How Have You Kept Your Marriage Thriving?

Having just celebrated Valentine’s Day, the subject is fresh on our minds. Because all three of us are still in the stage of caring for very young children, it is easy to put our marriage relationship on the back burner. Today, we want to share our personal answers to the following question:

How have you kept your marriage thriving while busy with young children?

Chrystal:

Date nights. We’ve worked really hard to preserve this time and the more children we’ve added the more necessary we feel it’s become for our own personal lifestyle. We try to get out by ourselves once a week. It doesn’t always work out with scheduling, but that is our goal. We are really blessed to live near family members who are willing to babysit our children which is a huge help! However, we also swap babysitting with another family in our church. They babysit our kids while we go on a date and then the next week we can watch their kids while they get a date night in.

Mike and I take time on our dates to intentionally talk through our goals as a family and to see how we’re doing with those goals. We also take time to just unwind or to make new memories together. If there is no babysitter, we have also found it helpful to have a set night of the week where we grab a hot drink and settle onto the couch for some sharing and prayer time. Otherwise, life gets busy and we quickly become preoccupied with other things. If we aren’t intentional about setting aside time together, it often just doesn’t happen for us.

Rachel:

Jeremiah and I, on the other hand, do not have family close by, so while “date nights” are few and far between, we  have found that our marriage can thrive regardless. We try to do as much together as possible from grocery shopping to library outings to making meals. We talk ALOT. Even during Jeremiah’a break at work each day, we are either texting or using the app Marco Polo. Our kids have an early bedtime and we spend the evenings together. Sometimes that might mean snuggling on the couch as we each read our own book while other times might include cheese cake and decaf while we chat or watch a movie. And we always head to bed at the same time each night and cap off the day with conversation and prayer.

Angie:

Right now, communication is the main thing. I am finding that I have this bad tendency to play this game of seeing if Isaac can read my mind, often wondering to myself “When is he going to notice that I really would like some help with taking care of Talitha right now? Can he tell I have something weighing on my mind? What about this other thing–when is he going to ask if I want to do it?”

However, I am learning that it is much better to not play this Can-You-Read-My-Mind game and just talk about these things instead of allowing myself to get frustrated about unfulfilled (and even unspoken!) expectations. During this stage of having a toddler running around, intentional communication often takes on the form of lots of simple things: things like just asking for help with Talitha or being honest about something I’ve been struggling with. And many times, just having the conversation is huge!

Because of varying personalities, preferences, and circumstances, among many other things, each marriage and family is different in this area. For this reason, there are many different ways to go about making one’s marriage a priority, while also attending to the many responsibilities of having young children. Please keep in mind that our answers here simply reflect what we have personally found helpful!

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Helping Our Kids Learn More About God

We want to help our children grow in their understanding of God, so we take them to church, right?

But what about at home? What are some ways that we can be intentionally parenting our children and not just leave the Bible stories and verses at church?

Here are some ideas that Angie, Rachel and myself have tried or would like to see ourselves implementing in our day to day parenting.

Model it

Children watch and learn from their parents, so modeling the priority of spending time in the Word has the potential of significantly impacting children to do the same.  

Don’t Underestimate Their Abilities

Children do not have to have high school English in order to read and understand the Bible for themselves: If your child can read on his own, encourage him to read a portion of Scripture each day. Perhaps you could even present him with a sizable goal to work towards, such as reading through a book of the Bible, the New Testament, or some other, age-appropriate, reading goal.

Have “Bible Lesson Time”

Particularly with young children, having a specific time where Mom or Dad recount or read a particular Bible lesson can be a lot of fun. You could use a children’s Bible with pictures, Bible lesson visuals, or get creative and make your own visuals or props for an interactive lesson time!  The Jesus Storybook Bible is a good children’s Bible. 

Intentionally Teach Them Music

Currently my (Chrystal’s) children really love songs like “The Wheels on the Bus” and “Baa Baa Black Sheep” but there’s nothing I love more than to hear them belting out the words and melodies to songs like “My God is so Big”, “How Great Thou Art” or “I Sing the Mighty Power of God.” These songs will stay with them long into their adulthood and have the power to change their hearts (and mine!) with the truths they hold about our great God.

Memorize Catechisms Together

While never replacing Scripture, teaching our children foundational truths about God can be an extremely helpful way to establish doctrinal truths in their hearts and minds. I (Chrystal) have found following catechisms to be detailed and yet simple enough to be memorized by our three year old. My husband has been incorporating hand motions as well to help their children learn as they continue to work their way through these.

https://www.bjupress.com/resources/pdfs/bible/btcg.pdf

Create Bible Verse Visuals

 Find/cut/paste pictures and insert them into a verse that you then write out onto card stock. You get to do a craft with them and end up with a visual to aid in Scripture memory! Win win!

Read Them Books about God, His Word and Prayer

I (Rachel) appreciate the simple truths about prayer in the book What Happens When I Talk To God.This book also teaches children the concepts of God’s omniscience and omnipresence as it relates to prayer.

We would love to hear of ways that have helped you be more intentional about teaching your kids more about God and His Word!

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Applesauce Cinnamon Ornaments

Last year I was able to make these fun applesauce cinnamon ornaments at our local Moms group. Literally the only ingredients in these ornaments is applesauce and cinnamon.

I know, it sounds weird, but it works!

You do need lots of cinnamon.

LOTS of cinnamon.

The recipe is simple. Just mix together in a large bowl:
1 portion Cinnamon
1 portion Applesauce

In other words, use a 1:1 ratio of cinnamon and applesauce. Believe it or not, this combination of applesauce and cinnamon turns into a dough that can be rolled out and cut like sugar cookies! Use cinnamon as flour on the table surface to keep the dough from sticking.

At the Moms of Hot Springs gathering, there were 6-8 ladies who made ornaments. Between all of us, we used 2 large jars of applesauce and about 2 1/2 large Tones Cinnamon containers. There was plenty of dough for everyone to make at least a baking-sheet worth of ornaments.

If you’re wanting to make a small batch for just your family, you might want to start with only one or two cups each of applesauce and cinnamon.

Once the dough is rolled out to the desired thickness, use cookie cutters or get creative and make your own shapes to personalize them. Since it was Talitha’s first Christmas when I made these, I made a couple simple circles with her handprint and the year on them. They turned out super cute–I just love how tiny her hand looks!

After cutting the shapes, make a hole for the ribbon. The easiest way to do this is with a straw—just poke it into the dough, and ta-DAH! You’ve got a perfect hole, waiting for a ribbon!

Place the ornaments on an ungreased cookie sheet.

To dry the ornaments, you have two options:

1. You can let these simply air-dry for several days, turning them over every day to help with the drying process.

2. You can bake them at 200 degrees for 2 hours.

I air-dried mine, but I hear that baking these ornaments will make the house smell quite yummy!

And yes, these fun ornaments are quite durable and hardy! One of the ladies at our moms’ get-together said she and her husband made these ornaments the first year they were married–and they still hang them on their Christmas tree, six years later!

I hope you have as much fun with these as I did!

~Angie

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Why I Need Single Friends In My Life

 

 

Extroverted. Introverted.

Leader. Encourager.

Organizer. Planner.

Teacher. Nursery Worker.

Single. Married.

God has called each of us to fulfill a unique role within the body of Christ and we all have something to offer.

I Corinthians 12:5-6 lays this out for us. “And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.”

We also see in verses 13- 21 that we cannot function well if certain parts of the body are not fulfilling their part/role…or if other parts of the body are too proud to depend on others to help complete them.

If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.  And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.”

However, when every member of the body is contributing their due part we find that the whole body can function in a healthy and proper way.

In recent years I have been specifically blessed with a number of single friends whose role within the body of Christ has become invaluable to me. As a mom with three little children I have found myself craving these sweet friendships more than ever before and am often found saying “I need more single friends in my life!” Why is that, you ask?

 

  1. Single people know how to talk about things besides children. When I get together with my mom friends the majority of our conversation will be centered around kids. And naturally so! However, while those conversations are good and beneficial in their own way, there are times I crave conversations that don’t involve my kids. Once in a while it’s nice to know that I DO still have thoughts about things outside of teething, potty training, childhood behaviors, etc.

 

  1. Single people don’t add chaos to the chaos. My husband and I love hosting people in our home and a lot of times this will include families with several children of their own. Those evenings usually consist of more noise, more toys on the floor, and more opportunities to lovingly redirect our children as they learn to share. Deep conversations can be hard to come by when the train of thought is continually interrupted by one or another of the children needing some attention. So, I repeat, single people don’t add chaos to the chaos. Some of my sweetest and most refreshing times lately have been spent with single people, whether we’re chilling on the couch together or pushing my kids in a stroller and chatting as we walk. (And when my friend offers to help load my kids in the van I appreciate her even more!)

 

  1. Single people can stay up past kid’s bedtimes. Wanting to go out for coffee and shopping with someone while my husband stays home with the kids? Feeling a spontaneous game night after the kids are in bed? Ready to watch a chic flick with someone while sipping on a hot drink and snacking on some goodies? My single friends are the answer. While my Mom friends can also help to fulfill this role in my life they have their own kid’s bedtimes to attend to and can’t be as readily available.

 

  1. Single people can bring an outside opinion. Their experience of the world is different than mine and they often have valuable advice to offer.

 

  1. Single people can do activities without finding a babysitter and are often more flexible in regards to time. Hiking, cookie nights, house projects, etc., are much easier to do with my single friends. I can also do some of these things with my mom friends but usually there’s a time limit because “So and so is due for a feeding” or “I better get back in time to make dinner”, etc., whereas my single friends can just join my own family for dinner and then continue to work on the house project with me!

 

  1. Single people can pray for me. Now, this one can be fulfilled just as easily by any one of my friends, single or married, but seriously, what Mom couldn’t use more prayer warriors in her life? I certainly could!

 

  1. Single people can love on my kids. Single friends have brought gifts, delivered a special toy, given a postcard from Europe, etc.. They’ve sat with my kids and given snuggles and love. They’ve played and laughed with my kids. And you know what? My kids are excited when they come over! And personally, I love that my kids can have these special relationships with my friends too.

 

So, all this to say…reach out to the single people in your life. Not for the sake of making small talk. Not because you feel guilty that you haven’t been including them in things. Reach out simply because you know that if you don’t you will be missing out on some truly beautiful friendships. Get to know the single people in your life. Truly get to know them. Find out what they like/dislike. Invite them along on everyday activities. Include them in family traditions. Find out their love language and then love on them in that specific way. You will be abundantly blessed by the love that they can offer back.

And, if you happen to be a single person reading this…look around at the married people in your life and reach out. You might be surprised by how eagerly your friendship would be welcomed.

~ Chrystal

 

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Hard Situations Through Which God Taught Us Thankfulness

As part of our Thankful Thursday series, today’s post will be a panel post where we share our  personal answers to the following question:

 

What circumstance has God allowed into your life that you have had a hard time being thankful for?  

Chrystal:
This question is a hard one to answer for me. Mainly because God hasn’t asked me to walk through any (what I would consider) major life crisis yet. No chronic illness, no miscarriage, no job loss, no wayward child, etc….yet. So when I look at my life and see the areas where I struggle with thankfulness it all seems rather petty to me. And yet, I think whether we are currently walking through a valley or pasture, God’s call to each of us remains the same. Be thankful.

 

For me, I find it the hardest to give thanks when my own personal comfort is being jeopardized. So, this plays itself out in my marriage: I want a husband who will pursue and serve me even when he’s tired. It plays itself out with my kids: I want them to behave well and never inconvenience me, especially in public. It plays itself out in my home: I want a home that always stays clean and never feels dirty or cluttered, etc.

 

In the moment these things seem like good and honest desires to me. Husbands should pursue their wives, right? Children should obey their parents, right? Our homes should be up kept, right? And yet, often I find myself prioritizing these things above God. I get upset when these “rights” of mine aren’t working out. And suddenly my ugly heart is exposed with what I truly idolize: myself.

 

It is at these moments that I need to remind myself that God is the source of my satisfaction. Ultimately, I should never be looking to myself, my family or my home as my reasons for a grateful heart. (Not that I can’t be thankful for those things, but at a base level those are not good wells to be drawing my joy from.) Ultimately, my family and home can be taken away, but God has promised me all the satisfaction and joy I need in Him.

 

Psalm 16: 8-11 – “I have set the Lord always before me: because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasure for evermore.”

 

My hope is in Christ, not in man/circumstances. Christ is my Redeemer. And when God is the source of my happiness I will always have a reason to rejoice.

 

Angie: 
 Almost four years ago, God allowed me to miscarry twins, our first pregnancy. At first, I was simply dealing with all the emotions of the grief. However, after a while, it did become an issue of “Can I thank God for this?” Needless to say, it was an intense struggle to honestly thank God for our miscarriage. Deep down in my heart, I knew that I was supposed to be thankful for it. But my flesh fought against yielding so easily to the correct answer. To come to the point of being able to thank Him for our miscarriage, I believe there was one perspective that was primarily instrumental: I had to establish a deep-rooted conviction of God’s sovereignty and goodness in everything, even in our miscarriage.

 

God used His Word and several books (primarily Knowing God, by Jerry Bridges and Inheritance of Tears, by Jessalyn Hutto) to help my heart grow in my conviction of His sovereignty and goodness in all things. With time, this conviction has become the foundation for understanding and giving thanks for our miscarriage. I don’t understand the full reason for why He allowed it. I don’t understand all of the things that He has accomplished and continues to accomplish through our miscarriage. But I do understand that God’s Word teaches us that He is good and sovereign in all His ways, and as such, I can trust Him, even when there were times when it felt like I was being suffocated of the very air I breathed because of the pain of the loss.

 

It is because of His faithfulness to show His goodness and sovereignty that I can now thank Him in this pain as He works to accomplish His good work in me. Because of our miscarriage, God has blessed me with some of the sweetest times of fellowship with Him as He revealed Himself through the pages of His Word. However, even now, almost four years since our miscarriage, there are still times when I wonder if the pain will ever go away. It is during these moments then, that I again have to remind myself of the bedrock truth that God continues to be good and sovereign, and continues to use even the pain for His good will.

 

Rachel:
When I was just a tiny little girl I remember wanting to grow up and be a mommy to a lot of children. As I got older I envisioned being a strong woman who delivered all my children naturally without the aid of any medication or pain-reliever.As our first baby’s due date drew closer and Braxton hicks come in strong waves I prepared myself mentally for delivery. On the day that marked 40 weeks everything changed. Our doctor told me that I had a problem with my cervix which was causing it to not dilate. The longer the pregnancy continued the higher the risk of an emergency cesarean became. There were two options: one, schedule induction or wait it out and risk an emergency c-section. He suggested we go home and make our decision, if we chose to wait the baby would need to be monitored every couple days.

Before our next appointment arrived I began to labor hard and a few hours later my water broke with contractions coming every two minutes. We arrived at the hospital anticipating that our baby would arrive very soon only to find that I was not dilated at all. I labored for 29 hours and still had not reached 5 centimeters. At this point I was given an epidural and a high dose of pitocin. Six hours later our little girl made her appearance! A perfect healthy little blonde baby was placed in our arms. I was so happy and so thankful for our girl and that we had been spared a c-section.

Fast forward 21 months and we were preparing for the birth of our second little one. I was positive that things would be different this time, so sure that I could “do it” without help or medication this time! But as that 40 week mark come then went and I showed no signs of dilating, though I was experiencing strong labor pains, I grew more and more upset and bawled my eyes out in the OB office at 40 weeks 6 days. The midwife told me to go home for some lunch then come back for a stress test and ultrasound.

Baby passed the stress test with flying color but as I lay there while the nurse moved the ultrasound doppler around on my stomach I could tell from her face something was not quite right. She explained that the amniotic fluid was almost totally gone which could cause complications and even a still birth if this baby did not come very soon. She fetched a doctor who looked me in the eyes and told us that we were not leaving this room. She said she never liked to induce unless it was absolutely necessary and this was one of those times. I lay there thinking “This is NOT how I wanted things to go, this is not how I want to tell my story. But I can do it this time without an epidural, I’m sure I can be strong enough!”

As my body reacted to the medication it was riddled with the most excruciating pain beyond what I ever imagined. I truly though I was going to die. Hours passed. By the time I looked at my husband and gave into an epidural I could not stand, sit or lay down and my body would not stop shaking.  As the nerve block did its job I slept and woke up ready to deliver. 13 hours of labor and another beautiful, perfectly healthy little girl was placed in our arms! Thank you God! My dreams of “normal” labors and deliveries have crumbed before me twice but each time I am strongly reminded how much I have to be thankful for-  thankful that my body can carry our babies, thankful for doctors and modern technology which I’m sure God used to save my life and our babies lives, thankful to have been spared c-sections, thankful that each time God has given Jeremiah and I strong, healthy little girls! It has been hard but I can only praise God!

 

It is amazing and encouraging to see how God uses many different circumstances and situations to teach us and mold us into the image of His Son! He is good and faithful!

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