Change of Address

Hey lovely readers,

Over the last month I have been seriously evaluating my blog and it’s place in my life. I’ve also been evaluating it’s place in the whole blogosphere. It is a tiny pebble in an ocean of greatness.

But, God has given me a gift – both of writing and expression. I want to use both of these for His glory, so I don’t believe stopping blogging is what He wants me to do. Yet, in my desire to live “a quiet life and work with my hands” and “mind my own business” (1 Thess. 4:11-12), scaling down my blog is something I think is right for me, right now.

Because of this, I am no longer paying for hosting (only domain) and have returned to Blogger. (I feel like I am old-school on every level of my life!) In this way, I can remain a blogger, keep things simple, and maintain my relationships with those who follow. You mean so much to me!

Can you therefore, if you still want to receive emails of my posts, follow me to my new blog and re-sign up for updates? I’m so sorry for the hassle.

>> MY NEW BLOG <<

When you go there, you will see that it is very simple and has a different name. Alongside evaluating my blog, I have felt a slight change in direction over the last few months. You will see that it’s all about Wholeheartedness, something I am becoming more passionate about.

Please follow me over, I would love to continue our conversations there. And I have returned to Instagram for the time being, so you will also find the link there.

Oh, and please mind the housekeeping as I continue to slowly set it all up 😀

Much love,

Sarah

Hooked on Phonics

All links in this post are affiliate links. Thank you so much for supporting our family.

This is the latest great offer from Educents that I thought some of you might be interested in. I have heard lots of great things about Hooked on Phonics. My two are too little for learning to read, but I’m definitely looking at this curriculum for the future.

Oh, and I love the quote below – it is an absolute gem. Leaders are readers!

Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read Program

From Gladie, at Educents:

COMPLETE 4 – Level Learn to Read Kit for $109 (Usually $299)

There are not many products out there that are worth spending a ton of money on. But if there is ONE piece of advice I have to parents: invest in your child’s ability to read and write. {<<< Yes!} It’ll be worth every penny, and more. That’s why I’m excited to share this deal with you.

Why? Communication is key to success, and learning to confidently read and write is its foundation. The Hooked on Phonics Program is a tried and true program that’s helped multiple generations of learners in my family master reading and phonics. It’s so easy to use and follow along that children can even teach themselves to read with Hooked on Phonics.

You may know the well known quote from Harry S. Truman,

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

The world of literature also helps children build upon their imagination, become more empathetic, and improve emotional intelligence.

So, if anyone were to ask me what the best reading/phonics program is, not only as a mom but as a learner, I would (and have many times) recommended the Hooked On Phonics Learn To Read program. This set is the absolute best deal I’ve found for beginners. It includes five levels from PreK-2nd grade.

Other great programs by Hooked on Phonics are available for older children here on Educents, where I found this deal. Right now you can get free shipping with code CANDYCORN.

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Growing up with a father in Children’s Literature and having our own personal library, I can attest to the magic and wonder of reading. Reading really does make us smarter. When I used to teach English as a second language, lots of mother’s of students would ask me what they should do. Every single time I replied, “Get them reading!” ~ Sarah

Have you used Hooked on Phonics? What success did you have with it?

How to Encourage Your Husband {When Everything in the House Breaks}.

Do you ever have one of those seasons in your household when everything seems to break or fall apart at the same time? Several things have “gone wrong” around the house recently and it can be very frustrating.
Today we realised we would have to replace a glass window we thought we could get away with not replacing. And then, when I went to put a load of dishes through the dishwasher, it started having a bit of a fit – a fit it has done before and which eats at our pockets.
I could see the frustration and disappointment in my husband’s face, and my heart went out to him. 
When things like this happen, I believe there are three things a wife can do to really love and support her husband. Here’s what I have been thinking of and seeking to do for my husband as we look at having to spend more money on broken stuff.

encouragehusband

1. Stay positive {even if you feel worried about money}

If you’re like me, you can feel the worry and fear about money when things keep breaking and the bills start piling up. There is something about money that causes sinful emotions to wrap themselves around the human heart. {In fact, did you know that Jesus spoke more about money than any other topic, even salvation?}
I learnt very quickly as a young wife that it did not help the situation if I started worrying, fretting and adding anxious emotions to the situation. Feeling those own emotions as the provider, my husband would feel worse, more stressed and full of doubts when his helpmeet was freaking out.
By far, the most helpful thing I can do for my husband in this situation is to stay positive and calm.
 
“It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful wife.”

Proverbs 21:9

2. Affirm his work & role as provider

I’ve said before that how we, as wives, take care of our homes speaks volumes to our husbands. Our homes and the things in it – though things – are evidences of a husband’s hard work, love, and willingness to spend himself for the sake of his family. When there is a season when things around the house keep breaking and money keeps disappearing, this is so demoralising for a husband.
A husband might think to himself, “I am so tired. I work so hard. Everything keeps breaking and all the money I earn – that I want our family to have for our needs and enjoyment – keeps getting sucked dry. I’m useless. I don’t provide enough. I’m not man enough.”
It’s hard for us women to sometimes understand our men and how they work {especially when they don’t talk about how they’re feeling!}, but I believe their silences, anger, moodiness about household mishaps often stem back to their identity as men.
So encourage your husband that he is enough, that he’s doing an amazing job, and that things will be okay!

“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” Proverbs 12:25

3. Manage the house well & seek solutions

 

A very practical way we can encourage our husbands around the home is to care for it well. Not only does this mean managing and caring for everything in the house with respect and hard work, it can also mean adjusting our expectations of what we have.
Today when the dishwasher broke and the look came over my husband’s face, I put my hand on his arm and said, “Honey, we don’t need to get it fixed. It is a luxury item.” And it is. Between the cracked window that keeps out rain and cold and the dishwasher, one of those actually needs to be fixed.
I am perfectly capable of washing dishes and have been for most of our marriage. Even though I have loved the last year of having a dishwasher, it is a luxury. If it means taking the load off my husband, I can go without, easily. Sometimes we can make sacrifices around the home just as our husbands do when they work so hard for us often in situations and pressures we don’t fully know about.

 

“She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.”  Proverbs 31:17

As wives, we’re called to support and encourage our husbands. If we are able to stay home, it is a privilege and a blessing. Our husbands have the pressure of working in the world under people who do not know the Lord. Their work environments can be really hard places to work in. They can feel enormous pressure to earn lots of money and buy bigger houses and more things. But we know that life isn’t about those things. It is about loving God and our families {both at home and at church}. Let us take the load off our husbands by doing our best at home, making do when the need arises, and encouraging and blessing our husbands by working hard with able hands around the home.

How do you encourage your husband when household things get him discouraged?

Hope for When We Fail in Our Vision for Motherhood.

This is the third part of my small series on having a vision for motherhood. You can read the first part here, and the second part here.

Fellow visionary mothers: no matter how amazing our God-given vision is for our children, and no matter how much we believe in it, we are going to fail to live up to it. Let us accept that, not beat ourselves with guilt over it, and move on to the only thing that can cover us and our motherhood and our mistakes with grace: God.

“All that God requires from any of us is a desire to serve him and a trust that he can make up the difference for the things we lack.” ~ Sally Clarkson, The Mission of Motherhood

As a Christian mother, this is what God asks of us: having a heart for Him and His ways, and a trust that, as we seek to obey Him in our callings and the vision He has given us as mothers, that He will cover us with grace. God loves our children more than we do. He has got our back. He will redeem what we fall in.
Protecting my children from the feelings I felt as a child with over-committed and distracted parents is a strong aspect of my vision for our children. I believe this strong belief in being a whole-hearted mother is God-given. He is redeeming in me {and, therefore, my children} the lack in my parents. He is covering me with the grace He extended to my parents and, He did this for me at the time when I felt their lack {by giving me friend’s mothers who mothered me in the way I needed}. 
But, because of my fallen nature, I still will lack as a mother. I have, and will continue to, make mistakes. Some mistakes will be willful, and many others will be ignorant. There is a part of me that fills up with pure panic when I think of that. There is no way I want my little ones to feel as I have had. And, God-willing, they won’t. Yet, no matter how determined I am – and no matter how godly, or biblical, or passionate my vision is for them – I am going to let them down. 
When I don’t turn to God when I am filled with fear over hurting my children, that panic can go into hyperdrive and, by reacting to those emotions, I can over-parent. I can put more pressure on them, and myself, because I am trying to make up for what I lack as a mother. This, by default, will harm my children. I must accept that.
But, when I turn to God when I am filled with fear over hurting my children, my heart can be stilled to peace because I know He has them. I can let go of that control I want to grasp hold of and never let go. I can be free to be imperfect. I can trust, on my worst days, that God will cover the gaps of my motherhood. He will use those gaps for His glory in their lives.

“The Lord would have us know that he is the one ultimately in charge of our children. He will use our willingness and our efforts, then fill in the gaps of our inadequacies , to prepare in their hearts what he has in mind.” ~ Sally Clarkson

So have hope, dear mother. Don’t go into panic-mode if you’ve had a bad day and yelled at the kids and wanted to leave them outside the gate with a sign saying “Free to a good home”. Don’t reach for the control buttons. Bring your heart back and submit it unto the Lord. His yoke is easy, and He gently leads those who have young {Isaiah 40:11}. 

Visionary Motherhood:: Truths To Hold Onto For The Long Haul

Tim’s parents are our go-to people for anything life. They have been in ministry well over twenty years after being saved in their mid-thirties. They have been married for forty years, through thick and thin, have raised four strapping boys. They know gritty life, they know grace, they know the gospel. I love them fervently.
When we go and see them, as the kids run around crazy, I love sitting down and having a natter. My father-in-law and I often talk in-depth about current church issues or cultural crazies. Today was no different.
Somehow the topic got onto work and I mentioned that I am often asked when I’m going to go back to work. When I say no, I’m then asked if I will when the kids go to school. {I then have to explain that in all likelihood, they won’t be going to school.} And I said to my father-in-law, “I feel so different.”
We talked about the unseen pressure from culture, even in Christian culture, to do certain things. It’s normal for a mother to go back to work when her child is still a baby. In a friend’s ante-natal group, out of fifteen, only two mothers remain at home {age of children: twenty-one months}. And my father-in-law said to me, “As John MacArthur said to me once, ‘Just because thousands of others are doing it, doesn’t mean it’s right’.”
Firstly, um, my father-in-law has personal quotes from John MacArthur! That’s the legacy God has knit me into {gosh, I am so thankful}.
Mostly though, it was what he said next:

“You’re doing this [staying home and teaching the kids life at home] because you have a long-term vision. You’re looking down the track and what needs to be done now, for then.”

In my last post, I wrote about how important it is to have a vision for motherhood. Not only does having a vision keep us focused on the over-arching goal we have for our children’s childhood and family life, but it also keeps us from getting trapped in the ‘now’ mentality of our world.
We don’t become mothers and have only a few years with our kids before we send them to school and then return to our pre-mother lives. We have these people in our care for our whole lives – with different seasons requiring different levels of us and our devotion. And as Christians, our motherhood ought to look different to the world’s view of raising children. 
Whatever arrangement our family takes – stay-at-home mother or working mother, homeschooling kids or public school kids – how we mother must look different. A big part of that is having a vision, a heart attitude, a mindset that directs our days, our actions, our dreams, our decisions.
For me, I have explained my vision before, but I’ll quickly recap: 
As a mother, I desire to dedicate my life to my family whole-heartedly. I want to be an undivided wife and mother, spending my days pouring out myself for the sake of God, on the people He has given me. Specifically for our family, this means I stay home raising the kids and, most likely, we will homeschool our children. Our desire is to keep our children in the security of home for as long as we deem appropriate so that we can: lay the foundations for a faith built on a strong understanding of the gospel and God’s Word; and to equip them with the ability to live in this world when they are ready.
I believe strongly in our duty as parents and the serious task bestowed on us. Mostly because our children are not really our own. They belong to God. And, just like a shepherd for his flock, it is our job to care and protect and “show them the way” {Proverbs}. 

How did I come to this vision?

It’s been years in the making. Years of family sin, family brokenness, my own failures, redemption, growth in biblical understanding and the hope that a new generation can be different from the previous. I’ve done a lot of reading, lots of listening to faithful teachers, and lots of time soaking in the Scriptures.
During my time in the Word, over time, the Lord has gently – and sometimes strongly in times of need of direction – personally given Scriptures that have pressed upon my heart what I believe to be His desire for our family, for my motherhood. The Book of Proverbs has been a very fundamental foundation for my vision, and here are some specific verses:
“My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life.” 6:20-23
“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” 14:1
“Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.” 14:26
“Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death.” 19:18
“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” 24:3-4
“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” 22:6 
“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” 13:20 
And, finally, in Colossians:

“He {Christ} is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end, I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” 1:28-29

I don’t think these are promises for our family. I don’t think God is saying, “Be this kind of parent and your children will be Christians/godly/obedient/loving”. Rather, I believe that God is saying to me, “Here is my Truth about parenthood. Listen to My Voice and not the world’s. You are called to mother these children, follow this way with them”.
Recently, my two little ones – a preschooler and a toddler, sixteen-months-apart – have been so much fun hard work. There have been many trying moments and days where I have struggled to believe that this is all worth it. It would be so easy to throw in the towel and give them to someone else to raise. I have had many pity-parties feeling sorry for myself and bringing us all down.
But then, the Spirit nudges me. I open up His Word and I am gently and lovingly reminded why I am called to motherhood. I am a mother, therefore I am called to do it. It is my responsibility, and my joy, to do it. Through God’s grace, I build our house with wisdom; I guide my children from being fools and companion of fools; I start our children on the way they should go. And I know this is what I have to do because the Bible tells me so.

“This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilige. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, it it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.”
 ~ Elisabeth Elliot
Having a vision, rooted in Scripture, helps me stay faithful in this job.
Having Scripture keeps me anchored in the Scriptural calling and duty of motherhood. 
It is an anchor. And the memory of the moment these verses came to my eyes and entered my heart, speaking to a question in my soul I had asked of God – that sweetness and personal moment with the Lord builds me up as I lose my footing.
Do you have any specific Scriptures that God has given you as a vision for motherhood?

The Importance of Having a Vision for Motherhood.


“Where there is no vision the people will perish.” Proverbs 29:18
This verse can often be taken out of context. The writer in Proverbs isn’t exhorting the Israelites to  have their day-planners out and create a business plan, or a ten-year vision for their lives, or a bucket list to tick off before they die. He is describing what happens when a person has no spiritual contact with their Creator God and the revelation that comes to their spirits when they anchor themselves with His Word. 
One commentary describes, “We may then a little amplify the proverb for the sake of exposition: ‘When there is no living revelation, no perceived contact between man and God, there the bonds which hold society together are relaxed and broken; but he that holds by the revelation that has been given, obeying the law, so far as it has been presented to him, happy is he.'”
Dear mother, are you in contact with your Father God? Have you received a living revelation from God for this great task He has given you to accomplish for Him? Simply,
Do you have a vision for motherhood?
God has been really good to me in that, through the pain of my parents separating and having a mother with a divided heart, God has redeemed those years of mourning into dancing. Within the broken heart of a teeanger, God gave me a vision for both marriage and motherhood. I committed to Him and myself that I would:

  • do both – no matter what happened – to my very best to His glory; 
  • that I would be whole-hearted, undivided in both; 
  • that I would offer my life for those He gave to me; 
  • that my husband would know I loved and respected him; 
  • that my children knew they were worth more to me than any personal ambition.

When I got married and then when I had children, I poured myself into His Word to equip myself with His wisdom and His heart for the family. I read books and books on what I learned was called “biblical womanhood”. I listened to sermons and asked questions and wrote and prayed and longed.
I didn’t want what the world offered: I had seen how it decieved my own family and how it never gives what it promises. I wanted God to create in our new family a new generation that would seek His ways above all else and would proclaim the Gospel in whatever place He put us in.
This is my vision for our family. But, oh, working towards it – and living it, in the day-to-day, is hard. Just incredibly hard.
Poo-explosions, squabbles, character training, washing clothes, making dinners, long work days, church commitments, study, tiredness, sleep deprivation, tight budgets, large properties to manage, unexpected bills, hormones, bad days – – –
You get it. Life is busy and complicated and mundane. Feelings go on merry-go-rounds and it’s super easy to hop on for a ride. When we’re up to our eyeballs in family living, it can be easy to lose sight of the end. We’re floating on our life-vest of Jesus, but those waves sometimes block our view. It would be easy to slip off and sink under. Switch on the lazy parenting button, or allow our hearts and minds to be distracted and divided.
It’s a battle. The daily chaos of what we see is really a veil to what we cannot see: the fight over the spiritual health of our family. Us evangelicals get a bit squirmy when talk leads into spiritual wars between Satan and his evil cronies. It sounds a bit, well, charismatic. But it’s the truth. As my minister said on Sunday {August 14th} we’re either under evil or we’re under grace.


When we don’t have a vision for this motherhood thing {and marriage}, and work towards it, our family’s will perish. And not only our family, but eventually, our world. And that is totally what see today, isn’t it? A world crumbling as families topple down, like dominoes.

“Biblical womanhood is at risk. That is bad enough, but if the secularists succeed in taking out Biblical womanhood, the family will go with it. The family as God designed it is dangerously rare today… When we rescue women, we rescue families. When we rescue families, we rescue culture.” ~ Susan Hunt, By Design

But, visionary-mothers, we can – by God’s mercy – turn the change of the tide. We can direct it back to the way God intended families to be: whole, strong, Jesus-loving, grace-giving, committed, caring, faithful. 
I would encourage you to really seek the Lord for His vision for your family. In prayer and in the Word, ask His Spirit to guide you. Ask for Scripture that is His personal revelation for you as the mother of your children and as the wife of your husband. Read good books that point to biblical womanhood and equip yourself for this very real spiritual battle going on. 
On days when it is just simply hard, we can grasp hold of those Scriptures to maintain the vision we have to do this thing well. We can stand firm and not be swayed or fall into temptation. And if we do? There is great, great mercy and grace and always second chances with our good God.

What is your vision for motherhood?

What Happened When We Brought Our Son Home From Preschool.

I could write so much on this, but let me just summarise it in one word:
Transformed.
That is the most succinct word I can think of to describe what has happened to our little boy since we brought him home from preschool. It’s been two months and they have flown by. Why? Life is just easier with him at home.
Now, I’m not saying my days are breezy. Ha! Two children under three? No day is going to be breezy! I’m teaching, correcting, encouraging, disciplining, playing, chasing, imagining, cleaning, cooking, and living with them both all day, everyday. I don’t get the few hours of space like I did when he went three mornings a week. And I don’t get time alone with Rosalie now, either.
But – and it is such a big but! – we just have a totally different boy in the house. The boy who was always there, underneath, but who got confused and influenced and tired and overstimulated and put in the world before he was ready. Therefore, the boy who was more aggressive, rebellious, hurtful, less kind to his family, bored all the time, unable to play with himself or others has gone.
Instead, we have a boy who is more kind, more loving, more open, willing to be corrected, less rebellious, more imaginative, more able to play by himself, enjoying more self-directed learning. So, like I said, transformed. We have our little boy back. 
Do I regret sending him to preschool? Yes and no. 
Yes, because I have changed my stance on early education and the only reason I have is because of the negative effect it has had on our son.
But no, because I believe God has had His hand on it all.

It’s helped me know my son more {he’s an INTROVERT, people!}.
It’s helped me know my convictions more.
It’s helped me trust God’s guidance more.
It’s helped me be more confident as a mother
It’s helped me be more confident in my husband’ judgement {why don’t I learn this quicker??}.
And it’s helped me see that homeschooling is probably going to be the best thing for our family.

God always knows what He’s doing and, when we make mistakes, if we bring them back to Him, He redeems them and glorfies Himself. I love it because mistakes then, are not ever mistakes at all. Just experiences that push us more into God’s will, and nothing can go wrong with Him.
Today, as I was contemplating it all and looking at planning some activities at home, I spent some time in my number one favourite book on motherhood: The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson {affiliate}. Whenever I’m feeling in need of some motherly advice for a mother, I turn to her. These words just lifted me up today:

“Simply throwing children into a cultural tornado and hoping for the best gives them little chance of living up to their potential or coming out unharmed. Someone needs to take responsibility for their nurture, protection, nourishment, intellectual development, manners, recreation, personal needs, and spiritual development. Someone needs to commit time and energy into staying close to them as they grow, encouragung and correcting and teaching…

Best of all, when a mother chooses to stay home, she has the time and opportunity to craft the kind of relationship with her young children that only extended time together can foster. And from such a relationship she has a much better chance of building a strong moral and spiritual foundation in the heart of her young children, teaching a system of truth and values without the constant challenge of authorities and peers whose lives are totally different.” p.43,48

This is me. Just me. From my heart for motherhood to our own experience. If you have a little one in preschool or school, and you just have something in your spirit telling you pulling them out might be a good idea – don’t ignore it. Seek the Lord, talk with your husband, pray and read His Word. There is great wisdom in keeping children home for as long as possible to prepare them to be with the “authorities and peers whose lives are totally different”. 

Have you experienced something similar with your own children? What do you think about Sally’s words?

You Can Slow Your Life {and your family will thank you for it.}

It’s Saturday night and we put our son to be at 5:55pm. I don’t think he has ever been to bed that early. But he was tired and burning up. His eyes were puffy with tiredness and when we said, ‘Early night tonight, buddy’, all he said was, ‘Yeth’. {Yes, he has a cute lisp.}

This week, despite ever being conscious of how we spend our days, has overtaxed our children. Compared to other families, it may have been a fairly normal week, but for us, it was busy. My kids don’t do well with busy. They tend to get a bit crazy and, at worst, come down sick with temperatures. Hence, a toastie of a little boy, in bed an hour before his normal bedtime.

And me? I don’t do well with busy either. Introverts with a tendency to be anxious go better with a slow life. So, when I make sure our life is stable and peaceful, it’s not just for the children – it’s for me, too. Happy mummy, happy campers.

Living a quiet and slow life is a passion of mine. But I’m not perfect at it. There are still weeks where we get out too much or there isn’t enough downtime at home. Sometimes it cannot be helped, but for the most part, it is possible to live a slow life.

Principles for Slowing Your Life Down
Keep family your main priority. When your family come first, it is much easier stripping the unnecessary away. Perhaps you’re like me {in Myers-Briggs, I’m an INFJ} and you love helping. If someone needs help, I will put my hand up. Or, when we commit to something, we really commit {and so go to the group even if it is the last thing we should be doing}. As a wife and mother now, I say no to everything that does not add to our family life. Even if it would add to my life but would cost someone else in the family, I say ‘no’. This may seem extreme, but this full-on motherhood thing is only for a season. I won’t always have this amazing opportunity to pour everything into my family. Oneday, I can do things for ‘me’. But right now, they are my priority.
Accept the different seasons. As mentioned above, there are many seasons in life, and each will mean saying ‘yes’ to some things and ‘no’ to others. We don’t need to feel guilty about this – it really is a fact of life. Limitations during different seasons are not meant to be constricting; they are perimetres for keeping the ebb and flow of daily life in check. Within those boundaries is great freedom and peace. Just like seasons of life, there are also the seasons of the year: we slow down in winter, and become more active in the warmer months. This is a natural timeline that God has made for our lives, but we have forgotten it in our modern life.

{Source}
Do what makes life a joy. ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ Reading books on the couch, cuddles close, kisses buried in golden curls, tickles with boisterous boy-giggles. This is pure joy and it is enjoying Him in the moment because His hand is all over it. Stuffing kids in cars, rushing here, stuck in traffic there, tempers rising, irritation. There is no joy there. And it isn’t what life is about. Walks in the park, make towers with blocks, reading good books, painting pictures, planting bulbs in winter soil for the spring. Glorifying Him and enjoying Him forever.
Keep your eyes wide open. Don’t just accept the status quo because that’s what everyone does. Just because busy is what our culture endorses doesn’t mean it’s good. Read our culture, read history, put everything into perspective. Don’t be afraid to be a little bit kooky. In the end, what other people think of us doesn’t matter – it’s Him we’re wanting to honour. Let us submit ourselves under His way of living for each of our own lives.

{Source}
There are other things to keep in mind, too:
  • re-evaluate when needed
  • keep Scriptures hidden in your heart to keep you focused on what is important for your family
  • be bold even when you feel nervous to be different
  • keep communicating with your husband and his dreams for your family
  • accept the busier moments in life {ie. Christmas} then return to slow as soon as possible
  • watch and listen to your child’s cues {they may not be able to articulate their need for more or less}

The blessings of a slow life are just enormous. And I don’t believe it is something you can regret. As mother’s, if we were constantly busy, we would look back and think: ‘I wish we had taken things more slowly; enjoyed the little years more; read more together; had more home days…’ But I don’t think, in living a slow life, we’ll look back and think, ‘I wish we had been busier.’
It’s never too late to start. It’s okay to quit clubs and extra life fluff to scale back. It may take awhile to adjust – your bodies will be used to going, driving, spending, hurrying. There will be urges you need to master. But a morning will dawn and your heart will think of the slow day ahead and be content. 
And, I promise, you will be a more patient, more enjoyable, more joy-filled wife and mother for it.

The Importance of Wild and Free Outdoor Play for Boys.

During my childhood, I had the best of both worlds: I grew up in the city until I was nine, then my parents decided it was time to make a life in the country, so we shifted to the seaside on a peninsula. And you know what? The countryside and I are like, the best of buds. I am so thankful my parents made that radical decision.
My brother {who was five} and I grew up with: the bush {though we thought it was a jungle}, sand to make castles on, streams to fortify and walk up, rocks to search for sea animals, shells to collect, horses to ride, sheep to chase, wharves to jump and fish off, small country schools to blossom in, and – in my opinion, just the best thing – the freedom to be children.
Now, as a mother living in the city, I see how much lack there is for children to just roam nature and climb trees and explore bushy areas. Plus, with a very active, rumbunctious and high-energy three-year-old boy, I see the vital importance of outdoor play for him. Of course, spending time outdoors is of vital importance for both girls and boys. But recently, in the study of my own little boy, I see a direct correlation between outdoor play and the whole-being of a boy.

Here are some of my current thoughts.

Boyhood Today

I really believe that we are in an era where boys – and much of what makes them boys – is squelched out of them. Their desire for rough and tumble; their need for deep male friendships; the way they learn as opposed to the way they are taught; their need to be heroes and warriors and rescuers; their desires to be leaders; their innate instinct to protect {gasp! yes, protect women}.

Boyhood today is not the boyhood of yesterday. Today, we have domesticated our little boys. And one massive area of boyhood that has been domesticated is the greatly needed realm of wild and free, unstructured outdoor play.

And this lack and decline isn’t just because we live in cities. There are many factors that have contributed:

  • Our children are in educational institutes from a very young age, corralled into areas with tens of other children, confined to playing with man-made play equipment. 
  • When the school day is over, boys are being put into constructive and defined extracurricular activities. 
  • We’re also terrified of them braking arms or hurting others and lawsuits from occurring. 
  • There are school games – like bull-rush in New Zealand – that are deemed too dangerous so are banned.
  • From a young age, we rely more and more on technology to entertain children {especially boys}.
  • We ply them with ready-made toys {and lots of them}.
In the last fifty years, but more from the late eighties, a boy’s childhood has become more and more confined, controlled, timed and planned out. Our culture’s view of boyhood has become more feminine. We have allowed fear to rule our parenting. So altogether, our boys are domesticated.

{v} domesticate: to tame

We have tamed our boys. But so much research is showing the need for children to be free, wild and outdoors. Having plenty of time to play, build, explore, imagine, role-play and just run around crazy outdoors has social, health, educational, and behavioural benefits.

Why Outdoors Is Needed

This study from England delves into the need children have to be outside, and a study by the American Medical Association quoted in a Guardian article showed that:
“Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the outdoors.”
If parents are worried that such unstructured play isn’t learning {because our culture is so obsessed with education and being succesful before children even reach puberty}, it is both obvious and proven scientifically that play is learning for the child.

“It is difficult to differentiate play from work in the child, as according to nature play simply is a child’s work – the work or exercise of body and mind required to prepare for coming life.” {source}

And that makes sense, doesn’t it? From birth, babies are continually learning. We don’t put them into classes to learn how to crawl, or walk, or feed themselves. They learn organically by playing, by experimenting, by trial and error. And as older children, that hasn’t changed. 
As a boy climbs a tree, or runs as fast as he can down a slope, or finds as many crab shells as he can to fill a bucket – this is all learning. And many boys learn through activity, building and breaking with their hands, digging trenches, dropping sticks from a tree hut, seeking out rabbit holes. Boys in that kind of environment learn quite differently to a boy in more domestic environments.

 “…it is obvious that outdoor play experiences contribute to children’s physical development, in particular to motor development. Less obvious is the learning that happens as children test their strength, externally and internally: how high can I climb? Why does my heart pound when I run? Am I brave enough to jump from this platform?” {source}

In the homeschooling sphere, the education philosophy of Charlotte Mason encourage nature study and outdoor pursuits, especially in the early years. Charlotte Mason said that children should be outside for many hours each day, in unstructured play, but with a parent observing for necessary help and habit training.

My Own Little Boy

As a mother, I have found all of the above to be true. I think though, more significantly, I have found changes in my son’s behaviour depending on how much time he has to be free outside.
Since bringing him home from kindergarten, Josiah has just blossomed. The attitude and behaviourial issues we were having with him have decreased greatly, and he is more gentle, more loving, more adventurous, more imaginative, and more helpful and kinder to his sister {and everyone!}. Aside from being home with his family more, I do believe this improvement has been because I have taken him out at least three times a week for walks in the buggy to spaces where he can just play.

In both pictures above, he is wearing his favourite costume: a hooded towel {his Batman cape}, his rocket socks and rocket boots. He loves zooming around the house as a superhero and he loves running here, there, and everywhere on our walks. He expends so much energy. He uses so much imagination. His mood elevates. His cheeks are flushed and his eyes are full of joy.

He is wild and free and living.
Though the kindergarten we had him at was great with an amazing outdoor space, there is just something very different about acres of land, park space, pathways in forest walks, creek beds and bushy hideaways. Though our city was devastated by earthquakes a number of years ago, where we live is now blossoming into green space because all the houses are gone. This is where I take the kids to roam free and it has just been the best of blessings.
If your son is struggling, is moody, emotionally up and down, more troublesome with you and siblings – try sending him outdoors. Take him several times a week to a place that is big and wide and green for him to run around in. If he’s absorbed in dropping stones down a drain, just let him. Don’t hurry him a long. Forget about the time, things that need to be done – just let him have space and live.
Your little boy needs to be a boy and it is your job as his mother to understand this and to provide opportunities for him to have that avenue of free exploration in God’s green earth.

How to Trust Your Instincts As A Mother

When we become mothers, we’re given a lot of advice. Momentous amounts of it. Some of it blessedly helpful, and some not so much. From family members, well-meaning grandmas at church to fellow mothers further along the parenting track. Everyone has something to say.

Oh, and the professionals. Did I forget to mention the doctors and teachers and psychologists who know exactly how to solve your parenting dilema?

I remember one of the contributing factors to the postnatal-anxiety I suffered through with my son was from listening to every single person and getting completely overwhelmed. One person said one thing, another said the opposite, and then the books – the books! So much information, but only one baby to implement it on.

In my less than three years experience as a mother, I can offer you the best piece of advice I have been given and which has steered me well:

Dear mother, you can trust your instincts and make good decisions for your family on your own.

Did I mention that you can do this without following the status quo or despite what professionals say?

As I stumble along this parenting path, I am learning to believe firmly that a mother and father know what is best for their family. I believe this because only you, the person God chose to nurture and raise His children,  know the characteristics, habits, weaknesses, strengths, idiosynchrasies of the people in your family.
The times in my mothering so far when I have felt most overwhelmed, stressed and emotional have been when I haven’t been trusting and doing what I know is good for my kids. I listen to everyone and get ridiculously lost. I go along paths of books and blogs and parents and — well, you get the picture. It isn’t helpful.
And many times, during this whole time of “searching” there is a feeling settled in my gut. I tentatively think I know where to go or what decision to make, but I don’t feel confident enough to do it. This is especially so when it is a different path to others and you struggle with being a people pleaser {just so me}.
If you’ve been following my blog recently, you’ll know that Tim and I have pulled our little boy out of kindergarten. It was a really difficult decision and I really needed some courage to make it. But boy, I am so grateful we did. Hopefully I’ll post an update soon, but let’s just say, being home has transformed our boy. It is a blessed relief.
So how can we trust our instincts and be confident making decisions?
1. Pray and seek the Word.
2. Discuss the in’s and out’s with your husband and seek his thoughts on the matter.
3. If more information/advice is needed, seek out one or two close mother-friends, preferably older and more experienced.
4. Pray more and seek the Word more.
And then, just do it. If everything is pointing one way, step out in faith and do it.

If you’re offered more advice or thoughts from others {or in books etc.}, you take what you hear with humility and a grain of salt; then you look at your children and you think, “What is best for them?”

Another instance in our parenting where we followed our gut was putting our babies on formula. We did it at different times with them both and for different reasons. But both times, it was pretty immediately clear that it was the right choice. Rosalie, for example, had a slight dairy intolerance and I wouldn’t have had a clue if we hadn’t followed our judgement.

This isn’t to say that we can’t be wrong. Oh my, we totally can be. But thankfully, our God is a God of grace and redemption, and, our children are very forgiving!

I do believe, however, that we have all we need for this parenting gig with prayer, our Bibles, wisdom from elders and conversations within marriage. 

So, mother, you can do this. You can make choices for your family even if they’re different, controversial or different between each child. Just trust God to show you the way as you seek Him. He really is listening and He really will direct your steps and give you wisdom.

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9 

“I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:7-8