Family Matters

Family Matters
In this “Be Rooted” series, we’ve already delved into the ideas of being rooted in our individual relationships with Jesus as well as being rooted in our marriages. This week let’s “branch out” (pun intended! 😉) to see how this concept of growing deep roots affects our families.

No doubt, family matters can be complicated these days. The family unit itself is under attack like never before. I believe this is so in part because of God’s intention for families from the very beginning, so of course Satan seeks to steal, kill, and destroy God’s good purposes (John 10:10).

So how can we overcome today’s tendency toward busy-ness? The pull away from spiritual matters and toward earthly pursuits? The constant push from culture to divide generations?

It’s been said that the way kids spell LOVE is T-I-M-E. Just as we must intentionally nurture our marriage relationship by devoting time to our spouses, so also we must work hard to direct our family time so that it bears fruit and points our hearts and minds to things that will last.

There is so much we could discuss on this topic! I’ll just put a few thoughts about TIME with our kids here, and I’d love to hear your thoughts as well.

TIME WITH GOD
Everything builds on our foundation of Jesus Christ! As we spend time with the Lord ourselves (and ideally as a couple), more and more of our lives will be consumed by our desire to worship him and live out his purposes. Our children need to see what this all-important relationship looks like in daily life. Do we act as if our worship of God and service to him is something to be checked off our calendars? Do we view attending church or saying prayers just something we need to do? Or do we truly love Jesus, abide in him, seek him earnestly? Our kids can tell whether our actions match our words! (Have you ever found the Holy Spirit speaking directly to you through your own offspring?!) Parents are given the deep responsibility of teaching our children about the Lord (which is a good incentive to make sure we are deeply rooted ourselves). We’ll delve more deeply into Deuteronomy 6 in the next post when we talk about homeschooling, but regardless of how your children are educated, if you are a Christian parent, ultimately YOU are the one commanded to keep God’s words in your hearts and impress them on your children.

Our family time with God will look different during different seasons of our lives. I’ve had to wrestle with that over the years. Our family devotions are not always what I’d want them to be–and yet, as chaotic as life can be with kids of various ages, it is still Ted’s and my responsibility to raise these precious children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And so we press on, using whatever tools and time we have available!

TIME TO TALK
I remember hearing once that parents should listen to their children when they talk about “small stuff” (such as their latest LEGO creation or what happened on the playground), because if we don’t listen to the “small things,” our kids won’t come to us with the “big things” as they get older. In a child’s mind, EVERYTHING is a “big thing!” While it can get tedious to listen to a 23-minute recount of the thrilling Minecraft world my son has been building, it’s important to him…and therefore worthy of at least some of my time and energy!

If you’ve parented teenagers, you probably know this already: their time to talk is usually when adults are dead exhausted! But I wouldn’t trade those late-night conversations for anything. And now that we have young adults who have left the nest, I will literally drop everything I’m doing when they call so I can give them my full attention. Our kids need us, even as they sprout their own wings and take off! It looks different in each stage, of course, but the common thread is making time to talk with our kids. This includes one-on-one time as well as family discussions.

TIME FOR FUN
In my early years of parenting, I wanted to be a “fun mom.” I had visions of all kinds of activities I’d do with my kids as they grew older. But the reality is, I’ve learned I’m not naturally a “fun” person! Efficient and organized, YES. Spontaneous and fun, NOT SO MUCH! While I love to laugh, I find that I can often be too serious, so I’ve had to be intentional about finding ways to incorporate more joy and fun into my life. Kids are SO great at this! Over the years I’ve learned to let go of a lot of things (like housecleaning, lol) in order to embrace the loud, messy chaos of living and interacting with these little people God has given us. I’m having a lot more fun in these later years of parenting because I’ve learned to not take life–or myself–so seriously.

Along with fun, I would encourage parents to make time to intentionally shape your family dynamics. What do you want your family to be characterized by? What are some little habits or rituals you can incorporate into your life together that can not only be fun, but also meaningful? “Fun” doesn’t always mean unimportant silliness!

TIME FLIES
Regardless of how you choose to spend time with your family, one thing is certain: you will look back one day and realize just how true it is that “the days are long, but the years are short.” Praise God for giving us this precious time with our children!

What are some ways your family enjoys spending time together? How do you make time for God as a family? Share your ideas and tips with us!

Would you like to dive more deeply into the idea of being rooted? Check out my free 7-day mini "Be Rooted" Bible study!


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Homeschooling Through the Busy + Hard Times

Homeschooling Through the Busy + Hard Times
Last week we explored what it can look like to homeschool through the holidays. This week I'm pondering some rhyming words and how they can help us seek God's heart for our homeschool when life feels too busy or just plain hard. I pray these thoughts can be an encouragement to you if you are feeling overwhelmed or discouraged...whether during the holiday season or any time of year.

GRACE
Mama, when life is difficult, do you lean on God's grace? Are you rooted in the truth of who he is and who you are in Christ? In case you need a gentle reminder, we don't have to do it all. We don't have to BE all. God IS our all in all, and his grace covers us and brings us into an eternal relationship with him. If you're feeling stretched thin, take some deep breaths with your eyes closed and ask the Lord to show you the many ways he showers grace on you and your family. Then allow yourself to wallow in that wonderful, amazing grace! If our almighty, holy God can lavish us with grace...shouldn't we at least sprinkle a little on ourselves?! Yet we are often so hard on ourselves, berating our weaknesses and failures. And sadly, this mindset spills over onto our children, whether or not we intend for it to happen. 

Certainly, we must model for our children what to do when we sin. We should teach them to confess sin to God and the people we've hurt and ask for forgiveness. But we also need to model for them what to do when we simply bump up against our human limitations. Being weary or leaving a to-do list unfinished is not a sin! We must differentiate between fleshly failures that require forgiveness and healthy human limitations that simply require...rest. Grace. The ability to laugh at ourselves and start over.

SPACE
In the guidebook I wrote for mamas expecting a baby with a life-limiting diagnosis, I encouraged them during the difficult journey to give themselves "lots of grace and lots of space." I actually think that's an appropriate bit of advice for ALL mothers! We all need margin in our lives for the many times we need to rearrange plans and schedules because of unexpected events. Do you leave space in your day or week for this? Or are you so booked up that any change in circumstances will throw everything off? 

How about mental space? Does your brain have time to rest and be bored (important aspects for cultivating creativity!), or are you scrolling social media or navigating the internet, jumping from one distraction to another so much that your brain is constantly buzzing from all the input?

Sometimes we need emotional space. Perhaps we recognize the need for space to grieve. To process a transition. To evaluate a complex relationship.

And finally, spiritual space is crucial to everything else discussed here. If you don't yet have a habit of DAILY being in the Word and praying often (on your own and with your husband and children), I encourage you to do whatever it takes to carve out the space in your daily routine to make this a priority. That leads to our next word...

PLACE
Colossians 1:17-18 tell us that Christ "is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy." When Jesus has first place in your life and you are seeking to follow and glorify him, life truly does go so much better! That's not to say we can escape difficulties, but Jesus helps us order our lives in such a way that we can navigate busy and hard times with grace and ease, being confident that "he who began a good work in [us] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6).

When we follow Jesus first, our marriage takes the next place of priority, and then our children. Every family has different dynamics, of course, but these relationships are divinely ordered for our benefit and for God's glory. If we change up the order, we cause ourselves and our loved ones grief and difficulty. It's worth a quick assessment from time to time to ask ourselves: am I placing Christ first in my life? Do I put my children before my husband? Do I place activities (even good ones, such as ministry) as a higher priority than the primary relationships God has given me?


RACE
I'll close this post with the thought that we all have our own race to run. We cannot compare ourselves to anyone else. And...as I've been learning...I cannot even compare myself to myself! I often lament that I can't do [insert activity] the way I used to 10 years ago. (Multitasking, for example, is something I used to be much better at than I am now!) I can't compare our homeschool life in 2022 to what our homeschooling looked like in 2012 or 2005. The race I'm running now looks much different from the race I ran as a young bride, a new mother, a mom of 3, or a mom of 6 holding down the fort while her husband was deployed.

And let's not allow the word "race" to make us anxious...because our individual race might involve at any given time walking, sprinting, crawling, or even heaving on the side of the path for awhile. "Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Grace. 
Space.
Place.
Race.

Which one of these resonates with you today? Share a word of encouragement you've received so others can be blessed on their journey as well!

*****

P.S. Mama, if you're feeling overwhelmed, let's make some space on our calendars for a clarity call. I have a limited number of spots, but I'd be honored to walk alongside you and encourage you on your own race. 
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3 More Reasons I'm Thankful for Homeschooling

3 More Reasons I'm Thankful for Homeschooling
Recently I shared 3 reasons I'm grateful for homeschooling. This post gives 3 more reasons I love our home educating lifestyle! 

Friendships - 
The idea of the weird homeschool kid who "isn't socialized" is so far from the truth, it doesn't even warrant being called a "stereotype." Our kids socialize GREAT, thankyouverymuch! We cherish the bonds we form with others in the homeschool community...and that includes the friends we parents find as well! Sometimes we meet with others in a field trip setting (such as depicted in this photo, from a group event to the ProRodeo Hall of Fame & Museum of the American Cowboy). Other times it's developing deeper relationships with those we see in our homeschool enrichment classes on a weekly basis. Regardless of how or when we find those "kindred spirits," it's a blessing to find fellowship, community, and encouragement as we interact with like-minded families.

Fostering a love for learning - 
My school experience was so different from my kids' education. I was an A student, but I mostly studied to pass the test, not because I had some deep hunger for knowledge. My children's perspective on learning is much different because of the way we are able to engage in the learning process. I'm so thankful for their curiosity and the ability to dig more deeply into the things that interest them.

Forming lasting bonds - 
I know my children and teens and young adults much better because of our homeschool journey. Homeschooling requires intentionality with our personal relationships, because schooling is so much more than checking a box. I cherish the time I spend with my kids, knowing our family bonds are so much closer for being forced to figure out how to use our time and space to accommodate everyone's needs. And in addition to the relationships our kids have with their dad and myself, they are forming bonds with their siblings that are much deeper than they would have if they were separated into different grades at a local school. Yes...there are many times they drive each other (and me!) absolutely crazy. But the truth is, they love each other fiercely, and as they grow and mature, they naturally seek each other's advice and input. These relationships are so important! As we tell them, they will likely have each other much longer than they'll have us here on earth!
This photo is from Good Friday 2022. My oldest son was home from college on spring break, and my married daughter came over with her baby girl so we could have a special, symbolic lunch, with time to read from the gospels about Christ's death and resurrection. It's not always possible to have all 9 of my children (plus my grandbaby!!) together, so it's extra special when we can make it happen!

How are your relationships thriving because of homeschooling? Or perhaps they aren't at the moment...if that's true for you, I'd love to pray with you and walk alongside you as you seek God's wisdom for where you're at in  your journey. Let's hop on a call together and see where God leads us!
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3 Reasons I'm Thankful for Homeschooling

3 Reasons I'm Thankful for Homeschooling
I love homeschooling for so many reasons! I've put 3 of them together in this post and will share a few more later.

Freedom - 
I am very grateful for the freedom and opportunity to teach and talk to our kids about the things that matter most to us. As parents, we take Deuteronomy 6:4-9 seriously, and for us, homeschooling is the best way to carry our our God-given responsibilities for raising the next generation. In a world that is increasingly hostile to truth, we cherish the freedom we have to use the Word of God as our primary teaching tool. Parents, we must freely speak of the foundational truths God has laid out in Scripture AND in the universe He created. 

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse." Romans 1:18-20

Flexibility - 
Especially on a week like this one has been, with sickness running through the house, I'm grateful for the flexibility homeschooling brings. Not only can we set our own schedule, but also we can pick up and GO! Nothing like doing school by a lake, in a park, at the library, in the car, or on a mountain! And certainly in many, MANY times of transition over the years, the flexibility of homeschooling has served us well. Whether it was uprooting our family for yet another military move...or adding yet another baby to the household...the flexibility of our home educating lifestyle allowed us to make important adjustments at an appropriate pace.

FUN - 
If you're not already homeschooling, you may not believe this, but honestly, homeschooling is FUN. Perhaps not all day every day, but I truly have fun with my kids as we learn and discuss life together. It's a joy to watch them learn and grow. And we get to go on some stinkin' cool field trips! We've gone to the zoo on the first day of public school, taken school books to the lake, and even skipped "school" so we could take advantage of an opportunity taking place during typical school hours. We've made some incredible memories together, with a whole lot of laughter and silliness along the way.

If you're a homeschooler, what are some reasons you're thankful for homeschooling?

If you're not a homeschooler, what is something you're thankful for this year?

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A Day in the Life of Verity

A Day in the Life of Verity
I am jokingly calling July 11 - 15 Nurse Appreciation Week, because our wonderful nurse is out of town for a much-deserved break with her family. While we intentionally give praise and thanks to the Lord for His kindness in blessing us with such a faithful home health care provider, I have been ever so much more aware of all of the things Ms. Yvette does on a daily basis to help Verity live her best life! Of course, as Verity's mommy, I love caring for her myself, but I will say...I don't know HOW I'd also homeschool our other kids plus do general household management if we didn't have in-home help regularly!

Here's just a quick overview of what a day with Verity might entail nowadays...

6am  Water flush (we have to give her water through her g-tube to keep her hydrated)
7:00  Water flush, check diaper
7:30  Give glycerin suppository, rub belly, wait for poop; if not already prepped, make a new batch of formula and prep a new feeding bag (she gets a new one every day). On Mon, Tues, Wed, and Fri, this is the time our nurse clocks in.
7:45  Change poopy diaper; dress for the day, including putting on her AFOs (orthotics/braces for her ankles)
7:55  Put Verity in the stander so she bears weight on her legs/ankles, also making use of gravity to help get even more poo out
8:00  Administer coconut oil (helps with poo...see a theme here?!) and begin morning bolus feed. Make sure she has some toys to play with in her stander. 
8:05  Brush her hair and put it up to keep it out of her face when she head bangs. Use barrettes to secure her glasses and BAHA (bone-assisted hearing aid, which is on a headband).
8:10  Apply an eye patch over her left eye. She will wear this for 2 hours to help her right eye work harder. It's tracking much better than it used to!
8:25  Stop the feeding pump--she's having issues--grab a cloth and wait for it...........yes, she's grunting...here it comes...sigh. Much of her formula is now spewed into the burp cloth and dripping onto her toys. Make sure she's finished and suction out her nose, then clean the mess.
8:40  Mess is cleaned and she seems ok, so we resume feeding. 14 more ml to go. 
9:00  Breakfast is finished, food is settled. Administer probiotics along with a small water flush, then take her out of the stander and change her shirt since this one has emesis on it. Change her diaper as well...success on the poop front!
9:30  Water flush with Lactulose (helps keep her poo soft).
10:00  Water flush, remove the eye patch
10:30  Water flush, remove AFOs and check skin, give her a break before putting them back on.
11:00  Water flush. AFOs back on.
(We do therapy activities as well during those time blocks after breakfast. Depending on the day, Verity will have anywhere from 1-2.5 hours of therapy. Today, however, we had no one come for therapy, so we did our own thing!)
11:30  Lunch bolus feed! Verity has worked hard; we let her sit in her feeding chair and play with toys during lunch. (I should have given coconut oil, but I forgot...)
12:30  Water flush
1:00  Water flush
Water flushes continue every half hour...we also put AFOs on and off depending on her activities.
Various therapeutic activities...may include playing outside on the swing or trampoline; practicing moving the wheelchair; sit-to-stands and then into the gait trainer or walker; using the crawler; reading stories; etc.
3:00  Afternoon bolus feed
4:00 Water flush. Put her in bed with her hip brace on for "nap time."  
4:30 Water flush.
5:00 Administer Prevacid (helps with acid reflux) and Flonase (helps her breathe through her nose better).
5:30 Water flush (On Mon, Tues, Wed, and Fri, this is the time our nurse signs out.) If Verity is napping, we leave her alone! If she's awake, we remove the hip brace.
6:00 Water flush
6:30 Dinner bolus feed--at the table with the whole family (or whoever is home).
7:15 Bath and clean up if it's a bath night (usually Tues, Thurs, Sat)
7:30ish Sit on Daddy's lap during read-aloud time (or movie if it's Friday night)
8:15ish, or whenever she is getting fussy: Change for the night, water flush to catch up on water, brush hair, brush teeth, put in bed, sing our songs
8:30 Administer prophylactic antiobiotics (helps prevent UTIs because she has renal reflux), start overnight feeding. Mix up overnight formula with vitamins.
9:00 Currently, on Sunday through Wednesday nights, we have a night nurse. HOORAY! She arrives at this time. Otherwise, we put her CPAP mask on around this time.
9:30 On Thurs and Fri nights, we welcome our friend and respite provider, Edie, at this time. HOORAY!

And of course, not on any time schedule, there are the many wet diapers to change, often along with pants because she has a super power of peeing through and/or around her diapers! We are grateful to have disposable underpads provided through our DME (durable medical equipment) company!

I'm sure I've forgotten some things...and this doesn't even touch on all the FUN things we get to do with and for our girl! These are just the "to-dos" that I try to keep track of on the days we don't have nurses. :-)

I hope you've enjoyed this little glimpse into life with our special girl!

ETA: We got some great comments on this post on social media, so we turned this idea into a "Day in the Life with Verity" video! Check it out! And please subscribe to the Verity's Village channel while you're at it! 
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