How to Turn “Turkey Day” Back Into “Thanksgiving”

The 12 Days of Thanksgiving printable

 

As a holiday, Thanksgiving seems to become less and less visible each year. Between the marketing that focuses completely on The Food, and getting smashed in the middle of Christmas and what-has-now-become-the-Halloween-season, Thanksgiving has, by default, really just become the front runner for Black Friday.

We could argue about who is to blame for this, but rather than waste our time wading into that negativity, we can instead just choose to be more intentional about how and why we celebrate on that day.

On that note, I have something special to share with you today, that is dear to my heart. It’s a Thanksgiving tradition my family started, several years back, and which my husband and I will be continuing in our own household. This year, we’re getting to enjoy sharing it with both sides of our family…and with you, if you so choose!

We call it The 12 Days of Thanksgiving. Beginning 12 days prior to the holiday (or 13, if you like a buffer day, like me), we begin a list of things for which we are grateful.

On Day 1, we list 1 item.

On Day 2, we write down 2.

Day 3, 3 things.

Etc.The 12 Days of Thanksgiving + printable

By the time we hit Day 12, and have written down 12 things, we each have a whopping 78 items for which we are thankful! There are big things, little things, sweet-memories-kinds-of-things. Then, the really fun part – reading them out loud together as a family. We generally share our lists after Thanksgiving Dinner, and let me tell you, this has become the highlight of our Thanksgiving Day.

I LOVE this tradition, for several reasons. It brings a spirit of thankfulness to the forefront of our celebration, not only on Thanksgiving Day, but for nearly two weeks prior to the actual holiday itself. In order to amass a list  of 78 distinct items that conjure up gratitude in your heart, you have to go beyond the typical family, friends, and food list. You have to truly spend some time thinking about all the abundance in your life. And, that will humble you, as well as multiply the gratitude. It turns Thanksgiving into more than a day – it becomes a season, and one which, hopefully, becomes a habit.

Making these lists adds a real depth and richness to our holiday – instead of just feasting and then falling into the Black Friday ads, we get to truly take some time to pause, and be intentionally grateful. As we read our lists out loud to each other, it brings to mind dozens of events, people, and blessings that we have known, and reveals to us just how much we really have. It’s a literal recap of God’s goodness throughout the year.

 

Now maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “You know, it sounds like a good idea, but it’s just not for us. We’ll all be at Aunt Stacie’s, all day on Thanksgiving, and there will be 25 people there…it’s crazy, and it’s just not going to work.” This tradition is flexible! For instance, if you have a very large group and don’t exactly have a full six hours to spend reading lists together, then you can simplify – each person can choose just 12 things to read aloud. Or ten, or twenty. Whatever! Make it your own, and make it work for your situation.

And, even if you don’t feel that sharing your list with others is a possibility, I absolutely encourage you to do it on your own, just for you. Just because you’re not going to read your thankfulness list aloud with a group does not mean you can’t keep one! In fact, that’s how this tradition was spawned in the first place…by keeping a personal gratitude journal. One of the beautiful aspects of a project like this is that you will have a physical, written record…something you can go back to, throughout the coming year, and read through. It will probably be impossible to NOT be encouraged.

The 12 Days of Thanksgiving printable

 

I usually use one of many notebooks around my home to record my list. BUT, if you prefer dedicated space, I have created a FREE printable for you to use! It has each a space for each day, plus the right number of lines for that day’s gratitude list. Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy! Now you won’t get lost wondering how many you’ve already written, and how many you’re supposed to do today…and, oh yeah, what day AM I on? {Happens often in a traditional notebook…ask me how I know….} Aaaaand, it’s undated. Meaning, you can use it Every. Single. Year. No adjustments needed. Enter your info below to grab it!

The 12 Days of Thanksgiving printable

 

Prayer Basics – Where I’m starting and What I’m Learning

abc written on chalkboard

abc written on chalkboard

For a long time, now, I’ve still felt that there was something I was missing, something I needed to learn and understand about prayer. Technically, I guess, we’re supposed to be learning about it all our lives…but I’ve felt like I really needed to step back and make sure I was understanding the basics.

Now, there have been reams written on prayer, and by people who have studied it way more than me. So if this stuff is simplistic and kind of, “well, yeah, DUH,” then bear with me. {I could be rude and say, “Well go get yo’self a book on it, then, and stop wasting your time here!” But that would be rude. So I’ll be polite, and just invite you to “bear with me.”} I’m tired of complicating the Christian life, and I’m good and ready for simple and real, and that’s what we’re dishing up.

I heard a lot of preaching and teaching as I was growing up that really made me feel like I had to be some kind of super-Christian in order to have a decent “prayer life.” I’d hear about these graying old men and how they “prayed through.” I’d hear about all night prayer meetings. I’d buy {and never get around to reading} books about prayer. And always feel like Prayer was some huge class I had to take and graduate from, before it could be real in my own life. I know that these feelings don’t necessarily reflect reality, because we’re supposed to pray, and God doesn’t ask us to do what He’s not able to do through us.

 

Near the beginning of the year, I really felt like I should begin my own investigation into prayer. No commentaries, no books, no studies. Just me, my Bible, a concordance, and the Holy Spirit.

But I didn’t do it. I think I tried to start, by just reading through the New Testament and looking for what Jesus says about prayer. But I got sidetracked into the stories, and just read, without actually going deeper, except in maybe the “Our Father, which art in Heaven…” passage.

Probably about that time, or a little after, a man came to visit our church on a Wednesday night. He explained that he and his family were preparing to go live in Argentina, as missionaries. It’s not something they had ever planned to do, but God had made it clear that that’s where they were supposed to go. How did they know? He said he’d prayed about it, and knew he and his wife needed to be in agreement on the subject. He asked his wife to pray about leaving everything and going to Argentina. “I trust my wife’s prayer life,” he’d said. I really started squirming. Could my husband just come to me with a huge, life-changing question, ask me to pray about it, and totally feel confident that I’d get an answer? I haven’t asked him, but I don’t feel like he could.

That incident stuck in my mind, and wouldn’t leave. During our church’s missions conference, we had one of the visiting families over for supper. Throughout the course of the evening, I suddenly realized that this was the family of the guy who’d come during the summer, the one who had mentioned his wife’s prayer life. So, I was kind of in awe inside, you know, like, “Wow, this wife really has her act together–God told her to be on board with going to Argentina, and they’re going, and they’re sure, and–wow.”

And then, I got to chat with her myself. We talked about marriage, and all the changes it brings to your life, and then she told me about having a “dry spell” in her relationship with God several years earlier. She was feeling overwhelmed and struggling to get a quiet time alone with God. Then, she said, she’d done her own study on prayer…and that’s when things had changed.

And I suddenly put two and two together and realized this lady, whose husband’s trust in her prayer life was enabling them to take a tremendous, life-changing step of faith, had struggled with prayer herself. She was a normal person! Imagine…

Yeah, imagine. If another normal-wife-who-struggles-to-get-her-quiet-time-in can get answers on The Big Stuff in life…then I don’t have any excuses, anymore.

 

So, the following week, I sat down with my Bible, journal, and my concordance, and looked up “pray.” The next 30 minutes were pretty eye-opening. Just by reading through and cross-referencing the definitions–not the verses, the definitions–, I felt overwhelmed by what I had learned.

The words translated “pray” mean to want, to beseech, to ask, to interrogate, to wish for, to desire, to solicit, to entreat, to make request; “prayer” means a beseeching, a supplication, an intercession, a wish, a pouring out. {And, that’s just the New Testament.}

Basically, praying is begging.

 

I heard a fantastic sermon on this once, and the main point was that prayer IS, at its core essence, ASKING. Praising the Lord, and simply chatting with Him, while necessary facets of our relationship with him, are not actually praying, in the purest sense. 

So I did some thinkin’ on that one. Begging requires humility. This may be why I find it difficult to truly pray when I’m mad. You shouldn’t ask with an attitude and expect to get something. Having a humble spirit is really the only way to start.

Asking, begging, praying, calls for a heart that is looking for its expectation from another Source. Asking, begging, praying, means that I can’t make it happen on my own…I’m totally dependent on the One to Whom I’m bringing my request. If I’m feeling self-sufficient, I’m not going to ask.

This gets even easier to grasp when looked at through the lens of the Parent-Child relationship. God is our Father, and we are “little children,” as John was so fond of reminding us. Spend some time around kids, and you learn rather quickly that most of them are indeed askers. “I’m hungry. Can we eat?” “Ow, I got a boo-boo! Can I have a band-aid?” “Can we stay longer? Please?!” And they’re not ashamed of it. They know who’s got the power to make it happen. They know where to go to get what they want. And, they know that they are entitled to ask, because of their relationship with the parent.

I went back and read those definitions again. “Want. Beseech. Ask. Interrogate. Wish for. Desire. Solicit. Entreat. Make request. Supplication. Intercession. Pouring out.”

And something else leaped out at me. Praying requires caring. Deep down, for real caring. Halfheartedness is not part of the equation.

So really…if you don’t care, don’t pray about it.

Now, I really must caveat the above statement with this: I have personally found that at times choosing to pray for a person that I did not know, or for whose need I had no natural empathy, created empathy and compassion in my heart. Not sure I have a verse with which to back that up, but I think there probably is one. And, truly, caring is a choice, not an emotion. What’s more, we are commanded to pray, over and over {Matthew 6:9, 21:22; Mark 13:33; Luke 10:2; Romans 12:12; Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2; etc.} So, maybe a better way to state it would be, “Don’t pray without choosing to care.”

 

So I came away with that short investigative session with a very full mind and heart, and an honest excitement. I felt like I was getting the simple, yet profound truths about prayer, straight from the Word myself. And it was just the beginning! The passage from Proverbs 2 about seeking wisdom like it’s a hunt for buried treasure comes to mind.

I’m planning to continue this study in the weeks ahead, and I plan to write about it, here. {There, I’ve just provided myself with some good old-fashioned accountability to actually keep going.} Let me know in the comments if you have any specific topics regarding prayer that would be an interesting study!

 

9 Things I Love About My Little Home

little house with green door

little house with green door

Our little family has lived in a little travel trailer for just over a year now. Our accommodations consist of a bedroom–approximately big enough for a bed, though being able to walk around its perimeter is a test in balancing skills–a bathroom, and a combination kitchen-dining-nursery-living room, all in about 300 square feet. It’s been both challenging and educational. For a long while now, I’ve been contemplating writing up a list of things that I have enjoyed about our tiny turf, and now I’m finally getting around to it. It’s good for me to find specific ways to be thankful for the less-than-ideal parts of life, you know? Plus, perhaps it would encourage others of you who reside in small dwellings to join me in counting the blessings.

So, here are 9 things, some big, some little, that I feel privileged to experience by living in our little home.

  • Ease of quick heating & cooling 

When we wake up in the morning, and things feel a bit chilly, it takes just a wee bit o’ time to warm the rooms up! On the flip side, during the brutal Georgia summer heat, even after the trailer had been sitting in the blazing sun all day with no air running, we could make things comfortable with just 20 or 30 minutes of cooling. Very convenient!

  • Everything in arm’s reach

Speaking of convenience, this is one thing I think I’ll miss a bit when we move. I really don’t have to take more than 2.7 seconds to get something from ANY corner of our abode. And while cooking, things are soooo easy to grab. Makes whipping up breakfast and supper very streamlined. I won’t lie and say easy, because there is that finding-enough-counter-space-to-do-it-all part, but still, I really enjoy having my pantry, fridge, pots, and sink all in such close proximity to one another.

  • Speedy housecleaning

Not much needs to be said, here. With less space, and everything so close together, vacuuming floors and cleaning the bathroom doesn’t take long at all!

  • Paring down on purchasing

I have had to be extremely choosy about what I bring into the house, be it from a favorite thrift shop, or my parents’ garage–where 90% of all my wedding gifts currently reside in boxes. {Seriously, getting to upsize is going to be like Christmas, times twenty!!} Smaller living space means I can’t just have tons of cute stuff hanging around everywhere, and so I have said ‘no’ to many items, and gone without. But the good news is I have had to really nail down my own personal style by being so deliberate. A few things here and there that I consider beautiful and meaningful, and that’s it. It’s made me more appreciative of household beauty in general, I think.    

Right alongside household decor, it’s been necessary to be particular about clothing, kitchen wares, toys for the Jungle Boy, even food. And, I don’t consider any of that a bad thing at all! It’s been great to actually consider carefully what is truly necessary, and what is simply a convenience.

  • Being forced to deal with clutter on a daily basis

If I go a single day without doing a “swoop” {my term for a quick tidy-up}…you can tell. In fact, if I go two days, or even just leave a project unfinished, I begin to find it difficult to breathe. Literally! I have learned that clutter is a real point of stress for me, and being surrounded by unmanaged clutter makes me feel cranky, irritable, and a little like I’m suffocating. So, I take the time to sort through mail and paperwork, tossing all I can, and putting it in a designated “to-file” space. I keep the clothes where they belong, whether it’s in the laundry basket, hung up, or in the drawer. I make the time to get the dishes washed and the counters cleared. It keeps me sane.

This sometimes seems like extra work, but in reality it would still have to be done…I’m actually just being more proactive about it. And, I’ve found, this makes life easier in the long run. We house-sat for my parents recently, and I realized just how difficult extra space can actually be, when I was packing up to come back to our camper. It took me several hours to collect all the things we had spread around the house! I had not kept our belongings very organized…because I had not HAD to. Small space requires organization to survive {for me, at least}, and this a good thing.   

  • Less attachment to material things

I hope that this is true–I suppose time will tell. But going without certain things, as I mentioned above, has somewhat lessened my grasp on possessions. I’ve really seen how much we miss when we get stuck focusing on All The Stuff, and it has made me want to not get caught in that trap in the future.

  • More creativity

Because I don’t always have everything I’m used to using for housework, cooking, organization, etc., I’ve gotten a bit creative at times with what I use to get a job done. At one point, I was storing our fruit in a crock pot that we weren’t using. We don’t watch TV, so the big flat screen built into one of the cabinets became my bulletin board, where I taped up cards and calendars. At times, my kitchen counter has looked like a giant game of Jenga, as I strategically placed cooking items in precarious positions, so I could move on to the next step of the recipe. {By the way, when you run out of room on the counter, did you realize that the floor can easily provide extra space for ingredients, mixing bowls, etc.? Novel idea, right?} It gets pretty fun, at times, as I play a game of beat-the-box-mentality. For some people, this is just second-nature; they do it all the time! But for us type-A, boxy people, it’s a challenge, and it’s good for us.

  • Appreciation for how people around the world live

I’ve traveled to two different third-world countries, and seen the lifestyles of the general population there. It has made me pause, at times, when a complaint about my living space was on the tip of my tongue. Living in 300 square feet with only three people isn’t all that difficult for most of the globe, actually. {Hint: they go outside a lot more than we do!} Camper life has reminded me of these nations, and it is a good taste of what millions the world over experience daily space-wise. I still have much, much more wealth and convenience than most do, and I have been able to be a lot more thankful when reflecting on this.

African children in front of mudblock house

In addition, it’s very typical in other countries for whole families to live in space not much larger than ours. This chart illustrates that. And it’s not just third world countries, either. On average, families in the U.K., China, Sweden, Italy, and Russia all live in under 1,000 square feet of space.

  • Preparation for the future

When my husband and I got married, we were planning and preparing to be missionaries to pioneer fields. The immediate plans changed, but we still have hopes that that may be God’s intention for us in the future…and maybe this year of living in a travel trailer has some part to play in that plan. I guess we’ll see!

In addition, learning to live with less, to think outside the box, and to value everything that we’ve been blessed with now, can’t hurt no matter WHAT lies in store!

 

Do you have a small-ish home? What are some ways you enjoy getting creative in your little house? Things you are thankful for? Share them below!

Marriage Humor: When Cracking Jokes Becomes Waving Weapons

woman pointing gun marriage jokes

woman pointing gun

I hate “married people jokes.” You know, those ones that go like, “Men, the right answer is always ‘Yes, dear,’ ” or “Marriage is the only war where you sleep with the enemy.”

When my husband and I were engaged, I remember occasionally hearing one of those silly jokes and despising the words from the bottom of my heart. I wanted to be with my man so badly, and here were all these other couples, totally taking their relationship for granted! It felt like a slap in the face.

But you know what? I have recently caught myself either on the verge of letting one of these wisecracks cross my lips, or even worse, tossing one out. How did this happen?

It’s simple. In that moment, I’m taking my relationship for granted.

Now, why is this a big deal? It’s because although there is definitely humor in marriage, most of these kinds of jokes seem to be aimed at the relationship itself. These supposedly harmless one-liners seem to spring from discontented hearts, or an attitude of giving up on understanding one’s spouse. Instead of seeking to appreciate each other’s differences or become better at understanding how the other thinks, these words subconsciously condition us to believe that there’s no hope in ever making heads or tails of our spouse’s mental processes.

All this is just another insidious tactic of the daily, silent spiritual warfare we’re in. It’s a powerful, subtle assault on the oneness and unity of a husband and wife. If Satan can convince us that any part of our marriage is “hopeless,” then he has an edge, a foot in the door, no matter how small. He will take that leverage and use it against you to grow hopelessness in any other part of your marriage that he can. {And if you think this kind of thing is blown way out of proportion…you may have already fallen prey to blindness.}

Often, these “innocent jokes” take a swing at Biblical masculinity {my husband wrote a fantastic piece on this recently}, or the responsibility of husbands to lead their wives and families. Undermining men and the way God designed them socially/mentally/emotionally seems to be a favorite pastime of entertainment in our culture, and you know what? It’s straight from hell. As for us women? Well, we know how to do it all so much better than our men. You listen, and that’s a big part of these little funnies. We should be doing everything in our power to combat these lies.

What does Proverbs say? A wise woman builds her house. She does her husband good all the time. He can trust safely in her. If I’m making jokes that don’t build my husband up, don’t promote my husband’s good, or cause him to feel “safe” with me, then not only am I potentially causing harm to my marriage…I really am disobeying God.

Sobering stuff.

So, I’ve been thinking about this. And I’ve come up with three things that I can do to fight back when one of these jokes cross my path. Because, really, this isn’t about comic strips and a giggle here and there…this life is a War, and words are one of our weapons. {Read James 3, some time.} The Enemy is a master saboteur. Allow him to sabotage my marriage through words, and that’s a victory for him. I don’t want any part of helping him. Here are the three tactics I’m using to fight back:

 

1. Speak Up

I want to draw attention to the fact that, no, this little joke that pokes fun at a husband’s intelligence or a wife’s bad attitude is not okay. Depending on the situation, it may not be appropriate to vocalize the truth right then. But when I’m alone with my husband, I can tell him, “Hey, I heard what was said by that person, and I don’t buy it. We’re different, we’re not going to become part of that culture, and I want you to know that I’m in our corner on this.”

This is also going to be so important as Jungle Baby gets older. He’s going to hear things about marriage, and wonder why people think it’s funny, and I’m going to strive to teach him that, actually, we’re not laughing and God says marriage is better than that.

2. Build up

I want to use my words to respect my husband and the man he is, as well as let him and others know that I appreciate our marriage. So when I hear a “married people joke” gun go off, I’m going to fire back. {Again, situational appropriateness is important. But don’t forget that your relationship with your husband is the MOST important.} So simple things like, “Babe, I appreciate the man you are. I see how you work hard to try to lead our family,” make a big impact.

Be forewarned. There will always be a million reasons to not say it, or even just to put it off​ till later. Don’t let yourself procrastinate. There is no “wrong way” to build your husband up! “Just do it!” {Seriously, why should Nike beat us out on having the answer?!} I literally made myself stop while I was writing this, and go tell my husband that I appreciate him and how he doesn’t give up on me. It was something he deserved to hear, believe me…but I had to make myself do it, and I believe that this is because building others up goes against our grain. It’s so much easier to tear down…hence why jokes are a lot easier to toss out than sincere compliments.  

3. ‘Fess up

{cringe} This might be the hard one. If I allow one of these jokes to come from my corner, well, I need to acknowledge that it wasn’t a good thing to say, and maybe I should have just kept my mouth shut. I need to say that I’m sorry and ask for forgiveness. So simple, but so important.

Ahem. Confession time. I had to do this with my husband, just recently. We were with some good friends, I was in a teasing mood, and I in essence “complimented” a wife on how well she had “taught” her husband to say the right things. I did this in front of both of our husbands. Ouch. As soon as I had said it, I realized that it was a dumb thing to say. Why? Even though it was in good-natured fun, I was, in essence, promoting a worldview that says “husbands are stupid, wives have all the answers, and women have to “train” their men.” Not my beliefs, thank you. So, after ruminating on the episode for a while, I asked my husband to forgive me, and explained to him that I didn’t want to foster that kind of attitude in our marriage, or with our friends. He had hardly noticed the incident, but agreed with the fact that our marriage is worth protecting, even in the little things, like silly jokes.

 

So, that’s my plan. Just for the record, this is not about attacking other Christians who make these jokes. Some people, of course, do it innocently. But I believe that our marriages are valuable enough to care for in the smallest details. They are important enough to fight for, on any level.

Your turn. How do you seek to protect and nurture your marriage, even in the little things? And honestly, nothing is “too little.” Share in the comments!

How To Save Money When You’re Having a Baby

baby shoes and clothes, bringing a baby home from the hospital

baby shoes and clothes, bringing a baby home from the hospital

Having a baby, just like every other big event in our western culture, has unfortunately become a huge marketing project for retailers. If you’re not careful, you can be subconsciously sucked into the mindset that you have to have X, Y, and Z (all carefully color coordinated of course!) in order to give your new little one the “right start,” and the “best life.”

Poppycock.

This post is especially for the soon-to-be mamas out there. I have a few tips to share that have really saved us big money over the past year as we prepared for Jungle Baby’s arrival. Most people probably won’t use all the information…but implementing just a few can really save you a bundle–ha ha ha, no pun intended.

So, here we go! Here are the top tips I’ve come up with for saving money while preparing for a new baby.

1. Buy gender neutral gear

If there is ANY possibility that your family will get to enjoy another baby in the future, go with stuff that you won’t mind using for either gender. Instead of the pink Bumbo seat, go with the green. {Of course, some of you wouldn’t care a bit about sticking baby-number-two-who-happens-to-be-a-boy into a pink Bumbo, and I applaud you! In fact, I’m right there with you. In that case, buy whatever color makes YOU happy!} Put gender neutral swaddle blankets, bath stuff, etc. on the registry. If you’re keeping the gender a secret, you’ve already covered this base.

2. Shop consignment

This was probably the biggest money-saver, in general, for our family. I bought baby stuff at yard sales, off of Craigslist, and at thrift stores. I got an excellent condition nursing pillow for $9 through Craigslist. {And by excellent condition, I mean excellent. Seriously, the people who owned it previously even put plastic wrap around the foam underneath the pillow cover to keep it from getting stained!} I found a Diaper Champ pail {fantastic because it doesn’t need special bags–any old trash bag will do} at a yard sale for $6. We found a high quality wooden bead maze for $5 at a daycare center that was closing. {These things run anywhere from $15 to $75!} Just yesterday, we pulled it out of storage, cleaned and disinfected it, and put it to use!

Two other great ways to shop used items: the free apps OfferUp and Letgo. These apps allow you to search for used items in your area, just like on Craigslist, so no shipping fees. What’s great about it is that you can communicate with the sellers directly through the app–in other words, you aren’t putting your personal contact info out there. It’s all done internally, through your app message system. You can put as little info about yourself out there as you want, which is a plus in these days of less and less online privacy. I prefer also these apps to Craigslist in general, because it’s focused. There aren’t several dozen categories to choose from, there’s only eight or so. OfferUp seems to generally be more pricey than Letgo, but both have tons of listings for baby goods and gear. I have used Letgo to purchase several things non-baby related {Like our first Christmas tree!! 4-foot, pre-lit, excellent condition artificial tree that fit perfectly in our little camper, for just $10!}, and have been very pleased with the experience. You have the opportunity to rate other sellers, so if they’re late or are difficult to contact, other buyers can steer clear in the future.

3. Get the cheapo stuff

Knock-offs are generally just as good as the name brand. For instance, when choosing a car seat system, I picked the cheapest I could find. I read this extremely helpful article, which explains that the safety features for the less expensive car seats are just as up-to-date as their pricier counterparts. BY THE WAY…car seats have expiration datesI’m not joking. Just another reason to get the cheaper options, because you may or may not be able to use it for the next kiddo.

Regarding diapers – I was given tons of different brands of disposables for Jungle Baby’s showers, plus we’ve always gone with whatever is cheapest or on sale since. So I have tried TONS of different diaper brands. And you know what? They are all the same. I really haven’t noticed any benefits to a particular brand. I have found that once in a while a name brand seems to edge out a generic brand on corralling a blowout…but just barely. Honestly, if they’re gonna leak, they’re gonna leak! I’ve found that what position I put him in–tummy, back, or sitting upright–when I hear him start working on a heavyweight diaper actually makes the biggest impact in preventing blowouts.

NOTE: I have several friends who say that using cloth diapers saves the most money! I haven’t yet gone this route, due to the fact that when Jungle Baby was born, I was sharing a washer with 2-3 other families. Plus, nobody needs extra laundry when recovering from birth! But I’m eager to try this option in the future! If anyone reading uses cloth, feel free to weigh in with your experience on the money it saves.

4. Cut wipes in half

I was given bukus of disposable wipes…haven’t had to buy a single package yet. And one thing that has extended the life of my stash is cutting the wipes in half. Seriously, a newborn baby does not need a full-size wipe for most diaper changes. {Messy diapers can be a definite exception to this.} So, every so often, I’ll whip out my scissors, cut a chunk in half, and put them back in the package. This was a lifehack from my mother, and it is awesome.

5. Be discriminating when purchasing items for yourself. Ideally, wait until after the birth

This is a biggie. You never know what people will be generous enough to give you for showers, or even just because they don’t need it anymore. So wait to make most purchases until after all showers, and even the birth. There are really only a very few things you need when the baby actually arrives {post on that coming soon!}, and honestly, you’ll have a better idea of what you really need after you and baby have spent some time together. {Plus, sometimes relatives just get so excited, they go out and buy you a bag full of stuff, just because they can’t contain themselves! I had this happen.} So be really deliberate with your purchases. The diaper pail was something I couldn’t pass up for $6, and I knew it would be a really good thing to have, even if it wasn’t totally necessary. So I snagged it, and took it off my registry. But most things that weren’t an absolute need, or a future investment, we waited on. You never know where free stuff is going to come from. My hospital even gave me a ton of gifts on the way out the door, including vouchers for free + shipping baby slings, and a travel bassinet! {“Free” is relative, of course…you could say we paid a pretty penny for these lovely extras through the hospital bills, but I digress.}

This is a big deal regarding clothes especially. All babies grow at different rates, so you may need a different size when the season changes than you thought you would. {All clothing labelled ‘newborn’ is not created equal. Ask me how I know!} You won’t buy things that won’t get use if you play this part by ear.

6. Feel free to go without

Our current residence does not have a bathtub, only a shower. And, I just haven’t felt like paying for/storing a baby bath. So, you know what we do? We give him exactly the same kind of bath he first got when he was born–a sponge bath. We get bowls of warm water, plenty of towels, put it all on the kitchen floor, and go to it! He doesn’t sit up well enough yet to enjoy playing in a tub {plus I don’t worry about him somehow drowning}, so this option is great for us for where we’re at right now.

I registered for a diaper bag, but when it arrived, it was defective. My sister and I went shopping for a new one, and I just couldn’t find one that wasn’t truly ugly, or the size of a duffle bag. Soooo, we went to the purse department, and found a lovely bag that is actually a businesswoman’s tote, designed to carry a laptop, paperwork, and purse essentials. It was pretty, way cheaper than a lot of diaper bags, fit everything I needed to carry, and suited me perfectly.

So just really think through what the industry tells you you’re “supposed” to have, and decide what you and your family truly want and actually need. 

 

Okay, what other ideas would YOU add to this list? What have you done or do you do to save money in the baby department? Share the knowledge!

The Bible Project – Resource

bible project

bible project

I wanted to share with you a fantastic teaching/learning resource that I just found. It’s a series of videos available on a YouTube channel called The Bible Project. This team has created several different series of videos, all with one thing in mind: everything in the Bible points to Jesus.

They have produced a “Read Through the Bible” series that combines excellent illustrations with a voiceover of all that is taking place in the section of Scripture being covered. This series goes book by book, and what I really appreciate is the fact that their goal is to prepare you to actually read the book for yourself.

The videos are quality stuff. The illustrations are detailed, but not distracting. The narration is simple, yet thorough, and doesn’t skip the “hard stuff.” For instance, the whole “sons of God” debate about the opening verses of Genesis 6? They deal with it, acknowledging that there are different beliefs about it, and giving a couple options. It’s also perfectly appropriate for the entire family.

And, besides being a fantastic refresher + overview of whatever book being discussed, there’s always the possibility of learning something new! For me, when watching the video on Genesis, Part 1, I was introduced to a thought I’d never considered regarding Adam and Eve’s sudden compulsion to cover up after disobeying God’s command about taking the fruit. Being unclothed with one’s spouse is one of the most vulnerable and trusting places to be in.They had just chosen to distrust God; how could they possibly still trust each other? Perhaps this was part of their desperate desire to clothe themselves.

I haven’t seen all the videos in this series yet, but if things continue as they have begun, I will definitely be adding this to my arsenal of Bible teaching tools.

Here’s the first video in this series.

The Bible Project also has several animated series on the different divisions of the Bible. I watched one of the videos at random–Ecclesiastes, in the Wisdom series. Ecclesiastes is no picnic. I figured, if they do this one well, they’ve got something. I was not disappointed. They explained the big picture concepts of the book, identified the different speakers, delved into the original language, used great visual artistry, and did it all without being overwhelming. In less than six minutes. Yeah. Like I said, pretty impressive!

You can check out that video here.

 

Their channel also has other videos of behind-the-scenes work, Q&A sessions, and animations explaining different Biblical themes, like atonement and the image of God. Overall, I’m pretty excited about this resource and looking forward to using it in our family in the future.

On the Bible Project website, they also have a reading plan and a podcast. Check it out!

 

{Ahem. Just a couple of notes that I feel are necessary. First, I have not investigated the theology held by the producers of these videos, but the content speaks for itself. Perhaps there are things we would disagree on, but I’m simply using the tools they’re providing–not joining a church. Secondly, I would never want anyone to even get the faintest inkling that these videos could or should substitute for solid personal Bible reading and study. Just like anything else, they are a supplement, not a replacement. Hope you enjoy!}

Personalities in Love – Book Review

I heard about this book on a blog I follow, and was intrigued. I ordered a used copy on Amazon for under $5. My husband and I read it together, over the course of several long car rides, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Donna Partow’s style is highly entertaining, and we shared some good laughs over her hysterical anecdotes and brassy turn-of-phrase. It also opened up some deep discussions between us, and we often refer back to what we have learned, many times in a week.

“Personalities in Love: Understanding Yourself and the Man in Your Life” focuses on how the male and female versions of each of the four basic personality types interact with one another, as well as giving practical relationship advice throughout. I would recommend it to both married and single women {especially the first of the three sections}, since an understanding of your own personality will be of benefit no matter what stage of life you are in.

In the first section, the origin of the four general personality categories is covered briefly, and then you get to take an adjective-based personality test to determine which personality is more dominant in you. This was really fun for my husband and I. {Hint: there is an appendix with definitions for each adjective in the back of the book, and you DO want to use it–some of our answers changed after we read the definitions.} The original personality categories have been renamed by many authors, and Donna Partow has her own set of titles: Popular, Powerful, Perfect, and Peaceful. We learned from the test that David is generally a “Peaceful,” but is actually a good mix of all four personality types. I am mostly a “Perfect” woman. {If you are now picturing Mary Poppins smiling serenely as she tells her charges that she measures to “Practically Perfect, in every way,” please know that I did too, and laughed.}

In the rest of section one, we are introduced to each of the feminine personalities. A picture is painted of each personality in its purest form {wow, that was a lot of “p’s”}, and the strengths are identified and the weaknesses uncovered. I swallowed hard when I went through the list and description of all my weaknesses, as most were spot-on, and rather convicting. A section on “How to Make the Most of Your Personality Type” closed out each chapter, and honestly, it made the whole book worthwhile. These portions are very focused on seeking the power of God in order to truly flourish in your temperament, and, especially following the sections on weakness, were extremely encouraging! The book would sorely lack without this constructive advice.

Section the Second acquaints us with the man version of each personality, along with his strengths and weaknesses. There are plenty of real-life stories sprinkled throughout in order to illustrate the different facets of each personality, and they were both entertaining and informative. I think my favorite part about this section, however, was the “What Your Man Needs From You” portion at the end of each chapter. Since the author is writing to women, she is focusing on understanding how a woman’s personality relates to her husband’s, as well as being sensitive to the specific needs her husband has, due to his own personality. I really appreciated the fact that it wasn’t all just theory {Partow promised that it wouldn’t be, in her first chapter}, but I was provided with very down-to-earth applications and specific ways to encourage my husband.

In the third and final section, each of the possible relationships that can result from mixing the eight personality types is considered, as well as the relationship difficulties different couples can expect–yet overcome. It’s short, sweet, and to the point.

Okay, personal note. I realized something, as I read through the book with my husband. Although all people are usually a blend of personalities, with one personality dominating, I think that as a Christian grows in their walk with Christ, allowing themselves to be changed, the Holy Spirit actually adds some of the strengths that normally fall to other personality types, and overrides some of the natural weaknesses. {Hint: “weaknesses” of a personality type are simply the types of sin that that person is naturally prone to.} David is an amazing example to me of what can happen when a person yields themselves to God…his test revealed that he is quite balanced in his blend of personalities. We know that this isn’t “natural,” because personality type manifests itself in childhood behavior, and he would have been mostly “Powerful” as a child. So deliberate choices in his life to yield his habits/actions/words/inclinations to the authority of God have resulted in him becoming a very well-rounded individual, with many strengths to offer. Romans 12:1-2 in action!

The overall tone of the book is cheerful and optimistic. Partow is forthright, but friendly. She’s very transparent about her own struggles, and honest about the weaknesses we all have. Whereas a secular writer would turn to self-help or a therapy approach when dealing with the personality weaknesses, Partow recognizes the need for the Holy Spirit’s power to triumph over them.

Regarding further resources on this subject, Partow often references the authors Dr. Tim LaHaye {The Spirit-Controlled Temperament} and Florence Littauer {Personality Plus} throughout the book, citing their work as part of what she has built upon to create “Personalities in Love.” I have not yet read either of those titles, but I have read The Spirit-Controlled Woman by Beverly LaHaye, and although certainly a useful book, I found it a bit dry. Partow’s Personalities was definitely more “fun,” but not necessarily what someone looking for a scholarly work would be seeking. It’s not as detailed or extensive as the Myers-Briggs personality classification system, however it was written with the busy woman in mind, and is a light-hearted, quick read. It is ideal for someone starting out in personality studies, anyone who desires a Christian perspective on the general subject, and those who want a frolicsome refresher coupled with solid advice for appreciating how you and your man fit together.

Wild At Heart – Book Review

 

I picked up this gem at a thrift store for a buck fifty.  I figured, when I saw the volume’s subtitle, “Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul,” that with a husband to love and a son to raise, I didn’t have much to lose. After reading the first chapter earlier in the week during a few spare moment, I read the entire rest of it yesterday. I could not put it down! Fascinating, stirring, and sorely needed are a few words of description I can ascribe to its content. I was actually quite unprepared for the wealth of knowledge I found, as well as the realization of how little I actually know about the way men think and what their God-given driving forces are. I’ve been blessed with a husband who is willing and pleased to communicate with me. When I ask him questions about what he’s thinking and how he’s feeling, he tells me. But I hadn’t realized that I was still hearing all that he was saying through my feminine perspective. This book helped me recognize that fact, and gave me a better appreciation for the ways God created my husband differently than me.

{A few important disclaimers! Firstly,  I read the original version, published in 2001. It has since been revised, and I have no idea what the revisions cover. Secondly, I DO NOT recommend this book for ladies who are not married, as it can be very explicit at times. And thirdly and finally, I recommend this book, but cannot endorse most of the movies/lyrics/authors referenced therein. Okay, there. Disclaimers ended.}

Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge, is about the journey of masculinity that every male embarks upon. This is a book about men, for men, by a man. But it’s also written with the understanding that the women in their life will read it. Original design, spiritual warfare, and revival truth are all part of the picture. It’s about identity, love, and all the big questions in life. And even though it is directed specifically towards men, I found that much of Eldredge’s writings applied to me, simply because I’m a human being, and a follower of Christ.

Eldredge tells us that every man desires three things that are an inherent part of his God-given nature: an adventure to live, a battle to fight, and a beauty to rescue. I took away from this book a better understanding of the adventure, battle, and beauty that my husband needs [and that my son will someday need], and my role to play in it all. Much of Eldredge’s insight are based on the Creation account in the Book Genesis. I found it fascinating that so many clues to the most basic, yet different, needs of men and women are laid out right in there in the first chapters of the Bible.

I was especially challenged regarding the mother-son relationship. I now know better to prepare for, and be on the lookout for, the day Jungle Baby needs his freedom–specifically, freedom from me. {Brace yourselves, ladies, this part, especially written in its blunt male style, may be a hard one to read. But is it serious advice to heed, if you want to really let your son be the man he was created to be.} Eldredge declares that a mother who does not “allow her son to become dangerous…will emasculate him.” I’ve always had a desire for my son to become “manly”. But defining it as “dangerous” takes it to a new level of reality. For, as the author so clearly outlines, this life is a War, and if you don’t look at it that way, you’re already losing the battle.

Speaking of battles, I think my favorite chapters were the two focused specifically on spiritual warfare. Men’s battles are in the spotlight, of course, but the spiritual strategies needed to fight these battles apply to every Christian. For instance, regarding Romans 7 and the battle against sin, Eldredge says:

“You are not your sin; sin is no longer the truest thing about the man who has come into union with Jesus. Your heart is good. …The Big Lie in the church today is that you are nothing more than “a sinner saved by grace.” You are a lot more than that. You are a new creation in Christ.”

There is an incredible freedom in this truth that so many in our churches are missing! {By the way, I read this paragraph a mere 48 hours after hearing a sermon on the exact same thing. You can download the message I heard here, from mediafire: Radical New Realities.}

Wild At Heart was obviously very different than books authored by women–as it ought to be. To be honest, I enjoyed the different literary “taste.” It was raw, yes, but also refreshing. A nice change of pace in writing style, as women’s books usually are a bit more…I don’t know, chatty? Although that can be enjoyable, it also can make them harder to follow. Eldredge’s message was a clear flow of ideas, progressing like a soldier marching towards his military objective.

I took away a LOT of questions to ask my husband. In fact, I used a pen, highlighter, and sticky notes, and listed topics that I wanted extra clarification on at the end of each chapter. Be prepared to let the book be a merely a springboard for studying your man’s deeper waters.

Though I don’t agree with Eldredge on every theological point that arises, he tackles some of the most fundamental and, sadly, overlooked aspects of a believer’s relationship with Christ, laying them out in a clear, concise, and motivating manner. Obviously, part of having a right relationship with Jesus is seeking to have right relationships with those in our families. I highly recommend this book for every wife and mother who wants to truly learn about and love the men in her life!

How to Love the Life You Live

man on top of the world

 

man on top of the world

"Live the life you love."

We've all seen that quippy little quote floating around, on inspirational internet images, or wall decor at the coffee shop. I don't know about you, but as a newlywed and a first-time mommy, I sort of snort internally when I read it. (If this is one of your favorite motivational nuggets that pushes you to keep going when you're tempted to give up on a dream--I'm probably gonna step on your toes, here. 🙂 Please know, I'm all for encouragement, so if that mantra is encouraging to you, by all means, don't let me ruin that for you.)

But for me, it just doesn't work. I guess the biggest reason is that it seems to say, "Go after what YOU want, because that's the most important thing. Live for what pleases you and makes you happy." If you don't read it that way, that's okay. But that's pretty much how it reads for me, and I've come to the understanding that the best way to make myself UNhappy...is to chase my own happiness.

So. I choose to flip that saying around and look at it differently. I choose to read instead, "Love the Life You Live." In other words, be content! Be joyful in your "season of life," whatever that may be. I'm pretty sure that we actually have to relearn this lesson in every new season of life that we enter. At least, I do. I had to learn it as a single person. I had to learn it in different jobs that I worked. And, I am learning it now, again, in a whole new dimension as a wife and mother.

This is my point: What if instead of telling ourselves we should be chasing down a life we can love...what about just deciding to love the life we are living? Right here, right now? The one that may seem to be too busy, or not-what-we-had-planned, or unexciting, or even painful?

Question: How do you do that? How do people actually love the life they have when there's sickness, or loneliness, or tragedy, or disappointment? I've been blessed to have some very good examples in my life of people who have chosen to embrace joy, to refuse to let it go, in the face of incredible falling-apart-ness. I am truly challenged every time I think of these people while I'm the midst of a little ol' pity party.

One of them is a friend I'll call Sarah. She has personally suffered what could easily be called tragedy, not once, not twice, but three times...and those are just the instances I know about. I'm talking about illness, pain, and criminal wrongdoing touching all the most important people in her life. I'm talking about broken necks and child molestation and death. Yet she is one of the sweetest, most joyfilled people I know, and she trusts God implicitly. She clings to Him. She doesn't sit around feeling sorry for herself because of what has come into her life, even though, by all human standards, she'd have every right to. Nor does she play the martyr, and try to let everyone know what a tough time she's had. No, she has chosen to hold onto joy, and to love the life she is living, despite it's pain. I stand in awe of her. But I know her joyfulness didn't just happen. It is real in her life because of specific and deliberate decisions that she has made. Here are several choices that I see in Sarah's life, and in the lives of others who exhibit this kind of loving the life that they are living.

1. Be intentionally grateful

Thankfulness can be a lifeline against drowning in despair. Seriously...have you ever had a horrible, horrible day, and just begun saying "thank you" for any and every little thing that you can think of? I've tried it. The results are pretty amazing. And immediate. You can begin to see that there are still so many "good and perfect" gifts to appreciate. My husband recently told me, very gently and wisely, that the reason I often struggle is because I spend time focusing on the things I don't have, instead of what I do have. He was right. Is it easy to be grateful when you feel like nothing is right in your world? No. But it is worthwhile.

2. Be in the moment

Worrying about the future? Aching over the past? Honestly, all we do is make ourselves miserable. I heard a statistic that said only eight percent of the things we worry about could actually even happen. Wow. (That's actually a bit comforting, honestly!) And the past? We can change zero about that. Does that mean the thought of those things don't hurt or that they don't have the capacity to make us anxious? No. But the bottom line is that there is enough to focus on here and now. There are people in your life, today, that need you. So, take a deep breath, and just "do the next thing." {Great opportunity, here, to implement number one...find something to be grateful for in that "next thing."}

3. Be close to God

Ultimately, He is what gives meaning and joy to life. All the other joys are because of Him, and from Him. Being close to God is a choice to be made, more than a thing to do, though. Yes, there are things that we can do to be close to Him, such as reading the Bible. But unless we first decide that we want to be close to Him, there isn't much point in cracking open those pages. {It would kind of be like taking your spouse to dinner, but not really wanting to talk with them, or listen to them...they will know it, and your relationship isn't going to progress forward.}

Now we KNOW all this...but we have to choose to act on it. It's a decision of the will , not the feelings. So if you're struggling to love the life you're living, you have to decide...do you really want to, and are you willing to do what it takes? I think that if we really want to love the life we're living, in all its messiness and imperfection and unexpectedness, then we can. And, the neat thing about choosing to love it? We'll find we really are living the life we love, too.

Minimalism, Cozy Style.

cozy cup of tea next to open book

So apparently there’s this thing called “cozy minimalism” that is being talked about in the blogosphere.

cup of tea with a book cozy reading

 

I had never heard of it until I ran across a post on said subject. I quickly realized that yes, this was my category. (Woohoo, now people can label me and put me in a definitive box! Yippee!)

When many people hear the word “minimalism”, they conjure up pictures of asceticism in their heads. But the term “minimalism” actually has several different cultural definitions. Technically, minimalism refers to an art form that focuses on simplicity. But there’s a growing school of thought that has developed in our society as a kick-back against materialism, and it has nothing to do with art. In the words of these guys, who are actually known as The Minimalists,

“Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.” 

However, minimalism is also sometimes hijacked by home-department marketing professionals, and translated “make everything in your bedroom one color.” Which actually means, “buy more stuff!” So, definitions matter here! In this post, I’m not talking about the style of art, but more the anti-materialistic ideology.

I have always thought, when I read about minimalism, that the basic idea undergirding it appealed to me (more of life, less of stuff, simplicity, etc.). And I hate clutter. My husband can tell you that I’m sort of a paper-nazi…if it’s not connected to the spine of a notebook, or in a file folder, I want it in the trash. So I guess in some senses, I’m a good candidate for the minimalism label.

However, often the design inspired by minimalism does not appeal to me. I like clean lines, white space, and occasional monochromatic color schemes. In moderation. But I also like bookcases crammed with good books, mismatched and colorful coffee mugs to spare, and plenty of warmth. I like my space to say “organized,” yes, but also “we live here, thank you.” And so many of the rooms with minimalist decor seem so…soul-less.

minimalism

But then, “cozy” minimalism was introduced to me. You can read what I read HERE. The author seemed to put into words exactly what I had never taken the time to…that yes, I like part of the minimalist take on life, but I’ll never be a true minimalist in the styling of my home. And guess what–there is an alternative. And it has a name!

Enter, cozy minimalism.

The term itself is fairly self-explanatory: cozy means warm and inviting. Minimal means the only bare essentials. So it’s a balancing act of deciding what gives your house a homey feel, while still filtering with a “what do we need/use” mindset.

What I like about this concept is that it takes the basic values of minimalism ideology–making space in life for what really matters by deliberately choosing to not become overwhelmed by stuff–and weds it with the reality of where most of us live: “I have two very similar tote bags…but I use both…and I want to keep both.” Comfort, without clutter, is how I like to look at it. I can still keep all my candles (that are actually all from the same color and scent families), but I’ll choose to pare down my sock drawer, because I don’t need/like/want all the socks I own.

My home can still be fresh and relatively clutter-free, but not forced into specific parameters about how many of these or those I own. It’s about choosing things that are functional and practical, but also bring some beauty or joy to this One Little Life, whether or not there’s a bit of redundancy. I choose what we like and what makes our home US, without trying to fit it into a specific mold. 

And so, that’s why I now consider myself a “cozy minimalist.” 

So what’s your opinion? How do you classify your Castle-style? Cluttered and eclectic, like Aunt Matilda’s parlor? Bare and austere, like Uncle Lou’s big city loft? Or somewhere in the middle, in the “cozy” sector? What fits you and your family best, and why?