On servanthood

I love to serve. It’s in my blood. I feel so much joy and purpose when I am intentionally serving other people.

What does intentional serving look like? Here are some examples:

  • Making a meal for someone in need
  • Babysitting a friend’s kids so she can go to an appointment
  • Picking up some extra groceries for someone
  • Performing random acts of kindness around your community

As women and mothers I think many of us have servanthood in our bones. Perfectly fitting that God has called us to a job that, to it’s very core, is serving. Three meals a day. Wash out the wazoo. Grocery shopping and errand running. Tucking in and cleaning up. And then cleaning up some more.

And while our families aren’t the only ones we serve, they are a large part of those who are blessed by our service.

For a long time, I’ve operated under the guise of availability. A few years back I heard it said that someone held a grudge against homeschooling families at their church because they were too busy to serve in church ministries. Though not directly aimed at me, you can imagine that I was saddened to hear this. Saddened, one, to hear that homeschooling families were viewed this way and then, two, saddened that more people didn’t acknowledge the fact that family ministries like homeschooling are church ministries.

From there forward, I vowed to be available, to never be viewed as “too busy” to serve. I also became overly sensitive, offended even, if I wasn’t asked to be involved in some project or need because “ohh, you’re too busy” or “you have your hands full already.”

While it is still one or our family’s goals to be available– because we are blessed with the flexibility of homeschooling– this homeschool season has had me tiptoeing a few steps back, saying no just a little more often.

And– ya know what?– I’m okay with that. This season is one of hardcore serving my family. I’ve been giving and giving and giving and I’m learning there really is a threshold of how much I can give. I’m learning to choose how quickly I dole out yeses, holding onto them a bit more tightly and reserving them for best opportunities– the ones that allow my family to serve alongside me or ones that don’t wear me so thin that I can’t carry out my first calling.

Lately I’ve also been leaving a lot more of what I like to call “white space” in my days. I’ve been looking at my planner as less of a fill-every-void-of-time challenge and as more of a place to block off the essentials and intentionally leave room for lazy afternoons on the porch and slow evenings playing Yahtzee in the living room.

For far too long I’ve viewed the service I render in motherhood and wifehood as less than [when compared to the other service I could be doing]. Less enjoyable. Less fulfilling. And I’m beginning to realize that part of the reason for my skewed viewpoint is because serving my family has not been intentional service. Instead its been obligatory and mundane.

In order to be more fulfilled in serving at home we must treat our services as unique and carry them out intentionally. As in, with purpose and clarity and conviction.

This is, inevitably, going to look different in each home. In our home it looks like Saturday Special Breakfast with my kids on Saturday mornings. It looks like fresh-brewed iced tea waiting for my husband when he gets home from a long day at work. It looks like supervising longer than necessary bubble baths with essential oils and a space heater and play dinosaurs. Lots of play dinosaurs.

Serving my family intentionally allows me to think– really think– about my work here on this Earth, leaves lots of room for gratitude and fosters contentment in my ever-exhausted, yet super blessed mama heart.

So even if you are serving hundreds at a soup kitchen or singing praises on the church music team, be sure you are leaving enough white space, enough energy and mental capacity to also love and serve your precious family. Your family will reap wonderful benefits from your selflessness and you, too, will be abundantly blessed in doing so.

New spring homeschool schedule

While many students are spending their Spring counting down the days of school remaining, our family is readjusting. Always with the readjusting.

In defense of year-round homeschooling

A few years back we made the decision to forgo the traditional 9-month, 5-day-a-week school year to instead pursue year-round schooling. Before you start groaning, hear me out.

In our home state of Pennsylvania, our schooling requirement is 180 days. Achieving 180 days in nine months can be cumbersome and– let’s face it– pretty boring. It can be especially difficult when days at home simply cannot be 100% focused on traditional lessons. Most days are also laden with housework, caring for younger children and many, many unscheduled distractions.

To attempt 180 days in nine months can leave even the most organized family feeling frazzled. One “simple” change– switching to a year-round model– can be so [so] much more relaxed and enjoyable. It has led us to adopt a life-is-school mentality, which we absolutely love. Instead of cramming lessons & “learning” into 38 weeks, we now have the entire 52 weeks to accomplish the same thing and more. Can you tell I’m a fan??

All that to say, here’s why, in April, we are changing things up and coming up with a new schedule.

New Spring 2018 Schedule

Monday– Meal & Home Prep

A little prep work can go a long way. That’s why we’ve decided to devote this day to just that. Everyone gets involved as we scoop, measure, peel and chop our way through the day. We also tidy our common spaces of the house and make sure we complete enough laundry to get us through the week.

Tuesday– Reading & Math

Today is for getting serious. Sorta. We pull out our books and bunker down for the day. We allow ourselves to get immersed in reading and math because the entire day is carved out for just that. We are big fans of RightStart and enjoy many math games and interactive learning strategies. The rest of the time you’ll likely find us with our noses in some books.

Wednesday– Interest-based learning

This is one of the places we plug Science & History/Geography into our weeks. But instead of forcing the kids to learn a certain topic, I encourage them to learn about what interests them. My son has studied farming; my daughter China and now Africa. In the Spring and Summer they’ll research plants and get hands on learning in the garden. The possibilities are endless and we’ve seen much fruit allowing the kids a say in what they’re learning.

Thursday– Preschool Focus & Math

The older kids pitch in to help teach our 2-year-old & Kindergartener basics like coloring, shapes, letters and music in the morning. Though math practice and worksheets occur all week long, Thursday includes another scheduled math lesson with mom in the afternoon.

Friday– Flex Day

For sanity’s sake, our schedule must include built-in day for friends, field trips and service. We like to keep Fridays super flexible (hence the name). We know how important it is to get out there in the world and be with other people whether for building up, learning or serving.

Saturday– Catch Up

Some Saturdays we do extra lessons around the breakfast table, other times we work on our garden. We use Saturdays however we see fit and I’m not at all opposed to using it as a “school” day!

Sunday– Family Learning

Sundays are great because our whole family is together. We often wind up reading, visiting with friends & family or, lately, catching up on an episode of Drive Thru History.

What every day includes:

✅Silent reading

✅Devotions/Bible study

✅All ages read-aloud time

✅Chores

✅Outdoor play or physical activity (we love Mr. Mark!)

And, if you’re not needing a scheduling change quite yet but are already thinking about SUMMER, check out our summer schedule from last year.

Happy Spring!

Jenny

Confessions of a former martyr mom

Woe is me. Have you ever felt that way? At times I can be worse than a whining toddler. “The kids were so naughty today” and “the baby barely slept” and “little girl spilled her milk for the 127,829th time.”
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With each passing travesty, I can go from meek mom to martyr mom in less than 60 seconds. I can go from gentle to enraged just as fast. And– over what?– these little humans and their inevitable flaws because, in case you haven’t noticed, they’re pretty new here.

It’s so easy to forget that they’re young and inexperienced (yes, even at making sure their cup doesn’t get tipped over even though it is placed nowhere near their chubby, little flailing arms). It’s so easy to forget that, just like me, they often learn best by messing up. And that children messing up means parents jumping to the rescue and picking up the slack because that’s our job.

When I stop right there and think about this awesome responsibility in front of me I feel both humbled and a little bit ashamed. Ashamed that I often am so bogged down by the here-and-now, the do-this-do-that that something as basic as a troublesome toddler can set me over the edge and lead me down a path of martyrdom.

Martyr Mom says, “This work is just too hard, I need a break!” Martyr Mom says, “My life is so not glamorous, I wish I was in Tahiti.” Martyr Mom says, “I am the only mom who deals with these travesties, I just know it!” And then, “What did I do to deserve to be mistreated this way??”

And on and on and on.

If we want to get all technical about it, a martyr is a person who is killed because of their beliefs. Pretty intense. Pretty radical. And yet so many times I can be that martyr mom. That woman who feels like my life is dead because I’m a mom. Like my future is bleak because so. many. messes.

Then I live motherhood in this hurried cycle, rushing things along. How long until I can get baby out of diapers? How long until they stop eating like rabid beavers (who leave a trail of Goldfish crackers wherever they go)? How darn long until they learn not to spill the milk?!

And the answer, my friend, is not very long. In the blink of the eye the training wheels are off, the driver’s license is issued and the bags are packed. Oh, my heart honestly aches to think about it! And yet, I’m trying to rush things! What is wrong with me?

Motherhood does not have to be about martyrdom. It should not be about martyrdom. It should be about life. It should be about celebrating all the firsts and clutching onto all the moments– the good, bad, the ugly– that are being created for these little humans we are raising (and for us)! Everything that happens in our lives has the potential to shape us for life, affecting how we think about the world, how we love others, what we believe. That is anything but a dying cause. That is a living cause.

Motherhood does have to be about self-denial and self-sacrifice. A dying to self of sorts. The newborn babe is not going to feed herself just because you want to sleep instead. No, when you are a mom, you crawl out of that bed to nurture and sustain that tiny life that can’t live without your help. You give up part of your desires– be they for sleep or beauty or being fed first– because you’ve been given a tremendous responsibility to care for another life. I am not the same person I was as a 22-year-old new mom. Not even close. I’ve lost some aspects of myself but gained others I never knew I could have. Self-denial and self-sacrifice– at the expense of training up beautiful, beautiful souls– is so worth it. Every crumb-filled room, sleepless night, every drop of milk trickled on the floor, is worth it.

So let us shift our thinking away from this hopeless estate that is martyrdom and move toward living out a beautifully messy, oh-so-hard, yet worthwhile life as a kingdom-advancing, world changing, mother.

With hope,
Jenny

8 things you can do to foster a loving relationship with your child

I spend a lot of time with my kids. A lot. And because I have unlimited time with them right now– being an at-home, homeschooling, DIYmom– that must mean that I make sure the time is quality, right?

The truth is, not always. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work of keeping a home, helping my husband and making sure the kids don’t eat grass or the baby doesn’t climb the stairs that sometimes it’s really easy for me to forget to stop and just focus on the child.IMG_8436

It’s usually then that one (or several) of them start acting out or causing trouble that I realize, that I’m spread pretty thin and I need to stop and love.

So this list is just as much a reminder to myself as it is an encouraging reminder to other moms. People aren’t always easy to love– and miniature versions of ourselves are no different!– but there are some easy ways that require a little bit of effort but go a long way in showing our children that they are special and important and loved. Because the truth is that if our children don’t find support, encouragement and love in their homes, from their family, they will search for it elsewhere.

I don’t know about you but, personally, that worries me. As parents we only have a short span of time to influence our children for good and to instill in them our values, and ultimately, our faith. Let’s try not to waste it. Here are some things we, as parents, can do:

  1. Read to her
    There are few things so simple yet powerful as reading to your child. It’s you, pulling her into your lap, giving her your undivided attention for even just four minutes that can make her feel special. Delve into her favorite genre and you’re pretty much a superhero in her eyes.
  2. Find out & cater to his love language
    It’s important to know that not all people experience love in the same way. Taking a little bit of your time to “learn” your child and the way he responds to your loving attempts can make all the difference in his life. It’s also a good general rule of thumb to show him love in many different ways so that he begins to recognize and appreciate each way (even though he likely responds better to 1 or 2 ways).
  3. Include her in as much as possible
    In our hurried lives, it’s easy to push her aside while we take care of something else that’s requiring our attention. And that’s okay. But how much better would it be if we brought our child alongside of us in all that we do? Doing so not only teaches her valuable life skills but also teaches her confidence. She will remember the times that you pulled up the stool and let her cook dinner with you. And she’ll look back on those memories and smile.
  4. Set aside one-on-one time
    If you are a mom of many this can be tough or at least appear to be tough but I’m here to tell you that one-on-one time does not have to be expensive outings or whole days alone with one of your children. One-on-one time can be spending 15-minutes painting your daughter’s nails while talking about horses or playing a board game with your son right after everyone else goes to bed. Don’t be so paralyzed with complicated (read: impossible) ideas that you miss out on the simple, here-and-now options.
  5. Listen to him
    With most children there comes a certain age when they just love to talk. They walk around chattering about with their plans and ideas and facts. It really is a beautiful thing but after multiple hours of this, it can get a little tiresome and it’s easy for moms to crave quiet. Let me give you some advice: listen to him. Set down your phone, put down the whisk, stop folding the laundry and just listen. Listen to him talk about his Lego creations and his fort and the time he caught a ladybug and his plans for building a robot and how he got to level 8 in Mario Brothers…
  6. Smile & laugh with her
    Smiling at her will encourage her to smile. Laughing with her will encourage further laughter. Life is short and beautiful and busy, remember to take the effort to not be too serious.
  7. Hug & tell him you love him
    Human touch is special. So are words. Use both daily. Stop what you are doing and give him a hug. Interrupt his video games to tell him you love him and, hey, go the extra mile and tell him why you love him.
  8. Take an interest in what interests her
    This is yet another attempt for you to “learn” your child. By watching and listening you will soon learn what makes her tick. What drives her and brings her joy. When she is young this will likely change often, keeping you on your toes. If you know she loves animals, go out of your way to teach her more about animals, take her to the zoo with some friends, read her books about koala bears and kangaroos. Use her interests to not only teach her things but to prove to her that you are, in fact, listening and that you do, really, care.

On this journey along with you,

Jenny

Looking past interuptions

It’s as if something clicked. I was contemplating some mom struggles I’ve been having lately. And then I realized– I’m so frustrated with the kids lately (as in the past six months) because they’ve been interrupting me. Both literally and figuratively my kids have been interrupting me. They’ve been not only rudely jumping into conversations when they shouldn’t be but they’ve also been getting in my way of accomplishing what I want.

Ugh. Just typing that out is so ugly. So convicting.IMG_4046.PNG

My thoughts, while most definitely were silently occurring in my head, were as deafening as a nearby freight train. And also as frightening.

My kids are distracting me. That’s the lie I was feeding myself.

Distracting me from seemingly good things– a quiet morning cup of coffee, my daily devotional time with the Lord, an important conversation with a sister.

Yes, my kids need to learn obedience, they need to learn when to talk and when to refrain from talking, but I am just as guilty.

I need to learn that what I want to be doing is not always the task God has put right in front of me. My kids, my husband, my family– they need me. And they need a gentler, less frazzled, more-grace-extending version of me. Not only that, but they need to know, to feel, to see that they matter and they are worth my time and my energy.

It’s so easy to become sidetracked with good works– and for me this is my love language, this is how I feel loved and how I love others. But sometimes I forget that just going through the motions of motherhood is not enough and is surely not God-honoring. Slapping a heaping spoonful of home-cooking onto a paper plate with a begrudging attitude and a hardened heart is not love. It’s rebellion and a reflection of my brokenness.

And boy am I so broken sometimes.

But, then, there’s grace. There’s a loving Father extending an open hand saying, come to me, let me carry these burdens with you, my grace is sufficient.

And so this momma gives it another shot. I approach another day, another week with a refined outlook. I try not to cling to what went wrong in past weeks but learn and grow and look forward.

This time, I’ll try not to look at knotted hair as just another head that needs brushing but a beautiful daughter that needs my undivided attention for that five minute task. I’ll try not to look at requests for seconds at the dinner table as a pesky child always wanting more but a little boy who is growing and already appreciates the blessing of good food.

This shift will not come easily, for sure, but it is necessary and desired and a step toward right-reaping.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

Each day I am thankful for a new chance, new opportunities to live this life to the full and to honor God with what He’s given me. This week, and in the weeks ahead, I’ll keep trying to do better…

With determination,

Jenny