Becoming MomStrong book review

Motherhood is hard. There’s no way around it. Days can be long and morale low. But women like Heidi St. John help moms like me in bearing that burden just a bit, making life just a bit easier, a bit more lovable. Whether through an encouraging post on her blog The Busy Mom or in one of her books, Heidi has been shining light in this sometimes dark venture that is motherhood. And her latest book “Becoming MomStrong: How to Fight with All That’s in You for Your Family and Your Faith” is no different.20626781_10214150313141256_4111742155754784941_oBecoming MomStrong hits on hot topics like a mom’s need for rest and the importance of community as well as less common yet relevant topics like avoiding drama and handling grief.

As a seasoned mother of 7, Heidi is generous in sharing her wisdom in a very personable, winsome way. The book is full of first-hand accounts (the perfect mixture of #momfails and #momwins) while constantly admonishing readers to stay the course, to become stronger through their unwavering commitment to being immersed in God’s Word.

Heidi says, “MomStrong moms know the Word, and they respond to today’s challenges with God-centered wisdom.”

Becoming MomStrong is an uplifting, fun read that’s more like a bunch of meaningful conversations between old friends over a cup of coffee.

Despite my somber introduction, motherhood is not all doom and gloom. We all know it’s also full of afternoon snuggles sessions, laughter and late-night heart-to-hearts. The truth is, motherhood is a beautiful roller coaster of ups and downs. Motherhood is a high calling that bears tremendous responsibility.

In the pages of Becoming MomStrong, Heidi reminds us of the challenges we face as mothers in a volatile culture.

“God has given this generation of moms a special challenge: to train future warriors for the spiritual battle that’s unfolding around us. God is asking today’s mothers to be strong in the midst of an incredibly powerful cultural shift away from the truth of God’s Word,” explains Heidi in Becoming MomStrong.

I’ve left this book not only feeling encouraged but also feeling empowered; empowered to move forward on my mothering journey– with goals appropriate for each season of life God has put me in (as Heidi suggests in the book)– and with greater determination to give my children the best of me, not the rest of me (as Heidi also suggests in the book).

And I’ve never been more certain of this truth: by being a mom, we are not just line cooks, laundresses or nurses, but we are world changers, not only through our own lives but also through the lives of those He has entrusted in our care: our children.

“Through motherhood, you are impacting the world for good, one young life at a time.” -Heidi St. John, Becoming MomStrong

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Becoming MomStrong releases on September 19, 2017. A supplemental Bible Study and Journal are also available. Fun and functional MomStrong swag can be purchased here on Heidi’s website.

 

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Consider this

Sometimes we get so busy just trying to keep our heads above water that we don’t take to just stop and consider.

Consider a simpler way of doing things

Consider our gifts
Consider why a child might be cranky
Consider how to do make something work better

Consider where we want to be in 5 years

I am an answers kind of girl. Nothing grates me more than being told “that’s just how things are” or “you’re a mom, you’re supposed to be tired” or better yet “you have children, your house is going to be messy”. I’ve always refused to accept being stuck in a less-than-ideal situation because of any of those excuses. Offer me some advice! Make a helpful suggestion! Tell me how you do things! Pray for me! Something! Anything!

This summer has been a very enjoyable one for me personally. I’ve been taking a good bit of time aside to read, pray and consider how things are going in my life. I’ve been journaling my thoughts and challenging my old ways of doing things.

My first revelations have come through reading the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown. The book encourages us to take a closer look at all the things we fill our lives with. Not just worldly possessions (but those too!) but also the ways we fill our time, the things we say yes to.  McKeown argues that we can’t do everything and give everything our full attention at one time. We can either attempt to do too many things and do them not-so-well or we can pick and choose our “greatest contribution” and do those few things exceptionally. This totally makes sense to me and has me questioning just about everything.

I am now reading through Lara Casey’s book Make It Happen. Practical title, huh? But, all joking aside, it’s what I need to learn. I need to discover how to think things through, re-evaluate, set realistic expectations for myself and then… make it happen.

Something Casey wrote about was the unhealthy aspect of going to extremes in life. While her intent was to discourage us from doing so– or at least make us aware of our tendency to be extreme– something clicked with me. I actually think I do really well if I can focus on one thing for a shorter period of time than if I try to do too many things for a long period of time. (I more struggle with consistency… but that’s for later improvement!) For instance, today, I decided to focus on laundry. I spent the entire day– in between my other motherly duties and a little work time– catching up on laundry. I used to do this but got away from it. I thought it made “more sense” to just do one load a day. But considering how I am bent and my tendency to be all or nothing, Monday as laundry day actually makes a whole lot of sense for me. And I think Casey would be okay with this sort of extreme. 😉

So, my point here being, instead of just staying stuck and saying, “I’ll never have this laundry thing figured out,” I can stop and evaluate the unique way that God made me and how I might be able to set myself up for success in this area. And, of course, other areas as well.

Though I hadn’t realize it, I am already applying similar principles in our homeschooling. When we start a subject or begin learning about a certain topic, we do best when we are all in– no interruptions! We’d rather blow through our entire History book in three months than stretch it out the entire school year. We’d rather learn all we can about the ocean than just study fish for a chapter in our Science book. This is what works for us. And when learning begins to just work and become sort of effortless, beautiful things happen.

It’s that same effortless approach that I am now trying to apply to other areas of my life. I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent far too long stammering around trying to get a handle on things that are fairly simple– cooking, cleaning, laundry. I’m ready for these things to be second-nature so that I can better focus my attention on other very important things that God has called me to.

What about you? Have you taken some time to just quiet yourself, remove the distractions around you, remove the preconceived ideas in your head and consider how to better your life? Stop fighting against the tide and go with the flow. Stop making things harder on yourself than they have to be. It’s liberating and I can’t wait for you experience it!

On this journey with you,

Jenny
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Living intentionally with a summer schedule

Copy of beauty review (1)

I don’t know about you, but I am super excited that summer is upon us! Last year I established a summer schedule and it was very helpful in structuring our weeks and limiting the chaos. I decided that it was a good idea to continue the tradition this year.

In addition to a weekly schedule, we like to keep a routine going. Our routine hasn’t changed that much from last year. Our day generally goes in this order:

  • breakfast & morning devotional
  • AM choretime
  • free play
  • lesson or discussion
  • lunch
  • PM choretime
  • quiet time/silent reading
  • snack
  • afternoon nature walk
  • quick house tidy
  • bathtime/dinner prep
  • dinner
  • reading with Dad
  • bed

We like for our summer schedule to be theme-based. Here’s what we’ve come up with for Summer 2017:
Summer Schedule

At our house, Mondays must be mellow! We seem to have so much catching up (and calming down!) to do. Today’s the day to do some laundry, straighten up the kitchen, bake bread, plan our week and menu plan.

Tuesdays we like to go to Panera Bread for the Baker’s Dozen deal. It also happens to be our allotted day to take our trash to the local dump, so we’re in the car already! This summer we are going to focus on reading and going to the bookstore this day too.

We’ve decided to open our house to friends on Wednesdays. If the weather is nice, our friends know that they are welcome to come over and play outside with us.

There’s so much science to learn in the summer! Tinkering Thursday is set aside to do just that– science experiments, gardening, scavenger hunts, bird watching. Today’s the day we will also work on large creative projects like building, drawing & crafting.

Field Trip Friday is the day we will venture out the playground, zoo or creek. We might also go hiking or for a walk in the park. On special occasions we’ll check out a local museum or wildlife preserve.

How about your family? Do you like to structure your summer? What do your days look like?

With excitement,
Jenny

Stitch Fix review

Well, friends, I took a leap of faith and signed up for Stitch Fix! If you’ve never heard of it, here’s a little bit about them straight from their website:

“Stitch Fix is an online styling service that delivers a truly personalized shopping experience, just for you. Fill out your Style Profile and a personal stylist will hand pick pieces to fit your tastes, needs and budget—and mail them directly to your door. Each box contains five items of clothing, shoes and accessories for you to try on at home. Keep what you love, send the rest back in a prepaid USPS envelope. Shipping and returns are free—even for exchanges!”

I found out about Stitch Fix a few years ago from a fellow blogger, scheduled my first Fix and then chickened out. I cancelled! I figured I’d just do my best to keep picking out clothing pieces from Kohl’s, ThredUp and Goodwill (no shame!). However, I am in love with my first Fix! And here are a few reasons why:

1. The stuff is just super good quality and will last for a long time.
2. My stylist did an awesome job at listening to my wants/needs and hit my style to a T. She clearly visited my Pinterest board that I linked in the initial questionnaire.
3. Everything fits! This was my biggest concern– that stuff would arrive, I’d love it but it wouldn’t fit. Each piece fits even the pants!
4. I am confident that with just 1 or 2 more Fixes I will have a nice, capsule wardrobe. I’m happy that I will finally have a few quality pieces instead of lots of cheap pieces that I don’t love and are of lesser quality.

Without further ado, here’s my Fix! Please excuse the poor quality of the pictures, I summoned my 8-year-old to help me out! 😉

Top left: Glenview Crew Neck Blouse by Kaileigh and Adorra Skinny Jean by Just Black
Top right: same paired with Martina Slub Knit Open Cardigan by Pixley
Bottom left: Judie Knit Dress by Le Lis
Bottom middle: samepaired with Martina Slub Knit Open Cardigan by Pixley
Bottom right: Poppyton Crochet Bib Top by Collective Concepts (Gap jeans not included in Fix!)

My items varied in retail value from $34 to $88. Because I will be keeping items, the $20 styling fee that I initially paid will be credited back to me and because I will be keeping everything (all 5 pieces), I get the 25% discount. So, overall I am getting each piece for under $40/each.

If you feel like giving Stitch Fix a try, I highly recommend it and if you use my referral link, I’d be so appreciative! Go here and let the fashion fun begin! 

Living life with a smile: in memory of Justin

May 1 holds a lot of precious memories for me. Mostly good ones but some sad too. It’s the day one of my childhood best friends, Justin, passed away from a hard-fought battle with Cystic Fibrosis.IMG_8801

Although my memory tends to be pretty poor, I remember the day very vividily and even the week leading up to the day. I remember a strong feeling in my gut that I needed to go spend time with him the day before, and the tear-filled night that followed as my heart was heavy and the Lord was preparing me for his passing. And then the next day, and that same strong gut feeling telling me I needed to go to the hospital at the first chance I got.

And how when I arrived there, I stood outside the room waiting to get the okay from the family to go inside to see him. The nurses’ eyes told me that Justin, body and soul, was no longer there but in heaven. Still I prayed as I waited.

When I walked inside those heavy doors, many relatives stood around and his sweet mom sat at his side. I had the chance to touch his cheek and pray over him and offer my condolences to the family.

The passing of a 16-year-old is emotional and it is never easy but through Justin’s passing the Lord taught me so much. And, little did I know, was preparing my heart for another loss– the passing of my dad– that would happen only 3 short years later.

But I write this post not to bring tears of sadness or pain flooding back but to bring memories of joy and happiness to the forefront.

Justin was a special soul. Anyone who knew him, knew him for his cheeky grin (which usually meant he was up to no good), his signature CF rosy cheeks and his laughter. His life, of course, was littered with the difficulties of managing a terminal illness but it was just as peppered with happiness and optimism.

His life and death taught me to not only make every day count but to not hold back and to act now. In some of the last moments I spent with him, I gave him an early birthday gift that I had been holding onto for a few weeks. I didn’t know that he would be gone before his birthday but I did know that the gift would bring a smile to his face and I wanted he and I to enjoy that moment now and not later. In those last moments he also showed me a card covered with signatures and messages from our classmates. The time friends took to pen a short message to a sick (dying) friend mattered. And rewind all the way back to our elementary school days, when I made the decision to befriend this little, blonde haired boy who was different than everyone else mattered… not only to him but to me.

So, on May 1, I try not to think about what might have been, because truly nothing might have been. His being born and his dying, that was all planned out ahead of time by Our Father. He gave Justin just the exact number of days that were intended for him and I believe Justin used them to be a vibrant, shining example of life-to-the-full even– especially—  through the suffering he endured.

May Justin’s life be a reminder to us all that life is short, that God is good and that joy is possible.

With a heart full of fond memories,
Jenny

Confessions of a former martyr mom

Woe is me. Have you ever felt that way? At times I can be worse than a whining toddler. “The kids were so naughty today” and “the baby barely slept” and “little girl spilled her milk for the 127,829th time.”
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With each passing travesty, I can go from meek mom to martyr mom in less than 60 seconds. I can go from gentle to enraged just as fast. And– over what?– these little humans and their inevitable flaws because, in case you haven’t noticed, they’re pretty new here.

It’s so easy to forget that they’re young and inexperienced (yes, even at making sure their cup doesn’t get tipped over even though it is placed nowhere near their chubby, little flailing arms). It’s so easy to forget that, just like me, they often learn best by messing up. And that children messing up means parents jumping to the rescue and picking up the slack because that’s our job.

When I stop right there and think about this awesome responsibility in front of me I feel both humbled and a little bit ashamed. Ashamed that I often am so bogged down by the here-and-now, the do-this-do-that that something as basic as a troublesome toddler can set me over the edge and lead me down a path of martyrdom.

Martyr Mom says, “This work is just too hard, I need a break!” Martyr Mom says, “My life is so not glamorous, I wish I was in Tahiti.” Martyr Mom says, “I am the only mom who deals with these travesties, I just know it!” And then, “What did I do to deserve to be mistreated this way??”

And on and on and on.

If we want to get all technical about it, a martyr is a person who is killed because of their beliefs. Pretty intense. Pretty radical. And yet so many times I can be that martyr mom. That woman who feels like my life is dead because I’m a mom. Like my future is bleak because so. many. messes.

Then I live motherhood in this hurried cycle, rushing things along. How long until I can get baby out of diapers? How long until they stop eating like rabid beavers (who leave a trail of Goldfish crackers wherever they go)? How darn long until they learn not to spill the milk?!

And the answer, my friend, is not very long. In the blink of the eye the training wheels are off, the driver’s license is issued and the bags are packed. Oh, my heart honestly aches to think about it! And yet, I’m trying to rush things! What is wrong with me?

Motherhood does not have to be about martyrdom. It should not be about martyrdom. It should be about life. It should be about celebrating all the firsts and clutching onto all the moments– the good, bad, the ugly– that are being created for these little humans we are raising (and for us)! Everything that happens in our lives has the potential to shape us for life, affecting how we think about the world, how we love others, what we believe. That is anything but a dying cause. That is a living cause.

Motherhood does have to be about self-denial and self-sacrifice. A dying to self of sorts. The newborn babe is not going to feed herself just because you want to sleep instead. No, when you are a mom, you crawl out of that bed to nurture and sustain that tiny life that can’t live without your help. You give up part of your desires– be they for sleep or beauty or being fed first– because you’ve been given a tremendous responsibility to care for another life. I am not the same person I was as a 22-year-old new mom. Not even close. I’ve lost some aspects of myself but gained others I never knew I could have. Self-denial and self-sacrifice– at the expense of training up beautiful, beautiful souls– is so worth it. Every crumb-filled room, sleepless night, every drop of milk trickled on the floor, is worth it.

So let us shift our thinking away from this hopeless estate that is martyrdom and move toward living out a beautifully messy, oh-so-hard, yet worthwhile life as a kingdom-advancing, world changing, mother.

With hope,
Jenny

Moms, what do you need a break from?


I’ll let you in on a little secret: God designed us to do hard things. And not necessarily do them well or with an ounce of beauty. Our futile attempts usually look anything but Instagram-worthy. Messy. Even ugly. However, it’s in those ultra-weak moments that His strength intervenes and His glory best shines through.beauty review

As moms we must be real with ourselves and with our thoughts. We must constantly question our motives and weigh them against Scripture. We must allow ourselves to experience mom guilt.

Yes, I said it.

Of course, self care is important. Of course, alone time is important. Of course, date nights are important. However these things should never become an idol causing us to abandon our current, Biblical responsibilities.

Moms, this may seem harsh and it may seem condemning or even unfair but it must be asked. Have you shaped your life around your Biblical responsibilities of being a mother and wife or have you shaped your Biblical responsibilities around your life?

I am fully aware that each of our situations look very different from one another. And no one can or should accuse each other of making the wrong choices. I also know that, as believers, we are called to help and encourage each other toward godliness. And few things break my heart as much as witnessing godly roles being abandoned by women everywhere and, perhaps, even worse, godly roles being devalued within the Christian community.

I have been in many situations where I clearly needed a break. And sometimes God has granted me that privilege and sometimes He said “not yet.” In Job 23:10 we are reminded, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” The problem, for many, with this stance is that is requires patience and perseverance and steadfastness. Boy are those attributes I often lack!

Rest assured moms, there are going to be moments when God blesses you with a break. A friend who offers to take your kids for the afternoon; A time when your husband takes the kids for a walk so you can get a nap; A sitter who comes once a month to watch your kids so you and your husband can share a quiet dinner.  But those moments may not always be possible, consistent or part of God’s right-now plan.

It is not wise to fall into the “I deserve” camp especially when your desires cause some abdication of your Biblical responsibilities.

The unchanging fact is that we only have so many hours in this life to carry out His work. If majority of our week is spent away from our children, we need to be extra protective of our time together. The same is true for marriage. If the majority of our week is spent away from our spouse, we need to be extra protective of our time together. And we do not always “need” the break that we think we need. And yet sometimes we do.

So, it’s a very fine line, you see.

I end with the rhetorical question– moms, what do you need a break from? Some of these needs are so real– a crying infant who just won’t sleep, a household of sick kids. And other perceived needs, if I am going to speak for myself and be real with you– a quiet house, a clean house, a dinner date– they may not be as truly necessary for survival.

The good news is that God knows. He knows what’s best and He is a loving, caring Father who wants to give us the desires of our hearts so long as they are good for us. And when they are not good for us, He will answer with a “no” or “not now” or “wait”. And, moms, that is going to have to be okay.

Keep seeking Him. Keep communing with Him in prayer. And live a life submersed in His Word so that your mind is full and clear and able to rightly handle these ever-occurring tiring situations of life. Never losing sight that this life is short and temporary, stressful and joyful yet beautiful.

With compassion,
Jenny

 

Recipe: simple banana bread (allergy friendly!)

Our family loves banana bread! And in the off moment that we have extra, ripe bananas lying around, I make this recipe:

– 3 bananas (brown, mashed)
– 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
– 1/2 cup sugar or your favorite sugar substitute
– 1 chia egg (1 tablespoon chia seeds mixed with 1 tablespoon water)
– 1 teaspoon vanilla
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– pinch of salt
– 1 1/2 cups sprouted wheat flour
-optional: chocolate chips or chopped nuts
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Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Pour batter into greased bread/loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Top with a bit of coconut oil or butter!

This recipe only takes about 10 minutes to mix together and is so yummy. I often double the recipe because one loaf doesn’t last very long…

I’ve also made this recipe in my bread maker on the “quick/sweet bread” setting and it turns out great as well.

Eat something yummy today!
Jenny

8 things you can do to foster a loving relationship with your child

I spend a lot of time with my kids. A lot. And because I have unlimited time with them right now– being an at-home, homeschooling, DIYmom– that must mean that I make sure the time is quality, right?

The truth is, not always. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work of keeping a home, helping my husband and making sure the kids don’t eat grass or the baby doesn’t climb the stairs that sometimes it’s really easy for me to forget to stop and just focus on the child.IMG_8436

It’s usually then that one (or several) of them start acting out or causing trouble that I realize, that I’m spread pretty thin and I need to stop and love.

So this list is just as much a reminder to myself as it is an encouraging reminder to other moms. People aren’t always easy to love– and miniature versions of ourselves are no different!– but there are some easy ways that require a little bit of effort but go a long way in showing our children that they are special and important and loved. Because the truth is that if our children don’t find support, encouragement and love in their homes, from their family, they will search for it elsewhere.

I don’t know about you but, personally, that worries me. As parents we only have a short span of time to influence our children for good and to instill in them our values, and ultimately, our faith. Let’s try not to waste it. Here are some things we, as parents, can do:

  1. Read to her
    There are few things so simple yet powerful as reading to your child. It’s you, pulling her into your lap, giving her your undivided attention for even just four minutes that can make her feel special. Delve into her favorite genre and you’re pretty much a superhero in her eyes.
  2. Find out & cater to his love language
    It’s important to know that not all people experience love in the same way. Taking a little bit of your time to “learn” your child and the way he responds to your loving attempts can make all the difference in his life. It’s also a good general rule of thumb to show him love in many different ways so that he begins to recognize and appreciate each way (even though he likely responds better to 1 or 2 ways).
  3. Include her in as much as possible
    In our hurried lives, it’s easy to push her aside while we take care of something else that’s requiring our attention. And that’s okay. But how much better would it be if we brought our child alongside of us in all that we do? Doing so not only teaches her valuable life skills but also teaches her confidence. She will remember the times that you pulled up the stool and let her cook dinner with you. And she’ll look back on those memories and smile.
  4. Set aside one-on-one time
    If you are a mom of many this can be tough or at least appear to be tough but I’m here to tell you that one-on-one time does not have to be expensive outings or whole days alone with one of your children. One-on-one time can be spending 15-minutes painting your daughter’s nails while talking about horses or playing a board game with your son right after everyone else goes to bed. Don’t be so paralyzed with complicated (read: impossible) ideas that you miss out on the simple, here-and-now options.
  5. Listen to him
    With most children there comes a certain age when they just love to talk. They walk around chattering about with their plans and ideas and facts. It really is a beautiful thing but after multiple hours of this, it can get a little tiresome and it’s easy for moms to crave quiet. Let me give you some advice: listen to him. Set down your phone, put down the whisk, stop folding the laundry and just listen. Listen to him talk about his Lego creations and his fort and the time he caught a ladybug and his plans for building a robot and how he got to level 8 in Mario Brothers…
  6. Smile & laugh with her
    Smiling at her will encourage her to smile. Laughing with her will encourage further laughter. Life is short and beautiful and busy, remember to take the effort to not be too serious.
  7. Hug & tell him you love him
    Human touch is special. So are words. Use both daily. Stop what you are doing and give him a hug. Interrupt his video games to tell him you love him and, hey, go the extra mile and tell him why you love him.
  8. Take an interest in what interests her
    This is yet another attempt for you to “learn” your child. By watching and listening you will soon learn what makes her tick. What drives her and brings her joy. When she is young this will likely change often, keeping you on your toes. If you know she loves animals, go out of your way to teach her more about animals, take her to the zoo with some friends, read her books about koala bears and kangaroos. Use her interests to not only teach her things but to prove to her that you are, in fact, listening and that you do, really, care.

On this journey along with you,

Jenny

DIY facial cleansing rounds {recipe}

These simple yet functional rounds make freshening up a breeze. They are made with therapeutic grade essential oils and natural ingredients. Yay! What are you waiting for?

IMG_8403Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 Tablespoons doTERRA fractionated coconut oil
  • 2 drops doTERRA Lavender essential oil
  • 2 drops doTERRA Melaleuca essential oil
  • 1 Tablespoon witch hazel
  • 2 Tablespoons filtered water
  • 4-ounce glass jar with lid
  • 15 round cotton pads
  • a glass dish (one with a spout works perfectly!)
  • whisk

Here’s how to make:

Gently whisk together fractionated coconut oil, Lavender, Melaleuca, witch hazel & water in a glass dish. Take your 4-ounce glass jar and fill with about 15 cotton rounds. Pour mixture over cotton rounds and seal. Now, whenever you need to refresh or clean up your face in a hurry, these gentle rounds will be ready!

Isn’t it great to D-I-Y?