Family Life

Just One of Those Days: Purpose in the Midst of the Mess

show-me-your-mess

Enter the mess. Remnants of toys scattered everywhere. A sticky, crummy kitchen floor- evidence of children rummaging through the fridge and snack cupboard, food-caked dishes left piled in the sink, and a huge basket of clothes awaiting to be folded and returned to their proper drawers. This is not in any way how you would typically find my house on any other given day.  When my husband crossed the threshold of our humble abode after a long and grueling day of work and football practice, he must have initially thought a burglary occurred.  He was not accustomed to witnessing our home in such a state.

Upon finding me amidst the debris of our epic play day, he had a sigh of relief that we were indeed safe and sound, but then puzzlingly asked “what…. did you guys do today?”  His tone wasn’t angry or harsh, just confused. He wondered what happened to his obsessive compulsive wife who thrives in organizing the sock drawer and alphabetizing her spice cupboard.  Through a deep exhale, my answer was simply relayed: “it was just one of those days.” But what appeared to be a day of mommy defeat was actually a day of personal revelation. Even while sinking in a flood of game pieces and Barbie dolls, all I could see was a perfectly constructed, beautiful day. A day I let go of control without feeling out of control. And although I wouldn’t wear clutter as a badge of honor, I wasn’t overwhelmed or ashamed of the mess.  It was a day I chose to let go of my to-do list, chores and spotless home in order to devote more time for dress up, candy land and coloring.

On most days, there is a balance between playing with the kids and managing the homestead. Balance sometimes seems like this unattainable goal where the apparent sensible solution is to consider cloning myself. I didn’t want my children to view their daily time with me as another check mark on my to do list. Of course, this is not a free pass to always push the housework to the back burner- living in a pig sty is not my idea of balance either!

As I scoped my house of the necessary tasks that needed my attention, I realized that my laundry basket would still be there in need of folding later. My dishes will not grow up and move away if I don’t have them done right after dinner. And since my counter tops lack a soul, no amount of Mr.Clean will save them. I had to admit that I was engrossed in the busy work of my home. But every day with my kids is another opportunity to not only invest in their lives, but in eternity. As I heard my children’s sweet voices call “Mommy, Mommy… come play with us.” I recalled another woman who was distracted with her own to-do list and was completely missing out on the divine appointment that was right under her roof.

Martha was the perfect hostess- probably never had dirty jars in the sink, always had freshly baked leavan bread, and perfumed her house with sweet smelling oils. She graciously opened her home for Jesus and His followers.  As Jesus taught, Martha was working hard with the preparations to accommodate her noble guest of honor. Enter the mess.  As Martha was frantically distracted with all the tasks on her to-do list, she wondered why her sister, Mary, was not present and accounted for. But Mary was in fact present.

Mary was sitting at the Lord’s feet as He taught. Martha, feeling frustrated, came to Jesus and asked “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (Luke 10: 40) Jesus replied “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed- or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41,42) Notice Jesus said Martha’s name twice. Picking up on her hostility towards her sister, I believe Jesus said her name the first time in order to calm her down. He said her name a second time to ensure that she was listening to what He was about to explain.

I can relate to Martha- wanting to keep my house presentable, maintaining a structured routine, and don’t even ask my family what I look like before hosting an event. But at the end of the day, I am often left weighing the pros and cons of my decisions and ask myself: have I chosen what is better? I concluded that while I can’t store a picturesque home in heaven, I can invest in eternity by ministering to my family.  In the midst of all the hustle and bustle throughout the day- I could hear the Holy Spirit’s gentle whisper “Jennifer, Jennifer,” shifting my focus on what is better. Keeping my eyes on the most important tasks as a homemaker: seeking God and ministering to my family.

I believe Martha was not going about her duties with a prideful heart. I honestly believe she had a heart of servitude. And since Jesus weighs the heart,  I believe He was not reprimanding Martha, but reminding her of where our treasure is really found- in Him.  Sometimes the things that distract us are not necessarily “bad” things. But if too many distractions are keeping us from the most important tasks, we are choosing to focus on the temporal and missing the eternal- it is not argument of which is better. Let’s face it- our days are busy and hectic, but we cannot allow ourselves to become so distracted that we miss the divine opportunities right under our roof! God showed me on that day to be more concerned about the work He wanted me to accomplish, rather than my own to-do list. The next time my children eagerly cry “Mommy, mommy…” I will consider it a reminder from heaven to choose what is better- to look beyond the mess and focus on the true purpose of a homemaker.

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

Family Life

Who You Are: An Open Letter to my Daughter

 

IMG_0120

Dear Joanna,

God exceeded my expectations of a daughter when He designed you. Your spring-like curls, your Maybelline eyelashes and vibrant character are just a tiny glimpse at the work of our wonderful creator. Every time you smile, I can still see the baby I held in my arms for the first time six years ago today.  Watching you grow has been the joy of my heart- your bright imagination, your spunky, yet soft spirit, and how you sparkle in the spotlight with your radiant smile and sweet laugh. But as beautiful as God made you- none of these things define who you are. You are more valuable than this world wants you to know. Thankfully, you have a heavenly Father who deeply desires for you to know who you are in Him.

Daughter, you are a fiery and strong-willed individual. It is by no accident that your name means ‘God is gracious,’ because He is grace incarnate and His love is beyond the scope of human capacity. You are an extension of that grace. The history of your name is as profound as its meaning.  Joanna was a follower of Jesus. She experienced God’s grace through divine healing. She may not have been considered as one of the twelve disciples, but she led a life of purpose to spread the Gospel and lead people to Jesus.  She witnessed the death of our Savior on the cross and she was among the first to lay eyes on the empty tomb to proclaim His promised resurrection.

Joanna was a strong woman, but not by the same definition of women today.  Her strength was not found in herself, but in her Lord. She was humble, faithful, and persistent in her ministry for Christ.  She did not care what others thought or how much it would cost her- she knew without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was the way, the truth and the life. She set about her mission to serve Him and preach the Word- even in the midst of extraordinary danger. And just like Joanna, you are following Christ in an ever-increasing hostile world. You are growing up in a society who has adopted a backwards philosophy of women and Christians that completely defiles the Word of God.

My prayer for you, dear Joanna, is that you walk confidently in the faith you profess. Know that your unique beauty is not measured by the standards of this world. You are beautiful because you are a child of the Most High- the King of Kings- and you are His beloved princess and heir to His Kingdom.  Never allow the world to define your worth, your insecurities or who you are. You are justified through the One who spoke your name into existence and breathed life into you. With your diligent determination, I pray you desire more of building a foundation on Christ, rather than breaking glass ceilings.  Swim against the grain of society and operate in the current of the Holy Spirit.

I pray as you continue to grow, you aim to please God rather than please other people.  Hunger for righteousness, not earthly success.  Seek His Kingdom, not the empty promises of this fallen world. I pray you give God the glory for the many talents and gifts He has sovereignly ordained to you. Despite what people will attempt to convince you of, this life is not about the pursuit of happiness, but a pursuit of holiness and serving Christ. This is what it means to be a daughter of the living God. You are not just my daughter- you first and foremost belong to Him. He knew you before you were born-  He knew every curly hair on your head. You are beautiful, sanctified, justified, redeemed and made whole because you are His precious daughter. That is who you are.

Shine bright, dear Joanna, because the light of the world lives in you.

 

All my love,

Mom (The Humble Homemaker)

Food and Recipes

Homerun Banana Split Yogurt Pops

 

0a

When my kids come in from a long day of playing outside, the first thing they do is ransack the freezer for a sweet treat to cool them down. But even though I usually stock up on the store- bought staple popsicles, sometimes I prefer to offer them a healthier substitute to beat the heat. When I began brainstorming for a healthy- but delectable- summer delight, I dug through my memory bank and recaptured my teen years, working on hot summer days at Dairy Queen- serving up the customers looking to satisfy their hankering for a sweet novelty. I particularly recall cringing at the sight of the endlessly unloading minivans jam packed with anxiously hungry little leaguers after their victory games.

The whole Dairy Queen team braced themselves, awaiting the inevitable storm that was about to erupt. It was like watching a tornado of uniforms heading towards the door. But the storm died down as each player caught their treats. One of the favorite menu items ordered from these eager eaters was the classic banana split- three mounds of rich vanilla ice cream- one mound covered with smooth chocolate syrup, one with tangy pineapple chunks and one with sweet strawberries. A halved banana was placed on each side of the mountainous dreamy dessert, topped off with a generous portion of whipped cream. Am I making you hungry? But don’t’ touch those car keys just yet- let me finish before you decide to scurry out the door to your local Dairy Queen!

The banana split sounds just about perfect, huh? But however delectable the banana split is, it still didn’t solve my dilemma to find a healthy snack. Thankfully, as it turns out, that minimum wage job at Dairy Queen actually paid off when my ah ha moment inspired me to make this: a banana split yogurt pop. It contains the decadent and refreshing ingredients of a banana split without all the sugary guilt from ice cream.  You will be the Mom MVP with your little ones with this winning recipe! When your kids go out to the ball game, they won’t be asking for peanuts and cracker jacks any more. These pops are perfect to pack in a cooler for those family picnics, baseball games and trips to the pool! Warning: may attract neighbor kids and other spectators. Make sure to make enough for extra mouths and extra innings! The flavors will knock your taste buds out of the park!

Homerun Banana Split Yogurt Pops

3 Strawberries, hulled

1 Banana, cut into chunks

1 Tb. Chocolate Syrup

1 Tsp. Vanilla Extract

16 oz. Vanilla Greek Yogurt

Juice from a 20 oz. can of Pineapple chunks, plus 1/3 of the Pineapples

6-8 Plastic Freezer Pop Molds

Add the strawberries, banana, chocolate syrup, vanilla extract, Greek yogurt, pineapple juice and pineapple chunks into a blender. Blend until mixture is smooth. Disperse equally into freezer molds. Freeze for 8 hours. Before devouring, run each mold under warm water for 30 seconds to easily remove the yogurt pops. Feed to sweaty and ravenous children!

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

Uncategorized

7 Thoughtful Father’s Day Gifts

Image result for fathers day images

Fathers are all fairly predictable creatures- they are sports gurus, they are all the self-proclaimed “master of the grill,” they are the “lawn lords” of their yard domains, and bask in the ambiance of anything with an engine. But even considering these general interests, the puzzling question of what to get our fearless leader for Father’s Day remains unsolved. Even finding the perfect card to adequately express sincerity becomes a task of monumental proportion- and makes me question if I’m missing out in my untapped potential to work for Hallmark.

But if your family is wired anything like mine, you strive to create memorable moments with the simple pleasures in life- with or without an $8 card that sings. It doesn’t have to be fancy and come with a high price tag in order for someone to feel loved in our house. Often, it’s the breakfasts in bed and homemade kid crafts that really tug at our heart strings. And while the common gesture of a new tie is always received with gratitude, I believe Father’s Day is a perfect opportunity to get the kids involved- and get creative! A gift that celebrates our dear dads, but in a practical- or shall we say humble– way to show we care. Here are my favorite simple and thoughtful Father’s Day gift ideas that he will be sure to love!

  1. Coupons. This is a humble gift classic! This gift comes without a price tag, because a servant heart is truly priceless! Simply cut out small rectangles of construction paper. Write or have your kids write what each coupon is worth. These coupons can be anything from helping wash the car, a deluxe dad foot rub (if your kiddos are up for the challenge), or helping with yard work. There are limitless possibilities! (FREE)
  2. Homemade BBQ Sauces & Marinades. There’s nothing like a man and his grill. This Father’s Day, surprise him with one or an assortment of homemade BBQ sauces and marinades to make his summer grilling adventures even tastier! Use whichever recipe you like, place the sauces and marinades in mason jars and label each accordingly. ($15-$20)
  3. Candy Bouquet. Flowers are always a staple gift for Mother’s Day, but Father’s gifts don’t often come so beautifully arranged. But if you are married to someone who has a bit of a sweet tooth, he would enjoy a delicious candy bouquet (I bet the kids wouldn’t mind tasting some candy too- for quality control purposes, of course). Just collect his favorite candy items. Tape each item on craft sticks and wrap together in tissue paper. ($10-$15)
  4. Shaving Kit. This is another thoughtful and practical gift. Use a shoe box or purchase a small box from the store. Have the kids help color and decorate it. Fill the box with razors, shaving cream, and after shave. Even add a couple of Band-Aids for humor. ($20-$30)
  5. Magazine Subscription. For your avid reader, this is a useful gift to enjoy all year long! Simply chose which magazine suits his interests and hobbies. Or even a good comic book- for the young at heart! ($15-$35)
  6. Set of Golf Balls. You can get snazzy with personalized golf balls- but can also find more reasonable sets on a humble budget. It’s the perfect gift if your man loves spending time at the driving range. ($20)
  7. Theme Basket. I absolutely love these! Themes can be anything from treating your movie buff or catering to your coffee drinker. For a movie night themed basket: add a couple bags of popcorn, a box or two of candy and tickets for movie rentals. ($20-$25) For your coffee lover basket: A bag of their favorite coffee, a simple mug, and assorted chocolate candies and shortbread cookies. ($25-$30) These are just examples, but you can get really creative with these themes and personalize them to accommodate what your hubby loves and enjoys the most!

I hope you and your family cherish this day in celebration of our wonderful fathers! I know he will enjoy and appreciate any gift – but most importantly- I know he will appreciate the giver far more than the gift itself! Happy Father’s Day!

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

 

 

 

Family Life

I Refused to Play the Role of Stepmom

 

Like most little girls, I had always dreamt to one day be swept off my feet by a brave and handsome prince. We would inevitably live in a beautiful house, have perfect children and live happily ever after. A dream come true kind of story- but I guess a cookie-cutter fairy tale wasn’t exactly what God had in mind when He wrote my script, my journey, my testimony. In most fairytales, prince charming appeared on scene riding his noble steed- armored with a mighty sword to slay evil, not a child from a previous relationship.

But when Jesse and I said “I do” before God, a new chapter began in my book. I fearlessly traded my former character as the “single in distress” with my new role as Jesse’s wife and stepmom to a boy named Gavin. I thought I had a pretty good grasp on how to be a good wife- especially after watching my mom all those years- but I had no idea how to be a stepmom. The only sources I was familiar with offered their traditional depiction of a stepmom- the vindictive, conniving woman, plotting the demise of her stepchild. This was of no help at all- quite counter- productive in fact. I had even begun to wonder- being a stepmom and all- if I was now qualified to grow an ugly, hairy wart- because apparently, stepmoms have those. Or develop a creepy, cackling laugh- because I guess they have those too. Was I just destined to be evil now that I was a stepmom? I had to somehow figure out where my role played in all this.

But who was I? I doubtfully questioned. I didn’t carry him for nine whole months, dealing with roller-coaster hormones, weight gain, feet swelling and all the usual companions of pregnancy. I wasn’t the one staying up in the wee hours of the night, soothing a teething infant. I wasn’t there for the diaper changes, boo boos, or first day of preschool. After all, Gavin was in my husband’s life three chapters before we met. I may be my husband’s leading lady, but wondered if I would always be just the supporting actress in my stepson’s life. I was not competing with Gavin’s mother, by no means. In fact, I often felt reserved because I didn’t want to overstep my boundaries. I quickly realized I had no idea how to play this part.

Naturally, not everyone embraced my new role as stepmom and I received a great deal of backlash, which made me question all the more if I was doing an adequate job- considering the job description was a little muddied. But thankfully, my discouragement didn’t last forever. Fast forward one year after Jesse and I got married.   I remember one special trip Gavin and I took to the park. We had been to the park before, but not like this day. It began as the usual park routine. I pushed Gavin on the swings, listening to him talk about his favorite cartoon characters. I chased him through all the play set tunnels, while he teased that I couldn’t catch him (which was true- those things are not designed for anyone above the age of 13).  And after we planted our feet from sliding down the twisty slide together, we raced back to the car as I pretended to run in slow motion so he could win. But then as I buckled him in his seatbelt, thinking “I smell like stinky feet from those knee torture tunnels,” Gavin- catching his breath- said “I love you, Jen.”

That moment changed my life. I realized in that instant that my story was never meant to fall into place exactly the way I had planned- my script was re-written. So I decided at that moment, I may be figuring this out one day at a time, but I knew that the “role” of stepmom was not for me. I refused to ever play the stereotypical role of the “evil stepmom.” I wanted to set the record straight and prove the fairytales wrong with their false perceptions that all stepmoms were the personification of malicious hatred and jealousy- who could in no way love a child that wasn’t theirs. Gavin may not have been planted in my womb, but he was planted in my heart. And I was destined to love him.

But even though being a stepmom has its negative connotations and often receives more criticism than recognition, God showed me the value of my role. He showed me not to consider myself as “less of a mom” to Gavin, simply because I didn’t give birth to him. Sorry to all the critics out there- but not all stepmoms have these elaborate schemes to construct a dungeon cell or concoct a recipe for a poisoned apple. Regardless to whether the critics ever give stepmoms a raving review or not, I know that stepmoms (and stepdads) are special. It is a divine opportunity with divine responsibility. And the best piece of advice I can say is to do as unto the Lord, and you will find justification by the One who really matters.

I have been a stepmom for nine years now. Throughout these years, I have experienced trials and triumphs. And by God’s wisdom, I have learned the grace and quiet strength required to beautifully portray the role of a loving stepmom.

  • Model Christ to Your Stepchild. Your children have the benefit to learn from your teaching, actions and words every day. But if your stepchild’s mother is not a Christian, then your stepchild is seeing two perspectives of women: secular and saved. It is up to you, stepmom, to display Christ in all your ways and help them to desire to want to be like Him. “Teach them (the ways of the Lord) to your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:7) In other words, present the truth of God’s Word regularly in your time with your stepchild. Take them to church, have devotions and prayer with them- be the example of Christ.
  • Speak Well of Your Stepchild’s Mother. This relationship is complicated because it was never intended in God’s original design of family. But regardless, the Bible stills commands “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18). There is no fine print or clause that offers any exceptions- that includes your stepchild’s mother. You will never be able to control their words or actions, but you do have control in your response. I know that the same power that shut the lions mouths from consuming Daniel, closed my mouth a few times in order to keep me from saying anything that would not exemplify God.  “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up” (Ephesians 4:29).
  • Pray Fervently for Them.   The single, most powerful tool we have as parents is prayer. As the stepmom, there were many times prayer felt like the only say I had in Gavin’s life. Pray they make wise choices, pray God grants them discernment, and pray for their ultimate salvation in Jesus. “The prayer of a righteous person (parent) is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16). I challenge you to take it a step further and pray for your stepchild’s mother as well. I can attest that this was again, divine intervention by the grace of God who gave me the strength to do so- and I learned a deeper sense of how to love like Christ.
  • Don’t Hold Back. It was intimidating to become a stepmom. I never wanted to steal the spotlight of Gavin’s mom, so for many years, I held back. But God showed me that I was not placed in this position to remain back stage. I had a role and I was important in the story too. I would never compete for the “leading mom” role, but recognized that I was more than just an extra cast member. Love your stepchild as your own- nurture them, admonish them, discipline them, encourage them- everything you would do for your biological children, do so for your stepchild and “Do everything in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14).
  • Encourage Your Stepchild and Husband’s Relationship. Our culture underestimates the importance of a positive father figure in a child’s life. This is a delicate relationship because your stepchild has experienced a broken home (whether their parents were ever married or not). They will not experience the divine design of their father and mother living together in marital harmony. So it is critical that you allow your husband and stepchild their time to cultivate their relationship so your stepchild knows that they are a priority to their father. Sometimes this requires flexibility and sacrifice from you, stepmom. You may have to re-arrange your plans at times and forfeit some of your time with your husband, but your stepchild needs him in their life. After all, your husband’s role as earthly father will determine so heavily how his children view their heavenly father.

The role of stepmom was never part of my original fairytale, but the Author of my faith revised my script  and has led me throughout this new  sovereign story. As I look back over these nine years, my heart is full that my stepson is apart of my life.  I wouldn’t have it any other way. He is a handsome, talented and smart young man. I encourage you- fellow stepmoms- to continue to seek His cues and promptings. The Lord has directed me to hold this position by the supplication of His grace and love. Through it all, I give God praise because He continues to refine me- as a woman, wife, mother and stepmom. And always remember, being a stepmom is not just a hat you wear or role you play, but a position that has been entrusted to you. A calling you must faithfully carry out through your journey- through every chapter of your story.

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker