Ditching the Joneses

A year ago, I won a copy of Ditch the Joneses, Discover Your Family: How to Thrive on Less Than Two Incomes! by Cathi Brese Doebler. As a mom, being home with my children while they are still young is a definite priority. I’m glad my husband supports this choice.

It’s not always easy, however, to stop comparing my life with our neighbors’. Many of them have in-ground pools and flat-screen televisions: two things we wanted when we moved into our home more than 12 years ago. While my brown (very, very brown) thumb and I struggle along to landscape the yard, my neighbors pay to have their lawns mowed and their yards professionally designed and maintained. While I can’t say money has ever been my master, sacrificing my family’s needs for the sake of having more “things” is a real temptation.

Temptations like this come to many of us. We live in a society where a person’s worth is often judged by his material wealth. When we turn to the Word of God, however, it is the stories of those who gave up worldly possessions to do what was right or those willing to give of what little they had that inspire us to look beyond earthly rewards.

  • Noah was subjected to ridicule as he built the ark;
  • Moses was raised as a prince, yet he cast that aside to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land;
  • Luke 21: 1- 4 tells the story of the widow’s two mites–a woman who gave all she had while those around her gave from their surplus.

And then there is the story of Job, who had all a man could want in this world, yet Satan took it all away in the hope that he would turn his back on God. He lost his property, his family and friends, his health, and more. Because of Job’s faithfulness, God blessed him in the later years of life even more richly than he had before.

When the temptation to keep up with the Joneses is overwhelming, immerse yourself in these stories. Heavenly rewards reap a much greater benefit than any earthly reward.

Dear Lord,

It can be so tempting to compare myself to others. It is easy to be dissatisfied in a world of abundance. Please help me to focus my heart and soul on your plan for my life. Send your Holy Spirit to help me ward off the temptation to put material needs above the needs of my family.

I ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ.

Amen

Memory Makers: Summer Camp

Last week marked a big milestone in our home – my oldest had her first week of church summer camp.  I was interested to see how she would do with five full days of activities, but each night she came home exuberantly telling me how she climbed the giant rope ladder, did archery or sang funny songs.  On the last day of camp the families were invited to a special closing ceremony.  At one point during the ceremony they shared how many minutes that week the campers spent in meaningful conversation with Christian role models (300) compared to minutes watching TV or playing video games (0).

As I sat there I couldn’t help but remember my time as a camper.  Each year from seventh grade through twelfth I packed up my footlocker and headed to a week of Christian athletic camp at a nearby high school.  Those weeks are among some of the best of my life.  Through competition, discussion, mentorship and fellowship I forged some amazing friendships and saw what my relationship with Christ could be like.  I remember vividly the closing ceremonies we had at camp, the one we did before our parents came, where we worshipped together and cried as we knew that life at home was not the same as at camp.  At camp we were surrounded not only by like-minded Christians, but we were without all the pressures of regular life.  In this environment it was so easy to feel His presence in everything we did.

Listening to this closing ceremony I was so happy my daughter had the opportunity for this week of life changing experiences.  As a stay at home mom I have the opportunity everyday to engage with my children, but I must admit that there are days when the minutes watching TV certainly outweigh those spent in meaningful conversation and for many children this is probably a daily reality.  For those kids there is an amazing program designed to give those who wouldn’t have to the opportunity to go to camp just that.  It is called www.kidsneedcamp.com and their goal is to give 3000 kids a year the chance to grow in their relationship with Christ.   As for my daughters experience with church camp, she already asked if she could attend the overnight camp next year.  A week in fellowship, activity and adventure – I think I am ready to head back to camp!

www.hollyskeltonbooks.com

www.thelittleheartsproject.blogspot.com

Walking With Purpose
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I love children. They’re such a source of truth and inspiration. Life comes into focus when I watch them busily accomplishing the simplest of tasks. I so understand Christ’s love for them and telling us to be like them. 

My husband’s niece keeps the family updated with her creative blogging and photography of her two boys. She’s quite creative in her writing and captures great moments in word and vlogging. Today, wanting to just catch up on their lives, I opened her blog and watched her youngest son proudly displaying his walking skills. From the initial viewing and by the title of the blog you would think that’s all he was doing…walking. But, as the video progressed you realized he wasn’t just showing off his walking skills. He was walking with a purpose. 

The video opened with him shuffling his little feet from the dining room through the hallway down to his bedroom all the while holding a crumpled piece of paper and saying “cheese…cheese…cheese” ’cause he knew he was “on camera!” If that wasn’t cute enough, he stopped in front of an empty box, pulled back the lid and dropped the crumpled paper inside. He then shuffled his way back to the dining room, picked up another random piece of paper and repeat his journey two more times! He wasn’t just walking. He was walking with the purpose of throwing away the random pieces of paper.

It was a little task. Nothing profound to us but to a little 15 month old boy, it was a great accomplishment! He had a purpose! It actually brought tears to my eyes because I felt compelled, inspired to write. My purpose.

We all have a purpose. We all have little things and big things to accomplish but some days (like my yesterday) we may feel that all we do in life is meaningless. At times like that we need to go back to the One who gives us meaning and a purpose. We need to open the dialogue with Christ again and allow His truth and purpose to be spoken back into our lives.

Circumstances may either paralyze us or catapult us onto the next step of our journey God has laid before us. Don’t spend too much time being paralyzed. Seek for the Truth. Listen for his directions and go forth according to His plans. Walk with a purpose!

In Christ,
Dawn Aldrich/ @DawnAldrich
Author of Auntie’s House

Unplug and Reconnect

On July 9, Janice Green posted a wonderful blog about the lights going out and shared some great ideas on how to interact as a family. It reminded me how important it is for parents to connect with their children often–even when the lights are on.

My husband and I were in a restaurant a few weeks ago and sat near a family of four who were in a booth. Mom and Dad sat across from each other as well as a brother and sister. The children looked to be about 8 and 10 years old. Mom and Dad were both using their cell phones to send text messages. The brother and sister each had their own personal portable electronic devise and were deeply engaged in their own private activity. The only time they spoke was when the waitress came to take their order. They did not speak one word to each other the entire meal. How sad!

When I see a mom going for a walk with her children while talking on her cell phone, it makes me sad too. Mom is spending time with the person on the phone–not with her children. When I was raising my children, my phone was attached to the wall.  I am glad it was.

Janice’s ideas brought back fond memories of games we used to play while in the car or going for a walk. These little guessing games were not only fun and creative, they made us use our brains.  When we went out for dinner as a family, we talked to each other. We used our mouths rather than our thumbs to communicate.

When my Internet goes down, I have to unplug the modem and router, then plug them back in to reconnect. So here’s a thought–why not unplug the electronics and plug yourself into your children to reconnect with them? Modern technology is a wonderful thing, but it can also be a distraction that robs us of quality time with the ones we love.

I know that raising kids is exhausting and overwhelming–I have been there. But your kids will be gone before you are ready to let them go, and then you will have plenty of time to immerse yourself in the electronic world.

Here’s to giving our thumbs a rest!

Crystal Bowman

 

 

 

Seasons

Lately, I’ve been thinking about seasons. It might have something to do with the peak summer heat we’re experiencing now in south Florida. We’re so fickle. In summer we long for the cold of winter, and in January, we long for the heat of summer! But Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminds us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

Summer season in south Florida means oppressive heat and afternoon thunderstorms. It means mosquitoes and hurricanes. It also means less crowded roads and a slower pace of life, now that our most of our winter residents have flown back to their northern homes.

But seasons are not limited to weather or the calendar. We have seasons of life, too. Remember the ancient riddle of the Sphinx, recounted in Greek mythology? It hints at these seasons. The Sphinx was said to have asked: “Which creature walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening?” The answer is man – who crawls on all fours as a baby, walks on two feet as an adult, and walks with a cane in old age.

Reflect on a young mom, caught in a seemingly never-ending parade of dirty diapers. Or a young man who doesn’t bother investing in an IRA because retirement seems so far away. Consider a single mom, wondering how she will care for her three children as her car pulls away from the cemetery. Think of an elderly woman sitting in a nursing home, listening to a song on the radio that triggers memories of her husband’s marriage proposal sixty years earlier.

Often seasons bring experiences we could never have anticipated. Suffering we would never have contemplated or joys we could never have imagined. But seasons change…and we have a choice.

We can be “all there” in our present season, or we can waste the gift we’ve been given by wishing it away while we dream of the past or the future. We can grumble about dirty diapers now, and an empty nest later. We can resent the injustices done to us by people in our past, and carry those broken relationships into the future. We can complain about lost career opportunities years ago, and use them as an excuse to create new opportunities for ourselves today. Or…

Or we can enjoy the gift of the present. The moments we have today. The relationships we have that can be strengthened. The words we can speak to encourage someone else. The skills we can learn with the opportunities we have. Most importantly, we can use the opportunities of our present season to grow into the men and women that God intended for us to be.

Ephesians 5:16 tells us how to handle the present. I love how the different translations approach this verse. The NASB tells us to “make the most of the time,” while the KJV exhorts us to “redeem the time.” The NIV encourages us to “make the most of every opportunity,” while the ESV tells us to “make the best use of the time.”

Whatever the translation, the meaning is clear. The present is a present. Don’t waste it, whatever season you’re in.

Ava.