Archive for Homemaking

Ideas for Every Day Art

Do you feel unqualified to teach your child the arts?

You’re not alone.

Whenever the topic of art comes up in homeschool circles, those who classify themselves as “non-artsy” shrug their shoulders in defeat, assuming they could never teach their kids art. They say things like, “I can barely draw a stick figure.” or “I couldn’t carry a tune if it had a handle attached to it”.

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There’s good news for you in the non-arsty camp. Art is so broad that you are probably already creating art but without thinking much about it.

  • Maybe you aren’t a maestro, but have you ever gathered flowers from around your yard to arrange a centerpiece for your table simply for others to enjoy? Floral design is an art.
  • Do you send handwritten notes with flowing script, sealed with pretty stickers, intended to make the recipient smile? Writing and penmanship are both arts.
  • Do you enjoy kneading bread dough and find it therapeutic and beautiful as you shape loaves for dinner? Baking is a delicious art.

The truth is that a creating art starts with art appreciation. It’s a lifestyle and and an atmosphere which stops to take notice and savor beautiful things. Raising an aspiring artist is easier than you might think but there’s one rule: You have to step out of your comfort zone and try it.

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I wish people viewed art, music, and poetry (and every pursuit of crafting beautiful things) as integral to the whole person, instead of extra-curricular. Art should be considered the webbing on which all other academic disciplines attach themselves. History relates to art because it’s the story of people and people make art. Math, because design is orderly and universal truths are needed to create rhythm and sequence, etc…

Christians often view art as superfluous, like something you can enjoy when your real work is done. Taking time to create art is seen as a “hobby.” I think Protestants have gotten this wrong for so long that it has affected the quality of work produced by Christians when years ago, some of the most influential artist were Christians.  I for one have seen my fill of cheesy “Christian” movies that lacked excellence and were, frankly, poorly made art.

“What is the place of art in the Christian life? Is art- especially the fine arts- simply a way to bring worldliness in through the back door? What about sculpture or drama, music or painting? Do these have any place in the Christian life? Shouldn’t a Christian focus his gaze steadily on “religious things” alone and forget about art and culture?

As evangelical Christians, we have tended to relegate art to the very fringe of life. The rest of human life we feel is more important.

Despite our constant talk about the lordship of Christ, we have narrowed its scope to a very small area of reality. We have misunderstood the concept of the lordship of Christ over the whole man and the whole of the universe and have not taken to us the riches that the Bible gives us for ourselves, for our lives, and for our culture.

The lordship of Christ over the whole of life means that there are no platonic areas in Christianity, no dichotomy or hierarchy between the body and the soul. God made the body as well as the soul, and redemption is for the whole man.” ~Francis Schaeffer

I’m going to share ways we encouraged art in our home. But I’m really excited to share YOUR thoughts below about how you incorporated art inexpensively and consistently into the home. Thank you so much for contributing!!

Ideas for Every Day Art

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Music::

There are so many ways to enjoy music.

  • Pandora, Spotify, and classical radio are free and allow you access to the greatest composers of all time.
  • When children are young, allow them to make their own music. Bells, rhythm sticks, piano, glockenspiel, pots and pans are all ways to let them enter into music making as they listen to the composer.
  • Sing with your children! Teach them folk songs and hymns. Can there be anything sweeter than “Infant Praises” in the ears of God?
  • If you have access to instruments, let your children play them.
  • Attend free concerts in your community.

Ambleside Online has a composer study rotation, which is a painless way to immerse your kids into their work. We would choose one composer a month and mainline on listening to their work during dinner and free time.

Artwork::

  • Start cheap. Crayons, watercolors, washable markers, chalk, pens, pencils, modeling clay, scissors, and good sized paper are all you need to begin with your children.
  • Spend more as you progress. Eventually buy better art supplies as your budget allows. For the serious art student I recommend Windsor Newton Watercolors, Arches watercolor paper, Prismacolor colored pencils, Tombow Dual Brush Markers.
  • As you work, talk about the process. You might point out that the red paint appears purple when you smear it over the blue. Or that the paint gets runny the more water you add. Or find out what happens when you mix blue and orange. Or as you are out and about, ask “How do you think we could paint clouds like those right there?” “What colors would you mix to get that spring green color?”
  • There are YouTube videos galore on painting, drawing, pastels, etc. When our kids were young, we enjoyed the Draw Right Now series, especially books 2 and 5. For older students, look into  Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

Don’t criticize your child’s artwork. Pretty please, just don’t. I once watched as a mother hovered over her 4-year-old as she painted, telling her that she was making “that tree wrong” and it should be “that color” and the child was shutting down, unsure of herself.  Not very “inspiring” conditions for a young artist.

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Consider anything your child shares with you as a gift. Ask questions if you like. But in the moment, criticism is not helpful.

Ambleside Online has a Art Schedule that is similar to the composer schedule. You study one artist per month or term. If you have a color printer, you can print them off and stick them on your fridge. If not, set each artists work as a screen saver so your child gets familiar with the feel/style simply by exposure. Let your child try to “copy” the masterpieces.

Boston has the MFA. Your city might have an art museum as well. Many libraries display the work of local artists, as well.

 

Poetry::

My mother loved poetry and would sometimes read it to us at night. We memorized poetry in school, and learned to love the flow of words and the way the language sounded.

If your poetry skills are shaky, or your reading aloud skills are sub-par, consider listening to poetry online. Less is more. One poem enjoyed for a few days is a delightful way to help them appreciate it.

There are so many beautiful poetry books for children:

A Child’s Garden Of Verses. (This edition is OOP but you can get it used for about $5 and the illustrations are lovely.)

Some poetry is easier than others. If you don’t know where to start, try the work of Christina Rossetti or A.A. Milne.

Many songs are just poetry put to music. Hymns can be sung, then spoken articulately.  Folk songs can be spoken and clapped so they notice meter and rhythm.

Handwriting::

I guess penmanship isn’t taught in school anymore, but in the Beals home, penmanship was practiced. Handwriting has a personality. When you see someone’s handwriting, it says something about them. They were in a hurry when they wrote this. They were relaxed and happy as they penned this. They were all business here.

Sending mail via the USPS may be outdated, but there’s something special about getting a handwritten note in the mail in an impersonal world. There are so many occasions to write. Sending a  get well or a “thinking of you” is a gift to the recipient. I love getting a card from my grandmother with her proper, gorgeous script. Sometimes she affixes stickers to the envelope. Usually there is a recipe tucked in or most recently, a recipe for canning blueberry jam.

When my kids were younger, we used handwriting time to copy verses for older people who were shut in at a nursing home. We’d deliver the verse and hang it on their bulletin board to add some color and cheer to their room.

Rebekah especially loves calligraphy and you can see some of her work here.

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Photography::

The world of digital photography makes practicing this skill inexpensive and non-threatening. Don’t like it? Delete!

Kids can learn the ins and outs of DSLR via YouTube or library book and practice away fairly inexpensively.

Handiwork::

There are so many useful crafts that it’s hard to know where to begin. Basket making, jewelry making, woodworking, needlework, beginning sewing with felt, needle felting, flower arranging, card making, ceramics, pottery, etc. are all areas where creativity can flourish.

Reader Advice::

I asked my readers to share how they’ve encouraged art in their homes. Here are a few responses.

I think that it has to be something that is a part of your everyday life, and not something you perceive as an extra. That can be as simple as: taking your children even when their infants to free outdoor concert, having the radio on at home playing music all different kinds, playing CDs, or MP3s, or DVDs! Anything with music in it. That might mean that the first concert you can only stay 10 minutes or so, that will get better over time. The same is true with drawing or painting, it’s not something you introduce as extra, there are crayons and paper is laying around everywhere and whenever they are bored or need downtime that’s what you do. I think if you don’t perceive the arts of something extra and the children won’t either, it will absolutely be a part of their lives. Give me children can also play percussion instruments and that’s fun to do the kind of family drum circle even when they’re just infants! Pots and pans work doesn’t have to be anything fancy.” Beth MacLeod Largent
“I give my kids beginning piano lessons. Even if you’re not a virtuoso, it’s easy to do the beginner stuff. I highly recommended Alfred’s “Music for Little Mozarts” series. You can move through the lessons faster than a weekly lesson with an outside teacher and save 1+ year’s worth of tutiton. They have a music appreciation aspect to the series as well where you can purchase a cd and book. My kids love it. They dance and learn beginning singing. We also do the art lessons included in our homeschool curriculum. (My Father’s World). I always tell my kids that learning art and music makes their brain stronger and think better.” Charity Harley
 “We have had a dedicated “art room” as long as I can remember, and the kids are free to create during their downtime. We talk about an artist once in a while, and display his/her works on the walls. I play piano and sing for them while they play or do art projects, and they sing along. I introduce them to classic and traditional songs, literature, art, poetry on a regular basis. The library has been a great resource for finding books, music, etc. Youtube videos have served us well. The Virtual Art Instructor has also been an amazing tool for learning visual arts. My kids also are in classical ballet and tap classes. Our education is heavy in the arts because my kids are extremely creative, and their creativity spills over into all other subjects. Their education is much more interesting and though provoking because of the arts.” Andrea Hanson

We started our young kids with just crayons and playdoh to give them a chance to create. And that morphed into preschool art like tearing paper to create collages and using beans or pasta to make things. I also rely on a few resources for project ideas – Before Five in a Row is a preschool curriculum that incorporates art and also Five in a Row for the older ages. Lots of good intros into artistic elements but in a welcoming way. Also a blog I like that gives good step-by-step instruction is Art Projects for Kids (http://artprojectsforkids.org/) – a lot of fun and simple projects using supplies at home. We also do nature studies and use field guides and nature books for ideas on drawing and using watercolors. For music and art appreciation, we check out books from the library about artists and composers (some good picture books are available) and listen to music online (allowing us to study some instruments). None of these have been expensive but have given them a good intro if it’s something they want to continue exploring Oh and we bought an inexpensive keyboard so our kids could take basic piano lessons and they’ve enjoyed it so far, even if it’s not something they are passionate about.” Kim Pina

 “Hubs and I are both musicians, and our oldest (7) is in piano lessons. One inexpensive thing we’ve done to introduce all of them is simply to follow our local orchestra(s) on facebook. There are LOADS of free opportunities sponsored by local businesses and such. My favorite is that we got to be in the audience for a live interview with Itzhak Perlman and to watch him play a solo in a piece with 70 young violinists from the area. Tickets for his performance with the city orchestra the night before were upwards of $140 each. Watching him play with local students was free! Just one or two songs, but still… I’m less “up” on visual arts. We’ve done some crafts, pointed out design in architecture, woodworking in old buildings, etc., but not much else. I’m filling that gap next year, though, with homeschool group art appreciation classes at our local art museum. It’ll be $450 total for all my kids for 10 classes, which I consider to be a good investment. It’s a well-known museum and classes will be grouped by age and taught by actual art educators. I’m pretty excited about it.” Tiffany Dujinski
“Homeschooling has been a great blessing. It has enabled us many opportunities. Here are a few “out of the box” things that I have used to incorporate art into our family…playing the piano for them just after they climbed into bed. They all have taken piano lessons and two of them like to write and play their own pieces.
I also incorporated color and creativity into lunch and dinner preparation. Fruit trays and vegetable trays lend themselves to lots of color and texture.
I also talked about loving others through our presentation of the food. It says that we took the time to prepare for them and it’s healthy!
Playing classical music in the background has given them a love for classical. It is their go to music. I have taught homeschool classes…we made cloth hand puppets (incorporating sewing) and then we developed a puppet skit (incorporating creative writing). I taught a drama class by pulling out some of the parables and then assigning different parts to act out. I have also spent time doing my own art and inviting them to join me and I have shared my art supplies. This is huge! Basically, I have shared what I love with them and they have in turn encouraged me in what I love to do.” Karen Todd
“We always had music playing in our home. Consequently, our older son is an amazing singer and can play any instrument. We used to take trips to Museums, many are free on certain days, and the boys would bring along their sketchbooks and pencils. They would choose a piece and try to copy it. My younger son loves to sketch and draw. We also used to sculpt and paint at home. We made pictures for people and crafts for holidays. My kids appreciated hand made visuals of any kind and still make, draw, and write their own cards. They learned to appreciate the arts because their own creations and talents were so valued.” Amy Engelberger
For our family it started vey locally, art exhibits in our town. To meet & speak with the artists while viewing their work made it more real than textbook study, though that was to come as well. Artists are very generous people willing to encourage even the youngest budding artist.  Sharon Gensmer
 “I think it’s a lot like raising readers – fill your home with books, read to them, and spend time reading yourself. If you fill your home with music or art, do music or art with them, and enjoy it yourself, they’ll likely develop an appreciation for it, too. Music is part of the fabric of our family’s life, so our children’s appreciation has grown naturally. The other arts require more effort on our part, b/c my husband and I have not developed a strong interest in them ourselves. For music, we take them to every free classical concert we can, and we regularly enjoy music from our classical library and WCRB. Our enjoyment of classical radio has actually morphed into a fun game we often play at dinner – when an unfamiliar piece comes on, we first attempt to identify the period it comes from; then we venture guesses on composers from that era based on what we hear (a baroque piece featuring horns, for instance, will typically yield at least one Handel guess). With that simple game, our children are effortlessly learning the periods of classical music, the major composers of each period, the unique “sound” of the composers, and the key pieces an educated person should be familiar with, based on how frequently they are played on the radio (Beethoven Eroica, anyone?). This has been a real treat for us, b/c now we have kids putting on classical music while they eat breakfast! Jenny Noel
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Weeding Wisely to Increase Joy

I spent most of the day outside, tending my herb and flower garden while my 3 year old played nearby.

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It’s warm enough now to plant, so I bought a few herbs to replace several that didn’t survive the winter: parsley, mint, and basil. I spent hours pulling weeds and showing Brayden how to find and eliminate them so we could replace them with something better.

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Among the herbs, I also added pansies (a favorite of mine), freesia, pink flowering ornamental strawberries, and violets.

While I worked, I listened to my Bible App (Hebrews) and also enjoyed a podcast.

I also tried my hand this week at propagating roses for our yard. Though there are detailed YouTube videos on how to do this, you basically cut a piece of new growth under a leaf node off at a 45 degree angle, dip it in water for a minute, scrape the outer layer of the stem off with the side of scissors, dip it into rooting hormone, and place it in a cup full of potting soil or perlite. It is then misted with water until moistened and placed in a ziplock bag to make a small greenhouse environment for each plant. They’ll require misting every few days and in 6 weeks, roots should form. I’m very excited about the possibility of propagating some of my grandmother’s roses and bringing them to my yard. I have a bleeding heart bush from my husband’s childhood home that I propagated using root cuttings and it makes me smile whenever I see it. There’s something satisfying about connecting times and places and people through flowers and conservation.

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Whenever I garden, I’m reminded of how much it parallels life. Jesus used gardening terms when he taught: branches connected to the Vine, sowing, reaping, various types of soil and ground, broadcasting seed, mustard seed sized faith, plants thriving near rivers of water, and the life of the godly being compared to watered garden.

Especially as I pull weeds, I’m reminded that so many areas of life need to be removed in order to make room for what is truly life-giving. Weeds easily overtake and crowd out those aspects of life that bring beauty, nourish your soul, and feed and heal your body.

Weeds will choke out your joy if you’re not alert. “The cares of this world.” It’s a slow creep, barely noticeable. Weeds crowd and steal space and use necessary oxygen.

We may need to weed out busyness where we’ve over-committed and run ahead of God. We may need to plant ourselves still before Him so we can worship.

We may need to weed out the hidden-in-plain-sight sin that has so entangled us that we believe it’s just part of our DNA –who we are.  We may need to plant the Word before our eyeballs and meditate on Truth in order to get back on the righteous path.

We may need to weed out friendships that are mediocre or toxic, or worldly influences that are not honoring God nor helping us thrive spiritually. We may need to plant ourselves with godly friends, older women, and those who are doing right and acknowledging God in all their ways.

We may need to turn off the noise, the social media, the books, the TV, the hobbies, the chatter that steals our attention from the One who truly deserves our undivided devotion. We may need to rearrange our time so that God gets the first fruits.

Weeding is tedious, hard stuff, but it makes space for the crop that you want to harvest in the end.

Saying no to one is saying yes to another. Weeding wisely increases your success and your joy.

Summer is right around the corner, and I want to challenge you to do some weeding so your life can flourish and grow with grace.

Might you have a few weeds to pull? Ask:

  • What is sinful, ungracious, and unlovely?
  • What is hindering me from following God and pursuing His best?
  • What is keeping me from loving others first and best?
  • What is weighing me down?
  • Where am I easily offended and where does Satan enjoy tripping me up time and time again?
  • Where am I easily angered and frustrated? Again, where does Satan keep me defeated by pushing my buttons?
  • What friendship leaves me depleted? Which one is not based on mutual respect and edification?

To purposefully plant, ask:

  • Lord, what do you have for me in your Word today?
  • Lord, where is my first circle of influence and what jobs have you assigned only to me? How can I be most influential there?
  • Where is God burdening me to act?
  • Who needs my kindness today?
  • What is God teaching me through this thing?
  • What virtue is the Holy Spirit asking me to put on?
  • Which friendships refresh and encourage me? Which friendships are based on mutual respect? Whose life points me to Christ?

I hope these questions help you to navigate the maze of your own heart and encourage you to seek the important and eternal aspects of life that will bring you joy.

Have a lovely week tending the garden of your heart and hearth,

Sarah

Construction update, spring decorating, and some favorite domestic quotes

We are almost finished with our house renovations, and since this has been going on since last November, if I never see a shop-vac again in my entire life, I’d be okay with that. I absolutely love how beautiful my kitchen is. I still can’t believe that God used ice dam damage to bless us in such an amazing way.

God’s goodness to us in this renovation has been evident. Almost embarrassing. He knows that my heart is to use our home to serve others, and He gave me WAY more than I ever hoped or imagined. I hesitate to write how excited I am because I don’t want anyone to think that I equate God’s smile with our American idea of a beautiful home. Still, after years of using our 1950’s kitchen for God’s glory (which, by the way, I grew to love and decorated the best I could) I’m excited to wash dishes in my brand new farmers sink.  Is that bad? Shallow?

During this whole affair, I’m firmer than ever in my conviction that a clean, orderly home is good for the mind, body, and soul. After living in boxes and seeing dust and debris for months, and feeling the mental confusion and frustration that disarray brings, I am more inspired than ever to keep our home well.

During these dusty months, friends have invited us in for dinner and ministered to us, another blessing of this project. My in-laws and parents were also a huge blessing, allowing the kids to study in peace at their home away from banging hammers, and allowing us to stay at their home during the worst phases.

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Although we’re still not completely done with the project (our floors are being done this week) I’m excited to do a little decorating in the places I can.

I saw some spring table decor in the Pottery Barn catalog that I loved but couldn’t afford spend the money on–this bunny cloche  {um, $169–crazy town}and spring flowers and nest –so I went to Michael’s Crafts this week and made my own version for a fraction of the price. (My DIY tutorial for the nest is here.) I like how it came out and love how it looks on my kitchen table.

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IMG_5144I found the cloche at Michael’s for $12 after my 40% coupon. It was in the area that had a bunch of fairy and gnome miniature house accessories. I covered a round piece of floral foam into the bottom and covered it with Spanish moss, attaching it with hot glue. I added the vintage glittery chick (in the seasonal Easter section) and a few sprigs of fake flowers. The tiny eggs were on a floral pick, so I pulled them off and stuck them in the ground. The mini nests were $1.99, and I just added moss with a glue gun and a few tiny eggs and leaves. (I have a tutorial for the larger nests here.) The grass covered bunnies were from Walmart. Anyway, after all the construction, I was so happy to decorate a little bit. I’m in the process of searching for fabric for kitchen curtains, my next project. :)

Are you guys excited for spring? Decorating? Send me your photos or tell me in the comments what you are up to. I love talking crafting. :)

Finally, since I’ve had homemaking on my mind lately, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite quotes that I hope will inspire you as you work in your home:

A household has to be tended if it is to flourish and grow. Housework is never ‘done’ in the same sense that gardening is never done or that God’s providential involvement in the world is never done. Housework and gardening and God’s providence itself are exercises not in futility but in faithfulness – faithfulness to the work itself, to the people whose needs that work serves, and to the God whose own faithfulness invites our faithful response.” Margaret Kim, Keeping House

I first learned that housework has meaning by observing my grandmothers. The reason they made a fuss when they saw their granddaughter doing things in a “foreign” way is that they knew–in their bones if not in words–that the way you experience life in your home is determined by how you do your housekeeping…

Understandably, each of my grandmothers wanted me to make a home in which she could feel at home…

This sense of being at home is important to everyone’s well-being. If you do not get enough of it, your happiness, resilience, energy, humor, and courage will decrease…Home is the one place in the world where you are safe from feeling put down or out, unentitled,  or unwanted.

Home Comforts, Cheryl Mendelson

 

God’s economy is fantastic…As we serve someone, a human being, we can be serving the Lord…How do I regard my having tun upstairs with tea, or having served breakfast in bed, or having continued for years to do this kind of thing for a diversity of people,  as well as for my husband and children? How do I look at it? Do I feel like a martyr? Let me tell you exactly how I see it.

First, I say silently to the Lord, “Thank you that there is a practical way to serve YOU tea[or breakfast in bed, or whatever it is that I am doing for someone.] There would be no other way of bringing You food, or doing some special thing for You.  Thank you for making it so clear that as we do things that are truly in the realm of giving of ourselves in service to others, we are really doing to for You.

Edith Schaeffer, Common Sense Christian Living

 

“Putting away things that get daily or weekly use is a way to exercise a kind of providential foresight…Having clothes ready to wear in the drawer or in the closet is part of creating an expectation that in this home we care for one another. Our needs are not a perpetual emergency but are anticipated and provided for ahead of time.” Margaret Kim, Keeping House

I hope you have a great week.

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What is Important Ministry Work?

“Does my work matter in the grand scheme of things? And how do I live a life of ministry to God and others if I’m home all day with kids?”

I asked myself this question many times over the years as a stay at home mom of five children who came all in the span of under ten years. During that time, if I wasn’t pregnant and throwing up with morning sickness, then I was nursing a baby or trying to potty train and juggle toddlers. If I’m honest, I think the real question haunting me was whether my ministry work mattered as much as what Peter was doing for the Lord, because sometimes motherhood feels like you are sidelined and out of the game, not really doing the real work, the stuff that matters.

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I’m addressing this today because this topic comes up in my inbox often. In so many seasons of life, we try to choose between kids, home, work, and “ministry” like we’re walking a tightrope, trying to balance our Christian life by finding the perfect “home:ministry:work” ratio that will please God.

I think this confusion means that we need to better define what qualifies as important ministry work.  

A missionary wife once confided that her days on the field felt unproductive. While her husband was out “ministering,” she was shut away spending so much time trying to provide basics like washing clothes and cooking meals, gathering ingredients and waiting for electricity so she could actually cook the meal. Her work seemed sub-par and unimportant compared to his ministry since her daily highlights would hardly make the next newsletter updates. How again was she contributing to the church? Was this what her calling to the mission field was going to look like for the rest of her life?

Today I want to share a few things that have helped me through the years of having to sort through priorities and what ministry means in my life.

First, If it’s appointed, it’s important.

I needed to stop setting up a false dichotomy between the “secular” and “sacred” aspects of my life. Teaching Sunday School was important, but clipping the kids’ fingernails was unimportant.  As a believer, I can’t think this way because God tells me that He is the one who planned out the work I am to do:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph.2:10

The Bible also says, “LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.” In short, God does the “doling” out. My ministry with a large family, as a homeschooling mother, in my time and place will look very different from the single woman’s ministry. And my ministry will change as the seasons of my life change. God knows every detail. And all the work He has called me to do can and should be done for His glory.

For instance, some days my assignments from God are simple: I make the bed for God’s glory. I wash the floor, make supper, and bake cookies to God’s glory. Other days God asks me to teach a Sunday School class, counsel a hurting friend, or teach the teen girls. Some days He appoints that I visit someone in the hospital or speak to a large group of women. Some jobs are easier than others for me and some are not my favorite, but each one can be done with joy as an offering to God. There is not one assigned job that was unimportant.

Secondly, when we think of ministry we need to re-evaluate what that means. What is a woman’s ministry? Or, what is your ministry as a woman? Is it when you teach a Sunday School? Is it ministry when you drive dear old Aunt Martha to the grocery store, or sit with a sorrowing friend? Is it when you mentor that younger mom who is at your kitchen table in tears? What qualifies as ministry? Ministry sounds like a lofty word, but simply put, it’s service. And service isn’t always glamorous and a servant rarely gets to choose his work for the day. A servant does the will of someone else for the benefit of another. Service. Work. Under the Lordship of Christ. Plain and simple.

Thankfully, the Lord allows us to serve using our “gifts” in many ways as we are led by the Holy Spirit. And the Lord will give you the desires and direct you to use your gifts in the ways He wants–and to the people who need your service. There are so many varied examples of “ministry” in scripture that they are too numerous to name, but a we see that God uses women in many important ways: teaching good things, ministering to the sick, sewing for others, telling the good news to friends and family members, caring for widows and orphans, hospitality, correcting doctrine, feeding people, housing the church. My friends all have so many varied ministries that none of our lives look the same. From working full time to staying at home, from caring for an aging parent to cradling a newborn. Whether you are traveling the globe as a missionary or evangelist’s wife or serving in the hometown you were born in, the job and location doesn’t really matter, does it? But there’s a common thread that runs through all work that is done for the Lord and you’ll see it in the lives of the godly older women you most admire: the Word of God is primary.

True ministry is “Word Work.”

  1. It is Word-filled. We aren’t here to spread our own opinions. We aren’t here to spread the opinions of a great author or commentator, and we aren’t to study their books or words over the Words of Scripture. Anybody that we work with should know by our words and deeds that Scripture has the final say in our life and conduct.
  2. It is Spirit-directed. The Holy Spirit directs us and we almost can’t help but minister to the people He intends for us to minister to.
  3. It’s purpose is God’s glory. True service is never about me. In fact, if God doesn’t come out shining then you are doing something very wrong.

Your work, no matter how big or small, infused with God’s Word, done God’s way brings glory to God.

Whether you are ironing your husband’s shirt, reading to your children, counseling your teen, or speaking to a crowd, your work, infused with God’s Word, done God’s way, brings Him glory.

My encouragement for you today is that your important ministry is:

whoever God puts in front of you today: your kids, your husband, extended family, and out from there: neighbor, class mate, co-worker, the lady at the grocery store, that woman who calls you crying. Younger moms, if the only people you see all day are under 2 feet tall and are clinging to your leg about to drive you crazy, remember God gave you those kids as an assignment from Him. You are the only one called to those kids and the work matters to God.

whatever God gives you to do today: from everyday responsibilities like food prep or car pooling, to surprises like sickness or a friend who suddenly needs help, or to opportunities that fall into your lap, everything comes from the hand of the Lord, and He’ll direct you, give you wisdom and the energy to do what must be done. No matter how lack-luster or glamorous, the assignment isn’t really important, but our faithfulness and joy as we do it as unto the Lord.

What has God called you to do today?

What one job or person do you dread?

What can you do to change your outlook and work as though you are standing and doing it for the Lord?

DIY Doctored-Up Dollar Tree Church Ornament

Wanted to share an easy craft I’ve been working on for Christmas.

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I love New England churches, so when I saw that Dollar Tree had these ornaments, I snatched up a bunch to doctor-up.

I simply added twine, plaid ribbon from Michael’s Craft Store, and mica glitter with a glue gun to add “snow” to the roof line and perimeter of the church. You could also add a silver bell in place of the pine cone that comes with it.

They’ll be really cute attached to brown paper packages.

Enjoy.

DIY Old Pewter Mint Julep Cups

It’s the weekend and this week I’ve been crafting up a storm for our daughter’s upcoming wedding festivities.

I wanted to decorate one event using the very popular “mint julep cups” look. If you don’t know what I mean, go on pinterest and search “mint julep glass centerpiece.”

The cups are usually silver plated, and they were a little more expensive per piece than I wanted to spend, so I got to crafting, girls, because I needed to copy the look.

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I had trouble finding tutorials online. Everything was either for faux mercury glass (which is lovely and I’ve made before for candle holders) or didn’t look “authentic” to me. Also, I needed something that could hold water for flowers when the project was done, so the mercury glass thing was out because it’s painted on the inside and when water hits, it would all flake off.

So I texted a few crafty friends, including Lindsay and Jolene of New England Nesters, and jumped in. I tried three different approaches, and they yielded three different looks: silver, old zinc, and old pewter.

Here’s what I did:

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I found these cute glasses at the Dollar Tree. They say “Old Fashioned” on them. Right up my alley. I liked that they had ridging detail and a logo on them because many mint julep glasses have monogramming or something fancy on the front. You can use any glass you like.

I removed the price tag and washed and dried them well.

 

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I lightly sprayed the outside with Rust-oleum Bright Coat Metallic Finish. I wanted to give it the thinnest coat I could and tried to avoid paint drips.

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(You may notice little white dots on this pic. My 2 year old foster son squirted me and the cup with his water blaster. LOL. It did no harm and he thought it was hysterical…so he kept doing it.)

(If you want your project to look new and shiny like this picture, this is actually very close to the finish of a new silver mint julep cut. After this step you could give it a second coat and be good to go. These look lovely with votive candles near the base because they reflect the light.)

After this first coat dries, I gently applied a thin coat of “Dark Pewter” acrylic paint with a dry brush and in a circular motion around the perimeter of the cup. (Not up and down height-wise/vertically. Does that make sense?)

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I really liked how this looked after this step. It reminded me of the old zinc lids of a canning jar.

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After this, I ever so lightly sprayed a second coat of the silver spray paint…almost misted it…trying to manipulate the spray so that it didn’t get full coverage. I wanted to leave some of the pewter color peeking through.

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I was so excited with how this turned out. When placed side by side to my old pewter, this finish was extremely close. It even has the dark blemishes of old pewter.

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I filled this with flowers (fake from Walmart for the picture) and I think these will be so pretty in every window.

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IMG_3026I hope you enjoy this tutorial. If you make some, send me a pic or if you are a blogger, shoot me a link. Have a great weekend, everyone.

**These glasses are for decorative purposes only. You should not drink out of anything sprayed with spray paint, Mkay? 😉

10 Ways To Refresh Your Soul

Looking for ways to refresh this winter? The common theme among my friends is that we are all looking for ways to rest our bodies and revive our hearts a bit after a hectic holiday season. We all know that doesn’t happen automatically. It needs to be planned, especially if you are responsible for the daily care of babies, toddlers, teens, or the elderly. These stages of constant giving can be draining.

I’ve learned from experience that when I am depleted, I’m not the wife, mother, or friend I want to be. The more I feed my own soul, the more I have to give out.

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I thought it would be fun to share a few of my favorite ways to refresh. I hope you’ll share yours as well. Maybe your list looks different from mine–that’s okay. But we all have this in common–we all need to rest. So, pour yourself a cup of tea and repeat after me: “Caring for yourself is wise and everybody needs to rest.” 😉

Here goes:

  1. Spend time alone. New research suggests that quiet time–literally solitude and silence–can be therapeutic in the noisy world we live in. If you have young children, try to find a few snatches of time in the early morning, late evening, or during afternoon naps to just sit and listen to the silence. This is a perfect time for a warm cup of coffee, your Bible, a journal, or to meditate on a daily verse. Bonus: A worshipful life gives us the added benefit of direction and strength to face each day, no matter what comes our way.
  2. De-clutter your soul. As you sit, listen to what’s going on in your heart. What recurring theme pops into your mind? What worry, disappointment, regret, or memory is disturbing your peace? Recognize it, acknowledge it, fix it if you can, repent of it if you must, and then give it to God and move on! Don’t let “mind noise” keep you from thinking on “things above.” Colossians 3:2
  3. Rest. We weren’t created to run, run, run. What comes up must come down. After the adrenaline of the holidays you must take a good nap or go to bed early. “You are only as spiritual as you are rested.” ~Jim Berg
  4. Pray. Did you know that simply talking to God and sharing your burdens, disappointments, frustrations, and ambitions with Him is more beneficial than telling them to a friend? Plus, God can actually intervene and do something about all you share…and He’ll never betray your confidence or reveal your inmost secrets. There aren’t too many friends that you can trust like that.
  5. Spend a moment reading for pleasure. Charlotte Mason was a huge proponent of reading quality material in small chunks, allowing the brain time to process and make connections with the material. I’ve found that over-reading can hinder comprehension and appreciation of the material.
  6. Plan time for friendship. Who are your 3 closest friends? If you haven’t told them how much you appreciate them lately, what are you waiting for? Text, write, phone, or visit your friend and make time to laugh, shop, and eat together. You’ll both benefit.
  7. Plan for beauty. When winter is blah, I know that arranging some small vase of flowers, a candle, a freshly pressed table cloth, or some other simple seasonal display does wonders for the atmosphere of my home. Simple creativity bring so much pleasure.
  8. Change of scenery. If you are a stay at home mom or a homeschooling mom, I KNOW it can be hard to load all the kids into the car and go somewhere but just do it. Head to the library, your favorite bagel shop, or to a friend’s house. Go somewhere where you can grab an inexpensive treat and the kids can play. This is a mood booster, especially during long New England winters.
  9. Plan for stimulating conversation. I’m not a small talk person. I love to talk about heart and life matters and I’m not afraid to ask the people I respect their views on difficult subjects. My happiest moments are over a cup of tea discussing philosophy of education, motherhood, and ministry life with a dear friend. If you are far from friends, listen to a pod cast or seminar online about topics that interest you. I loved this one from Sally Clarkson.
  10. Learn a new skill. Anything you ever wanted to learn is on YouTube. What a time to live! Right now in our home, we’re practicing calligraphy and hand lettering, and crocheting.

What refreshes you? Share in the comments.

How I Plan and Prioritize My Weeks

Several of you have told me that you wish you could sit at my kitchen table and see how I plan our busy life so I thought I’d do a post about what that looks like.

For years I’ve used this Weekly Priority Printable that I made for myself.

It’s just to plan the HIGHLIGHTS of our week, not every little task. It’s also a reminder of our IDEALS–how we want to look back at how we spent our life. It’s a run-down of what God calls me to in Titus 2.

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For instance, at the end of a week, I want to have spent time in God’s Word. That’s goal #1. I want to intentionally LOVE my husband and children. This includes meals, emotional support, and mutual spiritual encouragement.

I can’t tell you how many times this little sheet has helped me say “NO” to things that were fine and good, but not the best for our family–LIKE every week. It also helps me see the “ebb and flow” of our life–aka–when I’ve over committed myself and need to rest.

Basically, I set aside an hour a week to jot down my “plan.”

  • I print my guidelines.
  • I pray and ask God to guide me as I “plan” and to redirect my plans as He sees fit.
  • I then plan for my devotional time: what I’ll read and study in Scripture and what devotional books I’m going through. I keep an ongoing “What Do I Know about My God? notebook. I also keep a leather bound notebook for all of my Bible study,notes for teaching or speaking, notes from sermons, seminars, or quotes that impacted me.
  • I try to plan a time to connect with Peter. In this season of life it’s usually either a coffee time or just shopping or doing something mundane together so we can talk.
  • I then mark and plan for “special days” like birthdays or anniversaries.
  • I look at the flyers to make our weekly menu based on what’s on sale or in season.
  • I block out school times.
  • I note doctors appointments, weekly lessons or commitments that I have with the kids.
  • I plan to do something fun with the kids.
  • I plan to do good to someone God has put on my heart by either a phone call, note, visit, or coffee run.
  • I note our ministry schedule and plan to invite people in for fellowship/hospitality if our schedule allows.
  • I plan personal ministry times like blogging, encouraging a friend, watching a friend’s kids, “kitchen table counseling” as God gives me time.

When you write this all down, you’ll see right away where you are out of balance or too busy. As you look back, you’ll KNOW that you lived life according to your ideals instead of just living re-actively and haphazardly.

There you have it. Nothing elaborate, but it works for me.

How do you plan your weeks? Do you struggle to say no to good things so that you can live the best life you can? (I highly recommend Sally Clarkson’s Own Your Life: Living with Deep Intention, Bold Faith, and Generous Love, one of my favorite books of 2015!) Feel free to share any great resources with me! I love to hear how you organize your life.

 

(*Post contains Amazon Affiliate Links at no cost to you.)

Hello? Hello? Yes, I’m still here.

Hey guys. It’s been a while since I’ve written and I feel like I’m out of the blogging loop lately. We just got two of our kids back to college, we’re getting ready for school, caring for sweet Little B,  and we’re gearing up for house renovations.

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I was talking to a friend about how many transitions we’ve had in the past five years. I’ve realized that I get emotionally tired during transition times and that being self aware is not one of my strengths.  I’m super intuitive when it comes to caring for everyone else, but not when it comes to me. (Case in point: I was getting read for a dinner party last week when I realized that I had a headache. It was 5 pm and I hadn’t eaten all day. That.) Sometimes you need to plan for self-care.  Physically, I need to plan rest. Emotionally, I need solitude, even for just an hour. And spiritually, I need to take in God’s Word in slow, careful amounts, meditating and ruminating over the truths in them. I really appreciated this article 10 Ways To Overcome Spiritual Weariness.

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And although transitions are hard for me, it’s really exciting to see how God goes before, directs, and helps our hearts at these times. And can I just say that Peter is amazing during these times? He’s so wise about what needs to be done, what should be let go, what is primary vs. the peripheral. I’m so thankful for him!

Sometimes I really start to question what God is doing and if this is all going to work out in the end, and lately, everything that God has been pointing me to in my devotions, readings, and sermons can be boiled down to these 3 things:

1. The destination is not for me to choose. I go along for the ride and trust God.

2. The outcomes are not as important as faithfulness along the journey.

3. Sin is a daily companion that must be crushed. To overlook it in our own lives is to actually sow a crop that we don’t want to flourish.

I’ve been seriously overwhelmed by the news lately. Have you? It feels hopeless, doesn’t it? I recently read that nearly 400 pastors were “outed” in this Ashley Madison leak and can I just say that it is God’s mercy on them that they were exposed? And it was God’s watch care over His church that allowed such disgrace to be addressed?

And while we’re all wondering how these people could possibly be serving God and living such a double life, let’s remember our own propensity to sin and fear the consequences of it all the more.

I talked to my kids a little about it and explained that the fear of God is supposed to be our motivation not to sin. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” But honestly, because we can’t see God, sometimes we don’t respect him as we should. I told them that oftentimes, when I am tempted to sin, I think about the affect it would have on their father or them. I try to think about the look in their eyes. And then I came across this piece by Sarah Mae, What I Know About Cheating and Consequences, which expressed my thoughts exactly (and more beautifully than I could.)

This world is broken, and eternity looks better and better every day, doesn’t it? Key take-a-way from the nightly news? People need the Lord in a desperate way!

I tend to freeze up when I hear horrible news. OR I clean like a mad woman. I don’t know why. Does anyone else do this? Because I tend to be an Idealist, the enormity of the mess of this world makes me want to give up, which of course is crazy.

We can’t do everything but we can do something.

You can start right where you are, small. Start with you. Make sure your life is a life of integrity. Is your public life a true mirror of your private life? (Ask your family. They’ll tell you.) If not, this is the very definition of hypocrisy.

This article, The importance of What We Do In Secret is helpful. Then, be a light wherever you are. Do good, be kind, promote righteousness, and share the gospel.

What about you? Does the news make you want to shut down?

It’s been fun keeping up with your pictures on Instagram and Facebook and seeing what you’ve been up to. And I’m really enjoying Periscope right now. (I’m I’m @joyfilleddays if you want to find me.) Scopes I like: MacKenzie @BOLDturquoise and BoldTurquoise.com, @JessAConnolly from Naptime Diaries and of course, my friend, Ruth from Gracelaced.com @gracelaced.

What have you been reading and loving right now?

Happy end of the summer, you guys! Enjoy your weekend!

2 Minute Ways to Feel Productive

If you are caring for young children, you know that your time is not your own. Many days you don’t have five minutes to yourself. You try to unload the dishwasher and someone needs you. You come back later to the job half done and it’s frustrating.

Instead of getting frustrated, settle for doing things in small chunks of time as you can. If you feel like you’re not accomplishing much, think of your days in small chunks of time and attempt life that way. The small chunks certainly can add up and you’ll find you are not as frustrated and are much more productive.

Something is better than nothing.

What can be done in two minutes? Here are a few ideas.

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  • Glance down at your Bible on the counter for a word of encouragement or instruction.
  • Write out a verse on a card for your fridge.
  • Text a friend, “I’m thinking of you.”
  • Rotate the laundry.
  • Write a thank you.
  • Water the plants.
  • Make a bed.
  • Clean a toilet.
  • Wipe down a counter or Windex an appliance.
  • Wash a glass door that is full of hand prints.
  • Braid your daughter’s hair.
  • Pull out meat from the freezer for dinner.
  • Straighten the pillows on a couch and fold a blanket artfully.
  • Sweep the porch or deck.
  • Check the mail.
  • Tidy up the shoes by the door.

What are some other ways you find to be productive with little snatches of time?