Cultivating Joy Through a Simpler Life

Ask another Mom  how she’s doing and the most common answer is: “I’m just SO busy!”.  We live in a culture that tells us the more activities our children are involved with, the more successful they will be when they grow to be adults.  And it seems millions of parents are buying the lie.

So many Moms (and Dads!) are doing far more than caring for a family.  Family life looks starkly different than it has for the majority of history.  We’ve come to a place where we feel we can never do enough ‘stuff’.  Life itself can already seem like a blur of  everyday responsibilities;  cleaning, doing laundry, cooking, grocery shopping, homeschooling or helping with homework, playing with the children, etc.   Beyond that, most families are running an additional weekly marathon of play-dates with friends, church services, multiple church activities, countless extra-curricular activities, and an endless reel of sports involvement.  Every night feels like a checklist of unending tasks and commitments and every weekend is a whirlwind of running here, there, and everywhere.

It’s no wonder exhaustion takes over.  It’s no wonder stress is the overriding emotion for so many Moms.  It’s no wonder millions of Moms are ‘grouchy’ and unable to find peace in their calling.

A hyper-active lifestyle robs us of our joy.

If we are always running, running, running, when do we rest?  When do we reflect on what matters?  When do we spend time around the table praying and seeking God?  When do we just curl up and read together, or gaze out the window and talk of nature’s beauty in the wintry frost?

When can we just breathe?

Cultivating Joy Through a Simpler Life

More is not better, in fact, more is almost always worse.  The busier our children are, the less time they have to focus on the most important things – God, family, people, relationships, learning for themselves, and service.

When we set the example of a slower, simpler life, we are teaching our children how to seek joy in simplicity.  

I believe the only way we can truly center ourselves and focus on what really matters is to slow down.  I’m not suggesting laziness, I’m suggesting intentional simplicity.  Simplicity can still be active and busy (and it will be if you’re a Mom!) but it is minimal.  We minimize what doesn’t really matter to maximize what really DOES.

Cultivating Joy Through a Simpler Life !

As moms we need to slow down and set the example for our entire family.  An over-scheduled, busy, hectic lifestyle is one void of peace because the Prince of Peace has no place in our day.  Or our week.  Maybe even our year.

God doesn’t call us to live a busy life.  He calls us to live a purposeful life.  But not our purposes – His purposes.

And when we walk alongside Him, we are forced to slow down, reflect, serve, and humble ourselves. It is there we find the deepest joy and overflowing peace for ourselves and our children.

Be blessed in the simple things today, Mom!

Blessings,

Cassandra

This post is part of the month-long challenge From Grouchy…To Great.  Please check the series page for all of the posts! 

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Nurturing a Child’s Soul

In his book Heartfelt Discipline, Clay Clarkson speaks about the importance of cultivating the soil of our child’s heart. He refers to the parable of the sower and the seed and compares it to how we, as parents prepare our children to live for God.

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown…” Matthew 13: 3-8

As parents, so many of us are tempted to focus mainly on the seeds. We try to give our children as many gospel seeds as possible – Church, Sunday School, Christ-centered literature, devotion times, times of service, etc. The truth is though, it doesn’t matter what way we ‘package’ it, we cannot add to the awesome power of the gospel. The seed, is always good, because it is the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can not change the seed – the seed remains. It isn’t the seed that decides whether or not the truth is revealed and received, it is the soil.

The soil is the condition of our child’s heart. How is their soul being prepared for a life devoted to Jesus? And how will their soul receive the truth when it is given?

Nurturing a Child's Soul

Will our child’s soul be cultivated like the good soil where the seed falls and grows and produces a bumper crop of God’s love, grace, power and purpose? Or will our child’s soul be like the rocky place or the shallow soil where the gospel either cannot be rooted or is rooted only inches deep? Will the enemy come and snatch the truth from our children because their hearts are not prepared to really embrace what God has for them? As parents, it is our responsibility and our calling to cultivate the soil of our child’s heart. To breathe life and unconditional love and understanding into them. To show them the true nature of Christ by actually living it out every day.  We are called to humbly live an authentic life devoted to the call of being a real disciple of Jesus.

That gospel seed is always good. We just have to diligently and obediently work to ready the hearts of our children to receive it completely..to accept and invite the truth to transform them from the inside out.  Nurturing a soul is hard work. It’s daily work.

It’s prayer, selflessness and dependency on the Holy Spirit to guide us.  It’s the gritty day-in, day-out task of parenting like Jesus. Not so we can feel successful in some moral standard, but so we can stand before our heavenly Father and know we have obeyed His commands. We have truly done our best to disciple our children for the glory of God.

Praise Jesus that His grace covers us and cultivating the hearts of our children is not left in our hands without His help. He guides us as we rest in Him and we can count on His power to work in us and through us as he readies our children to fully accept and honor Him with their lives. Let’s push into our Savior as we work to humble ourselves and selflessly nurture the soul of each and every one of our precious children.

Blessings,

Cassandra

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Children Need Active Outside Play

Children Need Active Outside Play
It’s a Friday afternoon and the kids are getting stir crazy.  They’re running in circles between the kitchen and living room and I’m struggling to tidy up books, paints, and apple peels.  We homeschool and we love it, but let’s be real – sometimes the days feel long come Friday at 3pm.  Today was one of those days.

“Hey guys, let’s head out to the backyard and play a game of Dodgeball,” I suggest.

Within a moment all three have thrown their shoes on and are racing to the leaf-covered back yard, hollering and whooping.  For a good 30 minutes, we run, we yell, we laugh and we get a little crazy.  I can literally see their moods change as they expel their energy.  Their bodies loosen, their dispositions morph, their faces even look more relaxed.  When we finished playing, we headed back inside for a hot chocolate and several books around the kitchen table.  The kids were calm, content, and much more agreeable.

Sometimes, a good dose of outside activity is all kids need.

But in our culture, countless children are missing out on this crucial outside play time.  They’re over-scheduled, often very inactive, and almost always on media overload.

The truth is, there are so many benefits to outdoor play for children.  The good it does for them should not be ignored, but so often is.  I haven’t got this thing down by any means, but I want to make it a goal of mine to actually schedule outdoor game time.  Every day.  Not just throw it in when I see the children melting down – actually actively seek out great games and activities and implement them into our weekly schedule.  I already know what wonders it will do for our children.  These times are different from nature walks and Nature Study times which are often more reflective, calm outdoor activities (walking by a stream, picking apples, sketching a bird).   No, we’re talking about times of very active, fun, energetic games where children are allowed (and encouraged) to get a little crazy.

Charlotte Mason talks about this kind of play, and its benefits, in Volume One of the original Homeschooling Series: 

“The afternoons’ games after luncheon are an important part of the day’s doings… the more they run, and shout, and toss their arms, the more healthful is the play.”

In fact, she suggested children spend several hours outdoors every afternoon.  She also advocated quite heavily for allowing children to be loud, to run hard, and to play enthusiastically.  Of course, this is done in the right context and at the right time.  She isn’t suggesting a lack of discipline, but quite the opposite.  For everything, there is a time.  And children need a time get a little silly.  They are, after all, kids.

Active, outdoor play also gives children a chance to breathe fresh air, bringing much needed fresh oxygen into the body.  They’ll also have the opportunity to release stress as they get their heart rate up.  The acts of running, shouting, and getting rowdy will also allow children to release energy from their little bodies, enabling them to better focus and learn later on.

It’s not always convenient to play outside games and activities and get silly with the children.  But, I will say, it has unending benefits for both the kids AND the parents.  As I play with them, I can feel my stress levels dropping and my energy coming back to me.  It’s a time of renewal for all.  Let’s endeavor to spend more time encouraging our children and ourselves to get outside and get active!

Yes, Children Need Active Outside Play to Get Them Content and Refreshed!!

Does your family have any favorite outside active games?

Blessings, Cassandra

Learning to Let Children Be

I often feel like I’ve stumbled through the past 8 years of parenting.  There have been so many ups and down and boy, have I had a LOT of lessons to learn. I’m still learning them daily.  But there’s a few that stick out as ‘life changers’ in my mind, and this is one of them-

I’ve learned, when they are engaged in something positive, children need to be left alone.

 

As a homeschooling Mom, I live this philosophy every single day.  To be clear, I’m not talking about leaving them to do ‘nothing’ for hours on end.  This is about spending lots of time engaging with the children and learning along side them but then, being in tune with when they are happily engaged with play, work, learning and exploration on their own.  And in that awareness,  choosing to let them be as they are.  If they are engaged, enlightened, naturally content and learning independently, I “Let Them Be”.  And in our home, sometimes this takes place for hours.  For hours they will build Legos.  For hours they will draw pictures.  For hours they will read.  For hours they will play with Playmobil.  And yes, we let them.

It’s in those times when they are actively engaged in their own learning that they come up with the most incredible things.  Ideas flow like rivers and imaginations run wild and free.  Sometimes, it doesn’t look like learning, but then, they show me over and over again just how beneficial those times of creativity and independence are for them.

Holt Quote

Our days are not scheduled for us.  We have a task list but no set hour by hour schedule.  Just the other day, our son was busy building a Solar Power Car from a Science Kit he’d received.  The problem was, he was building it at the same time I really wanted him to complete his Math.  I was just about to interrupt him when I realized he WAS doing Math.  He was engineering a car.  I left him alone and we accomplished the ‘book’ Math later in the day once he’d accomplished the task of the car.

Another example is our daughter.  She will make up stories with her dolls and stuffed animals for hours.  I don’t stop her.  I let her explore and create and make believe.  Children just don’t have enough time to ‘mess about’ these days, as John Holt put it, and I want ours to have plenty of time to do what children do best – just be.

Our life is incredibly peaceful for a family with three young children.  We have our days, but for the most part, I’m amazed.  Our children are wonderful independent learners and thinkers.  Just like everyone, we’re all a work in progress but I can’t over communicate what ‘letting them be’ has done for our us!

Some of the Benefits of ‘Letting them Be':

  • Respects the child’s interests and ability to self-teach
  • Brings more peace into the home
  • Builds concentration skills and nurtures the habit of attention
  • Leaves room for authentic learning to take place
  • Allows time for creativity to grow and develop
  • Infuses the child’s day with a relaxed, anti-rush atmosphere
  • Give Mom time to breathe and accomplish tasks

The only thing I wanted to add is this – there is one exception to the concept of letting children be.  Media time.  I don’t believe children should have free reign on screens and media devices.  That is one activity we always interrupt when the time is up!  (We allow no more than about 15 minutes of screen time daily).

 Let’s encourage our children to engage in active play and

independent learning and then watch how they develop and grow!

Big hugs and blessings to you!

Cassandra

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