. However, here are a few tips that I have found, both for becoming emotionally connected to my children and to my Heavenly Father.

1. Take time… Take time to pray, even if it doesn’t feel like it works. Believe it will. Take time to have devotions and to have quiet time focusing on God. This is totally exhausting to do as a mom of little ones, but it is a huge blessing in dealing not only with life but with marriage and parenting as well. Try to cut out the nonessentials. Make your number one priority your children. Then, pray for the strength to keep it that way. God has really impressed upon me that their relationship with us and theirs with Christ are the only things we get to take to Heaven with us. We have a huge role to play in the bringing up of our children, and if we ask, He will provide the strength to fulfill that promise.

It is so hard to reprioritize, but over the last several months God has helped me to see the most important priority is my children, and to be quite honest, I have had to pray that He will change my heart and help me to enjoy being with my children. (They have been so challenging that I am ashamed to admit I have wanted to be done with parenting.) As I have prayed daily for the last three weeks, and have been focusing on Him, He is giving me His grace to change; and I, in spite of our challenges, am starting to enjoy the precious moments with my kids. In fact I am taking time daily to spend time with them and emotionally connect. As I spend this time emotionally connecting with them, I am also finding that the problems we are having are getting easier. He truly fixes all things if we are patient and willing to submit to Him.

2. Pray over each of your children… If Daddy can also do this, it is a special blessing. Pray to claim promises for them. Every night before they go to sleep, I go in to tuck the kids into bed. I am so tired when it comes to bedtime, that we do worship and they get into bed. I put my hand on my child, and I pray individually with them. I claim Jer. 29:11, and if there is something they are particularly strugging with, I claim promises that help with that. Since I started that three weeks ago, the kids will not go to sleep without it, and they both have a hard time being patient and waiting their turn. There is comfort in knowing someone is praying for you.

3. Focus on little things… Focus on the little things that are done right, that the kids need encouragement in, or that they might need a little extra help in. There is a reason that God says the little things are important. This is because the big things are built up of little things. Notice the little things that your kids do to try to please you. Take the time to teach them the little things that are so often overlooked. When they see that you are happy with the little things they do, then they will realize that in their work and their play, their desire will be to help us and please us.

4. Be thankful... We have started a blessing book, and each morning and evening with worship we all say three things we’re thankful for. It’s amazing the happiness that it has brought into our house. I read a quote and I wish I had written it down, but I didn’t. Anyway, it says by counting the blessings the Lord has bestowed on us, we are building faith in Him. I want my children to have a firm foundation of faith in the Lord.

5. Take His word at face value and believe what He says… Sometimes it seems so challenging yet way too simple. Being children of God is a real challenge. Each day we have to wake up and truly believe that He has our back. Because of how things may look or how badly things go that day, it’s often hard to understand how He has our back. However, He promises that He does, and we must trust Him in spite of our feelings. If we ask He will show us what we need to learn from each situation, and sometimes He even tells us about the prevention of things we may not have been aware of.

6. Be vulnerable… This is the hardest part for us as humans, each day struggling to go through without having to be vulnerable…without having to reveal the challenges, struggles, and pain we are experiencing…without showing our children what our hearts are actually dealing with and the fact that most of the time we are feeling the same way they are, but we just won’t admit it. As I have started to show them how I handle the struggles I am dealing with, they are learning and open and asking about the struggles they are having. They are asking me how to handle things, and are interested in being led by me. They are beginning to understand that on the outside we look like adults, but sometimes on the inside we really feel the same way we did as little kids. It helps them to see we really do care. Remembering that we are all in this battle together helps a lot. And, I am starting to allow my children to respectfully say, “Mommy, do you need to have some time with Jesus?” That helps me to know that I am not being Christlike and I need to surrender to Him.

As we press forward this next few weeks, my prayer is that God will open our eyes and help us to see the things we need to cut out and the things we need to add, and help us to see things we can implement in faith to connect more emotionally to our Lord and Savior and to our families and all of our relationships.

Where Do Babies Come From?!?

You know the question is coming sooner or later. So, when is the best time to handle it — sooner or later? And how?!?

This is an area that comes up on the SDA Homeschool Families group page on Facebook from time to time. Over the last several years, many members have responded with advice, as well as with a wonderful collection of resources. These have been compiled to share with you. Some of the resources also have comments by the people who suggested them.*

Keep in mind that, like any sensitive topic, sex education methods and opinions are varied. If you’re looking for input on when and how to address this with your kids, we invite you to peruse the following advice and resources, prayerfully seek God’s guidance in selecting the best responses for your family, and then share the knowledge about the wonder of continued creation and loving expression with your children.

 

ADVICE AND PERSONAL EXPERIENCES

Timing

  • Start young. If you don’t broach the subject until they are teen or pre-teen someone else will have already told them. The Bible is a great teacher, too. Show them the consequences of not following God’s will.
  • Dr. Sears has good advice. I don’t remember all we used, but I do know it’s so important calling every body part the real name and to start using it when your kids are young; it is easier on you and them.
  • Here is what I have done with my son. First, PRAY!!! I couple years ago I was at a loss as to when to start talking about this to him. I knew it would be up to me due to my husband’s background. I decided that the following school year would be good time to start (my son would be going into fifth grade), but God had other plans. Several times He put the thought into my mind, but it wasn’t until my son said something at the zoo did God give me the wake up call and made me realize He meant NOW!!! So, I spent several days going over the basics of God’s plan for marriage, Satan’s attempt to destroy it, the illness that come from immoral activity, and the type of talk that slanders a pure and holy thing — and provided defense mechanisms, should such talk happen in his presence.
  • My boy was young when he first started asking where babies come from, like about five or six. He was also a very specific questioner — wanting as much info as I’d give him. I pretty much gave him all the “academic” basics at that age. He knew what body parts were called, and what went where to make a baby. I also found some simplistic books with illustrations of people and sperm and eggs, etc. The beauty of this approach for us was that he was too young to be in that “oooooo, gross” phase that so many kids hit by about age 10 or 11. It all seemed a little bizarre to him, but his brain was not remotely “sexualized” yet, so it was just information — much like you’d learn about any body system. It also gave the opportunity very young to start planting seeds of morality and our expectations for when this all should happen. Of course, then you have to be prepared for the occasional, “Oh, look! Those squirrels are getting married!” out in public, but that was a small price to pay. Here’s the other benefit in my mind for early information. He trusted me back then to tell the truth. Now he is 12, nearly 13. Changes are beginning in his body, he is hearing terminology from his friends, and his curiosity is becoming more “aware.” Where does he go with his questions? To me! (I was widowed when he was young.) Granted, I have delved into topics with a 12-year-old boy that I never thought I would, but I feel blessed that he is comfortable gaining info from me rather than from his friend’s older brother or some kid on the playground. Also, because we don’t have to stumble over what-goes-where and the resulting uncomfortableness now, we can spend more time talking about the risks of having a girlfriend/boyfriend too early, and a host of other tricky topics that will hopefully prep his brain with reasoning for the day when the hormones totally kick in.

Approach

  • We just read Genesis 38 for family worship last night. I was not expecting it, and i think it is good wording to start the discussion.
  • You know, it came up in science class and that is exactly how I handled it — very practically. I made it not a subject that was taboo, funny or embarrassing to discuss in any way. (This was after praying about it first). And, praise the Lord, my daughter is now 13 and thinks that kids who do talk about it and giggle are immature and silly. She doesn’t understand what the big deal is. She also went through Passport 2 Purity a few years after we discussed it. It was good, but had some parts my daughter and I felt were unnecessary and inappropriate for the target age group.
  • I had a little conversation with my five-year-old about the topic. What I realized was, at that age they are quite satisfied to know that boys and girls are different because God made them that way. The major question is truly where the child comes from. I answered simply that he, my five-year-old, came from my belly. How did he get in there? God put him and formed him there from a single cell. That was enough. There were no questions ever since. I think it is important not to make a big deal out of it and answer questions straight forward without unnecessary details. If a child wants to know more and thinks about it, he will ask again. It is important for a child to feel comfortable to ask anything he/she wants to know, and for a parent to be sincere and not afraid of the topic. The key is, I think, not to give more information a child asks for because what he asks is what he is ready for.
  • For the time being I suggest asserting your expertise in this area [in reference to a child who has obtained misinformation from another child]. You have had a baby and little friend has not. There are a lot of pretend stories about this, but you know what’s true, and if he has questions he should ask you because you know all the true stuff and you can help him not be tricked (no one likes being tricked). Then be general… When my son asked how the baby got out, I told him God made a hole for that and it’s at the bottom where the two other out holes are, and when the time comes the hole opens and the baby comes out. I couldn’t show him because God wants us to keep all the holes clean and private.
  • I’d probably just talk honestly with your child about their specific questions and see where it goes. I don’t remember what triggered it, but in the last year or so my girls realized that people have babies outside marriage and asked a similar question. I was just honest about it and said something along the lines of “we’ve talked about how when people are married they can cuddle in a special way and sometimes the mommy gets pregnant. Sometime people decide to do those things even when they aren’t married. That’s not what God wants, but it happens.” We talked some about the Bible verses about marriage, and such.
  • Both my husband and I are physicians (pediatrician and family doc), so our children (eldest is five) know the anatomical names. We answer their questions as openly and honestly as they’re capable of understanding, and we only answer their questions, i.e., we don’t use their one question to give them a lecture on the ins and outs of human reproduction. We always reinforce that they can always ask us anything and try to foster a relationship that encourages open communication. The ongoing relationship and communication that is formed now will be a stronghold in the times when others typically have difficulties.

Science and Nature

  • Depending on the age of your kids, you might think of this more as a “biology” talk. It provides the info they need, and takes some mental pressure off yourself.
  • Farm animals! LOL. Seriously, though, this totally comes up organically since we have goats and chickens. It provides a natural progression of their own questions as they are ready to know.
  • Cats and dogs. Experiences from nature.
  • Nature. Accidentally getting a rooster a couple years ago brought up questions, so we talk of it in terms of mating. But, the oldest knows people call it “sex,” and it was a gift God intended for married people. I agree with keeping it more about biology until they get older.
  • Basic anatomy. I picked up the coloring book used for college students testing for their med-school entrance — just because it’s a cool book and my toddler was into naming bones — and he loved looking at pictures and asking questions.

Caution

  • I remember being so traumatized by books people tried to share with me. So, I just answered my kids’ questions straightforwardly as they asked them, not offering more than I felt was necessary, but also not holding back or acting like it was any different discussion than what was for lunch. They thank me for it now. No regrets. Just know that whatever book you use and whatever graphics it contains will be forever emblazoned on their little brains. Some things are best left to the imagination. Building any strangeness or weird mystery around it can have serious repercussions later, especially for generations that crave authenticity.
  • I would tread very very carefully with this subject. Both my girls, ages four and seven, know nothing at all, except that it is God that creates life and gives a mommy and daddy a baby. The baby grows inside the mommy and then comes out of her when it’s big enough to survive in the world. I was tainted at a very young age by asking this question…probably around four, and my mom took me to the library and got a book meant for kids — but honestly I still remember the images very clearly in my mind, and it was way too much. It went into detail with drawings of how a man gets a woman pregnant, talking about private parts, sperm, eggs, etc. What a child [incorrectly] learns now about this beautiful plan of God could corrupt their young minds and set the stage for problems down the road. One of the best ways to explain all of this is through the plant kingdom: the parts of a flower (female and male) and how pollination works. This is obviously for an older child, but it’s a beautiful, simplistic way to explain it in very gentle non-graphic terms. We just studied plants for homeschooling and how they reproduce, and I myself had no idea that plants have male and female parts and how the whole process works! Quite amazing, and when the times comes I will use this to explain in more detail how it all “works.”

Added Thought

  • The most important piece of advice I gave my fourth-grade son was this: “You can ALWAYS come to me with questions. But, because this is such an important topic, and not everyone is comfortable with discussing it or being around such discussion, please ask those questions at home, and during school hours.” I assured him that no question is too dirty, or too old, or too sensitive to be asked. And, he has asked!!! Pray!!! Pray!!! Pray!!!

RESOURCES

Books

Videos and Other Resources

Hopefully these resources and advice from other parents will be useful to you. We will be placing it in the Files section of the SDA Homeschool Families group on Facebook, and may continue to add resources and advice as they appear in the group.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth,’” Genesis 1:27,28 ESV.

*The comments and resources were gathered from about 30 members of the SDA Families Homeschool group. We’d like to especially thank member Jenn Cook, who did an initial resource compilation, adding a lengthy list of books and sources for the benefit of the group and blog readers. 

Sheltering With Purpose

I hear it all the time when I talk about growing up in the country: “Your parents must’ve sheltered you!” It’s as common as “The S Word” when someone hears that I homeschool my kids. The truth is, I might have been “sheltered,” but I don’t think my parents did it by accident. I think it was purposeful. I think they had a determination to teach me things, prepare me for things, keep me safe. That’s different than sheltering.

At risk of sounding like a crazy chicken lady, I will stop beating around the bush. We protect our chickens from predators by keeping them in a pen. We build them a coop with a door, maybe a heater. We feed and water them. Would they be happier as free range all the time? Yes. They would be happier, maybe fatter, and might lay more eggs — but they would have a shorter life. Because we live in the country, many predators have access to our chickens. We have lost so many due to opossums, raccoons, owls, and illness. We wanted so much for them to be free, to run in the whole yard, but now we have to start over with a new flock, and we need to build the fences higher.

It is easy for us to teach our boys these types of lessons because we have animals as examples. These animals they see every day serve a purpose as well. “No, I’m sorry. We can’t let the dog run around when we go to Nanna’s. He can get run over. He can freeze to death (mini pinscher). He’s an inside dog for a reason.” We aren’t sheltering the dog, but we care for him. The kids understand this. People don’t.

People don’t understand why I won’t put my son in public school. Aren’t I doing them a disservice by not letting them learn how the other kids are learning? Aren’t I spoiling them with my love, my attention? What’s so wrong with public school anyway?

My decision to homeschool has little to do with public school. It has to do with protecting them, raising them, and teaching them. It’s not a slight against public school any more than my staying home with them is a slight against working moms.

My purpose as a parent and teacher is to prepare my boys before all else — prepare them for the world, the workforce, spiritual warfare, matters of life and death, politics, love, anger, and more. I cannot do this while sheltering them.

What’s your purpose? Ponder your purpose while you’re planning the coming year of school, the upcoming curriculum, family devotionals, and activities. If all I’m doing is sheltering these kids, and not purposefully teaching them, I’ve failed.

8 Ways to show your homeschooler love. Valentine's Day and Beyond

8 Ways to Show Your Homeschooler Love – Valentine’s Day and Beyond!

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought it would be a perfect time to focus on LOVE (I want you all to know that I’m writing this article just as much for myself as for you).  Genuine, caring, heart-felt love for our children can be a game-changer in their lives..and in ours as well.

In God’s word He is always calling us to “love one another”…this includes loving our children!

Most homeschooling parents I know deeply care about their kids and want the best for them. However it’s easy to get caught up in the routine and hustle of the everyday, that we sometimes miss displaying that affection to our children.

Here are 8 easy tips you can try today to communicate to your children that they are safe, adored and all is well:

1. Give eye contact with a smile. Connections most definitely come through eye contact and what follows. It sends the message of acceptance and love, or disapproval and rejection. Think about the random smiles you receive from those you love. They definitely create that warm and safe feeling inside. The same will happen for your child(ren). Make a point to look your child(ren) in the eyes and smile.

2. Speak kind words. As parents you most definitely know the difference between your child saying “Yes, Mama” with a loving tone, or “Yes, Mama” with a grunt and eye roll. Speak love into your children’s lives. Be mindful of the way you speak your words and the tone you choose to use.  Even a simple “Good Morning Lexi, How are you today? Did you sleep well?” in the right tone can create the atmosphere of kindness and love you are looking for in your home.

3. Be interested and ask questions. Think about a time when someone has met you several times, yet the questions they ask certainly confirm “You don’t know me”. Get to know your children. Ask them questions about their hobbies, favorite foods, books…them! If you need to, keep a journal with answers they have given you so you can reflect on them later. Throughout the year, ask them questions about the topics earlier discussed (How is your dog’s foot after he stepped on that spur? Did you and your brother ever make up that funny skit you talked about?) Showing a genuine interest in their lives will go extremely far in showing that you truly care.

4. Be present. I feel that as homeschooling parents it can be one of the most difficult challenges to be present with each child (especially if we have multiple children). We are amazing at multi-tasking and are usually thinking of 100 other things while we are teaching each child during the day(Uh oh, Johnny’s out of his seat again…Did I print off Bible for today?… Do we have swim lessons today?…Did I start the crockpot this morning?) It is so important that our children see and know we are present with them.  This means focusing in and staying in the moment when possible.  Everyone knows what it is like to be with someone that seems to want to be somewhere else.  Give your children the gift of being in the moment. Be Present.

5. Have a special routine. Connections are really amplified through three main areas: eye contact, physical touch and fun. Of course we can bestow huge hugs and kisses on our children each morning, and there are other ways to connect through physical touch. There’s nothing like a good ole high-five or the sweet old-fashioned “secret handshakes” of our childhood (we seriously rocked the “Say Say My Playmate” chant in 3rd Grade). Why not come up with a fun “Good Morning Handshake” when your child begins class time or right before you leave. You could really jazz this up with serious knee clapping, finger snapping, spinning around and the whole shebang. Even older children would love to participate in coming up with their own celebration “handshake”.

Check out “I Love You Rituals” by Becky Bailey for more great connection ideas.

6. Find out your child’s “Love Language”. The five love languages of children are: Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts and Acts of Service; as laid out in Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages of Children. Check out the book “The Five Love Languages of Kids” by Gary Chapman for an in-depth look at each love language.  You can even group your children into each category for a quick and easy love check list.  Once you have a list you can check it daily.  Then go through your list and speak words of affirmation to those that need it, spend one-on-one extra time etc. with each child according to their specific need. Intentionality doesn’t equal fake, it means that you are wanting to meet those needs and show love to your kids.

7. Seek the Lord Daily. We absolutely need God’s love in our hearts, to be able to truly love others. Fill yourself up with God’s word every day and seek out specific counsels on love. Post them on sticky notes by your mirror to remind yourself of His perfect example of love.  Some of my favorite verses about how to love like Jesus did are: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Luke 6:31 “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.” Luke 12:31 “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

8. Love them. Ha! This one is a little bit of a tricky play on words. On a serious note though, sometimes it’s hard to love and care about some children that at times can be…well…a little difficult to love and care about. Can you find one thing today that you like or appreciate about each child? I would suggest making a list to help bring some of those positive things to the front of your mind.  Even if you are struggling with what to write for a particular child, keep in mind that in reality you don’t need a reason.  Each child deserves to be loved, regardless of whether they act like it or not, simply because they are a child of the King!

Looking back I can distinctly remember special moments with my parents when they were kind and showed me genuine love. That love and kindness made more of an impact on me then all of the Math, Language, Science etc. ever could.

P.S. Don’t be surprised if your children start doing some of these same things with each other. When a culture of love and acceptance in cultivated, there’s no telling where it’s impact will end.

Planting Seeds of Joy

It’s that time of year again. For many of you the presents have been opened, Christmas dinner preparations are old news, family have returned to their homes, New Year’s resolutions have been made (or at least considered, right?), and life is starting to get back to the “pre-holiday” routine. This can be a relief for some, a letdown for others. So, what now? We often idealize the holidays as the stuff dreams are made of, and we regularly go to great lengths to make sure our family members and friends feel that extra bit of love. How can we continue to encourage our families to live the joy, thanksgiving, and dream-like utopia that we aimed for only days ago, throughout the rest of this year?

seedlings

Today, I have a few suggestions for helping to maintain the “Christmas spirit,” and plant those seeds of joy for the other 11 months of the year. Because, really, whether you celebrate Christmas officially or not, it’s the spirit of giving, goodwill, and hope that makes this world a better place, and I strongly believe those are concepts that come directly from the heart of God.

1. Continue the tradition of saying what you are thankful for at mealtimes, family worships, or bedtimes. Thanks begets more thanks. Let your family know what blessings you have experienced during the day, even if it’s as simple as finding a toy that has been misplaced, or making it to a doctor’s appointment on time (in my home, these are actually huge). “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth,” Isaiah 12:4-5.

2. Look for ways to reach out to others. It may take extra effort, but making someone smile always brings one to my face. Drawing pictures, writing encouraging notes, delivering homemade goodies — it may sound clichéd, but it works! “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed,” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8.

3. Spend time connecting with your spouse. One of my favorite memories with Josh is sitting on the couch sipping hot chocolate, and looking at the lights on our tree, while he read stories from a book we both enjoyed. It was spontaneous and simple. A date doesn’t have to mean going somewhere expensive. Talk about what you most admire in them. Discover their love language if you don’t already know it.

4. Take time to make your children feel extra special, whether it’s a “date” night once a month, or a surprise “break” day to go do something fun. Tell them what you most admire in them. Discover their love language if you don’t already know it.

5. Don’t sweat the small stuff. The world will not end if the toys are not picked up, or laundry isn’t folded and put away. I say this to myself as much as to you. Order and cleanliness are near the top of my list, because I generally feel more relaxed looking at a clean house, but there are times when it’s ok to let that stuff go. In general, your family is not going to remember you for your spotless livingroom, perfect kitchen, or whether your children’s rooms look like something out of Good Homes Magazine. They’re going to remember you for your warmth, interest, and caring; it’s the memories of being together that will leave warm fuzzies in their hearts.

6. Last, and most important on this list, take time out to restore your soul. We as parents don’t always do a good job of taking care of ourselves. With 948 other things calling our names (along with the children and spouse of course), the struggle to take care of our hearts is real. I, for one, need a lot more time to recharge than my husband does. It is crucial that recharging time happens because without it, the energy to do the other five things on this list won’t be there. When the primary caretaker (whether husband or wife) is running on empty, the whole family suffers.

My prayer, as usual, is that you will continue to grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18), that you will lack no good thing (Psalms 34:9), and that the God of hope will fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).

Many blessings and blossoms of joy for the new year ahead!

~Kirsten