Homegrown Kids or, Why We Keep Our Kids Home {A Series}

We’ll soon be coming up to a year since we began wrestling with bringing our son home from preschool. Though we didn’t pull him out of preschool until May, the first quarter of 2016 was a time when I did a lot of wrestling in my soul over our son, our daughter coming up behind him, and our vision for the growth and direction of our family.

Our son was two when we enrolled him two mornings a week {for three hour sessions} at a local preschool. It was a lovely centre with caring teachers and a great outdoor area. It took some time for Josiah to settle in. He would cry when I left, and I would talk to myself as I walked away with another person holding him as he cried {often screamed} for me, “It’s okay. He’ll get used to me not being there. This is good for him. He’s getting more independent.” I hardened my heart against his feelings because I genuinely thought it was the right thing to do. Everyone does it. It’s normal.

But, despite him getting used to being without me over time, something in me would not rest easy. He had fun and did learn to “socialise” better with kids. BUT. We noticed him changing. He became less and less like the little boy of before. He was naughtier, meaner to his baby sister. He was more dissatisfied with home life, with his toys and playthings. He has always been an energetic boy, but I would find him even more worked up when he came home at lunchtime.

When term holidays would come round, especially the long summer January holidays of 2016, our little boy would return. Life would become easier. Our day-to-day wasn’t such a battle anymore. He was more obedient and kinder and a joy. But as soon as preschool started again, his behaviour would regress. I found that it would take two or three days to de-preschool.

The uneasy feeling I had about letting my little boy spend time apart from me, despite it being what everyone did, continued to grow. Both my husband and I could see so clearly what an effect preschool had on him. We asked the Lord for wisdom and help, and He did. We made the choice to pull him out.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make. I had to have a lot of courage in the Lord to approach the teachers, sign the forms, explain to other mothers why we were bringing him home. I grappled with doubt and feeling faint of heart. It’s hard when people don’t understand. No-one ever disparaged our decision, everyone was very supportive and helpful. But I know they didn’t understand, and if they disagreed, they were really kind to not share their thoughts with me. I probably wouldn’t have gone through with it, despite my beliefs. I’ve always struggled with trying to please everyone. But, as I’m learning, you can’t!

I do remember, after officially unenrolling him, on the second to last session til he finished, walking with Rosie in the buggy to pick him up and getting a call saying that Josiah seemed to be unwell. I hurried my steps, thankful I was only five minutes away. When I got there, he was lying asleep on a little kids couch that he was too big for, pale, shivering. He looked so fragile and small. I gathered him up and took him home. He said to me, “I cried and wanted mummy. I want to go home.” My heart broke.

What seemed so normal at the beginning, now seemed really unnatural.

Within a week, our life with our three-year-old was transformed. His beautiful nature returned and he was our happy boy again. I remember the first week of having him home again, I felt incredible amount of relief. I knew he belonged at home with me.

Since then, despite how hard it can be and how much I have to give of myself, that belief has only grown and grown. As we have sought God for wisdom, guidance, and help, He has so graciously provided everything we have needed – including times of rest from burnout.

My passion for raising children at home – or what I call Homegrown Kids – has grown and deepened, and I really want to share these thoughts with you.

This isn’t to condemn, at all. I know how varied our world is and the pressures there are on modern families. But, I really do believe this is best for most children, so I share this in the hopes that it will encourage other mothers. I especially hope it will encourage mothers who may be thinking of doing something similar, but are scared to make that first step, or just want to hear of someone else’s experience. I know I scoured blogs, particularly homeschooling blogs, looking for encouragement and inspiration and guidance.  This is for you, dear mother, and the heart you have for your children and for their future.

I plan to write three more posts in this series. When they are finished, this will be the landing page where you can find the rest of them. They will be:

1. Homegrown Kids: Keeping Our Kids at Home Series {You are here}

2. Why I Believe in Homegrown Kids.

3. How to Be a Full-Time Mother of Young Children {Without Going Mental}.

4. Resources for Raising Homegrown Kids.

I’m really excited to write this series, and humbled, as well. None of this is my husband or I. We had to make the practical, earthly decisions for our family, but it’s been completely God above it all. I’m really grateful that this is the story He is writing for us. Please share and comment below with any thoughts.

For the Overwhelmed, Exhausted Wife & Mother

I wrote this on Instagram the other day:

I am so tired. This full-time motherhood, investing in future generations, character building, loving, feeding, nurturing thing is just exhausting. I never knew my dream job would take so much of me. It is relentless. I desperately need encouragement every single day.”

It’s not just that I’m physically tired – and I am that, definitely. There’s the lack of sleep, post-Christmas deflation, a week single-parenting while my husband was away, the cares and sorrows of others on my heart… All on top of the endless, relentless job that is full-time, intentional motherhood.

It is shattering in every sense of the word.

When I first became a mother and was absolutely dumbstruck by the responsibility and work it required of me, my beautiful mother-in-law told me, “I remember – after my second child sixteen-months after the first, my husband away in the navy, hanging out another line of clean nappies –  thinking that I would likely have another twenty years of this – and I wept.”

When I tentatively lift my eyes to the unseen future, exhausted to the bone, and know there are many years to come of what has already taken place – broken sleep, sickness, tantrums, endless character training, no time to breathe, a house to be tidied and cleaned continuously, loudness, messes, broken furniture and toys, scrapes, arguing back, impatience rising, inadequacy – it is enough to make a grown woman weep. And many women have.

This motherhood thing is not for the faint-hearted.

And, actually, it isn’t just motherhood.

It’s cultivating a loving and devoted marriage, making sure my husband gets my firsts {under God}.

It’s maintaining a house, accepting that it’ll never be perfect, and making it a home.

It’s making sure I have adequate rest, disciplining myself to have time in the Word and with the Lord, getting out to exercise, nurturing what makes me me {that is, hobbies}.

It’s being a present and supportive friend. It’s remembering I have parents and a brother to pray for and be there for. It’s being an active, serving, participating member of the local Body.

So let me re-phrase the one-liner from above:

This Christian life thing is not for the faint-hearted.

And to cure the pressure, burdens, and exhaustion that comes from throwing everything into the genuine things that the Lord gives us {because, let’s be honest, not everything we commit ourselves to is from God but, rather, us over-doing ourselves}, we tend to come up with band-aid-type solutions.

Simplifying our lives {ie. minimilism}.

Planning each day to a minute {ie. planner perfectionism}.

Creating more breathing space {ie. putting kids in preschool}.

Seeking balance {ie. saying ‘no’ to more things}.

Cutting back the noise {ie. coming off Facebook}.

None of these things are wrong. I have done them all {and retracted on some}. Each and every one of them has a certain appeal and value and usefulness. Simplifying our homes does make life easier. Having kids in preschool does give you more time to relax. Coming off Facebook certainly cuts out a lot of rubbish and noise that wastes time.

But even doing all these things, are we less exhausted? As each day of our life for Christ begins, is doing any of these things creating the peace within we so desperately need?

I desperately need peace. I need an anchored joy tethering me in the midst of noise, errands, squabbles, endless dust and lawns to be mowed. But I seek solutions and I don’t find peace. Only self-guilt. Or regret. Or a sense that, no matter how hard I try, I’m never going to do enough to be at peace with all the chaos.

As I was processing this post in the midst of processing my worn-out feelings {“I just want five minutes to myself, please, with no whining, thank you!”}, a thought entered my mind that brought genuine relief to my weary soul.

Rest.

It was like His Spirit whispering, “You’re not resting in Me.” 

And it’s true. I’m a complete Martha. I’m doing all the doings and not resting, where Mary is, at Jesus’ feet. Do you remember what Jesus said about Mary to her sister?

“Few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42

Jesus wasn’t rebuking Martha for working hard at her responsibilities. And when I say that we need to be resting in the midst of motherhood or marriage or homemaking orhomeschooling etc. I’m not advocating taking up being lazy. Jesus wasn’t asking Martha to give up her work to be lazy. He was asking her to rest in Him in the midst of it all. Jesus was asking Martha to let Him be her anchor. He was asking her to give up her soul-striving so that she might find soul-rest in Him. 

It is possible to be a crazy busy wife and mother and be peaceful.

I can have emotional kids at my feet, dishes undone, a husband shattered, a dog needing walking, weeds to be pulled, walls to be wiped – and be at rest. These things don’t need to stress me out. My kids don’t need to emotionally drain me if I’m resting at Christ’s feet. But if I’m striving to be perfect and complete it all like a champion, every single thing is going to overwhelm me and I will be a miserable woman.

And I have been, really.

I’m needing to learn a big lesson. And it’s a lesson I’m always learning: grace. I am completely awash with grace through the Cross, but I need to accept it. I need to see that embracing that grace upon grace is not a weakness, but a glory. 

I know that I’m going to start striving again. It’s a compulsion. Most of the time I don’t even know that I’m doing it. But, when I feel the pressure rising and I am finding motherhood a drag, it’s a clear indicator that I have let go of free grace again and taken up trying to earn it.

But Jesus has said that our striving is not needed. Only one thing is needed: resting at His feet.

Have you been at rest in the midst of it all? Or have you been striving, pushing away grace like it’s a sign of weakness?

One Blessing From Suffering.

I remember when I first became a Christian and learned in the Bible that I was going to suffer in this life. I wasn’t a stranger to suffering. In fact, I was still in deep pain when I came to the Lord. But for some reason, I thought that when I became a Christian, everything would be all roses and butterflies.

So when in every book of the New Testament, and throughout the Old Testament, I read that in this life, there are going to be some pretty hairy and hard moments – well, it felt like a pretty big downer.

And it made me a little bit fearful. What kind of suffering would I go through? Would it be too much for me? Would I survive? What would the Lord allow me to go through?

 

Well, within a few years, I went through a period of great suffering. It was an anguish-of-the-soul type of suffering. It was the type where, not even those whom love you best, can understand the grief and pain you are experiencing. I was fully alone in my groaning. Like David, I could say,

My tears have been my food day and night.” Psalm 42:3

It was terrible. And it was all that I had feared suffering would be like: a harrowing valley of darkness you don’t know why you’re in and how long you’ll be in it for. It was, to quote St.John of the Cross, a dark night of the soul.

But.

I can say with an unwavering surety that that period of suffering was the greatest blessing of my life. It changed me forever, and I am so grateful that God brought it into my life for His purposes.

What was the greatest blessing in that suffering?

It was just me and God.

Don’t get me wrong, my suffering involved other people. In fact, my suffering was caused by other people I loved. This, in many ways, made it all the more worse. But, it also made it all the more sweet.

Now only, could I turn to God.

Now only, could He be the one I called out to.

Now only, could He be the one to shelter under.

Now only, could He be the one whom my heart trusted fully.

Only He understood my particular situation, my particular pain, my particular grief, my particular sorrow. As I cried day and night, He alone caught my tears and bound up my brokenness.

Sometimes the primary reason suffering comes into our lives is so God is our only answer.

Many times we can turn to people, or things, or even ourselves for help. But very occasionally, the situation is so unique, a person is truly alone in their suffering. No-one can understand the broken heart and tears and questions but God.

Charles Spurgeon once said,

When a man is burdened with troubles so pressing and so peculiar, that he cannot tell them to any but his God, he may be thankful for them; for he will learn more of his Lord then than at any other time.”

I know from my own experience that this truth is very real. The pain is very bitter, but the quiet joy of being so dependent on the Lord is very, very sweet.

Mercifully, that suffering for me passed. And God has used it mightily in my life and the lives of others. He has truly turned my mourning into dancing {Psalm 30:11}.

Not only this, but I have a quiet place in my soul that has communed only with God, and it is a place I treasure. I know that that special communion with Him can only have come in the throws of a tempest —

So if that is you today, hold fast to the Lord and commune with Him alone. He truly understands your grief and your suffering. Because, at the end of the day, we stand before Him alone. He really is our Only.

How I Broke My Brain.

Yes, you read right, I broke my brain.

I had a pretty wonderful and settled childhood. We moved to the country, lived by the sea, played in the hills all day. I remember thinking as a young teen how lucky I was, and I couldn’t imagine a future where our family wasn’t together.

And then, at fifteen, my parents broke up in pretty unusual, and very painful, circumstances. My life took a dramatic turn, and I had to learn how to cope with all that had happened, all that was going on inside me, trying to sort out my emotionally dysfunctional family, and dealing with being a teenager.

I didn’t know it at the time but, in doing all of the above {that is, coping with what life had thrown me}, I broke my brain.

How I Broke My Brain.

Yeah, apparently you can do that. Break your own brain. Who knew?

I only found out yesterday, actually. Remember how I wrote how I had gone off my anti-depressants? Well, I’m back on them again. As much as I want to feel like a failure about that, I’m not going to. Because, actually, this anxiety disorder isn’t something I can “fix”. My brain is a bit broken and, no matter how much I try my best and work hard to be my best, at the end of the day, I’m a bit sick and need medicine.

Anyway, how did I break my brain?

In part, it’s genetics. And that is something you definitely can’t do much about. The other bits are personality and family. {It’s the whole born vs. raised thing, which really, isn’t either, it’s both.}

When my family world fell a part, I had to deal with a lot of revelations, burdens of other people’s hurt and sin. I had to cope with living in different places, I always had a suitcase. I had to cope with my own trauma and emotional pain. I made bad choices as a young woman – as a way of taking control of my own life – but it made it all so much worse.

I kept everything inside. Some things I pushed down, deep down – and kept doing that even when those thoughts/feelings/memories kept rising up. I was faced with repulsion and a side of human nature I had not known before. I tried to think about it and process it all.

Somewhere, in those few years, something happened. All the pressure, all the pain, all the intensity of emotion must have broken some neurons or brain “switches”, because the chemical make-up of my brain changed. I did not know it at the time but, instead of talking to a counselor or someone I could trust, all that internalising damaged me.

I was very unstable. There was not a rational thought in my mind. If there was one amongst the crowd of thoughts that were constantly going through my mind like factory-line, it was drowned out by the louder voices of fear, condemnation, lies, pain.

I was emotional all the time. I would cry or feel like something terrible was going to happen even if nothing indicated that it was. I expected bad things to happen to me, like it was my due. And despite being saved at nineteen and God helping me get my life on track, I was a mess.

By God’s grace, He sent me my husband who came from a family with strong, solid theological roots. For the first time, the Bible made sense to me. Truth started pouring into my broken self and God started freeing me from certain ways of thinking and feeling. In the almost nine years we have been married, I am a far cry from what I used to be. Having a loving husband has healed me. Growing in my faith and knowledge of the Bible has healed me. In many ways, becoming a mother has been the making of me.

But my brain is still broken. And, in all likelihood, will always be.

I am not depressed. Anxiety gets lumped into depression, but can be quite different from it. As my doctor told me yesterday,

“Some people get depressed so bad they get into this hole that is hard to get out of. You, on the other hand, are a little bit bad all the time. And you need help.”

When I came off my medication, I was great. I had felt normal for three years, and felt it was time. But I’d forgotten that this broken brain of mine is not something I can make better by shear force of will. I would love to make myself better. The perfectionist side of me feels like a failure for not being able to “pull my socks up”, as my mother-in-law would say.

But the truth is, this anxiety is part of me. One day, when life is less hectic and busy and sleepless {yep, we still have those times}, I may be able to do it through cognitive therapy. But right now, that is so much effort. And just another thing I have to work on in my list of all the things to do. So I’m back on my pills, and I am accepting that in God’s grace.

And to my readers who have broken brains, too: We’re okay. We’re not nutters, even if there are periods of time when it feels like a crazy person is living in our brains. That’s just wiring gone a bit haywire. It feels real, the fear is overwhelming – but it is not Truth. The Truth is you are loved, cared for, held in the hands of an Almighty Father who, in His wisdom and mercy, enabled medicines to be made that can help us. So don’t be afraid to seek that help. You’re not a failure. It is wisdom. It’s wisdom to get help so that you can wake up one morning and think, “Oh yeah. This is what it feels like to be me. Life is good.”

For more on my journey with mental illness, read this series.

 

If the Husband is the Head, What is the Wife?

Headship. Submission. That’s what I’m wanting to talk about today. But not to you, to me.

Huh?

What I mean is that, if I were talking to myself, I would know that I have read, understood, accepted, and am trying to live out the Biblical design for men and women in marriage: of the husband being the leader of the family, and of the wife being his helper and submitting to his leadership. This way I can get straight into what has been on my heart and mind, and I don’t have to do all the preamble of theology etc.

So, you’re me, got it? 🙂

Right. Let’s do this!

Headship and Submission

If I’m being honest, in this year of 2016 I have found it really hard to submit to my dear husband. There is so much behind that struggle which I won’t go into, and it’s been a long time coming, but I really feel like this year God has been asking me this question:

“You tell me that you agree in My design for marriage, but do you really believe it is good and My best for you?” 

Over and over this year, as I have been faced with opportunities to submit and come under my husband’s leadership and have struggled – sometimes with an ugly, selfish fierceness – God has been gently, but persistently, knocking on the door of my heart. I feel like He’s been asking me again and again,

Where is your joy?

Don’t you trust Me?

Don’t you know, from my Word and your history, that I am trustworthy and I always do what is best and good?”

When I see it put that way, my heart cries, “Yes! I know You are good! I know that all Your ways are THE BEST. I don’t doubt it! I want and need Your Truth in my life!” So I look at myself and I know that it isn’t God’s Word and His laws that are doing me harm or making submission hard —

It’s me.

I am the problem. Always. As Dave Harvey says in When Sinners Say I Do {best marriage book ever, by the way},

There are no marriage issues. There are only sin issues.

Sin. The obvious, but always elusive, culprit. We are apparently good friends. Especially when it comes to me trying to truly love God, and truly love my husband, a friend who gets this spirit-and-flesh-battle we’re always in.

A big thing my flesh and spirit have been fighting over this year is the feeling of What About Me? {I know, it’s always about me.} If it’s true – which it really is, Sarah, so deal with it – that God lovingly crafted men to be the leaders of their family units, what position did He lovingly craft women to have?

We are helpers. We accept and respect our husband’s leadership {ie. submit}. Yes, Truth.

But what does that all really mean?

As the head of the family, all responsibility is laid on the shoulders of our husbands. On Judgement Day, the state of our family will be laid at his feet before the Lord in all His glory {Ephesians 5:25-27}. Will he have led well? Imperfectly, yes, but still, will he have led well?

And when I face the Lord, thankfully, that weighty responsibility will not be at my feet. But my responses will be. How joyful was I as his helper? How caring was I in showing my respect of him? How honouring was I in sharing my opinions and, subsequently, how gracious was I in submission when our opinions differed?

This is big stuff that I have been grappling with. And, as I have mulled over it more and more, and faced with it practically again and again, I realise it all comes down to this:

How is my heart?… Because I am the heart.

If my husband is the head of our family, then I am the heart. We all come under his care, we are all cared for by me.

This is what Sally Clarkson says in The Mission of Motherhood:

I realized again that the ultimate key to providing a nurturing environment in my home is me…In the end, though, what my children and husband need most from me is not a perfect home or perfect training or a perfectly spiritual role model or a wife without faults – but a mother and wife who is committed to doing what it takes to love them and make a home for them.

They need to know that they are cherished by someone who is a champion for their cause, a cheerleader for their lives – someone they can always count on in the light and dark times of life.

Accepting the responsibility of being the overseer of my domain with all of the heart and energy and faith I can muster is what nurtures my family best and provides my children with the sense of security and stability they need. My attitude is ultimately what makes our house a peaceful haven.

What Sally is saying is that if mama ain’t happy, then no-one is happy in the family. We are the emotional thermometer of our homes. Our attitude sets the tone. That’s a big responsibility. It may not be the burden our husbands bear, but it is a hard one. Basically it means that we have to work hard to keep our joy, keep our peace, keep our hearts aright before the Lord all the time.

This doesn’t mean we can’t have bad days. Of course we can! But, for the most part, if we want our family to be happy, healthy, joyful, and content then it is our work in our own hearts that matters, and we need to be disciplined and persistent in cultivating a relationship with the Lord. We can only be the heart of our homes by the grace of God.

I don’t know about you, but I would rather have this job than my husband’s. That doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with wanting to be in control and having things my own way. I’m a daughter of Eve, after all. But, when I consider it, I would rather be the beating heart of our lives than the working head. This suits me perfectly because I am a woman. I am a nurturer.

I am so grateful the Lord has worked this all out in His original design, and I am grateful for all the struggles I have had this year to help grow me and make me more into the woman – and the wife and mother – the Lord would have me be.

What do you think about being the heart of your home? How do you keep your heart joyful, at peace, and content so that your family thrives? What evidences of God’s grace can you see in your struggles and will to follow Him?

My Favourite Reads of 2016.

My Favourite Reads of 2016.

I love reading and think I have read about 50 books this year. I feel like that is a good accomplishment, but nothing compared to others. I read a blogger the other day who said that she has read more than 300 books this year {and that doesn’t include all the read-aloud’s she does with her kids}.

300 books. I mean, wow. That is an amazing accomplishment. A few of mine have been close to, or over, 1000 pages – does that count?? 🙂

Anyhoo, I’ll get straight into it so you can have a quick nosey and add any of my recommendations for your reading list for 2017. {And all links are affiliate links.}

Coming Home, by Rosamund Pilcher

Coming Home

I literally finished this book two nights ago. I have read it before and loved it then. Several years later, I’ve read it again and I’ve love it even more. Friends, this is a beautiful, beautiful book. It is a coming-of-age novel, centred around Judith and her connections with the Carey-Lewis family of Nancherrow. It spans ten years of Judith’s life, from when she is 14 and living in a Cornwall boarding school; through the years of WWII to the beginning of her new, settled life back in Cornwall. It’s about a girl learning about loss, and love, and understanding the need for roots and a place to call home. The Carey-Lewis family are rich characters that add fascination and warmth, as well as adding the twists and turns this novel takes. It’s lengthy {the said 1000 pages!} but so worth it. It has been my favourite novel for years and it would take something incredibly special to replace it at the top.

North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskill

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I read Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskill at university and, after forcing myself into it, ended up really enjoying Gaskill’s passion for the Industrial era of the mid-1800’s. When I read North and South, I was not disappointed. This is a passionate and endearing story with, I believe, parallels to Pride and Prejudice. There is prejudice and judgement between Margaret Hale, a vicar’s daughter from the “enlightened” south, and John Thornton, a cotton mill manufacturer of the north. The feisty and clashing conversations were a great read, as well as the growing love John has for Margaret. The novel faces the grim truths of the cotton mill industry of the era, from both the hard position of the manufacturer, as well as the hard-working and poor employees. I love how Gaskill was a really intelligent woman and wrote with passion, insight, yet tenderness. The BBC’s version of this is exceptional.

Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior, by Kimberly Wagner

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This is the book that defined my Christian reading this year. It was a book that God gave me because I really needed it then, and I still do. Kimberly’s testimony is about how God took her broken marriage, mostly due to her destructively hardness and manipulation {her so-called “womanly strength”}, and made it into something beautiful that reflected God’s design. The Lord humbled Kimberly deeply and changed her hardened heart into one that was soft. He helped her see her husband for the man that he is and how her behaviour had been so emasculating for him. Now, they both have a challenging and very encouraging ministry around the world. This book came at the right time for me and God has used it to challenge parts of me that ain’t so pretty. I have loved it so much I have lent it to many other wives and have done a bible study on it at church. Kimberly and her husband, LeRoy, have also done a follow up: Men Who Love Fierce Women: The Power of Servant Leadership in Your Marriage.

Can Any Mother Help Me? by Jenna Bailey

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This book was such a find in my local library: the title caught my eye and, just loving history and motherhood and true stories, I couldn’t help myself. This is a biography of sorts on a secret motherhood society that spanned almost the entire twentieth-century in Britain. In 1935, a young woman wrote to a woman’s magazine in desperate need of company and help. The replies to her letter were so enormous that a circular letter magazine was created, called “The Cooperative Correspondence Club”. Many, many wives and mothers joined over the years, sharing their lives and loves and losses. It is a fascinating and endearing read. Jenna Bailey’s research on these women gave such insight to how all women, in all ages, struggle and love and fight for their marriages and their families. It shows how women need other women to be encouraged and helped and understood. And, despite being set during all the war years and further, I feel like these women were the bloggers of their days – the community they built in their writing and letters is inspiring.

By Design: God’s Distinctive Calling for Women by Susan Hunt

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What I really appreciated about this book is that, rather than being another “this is what the biblical design for men and women looks like”, Susan Hunt assumes that the reader already understands and accepts biblical womanhood and, instead, shows women what this means for the real, broken, hurting, and searching women of our Church. This book both convicted and challenged me. It opened my eyes to true stories of women utterly in need of healing and help sitting in the pew next to me. It forced me to ask myself, am I a woman other broken women can come to for help, comfort, and direction? I shared this book at our women’s bible study and we were all challenged by it. Less than a month later, God brought to me a woman in desperate need of friendship, prayer, encouragement and practical help. Biblical womanhood in the church looks like women helping women as women, and supporting and encouraging, and even mediating with, the male leadership in your personal church. I highly recommend Susan Hunt, and she has other books on female mentoring and biblical womanhood.

*

 Well, I think I’ll leave it at that. I’ve obviously read many more books but these are the ones that really stood out to me. They all left their mark on me, prompted me to examine myself, encouraged me to look outwards, drew me to love better and more affectionately, deepened my understanding of history {and of women in history}, and basically, helped me love reading more and more. {Can that even be possible when you’ve loved reading for, well, ever? :)}

Tell me, have you read any of these books? Do any of them catch your eye? What was your favourite read of 2016?

To the Mother Dreading Advent {Rest in the Cross this Christmas}.

Are you dreading Advent and Christmas this year?

Are you a mother with young children? Are you depressed? Having marriage issues? Are you deep in grief? Are you overwhelmed? Are you just struggling to find joy?

Advent can be a really hard time.

This is the season when Pinterest is really in it’s element. Almost every single link on my page has suggestions {sometimes requirements?} on how I can make this Christmas the craftiest, the tastiest, the most joyful, the thriftiest, the grandest, the least stressful, the most Christ-like…

And I wanted to encourage you {because I’m encouraging me} that you don’t have to be Super Christmas Mum. You don’t have to do the calendars and reading plans. You don’t have to craft every day with unwilling children. You don’t have to bake all the Christmas things. You don’t have sew your own stockings. You don’t have to craft together a wreath for the front door made out of past Christmas cards.

If you want to do these things, then do them merrily and with cheer! But if you don’t want to or can’t, be free not to.

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Just like so many areas in life, social media and the internet has just made life harder for us. With the beautiful photos and happy moments captured then shared, our natural inclinations to be discontent, jealous, and to compare with judgement {on others and ourselves} are aroused more easily and more frequently.

This is one of the reasons I went off Facebook almost two years ago. I knew what it was doing in me. I would get envious. I would get proud and want to show off {under the guise of “sharing”}. And I was becoming the mother I didn’t want to be: glued to a screen and missing out on real life with my family.

{Because who is anyone kidding – the internet is not real life. It is a medium, sure, of sharing life and learning and connecting. But it is not real, in front of my eyes, moving, breathing, soul-living life. And I want that more than I want fresh feeds or the latest gossip.}

The internet can be a friend or a foe. And during the festive season, I find the internet can be more of a foe.

So, sweet friend who feels like a failure for not creating an Advent calendar from scratch that comes with scriptures and hand-drawn decorations to add to the tree…

So, sweet friend who feels like making a big feast worthy of going viral would swamp her under to a place she thinks she couldn’t surface from…

So, sweet friend who is dealing with pain and confusion and a sense that life will never be the same, yet knows her kids want and perhaps need this Christmas to be more special than ever, but she just doesn’t has it in her…

So, sweet friend who feels pressured by family to be a big part of the celebrations but who hasn’t had a full night’s sleep for a long time…

Just rest. Please.

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All these expectations and pressures were not present on the day Jesus was born. He wasn’t born into this world to add burdens to you. He took your burdens on his own shoulders and died with them on a tree. 

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. :: Galations 5:1 ::

He wants you to celebrate His birthday, but He doesn’t want you to idolise the experience of it. Just as He came into the world simply and humbly, so you can celebrate and worship Him with the same manner of heart.

::If you want a very encouraging devotional that will meet you right where you are this Advent, please head to Sarah Geringer’s site where you can purchase her new devotional, Christmas Peace for Busy Moms, and follow along with all her posts in the lead up to Christmas. ::

If you’re taking Advent easy this year but still plan to do a few easy things to make it special for the family, please share below.

Early Education: Why Play Really Is Best.

I never thought that I would be so interested in my child’s education, especially their early education.

When our son was around twenty-months-old, I suddenly woke up one morning and thought, “Huh. I think we need to homeschool.” It all seemed out of the blue and totally not what either Tim nor I had ever been thinking about for our family. I mean, we didn’t know any homeschoolers. And, weren’t homeschoolers all a bit, well, weird?

Yet, this idea completely bugged me. Almost like a plague. All of a sudden, despite having a four-month-old and a twenty-month-old, researching their future education was all I could think about. When I had time to go on the internet, it was all I could read about. I even read most of a PHD thesis on home education in New Zealand!

All this, and we had years to go until we needed to get an exemption from school for Josiah.

:: If you want to read more about our journey so far, check out these posts here and here. Also see my sidebar for more posts on our journey. ::

Once we had decided for then, I had so many questions for now. People do preschool-at-home with complete curriculum’s and everything. Children seem to know how to read and write before they’re five these days, which is totally the opposite when I started school. Should I do the same? Should we be on a strict schedule? If we buy a preschool curriculum, what should we get? Should I still send my kids to preschool? What was the right answer?

Though I’m learning there really is no “right” answer, I believe God has been kind to me and has slowly been helping me get to different levels of understanding as we have gone along. Here’s where I am right now.

early-education

I’m A Slow Learner

Once we made the decision that – Yes, we’re going to do this thing!I was itching to get started. All the homeschooling blogs with their printables and pictures and stories and wisdom just made me want to start–right–now. So I tried. On and off for the past year, we have started to do things that were more formal learning.

It didn’t go terribly. I knew my son’s limitations and his strengths. And I was surprised by what he learned about the alphabet and his numbers and colours. But I could never be consistent like a “proper” homeschooler. It made me – it still makes me – doubt that I can do this. I would beat myself up for not being able to stick to a daily schedule or just do things right.

At the same time, as I had been reading and researching, the theme of “Let young kids be” kept cropping up. I totally agreed. I knew that, from times past, kids just did life with their families and, at a certain point in time, they were ready for “proper” learning. I was already a massive firm believer in getting kids outdoors and letting them run around in nature – that’s what I had as a kid. It’s what research the world over says benefits children the most with their learning.

And then, once we brought our son home from preschool, the pressure to let them play and live life with me kept getting heavier and heavier. It was the same settled feeling I had when the whole notion of bucking the status quo and teaching our kids at home began: it was truth, for us, and I shouldn’t fight it.

But, of course, I did fight it. And I still have been up to a week or so ago {so, you see, I am a slow learner and do not have it altogether in the slightest}. But, still the pull to do it all right and properly is often there. I’ve read it’s a common struggle with new homeschooling mother’s with preschoolers. We’re just all eager beavers, really.

My Kids Make A Point {Just By Being Kids}

For awhile, Josiah loved playing Turtle Recall. It’s a numbers game. And he learned how to count from 1 through 9, by reading the numbers because we played the game 97 times a day, for three months straight.

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And it has hit me, again and again:

Children learn best when they are engaged in interesting, fun, hands on play.

Whenever Josiah or Rosie have learned a big milestone we have been doing average, day-to-day play. We talk about animals and countries when the kids look at their wall-atlas. We’ve learned more about time when we’ve been reading our Winnie-the-Pooh clock book. We’ve learned about space and habitats and solids turning into liquids. We’ve learned about boys and girls by being a family together. We’ve been learning just from organic, natural learning. 

It’s brilliant. And for the stressed-out mama, I can promise you it’s brilliant because it works and it is easy for you.

Just do life together.

We go to church {where the play and make friendships with people of all ages}, we go to the grocery shop, we go to playcentre {a parent-led and run preschool} one morning a week, we go walking in nature and collect treasure, we make forts, we play in the sandpit, we clean, we garden, we do almost everything together. And they are learning brilliantly.

The only things I do intentionally is our morning time where we do our calendar {day/date/month/weather/season}, read a bible story, and pray. As Christian mothers, that’s the best education we can ever give our children because God is the source of all knowledge and wisdom and understanding.

What else do our young ones really need?

I certainly don’t need the stress of getting it all “right” now when I have years of that later down the track. I only have these young years once with them. And, you know what? They only have their childhood once and I want to extend that for as long as possible. I also don’t want them to associate “education” with stress and tears and negative feelings before we even start. A big part of homeschooling is to encourage a life of loving learning, and the most obvious place to start that is by letting them be kids and just play.

Are you, or have you, homeschooled early education? What are your experiences?

Christmas Peace for Busy Moms :: Interview @ SarahGeringer.com

Do you need some peace this Christmas? Would you like some help that loving leads you to the feet of Jesus as you prepare for all the Christmas crazy?

When blogger and now author, Sarah Geringer, contacted me to ask if I would be interviewed for her blog and her new Christmas devotional, Christmas Peace for Busy Moms, I jumped at the chance! Christmas is a big part of my journey to Christ, but not why you might immediately think of.

Peace at Christmas for Busy Moms

Here is a snippet of my interview:

Q: How have you found peace in your faith journey? Share part of your story with us.

My parents separated on Christmas Day when I was 15-years-old. It absolutely devastated my life and changed the direction of my young heart. Because of the circumstances, I felt deeply betrayed by my father yet also, because of her own pain, deeply hurt by my mother.

For the next four years, I struggled to cope with the revelations, experiences, and the pain I felt. I thought I had been a Christian since a child as my faith had always been so strong, but now God felt so far away. The emotions and hurt were much more real and ruling over me that I willingly followed what I thought I needed to make it all go away.

I had boyfriends, gave myself away, used boys – all in the hope of feeling good about myself, but also protecting myself from being hurt by another man by being “in control” of my body and the relationships. I went from disaster to disaster.

Please head over to Sarah’s blog to not only read my interview, but also check out her amazing new devotional for all mothers this Christmas. I have read it and it is amazing. It resonated so much with me.

Christmas Peace for Busy Moms

While you’re over there, make sure you say ‘hi’ to Sarah. Writing a book like she has is a massive undertaking and, as a busy mom herself, it’s such a big accomplishment. As her sisters in Christ, let’s encourage her love for Christ and her ministry of sharing peace this Christmas.

Head to Sarah’s devotional series and book launch here.

Little Passport Pre-BlackFriday Special! 60% Off!

**The links in this post are affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

Thanksgiving is almost over and it will be BlackFriday in North America. But  if you don’t live in the USA, don’t worry – you don’t have to miss out. I’m from New Zealand and I am so excited about this sale from:

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Have you heard of Little Passports? It is a great subscription company for little children to get exposed to our world. From science experiments, to geography, to crafts – there are subscription packages from children aged 3 to 12.

 

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Exclusive Little Passports Offer!

As an affiliate, I am excited to announce that Little Passports are having a 1 day early access to the Little Passports Black Friday sale! With all the other holiday shopping you have to do, this is a perfect chance to cross the young explorers in your life off that list! A subscription to Little Passports would make an amazing present for any family with young children.

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This pre-BlackFriday sale is BIG with 60% off the first month of any subscription!

You can take advantage of our early access to The Little Passports SAVE60 sale starting Monday, 11/21/16. Use code:SAVE60 at check out.

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Hurry, this pre-BlackFriday sale ends on Sunday, 11/27!

PS: Do you want to become an affiliate for Little Passports as well? If you’re Down Under, click through here: Sign up to be a Little Passports Australian Affiliate here! If you’re from the UK, click through here: Sign up to be a Little Passports UK Affiliate here! If you sign up, you can have a 3-month subscription for FREE on any age you request to review on your blog. Keep an eye out for mine soon!

**This promotion is valid online only at www.littlepassports.com. To redeem enter code SAVE60 at checkout. Offer valid on new subscriptions only and cannot be combined with any other offers and/or applied retroactively to previously placed orders. Offer not valid on Personalized Products and Shop items. Offer excludes shipping and taxes. Offer valid from November 21st, 2016 at 8:00AM EST to November 27th, 2016 at 11:59PM EST.

Let me know if you take action on this offer, I would love to know!