Can You Hold On Until They Let Go?

Always let them let go first. 

I read that somewhere.  Always let your children let go of you first, because you never know what they might be needing.  It was profound for me when I first read it, and it’s cutting edge hasn’t dulled over the hundred (or so) times I’ve whispered it to myself as the closeness began to linger.  In a harsh reality, I believe that time is sharpening those edges as it bears down, honing that response in me, especially knowing that my nature is to pull away. 

There are those days when my time has no moments for solitude and I have to tell myself to love close.  I know these moments of needing and wanting and just loving out of joy will wane, become fewer and fewer as the days wear away and I don’t want to miss a single second of his heart to my heart, but oh, does it cut on some days. 

Why does it seem so hard to do the all-in love some days? 

And yet, because we love our babies of every age, our hearts on the outside, we do it… We sacrifice for them.    

Sacrifice…  an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.  We sacrifice because we know their hearts are of eternal significance to their Father, because we love them more than we love ourselves, and that is a worthy, worthy cause. 

But really, sometimes it just doesn’t feel good and that thought feels worse, and sometimes, I’m just spent.

You see, I have this son.  By grace, He has been given this ability to really, deeply love me.  The me that is the most unlovable at times and the me that has been harsh with his heart over the years, and the me that is just often at a loss for how to love him best.   He forgives it all, even before the request has left my lips, and reaches again for my heart and my love and my approval. 

His nature is not to push away. 

His nature is to draw close… And though sometimes it is a sacrifice, I try to fully give myself in each moment of his hugs that push in, trying to get all the way inside, because I know it is there that he knows true love, true acceptance, true comfort.  I know, too ... this is, I am, his first picture of Jesus.  The One who loves without end or fail, who bears, believes, hopes and endures, the One that keeps no record of wrongs and rejoices in righteousness (1 Corinthians 13), the One that shows us that there is no greater expression of Love than to lay down one’s own life for someone (John 15:13). 

I want my loves to trust. .. 

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.  Isaiah 43:2

And my sweet boy will learn best if he can live it first.  He needs to live it where he can be held and hold on, until that satisfied breath that tells the story of peace leaves both of us; as often as he needs it. 

So I will continue to hold on just as tightly and for just a moment longer than he does, and to whisper my I love you’s into his ear, even though my heart and voice might break a bit, because I know that time is short; there are only so many more summers, and late nights, and breaths that we will share in his childhood...  Only so many more moments that I can point him to the One that will keep him forever.  That is worth the sacrifice of my comfort zone, my time, my patience, my own insecurity, and my heart

So mama, can you hold on until they let go?  

I know that you can...

Because He told me that you can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens you (Phil. 4:13) and that Love NEVER fails (1 Cor. 1:8).

Keep holding on.

 Many Blessings,

Jamie

A lesson from Psalms ... and turtles

Ever since I went on a mom's retreat this weekend, my mind and heart have been focused on mothering, and all that word includes. This morning, my Psalms reading from the Book of Common Prayer took on a different meaning than I'd seen before.

"Mom-ing" is HARD. It is exhausting. Many days it feels like they suck all that is good right out of me, y'all. But it is MY CALLING. They are my mission field. So...

Psalm 62

1 Truly my soul finds rest in God;
    my salvation comes from him.
2 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

3 How long will you (my children) assault me?
    Would all of you(my children)  throw me down—
    this leaning wall, this tottering fence? (as a mother)
4 Surely they(my children) intend to topple me
    from my lofty place;
    they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless,

    but in their hearts they curse.

5 Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
    my hope comes from him.
6 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
7 My salvation and my honor depend on God;
    he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
8 Trust in him at all times, you people (mothers);
    pour out your hearts to him,
    for God is our refuge.

Do you ever feel that your sweet children are assaulting you? Well, physically, hopefully not, but spiritually and emotionally? YES. As moms we are trying to be a wall, a fence, between them and the things of this world. And so often we feel are "tottering", about to crash down. I know. I KNOW. But God has a plan. He has the answer. It comes right before AND after those rough verses! He has SURROUNDED us in His promises! My soul, my soul, can find REST in Him. Trust in Him at all times, and pour out your hearts to Him. And He will be your refuge.

I love object lessons. I loved them in Children's Church when I was growing up. I love doing them now with my kids. I love how concrete things that seem simple can teach us real spiritual truths. And this very morning, after I read this, I experienced one.

I was driving my teen to a rehearsal, and the car opposite me on a two lane road was stopped. The lady inside hopped out and ran right into the street in front of me. Thankfully we weren't going very fast to begin with, so I quickly stopped, which is when I noticed a turtle hanging out in the street, right in the middle of my lane! She gingerly picked up the little guy and began carrying him to safety.

He, in turn, started to pee. Projectile peeing, right at her. I giggled as she stretched out her hands and continued walking him to safety. As this was going on, other cars stuck behind us started honking, angry that they were being inconvenienced. As she ran past me, I shouted, "That was AWESOME!"- and she gave me a quick thumbs up.

Driving away, the parental object lesson hit me like a ton of bricks. Sometimes we need to run right out in traffic to be that wall, that fence for our children. And they won't like it. Like the verses above say, they curse us in their hearts. They figuratively "pee" all over us, right when we are trying to get them out of danger! It is tough. Many moms have been in a position just like this. The community around you may start honking at you. Why are you taking all this time, this energy, to save one who appears not to appreciate it at the time?

Can't they see what you are doing? Maybe not, but God does. And sometimes, other moms do too. So, when you see another precious mom in the traffic, yell it out-- "GREAT job!" I can tell you, she will appreciate it. That might be all the encouragement she needs--and it may be all she gets until heaven when she hears, "Well, done, my good and faithful servant."

Kirstyn Wright

Receiving Help After Miscarriage and Baby Loss

Finding comfort after a miscarriage, still birth, or baby loss is difficult.  Of course, it’s difficult for the obvious reason that you’ve experienced the loss of a baby, but it can sometimes be more complicated than that. Even though you’ve experienced loss, you might not have anything to “show” for that loss. And in our society’s abortion culture, babies are sometimes not seen as “alive” until long after they’re born.

But, let me acknowledge your pain and your loss and your grief.  You absolutely did lose a baby. A baby who you might have already started planning a future for, a child you were looking forward to loving and nurturing. And, even if you were “barely pregnant,” or if you didn’t tell anyone about your pregnancy before (or after) the passing of your baby, your grief is real.  Your loss is real. Your pain is real.

Because each mother is different and each circumstance is different, it might be hard to pinpoint exactly how you’ll need to grieve and process this loss. Below are some suggestions to help you.

  • Find a pretty box for things that you had accumulated during your pregnancy.

            I have one where I placed the ultrasound pictures that I had, the reminder card of my final obstetrician appointment, and the bracelets that I wore in the emergency room just before I heard the news.  This box is still with me, but I’ve heard of some mothers burying theirs.

  • Give your baby a name.           

Naming our little one allowed my husband and me to grieve and to be able to call our baby by name.

  • Find a cathartic outlet. Start journaling.  Write poetry. Write a blog post. Write a note to, or a prayer about, your baby and your loss. Keep a photo album or a scrapbook.
  • Plant a tree or some flowers in honor of your little one.
  • If you can, hold a funeral for your little one. This can be private or with family and friends.
  • Name a star after your baby.
  • Donate to a charity in memory (a woman’s resource center, a Pro-life center, or some other charity that is important to you, especially if it benefits babies or children.)
  • Feel free to say “No” to outside activities for a time. Especially if these activities include baby showers or children’s birthday parties.
  • Also feel free to say “No” to any extras of life that tend to swirl around you while you feel stuck in sadness.
  •  Let friends and family care for you.  Let them stop by.  Eat their casseroles.  Let them drag you to the movies. Let them hear your baby’s story.
  • If you can, go on a couple’s retreat where you and your husband can process your grief together.
  • Also, there is NO shame in needing outside help.  Please speak to a therapist if you need to.  They’re there to help.

I hope that these ideas are a help and encouragement to you. Please don’t forget that grieving is a very personal process; grieve how you need to.

Many hugs and much love to you, dear friend.

Charlotte and Renee

Angry? Maybe It's Time to Lower Your Expectations, Mama.

This week, we're all preparing to meet in St. Simon's Island for our first Beautiful Life Leadership Retreat--woohoo!  Unfortunately, that means with juggling sweet kiddos and school and lessons and shopping and groceries and work ... we're not doing a lot of writing.  Here's an excerpt from my new article today at The Better Mom.  On weeks like this, lowered expectations can be a big help to all of us!

"I walked into my sons' shared room, awkwardly carrying a basket overflowing with fresh-smelling, newly-laundered clothing.  As I gingerly stepped through the makeshift obstacle course which this time included a truck, two books, and some unidentifiable, crumpled shirt, I must admit a bit of a frustrated mama-growl.  "BOYS! Why is this room such a mess?" I hollered into empty space. The summoned boys didn't answer, as I realized they were probably playing happily in the back yard, having escaped my instruction to pick up first while I was emptying the dryer.

Frustrated and feeling a bit of a failure as I looked about the messy room, I thumped the basket down on the bed and plopped my tired self beside it.  "Lord, why?  I've told them and told them.  They're still not putting their things away!  What's wrong?" 

It was one of those times when the answer came swiftly ... "Well, they haven't learned yet. That's why you have about fourteen more years with them." The lesson was further driven home when I sighed, went to the back door and called the boys in to pick up, and then made my way to my own bedroom ... with its basket of clothes needing folding, rumpled comforter, and books and magazines, coffee mug, and pens strewn about on every flat surface..."

You can find the rest here!  Angry, Mama? Try Lowering Your Expectations

Molly's Yellow Rose Bundt Cake

Molly’s Yellow Rose Bundt Cake


After the loss of my father, my dear friend Molly dropped by with a basket full of lovely little individually wrapped cakes that were baked in the shape of roses and other blooms.  Each dainty cake had a tag that was carefully tied to it with a satin ribbon.  On the tags were Scriptures speaking healing and peace and comfort to our family.  The petite cakes were delicious; a melt in your mouth cross between angel food and pound cake, but also touched our soul. 

 

Your family is sure to love these petite delights, as will your friends and neighbors.


Ingredients:

3/4 cup butter, softened

2 1/4 cups cake flour

 2 1/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup whipping cream

 4 eggs

3/4 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325. Spray regular size bundt pan or mini bundt pans with non-stick cooking spray.

Cream butter with a mixer set on medium speed, gradually adding the sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and cream alternating between the two ingredients beginning and ending with flour. When well blended, stir in vanilla.

Slowly pour batter into pan and bake 1 hour for regular sized bundt pan or 18-22 minutes for mini bundt pans or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted near center. Cool 10-15 minutes before removing from pan. 

On Keeping the Sabbath....while being a MOM.

This past week I taught some 2nd grade boys about "Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy". In researching ways to make this concept applicable to young boys, I learned a lot. And then, just yesterday, I learned a little lesson about it myself...

I love Sunday afternoons. I nap. Almost every week. I take that "day of rest" idea LITERALLY. As a mom of 6, it's usually my BEST sleep of the whole week. Those few hours after Sunday lunch, before evening service are a haven to me. I close the blackout curtains in my bedroom, snuggle with my pillows and blankets, and whisper a little "Hallelujah!" before I drift off. Sabbath activity complete.

With my Bible class, we learned about how God demonstrated the idea of a day of rest, a Sabbath, even before He gave the Israelites the commandment. He rested after the 6 days of creation. Now, I do not think that the act of creation was "work" for God, and that He *needed* the rest. After all, He just SPOKE it all into existence, right? That is how powerful His words are! He was demonstrating in that day of rest, that WE need it. Then, when the Israelites were wandering in the desert, and He supplied the manna for them, He also gave them a Sabbath from collecting their food. This again was before He gave the 10 Commandments, with Commandment 4 of "Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy."

We learned about the Old Testament consequences of not keeping the Sabbath, and how later the Pharisees took that very seriously, eventually trying to trap Jesus, in Matthew 12 and Luke 13, when He healed on the Sabbath.  Jesus said, " It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath."

We talked together about how "keeping the Sabbath" for us might look a little different. It is all about a change in emphasis, in perspective, on that day. It is to be "Holy", which means "set apart". How can we "set apart" this day so that our focus is on the Lord? We brainstormed ideas such as writing letters to missionaries, having worship music on in the home, making a picture of your blessings, Bible journaling, collecting old toys to donate or sell to raise money for Missions, etc...

The day should look and feel different from a perspective point of view, not just different because I get to take that blessed nap.

So enter yesterday...Super Bowl Sunday. I did get a little nap in, so yes, that was awesome. But when I woke up, I was informed that my husband had invited my parents over for the Super Bowl. I had sort of been looking forward to staying in yoga pants and digitally scrapbooking ALL evening. After all, there was no Sunday night service, which meant I did not have to go teach Children's Choir! I was getting an evening to do whatever I wanted! But now, I looked around my trashed home, dirty bathrooms and kitchen, and realized that my fantasy evening was dying. It's not that I don't enjoy having my parents over (in case you are reading, Mom), it's just not what "I" had planned for my DAY OF REST, y'all! So, I started cleaning furiously, simultaneously  starting to cook for the festivities. I was running back and forth from the kitchen to other rooms, and all the while having a VERY BAD ATTITUDE. My husband was literally lying on the couch watching TV as I was doing EVERYTHING. I was glaring at him at each pass. Of course, He didn't notice. I was thinking how awesome it must be to be a guy on Super Bowl Sunday.

Then I remembered what Jesus said to those Pharisees. "It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." It is GOOD for me to serve my family. It is GOOD for me to make their fun evening enjoyable by cooking their favorite snacks and desserts. It is GOOD for precious memories to be made watching the Super Bowl with grandparents. It is GOOD for me to more hospitable. It is GOOD for me to serve them with a smile and not a bad attitude. THIS is my ministry, my everyday mission field of eternal souls.

So sometimes, as a mom, my Sabbath may not be a literal day of rest, but if it is truly about my perspective, and serving the Lord as He wants me to, then in my service, I can certainly make it Holy. 

We've already begun to grow!

Hi there, Beautiful Mommas!

Below is an excerpt of our family's latest adoption news. We are so excited! Stay tuned here at It's a Beautiful Life for lessons learned, and you can follow my personal blog for the crazy-wonderful details of this adventure  over at All These Blessings.

We're growing already here in The Addition! Thank you for already being a part of it!

Blessings!

Renee


We've never said we were done. We always said, "We'll never say never." We kept quiet & close to our hearts the deep, divine desire for more. And so, here we are - it's time, again! We are ecstatic!

This summer we pray we have more preteens/teens in our home, to bring them home - for forever!

We already have six kids. We already fost-adopted before. So, more than six kids?!... For us, YES!

Culturally, it's insane. Biblically, it's obedience. Spiritually, it's our calling.

There are tens of thousands of legally-free children in foster care. Waiting. Hoping. Wishing. Giving up... Well, we're not okay with that. Never have been and never, ever will be.

We appreciate your prayers, encouragements, and support! 2016 is going to be an adventure! How and why He's chosen us to be a part of their victories is beyond us. We are humbled, grateful, and thrilled to see it all unfold!

And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you because you obey the voice of the Lord your God.
— Dueteronomy 28:2

Our family loves to love via orphan care. We adopt because we are The Adopted. This is our story, our life, our joy, and His victory!

BLESSINGS!

Renee

In Search of Blueprints: The Lifegiving Home by Sally and Sarah Clarkson

No one at home ever read me a bedtime story.

It's hard for me to believe even now, honestly; this mama who gathers kids from one end of the house to the other, piling everyone onto the couch nearly every night (whether they like it or not!).  Together we've laughed at curly-haired Things with Dr. Seuss, wondered at the Ingalls girls' joy over Christmas peppermint sticks and red mittens, and mourned with Marilla and Ann over the death of precious Matthew. 

These stories, they've shaped us.

One son came to me recently, towering overhead as usual, tentatively sharing some ideas for what might be next on his horizon.  On the list of possibilities, a boat-building school on a faraway coast.  "You'd be Nathaniel Bowditch," I mentioned with a smile.  Laughing, he admitted, "That's actually the first thing I thought of."  I've been taken in hand by a child with laughter in his eyes, with admonitions "not to tell" as I'm led to their private world just a walk into the nearby woods, which was by turns Terabithia, Roxaboxen, or Narnia. It was one of the spots hardest to say goodbye to years ago, and I hope they'll create a new one, now that we've settled in the Colorado foothills.

Books and stories are a major part of our family culture.  Spilling from shelves, tucked into corners, weatherbeaten from trips to the backyard, they're everywhere.

Mealtimes, too, are a pretty big deal in these parts.  Most evenings, I call to whoever's home (which isn't always everyone, now that they've grown and have jobs and dance lessons and busy things happening!) to come gather around the table to candlelight and music.  We're still working on getting the boys to talk, but that's another story.  My lists of things to make for dinner are growing longer by the minute (and by the Pioneer Woman cookbook!) and there are definitely particular favorites making their way slowly into the handwritten family cookbook I'm working on.

The important thing to know is that this isn't my own life story.

I run into precious ladies who say to me sometimes, "How on earth do I do this?  How do I create a homey, cozy house that's building up my children, when I didn't grow up in one?"

I understand.  Feeling ill-equipped to do this job of mothering is such a common thread.

When I first read Sally Clarkson's books, they made me weep.  She painted a real-life model of the vision buried deep in my heart for what home should be, but never had been in my own life.  Stories.  Music.  Delicious meals.  Pretty pictures on the walls.  And so, piece by piece I've done my best to bring into our own home the things that would bolster the souls inside.

Sometimes it feels like we need a kind voice to say, "Try this.  Good job with that.  Maybe this would work better."  But in a world where family is scattered and motherhood isn't valued as it should be, that kind of advice is hard to find.

Enter ... The Lifegiving Home!

"Home is not merely a dwelling. It’s not merely a state of existence. It’s a story, a narrative spun out day by day, a story molded by the walls and hours and tasks and feasts with which we fill our time, reflecting the reality of the God whose love animates every aspect of our being." Sarah Clarkson, The Lifegiving Home

Sally Clarkson has been a mentor to me for many, many years, through her books, conferences, and eventually phone calls and afternoons on the couch in her lovely living room.  Her daughter, Sarah, is a lovely young lady (wish she lived next door rather than across the pond!) with an especially marvelous gift with a pen.  Together, they've written this wonderful book, which is the story of their own home.  I highly recommend everything either of these ladies have written--they have painted a picture for me of what family life and mother-love should be. 

In The Lifegiving Home, in particular, you'll find much practical advice-- what I'd call a blueprint for building a home full of life and light--and love.

You can pick up a copy of The Lifegiving Home as well as the companion guide, The Lifegiving Home Experience, here at Amazon!  If you're in need of a hand to hold and some friendly advice, I hope you will.

Sad Praise - A Story of Loss

Sad Praise - A Story of Loss

Thankfully, the ultrasound tech was unbelievably kind as she began the scan.  They told me the baby was measuring at 12 weeks - not the 14 weeks we knew we should be looking at.  After a minute, the tech asked her supervisor,  who had come in to assist, “I’m having trouble finding the baby’s heartbeat. Can you help me?” Without turning around, the supervisor said, “There’s no need.”

And then she walked out the door.

Pumpkin Pancakes with Apple-Walnut Sauce

Pumpkin Waffles with Apple-Walnut Sauce

1 1/4 cps whole wheat or regular flour
1/3 cp sugar
1 TB baking powder
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt

Mix these together in a large bowl.

In another bowl, mix
3/4 cp milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cp melted butter
1/4 cp melted shortening,
1 extra large egg

Pour wet ingredients into dry and whisk together to create batter which will be slightly lumpy. Use this to make your waffles!

For the topping, melt 2 Tb butter in a skillet. Add 2 peeled and sliced apples and cook for about 4 minutes or until apples are slightly browned. Add 1/4 cup maple syrup and 1/2 cup toasted walnuts and toss to coat. Then pour this fabulous-smelling-and-even-better-tasting concoction over your waffles and prepare to roll your eyes with bliss.

And make sure you invite me for breakfast!

Love, Misty

COMING HOME

Coming home.  It's what I find myself needing to do. I wonder if it might apply to you, too?

A strange thought, isn't it?  I mean, considering that you’ve never really left the house.  Every day you’re there to make breakfast and clean up breakfast and then lunch and dinner.  And of course, don’t forget snack time.  Then there's always the laundry and lessons and bills, and well, all of the other everythings

Life is not a correspondence course and all those life things can’t be done from afar.  I'm doing them all right here, in these walls.

So how did I get so far away?

 We all know some version of the hopeful motivational expression, “Every journey begins with a single step.”  That’s how it happens.  A step at a time over time, and there you go, and there you are. You wind up in that place: where the house is not home, but merely a place where chores pile up because we're organizing the field trips for the co-ops or the fundraisers for uniforms; the place where we look sadly at the spot on the couch where we'd held and snuggled our babies, now disguised as Mt. Washmore; the spot where we just know the closets (all of them!) could be featured on Extreme Makeover--Cram Your Stuff Edition. 

It’s become that bizarre place where the kiddos are eating cereal out of coffee cups in the van because you're all out delivering a wonderful homemade meal to your daughter’s soccer coach’s cousin’s sister-in-law who just had toe surgery but you didn’t have time to make enough for your own family or wash any dishes in the meantime.

I step over huge cracks in the old, broken-in floor to kiss hubby goodnight, only to close the door with him on the other side, heading off to do ... something.  Keeping busy, occupied with anything to quiet our thoughts and minds, to divert our eyes from the worn places where we work so hard at living.  So much work, but where is the reward?  Getting up to do it all over again only feels like a booby prize, but we still do it.  And we do it because we love our families, and that’s what we’re supposed to do, right? 

But this thing we do called homemaking?  It is so much more than that.  It's what we're called to do... We were blessed to be given these people that fill the boundaries of our walls and hearts. They are not just a task, they are our reward:

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth.  Psalm 127:3-4

 As mothers, we are given the stewardship of people--eternal souls, who will have eternal significance.  And we are given that stewardship by the only One who loves them more than we do.  We honor Him by serving them.  We can repair the foundations, we can scale the mountain and we can make our house back into a home with a single word in a single breath.

Yes.

Yes, yes, a thousand times, YES!

“Yes!” to my home, that will bring love and courage and belonging to my children and my husband and the guests that I will be honored to bless here. 

“Yes!” to pancakes and crispy bacon for dinner, and to lessons on washing and drying and folding (and putting away!) set to the soundtrack of the stories of our days. 

“Yes!” to those I have been given the honor and charge of training up in the way that they should go

“Yes!” to preparing and keeping my home and rejecting the bread of idleness, “Yes!” to rising in the dark to prepare food for my family. “Yes!” to the Proverb that shows me that I am honoring my King by blessing my family.  

Your "Yes" is a life-giving word that, with beautiful irony, also contains a "No."

“No” to anything that encourages me to be too busy to hear my children tell me their stories, or to teach them to seek the Lord, or to train them up in the way that they should go, or to serve those that need it, or to make memories and to love truth and beauty and justice.  “No” to anything that encourages me to be too busy to be the helpmeet, confidant, best friend, and partner that I promised my husband I would be.  

No is a hard word, but it's so worth it.  "No" means a sacrifice for so many of us... "No" to doing those things that make us feel accomplished and vibrant.  After all, who will organize that Valentine party with all of the perfect little homemade valentines and iced sugar cookies if not us?!

 But I know that no one needs you more than they do, mama, and they are at home.

Discipleship always, always starts at home.

If we seek our reward in what is eternal, what is in His plan for us as wives and mothers, we can be radiant with the light that is His and find our worth from His appointments.  He gives us all we need to meet our precious charges in the rooms of home. 

Homecoming.jpg

 Will you come home with the yes and the no?

 It’s not always easy, and sometimes the road to home looks too grown over, maybe there are some dark places, and maybe the way is hard to find.  But it’s there.  Every journey starts with a single step, right?  Maybe that first step is cookies and snuggles under the covers for story time, or a drive together with a sing along to their music, or just a date to the coffee shop to talk.

The possibilities are endless, really.

So, what will your “Yes!” be?  Today, mine is cookies.

And, if you wondered about the cookies, thanks to Misty, you'll some right HERE , and I hear they are perfectly puffy!  

 

Many Blessings,

 Jamie

If you need help in Coming Home, we highly recommend the new book by Sally Clarkson-- The LifeGiving Home.  You can buy it here on Amazon, or enter to win a copy here at our facebook page!

 

What happened when I put my "YES" on the table, and how it got there in the first place.

About a year and a half ago, at the end of a stressful home school year, I felt the Lord whisper in my heart to "S L O W   D   O   W    N......"

What? Me? I can't do that! I am busy! I have responsibilities! I thrive on the going and the doing.

"But, you are worn out. You are weary. Come to Me."

I felt the impression on my heart that the time is short, this precious time with my people at home. And maybe, I had been forgetting many of the reasons I had kept them home in the first place. I always had these visions of cuddling on the couch while reading great literature, and having beautifully behaved children who always loved doing their copywork. Reality check. We never had the *time* to ponder over those read alouds, when we had co ops to go to, papers to write, math curriculum to complete, and me freaking out that they were not learning enough. I was bone tired of it, too. I was not filling their souls with Scripture like I desired to. And that made me feel like a failure.

So, a change was made. We pulled out of our co op that had been our everything for 6 years. we backed out of every obligation that wasn't a necessity. I tucked away the History and Science books, and bought everyone Bible journals. We started to focus on reading Scripture together. Our morning Bible times included all 6 of my kids together, ages 15 and down, and while at first I thought that would be difficult, it turned out to be more than I could have imagined. We got to experience the child-like faith of the little ones, alongside the growing understanding of the older ones. We learned from each other. We grew in faith together as a family.

We did not do as much formal "schooling" that year. And, I gradually learned to let go of the guilt of that.  I realized I had been putting too much emphasis on what "man" says my kids should be learning, and not near enough importance on what God says they should be learning.  I had these little eternal souls right here for me to pour into, and it was time to do just that.

So much fruit came from this year of quiet togetherness. My oldest four all decided it was time to follow the Lord in believer's baptism. What joy to my momma heart!

And, during this time, I heard the Lord urge me to Missions work. Me. Work that would change my life. Work that would set me on a different course of ministry.(You can read about my trip to India on the Missions page of this blog.) I do not know if I would have heard that call unless I had learned that year to quiet myself and listen to Him. I do not know if I would have said "yes" to that call before. And when you say "YES" to the Lord, I can guarantee you that things are going to change! He rewards the steps of obedience that you take, even if you take them in disbelief and weakness.

When I heard the phrase "leaving my "YES" on the table for God", I realized that is how I want to live my life.  I want Him to know that when He has a job for me, I will do it! And guess what started to happen? He started making me feel like a cannon ready to shoot! He opened the doors of opportunity to minister in incredible new ways. My calendar started filling up again, but this time I was not exhausted! I was learning that when I truly rely on HIS STRENGTH, He gives it. Maybe His strength was what I had been lacking for awhile.

Isaiah 40:31 (NIV) But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; THEY WILL RUN AND NOT GROW WEARY. They will walk and NOT BE FAINT.

 

Then I started pondering what it is like when my own children have an attitude of "YES" towards ME. How much more I am willing to trust them with when they have a posture of obedience and willingness. I know I will ask them to take on larger tasks, and reward them upon completion. I think of how I am more willing to help them with their tasks, when they have that submissiveness. I think our Heavenly parent must feel the same.

If you feel Him calling you to action, listen. Search the Scriptures to verify it is from Him. Your "YES" is important.  

 

 

Those Days...

 We have a long running joke in our family. “What? These kids want to eat again? I just fed them yesterday!” It never fails, between a full grown man, three growing boys and one active cheerleader, someone always thinks they are near starvation. My guys are not only bottomless pits, they are rather scheduled on how often they want to eat. A few minutes past noon and my oldest is already questioning if it is ‘fend for yourself’ day. I feel like I spend quite a large portion of my time in the kitchen preparing, cooking, and cleaning up.

  Not exactly how I planned this whole motherhood deal to go down.

 Recently I had one of those days. You know about ‘those’ days, right? The days when you are just over and done. No one appreciates all your work and you are just finished trying so hard when no one cares. Those days. Honestly I was just phoning it in at that point. Looking around I found the easiest things to cook which included that blue box of mac’n’cheese.

 Everyone made their plates and headed to the den. ( I don’t know why they were eating there, it certainly had nothing to do with the huge pile of clean laundry strewn across the dining room table.) I started fixing my plate when my six year old came running back into the kitchen. He almost tackled me in his excitement to give me one of those big bear hugs that happen less often as they all get older. “Thank you Mama!! You made my favorite mac’n’cheese!” I stood there speechless as he ran back to the den.

 Listen Y’all, I was brought to my knees by a box of noodles and powdered cheese. I’m going to be brutally honest here. How often are we going to get the SuperMom title for something so simple? Not often and it gets harder the older they get. My baby was sure I had made this wondrous thing as a special treat just for him.

Just for him.

Just for Him.

 

Colossians 3:23 (NIV)

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,

Other translations offer this as

work heartily

work with your whole being

work from your soul

do it enthusiastically

 

 I need to remember how to find the joy in the day to day. This motherhood deal includes quite a bit of the day to day grind that wears down on me when I’m not looking. I think it is a continual process, at least for me. Some days I rock at doing things wholeheartedly. Other days, well lets just keep in mind that I’m a work in progress. My prayer for you is that you are able to find the sweetness and joy in the day to day. Don’t let it wear you down Mama!

With much laughter and love,

Valerie

 

 

Welcome to It's a Beautiful Life!

Welcome to It's a Beautiful Life!

Well, here we are!

And who are we, anyway? If you haven't seen our Team Page, you can find all our bright, shiny faces there, along with a bit of an introduction!  Basically, we're a group of friends who really want to encourage other mamas, and finally, after a month or so of dreaming and coaxing and designing and plotting and praying, we're finally ready to welcome you in to this little spot of pretty and calm we've created.  Well, we may not actually be entirely ready, but we're so excited, we can't wait anymore! 

So, come on in.

Bone Dry

It’s 4 AM.  My 2 year old toddles into my bedroom whimpering slightly.  “Mommy, my ear is hurting,” he says. He has a fever, and I sigh. After some ear-numbing drops, a dose of ibuprofen, and a few snuggles, he’s feeling well enough to go back to bed.  And I trip back to my bed as well.

It’s been a rough season of sickness in our family.  Our family vacation in October was cut short by a baby with a stomach bug. The week of Thanksgiving was completely hijacked by another stomach virus that hit nearly everyone in our family.  And, now it’s just past Christmas.  We’ve traded a cold, accompanied by a nasty cough, between the members of our family for over a week, and it’s developed into ear infections in two of my five children.

And I’m tired. Physically tired.

I don’t think I’ve had a full night’s sleep in a month after getting up with children who are ill and uncomfortable at night.

It has also been a season of paring in my life.  Dear friends have moved away recently, either physically or emotionally.  Some dear loved ones have suddenly passed away in the past few months. My children have heart issues that must be handled so carefully yet swiftly.

And I’m tired.  Emotionally tired.

And I’m spiritually tired too.  Taking time away from church to stay home with little ones who are sick. Neglecting personal devotions and bible studies to take care of my babies as well as trying to catch up with the never-ending tasks of housekeeping, homeschooling, and motherhood in general. It all takes its toll on my spiritual health.  And I despair in my tiredness.

Trying to catch up with a friend, I make a quick glance at Facebook to see that someone has posted a picture on her page.  Its caption says, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.  Take care of yourself first.”  I give a mad cackle of laughter seeing that since I’ve been bone dry since sometime in November.  But, as the day goes on, I ruminate on what I read. 

 via Stock Images

via Stock Images

This particular day ends in tears.  There are just too many people and things pulling at me. I cry out to God, that I can’t do this anymore alone. And, very gently, he reminds me that I’ve never been alone in any of these times (Isaiah 41:10).  He reminds me that he is rest (Matthew 11:28), and that, if I look, I’ll find him right there with me. (Jeremiah 29:13) Where he’s always been. 

I finally realized that God had really and truly been with me, even though I was exhausted.  I thought I was dry, but it was God who refilled my cup each and every time.  Now, each morning, instead of dreading the day before me, I thank God for his new mercies every morning, and I pray for him to fill my cup one more time.

 Artwork by Chris Wright via Verses Project     s ource

Artwork by Chris Wright via Verses Project    source

Hugs and blessings, Charlotte

I went to INDIA- and the Lessons God had for me...and YOU (Part 1)

 On the street in Hyderabad, India

On the street in Hyderabad, India

(Originally written in August 2015) 

I have been home from India about 2 weeks. It will be in my heart forever, and I can't wait to get back there. But WHY did I go and WHAT DID I LEARN? Well, the answers to these questions are truly of the miraculous nature, so I will cover them in a couple of posts so you don't have to sit for hours and read. 

So here goes.

I had never felt really "called to Missions". I had never felt called to go to India. But, last year I made a conscious decision to strip away a lot of *extras* in my life, and focus more on God and loving Him. I felt Him say the time is short, and He wanted us draw closer to Him. Much fruit was gained from this, but most of all, I felt like I *heard* Him much more. Quiet can do that apparently.

I read a post on Facebook from my closest friend that mentioned she was planning on going to India on Missions for two weeks. I felt God say, "GO!" I laughed OUT LOUD. I was standing in my messy kitchen actually laughing at God telling me to go to India. I have 6 children. I run two businesses. I basically do like EVERYTHING at my house to keep it running, and usually people are fed and clothed. India? Two weeks? Bwahahahahaaaa! Then I realized I was acting like Sarah in the Bible when God said she was to have a child in her advanced age. Ooops. Better stop laughing and pray about this.'

I approached my husband cautiously with this new idea, pretty sure he would think I had been abducted by aliens. He did not say anything. He looked at his calendar. He walked into our room and shut the door. Hmmmm. Crickets. Then he walks out with tears in his eyes and hands me an envelope. It was savings bonds from when he was a child. He said he had never had a good enough reason to cash them until now, and offered it as my first support donation. (Wow) I guess I am going to India.

I started to process of getting support letters written, and felt God very clearly say NOT TO WORRY about the financial part of this trip. He would provide. Well, he better! I certainly can't afford to just finance it! So my kids and I stuffed envelopes and prayed over them, and I sat back expecting the money to just start rolling in. LOL. A few weeks passed by and I had about 3 donations, one being from my parents of course. The deadline for the first half was quickly approaching like a dark cloud. I started to worry. I felt guilty about the worry- felt like it was a lack of faith. But I just. couldn't. help. it. 

I set off for a quick trip to a home school convention with some of my sweet momma friends. I needed a miracle in 3 days. I needed about $1500. I confessed to my friends my lack of faith and begged them to pray with me about the situation. I felt like God was trying to teach a lesson to me about TRUST and I kept thinking about the Israelites wandering in desert and getting their manna provided WHEN THEY NEEDED it. Not before. They couldn't save it. It was there just when they needed it. But, oh boy, that is tough to wait.

The next evening my husband called to say he had a card from the mail and was told we should open it together. It was from my Aunt whom I had sent a support letter to. I told my friends - maybe this is the miracle! Maybe she sent a large donation! Maybe, just maybe it was close to the $1500! Could God really do that?

Well folks.....wait for it....IT WAS $5000! Yes. BUT WAIT, THERE's MORE! There was a letter. It said that she had already donated to my trip online, and she felt confident I would be 100% fully funded through means OTHER THAN this check. But she didn't WANT ME TO WORRY. *She* didn't want me to worry! Really, that letter was penned by her from my Heavenly Father to me. It was *HE* who didn't want me to worry- just like He said! And wouldn't you know it, friends, all $1500 of the money I needed for that deadline DID roll in those 3 days, so that I did not need to use that check from my aunt. Of course. Sometimes I think God like to show off a bit :)

With that lesson learned, and my faith renewed, the second deadline was also met TO THE DOLLAR right when I needed it. 

He provided. Just like He said. Lesson #1. 

Introducing ... the Addition.

James 1:27: "Pure religion is caring for orphans....

in their distress."

In their distress... Oh my, what a way to start a new life, a new beginning, a new family. Yet this very distress should be a gateway to wholeness and being a part of that path to wholeness is an amazing journey! And, it's a HARD journey.

It is our prayer that as you seek your specific role in caring for children in their distress that you find resources, wisdom, support, and community here in The Addition of It's A Beautiful Life!  Watch for posts to come over the upcoming weeks.  Welcome!

Blessings!

Renee Balassaitis (biofostadopt mom of 6, for now!)

Raspberry Streusel Coffeecake

raspberrystreuselcoffeecake.jpg

Raspberry Streusel Coffee Cake

3 ½ cups unsweetened raspberries
1 cup water
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 ¼ cups sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
BATTER:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup cold butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
TOPPING:
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
¼ cup butter, softened
½ cup chopped pecans
GLAZE:
          ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
          2 teaspoons milk
          ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large saucepan, cook raspberries and water over medium heat for 5 minutes.  Add lemon juice.  Combine sugar and cornstarch; stir into fruit mixture.  Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.  Cool.
       
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda.  Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in eggs, sour cream and vanilla (batter will be stiff).  Spread half into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking dish.  Spread raspberry filling over batter; spoon remaining batter over filling.  Combine topping ingredients; sprinkle over top.  Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown.  Combine glaze ingredients; drizzle over warm cake.

Enjoy!

1st Corinthians 13 for Homeschool Moms

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and teach my children Latin conjugations, Chinese, and Portuguese, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal, and no matter what I say, they will not hear me.

If I have the gift of prophecy, and know my children’s bents and God’s plan for their lives, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and am the keeper of the teacher’s editions and solutions manuals, and if I have all faith, so as to move mountains, and even keep up with my giant piles of laundry and dishes, but do not have love, I am nothing, even if all the people at church think I’m Supermom.

And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and my formal dining room gets turned into a schoolroom, and our family vacations look more like educational fieldtrips, and if I surrender my body to be burned, never having time to get my nails done, put makeup on, or even take a bath, but do not have love, it profits me nothing because all my family cares about is the expression on my face, anyway.

Love is patient with the child who still can’t get double-digit subtraction with borrowing, and kind to the one who hasn’t turned in his research paper. It is not jealous of moms with more, fewer, neater, more self-directed, better-behaved, or smarter children.

Love does not brag about homemade bread, book lists, or scholarships, and is not arrogant about her lifestyle or curriculum choices. It does not act unbecomingly or correct the children in front of their friends. It does not seek its own, trying to squeeze in alone time when someone still needs help; it is not provoked when interrupted for the nineteenth time by a child, the phone, the doorbell, or the dog; does not take into account a wrong suffered, even when no one compliments the dinner that took hours to make or the house that took so long to clean.

Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness or pointing out everyone else’s flaws, but rejoices with the truth and with every small step her children take in becoming more like Jesus, knowing it’s only by the grace of God when that occurs.

Love bears all things even while running on no sleep; believes all things, especially God’s promise to indwell and empower her; hopes all things, such as that she’ll actually complete the English curriculum this year and the kids will eventually graduate; endures all things, even questioning from strangers, worried relatives, and most of all, herself.

Love never fails. And neither will she. As long as she never, never, never gives up.

~Misty Krasawski

(* you can find this as a poster print in the shop!)