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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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.

 

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?

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).

puddle jumping

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.

 

National Be On-Purpose Month: The Little Hero Inside of Me

Here’s a little-known celebration taking place in January:  National Be On-Purpose Month. When I think about being “on purpose,” I consider how that fits into the vision of my blog:  living life on purpose. So today, I’m sharing a story of how I wanted to live “on purpose” during the early season of motherhood–and how God presented me with the opportunity to do so beyond my own little family.

Growing up, my little brother and sister watched an after-school cartoon called “Duck Tales.” One particular day, the episode featured Uncle Scrooge regaling his nephews with a story about how there is a little hero inside all of us.

As a young teenager, I listened to that TV show, passing through to grab a snack on my way to finish homework. And I thought, “I have a little hero inside of me, too!” For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to give of myself to others.

yellow bulb

One volunteer project stands out as truly special for me; I consider it to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

This opportunity came about when I was a new mother caring for an infant son and wondering what else I could do with myself, my talents, and my time. I adored my child and felt thankful for this new season. I also longed to serve others in meaningful ways outside my family.

One night, I exclaimed to my husband, “I want to have more to show for my life than a million laundry loads of cloth diapers!”

So when I discovered a way to share myself that fit right into this new phase of life, I immediately embraced it.

white pine cones

One afternoon when Woodrow had just turned seven months old, my husband, baby, and I attended a reception for the birth center where I had given birth. After decades, this facility that had served thousands of women was closing, and we had come to say good-bye. While there, I noticed one mother wearing a t-shirt promoting attachment parenting.

Later that night, I looked up information on attachment parenting, curious to learn more. That search led me to an online group of attachment parents in our area. One of the moms on the site had posted details about a milk bank in the U.S. requesting donated mother’s milk.

just for you

You can donate breast milk? I thought. I didn’t realize this was possible. I went straight to the website for the milk bank and requested their information packet. I followed all the steps, got a blood test, completed the medical questionnaire, and waited to begin.

When I received the “all clear” along with a free pump for producing the milk donations, I could hardly wait to get started. At first, it was slow going. But I built up a supply over time—lots and lots of five-ounce white plastic bottles filled with “liquid gold” in our freezer.

Most every morning after nursing my own son, I would let him play near me on the floor or hold him on my lap as I pumped for the milk bank. Then I would wash all the parts and set them out to dry in preparation for the next pumping session. The process sometimes felt tedious and always felt time-consuming, but I knew my milk donations could help save babies’ lives. My milk, along with other milk donated to this bank, would go to hospitalized, premature infants who needed this nourishment. Because the mothers of these babies might not be able to produce milk yet—given the premature birth of their children—donor milk could make a significant difference in the health of these preemies.

baby in red dress

Sending in the first batch of my donated milk in a big cooler packed with dry ice brought a sense of accomplishment. I believed so much in sharing with others the life-changing gift of my milk that I continued donating with the birth of my second child, too. When I finally completed my donations, I had given 56 bottles worth of breast milk—a little over 2 gallons.

Apart from a kind thank-you note from the milk bank (and a refrigerator magnet I still keep on the fridge door after almost 9 years), my milk donating garnered next to no attention. However, from my own kitchen—with one or sometimes two children playing at my feet—I helped change the lives of babies in need.

*For information on milk donation, check out the Human Milk Banking Association of North America’s website. 

 

 

2018: New Year, New Goals

2017 is now in the books, and I’m ready for a fresh new start. This past year held many triumphs for me:  I made a Power Point presentation for the first time! I know, hard to believe. The first one of these I ever created was for the talk I gave this past summer at my sister’s church about the Luo Pad project.

I also explored some caves with the boys’ Cub Scout pack this past spring, on a camp-out at Hog Island recreation area in Withlacoochee state forest. That was a first for me, too.

roller skates

2017 also held hurts and loss:  My beloved Papa died on Valentine’s Day last year. And yet another dream I held for myself came to naught when I had to close the Women of Vision/women’s stewardship group I’d previously launched.

But 2018 is still wide-open, unclaimed territory, and I relish that. Looking toward the new year, I’ve set a few goals for myself–ones that are specific and targeted (although some are more measurable than others). I didn’t list everything that is a priority that I’m already doing, that’s already part of my normal rhythm, such as exercise, reading good books, or carving out time to be with friends. I tried to list what I might need to be reminded to keep at the forefront. Check it out…

balloons on train track

2018 GOALS:  

  1. Continue on the journey of being faithfully frugal. Remember that book I read that inspired me so?  I’m captivated by the idea of living intentionally this way. One way we’re implementing this in January is by cancelling Netflix. Well, for a month, anyway…I’d like to do away with it for longer, but we’ll start with a month. Our subscription price increases by $1 per month in 2018, so we’ll save about $11 monthly by refraining from being Netflix consumers. And it cost $11 to ship the final 2 quilt tops I sewed for 2017, so that savings is meaningful.
  2. Use my middle-of-the-day down time for quiet times with Jesus on weekdays. I struggle to get up early to start the day with the Lord, and not just because I’m a night person. I sometimes feel more sad in the mornings than at any other time of day, and for a while I found myself feeling some kind of barrier in connecting with the Lord in the morning that I don’t feel at other times. I’d been having my quiet times at night, but for the last week or so of school before Christmas, I used our after-lunch down time (when the boys usually listen to an audio book) to get alone with the Lord. And those times were truly rich. I plan to continue this new practice.

shoes and flowers

3.  Write + submit, submit, submit! Notice my goal is not “get published.” I have little control over that–although by not submitting anything ever, I’m guaranteed not to get anything published. I have a few irons in the fire–meaning I’ve submitted several pieces I’m awaiting a response for–and I know most of those submissions will be rejected. That’s just how it goes. Getting a story published in Chicken Soup for the Soul this year has spurred me on, and I want to continue attempting to put my work out there. Plus, if I get paying gigs this way, I’d like to use at least a portion of that money for extra giving, which absolutely motivates me.

4.  Raise $300 in 2018 (apart from our regular giving) to give to gospel-centered needs. At the end of December, I used some of the money from a recent thredUP cash-out–from selling excess hand-me-down clothing beyond what I needed for the second time–for a mom in need. Not sure yet where I’ll find $300, but that’s the reason it’s a goal, right?

5.  Continue teaching the boys from a spirit of trusting that the work is accomplished NOT by my might or power but by God’s Spirit. Zephaniah 4:6 pierced my heart recently, and I’ve sort of paraphrased the verse here. If I attempt teaching my sons as though it all depends on my best efforts and my good planning and my hard work, I’ll be frustrated and despondent when the fruit I see doesn’t reflect the labor I put in. But if I teach them trusting God’s Spirit to be at work in them, causing the knowledge to take root and develop over time, I can relax–and enjoy the process (and my children) more, not depending on my children’s academic growth to fund my sense of accomplishment.

6.  Continue parenting  with the trust that Christ is the source of my unshakable peace–not good days or nice circumstances. You probably noticed the idolatry I mentioned above (being tempted to draw a sense of validation from my children’s school success since I am their primary teacher), and there’s more to address within goal #6, too. Most days simply don’t flow smoothly from Point A to Point B, and if I depend on circumstances feeling peaceful in order to find the good in my life, I’ll end up disappointed and angry. In this world, we will have trouble; but in Him, I can take heart, because He is my peace.

allison in front of azaleas

7.  Create more Wear It Well Wednesday blog posts. See? Another targeted, specific, doable goal. Look for more of these posts coming soon!

What are your new goals for 2018? I’m also contemplating learning to play the ukulele this year–we have one that Mike’s brother gave to our boys. But I didn’t list it as a goal because I’m just not sure yet. We’ll see! There’s a whole year to fill, so maybe I’ll go for it after all!

Update on my Minimalist Challenge

Today my to-do list included, among other activities, to toss an old tennis ball back and forth with Woodrow in the backyard (which he likes to do and asked me about this afternoon) and to finish browsing through a book of fighter planes with Woodrow (that he’d also asked me to do–we started it Monday night and finished it this afternoon). This is a large part of what I do as a “professional mother,” investing time in my  children. And that makes it to the to-do list.

dry erase board with markers

Spending these moments together with him, doing activities that he’d chosen, confirmed something for me:  My first born’s love language is quality time. My own love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch; I think Garfield’s are receiving gifts and also physical touch. Knowing what speaks love to my children helps me to pursue them intentionally, offering what I know will bless them.

Have you heard about the 5 love languages? You can discover more about those at this site.  The book of the same name (The Five Love Languages) has been around for decades, but I find it’s helpful to know this kind of information about yourself and about the ones you love.

wreath with garland

Other items on my to-do list today:  bake bread, make smoothies, and–of course–since it’s November 8, to organize my 8 things to purge in my November Minimalism Dare. I’ve been faithful with this practice each day this month, and it’s giving me the gift of anticipation. Each morning, I wake up eager to toss something else into the give-away bag. Part of me wants to rush through it and dump everything into the container headed to Goodwill all at once (I’ve pulled out a pile of stuff that I will eventually get rid of and am so far picking through that for each day’s give away). But I’m heeding my internal reminders to pace myself, to enjoy the ride, and to value having something to anticipate each day.

Here’s a sampling of what I’ve purged so far in November:

Day 3:  1 glass jar with lid + 1 fabric swatch + 1 piece of clothing

Day 6:  1 tent (an extra one we’d been trying to sell–it finally sold!) + 1 luggage tag + 1 two-minute timer from an old Boggle game (we lost some of the letter cubes) + 1 ribbon + 1 piece of fabric + 1 cord with tassels

Day 8:  1 garment bag + 7 make-up samples

chalk spilling from tin bucket

On day 2, we gave away a box of macadamia nut milk that we’d won at a grocery store event (random, I know). We didn’t need it, so we passed it along to a family who did. The make-up samples went to a women’s Bible study via a friend, hopefully blessing some women there who might enjoy these items. On day 7, I FINALLY returned 2 books I’d borrowed from my team leader with Cru–I’d had them more than 2 years.

So, this project isn’t only satisfying to me; it’s actually giving me the means to bless others, too. I can’t wait to discover what else I can share, toss, sell, or donate this month!