A New Year's Resolution

Comment
IMG_6497.JPG

Every year, (I mean every year), I say,  ‘This year I will not make New Year’s Resolutions.”

(Which end up being false promises and short-sighted solutions to issues greater than this plan I am concocting can fix.)

And yet, I can’t resist. I tell friends and family and radio audiences and social media networks about dreams I have to read more, eat less, rest regularly, learn new skills. I can’t help it. The idea of being re-made into a better version of myself calls me every time.

There’s a reason for that.  Second Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory.” Colossians and Romans both talk about our renewing of our mind and of our image. It’s how He made us, to be in a continual state of growing closer to how He created us. My New Year’s compulsions aren’t bad, just a little misguided if that self-evaluation only comes around once a year.

Shouldn’t there be a little bit of that longing (to be more than I am right now) in me each day?  What would it look like if each day I started with a gut check.  How today can I be more like Him?

One of my rather unrealistic New Year’s resolutions in 2015 is to learn Hebrew.

Who wants to guess how long that’s going to last? If I focus on the desired outcome (understanding God’s word and how it’s written in context) instead of the expressed goal (learn 3-5 phrases a week), I exponentially increase my chances of success. If I feel I couldn’t master a vocabulary list several weeks in a row, then I am more likely to give up, missing an opportunity for growth. Transformation doesn’t just happen, I don’t just suddenly speak Hebrew, there is a discipline involved, but it’s not about completing a task. It’s about making room, paving the road, putting myself in a posture prone to transformation. Then, I give the Holy Spirit ripe soil to do his work.

This New Year’s season, I am going to start a practice I hope to continue throughout the year. I am going to focus more on who I am being (or better yet, becoming), than what I am doing. I am going to challenge myself to be present for my family, in my faith, in my marriage, instead of overcommitting to events and relationships I won’t remember a year from now. I am going to wake up and ask how I am listening (instead of what I am saying.) I am going to pray for wisdom (instead of accumulating knowledge.)  And so the list goes on. It’s a tall order, but one I hope is a part of a master plan my Master has planned to make me more like who He believes I can be.

Blessings,

Beth

Beth Guckenberger

Beth and her husband, Todd, live with their family in Cincinnati, Ohio where they serve as Co-Executive Directors of Back2Back Ministries. After graduating from Indiana University with degrees in education, the Guckenbergers moved to Monterrey, Mexico. Since founding the international arm of Back2Back in 1997, they have hosted thousands of guests on the ministry campus. Between biological, foster, and adopted children, they have raised ten children. Beth is the author of Reckless Faith (Zondervan, 2008), Relentless Hope (Standard Publishing, 2010), Tales of the Not Forgotten (Standard Publishing, 2012), Tales of the Defended Ones (Standard Publishing, 2013),Tales of the Ones Led Out (Standard Publishing, 2014) and Tales of the Ones He Won’t Let Go (Standard Publishing, 2014). Beth is the author of Reckless Faith (Zondervan, 2008), Relentless Hope (Standard Publishing, 2010), Tales of the Not Forgotten (Standard Publishing, 2012), Tales of the Defended Ones (Standard Publishing, 2013),Tales of the Ones Led Out (Standard Publishing, 2014) and Tales of the Ones He Won’t Let Go (Standard Publishing, 2014).Beth is the recipient of the the 2013 International Network of Children’s Ministry Legacy Award and the Cincinnati Christian University Salute to Leaders Award for her and Back2Back’s impact on children internationally. She travels and speaks regularly at conferences, youth gatherings and church services. Her style is based in story-telling and she draws from her vast field experience as a missionary and parent of nine children for illustrations of biblical concepts.

Finding Ways to Connect as a Couple

Comment
couple.jpg

 Many times couples get married and start off so excited about starting their lives together as husband and wife.  They have fallen in love and enjoy spending time together, and everything feels new and exciting! 

However it's not too long before real life kicks in and the newness wears off.  Sometimes romance doesn't come as easy and life can get hectic!  Our schedules get crazy, babies are born and trials often enter our lives.  When this happens couples can forget how to connect!

Often years go by and you feel you no longer have anything in common and hardly remember why you feel in love with this person at all! 

My husband and I have been married 20 years and we have learned through the ups and downs we have to find ways to connect!  We have worked hard to not just build a marriage but a friendship!  This doesn't "just happen" , it is an intentional thing you have to work on together!  It doesn't always come easy either, sometimes past hurts or regrets stand in our way!  If that is you today I encourage you to change that in your marriage this year!  I promise you will not regret it. 

I wanted to share with you today some of the things that have helped us these 20 years, hopefully you can take a couple of ideas and add some of your own!

Date nights - I know you have heard this quite a bit and you don't need to have date nights to have a strong marriage but they do help.  They are an intentional thing you plan to do together and it is scheduled time for just the two of you.  I know some of you have young children and it's hard to get babysitting.  I have been there, when I was younger I had two in diapers and one preschooler.  I remember those years!  Here is a list of 10 stay at home date nights and for the ones who can get out, here is a list to get you started.

Exercise together- Maybe you are not hikers or ones who make time to go the gym, then I would encourage you to just walk together.  Walk down your street-simple and easy to make time for!  Take your stroller if you have to and just spend time talking and doing something for your health.

Read together - This doesn't work for every couple but if your husband is up for it, pick a marriage book or devotional to do together or maybe you both love a good mystery or fiction book.  My husband is not as big of a reader as I am but he loves it when I read to him.  So often I will pull out the kindle and read him a book that interest him.  Sometimes it takes us months to finish a book but we don't care, we just enjoy it together.

Working side by side - My husband does all my pictures for my blog, he helps me in all the design stuff because it's his gift.  My mom used to help my dad every year with his business taxes.  They would get all the receipts/bills,  together every year and spend a whole day working on it.  I know that doesn't sound exciting but you can take an event like that and make it a fun tradition. 

Take time for intimacy - Another one you hear a lot about, and I can't stress it enough.  There will be days or even seasons where it is the only thing holding you together.  Savor it and enjoy it, you never know when it will be taken from you.  I know a few young ladies who have become widows recently who miss their man's touch and presence so much.  They would kill to have one more night with him.  Enjoy it all! As you get older health issues and so many other things can effect this area in your life, don't squander the time you have while you are young, enjoy every intimate moment together.

Find common interests - maybe your interest have changed over the years, if so find new ones.  You may have to think outside the box on this one but you can do it. Some ideas:

  • Find a tv series on Netflix you both love and watch it together after the kids go to bed(my husband I make a list of shows to try together)  some we like, some not so much. but it is always fun trying new ones out.
  • Share music together- my husband and I can spend hours sharing music together and although we have very different taste in much of it, we have found some generes we both love and it's so fun to share.
  •  Start a hobby or interest list- working puzzles, running together, board games/cards, or flea marketing as a couple.  I have fond memories of seeing my inlaws cook and paint together.  They both had a mutual love of these things. 

If you are married to a believer make sure you are spending time in prayer and in the Word together.  Serve together and get involved in church as a couple.  If you are not married to a believer keep praying.  There is a lady at my church who is 91 years old and she prayed for 30 years for her husband, one day he walked in the church and gave his life to Christ.  He is now home with his Savior! 

Connecting as a couple is so important.  One day your children will move on to families of their own and you don't want to look around only to find a stranger in the room!  Find ways to be intentional in your marriage today!

Blessings,

Angela, Together with Family

Angela Richter

Angela Richter is a wife to her best friend of 20 years and mother to three! She is the author of Together with Family where she writes about finding ways to connect with your family on a deeper level! She is passionate about intentional parenting and marriage and loves to share practical ways to make family life better! She loves anything regarding homeschooling, writing, reading great books and scrapbooking! She lives in the Northern part of the Bluegrass state and is a Kentucky girl through and through! You can find her on facebook, twitter, and pinterest!

10 Ways to Show Love to Your Kids without Spending Money

Comment

Recently I was astonished to come across a 2013 statistic on how much money Americans spend on Valentine's Day.  Consumers spend nearly $2 billion on flowers and $2 billon on candy each Valentine's Day according to CNN's library statistics. Wow- that's a lot of love.  And a lot of money.

While gifts are wonderful, money doesn't equal love and neither does love equal money. There are many ways your kids can see love in action and today I thought we could explore 10 ways to show love to your kids without spending money.

1. Give the gift of words.

Tell them you love them, whisper in their ears, craft your encouraging words tenderly.

2. Give confidence through an encouraging note.

We spend so much time correcting our children; sometimes an exercise of writing down 5 things we love about them is just what we need to refocus on the positive.

3. Draw a picture.

A picture is worth a thousand words and even if you're not an artist, children love to see the "art" of their parents.

4. Give them a coupon to cash in for chores.

While I'm a big fan of all children helping in the home, a great "free" break is issuing a coupon for mom  or dad to do the chore in place of the child. They love this- trust me!

5. Make a creative lunch.

Use chocolate chips to add a smile. Garnish a pb&j with a raisin face. Use cookie cutters to make sandwiches in the shape of hearts.

6. Make up a silly song with their name in it.

Little ones especially love this and they never forget it. Sing it at a routine time each day- bath time, teethbrushing time, or hairbrushing time.

7. Lay a mint or small sweet treat that you have on hand their pillow before bed at night.

This sweet surprise can be eaten during reading time; I'm sure it goes without saying that brushing teeth is then necessary.

8. Look children in the eyes and listen. Purposefully.

The hurry and scurry of a day can make us forget the most important parts of life. Slowing down long enough to smile and listen, engaging in conversation with kids, shows love like nothing else.

9. Give the gift of time.

Sit down and plan a family game night. Work on the summer vacation plan together.  Children love to be  included in planning and when time is taken to include them, they feel loved.

10. Hug and kiss them like there's no tomorrow.

Because the reality is, none of us control the number of heartbeats we receive in life.

Which of the above ways to show your children love without spending money is your favorite? Or do you have another you'd like to share with us?

Rachel- RachelWojo.com

Rachel Wojnarowski

Rachel Wojnarowski is a wife, mom to 7, blogger, writer and speaker. She and her husband, Matt, enjoy caring for their busy family, whose ages span 3 years to 23 years and includes a special needs daughter. Rachel leads community ladies’ Bible studies in central Ohio and serves as an event planner. In her “free time” she crochets, knits, and sews handmade clothing. Ok, not really. She enjoys running and she’s a tech geek at heart. Rachel teaches social media and blogging classes in her local community and also speaks at Christian women conferences. Wife, mom, reader, writer, speaker and dreamer, you can find Rachel on Twitter , Facebook, and Pinterest., as well as RachelWojo.com.

Live With Deep Intention

Comment

It's difficult in today's noisy world to see what lies beyond it -- an unseen eternity. There was a time in my early years of marriage when I thought more eternally, but today I struggle to see that place through the chaos, the distractions, and all the voices. Being eternally-minded requires some intentional effort. 

As the new year rolled in, I wanted to set some time aside to think about what God would have for me in 2015 -- more so for our family. How would He have me accomplish His will? What goals did I need to make? What sins and character flaws did I need to recognize and work on? Plus, as a blogger, what new goals did I have and would the cost be too great for my family of 9?

Sally Clarkson's book, Own Your Life is helping me to refine and redefine my vision and goals and in chapters 3 and 4, specifically, bringing me back to that state of being eternally minded.

You see, as a mom, it's not enough to simply get through meals, tidy the house, keep our kids busy, and call it a day. Our children require a spiritual shaping, just as we do, that takes intentional discipline. What we do to mold our children is often done behind closed doors. Days, months, and years of training, and teaching, and molding our children is an unseen, eternal endeavor. 

"...while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

The unseen things are love, compassion, forgiveness, repentance, training our children in the Lord, prayer/time with God in secret and much more. 

That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for ministry, but we must be wise and discern God’s voice on where He would lead us. Each season, each family dynamic, each calling is very different from mom to mom. 

As a blogger, I wanted to write more in 2015, but as a homeschooling mother of seven children, honestly evaluating the needs of my family against the time it would take to write more, simply didn’t add up. Instead, it lead me to the goal of writing less. And you know what? I don’t regret that decision. In fact, I have been immensely blessed by not adding stress to myself or my family by trying to squeeze more hours out the day than literally exist.

I dont want to live my life always feeling like I’m behind or rushing to get ahead. I want to live a challenging life, but those aren’t the types of challenges I am aiming for. I want to be challenged in my faith; in my walk with the Lord. How can I begin in that place?

I need to make sure I am disciplining myself— reading Gods word, accepting and applying His training, enduring difficult times, and being content in all things— so I can also discipline my children to grow in the same way.

Our world requires we commit to, not only be intentional, but deeply intentional.  It takes a supernatural mind to overcome the noise of the world in order to follow God with deep intention. It is not an easy task and is always ongoing, but this is what builds our character and maturity.

We can continue to live in chaos, always feeling behind and rushed, or we can live with purpose and choose to own our life. We may have a past, but it doesn’t own our future. Even yesterday is gone. Today is new.

You have the ability to use hurts or inadequacies from your past to shape what your future will be. You can either choose to wallow in self-pity, or you can choose to rise above your circumstances and call yourself Redeemed Daughter of the Most High King and live in such a way that finishes with "well done, thy good and faithful servant." 

This post is a part of the Better Mom Book Club. Right now we are reading Own Your Life By Sally Clarkson. Want to join us? Snag your own copy here.

Blessings,

Christin Slade

Christin

Christin is wife of 14 years to her high school sweetheart and mother to seven children. She looks for beauty in the simple and appreciates a good cup of coffee. She is learning to live everyday with joy, find gratitude in the mundane, and speak words of grace. You can find Christin writing through her days on her blog, christinslade.com.

Three Things That I am Learning That Are Changing Everything

Comment

The bedtime routine with our three boys usually culminates with a story from the Jesus Storybook Bible.

Well, several weeks ago, when it came time to choosing the Bible story for the night, our youngest son, Owen, decided to go right back to the beginning of his Bible and choose the creation story.

So we read about how God created everything out of nothing. How He simply spoke, and whatever He said happened.

At the end of this incredible story, I asked my boys, “Wow! If God can do that, is there anything He can’t do?” 

And to my surprise my middle son Brennan answered, “Yes mom, there is something God can’t do!" 

“Really?” I asked, curious (and mildly concerned) about what my son thought God can’t do.   

But to my delight, Brennan, with a big smile spreading across his face exclaimed, “Mom, God can’t stop loving us!”

I love my seven-year old son’s child-like faith.  He is still so sure of God’s love for Him.  And I am passionate about helping him, and his brothers, hold onto that assurance, in the days and years ahead, as they become more aware of their fallen nature and face their sin and failure.

I want my children to know, from the depths of their soul, the extravagant love of God for them on their best and worst day of trusting and obeying.

But in order for me to do that, in order for me to show them Jesus and give them grace, I first have to be able to accept God’s grace for me.  (Not an easy thing to do!)

See, I think that motherhood, unlike almost anything else in our lives, can expose the depths of our hearts.  Both the beautiful and the not-so-beautiful parts.  We never knew we could love like motherhood allows us to love, and yet we never knew we could feel as desperate as motherhood makes us feel.

I’ve yet to meet a mom who hasn’t known the desperation of parenting and felt overwhelmed by the significant influence she has on her kids.

We all feel the pressure to get it all right so our kids turn out all right.

Who we know we are and who we feel we “should” be is at war within us, so we struggle to accept grace for ourselves.

I know. Because I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to make it easier for God to love me but a few key things I’m learning are changing everything:

1. I’m learning God doesn’t love me more on my good days – when I always speak with kindness and I never lose my temper and I look deep into my kid’s eyes every time they need me.

2.  I’m learning God doesn’t love me less on my bad days – when I lose my temper before the kids even get out the door in the morning, when I spend more time staring at my iPhone than I do staring in their eyes, and when my words don’t always speak truth in love. 

3.  And I’m learning what it feels like to live in the freedom of that love!  Because this freedom from trying harder and doing more to earn and keep God’s love and acceptance is for each and every one of us. God’s grace- given freely in the life, death and resurrection of Christ- is for you and for me! (Eph 2:4-10)

And the best news is, this extravagant grace doesn’t leave us where it found us! In experiencing the wholehearted love of God, our hearts are led to repentance and transformation!

Friends, I’m still very much stumbling through this parenting thing, but I’ve been so set free in the truth that it is God’s uncontainable grace, not our perfect performance as parents, that will captivate and shape the hearts of our children.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that we did today or we will do tomorrow that can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.   (Romans 8:38-39)

In the wise words of my son, Brennan, “God can’t stop loving us!” And that is the good news we can daily give to our kids.

Blessings,

Jeannie 

Jeannie is the author of Parenting the Wholehearted Child.  She has a Master’s degree in Social Work, and her background combines counseling, writing, and speaking about parenting and adoption for organizations such as Bethany Christian Services and the National Council for Adoption. Jeannie serves on the board of Raising Boys Ministries. She also serves as the Council Co-Chairman at Trinity Church in Greenwich, CT, where she enjoys leading parenting groups and Bible studies when she isn’t cheering on her boys at one of their sporting events. Connect with Jeannie through her blog, www.jeanniecunnion.com.

Your kids aren't perfect. And you don't have to be either

Are you exhausted from the pressure to be a perfect parent raising perfect children in this imperfect world? Do you ever wonder, 'How did these precious children get stuck with a parent like me?' If so, let these grace-drenched pages saturate your heart with God's unfailing love while also equipping you to be a vessel of God's unconditional love to your children. 

Parenting the Wholehearted Child equips you with biblical wisdom and practical ideas to teach your children that they are fully accepted by God, not because of anything they do or don't do but because of everything Jesus has already done for them. 

I (Ruth) absolutely LOVE Jeannie's new book, Parenting the Wholehearted Child!

To grab a copy for yourself click HERE.

Ruth Schwenk

Ruth Schwenk is the creator of The Better Mom, and along with her husband, the creator of For the Family. She is a pastor’s wife, mom of four energetic kids, a lover of coffee, and dreamer of big dreams. She loves leading, speaking, and blogging. Ruth is the co-author of two forthcoming books with Zondervan. A graduate of The Moody Bible Institute, Ruth and her husband have been serving in local church ministry for nearly fifteen years.

Resolving Conflict...For Life

Comment
Resolving Conflict...For Life

Maybe it’s just my house, but 2015 has started with quite a bit more conflict than I would like to admit. Conflict between adults, conflict between siblings, conflict between parents and children. I’ve had ample opportunity to consider what is truly happening when we, in family, fight. 

When my kids argue, I tend to draw the quickest line from bickering to judicial resolution. I’m quick to call order with the gavel, and solve the issue with a definitive redistribution of toys, separation of offenders, and a call to cease and desist. Everyone has an explanation for why there’s conflict, and the reason is never themselves. 

Have you ever noticed: When we ask our kids what the problem is, in the midst of conflict, no one ever says, “The problem in this situation is my selfish pride.” It’s not so different from conflict between parents either. After all, my kids are learning how to handle conflict by watching me.

"The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit." (Proverbs 18:21)

But, lately, I’ve been laboring to lay down both my sword and my gavel — my rights as contender or judge — and to consider how often I treat the words I use in conflict as leverage, and not as conduits.

I read these words by Paul David Tripp, and was convicted:

“The words you speak aren't neutral - they're either moving your relationships towards life or moving your relationships towards death.” 

Defending my case, explaining my point of view, and discerning the truth may all be part of problem-solving, but until I recognize that my words can be, themselves, the problem, I’m not really being a conduit of change. 

And for those of us who aren’t so verbal, the movement toward life or toward death doesn’t have to require actual words. Consider what Karen Ehman says:

…if you’re not the explosive type, there is equal opportunity for sin in letting angry feelings ice over into a wall of bitterness and resentment.
— Karen Ehman, Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All

Again…there’s a direction to our words and body language. The things we communicate are never neutral. We are choosing to use them to further our relationships in life or death.

And so, as little battles and wars continue to wage in our household of 8, we are realigning our minds with the true goal of conflict resolution: It is not simply peace we are attempting to secure; it is LIFE. 

How can you seek to speak words of life in your family today? 

Because of grace,

Ruth Simons

Ruth Chou Simons is an unlikely mom to six young boys and wife to a very patient man, Online, she's an artist, writer, and speaker, who shares her journey and how God's grace intersects daily life at her blog + shoppe at GraceLaced.com. In her everyday life, she washes 8 loads of laundry a week, cooks for large crowds, and educates her children from home part time through the classical Christian school she and her husband, Troy, founded in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Get a glimpse + behind the scenes of her heart, art, and home on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.