How to Really Begin Your Life As A Mom

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This morning I found myself curled up in the candlelight with my children, reading one of my favorite devotionals, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing. In the throws of Fall foliage outside, we found ourselves drawn to a page full of red leaves and began reading about how in the Autumn, when chlorophyll depletes and the cold chill wisps through the air, leaves reveal their true colors. Each leaf slowly and beautifully shows us what they are really made of- and it only comes as they lose their life.

In Autumn, we see the dying, and in that, the beauty that has been hidden all along is revealed to us is golden and ruby hues of glory.

We are like leaves, mamas. Our beauty shines brightest when we reach the end of ourselves.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I am weak. I can feel it in my bones at the end of the day, I can sense it in my nod over dinner time conversation- a nod is so much easier to produce than a full sentence at certain times of the night.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3

I long for the kingdom of heaven to be tangible in my home, in my heart. . . in my mothering. On my own, I lack in my offering of grace, of kindness, of patience and self control and diligence. My offerings are meager. I reach the end of what I have to give every day and in that place, I meet my greatest of hope.

When we reach our own end, we are greeting our true beginning.

My real life as a mom begins at the end of myself. When I depend, rely and face my desperate need for Christ.  My mothering really begins when it is hidden in Him. When I am hidden in Him.

When you reach the end of yourself, when you go weak in the knees with exhaustion, when you feel buried under the rhythm of the dishes, the laundry, the carpool, the frailty of your own heart? Mama, you are in the safest place of all. You are dwelling in the place of surrender. The brilliant hues in you? They are ready to shine beautiful.

Christ in you, Your life hidden in Him- this is the real beginning ready to bring glory into your everyday.

What areas are you surrendering into his hands today, friends?

Praying for you as you seek Him,

Kristen

www.hopewithfeathers.com

What’s For Dinner? My Quest to Bring Joy Back to the Table

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Not long ago my children and I met some new friends at the park. As moms getting to know one another typically do, we shared about where we grew up, how we handled the challenges of parenting, what was making us laugh, and little quirks about our kids. As we sat on the bench chatting, my new friend leaned in and with a look of severity said, “I’m sure you can relate to the one thing that I’m really struggling with: my children need to eat. . . . like multiple times every day.” Be still my heart. We had only known each other for such a short time, how was she able to see into my soul?

All jesting aside, there are times when my desire to nourish my family with healthy, hearty and beautiful meals can be really overwhelming. In seasons of welcoming a new baby or caring for an aging relative, moving or just getting up to speed with a change in the school schedule, meal planning  can feel nearly impossible. As my children have grown older, I have come to realize that there really is no slowing down, there will always be a transition that I must weather well, a crises to avert, a difficulty to overcome- or even just busy seasons with activities to navigate.

There will always be challenges, and yet my desire to light candles, to love on and to connect with the members of my family is unchanging. The most important thing we can bring to the table is a heart for fellowship with one another!

Sitting at the table is one of my favorite times of our day as a family, but often the planning required to get there zaps my joy. I have tried exactly one million and one ways to meal plan and while there have been seasons I have accomplished this task quite well, it mostly just drains me and I am left  with questions about how to make meals fit all the needs of our family. When should we have leftovers? Should I have made a double batch of that? Are we eating too many calories? Is there an easier way to do this? 

This summer, after an extended period of kitchen blahs, I was determined to bring JOY back to my dinner table. I knew I needed a plan. Without a meal plan, our time at the table falls apart and we end up eating pancakes or scrambled eggs. True story. So, exhausted from travel, lacking inspiration and facing an empty fridge, I decided to start by printing off  the Better Mom Whole Food Meal Plan. After a few months of seeing it make a big difference in our home, I wanted to share how it has impacted my family with you, because I know I am not the only woman out there who has no idea how to answer when the kids ask, “Mom, what’s for dinner?”

If you feel unorganized like I did and don’t know where to begin, if you long to be able to focus on relationships instead of logistics, can I encourage you to give this meal plan a try? There is a sweet offering of grace in this meal ministry and I want to shout it from the rooftops because it has anchored our family to having sweet time together at a time when it seemed like being overwhelmed might just win.

Kelly from The Nourishing Home has put together an absolutely beautiful and entirely FREE meal plan for The Better Mom Readers. Really, absolutely, for always and forever FREE!  She has links to all the recipes used for breakfast, lunch and dinner, a pdf shopping list for the week and most of all- a heart for moms. This ministry has freed me to love on my family and not get lost in the logistics of the kitchen. It is practical and so very valuable!

-Every recipe is made with whole food, with gluten free and paleo options.

-Each menu plan utilizes leftovers, and indicates time saving measures for meal preparation (like grilling up extra chicken at dinner time to use in tomorrow’s salad).

-Careful thought about balancing out your plate with flavor, color and nutrition abounds in these meal plans!

-Every other Saturday the menus, with full recipe links are posted at The Better Mom. These are absolutely complete and absolutely FREE!

-Subscribers to The Nourishing Home (Also a free service!) additionally receive shopping lists and other recipe extras.

The next Bi-weekly meal plan will be available at The Better Mom tomorrow! I hope it is a practical encouragement to you and that your coming week is filled with yummy food and precious time with your family!

Blessings,

Kristen

www.hopewithfeathers.com

How Moms Can Learn to Read

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“A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink of it deeply, or taste it not, for shallow thoughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking deeply sobers us again.” ~ Alexander Pope

As our children head back to school, or our formal homeschooling studies begin again, I think the minds of mothers naturally turn toward learning. Setting new rhythms, making goals, developing great study habits- education is on our brains this time of year! Around our table lately, we’ve been talking a lot about what our children will study this year, but more importantly, we’ve been discussing how we want them to learn. What will the process look like? How will we teach them to think?

Motherhood has sparked my appetite to grow and learn along side my children- I want to be excellent so I can share with them and spur them further! I’ve also become more and more aware of all that is online and on bookshelves competing for my heart and time. Sometimes I feel like I’m walking in an endless Times Square, lights flashing, constant buzz, everyone crying out to be heard…marketing their ideas and wares in the way that will grab my attention the fastest and longest, enticing me to stay just one more minute to take the cream.

Among all the noise, all the headlines, all the messages coming at you today, how will you choose? How will you truly engage and really read, and know what is true? And how will you teach your children to do the same?

As I teach my children how to read, not for phonetics and fluency, but for meaning, I’m finding clarity in how I want to approach learning to read as a grown-up. I want my babes to drink deeply from the words they encounter, to measure them against the truth they know and hold.  I want their own impressions to be forged deep, to be marked with ideas that are unique to them and to their experiences so that they add to the conversation that has already begun.

Because the cream, really, is that sweet spot of connection, isn’t it? Its where relationship enters the scene.

You know the place. It’s where our knowing and understanding collides fully with the ideas expressed by another, where the truth of God’s Word is revealed and soon we are a little troupe banded by the experience of words striking deep within and becoming a part of us. Community grows like this,  even here at The Better Mom, with words exchanged and shared together.

With our children this means we talk. A lot. 

Its hard to share what you do not know, and  moms, we have to be ready for those conversations, so our job of continuing to learn and grow becomes even more important.

So how do you learn to read as a grown-up? How do you develop the art of knowing? 

First, mamas. . . . pray. God wants to see your capacity for learning grow and delights in the connections you make between different topics and especially to his Word. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your studies, your reading, even your math fact practice (shout out to my fellow elementary school moms!) Our God wants to be the one to lead you as you think deeply about ideas, history, blog posts and all the wonderful things He has made.

The Four Questions (adapted from the work of Mortimer Adler and Charles van Doren) is another great way to approach what you read, especially as a way to breakdown material that you might find difficult at first. Its a classical model that gets at the root of how we think and interact with what we are studying and is really easy to implement. Here’s how it works:

1. Read. Keep Reading. Read some more. Immerse yourself in the work of great minds, of those who have gone ahead of you, of those you admire, esteem and even disagree with. Just don’t stop. Carve out time to apprentice yourself to great writers and great ideas. Read actively and with intention.

2. Ask What is this About? What is the main theme or idea, what is the message? What details are important and how are they being shared?

3. Determine if it is true. Measure what is being said with the Scriptures, with what you know and believe to be true about humanity, yourself, and the world that is being shared. Dig in to the details and don’t be afraid to disagree. {Conversely, don’t be afraid to have your opinions and thinking challenged and changed}

4. Decide if what you have read is significant. Why is it important to you? Why is it important to others? If you find it meaningful, Share it. Add to the conversation. Respond.

Friends, don’t won’t waste your reading. Engage it. And don’t forget to add to the conversation! Your insight and comments are precious and have the ability to build up the body of Christ and your children’s minds. 

I can’t wait to hear what you share,

Blessings,

Kristen

www.hopewithfeathers.com

On Finding Home in New York

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He’s doing it again. My sweet beagle is staring me down, tilting his little head to one side. Its his passive way of begging me to take him for a walk. I need fresh air, fresh inspiration, and to move a bit in the great outdoors, and so I give in quickly, gather his lead and plop my shoes on to head out. Its not until I’m crossing the street and spot the sign of the CNN building that my surroundings hit me. Just beyond the next batch of trees, its there, peeking out: The Empire State Building. Seeing its spire has become a part of my daily rhythm, but every once in a while it catches my breath and I realize that I’m actually standing in Central Park. I actually live in New York City.

I wish you were walking with me, gazing across the water of the reservoir at the Guggenheim, eyeing each curve around the path until we reach the rowboats and see the silhouette of the Plaza Hotel to the south.

The iconic scenes that make up my day sometimes go unnoticed, but when I remember to really see them, I love to drink them in. They are welcome moments of beauty in the midst of my routine and remind me of the glimmers of grace God has revealed to me during my time here.

You see, dreaming of New York, holding hopes and imagination about this place, and actually finding a home here are two very different things entirely. 

I’ve always had a bit of wanderlust. The urge to go, to move, to see all I could and experience everything new has always propelled my life choices. I deferred my college years to be a missionary in Asia and if I hadn’t met my husband just months before and fallen madly in love, I’m not sure I would have looked back. God has placed something inside of me that has always been up for a grand adventure. So when my husband’s job led us to consider a move across the country, away from all family with four kids in tow? My response was instantly, “Yes, of course! Let’s do it!”

It was quite a cultural shift moving from the green woods of the Pacific Northwest to the famed concrete jungle, but we couldn’t wait! Challenges felt like part of the adventure, we faced life in a 1000 square feet apartment with gusto, we loved embracing the simplicity that came with small space living. Our children were all sharing one bedroom and I’d homeschool them around our kitchen table, that is I kid you not, mere inches away from my front door as it swings open. I found it somehow charming that my garbage was to be sent down a shoot in my hallway to a mystery incinerator and that to get fresh air one must first ride an elevator and greet the doorman on the way to the sidewalk. Without owning a car we’d walk everywhere: to church, the grocery store, the movies, play dates, and the park. When I’d be feeling wild we’d hop on the subway. Figuring out how to live day to day felt like the adventure for nearly a year and kept us busy! Before long though, I just felt tired.

About two years in I began to crash.  Slowly, discontent grew, and I began to long for my old life. I wanted my minivan, my house in the mountains, my family close by and all the ease of a life I knew how to control. I was ready for the adventure to end, ready to get back to regular life.

The New York of my imagination was not the New York of my everyday.

In my everyday felt foreign and uncomfortable. I questioned why I was raising my children in a place that felt nothing like the home we’d left, the home we’d loved, the home waiting for them every summer and Christmas with grandparents and cousins surrounding them. My husband’s job continued to be a great gift to us and one that he adored, but I couldn’t stop shaking my own quick judgement, my lust for adventure that had not considered the cost of this move and I wished I could take it back. Everywhere I looked, I began to see the gray and soot of the city , it lacked color and seemed over-run by litter and grime. Our apartment began to feel even smaller, and my own bleak attitude only multiplied its gloomy atmosphere. I longed for home.

Here’s where I misplaced my desire though: I longed for a place and a history that was tangible to me, that I could describe to you by the landscape and the people and the scent in the air. We all long for places in our past that hold meaning and memories, and we all experience sadness when we have to leave them behind. When we have tasted something so sweet, experienced love and beauty and seen a shadow of heaven in the process, there is a pain when we have to leave it. What God showed me in the strangeness of New York was that I had a deeper longing, not for my own hometown or a place I held dear, but that my longing for those sweet places were guideposts to show me my truest longing for him.

What I really longed for was to find my home in Christ alone.

It didn’t happen instantly, but little by little, Jesus is leading me by faith and I am learning what it looks like to abide in Christ in all circumstances, in all cities, among all people. That’s why I write, because I know that like me, so many of us  are striving to find rest in our seasons of motherhood. I know how quickly it takes to go from a place of expectation to despair and how important it is to remind one another of our Great Hope- to gather it and sing of it daily together. All the glimmers of beauty lead us to One who is Beautiful, and so I drink them in and gather them like feathers and share them with you.

I have found my home in New York because I have never needed to rely and depend on Jesus so desperately anywhere else.

I’m free to see the wonder of this place anew because of the One who led me here, and leads me still, to find my home in him. May you find your heart in Him today too, sweet mamas.

Blessings, 

Kristen

www.hopewithfeathers.com

This post is a part of our “Who We Are” Series. For all posts visit,

“Who We Are: The Stories Behind TBM Writers”

Who We Are at The Better Mom

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