The Sound of the Wind + Free Scavenger Hunt Printable

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“I’d give up all the brushes in the world and my basic black skirt just to have her back. But some things you just can’t tie down.” – Beth Moore

Skimming through the book “Feathers From My Nest” by Beth Moore this morning. As with all her books, it’s an amazing read.

It’s a dreary day here today, and as I flip through the pages of this book, I’m reminded, even more so than normal, that the days with my girls are so fleeting. At the ages of just 5 and 4, I’m painfully and daily aware that these precious faces will all too soon be leaving our nest.

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“Since the first day my children went to Mother’s Day Out, I dreaded the proverbial empty nest like a terminal disease. I literally collapsed on the mailbox when the school bus had the gall to kidnap my kindergartners.” – Beth Moore

And although I’m so achingly aware of the shortness of this season in life, there are still many, regrettably even most, days that I don’t make enough time to really soak up the precious moments offered today.

This past Friday, I wasted away nearly a whole day cleaning my oven. I’ll save you the time and tell you baking soda and vinegar really does not work that well to clean an oven (at least not an oven as dirty as mine).

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I did eventually get my oven respectably clean, but the most redeeming part of my day was the hour break I took in the middle of this mess to really spend with my girls.

It’s a constant struggle for my distracted mind, but the moments when I completely detach from the world, and focus all of me on these girls…those are the moments that I feel completely overflowing with the love and grace of my Savior. Ahhh, yes…I can almost hear His whisper in the quiet of the wind.

We did a backyard scavenger hunt on what could arguably have been the best (weather) day ever, and somehow being out in all the glory of His creation made our time together even all the more awesome.

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We finished the scavenger hunt with some swinging. Ain’t many things better than watching pigtails blow in the wind and little faces light up after saying “yes, I will push you on the swings.”

It’s never too late to start making more time for what really matters. Start today and then wake up and start all over again tomorrow. His mercies are new everyday. Praise God.

Here’s the scavenger hunt we used. It has a great outdoor hunt on one side, and an indoor hunt on the other side. The girls loved it.

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Whatever you do today, keep God at the center, and commit to be all there.

Hugs ~ Sara

Mama: When We Fail – God Redeems

This week I spent some time with a dear friend. I’m so thankful for her friendship because she’s honest. The kind of honest that reminds you that you’re not alone…that we all struggle…that I’m not the only one who thinks this mama thing can be really hard.

And it also reminded me that we mamas all need to lean on each other – for love, support, an ear to listen. God didn’t mean for us to do this life alone.

So this honest friend of mine tells me she feels hopeless. That some stuff is just too far gone…too late to fix. And my heart is screaming NO! It is never too late!

And then I realize that this is my story too. And it’s true for me. And it’s true for us all: It’s never too late. Never too far gone. Never beyond the healing hand of our Lord and Savior.

How awesome that what feels hopeless in our own lives, can become full of hope through the lens of another.

So thank you sweet sister for sharing your story, which is really my story too. And thank you for teaching me that what I know is full of hope in your life, must be hopeful in mine also.

The developer in me feels like I have to give you something more than just words each week. Something concrete that you can use to help you – like a list, calendar, schedule. I feel like I’m failing you if I don’t.

But this week I feel convicted to just share words. To you, to my dear friend, and to myself.

Words that God has put on my heart:

Dear Mama,

I know how hard this journey can be. I walk it with you everyday. I might not understand the details of your individual struggles – some more difficult, some less so – but I know that all of our lives have trying days, and hard seasons.

I know that you can feel hopeless. Lost. Like there’s no way to put back all that’s been broken. I feel it too. But we’re wrong.

God is our Advocate. The Perfecter of our faith. Our Comforter, Deliverer, Mediator, Physician, Purifier, Redeemer. Our Beginning, and our End.

Did you read that? Your God is your redeemer. He is capable to redeem all that is lost. He is your physician, capable to heal all that is broken.

Don’t let Satan convince you of anything less. Show him your faith is a faith that can move mountains.

All throughout the Bible, we read stories of heroes. Heroes who were desperately lost, desperately in need of grace, and desperately full of sin. And all throughout, God redeems them. The only requirement on their part was surrender. A surrender of themselves to God alone, and a cry out to Him for help.

We must cry out to our God for help. We can’t do this on our own sister. But God. He can heal it all. Do you believe it? Do you? Believe it.

He can redeem your failures. Your children. You. In this moment, at the end of this day, and at the end of everyday until He calls us home.

All that is required of us is a life of faith. We must love Him, and trust Him. Trust that He has a plan, and He can do all things.

And remember sweet mama that you were made for a greater purpose than all this. You were created for eternity. So when, in this life, you experience those feelings of hopelessness and loss, of defeat and failure, remember that those are tugs toward eternity…reminders that THIS is not our home.

We will never have it all figured out while we are here. We will never have it all together. But this doesn’t mean we can’t live a life full of faith, that can be passed on to our children. This doesn’t mean God can’t richly bless us and heal all that we have broken.

And sister, when you find yourself looking around, please know that anyone who makes it look easy isn’t being honest. All of us have different lives, but none of them are perfect.

The reality is that motherhood has seasons that are bare-boned hard, where all our days can seem to fly by in a crying, screaming, wrestling blur of failures and despair. But God is our redeemer. So keep your eyes looking up instead of all around, and surrender your life to Him…into His always open hands, capable of healing all that we mess up.

I love you sister. And I have full confidence that if you just look to your Creator, the One who created us, our children, all…then He can and He will redeem our lives when we ask.

So put on your armor this morning and ask God to be with you today. You’ve got this, and more importantly, so does God.

Hugs ~ Sara

life is often not this peaceful and smiley, but we never take pictures of the bad or tough stuff, do we? Still, I'm thankful for these redeeming moments of grace.

Life is often not this peaceful and smiley, but we never take pictures of the bad or tough stuff, do we? Still, I’m thankful for redeeming moments of grace like this.

Essential Family Life Habits – Part 2

This post has been a hard one for me to write.

The last couple of weeks I’ve been struggling a lot with letting Satan beat me down. It’s hard to post about how to do better as a mama when I keep listening to the lie that I’ll never be good enough.

The world is so full of perfect, pretty pictures of life and motherhood, and sometimes I just feel so overwhelmed by my shortcomings in comparison.

Often the most discouraging things can be those meant to encourage – I’ve read many times that at the end of the day, all that really matters is that I showed my kids that I love them. But what if I didn’t? What if I spent the entire day messing up – one sin after another – and I shut their door at night certain that I’ve destroyed them?

I’m convinced that Satan lives behind my bathroom mirror. When he attacks, I’m usually there. I hear his insults one after another: “you don’t deserve to be a mom, your kids deserve better than you, you are so ugly, you’re a terrible friend, wife, daughter, everything.”

And while I know Satan doesn’t literally live behind my mirror, I also know that he absolutely does attack us. BUT, if we’re suited up – with the armor of God – we are much more able to stand against his evil schemes. So it makes sense that my weakest, hardest days are those that I don’t start with God. The days that I don’t tell Satan to leave me alone in the name of Jesus!  The days that I don’t begin with a plan…and I leave too much space for Satan to invade.

The Bible tells us: “…there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1

Lysa TerKeurst explains it like this: “If I’m hearing thoughts of condemnation, these only come from Satan. There is no condemnation from Jesus, only conviction. It’s important for us to know the difference. Condemnation leaves us feeling hopeless and worthless. Conviction invites us to make positive changes in our lives.”

So when I believe all these lies that leave me feeling completely hopeless – those are not God convicting me to change anything other than my relationship with Him – my Father, the One who will lead and guide me on this journey, if I just sit quietly at His feet.

So what lies from the devil are you believing today? And what things are you truly being invited by God to change?

Today I’m sharing the second part of my essential family life habits, which is really just the list of things I know God is truly inviting me to do…to change, and to make a habit of, so that I too am changed – for His glory.

“Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I hope that my list might work for you too, or at least be a starting point for you to think about what habits God might be asking you to sow in your own life.

I truly believe that if we can create healthy and Godly habits, schedules, and plans for our days, we will leave less space for Satan to come in.

If you missed the first post, the top of this list shows a recap of the habits to make for ourselves, as mamas, and the bottom shows a summary of the family habits, which we’re going to look at next:

Essential Family Life Habits

So it doesn’t get too long, today I’m going to go over the daily and weekly family habits, and my next post (the third and final in this series) will cover the monthly and yearly ones. Here we go…

Essential Life Habits for Your Family

Daily

  • Do chores (and keep a chore chart) – have a chore chart for your kiddos. Make time each day for them to complete their chores, check them off their chart, and put up a sticker. My housekeeping post has the chore chart we use, and more info on how to use it.
  • Play together – if you ask your kids what they most love to do with you, I can almost guarantee it will include the word “play.” Few things mean more to our kids than when we take the time to sit down on the floor to play and show that we love them. Schedule it in, and make it a priority everyday. And if your kids are older – still make time for this…doing whatever they enjoy.
  • Have a ‘free play’ time – it’s also super important that our kiddos have free play time – time for them to just play unstructured, and on their own. This helps them to use their creativity, solve problems, and many other beneficial things. It also allows for you to get a few things done, so it’s a win-win for everyone. Check out this article for a complete report from the American Academy of Pediatrics on just how important it is.
  • Go outside and get fresh air – rain or shine, it’s important for all of us (mamas and kids) to get at least 20 minutes of sunshine and fresh air everyday. Sunshine is a natural producer of Vitamin D in our bodies, and can help with mood, and many health conditions. And as you know, being outside can help kids to run off some energy too! Here are some of my favorite outdoor activity ideas:
    • go for a walk
    • play at a park
    • ride bikes
    • play in the backyard
    • draw with sidewalk chalk
    • go to a spray ground
    • go to a pool
    • go sledding
    • build a snowman
    • go ice skating
    • garden together
    • look for bugs and birds
    • go flower picking
    • play in the rain
  • Snack times – schedule a morning and afternoon snack time each day. This way the kids will know when they get to eat, and they won’t be bugging you for food all day long!
  • Rest time – if your kiddos have outgrown their nap time, still make time for them to have a one-hour rest each day. You need it, and they do too. Have them go to their rooms and rest in their beds, or work on a quiet activity. If your kids are still napping, here’s a guideline for sleep requirements, and how many hours they need each day:

Daily Sleep Needs

  • Serve each other – each day, encourage your children to serve each other, and you, in some way. Also, make sure you are serving your spouse (and others around you) – leading by example is the very best way to teach them to have a servant’s heart.
  • Bible time & prayer  – if our faith does not extend from Sunday into our daily lives, we have little hope of passing it on to our kids. So make time each day to read the Bible with them, and pray together. We just bought a book, “Window on the World: When We Pray God Works,” and it is AWESOME!! It goes through an a to z list of countries, with cool information about each one, and how we can pray for them. I can’t recommend it enough! Teach your kiddos the importance of prayer (for everyone and everything), and point it out to them when you see God answer! And if you’re looking for a resource for family Bible study, check out Family Bloom, a GREAT guide from Jelly Telly. Focus on the Family also has a LOT of excellent resources on encouraging spiritual growth for our kids.
  • Eat dinner together – y’all know how important this one is, so make it sacred. Sit at the table together, and without distraction (no TV or phones)!
  • Read books together  – I’ve come across several sources that say we should read to our kids for 2 hours everyday. That suggestion overwhelms me, but I do agree that reading books with our kids is an important habit to make time for everyday. It helps kids learn, and it makes time for you to sit close and be together. If you don’t have time during the day, make a point to read at least one book at bedtime every night.

Weekly

  • Give allowance – have your kiddos complete chores simply because they are part of the family, then you can also give them an allowance just for being part of the family. We do $0.25 for tithe, $0.25 for give, $.025 for save and $1.75 for spend each week. You can indirectly attach the chores to their allowance by paying yourself (with their money) for any chores they don’t complete. Giving allowance will teach them how to be good stewards of what they’re given, and how to save and be selective in what they spend money on!
  • Attend church service together – being with our church families is a crucial part of our faith, so lead by example, and make it a priority every week.
  • Have a family day – as I’ve been working on our calendar, I decided that it could be hard to have a family day every single week, but if you can, try to make it happen, or at least have a family night. Here are some activity ideas:
    • pizza and movie night at home (or out)
    • dinner out and ice cream
    • have a picnic
    • go ice skating
    • have a game night
    • go camping
    • have a family sleepover
  • Cook/bake together – taking the time to let your kids help in the kitchen teaches them important skills, builds their confidence, and gives you quality time together. Curious Chef has every kitchen tool you could imagine for kids, and all their products are also for sale on Amazon.
  • Take a field trip – try to take a field trip out of the house once a week. It doesn’t have to cost money! Here are some ideas:
    • go to the park
    • visit the zoo
    • check out books at the library
    • go to a children’s museum
    • go to the theatre
    • go swimming – at a pool or at a free spray ground if you have them
    • go garage sailing
    • go sledding
    • check out one of the many (often free) activities offered by your local community center
  • Have a play date – an important time for the kiddos to socialize, and for you to have some mom socialization time too!
  • Serve others – try to find some (bigger than your daily) way to serve others – whether you take cookies to a neighbor, or buy a meal for a homeless person you see, try to find an intentional way to serve with your kids each week.

That’s it for this week. Please remember that these habits are not meant to create more work for you (at all)! They are meant to help organize and prioritize our lives, so we don’t waste time on things that don’t matter.

If we schedule-in and make time for the most important habits first, the only things we will run-out of time for are those that are less important!!

And like I said in the first post, remember to take it one step at a time. It’s unrealistic to try to master a whole new list of habits all at once, so start slow, and master just a few right now. Like life, and our walk as Christ-followers, it’s a journey. You can’t get from the start to the finish in one day.

Paul said it best: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” – Philippians 3:12

Until next time, may you press on toward your goals sweet sisters…

Hugs ~ Sara

And just for fun - since yesterday was Father's day...here's a sweet picture of my girls and their amazing Daddy after their dance recital this weekend. Love.

And just for fun – since yesterday was Father’s day…here’s a sweet picture of my girls and their amazing Daddy after their dance recital this weekend. Love.

Essential Family Life Habits – Part 1

Free printable - print it as a photo, and hang it on your fridge in a magnetic 4x6 frame!

Free printable – print it as a photo, and hang it on your fridge in a magnetic 4×6 frame!

I want to be better at doing the things that matter…better at intentionally living my life, and bringing glory to God in all I do.

I know the only way (at least for me) to have this  kind of intentionality is to plan it. SO, I’ve been working away…writing, and praying – for God to show me what’s important – what to plan. I wanted to make a list of the most important activities to do as a family each day, week, month, year…

As I started to write it out I realized that to be better for my family, I have to first take better care of myself. So I decided to break my list into two parts: habits for myself, and habits for my family.

This post is part 1 of these essential habits that I really believe God is leading me to focus on, and I’m starting with the things we should do for ourselves. Even Jesus made time to rest, be alone with God, and take care of Himself, and if we’re going to follow Him, we need to take care of ourselves too.

So here we go sweet sisters. Stick with me…I really believe all these things are important for us…

Essential Life Habits for Yourself

Daily

  • Bible/prayer time – start your day with a quiet time (alone) before your kids wake up. Study your Bible and pray – for your day, your family, and others. If you start the day with Jesus, it’s easier to stay focused on Him throughout the rest of your day.
  • Plan your day – after your quiet time, or the night before, plan your day. Use a daily docket or planner to write out your to do list, daily cleaning items, and a rough schedule for your day. This will keep you on task, so you don’t get lost in distractions. Here is the agenda I use.
  • Shower & get ready for the day – get dressed in something other than pajamas and fix your hair. When you get ready for the day, you will feel much more motivated to accomplish the tasks before you. Check out FlyLady for more helpful tips. She recommends dressing to shoes even when you’re staying home all day!
  • Feed yourself healthy food – it’s easy to spend so much time preparing healthy food for your kids, that you don’t take time to feed yourself well too. Don’t make this mistake…eat plenty of fruits and veggies, and drink plenty of water!
  • Daily cleaning/chores – schedule time everyday to do your daily cleaning tasks. If you run the dishwasher and do one load of laundry (wash, dry, fold & put away) everyday, you won’t get so behind that it feels impossible to catch up! If you missed it, check out my housekeeping post for a house cleaning list, and a schedule that breaks it down into manageable parts.
  • Reply to emails/messages – set a specific time or times each day that you will reply to e-mails, calls, texts, etc. Don’t let your inbox become an all day distraction, but don’t procrastinate it either. Like the laundry and dishes – if you keep up with it everyday, it won’t overwhelm you. Here is an awesome article on essential e-mail habits.
  • Free time – schedule time into your day to do the things that might otherwise be a never-ending distraction (social media, TV, etc.) It’s so easy to get sucked into these things, and lose countless minutes or hours doing nothing, but if you plan short times throughout your day, then you can still enjoy a little, without wasting your time away.
  • 8+ hours of sleep  – this is SO important. If you don’t get the sleep you need at night, you won’t be able to give your best to anything else. Go to bed early and without distractions – turn off your TV, and leave your computer and cell phone far from your bed. The radiation from your phone is harmful, and does not allow for a restful night of sleep. Also, try making your room as dark as possible – when you sleep in the dark, your body is able to produce melatonin, which works to prevent cancer and other diseases!

Weekly

  • Exercise – I don’t know about you, but I think exercising sucks. I really dread it, but once I’m done, I feel so much better. It’s crucial for your health, so make time for it – 3 times a week if you can.
  • Review your calendar – before you go grocery shopping, take time to go over your calendar for the upcoming week. This will prepare and organize you for what’s coming up, and help you plan your meals.
  • Plan your weekly menu – after you go over your calendar, plan your menu out. Here’s a weekly menu planner to print and fill-in each week.
  • Update your master to do list – each week, print a new master to do list. Move some of your long-term items to this month, and some of your items for this month to this week.
  • Weekly cleaning/chores – in addition to your daily chores, make time to do your weekly chores too. If you follow my cleaning schedule, you will only have to do about 2-4 weekly chores each day.
  • Run errands – make a list of the errands you need to run, try to pick one day to get them all done for the week, and don’t get distracted! Go into each store, get what you need, and get out! 🙂
  • Stay in touch with your friends – if you have kiddos, it can be so hard to make time for your other relationships, but it’s so important. Call, e-mail, text or Facebook, and connect in person. We weren’t meant to do life alone. If you study the Proverbs 31 woman, it clearly states that she had help! God made us to need each other, so take care of your friendships, and do life together!

Monthly

  • Prepare a monthly calendar – at the start of each month, fill out the plans you know you have, including regular activities like date night and time with friends (see below). Keep your calendar updated throughout the month as new plans are made. Here’s a monthly calendar and one for June if you prefer a paper calendar that you can hand write.
  • Prepare your monthly cleaning schedule – print a schedule for the month, fill in the dates, and add your semi-annual and annual chores. For the month of June, try to wash your curtains and windows, clean your oven, and launder all of your rugs, pillows and comforters.
  • Date night with your spouse – make it a priority. One of the best gifts you can give to your kids is a healthy marriage, so at least one night a month, get away alone. This could be a good opportunity for the kids to have a sleepover with their grandparents!
  • Spend time with friends – make a point to connect in person at least once a month. Get together for a family dinner, a night out without the kids, or even a weekend camping trip. Sometimes it can seem like a big effort, but investing in friendships is so worth the time you put in!
  • Finish a long-term to do item – each month, try to complete at least one task from your long-term to do list.
  • Enjoy a favorite hobby – don’t forget about the things you loved to do before you had kids. Make time at least once a month to do something you really enjoy.
  • Scrapbook/sort & print photos – set aside time each month to sort/file all the photos you’ve taken from the previous month. Print them, share them with family, and hang them up or get them in a scrapbook or album. By the way, my kids are 4 & almost 6 and neither of them have even one picture in their scrapbooks. If your kiddos are still babies, start now! 😉

Semi-Annually & Annually

  • Prepare a yearly calendar – at the end of each year, prepare a calendar for the coming year with dates that you already have planned (kid’s activities, birthdays, vacation, etc.) Also, begin to schedule in important activities that you want to make sure you have time for – like dates with your kids (check next week’s post).
  • Plan your budget – at the start of each year, make time to plan a budget. Check out Dave Ramsey’s website for tons of helpful forms, and all the info you need to get started. God shows us in the Bible that money is the root of many evils, so take the time to plan and be a good steward of all that God provides.
  • Weekend away with spouse – pick one weekend a year to get away with your husband. You don’t have to go anywhere expensive – you could even stay at home and just plan some fun activities together – as long as you’re spending quality time without your kiddos!
  • Join a Bible study – make an effort to attend at least one Bible study a year. You will learn new things from your group, and will benefit greatly from the fellowship time. If you have it in your area, I so highly recommend Community Bible Study – an interdenominational and national bible study that has an amazing children’s program, and the most awesome in-depth studies of the Bible that I have ever done.
  • Read a book – decide to read at least one book each year – it increases your knowledge, keeps your mind sharp, and helps you improve yourself!
  • Yearly doctor visit
  • Go to the dentist

That’s it for this week. If you’re ready to start working on your habits too, remember to take it one step at a time. If you try to do it all at once, you will set yourself up for failure. Pray and then prioritize what’s most important for you right now, start there, and then begin to work your way down your list.

Also remember that this is my list because these are many of the things I am not doing. I feed myself terribly, often stay up until 2:00 am, wear the same clothes I slept in, and go months without making time for my friends. Not to mention that I’ve only been to the dentist once since my oldest was born 6 years ago.

So know that I’m doing this right along with you…working on the things that I want to become habits, and eventually change who I am. I want to give my best to God in all I do, to ultimately bring Him glory and praise.

Here is a summary of today’s habits, and a peek at the family habits that will be in next week’s post.

Essential Family Life Habits

Hugs to you for the rest of your week ~ Sara