• Intentional Mothering
  • 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?? ūüôā

    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?

  • Intentional Mothering
  • 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.

  • Intentional Mothering
  • 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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    Source

    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?

  • Intentional Mothering
  • 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 ‚Äď all in the hope of feeling good about myself, but also protecting myself from being hurt by another man by being ‚Äúin control‚ÄĚ 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.

  • Intentional Mothering
  • 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:

    pre-BlackFriday sale

    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.

     

    pre-BlackFriday sale

    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!

  • Intentional Mothering
  • Why We Still Want to Be Wives And Mothers {And Keep House}

    Each week when I link my posts up around the web, the majority of writing authored by Christian women is about three things:

    • marriage and being wives
    • motherhood
    • home

    Within these three popular topics, women are writing about:

    • the purpose of marriage,
    • how to get through struggles in marriage,
    • how to love our husbands well,
    • how to love our children well,
    • how to raise them up in a godly way,
    • how to educate them,
    • how to make our homes beautiful for our families,
    • how to keep them organised,
    • how to make yummy meals.

    As a Christian, I find this both heartening and astonishing. For a society drenched in post third-wave feminism {see description here}, who knew that women still want to be home, raising littles, cooking delicious meals from scratch, and greeting their husband at the door every night? It almost feels a little scandalous writing such a sentence {since, from childhood, I have been encouraged to see the image of a wife above as a derision to the empowered, free modern woman}.

    Why We Still Want to Be Wives & Mothers {and Keep House}

    The Changing Landscape

    With everything that has happened to the traditional role of womanhood in the last sixty/seventy years and all the “glass ceilings” that have been smashed for women in the workforce, it truly is amazing that so many women are still choosing that which is “less”. It seems to me {and I am not saying this with research up my sleeve, just observation} that more and more women are marrying younger, having children younger {and more of them}, and are staying home longer to raise them.

    Many of the daughters of feminist mothers are turning their backs on the teaching they have received. See articles here, here, and here.

    It seems that the desire and yearning to love, to be loved, and to pour ourselves out for our family is still within us as women. It seems it cannot be stamped out of us.

    Germaine Greer, the “head” of the feminism movement {yes, the irony is not lost on me there}, wrote in her 1970’s book The Female Eunuch, that women should see family life and anything to do with childbearing as a handicap and an illness. For someone who completely abhorred her natural feminine nature, and who spent her entire life degrading marriage and housewives and raising children, in the end, she realised her mistake. She wrote,

    Ruby lit up my life in a way that nobody, no lover, has ever done. I was not prepared for the incandescent sensuousness of this small child, the generosity of her innocent love. {source}

    From the little I know of Germaine Greer, the overwhelming sense I get from her life is one of sadness and a great life’s effort to deny what makes her a woman. We can have as many lovers as Greer thinks is good for us, we can be a president of a corporation, we have the social mobility, and the time to spend as we like – but if we are not nurturing in some form or another, we are lacking as women. Ms.Greer discovered {or admitted} that the only thing that can meet the internal drive for love and intimacy and joy is in the pouring out of self in the nurturing of another.

    What They Don’t Get

    And for those who truly seek a life of loving God and His ways, we get this. Living a selfless life doesn’t come naturally because of our sinful selves, but when we’re given new lives in Christ, we begin to see that true fulfillment in life comes not from taking and taking, but from giving and giving. We find, by losing; we live, by dying.

    We understand this because our Saviour demonstrated it so fully for us. Jesus, who deserves every single heart’s full devotion and obedience, came “not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” {Matt. 20:28}. The man who poured out everything of Himself commands that you and I “deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” {16:24}.

    Why We Still Want to Be Wives & Mothers {and Keep House}

    This is where people lose their way. This is where the Ms.Greer’s of this world and movements like feminism break down and fail to deliver what they promise. A life of me, me, me, me will give you nothing but regret. It is actually the denial of our lives and living for others – for Christ – that true life – abundant, fulfilling, freeing – can be had.

    Women like Germaine Greer are frightened of limitations. They preach freedom of choice … yet, they don’t seem to realise {until it’s too late} that their choices of freedom come with limitations. If you want a childless life, you will get one. If you want many lovers, you won’t get that one, true, committed companion. It’s simple mathematics, really.

    Elisabeth Elliot once said,

    The special gift and ability of each creature defines it’s special limitations. And as the bird easily comes to terms with the necessity of bearing wings when it finds that it is, in fact, the wings that bear the bird – up, away from the world, into the sky, into freedom – so the woman who accepts her gifts, her special calling – wings, in fact, which bear her up into perfect freedom, into the will of God. {p.31-32, Let Me Be a Woman}

    As a woman, I am limited. I must accept this. {And really, the world over accepts this – why the separate races for men and women in the Olympics?} Men and women are made differently for different blessings, different challenges, different limitations, different freedoms.

    If I try and run away from this biological fact and attempt to manipulate my biology into something it isn’t {and can never have}, then I am condemning myself, not to so-called freedom, but imprisonment. I would be stuck in a body I hated, ¬†with functions I believed redundant {yet still working as if they were not}, always trying to be what I am not. Exhausting.

    But, if instead, I accept the fact that I am a woman, and favour the natural limitations of my sex, then I am freeing myself to live the way I was designed to be. I will find joy in my marriage. I will find peace in childrearing. I will find contentment in the work I do at home {and there is plenty of it!}.

    I may have wanted to be a Spice Girl when I was little with as much “girl power” as I could muster, but I feel completely empowered as a wife and mother. There are limitations on my life, but I am free – so free – to move around within them. I am my own boss. I run our days the way I want. I have a man I love and who loves me so well. We’re committed to doing life together, and the law constrains us and limits us to make us keep our promises. And our love is great and true and enduring. And I am rocking my cradle here at home because I know, down the track, that my children will be ruling the world. Even¬†Abraham Lincoln got all this, the man who enabled freedom for so many.

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    If you have any thoughts, please share.

  • Intentional Mothering
  • Feeling All The Feelings: Life After Anti-Depressants

    For more posts on mental health and motherhood, click here.

    If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you will know that for the past three years I have been on anti-depressants. You will know that I haven’t suffered from depression but rather a cyclical anxiety disorder that was triggered off when our first child was born in 2013.

    The first three months of his life were a giant hole of crazy. I drowned under all the noise in my mind and the hormonal imbalance that were causing me to cry a billion times a day. A great fear of foreboding gripped me from the moment I woke up and only left me when I had moments of sporadic sleep with a baby that would.not.sleep over night.

    Going to my doctor one day, who has known me for years, he kindly told me that I needed some help to get out of this episode. Normally I could work my way out. But I was a new and overwhelmed mother, sleep deprived, and I just needed to have a little help pulling me out. Because I certainly, at the time, was barely able to function let alone pulling the bootstraps of my mind up.

    So, Prozac became my friend. I called them my “happy pills”.

    {Although, technically, they don’t make you happy. Happiness/joy is a choice. The pills just get us into a place where we can choose joy.}

    I have always been open about being on medication. We need more women in Christian circles speaking out about the okayness of taking medication for mental health issues. I always say that, if we were diabetic or epileptic, we would need medication – so why would mental health be any different?

    Well, today I am here to tell you: I am pill-free. Woo!

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    The first question I’m asked when I share this with friends is: how are you feeling?

    I feel great.

    I have known that it was time to come off my pills and I think I have been ready this past year. I’ve known because originally, when I first took them, they made me feel like myself again. I remember one day, about two or three weeks since I had started on them, and my mind felt calm again. All of a sudden I could think freely! My emotions were stable! I was me!

    In fact, I felt so good I remember thinking, “Wow. So this is what normal feels like.”

    You see, I have had enormous hormonal/emotional struggles since my mid-teens when my parents separated. They got particularly bad when I was about nineteen/twenty after my DTS with YWAM. I came home such a mess my father thought I was bi-polar. But no, I was just in great need of healing: of having a stronger knowledge and life in the Word, of having a home, of having stability, of having someone who truly loved me.

    After Josiah and those pills kicked in, I felt and was thinking the most normally I had since I was a child.

    In the past year, I knew that I was me again and that the pills were no longer the buffer I needed. But I was scared. Scared of falling back into that horrible pit of anxiety. Scared of not being a strong wife and mother. Scared of becoming as self-absorbed as I used to be.

    So I prayed and over this year, I just felt the desire to go it alone grow stronger and stronger. I knew that I would be okay. I knew that I was able now to work on my thinking and have the strength to say “no” to feelings that liked to direct my moods {and therefore, my days, my behaviour, my reactions to my family}.

    Therefore, in October, I did it – I weaned myself off. And I’m feeling pretty good.

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    The biggest thing that I am having to do is re-learn how to think, and therefore, how to act and feel.

    Having the pills helped me be pretty stable emotionally. If I cried, it meant whatever it was was really important to me. I was also pretty clear-thinking. I could identify thoughts that were dumb and I was able to disregard them fairly easily. Since I no longer have that buffer, I am feeling all the feelings again.

    Now, these feelings aren’t extreme like they were. Now, I’m just more easily irritated or more easily affected by a thought. And when I follow a thought {however brief or fleeting}, my mood is more easily swayed.

    It’s been a learning curve. And not just for me, but for my lovely husband, too. We both haven’t had to deal with mood changes in me for three years. But we’re both giving each other a lot of grace {oh, he covers me with so much grace, that amazing man}. If I seem irritable or more stressed than usual, we talk about it. If I feel like something could trigger me off, I speak it out loud to him {which usually gets me back on track and out of my head}. If I am feeling a bit overwhelmed, I go to my room, get on my knees, and talk to God. He is my ultimate peace.

     

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    I love this quote from Elisabeth Elliot:

    “Fear arises when we imagine that everything depends on us.”

    Motherhood and mental illness has taught me so much about my great need for God. He has given me such a vision and goal for our family, and it is my nature to set out on my own, striving to perfect myself and my character so that this vision can be accomplished. But how much the good Lord knew I needed this thorn in my side. I need this weakness of heart and mind to keep me close to Him.

    One of my favourite hymns, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, has a stanza that speaks so deeply to me. I sing quietly to the Lord and ask Him to answer the prayer of that song in me so that He, and He alone, is all I need to do this life He has given me, in my broken jar of clay.

    “O to grace how great a debtor

    Daily I’m constrained to be!

    Let that grace now like a fetter,

    Bind my wandering heart to Thee.

    Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

    Prone to leave the God I love;

    Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,

    Seal it for Thy courts above.”

    Are you a mother that struggles with illness? What scriptures, quotes, or songs encourage you on hard days?

  • Intentional Mothering
  • Winter Fashion: Ideas & Specials

    Here Down Under in New Zealand, we’ve just come out of a long winter. Despite being mid-Spring, our climate is very changeable – one day we’re wearing t-shirts and shorts, the next day, we’re back in woolly jerseys and boots. {If you ever come here to visit, make sure you pack a variety of clothes!}

    With many of my readers from the Northern Hemisphere heading into winter, I thought I might share with you some of the type of clothes that I have really enjoyed wearing this past cold season. I’ll be using the amazing American-based company Cents of Style, one of the companies I’m grateful to be an affiliate of.

    For my disclosure on my affiliates, please see here.

    Cents of Style

    Basically, if you want almost anything for your wardrobe, Cents of Style is the place to shop.¬† Tops, dresses, shoes, jewellery, inspirational lines… You name it, they probably have it. And they have it for you – not just models for photo shoots and catwalks.

    They have clothes for you, modeled by people like you.

    If you’re like me, a busy wife and mother, then it might be encouraging to know that many {if not most} of the women who work for the company, are mothers. Working mothers or at-home working mothers. This company is made by women, for women. And I love that.

    Part of their company statement says that:

    “Our purpose at Cents of Style is to empower women to lead bold and full lives. We believe that if you look good, you feel good.”

    As an average women, I really believe this is true. When we take the time to care for ourselves and dressing in a way that makes us feel like we’re putting forth the best of our beauty, we feel really, really good. And as a Christian, I believe that dressing with care and style brings glory to our Creator. As flowers are adorned with grace and style, so ought His people be!

    As you can see, Cents of Style create clothes for all women so they can dress as real women, for real moments. Any of the clothes above, I would wear in an instant. It wouldn’t worry me as I herd my children out the door to go to the supermarket or to church. I would feel stylish yet practical. And I am all about practical!

    One of their latest dresses out is their Remi Swing Dress. Light, draping, feminine. And in lots of colours.

    If you watch below, you’ll see how they demonstrated how gorgeous it can look on different body shapes.

    I absolutely love it. This is what real fashion should be about. Women feeling confident to wear beautiful pieces of clothing, glowing in their femininity, showing off their strengths. Gorgeous.

    Favourites

    Looking through their catalogues, I’ve picked some of my favourite pieces that I think you will love to wear this fall and winter. All are clothes I would wear myself, a busy mother with a husband to love, a home to care for, and friends to share life with. I hope you find some inspiration!

    Scarves

    To me, scarves are a staple for any winter wardrobe. Where I live, we have Antartic winds blowing up the island. And, living only a few km’s from the beach, we get a Pacific wind that likes to nip through all our layers. When it’s cold, I never go anywhere without scarves. Bright and colourful ones are my favourites, especially florals. But don’t you just love these tartarn ones? Stunning.

    And, for the 30th and 31st of October only, these scarves are only $12.95USD with FREE SHIPPING. When you check out, pop in the code: BLANKETTREAT.

     

    Boots

    This past winter, ankle boots were my friends. With skinny jeans or leggings and a tunic, I felt immediately dressed up and ready to go {even if my little girl had kept me up in the night}. I love wearing boots with a baggy top or jersey. I feel really comfortable and confident in this sort of style. But, I also love wearing a knee-length dress with leggings and knee-length boots. Both styles can be casual or dressed-up.

    Tops

    When I’m wearing jeans with flat shoes, a pretty top is a staple. I love these gorgeous Bohemian-style tops. They would look beautiful with dark jeans. And to stay warm, it would be easy to wear a thermal top underneath so there would be no need for lots of layers. Or, with a really nice cardigan and scarf, you can look really cute and cosy.

     

    Leggings

    As I’ve mentioned, I wear leggings a lot. They can go under skirts, dresses, tunics, or even a long jersey. Leggings are so comfortable and can make an outfit not only stylish but modest, too. I love leggings with boots. I wear them in summer also as I’m unable to wear skirts or dresses on their own. Leggings are essential and I love all these different patterned ones from Cents of Style.

    And, if you buy TODAY {the 30th}, you can grab a pair of leggings for 50% off with this code at the checkout: LEGGING16. {All are under $10USD}

    So there you have it. Cents of Style is a fabulous, real-woman friendly clothing company that is passionate about making all women feel good in what they wear. I endorse them and their values, and I just love the everyday styles. I hope you’ve seen something you like and that your winter wardrobe might be spruced up a little because, as Cents of Style believe {and so do I!}, you deserve it.

  • Intentional Mothering
  • Why Pursuing Perfection Makes Me Less Faithful.

    For many years I have struggled with a pursuit of perfectionism.

    It is a drive I have that pushes me forward in many ways, though this desire for perfectionism doesn’t stretch to all areas of my life. I don’t, for example, want a perfect house. {Which, those who know me, would nod in agreement because my house is never, ever in a perfectly ordered way.} Neither do I desire to have perfect cooking skills or perfect sewing skills. When I craft, it’s in a very wing-it sort of way.

    Yet, despite that, I would call myself a perfectionist {and that’s not in a positive way}. You see, the kind of perfectionism I seek is character perfection. I demand a lot of myself. I demand very high standards of my character and my behaviour. I demand excellence.

    Now, before I get all theologised — I totally and completely get that I am not, nor will ever be, on this earth, perfected. I believe with all my mind that I am saved by faith and by grace alone.

    It is God who directs people to Him.

    It is God who shows them their dark state.

    It is God who helps them repent.

    It is God who saves.

    It is God who begins the good work in a saint and who will complete it into perfection.

    “There is none that is good.” ~ Psalm 53:1

    I am not good. I know this very, very well.

    But my heart? My heart likes to lead me into all kinds of deception {Jeremiah 17:9}.

    My heart fools me into thinking that I can actually attain perfection, in and of myself, with my very own hard-working hands. It purrs¬†with self-satisfaction when I feel like I have achieved a high standard I have placed upon myself … And it churns with false guilt and self-hatred when I fail — which is everyday.

    the-wedding-of

     

    It is exhausting to be someone who seeks perfection in themselves, all by themselves. The standards are high, and they are never lived up to. Jerry Bridges, in his book Transforming Grace, called this the “performance treadmill”. We can never get off because we’re always running to reach the standards we set ourselves. And we kill ourselves in the process.

    Thankfully, God has slowly been working in me. My brain and my heart are connecting on this issue, and I am being transformed by His grace.

    Recently, I have noticed however, a new aspect in my pursuit of perfectionism that I didn’t see in me before. I have noticed inconsistency in my actions. I’ve seen how I drop something completely if I don’t do it perfectly. My heart has been opened to the reality that, when I pursue perfectionism in the things that I desire to be perfect in, I am less faithful in them.

    Take our preschool-at-home, for example. I’ve had so many plans, so many ideas. I’ve made routines and lists {perfectionists love lists and boxes to tick!}. I’ve tried to implement things into our days. But then —

    • the kids won’t have a bar of it
    • it’s raining
    • there are too many errands to run
    • it’s too hard
    • I’m tired
    • the house is a mess
    • etc etc.

    Something, or a few things, will get in the way of my great plans and, because I’m not meeting those standards of mine, I just stop. I don’t continue. I feel like I’m a failure. It’s too hard. I can’t do this perfectly, so I won’t do it at all.

    Losing weight. Being consistent with exercise. Daily time with God. Homekeeping routines. Building a blog. I could go on about all the things that I have continued to drop and start again because of this pursuit of perfectionism. There are many.

    But God is showing something to me. Not only is the Good News {that I can’t be perfect and I need Jesus to be perfect for me} getting more rooted and becoming more life-giving in me, I’m being stunned by these simple words that keep cropping up in my life:

    It’s not about being perfect. It’s about being faithful.

    Being faithful: that’s all God wants of me. He wants me to listen to Him, obey Him, and be faithful.

    Being me? He just wants me to be faithful with the person He made me to be.

    Being a wife? He just wants me to faithfully love and care for my husband.

    Being a mother? He just wants me to faithfully love and raise up and admonish the children.

    Being a loving neighbour? He just wants me to faithfully love those He puts in my path.

    In all these things, He wants me to faithfully obey Him according to His Word. He knows I’m never going to live up to it all. He knows – and sees – how I muck up everyday.

    I eat too much chocolate – again.

    I snap at the kids – again.

    I put myself before my husband – again.

    I ignore a chance to witness to Christ because I’m scared – again.

    Again and again my pursuit of perfectionism hits the dust.

    “When people insist of perfection or nothing, they get nothing.” ~ Edith Schaeffer

    If I continue in this, I will get nothing.

    But instead of nothing, I can turn my eyes upon Jesus and receive everything. I can accept that He’s done it all for me. The light of the Cross falls on me. I don’t deserve it. But He covers me in His grace.

    And because of that grace, and of that mercy, I can sit comfortably in being imperfect. I can pursue consistency. I can be a faithful person in the tasks God gives me to do. 

    Can you relate to this at all? Please share.

  • Intentional Mothering
  • How I Recovered From Mummy Burnout.

    Less than a month ago, I was almost on the edge.

    I was really, really tired. I was emotionally all over the place. Every day dragged and I was constantly irritated with the kids. Situations with them were trying even when, normally, they wouldn’t have been.

    And, like always, you never know how tired and at the end of yourself you are. You keep pushing through, hoping you’ll wake up one morning and feel better. But you don’t. I certainly didn’t.

    This year has been a very busy year and hard. Tim is out a few nights a week, working often 50 hours +, on a billion different rosters at church… And being alone with two kids under three much of the time is amazing, but draining.

    One Friday morning in the shower, I had had enough. I text Tim and said, “This is too hard.” And I sent lots of arrow prayers up but, when you’re in a bit of a state, your brain tells you that God isn’t listening. Or that He isn’t close. Or that you’re going to feel like this forever.

    But, of course He is. Always.

    {And I laugh at myself because, how many times must He remind me of how amazingly awesome He really is?}

    recoverburnout

     

    That Monday, Tim hurt his back. Badly. It was disasterous at the time, especially when the physiotherapy actually made his back worse. After never taking more than two days off work in his life, he was forced to stay home for over two weeks.

    But God knows, doesn’t He?

    Both of us were burnt out. Both of us were at the end of ourselves. Both of us desperately needed space, time to rest, recover, and recouperate. Being a husband/father/provider is hard work; being a wife/mother/homemaker is hard work.

    So when it was obvious that Tim wasn’t going back to work anytime soon, we went into holiday mode. And, oh, it was glorious.

    By the time Tim went back to work, we were different people. And for me, I felt like a new wife and a new mother. I felt like the real me again. The one who loves this life. The mother who was writing about having a vision for motherhood while struggling to retain her own was behind me. I was back.

    God had made it really clear that Tim and I needed to have a break. So here’s what we both did to help ourselves get better.

    Rest

    We both took lots of different times to have space to lie down. Obviously Tim had to do lots of lying down for the beginning because of his back, and it was really beneficial for him. And when he was able, he took charge of the kids and enabled me to rest. So I slept. At 2pm, I would sleep for over an hour. I did this lots of times over the two weeks. We took turns getting up with the kids in the morning while the other one slept.

    We were really generous with one another and cared for the other person’s needs. Sleep was much needed for both of us.

    And I would say that sleep is the foundation for a person needing to recover from burnout.

    If you have trouble sleeping, I really recommend natural sleep drops¬†{not an affiliate}. When our daughter goes through a period of time when she doesn’t sleep well, sleep drops really help encourage sleep. They’re not addictive or bad for you. They are completely safe.

    I would also recommend using an essential oil like lavender. I put one or two drops on my pillow and I really believe they help me calm to sleep. Again, I put this on my daughter’s pillow every night and I believe it makes a big difference for her sleeping patterns.

    709749d77d6f6ba69977590ff10653ce

    Relax

    Relaxing may sound exactly like resting to you, but I believe they are quite different. Whilst resting is doing exactly what God did on the Sabbath {ie. He stopped creating}, relaxing can quite easily involve doing.

    Rest is giving your body {and mind, soul, and heart} a break.¬†To me, relaxing is doing anything that brings you joy. It revitalises your soul. It restores your emotional and mental well-bring. It reminds you that you are you and you enjoy relaxing in this way because it’s part of who you are.

    Do you relax by exercising? reading? hiking? cooking? writing? coffee catch-ups? watching tv? playing games? painting? organising? sewing? helping? doing the dishes?

    The way someone relaxes will look completely different to another person. I think it can often depend on whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. An introvert {like me} would love nothing better than to be alone and read a book or write a letter to someone. An extrovert might completely thrive and relax by shopping in a busy mall and catching up with a friend.

    Whatever it is that feeds and nourishes you – the way God made you – that is relaxing. And when you’re trying to recover from burnout, doing what relaxes you will be incredibly healing and restorative to your mental health.

    Regroup

    What do I mean by regroup?

    Once you feel on the mend and you don’t want to run away from everyday things that threaten to overwhelm you, start evaluating your life. Look back on the period leading up to your burnout and be honest with yourself about why you ended up where you did.

    Have you over-committed yourself? Have you taken on things that are good but just aren’t for this season of your life? Have you over-committed your children to too many things? Are you having enough down-time at home? Are your standards too high? Are you living a “by works” faith? Are you having regular relationship time with God? Are you feeding your soul so you’re not pouring out on empty?

    There are many questions we need to ask ourselves. It can be hard, but it is necessary.

    Once you know why you’re in this place, make active changes. Cut back on roles. Change routines. Set up a routine. Have a planner so you can see your life on paper and manage it just as if you were your own PA. ¬†Allow yourself a break. Ask God to show you what to do.

    Life is as complicated as you make it. It can be as simple as you make it. But YOU have to make it that way.

    The biggest thing we need to do as married women with children is remember that God expects nothing more of us than: loving your husband, loving your children, run your home, and care for your neighbours as yourself.

    {There is a reason why Paul told the older women to instruct the younger women. Those young women were being busy and nosey everywhere else but in the sphere God had placed them in for that season. And because it’s in the Bible, God knows we need it today in our crazy, hectic 21st century.}

    Burnout is a horrible place to be in. Life still demands you. You’re still needed. But you can recover from it. You need to be active in getting the rest you need, the relaxation your well-being requires, and the opportunity to get your priorities in order. This is what I did and, by God’s mercy and grace, I’m out on the other side.

    Have you ever gone through burnout? How have you coped and recovered?