• Family,  Family Relationships,  Watercolor

    Loving Unlovable Children

    I started a blog post about this early last week. It was almost finished, then I deleted it.

    Here’s the truth about loving your kids when they’re unlovable.

    It’s hard. It hurts. Sometimes there are lots of tears. Sometimes there’s anger at yourself-your kids. Love doesn’t come naturally. When do we ever want to hug the person who rolls their eyes at us? When do we ever want to chase after the heart of a person who consistently reminds us of our mistakes? Does it ever become easy to love your child when they throw that temper tantrum in the middle of Target?

    I’m not having a light conversation here, this is real stuff.

    The stuff of motherhood often makes us want to run to our bed and cry. Cry because we’re lost and we have no idea what we’re doing. How do you do this? How do you love them when you don’t even know if your doing this mom thing right?

    Well, I could give you a list of how-to’s to deal with them. In fact, my first draft was just that. It was a how to guide-but seriously, how can you write a how-to guide for every mother in the universe. We all have our stories. We’re inside our lives struggling through things like the terrible twos, depression, wondering if we’re enough- all while trying to raise these tiny humans.

    We have our stories. You have your story.

    Maybe you’re at the end. Maybe you don’t know what’s next. You read your story and feel hopeless because motherhood is hard. You’re wondering what in the world to do. How do you do this mom thing? How do you love these kids when they aren’t lovable? And even when they are lovable, how do you do it? How?

    As I write the question, I’m screaming it out in my soul. “God, write it on the sky!? Please, God I beg you. I can’t do this alone.”

    Then a quietness suddenly fills me, and I realize something.

    The inaudible voice says something like a whisper in my heart, he says, ” It’s impossible to know how to love your children unless you first experience God’s love for you.”

    Have you ever experienced God’s love? This isn’t a touchy feely kind of love. It’s the real thing. Tangible. Life-changing. Turn your world upside down kind of love.

    Recently, I’ve been reminded of his love.

    There’s this story in the Bible-it’s one of my favorites. It’s about a woman caught in adultery. Yeah, that’s right. She’s caught having sex. And she’s brought out in front of the people-the people who have been judging her for her whole life -and they all pick up their stones. They snarl at her. Look at her like she’s worth less than the dirt they’re standing on. Disgust. Loathing. Condemnation fills them. And there she is in the middle. Maybe she has a sheet wrapped around her body. She’s shaking. Her shame evident to the entire world.

    And the people look at Jesus and they ask him, “What are you going to do with this sinner?!”

    As if Jesus should be taking up his stone. But he bends down and randomly starts writing in the sand. The Bible doesn’t say what he wrote. But finally, Jesus looked up into the eyes of the people who surrounded this woman and said, “Let him that is without sin cast the first stone.”

    Can you imagine the woman? Her head down in shame afraid to look at anyone. But then suddenly she hears something drop to the ground. She glances carefully over to the sound and sees a rock. One by one, the stones fall to the ground and finally no one is left but Jesus. He is the only one who can throw the stone. But he didn’t.

    He doesn’t throw stones at you either.

    No, Mama, you aren’t perfect. And sometimes it feels like everyone is throwing stones at you. But take heart, the One who matters doesn’t throw the stone. He looks at you and says, “I forgive you. Now go and sin no more.” He forgives you. He loves you more completely than anyone else in the world.

    Instead of crying on your bed at night wondering what to do, go to the One who never throws stones.

    When you are in rapture over His love, you’ll be more ready to love your children.

    When you understand God’s love, you see your child’s hunger for sin as a longing to fill himself with something other than God. You’ll begin to see them as searching souls who desperately want to fill themselves up with emptiness.

    But here comes the most beautiful part of motherhood.

    Mama, you get to show your children how much God’s love has changed you.

    You get to tell them why you do right. You get to show them how beautiful it is to be forgiven and loved no matter what you do.

    So, Mama, if I could tell you how to love an unlovable child? This is what I’d say-

    Fall in love with Jesus everyday. We can’t do this without him. And no matter what your story is, He’ll lead you to love them just the way they need you to.

  • Bathroom,  Fixer Upper,  Watercolor

    Bathroom Remodel

    It’s finished. Sigh of relief. Fixer uppers are no walk in the park. But when we finally crossed the finish line for this project, a spark ignited somewhere in this “design soul” of mine. This fixer upper journey is more than remodeling a house-it’s telling a story about us. Our family. God’s goodness. The adventures-the hard and the easy-that shape us and make us grow. Houses are stories.

    Before

    This photo was taken before the wallpaper peeled off, the water stains set into the carpet, and those black tiles started falling off in the shower. It was bad. For as long as I live, I don’t think I’ll ever grasp what motivates a person to lay carpet in a bathroom. (Gag.)

    Before beginning the remodel, I knew I wanted a clean look with straight lines and neutral colors. My goal was mid-century, contemporary and a little boho. Ha. I wanted to accent the bathroom with some of the same rose pink that was in the bathroom when we moved into the home. Overall, I kept the same color scheme with a more contemporary look.

    After

    My main focus in the bathroom was the vanity. We have wood beams in our living room and I wanted the same wood color to run through out the entire house. This vanity was perfect because of it’s straight lines, added warmth, and the black quartz top. I wanted strong contrast between the vanity and the walls; this vanity added the pop I was looking for.

    For now, we’ve decided to leave the door in it’s raw color. It may change as we finish more of the house. But I love how the different color wood stains look together.

    So, that’s a wrap. Bathroom remodel is officially finished. I can’t believe it. For more of what the process looked like, head on over to the demolition blog post.

  • Family Relationships

    How I Taught My Tween Daughter About Sex

    Okay. Okay. Deep breath, you guys. The “sex talk” doesn’t have to be an awkward conversation. I promise. In fact, it can be the talk that draws you closer to your children. Say what? No really, it can. Here are a few things I did before I began teaching my tween daughter about sex.

    Build A Relationship

    Have you ever had someone give you advice without first showing that they care about you? Yeah, I have. It’s no fun. I rarely listen to someone who hasn’t first built a relationship with me. Before you ever talk to your tween about purity and sex, build a relationship with them. And never stop.

    Building a relationship with your child is crucial. Without a good relationship, your child won’t care what you teach them about anything-especially sex.

    I tell my children often, “You can talk to me about anything? Boys you like. What you’re feeling. What’s right or wrong in a certain situation. Anything at all-you never have to be afraid of asking me anything-even if you’ve done the wrong thing. I love you no matter what. Don’t ask your friends. I know more than your friends. You’re friends are learning just like you. So if you have questions, come and ask. I’m always here.”

    Be Approachable

    So many friends of mine have told me that their parents never taught them about sex. They just “figured” it out-whether from a porn magazine or a tv show. One friend even said that it wasn’t proper to talk about sex in their Christian home -so they didn’t talk about it. Ever.

    Being an approachable parent is important. I want my kids to come to me before they go to anyone else. I want to be their safe place. When they’re scared, I want them to share their fears with me. When they have a crush on a boy or girl, I want to know. When they have questions about sex, I want them to ask me. Be your child’s safe place.

    Set the Limits

    We talk openly about our body parts around here-long before having “the sex talk”. I have two girls and two boys, so words like boobs, period, and penis are used out loud. I don’t shy away from using the correct terms for the correct body parts. I treat the subjects respectfully, teaching them boundaries. The home is a place you should be able to talk about anything. But the home is the limit. Just because you say those words at home doesn’t mean you should say them else where. Our children shouting the word PENIS in the grocery store aisle is something we want to avoid. I also let my children know that they shouldn’t teach their friends about these specific things. We leave that stuff for moms and dads because it’s their job to teach their kids.

    Evaluate Yourself

    So before teaching your daughter about sex, ask yourself what kind of relationship you have with her? Does she know you are a safe place? Does she know you love her? Do you show it? Are you approachable? Are you making her aware of the correct terms for her body? This isn’t about sex yet-it’s about educating. Assume your children doesn’t know these things. Tell them. Also, remind them every day you love them, and be open about telling them about their body.

    Notice Your Daughter

    While your kids grow, there will come a point when it’s time for the “sex talk.” I think this time is different for every child. Some kids mature faster than others. But as a parent, it’s our job to notice when that time is here. Maybe it’s when your daughter hears something at school that you wish she didn’t hear. Maybe it’s when you notice her body is changing, and she’s starting to talk about boys. Either way, it’s our job to look for the signs. Ask God for wisdom to know when to approach your child. We have to be aware of what’s happening in their lives. And we need to do it intentionally.

    I recently noticed that time was here for my daughter. I’m going to be honest here-at first I was terrified. But I faked it. Ha. Yes, I faked it. I asked for advice. I prayed. I made mistakes along the way, and I prayed some more. Ha! A lot of the time, I wondered if I was doing it right.

    Talk to Your Daughter

    Then a woman, who has grown children, shared a book with me, Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman’s Battle. This was the book I used as a guide to have conversations with my daughter. We went through it slowly-we haven’t finished it yet. The book is written in two parts. The first part is directed toward the parent, and the second part is directed toward the child. What I love most about the book is that it mentions important topics like the body changing, sex, molestation, pornography, modesty, and homosexuality. Some of these topics may need you as the parent to give more of an explanation. If your child is anything like mine, sometimes it takes more than one conversation for them to comprehend what your teaching them.

    Books

    Ask Your Daughter Questions

    As I was teaching my daughter, we’d stop often. I’d ask her questions like, “What do you think about that?” “Explain sex in your own words.” “What does God’s Word say about modesty?” “Why do we want to be pure?”

    I tried my best to address her heart. We, as parents, can give a list of rules to our children; but rules often fail to reach the heart. I long to see my children desire to live a pure life because they’ve experienced the Lord Jesus working in their lives. I don’t what them to do it because I said so. I want them to do it because Jesus is crazy in love with them.

    Chase your child’s heart. Love them like Jesus has loved you. Unconditionally. With abandon. Relentlessly pursue them.

    No one ever told me chasing my child’s heart meant choosing bravery over timidity. But it does. I asked my daughter recently, “Did you ever feel awkward talking about sex and all that stuff?” Her answer: “No, I love talking to you.”

    You never know the difference you make as a mom. I know I didn’t.


  • Personal

    Reading God’s Word: What do I do?

    Lately, I’ve been in a dry season. I don’t feel like reading God’s Word. The holidays blurred by in a whirlwind frenzy. In all the chaos, I’ve been missing my daily time with the Lord; I’m being honest here, I have no desire for it.

    But someone once told me that the more you do something, the more you’ll love it. I’m not sure if that goes for everything. I can’t imagine ever loving beets or oysters. But I have found it true when I read God’s Word. The more I read it, the more I want to read it. The hardest part is beginning.

    So I thought I’d share what my personal time with the Lord looks like. Maybe like me, you need to start spending time with God again. Or maybe you’ve never had a quiet time with God before, but you want to start. Either way, I hope this encourages you to spend time with the Lord everyday. But where do you begin? What tools do you use to spend time with the Lord? What does a quiet time with God look like?

    The Tools You Need

    These are the tools I use in my daily time with God: 1. A journal. 2. The Blue Letter Bible App 3. A commentary 4. The Bible. The Blue Letter Bible App and commentary are optional. You don’t have to have them to spend time with the Lord.

    The Process You Use

    To help me know what to do when I spend time with God, I use the acrostic SOAP. Each letter stands for a step you do in your time alone with the Lord.

    The S is for Scripture

    If you have never had a daily time with the Lord, there are a few books of the Bible I recommend. Any of the gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John are great places to begin. These books give you a description of Jesus and how he lived. Another book I recommend for the beginner is I John. It’s a short book that explains what a believer’s life looks like.

    Now that you’ve chosen what to read, it’s time to open up your journal. Write the Word SCRIPTURE near the top of your journal page. Pretty simple ;-). I suggest reading about 10-15 verses. As you read, look for ideas in scripture that grab your heart. Whether it’s encouraging or convicting, write the verse that speaks to your heart under the word SCRIPTURE in your journal.

    The O is for Observation

    The letter O is for Observation. Under the SCRIPTURE portion in your journal, you are now going to write OBSERVATION. This is the time you “observe.” Some questions to ask yourself in this step are: Who is the author of the book? Who is the book written to? When this scripture was written, what was going on in history? What is the scripture about? What do certain words mean?

    A commentary can be useful in answering these questions. A commentary is a book that explains the Bible. I use the Wiersbe Bible Commentary. But remember that commentaries are not the inspired Word of God. You don’t need a commentary to have quiet time with the Lord. Although I have found that it can be helpful to understand scripture.

    Another tool you can use to answer your questions during Observation is the The Blue Letter Bible App. I recommend you download the app to your phone, and explore the features. I use this app solely for defining words in scripture that I don’t understand.

    The A is for Application

    The letter A is for Application. Go ahead and write the word APPLICATION underneath the OBSERVATION portion in your journal. Now you apply what you’ve learned from Scripture to your own personal life. How do you need to change because of what you’ve read? What specific area of your life needs to change and why? Make sure to write it down.

    The P is for Prayer

    Finally, the letter P is for Prayer. Write the word PRAYER underneath the APPLICATION portion in your journal. Write what’s on your heart. But keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be a long prayer. Your heart’s motives are most important. Adore him for who he is. Confess to him your sin. Be genuine. Thank him for all he’s done. And ask for him for anything. Write it down.

    Encouragement for the Road

    Spending time with God doesn’t have to be elaborate or fancy. Jesus wants your heart. The real you. Go to him as you are, and he’ll change you into the person you are meant to be. Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Growing in Christ is a journey that doesn’t happen in a day.

  • Photography

    Cameras: Which One Should I Buy?

    Around Christmas time, people come to me wondering what camera they should buy? Before telling them what I recommend, I always ask them why they want a camera. Usually people will answer in a few different ways: “I want to take pictures of my kids.” “I want to take pictures of the places I travel to.” “I want to pursue professional photography.”

    Based on their answer, I give them my recommendation. The question I’m going to answer is, “What kind of camera should I buy if I want to take pictures of my kids?”

    Watercolor

    The Camera Body

    My first camera was a Canon Rebel. It was nothing super fancy, but it was all I needed. Before getting into photography, my main goal was to take great pictures of my kids. I wanted to preserve our heritage through photography. I wanted to capture memories. My personal experience with the Canon Rebel won me over completely. I learned how the camera worked, and how to shoot in manual mode. I learned to love photography. Funny thing is that almost 10 years later, I still have it. I gave it to my daughter to learn photography. In all that time, it has never let me down. That’s why I’ll always recommend a Canon Rebel camera.  It’s easy to use and not too overwhelming to learn. But this is only the body.  I prefer to choose my own lens.

    The Lens

    Different lenses are used for different reasons.  That is an entirely different blog post for a different time. But since we’re talking about portraits of kids, my go-to lens is this fixed lens. It’s important to know what a fixed lens is. A fixed lens doesn’t have the ability to zoom.  You have to use your feet.  Some people aren’t interested in a lens that has no zoom.  It’s a preference.  But I think the inconvenience of having no zoom is worth it when you look at the image. Also, the more you practice using a fixed lens the more you get used to moving around instead using zoom.

    In closing, I’d encourage you to remember why you want to buy a camera. The one you choose has everything to do with what you want to photograph. Keep that in mind when you go shopping. And have fun!! Buying a new camera is so exciting! Let me know what you bought in the comments below! Also if you just bought a camera, go and check out this blog post about posing children.

  • Bathroom,  Fixer Upper

    Fixer Upper Bathroom

    The Temporary Shower

    The bathroom demo has begun. It’s only 3 days until Christmas. I hesitated starting the demo over the holidays. Since we only have one shower, we had to improvise and make a temporary shower in the basement. This shower is primitive. Some of you will wonder if I’ve gone completely crazy. But I’ve learned through this fixer upper journey to be flexible and willing to do things most people wouldn’t do.

    Temporary Shower

    This 1956 mid century bathroom was exactly the same as when it was built. The pink tiles, floral wall paper, and the pink fixtures reminded me of what it may be like to travel through time. And while I love some design elements of the 50’s, I’m glad to say goodbye to the pink toilet and bathtub.

    1956 mid century bathroom

    The Demolition

    In the bathroom, we had to take the walls and ceiling down to the studs. We removed the floor because of water damage. The toilet had been leaking through the bathroom floor to the garage ceiling below it. Yes, it was disgusting. EWW! We are replacing the floor in the bathroom, but because of the leak, we’ll also be replacing the basement ceiling in the future.

    Bathroom Demolition

    When we started this demo, we knew that the bathroom would be one of our biggest obstacles in our fixer upper journey. We decided to hire out a lot of the work because of time and our limited knowledge of plumbing. We hired out the demo, the installation of the fixtures, and all the tile work. I’m going to do the painting, and Josh is doing the electrical. As I sit here typing, someone is working in the bathroom. You can imagine the smile on my face. I’d rather be typing than in that bathroom. Ha!

    Shower Space Bathroom Demo
    Toilet Space Fixer Upper Bathroom
    Vanity Space Fixer Upper Bathroom

    The Design

    For the new design of the bathroom, my goal is to make sure it compliments the rest of the house. Throughout the house there is wood texture and color, a mixture of different metals, and white walls (I love white walls!). I’m aiming for mixture of mid century modern with a little bit of boho. I’m excited to see what it will look like! We are hoping to be finished with the entire bathroom in about a month and half. We’ll see how it goes.

  • Personal,  Watercolor

    That Road To Bitterness

    Bitterness Road inevitably comes our way at some point in life.  This week, I found the road right outside my door.  Have you ever been there?  That place where someone is trying to help, but in reality they’re hurting your heart.  And all the while you’re listening to them, you’re screaming inside, “Lord, why are they doing this?  I thought this person was my friend.” Gradually, I found myself looking ahead and seeing that road to bitterness. The invitation rang with clarity.

    Then for the rest of the week I re-played the scene over and over in my mind.  Ideas of what I should have said came to mind.  Why couldn’t I have thought of that when I was there in the moment?  Why did they judge me like this?  They don’t know my story.  They don’t really know me.  Over and over I rested my mind on the past. I lived there instead of moving on and resting my mind on Jesus.

    But this is what I found in God’s Word:

    My identity isn’t found in what others think about me; my identity is in Jesus Christ alone.
    I was not made to be a people-pleaser, I was made to please God.
    Some people won’t understand me.  It isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It just is.

    The more I thought on these truths, the less frustrated I felt.  The grudge I wanted to hold onto died.  The anger dwindled to nothing.  I stopped replaying the scene over and over in my mind.  You see, what other people think-it’s a small thing.  God’s truth is bigger. When I looked at my circumstances through the filter of Scripture, my heart changed. Bitterness Road disappeared.

    God’s Word really does set us free.

     

     

  • Photography,  Writing Challenge

    A Writing Challenge

    A Writing Challenge

    I love to write.  It makes me feel alive.  There’s a freedom in writing that I can’t explain.  It’s like abandon happens.  I throw everyone’s opinions to the way side.  My thoughts come barreling to my mind and I write non-stop.

    I’ve heard over and over that in order to be a great writer you need to do 2 things:  you need to read good books, and you need to write everyday. I love reading good books.  My favorite of all is by CS LEWIS, The Chronicles of Narnia.  If I could pick a hero author, it would be him, hands down.

    But writing. (sigh).  Well, I’m a homeschool mom who cleans the house and makes dinner, all while making sure my kids don’t die-that right there is like a full time job. Oh, and also we’re living in a fixer upper.  But being a mom is the best job in the world.  There’s no place I’d rather be. I say that because it didn’t used to be true.  In my “young mama” days, I was stupid and immature-wanting my own dreams more than anything. I think that’s why I didn’t write-because of my own selfishness.

    But now it’s time write.

    The Writing Challenge Book

    I purchased a book with 300 writing prompts.  I’m going to write as often as I can.

    So here it goes:

    Writing Prompt Number One: What is your favorite way to spend a lazy day?

    Lazy days.  They begin slowly.  The kids are still asleep, the house is just beginning to come alive with sunlight.  Streaks of it stretch along the floor; shadows vividly reveal themselves on the walls.  Stillness. Coffee.  Silent conversations with Jesus fill my head as I sip my coffee and let my gaze drift out the big picture window.  Gradually, the kids stir in their beds.  I hear them stretch, turning over every now and then.  And I wait, coffee in hand to see their sleepy faces and bed heads enter the room.  Gradually, they come.  Lots of cuddles.  A bit of morning chatter-but still quiet.  Bowls of cereal.  Lots of crunching at the long wooden kitchen table. The chatting starts to increase and the sleepy voices disappear.  They place their bowls in the sink-one drops his bowl in the sink crashing away the stillness. They slip on their flip flops and go romp in the dirt.  And I watch them all day, enjoying their happiness and God’s incredible goodness.  Lazy days are best spent at home with my family.  There is no other place I’d rather be.

  • Homeschool

    Homework Debate: To Assign or Not To Assign

    The Homework Debate Photography

    The Dreaded Debate:  To Assign Homework or Not to Assign Homework.

    If you’re like me, then you are familiar with spending hours doing homework after school while you grew up.  It was considered normal.  But I don’t think there is anything normal about it.  Many people say homework teaches responsibility and it reinforces class content.  While that may be true to an extent,I don’t think teachers need to assign homework to guarantee the success of the student.

    Why cut out homework?

    Homework is frustrating.  It’s not only frustrating for the student, it can also be frustrating for the parent.  I can’t count how many times I became a slave to a homeschool curriculum.  My mind was set- the homework would get done no matter the cost.  Even if it took my child an hour to do one assignment, I would make my daughter sit at the table until the work was finished. At the time, I believed I was being a good parent. But now, as I remember those battles, I cringe. I remember her tears of frustration. I cried lots of tears myself.  All of this taught me that learning should not be a drudgery; if it is, then why would my child want to learn at all?  Why give homework if it discourages them from learning?

    Homework also limits playtime for the child.  Children learn from the world around them.  While they climb trees, have picnics, dig in the mud, or search for roly polys, they are learning.  They are soaking in an education with their imagination.  Grown-ups are so stuck up when it comes to imagination.  Don’t you remember how you learned when you played?  You thought about the bark on the tree, right-it’s color and texture?  And while you had that picnic, you watched the clouds and noticed all the different kinds that God painted in the sky.  When you played in the mud you noticed that some of the bugs drowned while others didn’t.  The roly polys!  How incredible they are to protect themselves by rolling into tiny balls. Why can’t we grown ups see that children learn while they play?

    The Homework Debat Photograph

    But what should the teacher do if she doesn’t assign homework?

    Replace homework with narration.  Narration is the child saying out loud what he knows.  It’s a re-telling (it can also be written) of the reading from a living book. But it doesn’t have to be from a book.  Narration can be applied to everything a student learns. For example, your student can teach you step by step how to solve a math problem.  After reading a book, your student can tell the story from beginning to end.  After learning the anatomy of a cell, they can draw a picture and describe to you how the cell works. Not only does narration give them an opportunity to share what they have learned, it also gives them a chance to share what they think about it.  (Shocked!?) Why not let them share what they love or dislike about what they have learned!? Set them on fire with a hunger to learn by giving them the freedom to express their opinions (respectfully;-))!  And as they learn, point them to the wonder of their Savior. Narration gives them the chance to tell about what they have learned and what they loved about it.

    The benefits of narration are numerous. Narration teaches responsibility.  The student listens with urgency so they are able to tell back the lesson to the teacher. Narration also encourages the student to communicate his thoughts in an effective manner.  As the student recalls the lesson back to the teacher, the content becomes cemented in his mind.

    A few thoughts before you go…

    The child’s heart is the most important priority.  We can teach our children facts and give them knowledge, but teaching them how to follow after the heart of Christ is the ultimate goal.  A child following after God’s heart will grow in his desire to please Christ in the mundane tasks-even if those tasks happen to be homework.  So whether you agree or disagree with a no homework policy, don’t forget that our eyes ought always to be set on Jesus Christ. How does he want us to teach our children?  Are we chasing after the heart of Christ?  If we, as parents and educators, are not chasing his heart, why would our children want to?