Do Everything in Love–How?

One phrase I frequently use around our house with my children is this:  Do everything in love. It comes from 1 Corinthians 16:14. A couple weeks ago, I wrote it on a piece of paper (well, on the back of a piece of paper that had printing on one side–we like to reduce, reuse, recycle around here). Then I taped it to the side of a kitchen cabinet, where it remains visible throughout our days (and supper times, too). It’s very basic, and Woodrow–the artist of our family–would have produced something much more creative. But it gets the point across.

lamp in pine tree

So if a constant refrain in the instructions I give my children is Do everything in love, how do I give them a framework of what that actually is? What do I mean by Do everything in love?

I decided we needed to dig deeper into this, so I brought my Bible to the supper table one night–I have a captive audience there, so it seemed an appropriate time.

First, I surfaced the topic of doing everything in love. I asked why they think I give them this instruction, and why this is a high value in our family. From there, we could reflect on the verse from which this command comes. As a family, we could remember that we want to hold to this instruction because it originates in God’s Word to us.

vintage keys

After asking how we know what love is, we read Romans 5:8…But God demonstrates His own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. This is ultimately our frame of reference for love:  Jesus Christ surrendered His life for us, and the Father sent His own Son to die as part of His great rescue plan.

So how do we live out that kind of love–a love that puts others before ourselves? For this part of the discussion, we flipped over to 1 Corinthians 13–the oft-quoted Scripture at wedding ceremonies for generations.

ice cream cones

We read…Love is patient; love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. And so on. We also discussed the words in this chapter that remind us we can perform great feats and have deep knowledge (or even give all we possess to the poor) but still not have love at the root of our motives. The boys cottoned to the idea that we are simply making noise if we exercise great faith or great abilities without love. They tried out some of that “clanging cymbals” and “resounding  gong” racket the apostle Paul mentioned at the beginning of the chapter.

Now I hope that, as we continue to remind each other to do everything in love–and to confess to each other when we don’t–we’ll grasp what doing love truly involves.

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Wear It Well Wednesday: Red Jeans + Black Shoes

When I found this pair of red skinny jeans in the box my sister-in-law sent me from her recent closet clean-out, I had a feeling they’d work well for me. And they do! They are so comfortable, the kind I like to throw on our bedroom chair at the end of the day and then put back on again in the morning. (I home school, so I can do that.)

I recently wore this outfit to church and had fun putting it together–particularly because I didn’t know how well the top would go with the pants.

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The jeans are actually a pale shade of red, and the shirt features some pink/coral detail. But I am very happy with how this pairing turned out! Besides the hand-me-down jeans, the shirt and tank top (worn underneath) were Christmas gifts from about 3 years ago–as was the clock necklace I’m wearing here. I also have on the “Do Justice. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly.” cuff that my parents gave me for Christmas this past December.

Since I wear both my cowboy boots and the shorter, tan boots so much, I decided on a different pair the morning I wore this combo to church–the black semi-high heels I bought last summer at a thrift store in Colorado. I own 5 pairs of shoes:  two pairs of boots; one pair of athletic shoes; a pair of Keens sandals; and these black pumps.

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The Mary Jane-type shoes cost $8, so for the entire outfit seen here, I paid just that–$8. And that was money spent on a secondhand item. As I like to say, If you love God’s earth, buy second first!

And speaking of love…it’s Valentine’s Day! It’s also the first anniversary of my Papa’s death; I’ll call my Nanny and send her my love today. Go hug your loved ones or send them your love. And do something you love. This week, I submitted 2 stories I’ve written to outlets for possible publication. We’ll see what happens! I love the gift of anticipation, too.

 

 

Something New Saturday: Elderberry Syrup

Over the past year or so, we’ve purchased elderberry syrup made by a central Florida mom named Julie. We’ve been so pleased with what she produces as part of her cottage business, but it’d become increasingly hard to meet up to buy her product.

So…given the fact that this year’s flu season seems especially nasty, I decided I would make a batch of elderberry syrup myself to help boost my family’s natural immunity.

elderberry syrup
Reusing a jelly jar that was a Costco purchase…

This post is not intended as medical advice–everybody needs to do her own research and make decisions best for her own family. With that said, I’m intrigued by the reputed benefits of elderberry syrup.

You might be able to find elderberries yourself at Whole Foods (although I haven’t looked there) or simply buy the syrup ready-made at a pharmacy or online. For ours, I ordered a batch of organic elderberries from Amazon (with a Prime membership, which we make extensive use of every single year), and this order provided the perfect amount for making a batch of syrup. I used the honey my parents harvest from the bees they raise at their home in Mississippi, along with ginger and cinnamon. I also threw in some turmeric (for its anti-inflammatory properties), although my children are of the opinion that I added too much turmeric. With that particular spice, a little does go a long way. Here’s the recipe I used (although I omitted the cloves because I didn’t have any). I give each of my boys about a teaspoon a day to help ward off colds and flu (the same for my husband and me).

Here’s hoping that an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure! With “plenty” as my word of the year, I want to give my family plenty of resources to battle cold and flu season.

 

Wear It Well Wednesday: Neutral Outfit + a Splash of Color

For today’s installment of Wear It Well Wednesday, I accessorized with secondhand pieces to go along with my hand-me-down clothing. I have worn this outfit a few times before:  at a reception at Cru headquarters for serving 20 years(!) with our ministry; on the last day of our New York vacation last fall; and, of course, to church.

neutral dress brown leggings

It’s comfortable and casual, yet dressy enough. The swing-y little top is a cast-off from our friend Vivian. The boots are from my aunt Anna (also hand-me-downs). The dark brown leggings I actually bought second-hand a few years ago at a resale boutique that supports survivors of human trafficking.

And the necklace and bracelet were Valentine’s Day presents from the boys that Mike helped them pick out years ago at a consignment store called Plato’s Closet. They both know I love aqua–Garfield used to bring me aqua-colored wooden building blocks when he was a little guy, happy to point out my favorite color. The pop of color from the jewelry rounds out an outfit that would feature little color otherwise.

When I wear this outfit, I feel pulled together (even if I do have my hair twisted up in a knot because it was a bit less than clean). Happy hand-me-downs to you!

 

2018 Goals: Where I Am Now

One of my January goals was to complete a scrapbook from our family vacation to New York City last fall. I finished it on January 30, and, although it’s certainly not the most artistic presentation, it reminds us all of a wonderful adventure.

For 2018 as a whole, I set myself a handful of goals and blogged about them here. Now that a month or so of the new year has passed, I’m taking a quick review of those goals.

good morning coffee

  1. Continuing on the journey of being faithfully frugal… We did go ahead and cut out Netflix, and our one-month no-Netflix venture will end mid-February. We’ve been totally content without it (and haven’t had cable in many years). The boys like to watch Popular Mechanics for Kids on Amazon Prime a few times per week, and Mike and I watched a movie on Hoopla together in January. Hoopla is a free service provided through our public library (and many others across the country), allowing us to check out more e-books, audio books, and even movies and TV shows than we could access through our library alone. We just haven’t missed Netflix, and it’s been freeing to go without it–financially and otherwise. The jury’s still out on whether we’ll reinstate it after our one-month fast finishes.
  2. Using my mid-day downtown for quiet time with Jesus… I have continued this practice, and it’s been one of THE most effective uses of my time. I have energy; I don’t feel rushed. My thinking is clear. I think I’ve found a real sweet spot with this habit.

joy candles

3. Write + submit, submit, submit! Good news to report on this front:  I learned in January that a brief article I wrote on generosity will be published in December in a magazine called Purpose. As well, a Christian magazine for girls (called SHINE brightly) will publish a piece I wrote in their summer 2018 issue. This feels like such a victory. Whereas these 2 works are non-fiction, I also wrote a short story for a magazine called Brio (published for girls by Christian ministry Focus on the Family) that is being, as one editor communicated to me, “shown to the other editors.” The 2 articles that will be published later this year will come with a small stipend, and I plan to add that to the money I’m acquiring for extra giving projects. Which brings me to my next goal of…

4.  Raising $300 to give to needs… Right around New Year’s, I connected with a person on Craigslist who needed to have assistance with proofreading a story he’d written. I spent about 5 hours working on the project and earned $50. Then I sold some excess hand-me-downs at 2 separate consignment stores, earning $75.50. Less than 2 months into 2018, I’ve seen over $125 of my giving goal met! With that, we’ve helped a woman from our former church with funds for her cancer treatments. We mailed restaurant gift cards to a family facing huge transition due to a medical situation. And I bought a Valentine’s wreath made by some teens raising funds for a mission trip to help rebuild in hurricane-affected areas of Puerto Rico.

kids playing

5. and 6. Continuing parenting with the trust that Christ is my source of unshakable peace and teaching with the trust that the work of my children’s growth is done by the power of God’s Spirit… Somebody said, “Attitude is everything.” Or, if nobody said that, somebody should have. When I am resting in Christ’s sufficiency, I experience more peace. I combined these 2 goals, which I listed separately on my “2018 goals” blog post in January. I read a book called Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham over December and January, which has encouraged me in my parenting. I also recently finished an e-book titled The Homeschooling Housewife, by Amber Fox. It’s given me some good ideas to implement in our home, even if the title is a bit off-putting.

7. Creating more Wear It Well Wednesday blog posts… Check. Woodrow loves taking pictures, and he often snaps photos of me for these posts featuring outfits I put together for little to no money (through hand-me-downs, gifts, and items occasionally picked up at secondhand stores or yard sales). Please don’t be fooled by these posts that I actually get dressed every day. On cold days–well, cold for central Florida–I sometimes stay in my sweat pants from the night before, throw on a zip-up jacket of my husband’s, and call it a day. Hmm…maybe I’ll need to work on that as a goal for 2019.

How’s your 2018 going so far?

Wear It Well Wednesday: Black Top + Gray Pants

For my birthday, my sister-in-law who lives in Alabama sent me a big box of clothes (gorgeous, quality, in-great-shape clothes) that she’d cleared from her closet. She’d gotten inspired by my organizing the boys’ closet and drawers–they helped, too. And I was the beneficiary of her round of closet clean-out!

black top with gray pants

The charcoal gray pants I’m wearing here arrived in that birthday box earlier this month. They are so comfortable and stretchy. And they fit well. I’ve already worn them several times (maybe even a few days in a row, but who’s counting, right?)

black top arms spread

So the pants are from my sister-in-law, Brandace. And the rest of the story:  The black top–with those interesting, unexpected cape-like sleeves–is a cast-off from our friend Vivian. The boots (which I wear at least weekly) you have seen many times before; my aunt Anna passed them along to me over a year ago.

Normally, I wear a long necklace with this shirt, which I brought on our New York vacation last fall. But today, I decided instead to don this little pin that belonged to my Nana before she passed away in 2005. It adds a little sparkle to such a dark outfit.

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On the day I wore this outfit last week, I only went out to 2 places:  the library and the park, where the boys and I biked to meet up with friends to play. I wore different shoes to bike in this outfit, but otherwise, this hand-me-down combo proved versatile and just warm enough for the cool, breezy day.

Haircuts: To Serve or To Spend

My husband grew up having haircuts given to him for free by his mother–a hair dresser. As a wedding gift, we received a set of hair clippers. We bought a pair of hair cutting shears to round out our hair dressing supplies, and I started giving Mike his haircuts.

Well, I started trying…it took several attempts before I provided anything approximating an actual haircut. But I got there eventually (after multiple follow-up trips to Great Clips). I wanted to learn to do this–and to do it well–not only for my husband but for our budget.

After a while, Woodrow came along, then Garfield, too. And I’ve cut their hair for as long as they’ve needed to have haircuts–which was years after they were born, since they were total cue balls until about age 2. For their entire lives, they’ve had only one haircut in a salon (with coupons in 2013).

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Every 4 to 5 weeks, I announce haircut day, and we drag a chair outside along with an extension cord so I can plug in the clippers. After this many years, Woodrow has learned to sit still and endure the cut; for the first several years, though, there were many tears and much squirming around. Same with Garfield.

However, Garfield–now age 9–simply hasn’t arrived at the place of being able to hold still in order to persevere through the dreaded cut. Every single haircut, he cries and agonizes. I’ve always known he has sensitive skin, and the hairs falling on his neck make him extremely uncomfortable, despite the cape I wrap around him before I start cutting.

This past weekend, I gave haircuts, and the saga continued. He sobbed throughout the entire process, flinching every time I snipped with clippers or scissors. Near the end of the cut, Garfield would duck and twitch and try to dodge me–accompanied by much sobbing–even before the scissors came near him. He confessed he was afraid that he’d get cut or scratched by the scissors, which he’s told me before. In the past, I’d be a bit offended by this, thinking he didn’t trust me (but this is not the issue). Throughout the cut, I offered calm reassurance (with intermittent pauses to bite my lips and breathe deeply because I was getting MAD and the cut was taking FOREVER). But it didn’t alleviate Garfield’s concerns.

mountains with fence

Later, he told he, “It’s just my instinct!” when I asked why he felt afraid and felt the need to pull away each time I tried to make a cut. I finally–finally–clued in to the fact that, all this time, he’s been afraid. Every month, he gets anxious and tense and tells me a haircut is “torture.” And that makes sense to me, as I watch him go into fight or flight mode. A few times throughout the years, I told Garfield he could participate in the haircut I gave him, or he could get his own money to pay for a haircut at a shop–which is, let’s face it, a gigantic stick and a non-existent carrot.

But that one time he received a haircut at a salon? He sat still, watched himself in the mirror, and stayed calm. And the hairdresser had no personal engagement in the procedure–he’s not her son, so she was simply doing her job, not wondering how this ordeal might affect her relationship with Garfield.

After this weekend, Mike said to me:  Let’s just take him to a salon. It’s not worth the tension it creates for him and for me, and we won’t make him pay for it. Because the issue is not really about obedience (eventually he does sit still long enough for me to finish the cut, even if it’s twice as long as the time it takes to cut Woodrow’s hair). We’ll cover the cost and hopefully provide a much saner experience for the whole family.

beach chairs

It’s a great solution, and I credit my husband for saying aloud what we all needed to hear–permission to go a different direction. However, I’ve long been the haircut giver for my family. It’s part of the efforts I make to save our family hundreds of dollars every year. So not only is this a different direction, it’s a departure from the way I serve.

Thankfully, my identity is not “money saving mama.” It’s never been “stupendous haircut giver,” either, that’s for sure. But the work I do to serve my family truly needs to serve us, and if that work doesn’t actually serve, it’s time to reassess.

I’ll continue giving haircuts to Mike and Woodrow (unless they ask to go elsewhere) and will cut Garfield’s hair again one day if he can tolerate it. But now the better way to serve my family is by spending a little money instead of saving it this time.