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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Our Garden Plans (Lord Willing!)

So, we are branching out even more this year with our backyard garden oasis.  We have so many foods that we are planning on growing, and I am super excited for the potential harvest we will be enjoying over the next several months.  As of right now, the winter plants that we had planted are finishing up their growth, which is sad because some of them really seem to be deciding that now is the time to thrive!  My Swiss Chard has come back to life, and the lettuces are really starting to leaf, so maybe I will get a bit more out of them before I have to pull them for the spring plantings.  Here's praying!

So, here is a look at the plan for the new beds this year.  I still have the same bed on the side of the house as last year, but I will be changing up what is planted in it a little.  I am moving the watermelon to the top of the hill with some winter squash and other melons.

We also just started some seeds indoors this weekend, which are already sprouting nicely!  It's so exciting to watch these little seeds come to life.  Just as God designed them to work...crazy.  In the next couple of days I will be making my way outside to get the direct sow seeds into the garden beds that are already completed to help get them going.  The weather has been beautiful, so hopefully there will not be a surprise frost in the next few weeks.  Come on spring!

Tips on seeds:  I bought a LOAD of seeds last fall when the local plant places were about to close down for the winter.  I bought most at something like 80% off!  Crazy deals, and a lot of them were heirloom.  I stored the packets in ziploc bags in the refrigerator and they have been happily waiting until now.  I also got wind of an awesome company called Burgess Seeds, which is where I have purchased most of my other plants or seeds.  Their prices are just completely unbeatable!  I absolutely recommend you check them out before heading to Lowe's or your local planting place.  Their shipping is a flat $9.95, which is crazy for the amount of items I just bought.  I was super impressed with their seed availability, as well as the other plants offered.  I hope that helps offer an economical way to get your garden started this growing season!  Remember, "Sluggards do not plow in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing" (Proverbs 20:4).  No matter what size your garden is, now is the time to start planting (whether indoors or out) and getting your ground ready for the coming plants.  If you have had great success with your garden, please share!  We can all use the encouragement...I know I'm still a newbie with gardening, but I just love the experience of getting intimate with God's creation!  What a blessing.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Growing with my Children

"...But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd." (Matthew 9:36)

We can learn so much from our children.  And not necessarily in fulfillment of Psalm 8:2 ("...from the mouths of babes...") but more so through the interactions we have with them when we spend time with them as God has ordained.  Deuteronomy 6:6-9 makes it clear that we should be spending a lot of time with our children for the purpose of raising them up to be His disciples, knowledgeable about who He is and all that He has created, but also wise to discern the things that please Him.  Well, I don't know about you, but this idea has been a growing pain for me for many years.  It goes against my nature to spend a lot of time with children, whether or not they are mine, so I have definitely found there to be a learning curve as to what this means and entails.

Although each of our households runs differently, most parents likely face the same kinds of issues with children.  Disobedience, defiance, irreverence, disrespect, lying, stealing, teasing, hitting, etc. and these are also usually in varying degrees of "severity."  Sadly, though, many of us, myself included, have fallen prey to seeking the world's guidance for how to handle these sins (and that is what they are, so let's not mince words) and because of seeking such guidance from outside sources, we are led astray.  We try this one technique for child-rearing only to find it backfire in our face.  So, we switch to another guideline and discover that it too is not really working, or we have a hole where we are not sure how to apply it in a particular situation.  We essentially find ourselves constantly seeking the next great bit of advice, hoping that it will alleviate the problem at hand and bring peace and order to our households (led astray, "like sheep without a shepherd").  Sadly, though, few of us really ever find it, and often when we think we did find it, we see that down the road we experience some lasting consequences to a technique that was really not how God designed the parent/child relationship to occur.

So, I found myself a bit lost and confused.  Feeling defeated, overwhelmed, and taking on this struggle with children that I did not know how to fight.  As I reached out to God in my despair, it became clear to me.  "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14).  The world's methods are broad and ranging, but God's ways are specific and focused, purposeful with long-term vision...I just needed to get myself aligned with His path for bringing up children.

The biggest downside I found with this, though, is that God's way is not easy for me....  I hate to say it, but let's be real, I did not really WANT to "parent" my child.  I really wanted to make the struggles of parenting go away.  I wanted a sinless, perfect, without flaw child.  I know this really opens the truth of my flesh, but I do not deny its presence.  But, determining to do things God's way revealed in me my own sinfulness, which was absolutely exactly where God wanted me to be!  As He spoke to me in His gentle way, long-suffering and full of grace guided by truth, He showed me that parenting is one way that He uses to reveal Himself to us, but also to reveal our nature and sinful ways with Him.  And, in just the same way that He is patient with me in my short-comings, sinfulness, and process of santification, I, too, am to behave in the same way with my children.

Truth be told: there is one difference in this parallel...I am not a perfect God.  I am a fleshly human redeemed by a Savior doing the best I know how to raise the next Godly generation.  How in the world could I truly reflect this parallel to my children?  The answer, of course, was that I am not meant to be God to my kids, but a compass for them to know Him better.  I was to reveal His nature to them as much as possible, even with my failures and short-comings.  The way this translates in our household is that I, too, am growing in my faith and understanding of God even as I teach my children about Him and His ways.  We are growing together, which is the most beautiful thing.  Do I know more then them?  Yes, of course.  Should they treat me with respect and submission?  Absolutely.  But, I should not ever Lord my position of authority over them, and when I fall short of respecting the significance of my position, I am to humble myself before them and seek their forgiveness, just as I do with my Father in Heaven.  What this signifies to them is that Mommy is just like them...sinful and fleshly, broken, and in desperate need of a Savior!  And, it is for this reason that I can be at peace when disciplining them when they sin.  I need not be angry, resentful, frustrated, etc.  When I fail at this, I have another opportunity to humble myself and apologize, and on the circle goes.

The biggest thing, though, that I must remember is that I am learning all of this without a direct example.  I was not raised to disciple my children.  I have to unlearn my cultural upbringing and learn God's Ways.  I am going to stumble through most of this as God's Word teaches me, but over time I will get better and I will learn His ways.  God is eager to teach all of us His methods for raising children.  If He pleases to reveal the why for His ways, we will grow even more.  But, we should not be ashamed of or afraid to grow alongside our children.  None of us have "arrived" on this side of Heaven.  And, remembering our eternal destination and ultimate source of Truth will keep us on the right path.

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
But fools despise wisdom and instruction."  (Proverbs 1:7)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Great Benefit of Fitness While Dealing With Cancer

Today we welcome a post by guest blogger David Haas, who has a passion for teaching people about the benefits of fitness when it comes to the battle against cancer.  I hope this article informs and blesses you, too!

The Great Benefit of Fitness While Dealing With Cancer
By:  Davis Haas, Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Guest Blogger

Fitness serves a wide variety of benefits from improving both physical and mental health. Most people associate fitness with the immediate benefits such as weight loss and muscle growth. However, what many may not be aware of is that fitness serves many other purposes as well, such as aiding cancer patients' in recovery.

It does not matter if the cancer patient has just been diagnosed with the disease, undergoing extensive treatment or if they are in the recovery stages; fitness can help every type of cancer patient. Moreover, it does not matter what type of cancer the patient is currently suffering from. However, rare or aggressive types of cancer, such as mesothelioma, may require additional help from fitness experts.

Various health studies show that fitness can aid a cancer patient. Both the cancer and treatment can leave patients severely fatigued. Exercise will most likely go against patients' natural inclination, seeing that exercise requires energy. However, even a small amount of exercise can help cancer patients restore their energy through muscle breakdown and rebuilding processes.

Exercise stimulates the central nervous system. It also activates endorphins, a natural neurological hormone that relaxes the body. Most aerobic exercises can help relieve the pain caused by chemotherapy and surgery. However, it must be known that heavy exercise is not always recommended for patients who just underwent treatment. Heavy exercise is mostly recommended for patients who are in remission.

Unrelated studies have shown that exercise can help people remain positive, both about themselves and their current situation. Staying positive can certainly help a cancer patient, but it certainly won't destroy the cancer itself. As a result, staying positive can improve a cancer patient's quality of life. Most importantly, when cancer patients can remain positive, it puts their friends and family at ease.

Fitness is greatly beneficial for cancer patients and it can help take their mind off of their current condition. Patients should engage in fitness for 30 to 60 minutes for five days a week. This will help them combat the cancerous cells and also can help their body to quickly recover from treatment.

Scheduling the Week

As I have often related to friends and family when we talk, "mommy brain" is a REAL thing!  This is one reason why I am so thankful for the Women's study several of my friends and I have been doing on a book entitled "Large Family Logistics" by Kim Brenneman (find it here).  This book has been great in providing me with realistic solutions to every day problems, especially as our number of children continues to rise, and more tasks are added to my to-do list until my older children grow in their capabilities (it is happening, but not as lightning speeds!)  One of the most significant areas discussed in this book that has been the most helpful to me is the concept of having specific purposes for each day of the week.  This is a lost art from previous generations, but Kim really helps to fulfill a Titus 2 calling by teaching us younger women some of these techniques.  This is what I will be sharing today.

The way my household runs, we basically do a lot of the same things most days.  Children really love predictability and routine.  We wake up, do chores, eat breakfast, do devotions, have school time, and usually have a little time between school and lunch.  This was my open time for which I needed to find a constructive purpose if possible for myself and the kids to do.  But, since my mommy brain is in full effect, many times when I had this open opportunity to "get things done" my brain would take a vacation and I'd sit there, staring blankly at the computer screen or staring off into space in the kitchen, because I could not, for the life of me, remember what it was that I wanted to accomplish when I went in there or sat down!  It was VERY frustrating (still is when it happens!)  The biggest problem was trying to narrow down the mounds of things that I see every day that "need" to get done to the ones that really NEED to get done and I have time to do realistically.  We all have them: wash dished, scrub floors, bathe kids, iron pants, clean up icky spot on floor, wash windows, sweep, paint hallway, etc.  Some of these are pressing, many are not, so prioritizing this list is very important.  But, I would find myself essentially attempting to do the entire household of items during this "free" time and always feeling like nothing was really getting done.

So, this simple weekly purpose rotation has been a brain-saver for me because it provided me the necessary focus to prioritize my tasks.  In my home (and this is really ever-evolving as seasons change), right now, my week looks like this: Monday- Kitchen Day, Tuesday- Cleaning Day, Wednesday- Laundry Day, Thursday- Office Day, Friday- Town Day, Saturday- Gardening Day, and Sunday- Lord's Day.  Once in a while I need to swap these days because of the needs of the week, but I try to keep them pretty predictable as much as possible.  In each of these days, I try to make the focus of the day on the determined theme, and this has really helped me to get more done in more areas of our life than I thought I could do.  I will likely elaborate more on the purpose of each of these days in coming posts, but I will provide some basic info to maybe inspire you to get your own schedule together.  Kitchen Day is where the focus is in the kitchen.  I try to bake most of my baked goods for the week, clean one part of the kitchen, and really give the counters and sink a good scrub.  On Cleaning Day, obviously, the focus is cleaning, where the kids and I all help clean the house (Lily does the upstairs bathroom, Nadya cleans the play room and vacuums (one of them dusts), Anaya "helps" as needed, I try to task Zack as much as possible with little things, and I clean my bathroom, sweep, and do whatever else needs to be done in my priorities).  Laundry Day attacks the laundry monster.  Thursday I balance the checkbook, pay any needed bills, clean out all the piling papers at the desk, and file away needed files.  Friday is where we food shop, make small errands, and anything else needed out of the home.  Saturday is when we really focus on tended the growing garden (planning the garden or actually working it, depending on the season of the year).  And, Sunday, which is our day to relax, refrain from as much work as possible and enjoy focusing of fellowship with friends and family.  As much as possible, I try to prepare ahead for Sunday (baking or cooking ahead, or making simple meals) to keep the work load as light as possible, but I am still learning this skill.

I hope that this explanation is a help to you!  If you have anything that has worked great for you, please comment below!  God bless!