Titus 2:11-13

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus."

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Digital Story of the Nativity

Merry (Digital) Christmas!  Enjoy this modernized rendition of the birth of Jesus. :-)



Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

(Front to Back) Isabel, Amariah, Abel, Elliana

(L to R) Amariah, Abel, Isabel, Elliana

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

18-Month Stats

Yesterday, I took Isabel and Elliana to their 18-month well child exams.  Here are their stats!

Isabel (18 months)
Weight:  18 lbs 8.3 oz (< 1st percentile)
Height:  30 1/4 in (10th percentile)

Elliana (18 months)
Weight:  21 lbs 13.4 oz (15th percentile)
Height:  32 1/4 in (60th percentile)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It Takes Hard Work

Just when I thought I was finally getting into an "easier" stage of life, life reminded me that each stage presents new challenges. Yesterday was yet another reminder of that truth.

It started at the chiropractor's office when Elliana pulled all of the various sizes of exam gowns off their shelves and into one big pile on the floor... and then when Isabel threw a foot-stomping fit in the lobby, lost her footing, and fell face first into a ceramic vase, cutting her lip and coming up with a with a mouth full of blood.

It continued in the Wal-Mart parking lot when, as I was loading Isabel into her car seat, I turned to find Elliana standing in the empty cart basket where I had left her, giving me visions of a tipping cart and a falling child... and again in the Hy-Vee parking lot when my sweet Amariah (who is suffering with a sinus infection) began sobbing with pain while Isabel threw another fit, Elliana again dared gravity (this time standing in the top part of the cart), and Abel yelled above the noise in a plea for silence.

Yes, yesterday morning I felt like a walking advertisement for a negligent, pulled-in-too-many-directions mom.... Not the kind of image I want my family and myself to portray....

Was it humiliating? Yes. Eye-opening? Yes.

I have come through some tough stages of motherhood, but yesterday's not-so-impressive public displays certainly didn't portray that the current one is "easy." It isn't. And it shouldn't be, because raising well-trained, happy, obedient children requires hard work.

When Isabel threw her fit in the chiropractor's office, I wasn't working hard. In fact, I was taking the easy way out, doing something that I don't even approve of--ignoring it and hoping it would go away. And what was the consequence of my laziness? She fell and got hurt. I must say that I felt I somewhat deserved the extra embarrassment that came to me, because I should have handled Isabel's naughtiness differently--or maybe I should say, handled it period....

I may be past the "hard" stage of twin infancy. And, I may be done with the "hard" stage of breastfeeding twins. But now is certainly not the time to look for "easiness." Instead, now is the time to gear up and to buckle down, because I have some hard work ahead of me. Just ask anyone who saw my advertisement yesterday.... Eek.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Family Christmas 2010

The Christmas fun has begun!

As has become a tradition in our house over the past few years, the Saturday before Christmas (or, more accurately, the Saturday before our Christmas travel) is a special day in the Squires household.  It is the day that Travis and the kids and I celebrate our family Christmas!  This past Saturday was that very special and memorable day for us.

On Saturday morning, we woke up and started our day as usual.  I got myself ready and then hit the kitchen to prepare a quick and easy but yummy breakfast of ham and egg sandwiches.  After breakfast, we dressed the kids in their Christmas outfits. turned on our Chris Tomlin Christmas CD, and gathered in front of the tree for a family picture;
a reading of the Christmas story (In the past, Travis has read to us straight from the Bible; but this year, we read this great children's book called The First Christmas by Carol Heyer.  It is a complete and accurate retelling of the Christmas story and is beautifully illustrated.); a short time of prayer; and, of course, gift opening!

Each of the kids got three gifts from Travis and me, and their excited and thankful reactions to each were enough to bring tears of happiness to my eyes.  It just feels good to give good gifts to our children, doesn't it?  And, of course, our ability to give them material blessings made me thankful once again for God's provision in our lives.

After opening gifts, I served a nice but easy lunch; and then while Isabel and Elliana took their afternoon nap, Abel and Amariah played with their new toys.  That evening, we went to Carlos O'Kelley's for dinner (A nice meal out has also become a part of our family Christmas tradition.  It's something we don't do very often, and it enables us to spend more time as a family and less time working in the kitchen.); and, afterwards, we drove around looking at Christmas lights.

Oh!  And, I'll bet you are wondering what Travis and I got each other for Christmas!  Well... we haven't really done gifts for each other over the past several years.  But, this year, we decided to get ourselves a joint gift--this Nikon Coolpix S8100 camera!  Of course, we "opened" our gift prior to Saturday so that we could familiarize ourselves with it and use it to capture Saturday's memories. :-)

And, a memorable day it was!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Kids Say, vol. 9

Me (to Isabel and Elliana):  "Who pooped?"
Elliana (stepping forward):  "I."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Elliana is almost always the first of the four kids to wake up.  I know she's awake when I hear, "Iiiizaba.  Iiiizaba.  Iiiizaba."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Travis and I made the decision before our kids were ever born that we weren't going to celebrate Santa Claus.  Instead of teaching the kids to "believe in" Santa, we've always told them that Santa is just make-believe and that people like to pretend he is real just for fun.  So, in other words, we haven't attempted to "shelter" our children from Santa Claus--that would be impossible.  Instead, we have simply told them the truth about Santa from the beginning.  The other day at breakfast, I decided I ought to sing the song "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" to the kids since they had never heard it before.  It's a cute song and a fun story, right?  After singing the song several times (repeating it at the request of Amariah), it dawned on me that although we've told the kids about Santa himself, we've never really told them about Santa's reindeer.  I began to explain about Rudolph's nose being like a red light bulb that helps Santa see up in the sky.  Then, just when I thought the kids would be somewhat awed at the mystical story of Rudolph, Abel interjected, "And who would think reindeer could fly, anyway...."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"Be Someone's Miracle"

In Tuesday's post entitled "Much is Required," I mentioned a video that was played at our church's Christmas Sweet event; and since then, I have learned where to access the video in order to share it with the readers of Eternal Outlook!  The acting isn't great, but the message is.  I hope you'll take time to watch this 4 1/2-minute video that touched my heart and that played a big part in God reminding me that to whom much is given much is required (Luke 12:48).  (The video starts playing as soon as the page loads, so make sure to have your sound on... and a tissue in hand. :-))

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

While I Was Wrapping

I have yet to figure out how to go shopping or run other lengthier errands without a) having the kids out at mealtime (meaning we have to eat out) or b) having the kids out at nap time (meaning we have to skip naps).  Today, it was both.  Wendy's fed us lunch, and we missed naps.  But, I was okay with that because it was all in the name of... finishing my Christmas shopping!  (Note: My excitement is more about the excuse to go shopping than it is about getting done shopping. :-))

So, yes, my Christmas shopping is officially done, which also means our Christmas tree is officially complete.  As I mentioned yesterday, I like to get our presents under the tree as soon as possible.  A tree full of wrapped gifts is suspenseful, beautiful, and blessing-full; and I want my family to enjoy that for as much of the season as we can!

The fact that everything is now wrapped means that I've been spending some time... wrapping.  And, the fact that I've been spending some time wrapping means that Isabel and Elliana have been spending some time... messing....

Travis called me from work Monday afternoon; and when I answered, I asked him if he had changed the ring on my phone.  "No, but Elliana might have," came his reply.  "Why do you say that?"  I asked.  "Did you know she called me earlier?" he said.  Apparently, while I had been busy wrapping a few things that morning, Elliana had been busy changing the ring on my phone, calling Daddy, and then deleting him from my speed dial--and my phonebook, for that matter.  And the funny thing is, I never even knew my phone was missing!

When we got home from shopping this afternoon, I, of course, went straight to wrapping the new purchases.  When my phone suddenly rang from across the room, I raised my eyes to see who but Elliana holding the open phone out to me with a look on her face that resembled a cross between guilt and panic.  I took the phone from her to find my sister-in-law on the other end.  "Have you been trying to call or text me?" she asked.

Isabel and Elliana left the basement (where I was wrapping) soon after that.  I was suspect of the silence on the floor above me as I finished wrapping the last of the packages, so when I went upstairs, I did so with a slight feeling of worry at what I might find.  Sure enough, there in the middle of the living room were four or five ornaments scattered on the floor, one green bow lying abandoned next to the ripped package from which it had been torn, and two mischievous and oh-so-guilty babies sitting in the midst of it all, each preparing to open the present that lay in her lap (which just happened to be Elliana's new "house" shoes and Isabel's new "house" shoes.  Isn't it cute that they chose the two obviously identical gifts? :-))

And... just when I thought all of their sneaky deeds had been revealed, I discovered why I was suddenly feeling cold.  Some curious little finger had flipped the switch on the furnace to the off position, leaving a 64-degree indoor temperature to tell me yet another of the mischievous things Isabel and Elliana were doing while I was wrapping....

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Much is Required

Minus a few Christmas presents that we have yet to purchase, all of our packages are wrapped!  Travis and the kids and I will be celebrating our family Christmas this Saturday, so I wanted to get everything neatly arranged under the tree in time to be enjoyed.  I just love the suspense and the beauty of nicely wrapped gifts displayed beneath the Christmas tree.  So, unlike some parents who wait until the last minute to wrap and reveal their kids' presents, I do so as soon as the shopping is done!
As I put the last of the wrapped gifts under our tree Monday morning, I sat back and was almost overwhelmed by the tangible evidence of blessing--and responsibility--before me.  On what the world would probably consider a pretty modest budget, we have purchased three gifts for each of our children in addition to a few things for other gift exchanges within our families; and the sum of the packages which perfectly fit under the front side of our tree looks back at me and reminds me not only that we have been given much but also that to whom much has been given much is required (Luke 12:48).

Truly, I am humbled by the fact that God has given me more than I need; and my continual confession of that serves to remind me of Travis' and my responsibility to give.  I look at our full tree this year, and I ask myself, Am I doing enough?... Considering that of me much is required, am I doing enough?

Our church played a video at Christmas Sweet Sunday night depicting a single mom who could not afford to buy even one Christmas gift for her children.  Underneath her twig of a tree sat two boxes wrapped in newspaper, each containing one toy which she had taken from a neighbor's garage sale "FREE" box.  As her two kids opened their packages on Christmas morning, she discovered that someone (those neighbors) had secretly replaced the "FREE" gifts with a video gaming system and a laptop.  Tears flowed from my eyes as I watched the depiction of both the giving and the receiving end of extreme generosity.

It is my prayer that like those neighbors in the video, I would have eyes to see the needs of people around me and a heart to obey God's call to be faithful with what He has given me (Matthew 25:14-29), to sow bountifully and to give cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:6-7) and sacrificially (Mark 12:41-44), and to share with the needy (Acts 2:45, Deuteronomy 15:7-8).

Indeed, God has given me much; and it is in fear and trembling and with great thankfulness that I am asking Him to show me what is required of me this Christmas.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Anything Can Happen!

This weekend brought central Iowa's first Winter storm of the season.  Normally, weather such as what we are experiencing ensures that this stay-at-home mom stays home!  But, this weekend, instead of hunkering down in our warm, cozy house, my family and me were out braving the wind and cold for the sake of... music!

As the storm blew across Iowa on Saturday and approached the Des Moines metro, I got a call from our friend Laura.  Because of the weather and advisories against travel, she and her husband had ended up with four extra tickets to Saturday night's performance of the Broadway musical Mary Poppins, which is showing in Des Moines; and, they wondered if we could use them!  With the impending weather, we weren't able to jump on the offer quite as frantically as we wanted to; but after some careful consideration, we said yes!!!  Our kind neighbors walked across the street to stay with Isabel and Elliana; and Travis, Abel, Amariah, and I got dressed up for a night out!
Needless to say, the show was every bit as wonderful as I expected it to be.  Having seen the Broadway musical The Lion King with my husband in January, I was super excited to be able to share a similarly awe-inspiring experience with our children.  I think I smiled through the whole production as I sat in continual amazement of the incredible talent before us.  We are so sincerely thankful for the generosity of both our friends and our neighbors in giving us this joyous and unforgettable Saturday evening.

Sunday night once again took us out into the bitter cold for the sake of music, this time on a much less grand--but still blessed--scale.  Our church put together its first of what we hope will be an annual Christmas celebration, an event dubbed "Christmas Sweet."  Our neighbors (the same ones who babysat Isabel and Elliana on Saturday night) attended this evening of Christmas music (and Christmas sweets--hence the name) with us, and we all had an enjoyable time.
You'll notice that the original date for Christmas Sweet was Saturday, so had it not been postponed to Sunday due to the weather, we would not have been free to take the Mary Poppins tickets!  Mary Poppins says that "anything can happen if you let it."  In this case of blizzard warnings and travel advisories, I'd have to say that anything can happen if the weather lets it! :-)

Thank you, Jeff and Laura, and thank you, Steve and Kathy, for giving us two wonderful and heart-warming experiences on two white and bone-chilling nights!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The New Do


I got a new haircut a few weeks ago, and I love it, but... it has thrown off my whole routine!

Who would think a haircut could change the course of one's day?!  Laugh at me if you will (because this maybe does sound a little ridiculous :-)), but I can assure you that my haircut has messed me up.  Suddenly I'm styling longer, serving breakfast later, schooling whenever... and it's at least in part because my new do requires a morning shampoo.

Back in August, when we first added homeschooling to our daily routine, I discovered the joys of showering at night.  I could go to bed refreshed and relaxed, and I could wake up ready to go.  My medium-length hair was long enough and heavy enough to ward off bed head, and fixing my hair for the day was almost effortless.  Cutting down on my getting ready time meant completing the breakfast routine earlier and starting school in time to be done well before lunch.

However, now that my locks aren't as long, I wake up with some seriously wild hair.  Apparently, sleeping on short hair, whether freshly washed or still containing the styling products that made it look cute during the day, is a recipe for not-so cute hair in the morning.

So... re-enter, Morning Showers and Blow Drying!  Back up, Breakfast!  Hang tight, Homeschool!  Mama's got a new do, and she hasn't quite figured out how to work it... and still work it....

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Little Extra Grace

As much as I like to have all the answers (especially when it comes to my kids), the opportunity to realize that I don't never fails to arise.

I have taken pride in the fact that Isabel and Elliana have always gone to bed awake and put themselves to sleep quite easily (Thanks, Babywise!), rarely ever having to cry themselves to sleep... until recently.  For reasons I have yet to figure out, little Isabel has in recent weeks started crying every time I lay her down to sleep.  After determining that all her needs have been met, Travis and I have been fairly firm with her, instructing her to quit crying and to go to sleep.  And, she does.  But even after she has obeyed, I find myself still searching for possible reasons for her tears.  (Like I said, I like to have all the answers when it comes to my kids....) :-)

Last night, it was Elliana who threw me for a loop.  Both she and Isabel had gone to bed right on time with no complaints.  But after several minutes had passed, Elliana started crying.  This being unusual, I went in to check on her, discovered no reason for her crying, tucked her back in, and left.  Another several minutes later, her crying resumed; and, again I went in to quiet her.  We went through this cycle several times in the span of the following hour until finally, still seeing no obvious reason for her crying, I decided to do something that I never do.  I got her out of bed.

As I sat and rocked my sweet Elliana who was plastering herself to my chest and so obviously relishing in every ounce of my affection, I reflected on the joy of being able to extend grace to my children.  While for their own sakes I have guarded against them taking advantage of that motherly grace (You know the saying.... "Give him an inch, he'll take a mile."...), sometimes it just feels good to say, "You know what?  You should be sleeping, and I can see no reason why you aren't, but just this once I'm going to show you a little extra grace."

Isn't that what we all need sometimes?  A little extra grace?...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Contentment at Christmastime

Last night, Travis and I (with kids in tow) went to Toys 'R' Us to take out another chunk of our Christmas shopping.  As we were driving through the parking lot looking for a place to park, Abel, knowing our expectations of him, said, "Mommy, I'm just going to pray before we go in the store."  "Okay," I said. "I think that's a great idea."  (Abel) "Dear God, please help me to not beg for stuff in the store because we already have a lot of stuff, and Mommy and Daddy already bought me some stuff.  In Jesus, amen."

Needless to say, I was extremely blessed and encouraged by my son's example.  He (1) acknowledged his many blessings, (2) knew the importance of being content, (3) recognized his need for help in being content, and (4) sought help from God.

The fact is, my four year-old took a couple steps that some of us adults have probably failed to take.  On Black Friday one of my Facebook friends posted this as his status:  "Fourth Thursday in November - Everyone remembers what he has and gives thanks.  Fourth Friday in November - Everyone remembers what he doesn't have and awakes early to go get it."  Isn't that just so true of the average American?  We are thankful for what we have, but we still want more.  We never get as far as Abel did.  We acknowledge our many blessings, but we don't acknowledge our potential (or maybe even actual) lack of contentment.

Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6:13a that we should pray, "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil."  In other words, we should recognize our weaknesses and pray for spiritual protection from temptations before those temptations ever arise!  Who can think of a greater temptation to be discontent than the one facing a little boy going into a huge toy store at Christmastime?

Like Abel, we all face temptations that threaten our contentment, at least as much at Christmastime as any other time of the year.  As we go about the business of making wish lists and fulfilling wish lists this Christmas, let us not only remember to be thankful for what we already have; but let us also recognize our need for God's help in the midst of it all.

As you and I seek a place of contentment during this season which can so easily become more about stuff than it is about a Savior, let us reflect on God's words and seek His help.
"But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.  For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.  If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content." (1 Timothy 6:6-8)
"Then He said to them, 'Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.'" (Luke 12:15)
"Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, 'I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.'" (Hebrews 13:5)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Practical Wish List

I said yesterday that I love giving good gifts, but I can't deny that I enjoy receiving them, too.  I do have a little Christmas wish list of my own put together; and like the lists of many other wives and mothers out there, mine is comprised largely of kitchen items.  I always feel badly about taking money from our monthly budget to purchase various kitchen and household gadgets even when they would truly help me to accomplish my work with more efficiency and better results.  And so... I often delay the purchase of these items, putting them on my Christmas wish list instead of on my monthly shopping list.

One such item is this 6.5 quart Crock-Pot Slow Cooker.
The 4 quart Crock-Pot that I've had since before Travis and I were married just doesn't always hold enough food for our family of six.  In fact, the last several times I've used it, I've had to get inventive with aluminum foil to create a makeshift lid for the over-full cooker.  A bigger Crock-Pot would definitely be a welcome addition to my kitchen cupboards.

Another kitchen item of mine that truly needs to be replaced is my one (warped, lidless, and scratched) non-stick frying pan which I inherited from Travis' college bachelor kitchen.  For health reasons, I'm not a big fan of non-stick pans (which is why I use Emeril's Stainless Steel with Copper cookware), but there are one or two dishes in my menu plans for which I really need that non-stick surface.  I haven't done much research on non-stick pans; but since I'm familiar with Emerilware (Remember my tendency towards brand loyalty?), this non-stick saute pan from Emeril's Hard Anodized line has also made my Christmas list.

The third (and fourth--I need two! :-)) and final kitchen item on my Christmas wish list is this Medium Bar Pan from Pampered Chef's stoneware collection.
Over this past year of learning to bake my own breads, I have discovered that stoneware is the only way to go.  I own two stoneware loaf pans and one of these stoneware bar pans, and I would love to add a couple more to my collection in order to accommodate some of the breads I make.

So, that's what's on the "practical" portion of my Christmas wish list.  Now tell me, what's on yours?...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Giving Good Gifts

One of my favorite things about Christmas is giving.  Receiving is fun, I can't deny... but giving results in even greater happiness.  As Jesus said, "'It is more blessed to give than to receive'" (Acts 20:35).

Travis and I did some of our Christmas shopping for our kids over the weekend, and we had such a great time selecting and purchasing things that we knew would bring joy to their sweet little hearts and faces.  In our happy endeavor to give "good gifts," I was reminded of Jesus' words in Matthew 7:7-11.
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!"
In the hustle and bustle of giving and receiving this Christmas, I want to remember the Giver--He who gives what is good to those who ask Him and who gave His life to give me mine.  The Heavenly Father has given me more than I could ever think to ask for, more than I could ever hope to deserve.
"[F]or today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Peace

The world has a lot to say about peace, especially at Christmas time.  We talk about, sing about, and even desire peace; but unless we know Jesus, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6-7), we know very little of peace.

What the world doesn't recognize is this, that true peace is found only in Jesus.  For, Jesus gives us a peace that the world doesn't know and can't offer:  peace with God (John 14:27).  It is only through Jesus that we who have been justified by faith have peace with God (Romans 5:1).  We can hope for and work for peace in this world... [and we should.  God's Word tells us to "seek peace and pursue it" (Psalm 34:14); and it also tells us that God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, gave us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).  Therefore, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:20, we are ambassadors for Christ, sent forth into the world by God to declare peace:  "Be reconciled to God!"]... but where a relationship with Jesus Christ is absent, the ultimate peace will not be known.

As Christ's ambassador, I implore you:  Be reconciled to God!  If you don't know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, the peace of God is not yours.  The Bible says that "if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9).  Jesus came as a baby, lived as a man, and died as a sinner so that we might have peace with God.  May this truth--and this peace--be very real to you this Christmas season, and may you know the greatest gift of all--the gift of salvation.
"Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!" (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Joy

For us, the Thanksgiving holiday came to a close on Monday at about 4:30 p.m. when we arrived home after the seven-hour drive from my parents' house; and, the Christmas holiday began at about 6:30 p.m. that same night when we began putting up our Christmas tree!

Putting up the tree is exciting in our house, not only because we are ushering in the Christmas season and reflecting on all that it stands for, but also because we get to reminisce as we do so.  You see, many of the ornaments on our Christmas tree are far more than mere decorations.  They are symbols of occasions that are very dear to our hearts.

This ornament always gets the most prominent place on our tree, for it symbolizes He whom Christmas is all about.  This cross was given to me by Travis' maternal grandmother early in Travis and my relationship and is among the most special of the ornaments on our tree.

Travis and I purchased this bridal Mickey and Minnie Mouse ornament while in Orlando, Florida, on our honeymoon, and it is quite possibly the most cherished ornament on our tree.

Travis' parents gave us this "Our 1st Christmas" ornament on our first Christmas as a married couple.  It becomes more special to us with each year that passes.

This ornament, picturing a 3-month old Abel, commemorates his first Christmas.  Even though the years are flying by, the wonderful memory of his babyhood is preserved here on our tree.

This ornament commemorates Amariah's first Christmas.  She is growing up quickly, but the sweet memory of our first baby girl is preserved here on our tree.

This "Home for Christmas" ornament was given to Travis and I by our church on the first Christmas following the loss of our baby, Ande Lynn, who went home to be with Jesus before we ever had the opportunity to meet him or her.  This is the one ornament on our tree that sparks much emotion in me--both the feeling of sadness and loss for the sweet baby whom we will always miss, and the feeling of joy and excitement at the reality that we, too, will one day be "Home" where Ande is already.

Travis and I purchased this ornament in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as a souvenir of our first (and, so far, only) family vacation; and we look forward to doing the same with any future family vacations.

This ornament commemorates Isabel's first Christmas.  She is growing up quickly, but the treasured memory of her fleeting babyhood is preserved here on our tree.

This ornament commemorates Elliana's first Christmas.  She is growing up quickly, but the treasured memory of her fleeting babyhood is preserved here on our tree.

Christmas is a time when hearts are filled with joy like no other time of the year.  What better place to remember and celebrate the many joys in our lives than here at the tree where we remember and celebrate our ultimate joy--the birth of Jesus our Savior.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hope

I wrote an article on hope for our church's Advent devotional, and I thought I'd share it here on Eternal Outlook on the same day that it is being shared with our church body....

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus." (Titus 2:11-13)
If ever there is a passage of Scripture that captures and summarizes what it means to live as one who has hope, this is it.  I know as well as anyone that the pressures and the temptations of this life are enough to make a person short-sighted.  In America, where life is easy and comfort is king, we so often fail to look past the present.  We succumb to choosing an earthly and instant gratification instead of stopping to consider eternity; and in doing so, we have forgotten to consider Jesus--and the hope that we have in Him.  Jesus, in His life, death, and resurrection--Jesus, in His anticipated return--is our only hope for salvation and eternal life.  1 Peter 1:3-4a says,
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away."
Because of what Jesus did in His first coming--died and rose again--salvation has been made available to all who will believe.  Although we are saved the instant we put our faith in Jesus Christ, our salvation will not be fully realized until the appearing of Jesus at His Second Coming.  This, the completion of our salvation at the return of our great God and Savior, is our "inheritance" and our "blessed hope."

Since Jesus is coming again at an hour you do not know, "what sort of [person] ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness" (2 Peter 3:11b)?  Are you living in such a way that reflects the hope that you have in Jesus Christ?

God, thank You for sending Your Son Jesus to die that I might live; and thank You for the hope that I have as I look for His return.  Please continue to work in me as I strive to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in this present age while looking to the age to come.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Picking Up Where We Left Off

There is nothing like coming home to a neat, clean house.  Any time we are going to leave home for more than a few hours--and especially overnight--I am determined that all the cleaning must be done, the counters cleared, the dishwasher emptied, the trash taken out, and the laundry in check before we walk out the door.  Some may think this a little unnecessary; but I ask, who wants to come home to a mess?!  Not me!  I can enjoy myself while away from home so much more when I have no reason to dread my return.

We returned home from our Thanksgiving trip to my parents' house late yesterday afternoon, and as I stepped in the door of our house, I caught myself letting out a sigh of thankfulness at the sight (and smell) before me.  No cluttered countertops, no dirty dishes, no smelly trash... what a relief!  Even though I always leave the house in good shape when we go away, I'm still pleasantly surprised by its cleanliness every time we return home.  There is definitely reward in working hard before leaving home.  And... there is reward in working hard upon returning home, too....

I learned a long time ago that unpacking suitcases after a trip is so much easier when done immediately.  For whatever reason, the longer a full suitcase sits on the bedroom floor undealt with, the harder dealing with it becomes.  Although there are times when I'm just too tired or unmotivated to unpack the moment I arrive at home, most of the time I do try to get everything put away in its proper place as soon as I walk in the door.  That is just what we did last night, and we were literally done putting away a week's worth of stuff for six people within fifteen minutes!

Because of our diligence both before leaving home and upon arriving home, we can begin our day today without the delay of having to still get settled in or caught up.  We are simply picking up right where we left off, as if we had never been gone.  What a blessing!...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Serving with Humility

"...the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:28)
Travis and the kids and I spent several days with my parents and my sister's family for the Thanksgiving holiday, and we had the greatest time.  Unfortunately, we aren't able to all get together as often as we would like, so I always look forward to the holidays with my family with a little extra excitement.  The obvious perks of the holidays--family, food, and football--make for a lot of fun.  But, this year, my eyes were opened to another not so obvious joy of the holiday:  the opportunity to serve.

On the Sunday of Thanksgiving week, our pastor was preaching from Romans 13 about living life lovingly, and he posed this question:  "Who will you love this week, and how will you do it?"  The answer that came immediately to me was that I would love my family by serving them.  In the past, I've tended to treat our visits to my parents' house as my little vacation.  Although I'd be caring for and spending time with the kids, I'd sit back and relax while my mom (and sister) did most of the busy work.  This time, though, I realized that I shouldn't go to be served, but to serve.  Who am I to deserve a pass on serving?  After all, even Jesus came to serve.

I still have a long way to go in the area of servanthood, for to be a perfect servant would require a complete putting to death of self.  But, I am thankful that God is working in my heart to cultivate in me a desire to serve and a joy in doing so.  I pray that He will continue to give me eyes to see opportunities to serve and that He will continue to teach me to "do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind [to] regard [others] as more important than [myself]" (Philippians 2:3).

Friday, November 26, 2010

Giving Thanks: God's Eventual Provision

I have been spending this week at Eternal Outlook in intentional giving of thanks to God for His provision in every aspect of my life, putting into practice our call to be "always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father" (Ephesians 5:20).  All too frequently we allow ourselves to become so comfortable that we forget how much we need God.  Like the Israelites, we sometimes forget (or even fail to recognize) all the mighty things He has done--and is doing--for us.  But what better to remind us to be acknowledging God's provision in our lives than a holiday set aside for giving of thanks.

This week I have looked at God's spiritual, physical, vocational, and relational provision in my life.  Today, I am specifically praising and thanking God for His eventual provision in my life.  Not only do we have the promise that God will supply all of our needs in this life, but we (Christians) also know that God is preparing a place for us in heaven.  ("In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also." John 14:2-3)  What a promise!

I am so thankful that not only is God with me in this life but also that I will be with Him in eternity.  This is the blessed hope to which I cling.


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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks: God's Relational Provision

Happy Thanksgiving!  In light of the holiday, I am spending this week at Eternal Outlook in intentional giving of thanks to God for His provision in every aspect of my life.  This is nothing more than what we are called to do anyway--to be "always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father" (Ephesians 5:20).  All too frequently we allow ourselves to become so comfortable that we forget how much we need God.  Like the Israelites, we sometimes forget (or even fail to recognize) all the mighty things He has done--and is doing--for us.  Let this day be one of both recognizing and remembering God's provision in our lives.

Today I am specifically praising and thanking God for His relational provision in my life.  My family and friends are among the greatest of blessings in my life.  Admittedly, relationships between two naturally sinful human beings aren't always easy or comfortable (and may not seem like blessings at times).  In fact, they require much effort, transparency, humility, forgiveness, understanding, etc.  But no matter how hard relationships are, we need them.  Most importantly, we need a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ; but also important are our relationships with each other.

As we gather with family today to celebrate a day of thanksgiving to our Lord, I won't fail to recognize the blessing of the people and the relationships that God has placed in my life.  It is my prayer that as I draw close to others my character would be continually refined to be like that of Jesus.  May I always be willing to love, serve, and lay down my life for my friends as He has done for me.


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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks: God's Vocational Provision

With Thanksgiving Day upon us, I am spending this week at Eternal Outlook in intentional giving of thanks to God for His provision in every aspect of my life, and I invite you to do the same.  This will be nothing more than what we are called to do anyway--to be "always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father" (Ephesians 5:20).  All too frequently we allow ourselves to become so comfortable that we forget how much we need God.  Like the Israelites, we sometimes forget (or even fail to recognize) all the mighty things He has done--and is doing--for us.  Let this week be one of both recognizing and remembering God's provision in our lives.

Today, I am specifically praising and thanking God for his vocational provision in my life.  We human beings, myself included, are so prone to going through our daily routines in our own power without stopping to seek God’s help/strength/plan/blessing for the day.  Thinking we have it all figured out, we push forward as we push God aside.  The truth is, though, that we need to seek God even in the most habitual activities of everyday life; and, when we do, He will faithfully provide the strength, the focus, the grace, the patience… whatever it is that we need for the moment.

As I reflect on the fact that God is the One who created me, the One who called me, the One who leads me, the One who sustains me, I can’t help but realize that He is also the One who equips me.  He provides everything I need to live out (and even to excel in) the vocation in which He has placed me.  Homemaker, Teacher, Writer, Ambassador… He is the source of all that I need to do the things He has called me to do.  Because He works in me, I can work at home—and do it joyfully.  Because He teaches me, I can teach my children—and do it purposefully.  Because He writes His word on my heart, I can write my life on this blog—and do it eternal-mindedly.  Because He represents me before the Father, I can represent Him before man—and do it unashamedly.

Indeed, I am thankful to God for His vocational provision in my life as I strive, with His help, to be the best me I can be for the sake of the Kingdom!


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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Giving Thanks: God's Physical Provision

With Thanksgiving Day upon us, I am spending this week at Eternal Outlook in intentional giving of thanks to God for His provision in every aspect of my life, and I invite you to do the same.  This will be nothing more than what we are called to do anyway--to be "always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father" (Ephesians 5:20).  All too frequently we allow ourselves to become so comfortable that we forget how much we need God.  Like the Israelites, we sometimes forget (or even fail to recognize) all the mighty things He has done--and is doing--for us.  Let this week be one of both recognizing and remembering God's provision in our lives.

Today, I am specifically praising and thanking God for his physical provision in my life.  It is the things we most need (and want) in this earthly life--food, shelter, clothing (and comfort)--that we can so easily (albeit wrongly) take for granted.  In America, where having an abundance of food, clothing, square footage, and other niceties is the norm, we sometimes don't even realize just how physically blessed by God we truly are.

The Bible tells us that everything we have is from God (see 1 Chronicles 29:10-20); and it also tells us that our heavenly Father knows that we need these things (i.e. food, drink, clothing).  Furthermore, when we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, these physical needs will be provided for us, too.  (See Matthew 6:24-34.)

Indeed, the fresh water that we drink, the warm showers that we take, the comfortable beds where we sleep, the tasty food that we eat, the nice clothing that we wear, all of this and more comes from God.  Just as I am thankful to God for His spiritual provisions for me, so I am thankful on a daily basis for these physical blessings from God.  He feeds me.  He clothes me.  He shelters me.  He comforts me.  He knows my needs, and He supplies them.
"And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19)

Other Posts in This Series:
Giving Thanks: God's Eventual Provision 


Monday, November 22, 2010

Giving Thanks: God's Spiritual Provision

With Thanksgiving Day upon us, I will be spending this week at Eternal Outlook as one of intentional giving of thanks to God for His provision in every aspect of my life, and I invite you to do the same. This will be nothing more than what we are called to do anyway--to be "always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father" (Ephesians 5:20). All too frequently we allow ourselves to become so comfortable that we forget how much we need God. Like the Israelites, we sometimes forget (or even fail to recognize) all the mighty things He has done--and is doing--for us. Let this week be one of both recognizing and remembering God's provision in our lives.

Today, I am specifically praising and thanking God for his spiritual provision in my life, namely, for the salvation that is from Him, the relationship that is with Him, and the prayer that is to Him.

The most important aspect of God's spiritual provision in my life is salvation itself. The Bible says "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). Before that moment when I confessed and believed, I was dead in my trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1)--and you were, too. "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ.... For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Ephesians 2:4-9) Thank You, God, for Your gift of salvation!

Indeed, the largest component of God's spiritual provision in my life (i.e. salvation) rests in my relationship with God as my Savior. But not to be forgotten is the provision offered through my relationship with God as my Father (God adopted me. (Galatians 4:4-7)), God as my Advocate (Jesus represents me. (1 John 2:1)), and God as my Helper (The Holy Spirit teaches me. (John 14:26)). Through these (and more) aspects of my relationship with God, He "has granted to [me] everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called [me] by His own glory and excellence" (1 Peter 1:3). Thank You, God, for the relationship I have with You because of my salvation!

Because of my salvation (and because of who God is), I have a relationship with God which is grown and strengthened through communication with Him. This third aspect of God's spiritual provision in my life--prayer--is another of the blessings I am thanking God for. When Jesus died on the cross the veil was torn (Matthew 27:51), signifying to us that we no longer have to stay outside the "Holy of Holies" (Hebrews 9:3). We now "have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh" (Hebrews 10:19-20). Because of Christ's work on the cross, we have access to God through prayer. Not only that, but we also have the assurance that He hears the prayers of the righteous (Proverbs 15:29). Thank You, God, for prayer which strengthens my relationship with You--my Savior, my Father, my Advocate, my Helper!

God has provided for our every spiritual need, but before we can receive that provision, we first have to recognize that we have a need. We need a Savior! We must see the gravity of our sin, and we must admit that without Jesus and His shed blood we are dead in our trespasses. Have you acknowledged your need for Jesus? The Bible says that "if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9)! Today is the day of salvation. I encourage you, if you have not given your life to Jesus,
"Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:6-7)
I am so thankful for God's spiritual provisions of salvation, relationship, and prayer. May I never forget nor fail to recognize the mighty works of God in my life; but instead, may my heart be continually praising God, saying, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3)!


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Friday, November 19, 2010

Sweet Snapshots

(L to R) Elliana Faith and Isabel Hope
Abel's kind eyes mirror his kind heart.
Amariah asked me to take her picture and then struck this pose.
Sweet little Isabel and her curls
My precious Elliana


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Glimpsing Heaven through Song

Music is on my mind and in my mouth today.  Travis purchased Chris Tomlin's new CD, "And If Our God Is For Us...," for our family on Tuesday, and we have pretty much had it playing ever since.  Worshipful lyrics set to beautiful music make for an album full of great songs.  Also included with the deluxe version which we bought are four acoustic tracks and a bonus DVD with a behind the scenes interview and two music videos, all of which is totally worth the extra cost.

As much as I am enjoying the new songs of Chris Tomlin, it is one of his music videos from the bonus DVD that moved me the most.  A track from his "Hello Love" CD, the song "Love" was done with the amazing Watoto Children's Choir from Uganda.  As I watched these beautiful children sharing the stage with Chris Tomlin and worshiping the God of love along with him, my heart was stirred by the reality of a God who is over every tongue, tribe, and nation.  What an absolutely beautiful thing to see and to hear God being worshiped in a language other than our own.  It feels like a glimpse of heaven.



Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Connecting with Your Children

I heard a bit of wisdom from a mother more experienced than I that I am thankful to have received while my kids are still so young.  In Titus 2 style, this "older" woman encouraged me and the other young moms in my Bible study group to find a special connecting point--a common point of interest--with each of our children that can remain as the years pass by.  For her, a common point of interest with her son through the years has been in movies and music; and with her daughter, it has been in simply talking.

My kids, of course, are still too young for me to know what things might turn out to be special connecting points between them and me; but, even now, I am beginning to see some things that Abel and Amariah seem to have in common with me--areas in which we easily connect.
  • Abel is his mother's son when it comes to both attention to detail and eagerness to learn.  I am confident that he could detail for anyone who cared to know exactly how I carry out certain tasks--and that he would do those things in the same way himself.  He is hungry for knowledge and excitedly seeks opportunities to be mentored by his mommy.  (Knowing yesterday that it was laundry day--and interested of late in learning the details of folding, hanging, and putting away laundry--Abel told me in a very assuring voice, "When we need to fold laundry, you just let me know.")
  • Amariah is her mother's daughter when it comes to getting lost in thought or in song.  Amariah can be in the same room as the rest of the family and yet be in a completely different world.  She loves to think, and she loves to sing.  (Today, my heart was warmed when Amariah and I, at the exact same moment, broke into singing "Jesus Loves Me" while standing side by side at the sink washing dishes.)
It is exciting, of course, to see my children taking after some of the better parts of me; but more than that, it is exciting to be able to pick up on the little things that interest them so that I can take interest in their interests, both fostering a place of commonality and nurturing a place of potential.

Witnessing the uniqueness of each of my children has been a great blessing and an amazing testimony to God's special design for them.  In no way do I wish to place them into some sort of cookie cutter, forcing them all to be like me or one like the other.  Instead, I rejoice in their differences and am excited to partner with the One who created them to grow them into the best unique selves they can be.  And, as we discover some common points of interest along the way which will serve only to strengthen our mother-child bonds, all the better!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What is Your Family's Legacy?

Over the weekend I finished the latest books of my favorite Christian fiction author, Francine Rivers.  (Actually, hers is the only fiction I read.)  Her Mother's Hope and Her Daughter's Dream, the two books that make up Francine's Marta's Legacy series, were definitely worth the time it took me to read them.  From the inside cover of Her Mother's Hope, this "sweeping and lyrical two-book saga... explores the depths of grace and forgiveness in one of life's fiercest bonds--the love between mother and daughter."

I've mentioned before not only the great blessing it is for a mother to have daughters but also the great responsibility it is to model before them the type of women they ought to be.  These things I am conscientious of.  However, as I read through this "deeply moving story about the silent sorrows that can tear a family apart," I realized that this is another facet of mothering daughters (and sons) which must also be given careful attention.

Although I have been blessed to have a regret-free relationship with my own mother (not because of lack of mistakes but because of no lack of openness and reconciliation), I realize that this isn't the case for all women.  Even within my own family lines, I have been made aware of hurts between mothers and their children that have made a definite--even if minor--impact on the lives and relationships of the hurt ones.  No one is perfect, and by nature it seems to be those whom we love the most that we hurt the most.  Hurt feelings and misunderstandings are going to happen within a family.  There is no way around it.  But in the absence of a desire to make things right--and certainly in the absence of grace and forgiveness--these silent sorrows have the power to transform a life and a family for the worse.

It is my desire as a mother (and as a daughter, wife, and friend) that as I continue to grow in Christ-likeness I would not only minimize the occurrences of hurt and misunderstanding in my relationships but that I would also have the wisdom to perceive the effects of my words and attitudes and actions on others so that I might seek both reconciliation and change.  I pray that I would in no way inadvertently bruise the tender hearts of the daughters and son whom I dearly love but instead that their hearts would be strengthened by the love and the grace and forgiveness which abounds within our walls because of Christ within us.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Day of Rest

"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy." (Exodus 20:8-11)
Yesterday was the first Sunday after my first full week of purposefully avoiding idleness, and as such, it was the first Sunday in my memory that I truly felt enabled and entitled to not do any work.

According to The Wiersbe Bible Commentary on Exodus 20:8-11, "The word 'sabbath' means 'rest.'...  While the Sabbath was rooted in creation (Gen. 2:1-3), it was also a special sign between Israel and the Lord (Ex. 31:12-17; Neh. 9:13-15; Ezek. 20: 12, 20), and there's no biblical evidence that God commanded any Gentile nation to observe the seventh day (Ps. 147:19-20).... When the Jews observed the Sabbath, it was not only a mark of their devotion to the Lord, but it was also a witness to their pagan neighbors to whom the seventh day was just another day.  By resting on the seventh day, the Jews were promoting their own welfare as well as that of their servants and farm animals, acknowledging the lordship of Jehovah over time and creation (Ex. 23:12)."

Honestly, I've never had a good understanding of why a day of rest is important or of what a day of rest actually looks like.  Especially as a wife and mother, I've wondered if taking a day to not do any work is even possible.  (We've all heard--and probably testified to--the old addage, "A mother's work is never done.")  Yesterday... and the days leading up to it... proved to me that it is.  Possible.  To not work.

You see, yesterday was a day of not working like I've never experienced before.  The preceding six days full of completed household tasks and projects--and the Saturday of working a little later into the evening than normal--set me up for a day of rest that brought not only refreshment of mind, body, and spirit, but also joy and peace in knowing all that had been accomplished during the six days in order to make the seventh day possible.  So often we focus on the part of the commandment that says, "But the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work," to the exclusion of the part that says, "Six days you shall labor and do all your work."  What a blessing it is to have a day of true rest as a reward for six days of diligence in hard work!  I think God knew we would need such a provision in order for us to "keep on keepin' on."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thanks to Abel,...

Apparently, Abel is taking notice--and advantage--of my renewed focus in "looking well to the ways of my household" (Proverbs 31:27).

Abel politely informed me yesterday morning that we needed to clean out
  1. the coat closet and
  2. the van.
And... he was right.

After completing the closet project, I asked Abel, "So, why did you say I needed to clean the coat closet?"  "Because I couldn't find anything in there," he replied.
Abel approves.  And so do I!

Abel's second suggestion also made the To-Do list.  We were blessed with another beautiful Fall day here in central Iowa, so the weather was just perfect for the task of cleaning out the van.  I had Abel and Amariah skip their naps in order to let them work alongside me.  The kids and I have memorized Proverbs 10:4 ("Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth."); so we talked about working diligently as we cleaned.

At the end of the long, busy day, as I sat on the living room floor playing with my four sweet children, Abel walked up to me with a twinkle in his eyes and patted me on the back as he said, "Thanks for being such a good Mommy."  It was through that sweet comment that God showed me that if I am obedient to Proverbs 31:27, then Proverbs 31:28 really can happen to me.
27 "She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children rise up and bless her...."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Renewed Focus

"She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness." (Proverbs 31:27)
The past several days, as I have been acting on my recent conviction that I've been spending too much time online and not enough on task, I have been taking extra effort to stay busy about my home.  After about a two-year break from purposely following the "Daily Household Task Schedule" which I created for myself during our first year of marriage and which worked so well to keep me on task and in control, I finally made the choice a couple days ago to buckle down and start using it again.

I am the kind of person who likes the feeling of accomplishment that comes from crossing something off a list... and from adding something to the list just so I can cross it off. :-)  I am also the kind of person who likes to keep a neat and clean home.  That being said, all I can figure as to why I've spent the last 18 months or so doing only enough to get by is that at some point I lost my focus.  I lost my focus, and laziness crept in.

The funny thing is that no one would have known by walking into my house or even by snooping in the hidden places that I really wasn't working all that hard.  Yes, the bathrooms were clean, the bed was made, the dishes were done, the countertops were cleared, the floors were scrubbed... the work was pretty much getting done.  But, there was also a lot of time getting wasted.

I know, I shouldn't be too hard on myself.  After all, I am talking about a period of time in which I was completing a full term pregnancy with twins, nursing twins, mothering four children, and leaning to feed my family more healthily.  In proportion to the level of energy I had during that time, I suppose I was quite busy.  However, I am looking back now and thinking that I probably wasn't making the most of the time and energy that was available.  I was physically tired and therefore unmotivated to do more than I had to do to get by.  I became slightly selfish with my energies,  preferring at times to eat the bread of idleness instead of to look well to the ways of my household.

Perhaps there might be an argument for the allowance of some degree of seasonal idleness.  The problem, though, is that my seasonal idleness grew into a habit of laziness.  By the time the season ended and my energies returned, my focus had been lost.  Doing just enough to get by may have been excusable for a time, but that time is over.

We talked a little bit about this verse from Proverbs 31:27 at my women's Bible study last night; and as we did so, I pondered in my heart all of the things that are written here.  I found myself smiling at God for the way He is never idle in encouraging me to seek the best He has for me.  He watches over my ways.  He knows my faults and failures.  And He gives me mercies that are new every morning.  Oh, how I need that!

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