By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

My new summer schedule May 31, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 9:45 pm
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I recently read “Managers of Their Homes” by Steve and Teri Maxwell, which is a scheduling book for homeschooling moms (primarily those with several kids). Although I will only be homeschooling 3 days a week and don’t intend to ever have more than 3 children (never say never, right??), this book was very helpful to me. (Thank you, Lynette for recommending it. Has anyone noticed all the great recommendations I get from Lynette? I recommend that you get a Lynette in your life–someone who reads the newspaper every day and talks often with intelligent people and is full of useful and interesting information.)

One reason I wanted to read about developing a schedule for our family is that I feel that on days that we are at home, I tend to ignore my kids. That sounds awful, but it is true. They play reasonably well together, so I can get away with sitting on the computer, writing insightful blog posts, emailing friends, and updating my Facebook status, only emerging occasionally to referee their arguments and hand out snacks. Then all of a sudden, it is dinnertime and my kids haven’t been read to all day. So after reading the Maxwells’ advice, I sat down to make a schedule. I prayerfully considered all the things I want to accomplish in a day: teaching Christopher to do chores, reading to the kids, having Christopher read to me, coloring and doing crafts with them, playing outside, having time for family worship/Scripture memory/prayer, and spending individual time with each boy while the other one does something independently. Then I mapped out three schedules–one for days we go somewhere in the morning, one for days we go somewhere in the afternoon, and one for days we (gulp) stay home all day.

I am proud to say that implemented my schedule last week. It seemed like a good week to start, since it was a 4-day week, and I left town on Friday, so I really only had three days of the schedule. Are you dying to know how it went? I thought so.

Day One: Things went fairly well, except for when I set Christopher up to color and practice writing letters while I played with Will, and Will wanted to color instead of playing in his room with me. I think the concept of playing alone with Mommy was so new to him he didn’t understand what was happening. But once we got going with some puzzles, he had a great time. We got behind schedule in the afternoon, and things started getting a little hairy. But Daddy came home early and whisked the boys away on errands at 4:30, bringing the schedule to a mercifully early end.

Day Two: Beautiful. Of course, the kids were with a sitter all morning. Sure does make it easier!

Day Three: Made it through half of the day (the part where we were gone all morning) and abandoned the schedule for the afternoon in the interest of laundry, packing and errands before leaving town.

So it may not be the most successful start, but there is all kinds of time between now and Labor Day for improvement. I have noticed several advantages already. The primary one is that I have been getting up earlier. All four days last week, I was completely showered and dressed AND spent time with God before my kids got up. I am not a morning person, and so this is a big deal for me. Of course, it isn’t so hard to get up when the sun is shining and there are birds singing outside my window–the winter will be more challenging! Also, I’ve been more organized with my housework. I thought I wouldn’t get as much done because I’m spending more intentional time playing with my kids, but somehow the opposite has happened. Amazing! And even on the days that the schedule came unglued, I read to my kids and Christopher read to me. In just a week of dedicated reading time with Christopher, his reading skills have really taken off. I’m so proud of him!

If this is something you’d like to try and want more info, leave a comment and I’d be happy to email you my schedules. I think it will be great this summer to keep us from just wasting the time we have together, and it will be great when preschool starts back up so I can prioritize the things I want to accomplish with the kids.

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Great Mommy Interview May 13, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 8:41 am

I am a faithful reader of Rocks In My Dryer, a witty and informative blog written by someone much wiser and funnier than I am. (Thanks to my friend Lynette for telling me about it!) Yesterday, Shannon posted an interview with her mom that contains so much great wisdom that I’m considering posting it on my bathroom mirror. I thought you all might enjoy it, too.

http://rocksinmydryer.typepad.com/shannon/2008/05/interview-with.html

 

Praying for my kids May 11, 2008

*** I’ve revised this recent post to participate (for the first time!) in Works For Me Wednesday at Rocks In My Dryer. Head over there to check out everyone else’s great ideas! ***

I’ve been trying to do better lately about praying for my kids. My attempts at praying for my kids often lapse into brief prayers like this: “Please Lord, help them to obey. Change their hearts so that they love you with all of their heart from an early age. And please, help them to obey. Please.”

What I’ve been doing recently is using a notebook from two years ago when I studied the book “31 Days of Prayer for My Child” by Susan Alexander Yates and Allison Yates Gaskins. (Yates also wrote “31 Days of Prayer for My Teen” if that’s where you are. And if that’s where you are, I would guess you really need that book!) The book goes through 31 topics to guide you in thoroughly praying for aspects of your children’s life, from your own shortcomings as a parent, to their future spouse and friendships, to their spiritual life.

When I read the book a couple of years ago, I got a small notebook and for each chapter, I summarized what I wanted to pray regarding that topic, an attribute of God that relates to it, and a relevant Scripture passage, usually one of the several referenced by the authors. (This was suggested by the authors, not a brilliant idea of my own.)

For example, on the chapter about Sibling Rivalry, I wrote: “Praying that Christopher and Will would be lifelong friends, not for outward appearances, but for Your glory. God is triune–our perfect model of unity. Romans 15:5-6: May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Now that I have all 31 days recorded in my notebook, I can use it each month. I look at the listing for that date and pray about that topic for my kids. If you don’t want to buy the book or feel overwhelmed by the thought, you could simply brainstorm 31 prayer topics, perhaps with Scripture references, and create your own prayer list.

What I love about my notebook is that when I inevitably miss a day, I just keep on going and hope that I don’t miss again on the same date next month! Surely over the course of a few months I’ll get all 31 topics covered with prayer.

 

How to be a better mom May 7, 2008

Filed under: parenting,spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 12:59 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I don’t know about you, but I am constantly wondering how I could be a better mom. I’ve read a lot of books and talked to a lot of experienced moms, searching for information that might help in my own child-raising struggles. Sometimes I’ll even manage to put a great idea into practice for about a week, and then I fall right back into the same pattern of begging, yelling and bribing in an effort to squeeze some small amount of obedience from my children. I start the day wanting to set a joyful tone for our home, but I find myself become discouraged and irritable, often by 9:00 a.m. (on good days). I feel like I have the pieces of the puzzle, but I can’t keep them together for more than a couple of hours at a time.

On my search for the answer to these dilemmas, I would hear people talk about spending time daily in God’s Word and in prayer. Honestly, I thought it was a little legalistic and regimented. I knew I should be spending more time with God, but it was so hard to set aside the time. (Strangely enough, I have no problem finding the time to play on Facebook and watch American Idol.)

Then came Bible Study Fellowship. I am finishing my first year in BSF, and I can now say that I have discovered the secret to being a better mom. Those “legalists” were right: the answer is spending time with God daily. (Or almost daily, in my case–just being honest!) I still fall short over and over again . . . take this morning, for example, when I was yelling at Christopher about 30 minutes before leaving for BSF. But I find myself less discouraged, less irritable, more joyful, and handling the rough spots in my life much better than I did a year ago. I know the reason for this is that God has been convicting me of my sin and teaching me about His character and truth through my study of His Word. I look forward to becoming even more wise, self-controlled and joyful in my parenting as He teaches me more.

At this point, you might be thinking, “This BSF has a parenting class?” That’s the crazy part about it. I’ve been studying the Gospel of Matthew this year. From the book of Matthew, I’ve learned huge lessons about materialism, obedience, forgiveness, relying on God’s strength, worship, contentment, being a better wife and mom, and so much more. God’s Word is always effective–when it goes out, it never returns void–so no matter what you are studying in God’s Word, He knows what you need and He will teach you through His Truth. It shouldn’t have taken me this long to figure out: Christ tells us in John 15:4-5 that we need to abide in Him. Jesus said that He is the Vine, we are the branches, and we cannot bear fruit apart from Him. It is only by being connected to the Vine that we can accomplish what He has called us to do.

So if you want to be a better mom (or wife, or daughter, or friend), let me encourage you to plug yourself into the only Vine that can provide what you need. If you do not have a Bible study that challenges you to daily study God’s Word and apply it to your life, check to see if there is a BSF group in your area. You can search for BSF classes near you by going to www.bsfinternational.org. It is very likely that your local BSF will be having an intro class during the week of May 12, when you could hear more about BSF and register to be in the class in the fall. If you are reading this after the week of May 12, you can attend intro classes in September and not be too far behind. Two things I love about BSF are the weekly lessons that hold me accountable to be in God’s Word throughout the week and the children’s program for children ages 2 and up. It is not just child care–the children study the same passage as we do, and the program is fabulous.

I’m amazed as I look back at my blog entries since September–almost all of them have been influence in some way by my BSF studies. If you are like me, struggling to keep the puzzle pieces together, please take the time to find a Bible study that will keep you daily connected to the Vine. If you would like more information about BSF, leave me a comment and I will get in touch with you.

 

Perspective May 2, 2008

Filed under: spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 11:59 am
Tags: , ,

I have several friends’ blogs and other websites I enjoy reading, and I try to keep up with them as best I can.  But there are two blogs that I read faithfully every day.  Brad and Laura Grammer are friends of ours from Indy, and Laura is struggling with leukemia.  Drew Christy is the nephew of another Indy friend, and he has been in a coma since a car accident on February 22.  Brad, Laura, and Drew’s mom are all Christians, and the way they rely on Christ through their heart-wrenching circumstances is both convicting and inspiring for me.

I know it is cliche, but I think it is important for me to remember how truly easy and comfortable my life is right now.  It is so easy for me to fall into the trap of thinking that my life as a stay-at-home mom of two small boys is incredibly difficult.  But reading about the suffering of the Grammers and the Christys reminds me to be thankful for what I have.  I complain when my kids are sick, because it means that I am stuck at home with them, listening to their whining all day long.  But when Laura’s kids are sick, she has to go stay somewhere else and cannot see her kids because their germs could be dangerous for her.  And Drew’s mom has been waiting for over 2 months for her son to wake up and talk, and she would probably give anything to hear him complain about something.

Staying home with two little boys is not suffering.  Having a husband who works past 5 p.m. most days is not suffering.  Not having money to buy new furniture is not suffering.  Dealing with potty training and disobedience and whining most of the day is not suffering.  Even dealing with seemingly never-ending diarrhea is not suffering.  And not liking how I look in my jeans is definitely not suffering.  But I’m embarrassed to admit that most days, I think and act and talk like it is.

In addition to praying for healing for Laura and Drew, I’ve been asking God to give me a better perspective on suffering and gratitude for the life He’s given me.  Ever since my friend Linda, Drew’s aunt, reminded me how much Drew’s mom would love to have her son chasing her and screaming while she tries to cook dinner, I’ve been a little more patient with my kids.  I’ve tried to view each day with them as a gift and enjoy them more.  We never know what God has planned for us, so I want to be committed to making the most of this relatively easy time to teach my children and prepare my own heart to suffer for Christ’s sake.

The bottom line is that I can always find someone who is ahead or behind me on the suffering scale.  My attitude should be the same no matter what God gives:  reliance on Christ alone for my daily needs and gratitude for the ultimate gift of salvation that He’s given.  I hope that God is glorified by my easy life in some way even as I see Him glorified tremendously in the life and faith of the Grammers and the Christys.  Would you join me in praying for them?