Walmart Grocery – My New Found Love

Last week I tried the new grocery service offered by Walmart called Walmart Grocery. Oh my goodness, I think it is a match made in heaven!  (P.S. that link right there contains a coupon for $10 off your first order if you want to try it too!)

Here is how Walmart Grocery works:

  • Go here, sign up for an account and add items to your cart. With Walmart Grocery you don’t only have to buy groceries! School supplies, beauty products and more are options too!
  • Check out and choose a designated pick-up time (there will be time slots such as 2-3 pm). They offer delivery (for a fee) in some areas but not in my area yet.
  • On the day/time you’ve chosen head to your Walmart and park in the designated spots for grocery pickup (located on the right hand side of most stores).unnamed
  • When you arrive call them (you’ll be given the number of your store’s grocery pickup line at checkout) and they’ll be out with your groceries in just a few minutes! There is no fee for the service and no tipping allowed. There is also no monthly or annual subscription fees and they do not charge any markups on their items! Just like that you’ve done your grocery shopping and can head back home!

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This employee came out with my groceries in this cart just minutes after I arrived and loaded them into my car for me before heading back in! I would call that good customer service!

Three things I love about Walmart Grocery:

  1. If you have young children you know how stressful it is to grocery shop with them in tow! My kids are often either complaining, running around the store, or whining for me to buy them a certain something whenever I go shopping. With Walmart Grocery I can order online the night before and then, while I’m out running errands the next day just stop by Walmart to pickup my groceries on the way home. Doesn’t matter if I have the kids with me or not because they’ll all stay in the car anyways. Avoid dragging them into the store with me and still get my grocery shopping done? Yes please!
  2.  Ummmm, hello? Shopping online in the peace and quiet of my own home while my kids are sleeping and I’m in my pjs. Sounds heavenly to me! Shopping online without kids hanging all over me allows me to actually focus on the items I’m trying to buy and figure out what is the best deal for the amount and what I actually need. When the kids are with me I usually just throw in the cart whatever I see first to try and make the trip as short as possible. For instance, when I put together my order last week I ordered basil leaves. When I searched for basil leaves all the different brands came up on the page allowing me to quickly see what was the cheapest/best deal and add it to my cart. It took like a minute. Have you ever been able to find the cheapest spices at Walmart that quickly?!? Usually I’m standing for several minutes in the spice aisle before I even find the spice I’m looking for, let alone figure out which one is the best deal!
  3. Ordering online allowed me to buy ONLY what I needed and keep an eye on my final bill. If you’re trying to stick to a budget it’s hard to add up your groceries as you go when shopping in store (especially with kids!). With this service, I knew what my final bill was going to be before I even checked out, allowing me to put back or add items as needed. Also, by shopping online I avoided adding enticing looking items to my cart on the whim as I am prone to do. 😉

Oh, and because it was my first time using the service they even gave me a goodie bag as a thank you! How cool is that!?

I had a great experience with the service and will definitely be using it again and again. I’m hooked! I actually do a lot of my shopping at Aldi because they have great prices on fruits and veggies but I can’t get everything I need there so I also have to make a weekly trip to Walmart – and this is definitely how I’ll be doing it from now on!

If you’d like to try it out for yourself and see if you love it as much as I do here’s a code that will give you $10 off your first order: $10 off!  Try it out and come back and let me know what you think!!

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"If it’s not a HELL YES, then it’s a no"

So I just realized that I didn’t post any blog posts in December. Nadda. Zero. Zilch. Oh well!

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December was a great month for us. Just busy! The kids are at such fun ages and it made Christmas such a magical time this year! But since they’re getting older now we’ve also added more activities to our plate during the holiday season. Isaiah had parties at school and a basketball performance at the half time show of a local basketball game. Eloise had her first ballet recital. We saw Santa at several events. We took one last trip to SeaWorld before our season passes expired (WOW!! SeaWorld at Christmas time was AMAZING! Even though we’re not buying season passes again for 2016 we’re still planning to try and make it there at Christmas time again. Truly magical!). We stayed up late looking at Christmas lights in different neighborhoods. We spent one evening at Adventure Landing for WinterFest. We crammed in as many Christmas movies as we could. We moved our Elf on the Shelf (“Elfis”) around the house every night while the kids were asleep and tried to come up with something creative for him to be doing the next day (man that’s stressful!!).

We hung Christmas lights on the outside of our house for the first time ever (and then (after hanging up 5 strands) realized we didn’t’ have enough to go all the way around the house so we tried to buy more… and then found out that they were out of stock at all the stores and were being discontinued (thanks Target!)… so, since we didn’t want to buy 10 completely new sets (because just 5 new ones wouldn’t match the 5 we already had) and since by this time it was just a week before Christmas, we just decided to get back up on the roof and take them all down. And…the story gets better. When we took them down we put them in a garbage bag and set them in the garage (why did we do that?!?)….and then a week later accidentally threw away the garbage bag full of 5 strands of perfectly good icicle lights (bangs head on table). Yea, that was one of our Christmas adventures I’d rather not remember!). We read the Christmas story several times and and sang to lots of Christmas music. Drew and his dad spent Christmas Eve (after our Christmas Eve service) setting up the new trampoline we bought the kids so they would be surprised on Christmas day. We made a gingerbread house, Christmas cookies, crafts, and decorated the house. Not to mention buying all the gifts for friends and family which rests pretty much solely on my shoulders. We had alot of late nights and early mornings. It was a busy month for sure!

And now I’m just focusing on rest. I usually don’t add too much to my plate but this holiday season I feel like I did. I’m usually good about putting up boundaries. About saying no when I need to. About declining a play date or forgoing an event if it’s just too much. But as 2016 is beginning I want to refocus on this. I want to make sure that I go all in on what GOD is calling me passionately to and weed out everything else that just creates busyness. If it’s not an emphatic YES, then I want to say no. Of course ministry and serving sometimes need to be done whether we feel like it or not and, if God is calling me to it, it needs to go under the emphatic YES category. I’m talking about saying no to things that I add to my plate that are simply things I want to do or even feel compelled to do. I want to say no to those things so that I can have room to say yes to more important things.

Have you ever heard of Jen Hatmaker? Oh my gosh. If you haven’t you totally need to look her up. Here is her blog. She is an amazing woman of God and an amazing speaker. I could really listen to her for hours. She is actually speaking at the IF Gathering (if you haven’t heard of that it’s so awesome too. Click the link!) in February and my mom and I are going to a broadcast of it at her church while we’re in Indiana visiting them later this month. I’m so excited!

Anyways, Jen posted this on her Facebook a few days ago and it exactly put into words what I want my year 2016 to be. I’ll just let you read this and I’ll slip out the door because, really, what more could I say?

 
“As you move into 2016 hoping for a saner schedule that prioritizes your actual life and keeps you focused on the things that matter the most, let me share the decision-making filter my agent Curtis always gives me:
“If it’s not a HELL YES, then it’s a no.”
So that medium yes, that I-feel-like-should yes, that guilty yes, that coerced yes, that I-actually-hate-this-thing yes, that I-guess-so yes, that who-else-will-do-it yes, that careless yes, that default yes, that resentful yes, that I-probably-shouldn’t-but-struggle-with-boundaries yes?
NO. Nope.
No thank you. I am unable to commit to that this year. Thank you so much for asking, but any new yes I give right now means a no to my family and sanity. I am so flattered you asked and count on my prayers, but I am at my maximum bandwidth right now. I appreciate your work so much, but I’ve already committed my time and energy this year. I’ve loved being a part of this, but I am no longer able to continue. We are aggressively focused on x, y, and z this year, so as a family we’ve agreed on no new commitments. This is what I can give but won’t be able to do more right now.
Now, the things that make your heart race, your blood pump, the fire in your belly burn, your gifts to leap to life, and keep your family and home healthy and strong…the hell yeses? ALL IN, BABY.”

Everything Was Awesome – How to Throw a Lego Birthday Party

 

Alright guys, I’ve been working on getting all the details together of how I made everything for Isaiah’s 5th birthday party last week. I’ve included descriptions along with links where appropriate. This was probably the most fun to plan birthday party I’ve done for my kids so far. And it was easy and pretty cheap since I made much of the food and decorations myself! Hope this will help you throw an awesome Lego birthday party as well!

Lego Birthday Party Invitations

There are tons of cute Lego birthday party invites available on Etsy but I was looking for something I could get for free (people just throw away the invites anyways, right!?!?). After much searching, I finally landed on these invites. I printed them on heavy card stock in full color, filled them out with the details of the party and glued them onto a slightly larger piece of colored (red, yellow, blue or green) card stock for a cute invite. I was happy with how they turned out and happy that I had all the supplies on hand to make them which made them FREE!! (I even had envelopes and stamps on hand!)

You can print these same invites here.

Lego Head Marshmallow Pops

These Lego head marshmallow pops were very time consuming but not necessarily hard to make. And they turned out so cute! If you’re more artistically gifted than me you could definitely make faces that better resemble actual Lego men. 😉

Here’s what you’ll need to make them:

  • Mini marshmallows
  • Regular marshmallows 
  • Yellow candy melts (you can buy these at Wal-Mart, Michaels, Amazon…. pretty much anywhere!) 
  • Lollipop Sticks (I bought mine at Michael’s) 

 

Cut the mini marshmallows in half horizontally and attached them to the regular marshmallows with a drop of melted yellow candy melts. (When melting the candy melts make sure not to overheat the candy – it will become hard and unusable!)

Dip the lollipop stick in the melted candy melts and insert in to the bottom of the Lego head.

Dip the Lego heads into the candy melts and completely coat. I had to use a spoon in order to get the heads smooth with no drips.

Stick them in a piece of Styrofoam or a cookie cooler rack to dry and then add faces with the gel! Give yourself several hours (don’t start at 9 at night the day before the party like me) to make these. They are very very time consuming!

To display them on party day Drew had the idea to wrap a shoebox and drill holes in the top. It worked PERFECT to keep them separated and upright!

They turned out cute AND yummy!!!

You can buy the candy melts to make these pops here.


Shoe box Lego Decorations

The week before Isaiah’s party I came across some awesome deals on kids shoes at Target and ended up with all these shoe-boxes I had no use for. I had them in the recycling bin for a day and then an idea dawned on me. I could make them into giant Legos and use them as decorations!! Thus inspired a super easy and cheap way to decorate for a Lego birthday party. Just buy some red, green, yellow, or blue wrapping paper (I got mine at the dollar store!) and print off these handy dandy circles that already have the Lego logo on them (best to print them on card stock if you can) and, wah-la! Cute, cheap, decorations!

You can print these Lego circles here.

Lego Brick and Lego Men Chocolates

All you need to make your own Lego chocolates are primary colored bags of Wilton Candy Melts and Lego brick and/or Lego men molds. I bought these molds off of Amazon and was very happy with them!

Be VERY careful not to overheat the candy melts. I had a few batches overheat and become hard and lumpy and they ended up not looking so good. Spoon the melted candy melts into the molds and then {don’t skip this part!} pick up and drop down the mold several times on the counter. You’ll see 6 or more air bubbles come to the surface after a few bounces. This is the air that was trapped in the mold, not allowing the candy to completely fill it up. If you don’t bounce it and shake it and get all the air bubbles out you will end up with chocolates that are not fully formed and have air pockets.

The candy melts only take about 15 minutes to harden up in the fridge then you can pop them out and start a new batch. I made red, green, blue, and yellow Lego bricks and Lego men over a period of several days. I set these out on the food table and also used them on top of the cupcakes on party day.

You can buy Wilton Candy Melts here.
You can buy this Lego brick mold here.

Personalized Lego Happy Birthday Banner

I was so excited to find a cute, personalized Lego birthday banner on Pinterest for free! I used this free download to print the “Happy Birthday” and the Lego men. And I used this download to pick and choose the letters needed for Isaiah’s name.

You can print this banner here and here.

Over-sized Lego Door

Super easy and cute decoration alert!! All you need is a plastic rectangular tablecloth and some small paper plates and you can turn any door into an over-sized Lego. You could actually probably do it on a large bookcase or hutch as well. Or even just on the wall itself if you wanted!

Party Favor Bag Tags

I used these cute party favor bag tags to attach to snack size ziploc bags filled with candy Legos to give to the kids as party favors. I forgot to get a picture of the completed bags, though! =(

You can print your own party favor bag tags here.

I filled the bags with these Lego candy bricks (they sell smaller bags too). Not only were they yummy but they actually stack so you can play with them too! They were a big hit!

 

You can buy these yummy but also stack-able Lego candies here.

Lego Jello Jigglers

If the thought comes into your mind to make Lego shaped jello, please just try to push it out of your mind as soon as possible. Just kidding… but seriously I’m kind of not. Lego Jello jigglers are very cute and yummy but alot of work (especially if you are using used Legos and need to wash them all very well both before and after) and a little frustrating to get out of the molds. But, here is how I did it.

Start by CLEANING all the Legos you are planning to use (or buy new). I used the kids’ MegaBlocks. Then make the Jello. Make sure you follow the recipe for JELLO JIGGLERS – NOT the regular jello recipe. I made the mistake of making my first batch the regular way and it was totally not firm enough to mold into the shape of a Lego. I used red, green, yellow, and blue jello but didn’t end up with very many usable red ones since that is the color in which I didn’t follow the jigglers recipe.

After a few hours in the fridge I used a knife to loosen the edges and then shook them out of the Legos. Don’t worry about being gentle. You’ll need to use some serious force to get them out! But they come out looking just fine!

 

 

Lego Themed Party Food
I made Lego cheese and crackers, Lego ham and pb&j sandwiches, and also had red, green, yellow, and blue fruit. Get creative. There are so many things you can make to resemble Legos or Lego themed colors!! The possibilities are endless!

 

 

Lego Face Plates

Instead of buying fancy Lego plates I opted to buy cheap square yellow plates ($1 for a pack of 16 at the dollar store!). My plan was to draw Lego men faces on them to make Lego heads out of all of them but it turned out to be difficult to find a stencil to use to draw the faces. Since I have very little artistic ability I just ended up free handing some faces on the dessert plates and leaving the rest plain yellow. If you have more artistic ability than me you could do all sorts of different faces and expressions! I just used a non-toxic permanent marker to make the faces.

Lego Cupcakes

Every year I buy a fancy cake or fancy cupcakes for my kids for their birthday. But this year I had adorable chocolate men and Lego bricks that I had made and I decided I could easily make some super cute cupcakes on my own. Make the cupcakes with some white frosting, pour on some primary colored sprinkles and top with a Lego chocolate. Tah-dah! Awesome looking cupcakes you made yourself. (And serving them on the Lego mat from our Lego table with a border of real Legos was the perfect final touch!)

 
Lego Men Head Confetti
Instead of buying fancy confetti I printed out some Lego men heads on white card stock, cut them out, and sprinkled them on the tables. It looked great and was super easy and cheap! I used some of these Lego circles as confetti too.
You can print your own confetti here and here.
Isaiah’s Lego birthday party was a ton of fun to do and I think this smile says it all. He enjoyed it too. =)

Dear Tired Mama

Dear Tired Mama,

I know. I know your baby kept you up half the night. I know she wanted either a snack or a snuggle every two hours. I know your toddlers fought all day. I know it seems that you are constantly disciplining and not only do you constantly doubt that you are disciplining the “right way” but it seems that nothing you do or say seems to impact them anyways. I know the munchkins destroyed the house and you picked it up 9 times. I know they cried when they didn’t get their way. I know you did 5 loads of laundry, cleaned the toilet, and made dinner all while your children were ungrateful and wanted you to do more (like play with them…who has time for that?!). I know you have either been home alone all day with them and feel like you may go insane for lack of adult interaction or you have worked at a stressful job all day only to come home to more work on the home front. I know it seems like you are constantly wiping either a bottom or a nose. I know your children decide to fight and scream and desperately “NEED” you every time you are on the phone. I know your baby wants you to hold her just when you are trying to get something done. I know you always have to be watching to make sure she doesn’t play in the dog food or put a Lego in her mouth. You are always on guard. I know sometimes your sweet little ones won’t nap and don’t allow you to get anything done. I know sometimes you feel like you live in a tiny little kingdom controlled by an army that you made yourself! I know. I’ve been there. I’m there.

These days are tiring, but I am choosing not to let the difficulty of these days take away from their sweetness. Babies are only little for a while.

I remember when we brought our first child home and I felt like I could get nothing done. I was always looking for ways to get him to sleep longer or play on his own longer. Now, four years later, I look at him and wonder where time went?  I thought those sleepless nights and busy days would last forever. And yet somehow he’s so independent, so grown up. He sleeps soundlessly through the night and plays on his own during the day. He doesn’t need me as much as he used to.

Tired Mama, let them be little. Because they’re only that way for a while. In the blink of an eye they grow up. My oldest is only four and I know he has SOOO much more growing up to do. But I can already look back and realize that these years FLY by.

With my second I held her a little more. I cherished her sweet “babyness” a little more. I tried not to let the days slip by so fast. I rocked her a little longer at bed time. I told her I loved her a little more often.

With my third, now 5 months old, I admit that I let her sleep with me often at night. Sometimes, I just can’t bare to put her back in her bed. I take pictures of her sweet face sleeping on my chest. I trace her face with my finger, trying to memorize it’s baby softness. I start to cry if I think about her big siblings and how fast they have grown up, knowing she is doing the same thing.

Try and enjoy these days, Tired Mama. They will be gone before you know it. Kiss those sweet babies more often. Hold them a little longer at bed time. Don’t yell when they get out of bed for “a drink of water” and then “they have to go pee pee” and then “they need a snack.” They just love you so much they can’t bare to part with you at bed time. When your baby wants you to hold her constantly, strap on a baby carrier and go about your day. There will come a day when your “baby” doesn’t even want you to drop them off closer than one block away from school, let alone hold her all day! When she wakes up at night, of course there is nothing wrong with sleep training, but remember also to cherish those sweet times with just the two of you. Your baby will eventually sleep through the night.

There is scarcely anything more important in your life right now than raising your children. Your job IS incredible. You ARE making a difference in the lives of your children and impacting future generations to come. Be encouraged. Take heart. These days are long and tiring now but they won’t be forever. Make the most of your time with your children now because you can never ever EVER get these days back.

Some day you will look back on your life and evaluate it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’m going to say, “I wish I had held my children less, made them grow up faster, and spent more time wishing away their childhood so that life could get easier.”

Go kiss your babies right now. Love on them. Enjoy them. Try not to stress so much over the little things. Try not to blow up when the days don’t go like you had planned. This is a season of life that will soon pass. Enjoy it while you can.

Love,

A Tired Mama

 

 

“So let them be little ’cause they’re only that way for a while

 

 

Give them hope, give them praise, give them love every day
Let them cry, let them giggle, let them sleep in the middle
Oh just let them be little”
-Let Them be Little by Billy Dean (redone by Lonestar)

 

 

Why We Named Our Daughter Olive

Naming kids is {hard}! Such a huge responsibility is on your shoulders! You don’t want to name your kids something so common that 10 people in her kindergarten class have the same name. Yet you don’t want it to be something so different the no one can pronounce, let alone spell it! You have to consider the meaning of the name, what the initials spell out, what potential nick names they could have, if the name will sound good as an adult name, etc…

It took us a long time to decide on a name for Baby Hutcheson #3. Drew was so busy during my pregnancy with job hunting and then starting his new job that we hardly had any time to discuss names! Then there was the fact that we didn’t know if the baby was a boy or a girl which made it hard to decide on a name and start calling baby by it. We had an especially hard time finding a girls name that we liked. There are so many boys names that we love but very few girls names. Eloise was about the only one we absolutely loved.

Until we came across the name Olive. I’ve never been more sure about the name of one of my kids than I was/am about the name Olive!

 

We first heard the name at our church. One of the little girls in Eloise’s Sunday school class has the name. It didn’t strike me as a name I absolutely loved right away. But over time I kept thinking about it more and more and eventually couldn’t get it out of my mind! It wasn’t long before I fell in love with it!

The name Olive means {peace}. An olive branch has long been a symbol of peace, starting in Bible times. Remember how Noah knew that the flood had ended? Genesis 8:11 says, “When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth.” It was God’s symbol to Noah that he was restoring peace on the earth.

As many of you know, this past year has not been an easy one for us. These are not the circumstances nor the place we were expecting to be in when I first got pregnant. God did a 180 on all of our plans in the last couple of months and completely changed our direction in life. And though these times have been hard, He has continually given us the promise of His hope and peace.

 

Once we started seriously considering the name Olive, God started giving me reminders of His peace everywhere I turned; church, my devotions, my conversations with others… The name Olive became very dear to our hearts as we really started to see and believe that God would give us peace no matter what our circumstances turned out to be. The name Olive became a symbol of peace in my life personally.

We didn’t fully decide on the baby’s name until I was in my third trimester. I knew that whether the baby ended up being a boy or a girl, God had used the name Olive to remind me to trust Him no matter the circumstances! And I knew that Olive absolutely had to be the name if baby was a girl! (The baby boy name we had picked out means {God is good} – another great meaning for this time period in our lives!)

The day I was induced (April 2nd) my devotional read this:

“I have promised to meet all your needs according to My glorious riches. Your deepest, most constant need is for My Peace. I have planted Peace in the garden of your heart, where I live; but there are weeds growing there too: pride, worry, selfishness, unbelief.  I am the Gardener, and I am working to rid your heart of those weeds. I do My work in various ways. When you sit quietly with Me, I shine the Light of My Presence directly into your heart. In this heavenly Light, Peace grows abundantly and weeds shrivel up. I also send trials into your life. When you trust Me in the midst of trouble, Peace flourishes and weeds die away. Thank me for troublesome situations; the Peace they can produce far outweighs the trials you endure.
– Jesus Calling

That was the day our little Olive Kay was born! Our reminder of God’s provision and peace no matter our circumstances.

For each of our kids we’ve chosen a life verse. For Olive we’ve chosen Colossians 3:15 (NCV):

Our hope and prayer is that little miss Olive will grow into a Godly woman who serves the Lord and loves others, points people to the savior, and radiates God’s peace wherever she goes.

Should Christians be Happy ALL the Time?

Isaiah and Eloise love listening (and dancing) to music. We have a couple of kids praise and worship CD’s and they both know how to pop them into the computer and get their music to play.

The other day their CD was playing and a very old and familiar children’s song came on, “Happy All The Time.” You would probably recognize the song if you heard it. The lyrics are basically a repetition of these lines:

I’m in right, outright, upright, downright
Happy all the time 
I’m in right, outright, upright, downright
Happy all the time
Since Jesus Christ came in
And took away my sin
I’m in right, outright, upright, downright
Happy all the time
 
At first I wasn’t really paying attention to the lyrics, but the song is super catchy and I found myself singing it long after it was done playing. And as I sang it, the lyrics starting bothering me more and more. 
 
Here’s why: As the song above suggests, there are many, many Christians who believe that we’re supposed to be happy {all} of the time. And there are even some who believe that if we’re not, we’re sinning; that we’re doing the wrong thing by allowing ourselves to feel sorrow or pain. 
 
Shouldn’t Christians be smiling, happy people all of the time? I mean, we are followers of the one who suffered to the point of death and then was raised from the dead. We have so much to be happy about: there is a God, life after death, justice, renewal, peace…. Why would we ever be sad?
 
But here’s where some Christians get confused. There is a difference between {happiness} and {joy}. The Greek work for happiness is Makarios and it refers to freedom from normal cares and worries. It is used to describe a person who is experiencing good fortune: money, health, children, etc. And it’s also how we use the word in English. When things are going well for us, when our outward situations are good, we have money in the checking account, no death, and no illness, we feel {happy}. Life is good.
 
The Greek word for rejoice or joy is Chairo and means to experience or delight in God’s grace. It is described by the ancient Greeks as the “culmination of being” and the “good mood of the soul.” It is something that is found only in God and comes with virtue and wisdom. The ancient Greeks described the opposite of Chairo not as sadness, but as fear.
 
The Bible does not describe Jesus as always happy. In fact, Jesus was NOT far removed from sorrow and suffering. Isaiah 53:3 tells us that Jesus was “despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” Jesus knew sorrow and yet we count no one more faithful to God than him. Isn’t there room for us to experience sorrow as well?
 
Nowhere in the Bible do we have a direct command to be happy all the time. What we do have in the Bible, however, is the command to have JOY.
 
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4: 4-7
 
“But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:13
 
 
{Happiness} is that great feeling that you have when everything is going smoothly. {Joy} is what God gives you in the midst of trouble. Both happiness and joy have no fear – happiness because nothing is wrong, and joy because we have become willing to trust God that our suffering is serving a purpose for our greater good (Romans 8:28).
We have happiness BECAUSE of our situation, we have joy IN SPITE OF our situation.
When Paul says in Philippians that we should rejoice, he is acknowledging that Christians {will} have problems. No matter how much faith we’ve got. Some people will get diseases no matter how many people pray for healing. Some people will die way before their time. Others will battle financial difficulties, infidelity, depression, infertility, abuse, and unspeakable heartache. And in the midst of it all we are told not to be happy, but to REJOICE. To believe that God has everything under control and is working out everything for HIS glory and OUR good.
We don’t need to pretend to be happy all of the time. All of our feelings are a part of a life of faith. Just as the book of Psalms would not be complete without the Psalms of lament, so too would our lives not be complete without our laments, sorrows, and tears as part of our story of faith.
What things are keeping you from joy today? What are you anxious about and trying to control? 
These last several months have been some of the most difficult ones Drew and I have ever experienced. As you may recall from this post, we have had a very draining year physically, financially, and spiritually. We are still living in limbo as Drew is studying for a second test he has to take before being fully hired on with Edward Jones, we have to move out of our current house in May and don’t yet know where we will go, and finances are tight. Recently we’ve had a death on Drew’s side of the family. My little sister is currently facing a debilitating illness that doctors have yet to diagnose, and, as she’s currently living in Uganda with my family and cannot get stabilized enough to fly, we don’t yet know how she will get back to the U.S. to get the medical treatment she needs. (You can read more about Janae’s condition here). These are sad and scary things that are weighing heavy on my heart.
Yet the great power of faith, TRUE JOY, is in knowing that even when we’re not happy, even when we’re sorrowful, even when our eyes are founts of tears and our hearts are filled with pain, God is with us. He is the only one who can give us joy in the midst of any and all circumstances, even when we don’t feel happy.

What in the World Does a Stay At Home Mom Do ALL Day?

A couple of months ago, Kentucky radio personality Matt Walsh wrote a controversial blog post defending his wife, a stay at home mom. You may have seen the post floating around Facebook; that’s where I was first introduced to it.

The post arose after Walsh’s conversation with two working women who asked him how his wife and children were doing and whether or not his wife was planning to go back to work. They also asked what she does all day as a stay at home mom. Walsh quickly rose to the defense of his wife, stating that no, his wife was not returning to “work”, she keeps busy taking care of their twins all day, that being a stay at home mom is not always fun, and that his wife actually never quits working. Needless to say, Walsh’s response sparked quite a controversy and his post received more than 12,000 comments!

In his post he wrote:

“This conversation shouldn’t be necessary. I shouldn’t need to explain why it’s insane for anyone – particularly other women – to have such contempt and hostility for “stay-at-home” mothers. Are we really so shallow? Are we really so confused?”

It seems that whenever a stay at home mom is asked what she does all day, it’s completely fine to verbally attack the poor person who asked the question! It’s acceptable to ask a dentist, doctor, secretary, teacher, or police officer how they spend their days, but for some reason stay at home moms can become very defensive when asked what they do all day long!

Most stay at home moms stay incredibly busy and I understand how some can get defensive when the person asking them is asking because they seem to think that stay at home moms just sit on the couch eating Oreos all day. But many people are simply asking out of a sense of curiosity or a lack of knowledge about the amount of work that goes into being a stay at home mom.

Being a stay at home mom is hard. It is A LOT of work. I rarely have a moment to sit down uninterrupted during the day. I’m taking my toddler potty, preparing meals, breaking up fights, organizing fun activities for the kids to do, cleaning, laundry, answering millions of (seemingly) pointless questions from my 3 1/2 year old, taking out the trash, making sure bills are paid on time, doing the grocery shopping, driving my kids to various activities, kissing boo boos, stopping tantrums, wiping bottoms and noses, doing dishes, and cleaning up messes.

If you have only one incredibly well behaved (i.e. perfect angel) child who you plunk down in front of the TV all day and if you don’t spend much time cleaning and cooking, then yes, you probably have a lot of free time on your hands to pursue what YOU want to do as a stay at home mom. However, if you have {normal} needy children who you spend time with; teaching them, interacting with them, and taking them places, and you also strive to cook decent meals and keep your house in operational order… well you probably don’t have much free time as a stay at home mom. Stay at home moms DO work, we just work at home and not in the workforce.

Salary.com does an interesting breakdown of what a stay at home mom would be worth if she really got paid for all the work she does.

Being a working mom is hard too. It is A LOT of work. Working mothers often spend long, stressful hours at their jobs and {then} have to come home and do their housework and take care of their kids!

Salary.com also does an interesting breakdown of what a working mother is worth:

Not sure how truly accurate these salaries are, but the point is: being a stay at home mom is work and being a working mom is work. And it’s not really about whose job is harder or easier or better or worse. They both have their pros and cons, their benefits and disadvantages, their good times and bad, their hard times and easy times.

But I don’t think being a working mom or a stay at home mom should define the ability to cook, clean, or care for a family. It’s simply what we do as parents for our children. To say that stay at home moms have an important job is true. But to say that they have the most important job in the world and that all of society would crumble if moms return to the workforce is an exaggeration. To say that working moms have an important job is true. But to say that they are smarter, wiser, better parents contributing to society in a more useful way is completely false.

I love being a stay at home mom. It’s what I’ve {chosen} for this time period of my life. I could work if I wanted to! But I don’t. I {want} to be home full time with my kids. But some moms {want} to work and be with their kids in the evenings and on weekends. Does that make them bad moms? Absolutely not. Putting stay at home moms on a pedestal, like Walsh suggests, or claiming it’s better to be a working mom like this article claims, just drives a wedge between working and stay at home moms. One type of mom is not “better” than the other.

I love this article here which is a letter from a working mother to a stay at home mother (and vice versa). The letters show respect and understanding for what the other mother has chosen. No judgment, no trying to convince each other that they are a better mother. Just understanding from one mother to another that they have both chosen the route that they feel is best for themselves and their families.

Whether you’ve chosen to stay home with your children or not, most of us are parents with a tremendous amount of love for our children, trying to raise them the best we can! Let’s cut each other some slack! Let’s not be full of judgement over how other parents are choosing to raise their kids. And let’s remember that {all} mothers, working or stay at home, serve a tremendously important role in the lives of their children.

And then check out this beautiful video below about how wonderful it is to be a mom!

Are Children a Blessing or a Burden?

Some days are better than others in our household.

There are days when my children are amazingly obedient, kind, respectful, and pleasant to be around! Those are the days when I think I’ve got this mothering thing down and start thinking about baby number 4 already (not really… I’m not that crazy)! And then there are days when my children throw all manners out the window and seriously act like they have been raised by cave men… clawing at each other, beating each other over the head with sticks, and speaking in loud screeching sounds that don’t even remotely sound like English.

Then there are the days that I am an especially great mother… kind, respectful, and pleasant to be around. And…. there are also the days when I beat myself over the head with a stick and make strange screeching sounds into my pillow at night while I contemplate how I can convince Drew to become a stay at home dad so I can escape the madness! (I’m just kidding, by the way!) =)

But in all seriousness, not every day around here is a perfect day (although most are really pretty good!). But at the end of each and every day, no matter how the day went, I am incredibly thankful to have the blessing of my children and if I could ever rewrite my life story I would never, ever, ever write them out of it. I absolutely {love}  being a mom!

In this era, though, this is not necessarily the norm. In fact, an article published in Time Magazine in August 2013 entitled “The Childfree Life” states that the current birth rate in the U.S. is the lowest it has ever been and that more and more people are choosing to opt out of having children.

Notice the title of the article: “The Childfree Life: When Having it All Means Not Having Children“. An article here claims that the author used the term “childfree” instead of “childless” because “the most educated, highest IQ non-mothers by choice now say, “Childlessness is for someone who wants a child but doesn’t have one. It’s a lack. I’m not lacking anything.””

We live in a world where children are most often viewed as a {burden} rather than a {blessing}. And parents who chose to have more than two of these “burdens” are considered to be especially foolish, unwise, and totally irresponsible.

Even as Christians, we often take on the same view as the secular world around us. We don’t value children. The world tells us that no children or less children are better because it allows you to be more free to pursue your dreams and your passions, have {more} fun with your significant other and friends, less to worry about, less responsibility, and overall more {joy} in life. Our own experiences seem to validate the fact that children {are} sometimes inconvenient, irritating, annoying, embarrassing, expensive, and just down right a. lot. of. work.

I’m not saying that sometimes our children are not these things. Nor am I saying that children are perfect little angels all the time who will be incredibly easy to care for and require no amount of sacrifice on a parents’ part. But when the world tries to paint a picture of something it deems good or bad, a warning bell should go off in the mind of a Christian and we can most assuredly come to the conclusion that it is exactly the opposite.

This girl brings SO much joy into our lives.

The Bible tells us that:

Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a {reward} from him.
Psalm 127:3

Since the Bible teaches us that children are a {blessing} and not a burden, it is our job to adjust our thinking to align with what the Scripture says, not to reinterpret Scripture to match what the world says.

Isaiah and Eloise with their cousin, Novalee. Three blessings!

So, how can we start viewing our children as blessings?

First of all, we need to stop viewing our children with an earthly perspective. Most everyone would agree that children often times cost {lots} of money, embarrass us in front of others, get sick at the most inconvenient times, don’t allow us to get as much done as WE want to, make messes that we spend the whole day picking up, whine, disobey, make poor choices, and often take so much physical and mental energy that we feel we have nothing left at the end of the day. Raising kids is not for the faint of heart!

But, to help us understand the blessing of children we need to develop an eternal, spiritual perspective.  God {says} children are a blessing, so they {are}! They advance His kingdom. They are like arrows in the hand of a warrior (Psalm 127:4-5), which we need in spiritual battle against the enemy. They force us to grow up and develop character, to learn patience and selflessness. Children cause us to get over ourselves and learn the blessing of self-sacrifice. And, as any parent knows, children are a blessing because of the sheer joy and delight they bring into a home! I think my kids are the cutest, smartest, most entertaining, and most fun kids on the planet and I could just eat them up! Drew and I video tape or take a picture of almost every cute moment and treasure every sweet and tender one. Our kids have brought unending joy and happiness into our home and I know many other parents feel the same (on most days!).

As Christians, we have the responsibility of raising up a future generation of adults who love and serve the Lord. What an incredible, huge, and daunting task. And yet what could be of more eternal value?!

If I didn’t have Isaiah who would paint my toes while I’m pregnant?!?!
“The Bible calls debt a curse and children a blessing; but in our culture, we apply for a curse and reject blessings.” 

This is not a post trying to guilt people into having children or into having more children. The decision about whether or not to have children and/or how many to have (or adopt) is between you, God, and your spouse! And I also realize that many out there desperately want to have children and cannot.

I simply want to encourage those of us who do have children to view them as blessings instead of burdens. Being a parent has it’s good days and it’s bad days. Not every day will you be over the top, enthusiastically thankful for the little creatures who are driving you bonkers that day. And that’s ok. That’s part of life and no matter how hard we try we can’t make every day a perfect day (because we are sinners and we are raising kids who are sinners!).

But, whether you have one child or ten, praise God for the blessing of your children and ask Him for the grace and patience to view them as the blessings they are, even when the days get rough. Ask Him to help you see the {JOY} in raising children! It’s an awesome job!

The world sees children as a burden but God sees them as a blessing to help share the burdens of life!

 

My little “superhero” helping me with the dishes last night. So thankful for him.

Santa: Friend or Foe?

It’s December, the weather is frigid (in Michigan!), the snow is falling, Christmas music is playing, the stores are decorated, people are bustling here and there, and houses are filled with Christmas spirit. With less than one week to Christmas, it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

This time of year brings about so much festivity and celebration, magical moments, and times with loves ones. This time of year also brings with it a certain plump, white bearded guy who causes a lot of controversy in Christian circles: Santa Claus.

This is Isaiah’s 4th Christmas, but for the past 3 he has been a little too young to understand or have much exposure to Santa other than last Christmas when he was just two years old and was able to point out Santa and recogonize who he was. But last Christmas we were in Uganda and we didn’t see Santa too much there… although we did run into him at the mall one time! Santa’s a little darker and a little skinner in Uganda! =)

Now that the kids are older and we’re back in the States, we’ve had to decide what exactly we want to teach our children regarding Santa Claus.

As of now, this is what we’re planning to teach our children about Santa:

1. Santa is a “real” part of Christmas even though he is a “pretend” guy

Did you know that St. Nicolas was a {real} guy? The records of his existence are sparse, but from what we can piece together St. Nicolas was a Christian man of wealth and privilege born in the third century. He was known to frequently give gifts to children, sometimes even hanging socks filled with treats and presents. Nicholas grew to be a well-loved Christian leader and was eventually voted the Bishop of Myra. The anniversary of his death, December 6, 343, became the St. Nicolas Holiday, where gifts were given in his honor. Since this holiday was so close to Christmas, the two eventually merged together as one.

Saint Nick was a wonderful man who loved and served Christ. But the Santa we celebrate today, although derived from St. Nick, has been distorted and embellished. As they get older, we want to explain to our children who St. Nicolas was and how we get from him the Santa that is now around today. We want to explain to them that some parts of Santa Claus are real (he really was a guy who was very generous and gave out presents) but that a lot has been added to the story of Santa to make it a fun Christmas tradition that is not real (Santa does not really deliver presents to every boy and girl around the world in one night, reindeer do not really fly, etc).

We’re not going to try to deny that Santa exists. In the U.S. he’s everywhere at Christmas time! Santa is at the mall, on your wrapping paper, on the radio, on your Christmas PJ’s, on TV, etc. It would be hard to keep our children from seeing him! Is he a “real” guy? No. But he is a “real” part of Christmas! And we want our kids to have fun enjoying the “pretend” things about Santa during the Christmas season.

2. Santa is not a “bad” guy

We believe that you can make Santa a {fun} part of Christmas while still teaching your children who Santa really is. This year Isaiah and Eloise sat on Santa’s lap and Isaiah was so excited to ask him for a “big monsta truck” for Christmas. But he also knows that Santa doesn’t really bring him presents and that his asking is just for fun.

We want our kids to have fun with Santa during the Christmas season while still knowing that all that’s said about Santa is not true. He’s not a bad guy who needs to be avoided during the Christmas season. But he’s also not real and doesn’t do all the things some kids think he does. We want to help our kids discover that middle ground, where they can enjoy Santa while still knowing that he’s just a fun, make believe part of Christmas.

Have your kids seen the movie Cars or Cinderella? Those characters do not really exist nor is it possible for the things in those movies to happen in real life. Yet we let our children watch those movies and develop their imaginations while explaining to them that cars cannot really talk nor are there fairy godmothers with the power to transform pumpkins into chariots!

We believe that, just like other “make believe” kids characters, Santa Claus can be kept as a part of Christmas and enjoyed by our children while still allowing them to know that he’s not a “real” guy and doesn’t really do all that people claim he does.

3. Santa does NOT bring our kids their presents

Are you kidding me? All the thought, time, energy, and money that goes into buying and wrapping presents and you think I’m going to give Santa credit for it?? =)

We will tell our children that their presents come from mommy and daddy, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, etc. People they know and love have worked hard all year long to buy them presents and we want them to be appreciative. If they want to ask Santa for something while sitting on his lap that’s fine but we will explain to them that it’s fun to ask Santa for presents but it’s really mommy and daddy (and others) who supply them under the tree Christmas morning.

4. Our kids are to be “good” because their parents tell them to be, not so that Santa will bring them presents.

There is no “naughty” or “nice” list in our house. Our children will get presents even if they have been little terrors that year. We do not give to our children because of their behavior and we certainly won’t scare them that if they are not obedient we will not give them any presents.

The tradition of giving gifts on Christmas started with St. Nicolas giving gifts to children but, as Christians, we carry on the tradition because we have been given the greatest gift of all, {JESUS}! God gave us the gift of Jesus when we were undeserving. We were on the “naughty” list. I’m so thankful that God didn’t give us coal instead of his Son!

We give as an extension of the gift that we have been given through Christ Jesus. Thus, we will give to our children each year no matter what. And we will not bribe our children into obeying by threatening to give them less or worse gifts. We will not tell them to be good because their “Elf on the Shelf” is watching or because Santa will give them coal if they are bad. We aim to teach our children to obey because it pleases God and their parents, whom God has put in charge of them.

Elf on the Shelf- a new family tradition we started this year!

5. Jesus is the {real} reason we celebrate Christmas 

Santa can be a fun part of Christmas but he is NOT the reason we celebrate Christmas. Christmas is Jesus’ birthday and on that day we celebrate the most wonderful gift of all that God our Father gave us! We want to teach our children that lots of fun Christmas traditions come out around Christmas time ( Elf on the Shelf, Santa, cutting down our Christmas tree, presents, etc.) and those things are fun to enjoy but the {REAL} reason we celebrate is because of a {REAL} guy named Jesus born in a stable so many years ago.

This year we are going to start the tradition of making a birthday cake and singing happy birthday to Jesus on Christmas. We will read the Christmas story on Christmas day and as our children get older we will incorporate other things that help us make Christmas a celebration of Jesus’ birth.

All year long, we teach our children about the Lord, His faithfulness, His “realness”, His love, His laws…. And we continue through the Christmas season as we teach them about His birth. With all that we pour into them about the truth of Jesus over the year we’re not worried about Santa coming in and overshadowing their belief in God during the Christmas season.

So, why not just allow your children to think that Santa is real and really does all that’s said of him?

We don’t want to lie to our children. If Isaiah is playing a game on my phone and I tell him that I need it to send a quick text message and then I will give it back, then I will use it to send a quick text message and then give it back! I won’t tell him a lie to get him to hand over the phone so that I can keep it for good. If we tell Eloise not to touch the stove because it is hot, then it is hot. We will not tell her that the Christmas tree or the computer is hot so she doesn’t touch it.

My point is… We want to teach our children that they can trust us because we will always tell them the truth. We don’t want to deceive them about who Santa really is and have them find out several years down the road that we didn’t tell them the truth. Why would we lie to them about Santa and expect them to believe us about Jesus?

The way we’ve decided to go about handling Santa with our children is a personal decision that we’ve made as a couple and we feel it’s the right thing for our family. {But} we understand that there are many families out there who go about Santa in a different way! And I’d love to hear from you how you go about handling Santa in your family!

 SO how about you? What do you teach your kids about Santa Claus? I would love to hear!
And…these pictures don’t have Santa in them but I still had to share them. Isaiah and Eloise in their matching Christmas jammies!! =)

 

I love how they love each other. Isaiah is such a sweet big brother with her!

P.S. If you’re interested in reading the opinions of some others out there, here are some links to follow:

http://thepaleomama.com/2013/12/5-reasons-let-kids-believe-santa-claus/

http://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2010/12/08/what-we-tell-our-kids-about-santa/2548

http://jenwilkin.blogspot.com/2011/11/santa-strategically.html

http://sojo.net/blogs/2013/12/12/why-my-family-says-no-santa-claus-myth?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sojourners%2Fgods-politics+%28Sojourners+God%27s+Politics+Blog%29&utm_content=Bloglines

 http://www.nooga.com/164571/imperfect-parenting-we-dont-believe-in-santa/

Facebook Lies

Do you have Facebook friends who lead perfect lives? You know the ones I’m talking about…The ones that home school 10 kids at once and cook all their food from scratch and {always} have a clean house and they look fabulous all of the time and their children {never} fight or throw a temper tantrum and everything they place in their mouths is 100% organic and they sew all 10 of their kids’ Halloween costumes themselves each year and they always find the cheapest gas prices and make homemade crafts with their kids every day and they lead 5 Bible studies and are president of the rotary club and… well, basically, they’re perfect. At least that’s how it appears on Facebook, right?
Facebook can lie. Don’t get me wrong, I love Facebook. I use it often and it’s a great way to keep in contact with people, especially for someone like me who grew up in several different countries and have friends all over the world. I appreciate Facebook. But, sometimes I think it could be called Fakebook, because it’s {so} easy to appear {fake} on Facebook (not necessarily on purpose!).
I get it. Most people don’t want to post the worst pictures of themselves or list out all of their failures or constantly comment on how terrible their lives are. You actually probably have some friends who often do the latter and that gets old real quick! But in posting about mainly the best parts of their lives, some of our Facebook friends really do seem to have it all together.
But Facebook doesn’t always tell the whole story. For instance, when I take a picture of my kids and they are smiling nicely and have their arms sweetly around each other, I post it! But I don’t post (or comment about) the 50 pictures I took before that where my kids were refusing to smile or had their fingers up their noses. And I certainly don’t comment that as soon as I snapped the picture one of them smacked the other in the face which caused a catastrophic meltdown which ultimately led to an early nap time (for me!)! I post the picture on Facebook and everyone thinks, “Wow, what perfectly adorable children. I wish mine were that well behaved.” Ha! Right!
I’m not saying that we should all start posting about the {awful} parts of our lives or start using Facebook as a place to constantly complain. And I’m not saying that we should stop posting about the {good} things in our lives and the things we can praise God for. I’m simply reminding you that Facebook doesn’t always tell the {whole story}. The perfect life you think your friend is leading because of his or her status updates and pictures may not be as perfect as you think.
Don’t let Facebook cause jealousy or feed bitterness or stir up discontentment in you. Use it as a fantastic way to keep in touch with people and their lives and to share about the wonderful things in your life or the not so good things you need prayer about. But don’t let it lead you to feelings of failure about your own life and how it doesn’t seem to measure up to others’. Facebook can be real. But remember, sometimes it really can be Fakebook.