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Redeeming Childbirth Giveaway!

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 4.00.54 PMRedeeming Childbirth is a powerful new book by a long time friend and sweet sister in the Lord, Angie Tolpin. I have watched and taken part in this journey that Angie has taken in writing this book over the last year and I am so blessed to see the heart and love that she has poured out into this book. This book is a fresh new call to invite the presence of God into this intimate and beautiful process of childbirth. It is a challenge to let go of the debates, comparisons, and disunity among Christian women on the subject of childbirth how’s and where’s, and instead, fully embrace the beautiful design that God has for you, and realizing that He is the sustainer, deliverer, and only one that can truly support and carry us through, and ultimately redeem this process of childbirth.

He designed childbirth, its challenges, its pains, its processes, and He calls us to see the beauty and magnitude of how we can display and magnify His glory through every step of the journey. God desires to use it to draw our hearts more deeply into His presence and to prune and refine our character in ways that no other life experience can compare with. This book is full of biblical encouragement in preparing for childbirth and beyond, but also chock full of practical encouragement, from personal testimonies, making the birthing room a place of worship and Scripture meditation, understanding God’s true design in pain, dealing with fear, redeeming emergency situations, help for bed-rest situations, and so much more. She offers tons more free downloadable resources through her website, Redeeming Childbirth.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“It is not where the baby is born that marks a birth as redeemed. It is the act of surrendering our agendas to The Lord, seeking His will for our childbirth, and then experiencing His presence working in us, through us, and around us that makes it a redemptive milestone in one’s life.”

“…Once you choose to surrender fully under the headship of Christ, you begin living in the freedom of the grace that Jesus brings. You begin to view pain, not as a burden or a curse, but as beautiful. It is a beautiful pain because of the spiritual, mental, and emotional growth you will experience as you embrace it, in Christ who strengthens you.”

“Jesus is our deliverer in birth. He brings forth life. He chooses when that baby will be born; we know not the hour, only He does. He is the one we can choose to transfer our pain to, to let Him take it and carry us.”

There is so much hope in this book! I highly recommend it and believe passionately that every pregnant mother, and in fact, every woman of God, young and old, should read this book and begin to change our culture tide from women who only complain of the pains of pregnancy and spreading fear from horrible birth tales into a generation of women that choose instead to invite God in and proclaim how God met and redeemed them in childbirth in such a way that God is mightily glorified! Let us let go of our agendas and instead proclaim the excellencies of God’s amazing grace every step of the way. The birth room and our birth stories can be a powerful place and opportunity to be a shining light in a dark world! Who knows what God can do? Let’s not put Him into a box.

This book is available on Amazon for just $15, or through kindle for $6. Please order your copy today here.

For further encouragement and resources, check out the Redeeming Childbirth facebook page.

Thanks to Angie, we are giving away one copy today of Redeeming Childbirth to one beautiful woman!

 TO ENTER:

1. Visit Angie’s website, Redeeming Childbirth, and check out the vision for this book and the awesome resources she has available for you. Come back and share in a comment below why you would like to read this book.

Giveaway Closed.

AND THE WINNER IS…

Sarah O. (hitchedathenry@….): “I would LOVE to win this book. I am 27 weeks pregnant with our fourth child today. Even after all of these years, I struggle with such fear and feeligs of insecurity about labor and delivery. I have a feeling this book would be a huge encouragement to my heart.” 

I pray this book would be a great blessing to you Sarah! Congrats!

No purchase necessary to enter this giveaway.
Limited to US partipants only. 
Email subscribers: You must click through to this original post and leave a comment on the website in order to be entered in this giveaway. 

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Preparing My Heart for Motherhood

Originally published on July 18, 2011. Republished in light of our top 10 celebration on PH!

With each new little one that the Lord chose to bless us with, there is a certain amount of preparation and pruning that my heart must go through before being in a place to welcome them with open hands. I honestly go through serious withdraws as the last few weeks of pregnancy linger over me. Thoughts such as, “What am I doing? Am I ready for this? Number 3? Ahh!” Can I honestly be the godly joy-filled mother that I desire to be? Can I embrace this child with a heart of love and gratitude? How can I turn my eyes from the reality of the work ahead of me and truly embrace the change?

Take a Retreat.

I have found taking a personal retreat prior to having a new little one to be an invaluable exercise towards preparing my heart for this new stage in my journey of motherhood. Get away, spend time with the Lord, read His word, and pray. Pray for grace. I must acknowledge that this task is certainly beyond my ability. I cannot be a good mother on my own strength. I will stumble and fall…time and time again. I need to let go find grace in His arms.

Meditate on the Blessing of Children.

Jesus loved children. He welcomed them. He embraced them. (Matthew 18:2-6; Mark 9:37; Matthew 19:13-15). He promised in His word that they are a blessing, a heritage, a reward. They are His generous legacy chosen to be passed down through us. Children are a weapon – a tool entrusted into our hands to be prepared to wage war in the enemies camp. With the influence and power of God’s gift of children, no one can stand against us! (Psalms 127:3; Deut. 28:4).

Embrace the Change.

I believe it is important to realize and acknowledge that motherhood is hard work. It is work. And yet it is beautiful work. When God designed work back in the Garden, He designed that it was good. Work is a good thing. I like how Timothy Keller defines work as the art of bringing together the raw materials and forming it into something that flourishes, something that brings life to those around you. I love that! So for me as a mother, my work is the art of bringing together the raw materials in my home, food, children’s hearts and character, their body’s, and working them carefully, nuturingly, beautifully, so that my children, my husband, our home, and those God sends into our lives might truly flourish.

I need to embrace the fact that God’s grace is sufficient for the change, the tireless nights, the repeated needs and demands around me. His grace is mine! It has been fashioned for me before time began. It’s new every morning. The process of mothering is a sanctifying work. Change stretches and grows us drawing us nearer to our Lord. God is working in and through to for His good pleasure. And He promises to never leave or forsake you.

So recognize that it will be work, chose to embrace it, and the Lord will cause you to flourish. This is my work. Remember that this work is your worship.

Make a Thankfulness List.

Why not make a list of simple truths and reminders that you could post near your bed as gentle reminders for those late night feedings. They could be verses that relate specifically to you or to your baby. You are beautiful (I am fearfully and wonderfully made). You are loved! (You are loved with an everlasting love).

Passing on the Torch.

Recognize the high calling and mission you are about to embark on.

Psalms 78:1-7 gives us this commission:

O my people, hear my teaching;
listen to the words of my mouth.

We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
his power, and the wonders he has done...
which he commanded our forefathers
to teach their children,

so the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God

and would not forget his deeds
but would keep his commands.

That is a beautiful calling!

Read a good book.

Before each birth, I try to read a good inspiring read about the calling of motherhood. Currently, I am reading A Mother’s Heart by Jean Fleming, and it has been so refreshing to my soul. If you cannot get to a book or desire something in addition to, be refreshed by Rachel Jankovic’s articles on Motherhood: Motherhood is a Calling and Motherhood as a Mission Field. Check out my list of favorite reads on motherhood for further recommendations.

Pray for your Baby.

It’s never too early to start praying for your baby. Oh, I forget this every day. So today, I am sitting here praying for this new little life in my womb. I am praying for a particular life verse or life hymn that might be a strong reminder for them through the thick and thin of life. We have chosen a life hymn for each of our children in the past and this serves as a gentle reminder to continue to sing these hymns over them. I am also re-printing out this helpful free 31 Days of Prayer for Your Children.

So my heart is in a state of rest in this moment as my soul is prepared for this new little life. I will chose to see the beauty and embrace it wholeheartedly, as this is the work assigned to me! It is a beautiful work and His strengthen is mine for each step of the way.

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Embracing the Pain & Letting Go of Fear in Childbirth

Originally posted on May 18, 2011. Republished as part of our top 10 celebration on PH!

In this day and age, childbearing is often considered a thing to be feared. There is this overarching anxiety that we won’t be able to manage the pain of it all. We fear the baby being too large, or too small. We fear losing control. My desire here is to stop this train of thought that birthing is a thing to fear, encourage us to step back, and reflect on the beauty of the birthing process.

Childbirth is certainly work, and the intensity of it has increased as a result of the fall (Genesis 3:16). But like any work, it is doable. God’s grace is extended to sustain us through it. What we often overlook is the fact that God created birth to be a beautiful process, as we embrace the work and strive to labor for His glory. He has created the female body to be able to give birth. We were designed to be life-givers. This is what you were created to do! God has specially designed this child, conceived in your womb, to be born into this world.

Please note, there can certainly be a place for interventions as we live in a fallen world and it may not go as naturally as desired, but ultimately if our heart is trusting in the Lord, it will be a beautiful experience,  and should not be a thing to be feared. If you had a rough first experience, may I encourage you that there is grace to cover your past experiences, grace to try again, and grace to trust the sovereignty of God with whatever the results.

Understanding the purpose of pain is essential for being able to conquer fear in our hearts.

Why Pain in Labor?

The quotes below are taken from the Christian Childbirth Handbook by Jennifer Vanderlaan:

Increases Endorphins = pain management

“Pain, by its very nature, is a call to action…Pain has a physiological purpose in childbirth. The increasing intensity of the pain or discomfort increase your body’s production of endorphins. Endorphins are natural opiates that are responsible for ‘runners high’. They are also produced during sexual intimacy. Endorphins are at peak levels near the end of the labor helping you manage the pain of the contractions.”

Increases prolactin = breastfeeding success

“What is even more amazing is the endorphins your body is producing in response to the pain of labor are preparing your body to care for your child. The high endorphin levels cause your body to increase prolactin levels. Prolactin is a hormone necessary to breastfeed.”

Pain = movement = proper alignment

“Another important reason for discomfort or pain during labor is the way you naturally move your body in response to pain. It is very difficult to hold still while in pain, which works just perfectly for labor since movement is necessary for your baby to properly align in your pelvis. Without proper alignment, either you or your baby could suffer damage. Pain serves as a method of protection against a bad birth position.”

Pain = dependence upon the Lord

God often uses pain as a means of drawing our attention off ourselves and on to Him. It is a beautiful process for a woman to see this pain as a means of helping her refocus her attention on her Savior, who is her provider and source of strength. Therefore, focusing on worship, Scripture and prayer during labor are appropriate responses to the process. I believe this is all a part of the sanctifying process of childbirth. Jesus promises the peace that passes all understanding. This does not mean a perfect pain-free labor, but rather the calmness to embrace God as your strength.

“Peace is letting go of control, and letting God lead you through labor…Only God knows to what extent you will need to work during labor. You may give birth painlessly, or you may struggle through many challenges. You are only in control of how you respond to labor. It is how you handle yourself, where you turn for strength, which is important. God will give you the strength to manage whatever labor suits his purpose.”

Tips for Decreasing Pain

  • Keep your bladder empty.
  • Stay upright during labor.
  • Keep moving! Changing positions regularly.
  • Learn as much about labor as possible. Understand the process and the way your body works.
  • Chose an birthing environment where you are comfortable, safe, and relaxed.
  • Chose only people to surround you that you are comfortable with. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to all the in-laws.
  • Learn simple relaxation techniques: visualization, listening to music, relaxing each muscle in your body, deep breathing, and hydrotherapy. Practice these frequently before labor begins.
  • Keep your vocalization in labor low and deep. When we scream or yell in high pitched tones, this tightens the uterus. When we groan, we allow the cervix to open and relax.
  • Let go of fear. The more fear you have the more pain you will experience. Don’t hide it. Acknowledge it and turn to the Lord to help you with it.

Responding to Fear

It is important to first acknowledge your fear. We all have them. It is naturally a part of being human. But the important thing is to acknowledge and address your specific fears prior to labor. Labor is controlled by your sub-conscious mind, not your conscious mind. Fear in labor produces excess amounts of stress hormones in our body that can lock up your muscles and limit the supply of oxygen to your uterus and baby.

If you are experiencing fear, meditate upon Philippians 4:8 in the following manner (a valuable exercise offered in the Christian Childbirth Handbook):

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about these things.”

Write out your fear. My fear or concern is….

Now use the following questions to truly evaluate the source, motivation, and truth about your situation.

  1. What is true? (What is true about you and your situation?)
  2. What is noble? (How can you handle this situation in a noble way?)
  3. What is right? (Is there a righteous response to this fear?)
  4. What is pure? (How can you respond in a way to keep your heart devoted to God?)
  5. What is lovely? (How can this fear be worked for good?)
  6. What is admirable? (Who has overcome a similar fear: how did they do it?)
  7. What is excellent and praiseworthy? (How can you respond in a way that keeps you from sin and brings praise and glory to God?)

Philippians 4:6-7 – “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)

Focus on the Blessings

One of the true blessings of labor is that God designed it to process naturally and slowly (in most cases, as some births do go extremely fast). It actually takes two weeks or longer to go through the process. Contractions gradually increase in duration and intensity rather than all at once. And God gives us total breaks of pain-free times in between contractions. These points of rest, though short, help you to breath, relax, take in fresh oxygen and energy, all of which are essential for you and your baby’s health and well being.

Focus on the new precious life that will soon be entering your arms. Focus on the beauty of new life that is being birthed from your womb. Treasure that moment.

When we let go and allow our body to flow with the contractions, we experience a unique empowerment that is hard to describe. When we focus our minds on embracing the pain, the pain somehow becomes less severe. When we get up, move, and allow our body to flow with the contractions, we embrace the design of our bodies.

For further encouragement, please read Spiritual Encouragement for Preparing & Giving Birth that highlights specific verses that are excellent for preparing your heart for labor.

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Homemade Natural Postpartum Care Kit

It is our final celebration week on Passionate Homemaking before we take a sabbatical for a period of time, so I thought it would be appropriate to share the top posts on PH in regards to childbirth concluding this weekend with an awesome giveaway of a special book that has just been released on the topic! So enjoy these favorite posts this week!

Originally posted on August 16, 2010.

There is no doubt that postpartum healing can be painful and challenging, but there are several natural methods for restoring your body in a peaceful and refreshing manner.

It is important to realize and be prepared that dealing with a large range of emotions after birth is very common. There are extreme changes happening in your body from various hormones (estrogen, progesterone, oxytocin, prolactin, and thyroid hormone) that occur after birth. Taking steps to prepare for postpartum in advance is essential for helping guard your adjusting body against the baby blues and postpartum depression that you are susceptible to after birth.

These recipes can be combined in advance for great relief, but also can be assembled as a wonderful gift set for an expectant mother.

Natural Nipple Cream

Combine equal portions of coconut oil, shea butter, and cocoa butter for a wonderfully moisturizing natural nipple cream. Coconut oil alone can often do the trick to soothing sore nipples. Use an old baby food store for storage. Apply liberally before and after nursing as desired. Completely safe for baby and moisturizing and healing for the breastfeeding mother.

Postpartum Care Pads

Witch hazel is your best friend for the postpartum healing period. Witch hazel can be used on swollen body parts (birth gives your body quite the beating), varicose veins and makes a wonderful treatment for two obnoxious new mama problems – a sore perineum and hemorrhoids. These soothing pads do wonders for soreness and swelling after vaginal birth. Prepare 18-24 ahead of time.

Overnight/Jumbo maxi pads
1/4 cup Witch hazel
2-3 drops Lavender oil
1 Tbsp Pure Aloe Vera gel
Aluminum foil

Combine witch hazel, lavender essential oil, and aloe vera gel in a small bowl and mix till thoroughly combined. Transfer to a small spray bottle. Unfold each pad, and spray each pad with the healing mixture till the pad is damp, but not soaked. Wrap each pad in foil and store them in the freezer. Witch hazel and lavender are natural astringents, so they’ll help reduce swelling, and the aloe and the cold are very soothing.

Refreshing Perineum Spray

Fill a small spray bottle with witch hazel and a few drops of lavender essential oil and apply to your perineum after you use the restroom.

Comfrey Gel

Comfrey is wonderfully healing for damaged skin, and is especially useful for lubricating the stretched, sour, and damaged skin of the perineum after childbirth. Apply a small scoop with your fingers from front to back after using the restroom postpartum. This was my favorite natural soothing relief for postpartum healing! Mountain Rose Herbs sells a Comfrey-St. John’s Wort Salve that is perfect for this use.

Healing Postpartum Bath Salts

Regular ionized table salt is wonderfully healing for sour and stretched muscles after birth. Plan to take 1-2 baths per day after birth to soak in a tub with 1 cup of salt. Add a few drops of lavendar, geranium or orange essential oil for a delightful pick-up.

Postpartum Blues Spray

Geranium or bergamot essential oils are excellent to prevent post-partum depression, so dilute a 2-3 drops in a small spray bottle or diffuse around the room to help balance all those adjusting hormones. A small spray bottle with this concoction is another great gift for a new mommy.

Homemade Mother’s Milk Tea

It’s never too early to start consuming mother’s milk tea for the hearty production of your milk supply. Start drinking 2-3 cups per day of this yummy homemade mother’s milk tea. Combine and store in a glass quart jar or give as a gift to an expectant mother.

Take time to rest, get fresh air, drink plenty of liquids and nutritional meals, and accept help that is offered to you. Set up a Meal Baby registry for those that want to provide a meal for you. Birthing a baby is a strenuous task and you want to take at least a week of very little movement to allow your body to recover properly. Becoming active too quickly can lead to further complications with excessive bleeding, and breast infections, which will only draw out the healing period. Blessings on all the soon to arrive babies out there!

You can find high quality ingredients for all of these recipes through Mountain Rose Herbs – my favorite natural healing cream, oils, and essential oil supplier!

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, nor do I claim to be able to give medical advice. This information is merely to educate, inspire, and motivate you to look into these issues more on your own, or to speak with your own medical practitioner for more information.

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Digging Out of the Pit of Guilty Motherhood

I failed miserably in my mothering today. Everything from getting coats and shoes on, to going potty in underwear, to getting out of bed before the proper time. Each situation was responded to with an outburst of anger and frustration.

I experience guilt on many levels in my motherhood. I feel guilty when my house isn’t clean, organized, or I don’t have the energy to design all these glorious organizing tools (thanks Pinterest! ;) . I feel like a failure when I don’t spend enough quality time with my children or waste too much time on my phone or computer browsing this and that. I feel guilty when we don’t do family devotions as if my children’s salvation was all dependent upon me. I feel like a terrible homemaker when I don’t get anything done on my to-do list. So in response to my guilt, I get frustrated and the cycle continues. It’s a dangerous pit of self focus that destroys my joy.

The only means through which we can find deliverance out of this battlefield of guilt, condemnation, and anger is through the power of the gospel. The only lasting freedom can come through acknowledging what Christ has done on my behalf.

We have to steep ourselves in the power of the gospel. We have to soak it in.

I have to remind myself that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Yes, you and I will surely fail. But we have a glorious Savior who bore our condemnation. He bore our guilt. It was nailed to the cross. So in our failure, we can have hope. Christ Jesus has replaced our sinful record with His perfect righteous record.

As Elyse Fitzpatrick says, “When you are tempted to slide down into a miry pit of self-condemnation, you can remember Jesus’ sinless life and the perfect record that is now yours. Yes, it’s true that you sin heinously and consistently, but you have a perfect record before God, the only one who opinion really matters.”

“Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. (Romans 3:24)”

You have a perfect record.

Colossians 1:16-17 says,The Father…has qualified you [past tense; it's finished] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us [past tense again; the deliverance is completed] from the domain of darkness and transferred us [past tense once more: the transferal is already concluded] to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have [present tense; this very moment we possess it] redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

My outbursts of anger were nailed to the cross before I even walked this earth. My fear of failure is a waste of my energy. He paid the greatest price for them. In order to experience true freedom from guilt, I must stop focusing on all that I need to do in order to become a better mother. I must first turn my gaze upon what He has already done for me.

The only way to become a better mom is to preach the gospel to myself every day. It’s not by behaving that makes me a better mom, it’s by believing- believing more deeply in what He has accomplished.

God doesn’t call me to be perfect. He calls me to embrace my standing before him, and to run in that freedom he has already granted to me! I am adored by Christ! I am redeemed! I am accepted!

Ultimately, when I enslave myself by guilt I am mocking what He did on the cross, I am disbelieving the grace and mercy purchased for me through his sinless life. This guilt is witness to the fact that I am depending upon my own strength. I am believing that my children will only grow, flourish, and follow Christ if I do this certain set of practices.

So when you are tempted to put another brick of guilt on yourself, may I encourage you to stop, and declare with me:

“Because Jesus was strong for me, I am free to be weak;
because Jesus won for me, I am free to lose;
because Jesus was someone, I am free to be no one;
because Jesus was extraordinary, I am free to be ordinary;
because Jesus succeeded for me, I am free to fail.” -Tullian Tchividjian

Praise God for the full and abundant life I have in Christ!

Jesus loves me just as much today as He did yesterday!

Many of these insights have been gleaned through Tullian’s powerful book, Jesus + Nothing = Everything.

{Photo Credit}

Originally published February 9, 2012. Original comments included below.

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Homemade Summer Fun with Children

Guest post by Jaimi Erickson at The Stay-at-Home-Mom Survival Guide

Playing outdoors is one way for my children to explore God in their lives. Children in concrete stages of development love to explore by doing and outdoor time allows for so much exploration and learning. My children are ‘outdoor kids’, large motor machines. They need to get outside in order to keep their spirits in balance-I need that too. Thankfully summer provides a multitude of outdoor time for fun-and learning.

Having a 4-year old and a 15-month old allows me to bridge activities for two different skill levels, but two always-eager participants in any homemade ‘game’!  Some summer climates limit how many hours can be spent outside in a day. When we experience temps reaching 100+degrees, or afternoon downpours, we need to adapt our outdoor plan to work inside. This list of activities can be taken outdoors, but will work inside as well.  These are quick to create, low-to-no-cost (my mantra), and although are written with a preschooler in mind, I have noted how they can be adapted for younger ones.

1. Homemade Hopscotch Fun

On a rainy day, I used duct tape to create a hopscotch pattern on the back of a yoga mat. In about 10 minutes we had a new game to play that allowed us to burn some energy! We used homemade bean bags to toss. This game reinforced number recognition, exercised eye-hand coordination, and allowed for some gross motor movement to burn energy and work on balance.

[Adaptation:  I encouraged my toddler to step on the numbers and then I named them, or she tossed a beanbag and I identified on which number the bag landed.]

2. Homemade Bean Bags and Games

I made bean bags with scrap fabric, dry beans, and some quick stitches on the sewing machine.  They provided so much indoor (or outdoor) fun. We played “Simon Says”. (i.e. “Simon Says” put the bean bag on your head.”) We sang “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” and placed the bean bag on each part.  We tossed them into a laundry basket from different distances (marked by masking tape on the floor). We each took turns hiding one bag in order to let each other seek it out. We worked on teamwork, large motor movement and vocabulary.

[Adaptation: I made bean bags in primary colors, so they could be used for color recognition. My young toddler LOVES learning to identify new body parts, so I placed the bean bag on her head, shoulder, arm, etc. while I said the name of each part to help reinforce this learning.]

3. Drop Cloth Painting Canvas

My children love art and creating artwork to send to the grandparents, so I am always looking for new materials to explore within our budget. I found an inexpensive drop cloth and cut it in quarters. This can be pinned to a wall, lightly nailed or clamped to a fence outdoors, or taped to a window inside to allow for a large painting surface. (I wanted to do this outside, but it rained so we improvised indoors!) Increasing the surface area where they could paint, and pinning the canvas up, involved more gross motor movement and added interest.

[Adaptation: My toddler painted on the lower half while my preschooler painted near the top so they were separate by working together.]

4. Packing Peanut Snow

We live in a hot climate in the southeast. Recently our electricity was out for 48 hours during high temperatures. We needed to do anything to feel cooler. Foam packing peanuts as pretend snow were a hit in our home! My daughter and son enjoyed scooping them, piling them up, and making snow angels while laying in them on the dining room rug. What a great pretend play scenario on a hot day-play like it is cold! Just ‘thinking cold’ and ‘playing in the snow’ of the packing peanuts helped ease our cabin fever. We dropped them from above our heads and tried to catch the ‘snow flakes’ as they fell. They can even be thrown and caught allowing for more muscle movement and exercise.

All of the activities I create are based on observations of my children combined with what they need to learn as they grow to be godly individuals. There are so many ways we can add interest to our time in God’s creation outdoors-or spend our time together while playing inside depending on what the weather will allow. My first ministry mission is to my family. My children want my attention more than anything.  When I combine teaching skills with activities that feed their interests in an intentional way, we have fun whether during a rainy ‘indoor day’ or an outside day in the sun.

Jaimi Erickson is a woman living in service to God’s mission. She ministers daily to her husband and two children as a stay-at-home mom and homemaker. She formerly served as a teacher in the Early Childhood field.  Jaimi shares motivation for stay-at-home-moms, household tips, and developmentally appropriate make-at-home activities for infants and up on her blog The Stay-At-Home-Mom Survival Guide.

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Summer Vacationing with Kids

Guest post by Dawn Fong at My Daily Road Trip

I arrived home exhausted and disappointed. I was impatient with my kids, my husband, and quite frankly, I didn’t even like being around myself because of my own crabbiness. Where had I been, you ask? Actually, our family (me, my husband, our 1 1/2 year-old daughter and our 3 year-old son) had just returned from our summer “vacation!” Sound familiar? Have you ever embarked on what you thought would be a restful and fun time of meaningful connection for your family only to come home and wonder what happened? It’s possible that you may have gone at your vacation with wrong attitudes and/or wrong expectations.

When I discussed the aforementioned vacation with a friend, she said, “Actually, if your kids are with, it’s not really a “vacation.” It’s a family “trip.”‘ Ah, yes! Now it all made sense. I realize that people vacation in very different ways. Some pack their days full with activities and events, while others (like myself) prefer to choose a few activities for the entire vacation, while also taking time just to sleep, read, head to a coffee shop, or enjoy deep conversation with others.

However, no matter your vacationing preference, the fact is that things look different when children are involved. Now that you know my vacationing preference, is it any surprise that I returned home from our “family vacation” disappointed, exhausted, and frustrated? Since then, I’ve come up with a few tips that help me and will hopefully help you enjoy that trip your family may be taking this summer.

1. Examine Your Expectations

Before you leave, examine your expectations for the trip. Be realistic. If your entire family is sleeping in one hotel room or tent and your expectation is to get full, restful nights of sleep, you are bound to be frustrated.

If you are packing 7 days full of activities and expect angelic behavior of your kids even though they are exhausted, you are not being realistic. Because your kids are with, your responsibilities as a mom do not get to go on vacation. Accept that and move on.

Try to get a bit of meaningful time with your husband during the trip, but accept that this may happen during travel time in the car. Be ok if your children are not on their all-time best behavior (because how can you really plan that for your trip?!) and your time away isn’t as “special” or “meaningful” as you had hoped. Just enjoy being together, whatever that may bring.

2. Simplify Your Trip

Depending on the ages of your kids, simplifying your trip may allow you to keep your sanity. This may involve being gone for shorter periods of time. Our family took 2 main family trips last summer, each of which lasted about 4 days total. We also chose to stay within 4-5 hours of our home as to minimize the car time for our small ones.

Choose several activities to do and then be content doing the simple, everyday things together. For example, one of our long weekend trips was our “urban trip.” in which we stayed in a motel a few nights, went to the city’s aquarium, and enjoyed one meal out. Beyond that, we went to a local park, enjoyed swimming in the motel pool, and just hung out.

During our weekend trip (our “mountain get-away”), we set up camp at a beautiful campground and didn’t leave for 2-3 days. However, we had a grand time as we went on hikes, explored the campground, and enjoyed time around the campfire. Those times were still special because we were away from home doing things we don’t usually get to do together.

3. Seek to Bless Your Family Members

Seek to bless the others in your family and don’t just think about what YOU would like to get out of the trip. Pack a few special new toys you know will especially bless your kids. After you begin your driving shift, stop at a nearby coffee-shop and grab your husband his favorite coffee drink. Seek to serve others rather than demand to be served just because you are away on a family trip.

4. Enjoy the Journey!

Enjoy the journey and not just the destination – even in the literal sense! Thankfully (because it does not come easily to me), my husband lives out the attitude that life is more about the process and journey of life than the destination, no matter how messy it gets.

Embrace this attitude on your trip, even during the car or plane time you have. Instead of viewing it as the necessary evil to reaching your end destination, view it as part of the trip. And overall, try to go with the flow despite things possibly not going how you were hoping.

Yes, I realize the above things are difficult to carry out, but your adventure will go more smoothly if they are. Now, go and enjoy making memories during that family trip, whatever it may bring!

What tips can you share for cultivating peaceful family vacations with little ones?

Dawn Fong resides in beautiful Colorado where she lives out the adventure of loving her husband, 2 kiddos, and those around her. She enjoys creative communication, deep conversation, iced coffee, hiking, and being part of the process in which other people become more fully who God created them to be. You can find more of her thoughts on life at My Daily Road Trip.

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Keeping Your Soul Refreshed as a Mother

It is very easy to get over taxed and discouraged in the role of mothering when there are so many demands at your feet. Every morning our breakfast meal begins the cycle of madness with three little ones desperately hungry all at the same time. When will they be able to learn a little patience? Kids need to be dressed, fed, and changed multiple times throughout the day. I can easily fall into a spirit of moodiness and depression as I seek to juggle all the cares and needs around our home. When it does seem true that a mother’s work is never done from dawn to dust, how do you keep your soul encouraged and refreshed in this journey? How can we maintain joy in this beautiful journey of motherhood when it only seems like neediness is crying out at every corner?

Here are 10 little keys that I have found valuable to keep my spirits uplifted and strengthened in the Spirit. Even if I can practice just a few of these each week, it goes a long way to keeping me balanced and joyful:

1. Get up early. I know many will say this is impossible, but the value is incalculable. There is certainly grace to adapt as needed, but if all possible, try to get up early. This gives me the ability to spend some time with the Lord, start my day by getting dressed, and plan for the day before the little ones are up. Even just 30 minutes can make the biggest differences on my day. I’ve been through toughs seasons of insomnia, and many mornings when it was extremely difficult to wake up, but when I did, God’s mercy was so amazingly present to sustain me through the day.

2. Read the Word. Find a suitable time to be in the Word of God. Watering your soul is essential for keeping your head up, your spirit encouraged, and the beauty of God’s mission for you foremost. Find time in the morning, during naps, or before bedtime, whatever works best. Making time for spending with the Lord is one of the most important ways you can show love to your children. Why? Because then the Word will be ready on your lips to pour out truth and grace in the training and discipleship of your children. Your enthusiasm for the Word will be contagious.

3. Get outside. Even a quick 15 minutes of fresh air does wonders for the body and constitution. It gives me energy to finish the day well. Take a brisk morning walk before your husband leaves for work, or with the kids after naptime, or after dinner. When I start getting stressed, I try to stop, put the kids in the stroller and get outside as quickly as possible. ;) Use this time to pray, memorize Scripture, get down and observe the beauty of creation with your kids, or simply listen to the Word or sermons on your iPod or other device.

4. Take a regular retreat. Schedule a 2-3 hour block of time on a regular basis for a personal retreat. Find another mom that you could rotate childcare with, or schedule at a time when your husband could be home with the kiddos. Or don’t be afraid to hire a babysitter. For the last few months, during my husband’s crazy work schedule, I have been hiring a babysitter for a 3 hour period once a week. She helps with a little housecleaning and then plays with the kiddos for the remainder of the time. It has been worth every penny as it gives me opportunity to get outside and spend time alone with the Lord and do my intentional planning for the week.

5. Listen to the Word. The more you can get the truth of the gospel in your heart, the easier this daily journey will become. The Word is powerful to energize, encourage, and motivate our souls. It is powerful Sword to fight against the enemy who seeks to discourage us in our work, because he knows how powerful the ministry of a mother is in the growth and develop of these sweet souls entrusted to our care. Get a copy of the Bible on CD, or we love the dramatized Bible for listening to in the car. You can find most translations for free here. I also love to listen to sermons while I clean, do yardwork or gardening. Revive Our Hearts podcast (Biblical encouragement for women) or The Village Church are two of my favorites.

6. Memorize the Word with Your Kids. Memorizing the Bible can be difficult when you have multiple children, but it is a sweet and doable thing when done with your children. Read a Psalms to them every night before bed, recite the Lord’s Prayer or another passage each night at the dinner table, etc. and you will be amazed at how much you can memorize right alongside your kids through basic repetition.

7. Stay Close to Home. I’ve talked about this before, and it surely has been one of the most simple ways of keeping my soul refreshed rather than stressed. Keep those outside activities to once a week, or schedule them all on one day. So much more peaceful.

8. Start and End Your Day By Giving Thanks. Start your own thankfulness journal to record the little blessings that take place throughout your day. It has been a powerful means of keeping my soul joyful in the Lord.

9. Take 15 Minutes to Plan. Taking 15 minutes to plan at the beginning of your day or the night before can save you so much time and energy throughout the day. Make a simple list: one housecleaning task each day, one way to bless your kids, one way to serve or encourage your hubby, and 2-3 other miscellaneous tasks.

10. Get Rid of A Little Clutter Every Day. If you can move out a small pile of clutter each day it will keep your load more simple and give you sweet freedom from unnecessary burdens. Yes, throw it or add it to the goodwill pile. It’s worth it. It’s just a way to keep your home simple and clutter free which has a huge impact on your spirit. Declutter one drawer. One shelf. Or one mail pile. Ahh…

Are you feeling stretched beyond capacity? Remember that God’s grace is readily available to those who ask. May the Lord bless and encourage your sweet souls today! Know that He is the Lord and treasures the work that you do in your home. Let it be your worship to him today sisters! Depend upon His grace that is freely offered to you to sustain and lift you up. He is the giver of joy. He is the upholder of all things. He will be with you. Stay strong for your work is beautiful!

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The Beauty of Motherhood

“Who can measure the long-term effects of nurturing helpless infants, supervising wandering toddlers, discipling self-willed children, and counseling self-absorbed adolescents? Of family outings planned, traditions built, memories made, books read, songs sung, Scripture taught? That’s why motherhood belongs under the heading, ‘Engage the World’; no one shapes generations or fashions cultures more than mothers.

~ Jeff Purswell, Worldliness, (edited by C.J. Mahaney, p. 159). (HT: GirlTalk)

Dear Mother, your work to love and nurture your children is a beautiful task. It is your worship. To raise up children that love and serve Jesus is a glorious mission. To faithfully discipline, train, guide, and nurture them is the work of the Kingdom. Jesus welcomed the little children, and so by welcoming them, getting down and dirty with them, washing off their bumps and bruises, and seeking to be present for them, and loving them as Jesus did, is the most beautiful thing you can do.

“How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the rule of three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No. A woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.”

- G.K Chesterton

It is hard. You won’t have much free time. In fact, you may seem to have none at all. But each moment that is invested with joy and grace will bring such glory and honor to your Maker. Every little moment invested reading a story, wiping a nose, changing a diaper, teaching a child a chore or task, making messes together, is Kingdom building work. Don’t neglect filling up your own cup in the presence of your Lord so that you can freely pour out for them. He designed you for such a purpose…and together, we can change the world.

Be blessed! And may the joy of the Lord be your strength!

“A mother…by her planning and industry night and day, by her willfulness of love, by her fidelity, she brings up her children. Do not read to me the campaigns of Caesar and tell me nothing about Napoleon’s wonderful exploits.  For I tell you that, as God and the angels look down upon the silent history of that woman’s administration, and upon those men-building processes which went on in her heart and mind through a score of years;—nothing exterior, no outward development of kingdoms, no empire-building, can compare with what mother has done.  Nothing can compare in beauty, and wonder, and admirableness, and divinity itself, to the silent work in obscure dwellings of faithful women bringing their children to honor and virtue and piety.”  Henry Ward Beecher - Gene Fedele, ed. Golden Thoughts of Mother, Home & Heaven, pp.75-76.

Happy Mother’s Day!

“The world may not applaud us for wiping running noses, driving in carpools, or talking with our teenager into the wee hours of the morning. And until they are trained, our children might not thank us either. But as we set aside our own selfish desires and glorify God by joyfully serving our children, we are pursuing true greatness according to the Bible. Let us do so with tenderness, affection, and with a smile!”

– Carolyn Mahaney

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Unique Blessings of Every Season

This season of young motherhood with three lively little ones under foot is incredibly full and unbelievably tiring. I’ve realized that the reality is I will likely be tired for quite some time to come. Each season of our lives will have its own unique challenges but also its own unique blessings. Blessings that we may not see again in the next season of our lives. Each season will have its own trials and joys. It is easy to be in this season of busy motherhood to three young children and get stressed over the unending neediness of my children. Can I sit down for a minute, please? But what might happen if I seek to simply embrace my tiredness and focus on the passing unique blessings before me.

As Susan Yates in her book, And Then I Had Kids, so beautifully put it, “Seeing life in seasons enables us to get some perspective in our lives. In every season there will be trials and joys. Hardly anything lasts forever. We need to see our life in seasons and rejoice in the season at hand. As we relax and begin to soak up the unique blessings of this particular season, we will begin to experience and to enjoy the incredible richness of life.”

Today I am enraptured in cuddling on the couch and reading stories, exploring with paint and crafting simple creations. Moments enthralled in wonder listening to the birds in the trees and making our own garden space for my little ones. Sweet moments with these little hearts that are eager to pray for the needs of others. Or the precious time of  simply walking hand in hand with my 3 year old son. His precious kisses and telling me he loves me. His fascination with cars and all things moving. His sweet surprise expressions of “that’s awesome”. My 5 year old girl delighting in tea parties and toe nail polish.

Even with stressful moments of calming sibling arguments, settling overly dramatic expressions, madly vacuuming floors repeatedly to prevent my crawler from eating every crumb or dirt piece in sight, and multiple pee-pee accidents in a little boy who is struggling with staying focused…God is giving me grace to remember that this is only a season. These things will pass and my littles ones will grow and may not be as eager to kiss me or hold my hand in the future. I know in the next season of my life, I will truly miss kissing boo-boos, wiping sweet bottoms, and putting on multiple pairs of little shoes and coats, so why not see the beauty in it now? Lord, give us grace to embrace the season you have placed us in and take time today to enjoy the blessings.

I’m going to go kiss some sweet baby cheeks right now!

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