Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Discipline of Solitude

I am always amazed with how God takes a heart, and through the Spirit guides us to learning more of one aspect of Him at a given time. My heart has been especially open to considering quiet and stillness lately.

I have discovered a book that I have actually had sitting on my shelf for awhile now. I have no doubt that reading it now is perfectly timed for the lessons I have gained from it :) I am reading the classic "Celebration of Discipline" by Robert Foster.  I have found some wonderfully inspiring encouragements in those timeless lessons.

I have been challenged by all the disciplines: meditation, prayer, study, submission, service and fasting (so far)..but one of them has really stood out to me. The Discipline of Solitude.

He speaks of our fear of silence, our fear of being alone. He speaks of how we have replaced quiet solitude with noise, filling our ears and thus our minds and hearts with other than godly things.  He contrasts solitude versus loneliness,  "Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment."

He stresses the importance of quiet to the spirit of solitude..."without silence there is no solitude."

He clarifies that it is not just the absence of noise or speaking, but a state "listening to God." He says, "Though silence sometimes involves the absence of speech, it always involves the act of listening. Simply to refrain from talking, without the heart of listening to God, is not silence."

He challenges me when he asserts that using words or noise for the sake of filling silence can take us away from listening to God, or being in a state that allows us to hear Him.   I am totally guilty of that!

I didnt realize how much so I was guilty of it until feeling challenged in this area - I started realizing how often I dispel quiet moments with music, talking or with allowing my mind to wonder. More specifically, how I dont take advantage of the moments in my day where I can take hold of silence, if even for a moment.

I found that when I did have a moment or two (which happened more often than I realized!) where the noise is dispelled for a blessed moment (naptime, or when the kids are outside and occupied) I look to turn on music, reach for my phone or jump on the computer. I didnt really realize how often I am guilty of this, and have since realized how many little moments in my day that have potential for quiet, silence and solitude.

It may be literally 2 minutes, but it DOES happen ...who knew?

He especially challenges me when he talks about when we use words to dispel quiet. He goes so far as to reference Ecclesiastes 5:1, "To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools." 

 Hm. How often have I given a "sacrifice of fools"  when I try to get my words out and heard? Uh, ouch. He continues the assault on my pride when he states "one reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are so accustomed to relying upon words to manage and control others. If we are silent, who will take control? God will take control, but we will never let him take control until we trust him. Silence is intimately related to trust."  Ouch again.

Yesterday, I really tried to embrace this idea. I resisted filling up my quiet moments with noise, and found I had more moments that I thought possible to meditate, pray and consider things of God. I prayed more for family and friends, I thought more of things that were "pure and lovely."

Honestly, that was way easier for me that will be the next opportunity I have to chose between keeping my trap shut and sharing my vast wisdom with someone. But, he challenges through Thomas a Kempis, "it is easier to be silent altogether than to speak with moderation."  Sheesh, my toes hurt. :)

I am going to keep working on this - truly the moments of quiet and listening were well worth the "sacrifice" of noise.

What do you find more difficult...embracing quiet or being quiet? ..being okay with less noise, or keeping your tongue stilled?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Less Stressed Dinner: Sour Cream Enchiladas

Okay, this is one of my favorites. Its my go-to recipe for when I gotta feed alot of people and its one of two things I make/take/freeze when I feed other families. Its WAY easy, cheap and is super versitle ..all characteristics of a Less Stressed Dinner :)

{Sour Cream Enchiladas}

2-3 cups cooked, shredded chicken or 1lb of ground, cooked beef 
1 cup sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 small can diced green chilis
1 cupish cheddar cheese 
12 flour tortillas

Combine all the ingredients, except cheese and tortillas. Grease/Pam a 9x13 baking dish. Using a large spoon, place two spoonfuls of filling on each flour tortilla; folding them with both sides to the middle, then placing them face down in the baking dish. Make sure to reserve a few spoonfuls of filling, and spread over entire pan of folded tortillas. Spread cheddar cheese over top of tortillas and filling layer. 

At this point you can do a few things ..first, you can pop them in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until everything is bubbly. This is also the point that I take it to people, or to a large gathering, or when I am cooking the night before I can put them in the fridge. When its time to eat, just pop them in for 20 minutes and you are set. 

You can also stop here, put some saran wrap on them, then some foil and place them in the freezer. I found it works better to have them thaw first, then 350 until bubbling.

Any way you do it, its a winner every time :)

I dont have any awesome pics for you today ..but picture cheese and creamy stuff :)

Thursday, April 14, 2011


{"Dont be concerned about outward beauty or fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God." 1 Peter 3:3-4}

I needed to hear that today. 

I really struggle with being quiet. Literally, with my voice as well as figuratively in my spirit.  I am feeling challenged this day to be quiet in voice, which has interestingly crossed over to my spirit in many ways. 
My default settings are loud. I shout my kids names to get their attention, I raise my voice to get my point across, I have a naturally loud voice when I talk on the phone or get excited about anything. I would guess most people would not describe me as quiet on any level :)

It takes effort for me to be quiet.  The purposefulness of being quiet is good for me; its challenging, but good for me. 

I have heard of a "noise" fast. I love that idea. I would love to turn off all the noise, only speak in a whisper, not speak if at all possible. I love the idea of creating a physically quiet environment in order to quiet my spirit.

Truthfully, that is not very reasonable with three boys six and under running around. But I wonder how their default settings would be challenged if I worked on suppressing mine? Hmm. I may try that :)

On any count, I am working on quiet today. I am turning the tv off, purposefully keeping my voice to a low volume and even going to resist turning on music to fill the void.  When my children's voices or words get out of control we take "talking time outs". They have to have to put their finger on their mouths for a designated amount of time.  I am considering using that myself to remind me to be quiet...I bet they would love that! :)

Do you have any tips, thoughts, verses or ideas about how to remind yourself to be quiet?  Please share ...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Less Stressed Painting

I love to paint. It is one of my favorite ways to freshen a room, change a perspective and feel productive :) I get the bug every couple of years and I am slam in the middle of one such rush of adrenaline right now. I currently have 2/3 of my bathrooms in various stages of being recolored and one in the "ah, it looks so pretty" stage :)

I assure you that my hubby appreciates it (insert eye roll here).

A friend mentioned something about being impressed I could do that with three kids running around and it occurred to me that I need to share my painting tips ..because they are the only reason I can go with this creative flows when they happen! :)

So, my tips ...

* Think about it for a bit - I tend to stay pretty neutral, so I dont worry too much about going from anything to a new color. But, if you are drawn to the bright or less neutral stuff, for sure think about it a bit. Lowes offers $5 sample cans of any of their colors. You can put it up and consider it, how it looks in the room in that room's lighting, etc.  I love to ask the people standing around the paint sample area at the store ..especially if I am thinking something specific.

This time, I wanted a clean grey color ..not brown/green or blue. I asked several people standing there what they thought and ended up getting some great advise, switching what I was thinking and LOVING what I ended up with.

* Get quality paint - I had a fellow paint lover tell me this, and it has rung very true for me. The cheap stuff at Walmart will not cut it, even for the pennies you save by getting it. Save til you can afford the $30/gallon stuff. Trust me ..the money you end up spending will save you time (no extra coats), it will look better, and  you will have alot less stress painting.  Once when I tried to cut pennies I used two gallons of paint, three coats and quite a few bad words in the process all for one medium sized room.

Also, you will use alot less in the long run, so you can do what I do and fall in love with a color and take it to another room :) I will personally vouch for Sherwin Williams (at Sherwin William stores) and Valspar (Lowes). Both of these have great coverage, the colors are rich and matchable (for touchups later) and they roll on great!

* Supplies are a must - my "less stressed" painting method has a ton to do with the supplies I use.  I have found the trick to painting with little ones around is short sessions. I may only get to work on a painting project a few minutes at at time, so my supplies are a big part of making those minutes count.

I am not a big taper. It takes time and that is not something I have at ton of. I use a tool that helps me cut out taping altogether, and makes quick work of trimming the ceiling and baseboards. Its by Shur-line, its sold at Lowes and is called the Edge Like a Pro.  It has a pad is removable/replaceable and is super easy to use. It has rollers, so as long as you keep them clean you can get up against any ceiling, crown molding, baseboard or whatever. I love it (pic copyrighted by Shur-line)

Next is my favorite painting tip: a 5 gallon bucket and a paint screen. These two super cheap supplies are how I can do short sessions of painting. A $2 paint screen set inside a 5 gallon bucket will let you pour a good amount of paint in at a time (way more than one of those trays,  1/2 to a whole gallon) and eliminates the need for pouring paint every 20 minutes.  You use the screen to clean off your roller of excess paint, which runs down the back of the screen, thus saving you paint/money :)  (pic by HGTV.com).  Now, the only disclaimer to that is that a 5 gallon bucket is overkill if you are just painting a small bathroom where there is not a ton of roller work.  But if you are using the roller a lot, this is a great tip...that leads me to my #1 best painting tip.

* Easy clean up - Short paint sessions ONLY work if you can put it away and get it out fast. That means NO cleaning rollers and brushes in between times!  I have learned that if you wrap your brushes/rollers/edgers AND your bucket full of paint in garbage bags/walmart bags and make sure that there is no air hitting your paint/brushes ...you can keep it forEVER.

No lie. I have worked on a room for a couple of weeks, and simply wrapped my roller up in a Walmart bag every time I used it. It stayed wet, and ready to use at a moments notice. NO cleaning up between sessions, and when it was all done I threw away my roller pad.  The only thing I wash at the end is the brushes I use for touch up trim work, and those are no biggie.

I wrap the 5 gallon bucket or my paint tray in a trashbag, tie it super tight where this no air getting in. I leave it until my next available 15 minutes, open it up, roll a bit, then wrap it back up when I am done.  When its time for clean up, put the excess paint back in the paint can, and leave it. As long as you are putting some time between the next painting marathon, the paint will dry in the bucket and you wont have to worry about cleaning it out. The same goes for the paint screen. I have used the same bucket/screen for multiple colors for a couple of years now.

Want some inspiration ..here is my way pretty bathroom before and after :)

Before as is when we moved in 2 years ago...It was fine, but wallpaper and little boys dont mix well :)

After: ...semi-gloss paint works great for little boys with muddy finger prints :)

Okay, my frame needs a couple of pictures in it but I am happy with the over all look :)

Do you have some more painting tips?! I would love to hear about what WORKS FOR YOU!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Only One Standard

 It seems this week is a week of encouraging each other in our convictions ..not just homeschooling, but whenever we are called to live a life that is different that those around us. As Christian moms and wives, we are called to be SO different that we are hated by the world! Because we are God's Spirit being lived in a human form, we tend to have the weaknesses of a human ...bummer.

One weakness of that is the fact that we can distracted by others' disapproval of simple lack of encouragement and support. Whether your convictions lead you to disciplining your children differently, making counter cultural choices about how you spend your money, how you educate your children, where you worship (or simply worship at all), we often need reminding who we are living those convictions for.

A friend shared this blog post with me this week, and it has fallen in line with some thoughts I was already having for several reasons...this is from the blog I Take Joy.

"Don’t listen.

Just don’t let them linger in your head. Have time in the word, pray, write down your commitment, hold fast and be a person of faith. Speak truth to your brain."

I am reminded of a post from a couple of years ago, and it encouraged me to recall some of those thoughts...perhaps they can help guide yours as well...Blessings on you this day :)

{This was originally posted on October 6th, 2009}

We can measure ourselves by others and the areas of strength we see in them. We can wrongly use them to make us feel less than worthy. We can create standards for ourselves that are not placed on us by God, or His word.

We can also do the same to others, or allow others to do so to us. Both of these, are difficult and oh so damaging to a right relationship with God and those He has placed in our lives.

First, when we create standards for ourselves based on either spirit-lead convictions or by other means (example of others, habits, new thinking, etc.) then place them on others ... we pridefully place ourselves in a position we do not belong.

Do you do this? Think about times when you look at others' choices they make, money they spend, the people they spend time with, the convictions they have, the behavior of their children, their marriages, their housekeeping ...do you look at them and measure them against your own successes, your own convictions, your own standards?

Are you using your own measure to judge others?

I know I find myself doing this, often without even realizing it. How unfair we can be to others, even if in our own minds.

If you have ever been on the opposite side of that, you know how damaging that can be as well. Have you ever been in the position to be the judged? Are you ever applied to the measure of someone else, and found to be wanting?

Do you have someone in your life who measures you by a standard that they have determined for themselves (whether Godly, spirit-led, or not) and makes sure you know you do not measure up?

Then, you know how difficult it can be for your spirit when that happens.

Remaining true to God's standards, and only God's standards, is only possible by constant prayer and by remaining in His Word. It must be a daily practice, so that we can remain in the Spirit which will help us see when we are creating standards for ourselves, others or are allowing others to place them on us.

Since realizing that I can confess to all of these, I have had my eyes opened to so many areas that need to return to God's guidelines and not mine or others'. I have found some freedom from standards that I did not need or deserve to be placing on myself and those around me. I have a long way to go, but I am learning :)

{Welcome ifellowshippers! ..so glad you are here :)}

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Why's of Homeschooling

I hesitate to even post this here because of the personal nature of it - because so many of these thoughts will be specific to me and my family. I have considered not putting here at all, but then I consider how important our motivations are. Motivation has so much to do with how our day to day operations bring us (or dont bring us) any degree of peace.

Why do we do what we do? What is driving those things? When we chose the more difficult way, what is reason behind it? Clarity in these things allows for proper utilization of resources, and thus a more satisfied feeling in the achievement...maybe you share some of my motivations for this life choice, or maybe by seeing mine you will find a more solid reason why you do or do not make it for yourself :)

I have been asking myself why alot pertaining to homeschooling since we started it full time this past fall. I have been searching for my reasons, clarifying for myself why I have chosen this method of educating my children. That is, aside from the obvious fact that I was homeschooled myself, which really isnt enough motivation to drive the massive amount of resources that goes to this sort of decision.

I have determined that I actually have a few whys ...

Why I love homeschooling ...

it is what I know ...that has alot to do with it, truly. I was raised a homeschooled kid, went on to a four year college, graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. It worked well for me, which I can say absolutely now that I am an adult. This life choice is one my parents made, and my mom specifically committed to up until two years ago when my youngest sibling finished out her high school years in a small private school.  It is something I am comfortable with, and I have respect for on the other side of things.

it is simple. Not easy. Simple.  It fits the goals we have for our family ..that being that we will embrace the little things, that we will live with less stress, a slower pace and an intense focus on nurturing relationships with eachother and God.  With my boys home, we can take every opportunity to explore things we love, nurture relationships that dont fit into a brick and mortor school schedule (like with our daddy who works evening shift) and take things a pace that allows us to delve into the things we get the most enjoyment from.

it allows for flexibility.  Really, this has alot to do with the "simple" things as well but I love how we are able to take things at the pace that fits our kids the best. I love how we are able to dwell on the things that need dwelt on. Be they discipline issues, emotional issues, education issues, family issues ..whatever the case may be. We are able to study space for two weeks if we want to, or rush through the letter sounds because for some reason my 4 year old knows them already. We can take more time to focus on obedience than math, or we can spend an hour reading a Magic Treehouse book from cover to cover.  We can take a morning to rest if needed, or stay up late enjoying fellowship of good friends.

we can rise to the challenge, or slow down.  I love the fact that my 6 year old is staying at pace with his potential. If we were in the school system, based on his birthday he would be just wrapping up his kindergarten year. Because we kept a pace that kept him challenged, we knocked out kindergarten and first grade this year. I know that he is being challenged to his full potential, and I really love that.

its about me. Its selfish, really, but I LOVE to see them learn new things. I love experiencing my 4 year old ask questions about a bible lesson, or hear my 6 year old make a connection about the solar system. I love hearing them repeat back things that I taught them. I love to hear my first grader belting out a made up song about the 9 planets, giving each one a distinguishing characteristic that he remembered from our lessons. I love being available when they have a question about something they saw ..I get to answer it. Which makes me feel awesome. :)

There are other why's though, too, aside from just why we do love it ...

Why I am okay with it ....

they will be a different. Sure. I know that. I think it is a no-brainer that because their life experiences will be different than the average kid their age, they naturally will be a bit different than those that have them.  But I am okay with it.  Again, I refer to my own experience as a "different" kid. I remember very well those moments when I felt out of place, when I didnt understand what they were all talking about, and when they were talking about homecoming and prom. I felt a bit left out, naturally.  I recognized that I didnt talk the same as them or think about things the same way.

I am okay with it for my own kids, though because I also knew that it was because I was different that some people were drawn to me. I understood that my differentness let me be a different kind of influence to those around me and that if I saw those differences as a blessing, and not a curse then I had a lot of potential for touching people.  All growing up I was the gal who all the misfits disclosed their secrets to. Looking back, I realize that it was because my innocence attracted them. I was in many situations where I was able to comfort a fellow jr high girl, hold the hand of a high school friend who had made bad choices, or encouraged a youth grouper to make a choice for Christ.

I know that my differentness helped me do those things. I know that because I wasnt like every other person they knew, I had a unique potential for touching them. Different isnt always bad.

And, lets face it ..I could name you 10 homeschool kids that were a bit "off" and match them with another 10 traditional schooled kids that I could say the same about ;) 

they wont be socialized. Yeah, that is the one that everyone seems to bring up. Its funny, that lately it has come up for me ALOT.  Having considered it quite a bit, I have determined this: that people are seriously concerned about their kids being socialized :)

Here is my take on it ..for whatever that is worth. The concept of socialization is about our children learning how to behave in social situations, how to manage relationships and function in the world around them. This, of course, is an important thing for children to learn. Thing is, that I think most kids do this very naturally. As long as they are exposed to children and adults on a regular basis so that they have opportunity to learn these ideas, they will naturally learn what they need to.

A child who is in a healthy family learns a TON about how to behave in every kind of relationship. They learn respect for authority, how to treat people younger than you, how to share, how to be considerate of others, how to serve others, the importance of sacrifice for the good of everyone, natural consequences...etc. I could go on and on. True, they arent learning it along with 25 other kids 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week,  but I have found that the lessons learned at home can be directly applied to a bible class full of 15 kids and a teacher just like a home with two little brothers and two parents :)

Honestly, because we are together 100% of the time we are working on socialization 100% of the time. We are constantly instructing, guiding and teaching what it means to be a considerate friend, neighbor, brother, son and member of society.

We also provide opportunities for getting to know other children of different ages, working with a team, and getting instruction from authority besides mom and dad. So, I am okay with them not learning this concept the same way most of his counterparts are learning it. But be assured, many homeschooled kids are learning how to be good little social beings :)

we arent in the rat race. I am totally okay with my kids not being in school 40+ hours a week. Dont misunderstand, I am ALL about educating my children. I want them to learn as much as they can, I want them to meet the education standards of their society (at the very least) ..I want them to be educated, now and in the future.  I am okay, though, with this not being the primary task of their childhood.  I am okay with us working for 2-3 solid hours on book learning, and spending the rest of the day learning about things that they will take with them for the rest of their life. I am okay with spending more hours in our day focusing on life lessons than math lessons.  I am okay with it.

Why I dont love homeschooling ...{yes, I have some why's for that too}

there is an assumption of judgement. I remember my own parents struggling with this, being some of the only homeschoolers in a small Texas town whose very life blood was wrapped up in high school football and education.  When you chose to do something counter cultural, there is always an assumption that you are judging everyone who does not make that choice.

I truly do NOT judge anyone who do does not make this choice. I know that this lifestyle is one that is very personal and unique to a person, their goals, their resources and many other factors. To say that this is THE right choice for everyone and their choosing not to is wrong ..well, that is just silly.

Some of the best moms I know do not homeschool, are public school teachers or otherwise do not chose to education their children this way. There is no judgement there for any of them. We all have to use the resources we have to do the best job we complete the tasks God has blessed us with.

there is assumption of being a public school hater.  I had someone say something about this this week. That is one thing I dont love about homeschooling. I do not hate the public school system, and I have nothing but respect for teachers who work with all those kids every day. I think they must have a special dose of resources that I do not have because they give like I do for kids they dont even know, they are working with resources less then they really need, and they are often asked to more than is humanly possible for one person. I know many tradional school teachers that see their lives as a calling, which I can totally agree with. I also feel there is a function in society that brick and mortar schools play in the overall betterment of our society. I have made the choice I have made because of the needs of my kids, not because I hate the public schools or their teachers :)

SO ...for whatever it is worth, there are my thoughts.

Feel free to comment, just keep it positive please! :)

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