The Strategic Homemaker

learning to follow the Father, care for the clan, and redeem the resources


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Hot Air Balloon Baby Mobile

I’ve mentioned here and here and here, that I like giving baby mobiles as gifts. Just before we left Virginia, I finished up the hanging balloons for a mobile for a baby boy we’d get to meet on the trek to New England.

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I used this girl’s pattern for the balloons, but that girl was too skilled for me. She sewed circles on the bottoms of her hot air balloons, but I couldn’t figure out how to get that to work. I just left them open and capped it with a felt basket, so no one could see anyway. I also had to start sewing the pieces from the top of the balloon, if I wanted them to line up at all at the end.

I made the baskets by just cutting out felt, folding it into a basket shape, pinning it, and stitching with embroidery floss in a backstitch–um, my only hand stitch. See here:

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I then sewed the baskets to the balloons by using one long loose piece of embroidery floss and just knotting it inside the basket. I also tied a knot in a long satin ribbon and stitched the knot to the top. You may be able to see better here:

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Have you given any fun baby gifts lately?


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Another State Pillow (and some observations on New Jersey).

My cousin got married in February, and I made her a state pillow since the last one was a favorite. We got to hand deliver it and meet her new husband on our journey up north. Here it is. New Jersey has a lot of bumpy coastline.

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And since you guys liked the state observations so much, here were mine on New Jersey: (In which I have not spent a ton of time. We mostly drive through here on our way somewhere else, so these are all from the road).

1. The gas stations are all full service as far as we can tell. I kind of like this, since I don’t like to pump my gas, but TSH may have driven an extra 20 minutes trying to find a self serve station (and one we didn’t need to pay in cash). We failed on both counts. The gas was pretty cheap though.

2. We could not make a left-hand turn, or a right-hand turn. We could only go straight at intersections, so if we needed to turn, we had to take a small exit-like road before the intersection.

3. You need lots of cash to get through New Jersey. Both for tolls and for gas. I think we used up about $60 just in new Jersey. We thought we had planned ahead (neither of us normally carry more than $20), but we ended up having to write a check to a friend in NY in exchange for $30 in cash to make it the rest of the way.

4. Fun people live in New Jersey. It’s a long state, but we’ve never lacked a friend to stop at for lunch on our way through :).


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Top 10 Things I’m Excited about in Rhode Island (and some newcomer observations)

1. TSH’s 8 to 5 job.

What!! Who knew these even existed anymore, especially for people with PhDs? Going to be a nice change of pace from the past few years :).

2. Our own house.

(Hopefully). We’re working on it, and I’ll keep you posted. We may or may not be hoping for one with a large fenced-in back yard, and a Del’s frozen lemonade shop about a 1 minute walk away.

3. Nearby Coastline.

This isn’t called the Ocean State for nothing. Several houses even in our price range boasted a less-than-one-mile walk to water. Of course, Florida still wins for best beaches and most sunshine (Yay, Florida!), but I’ll not turn down any type of ocean.

4. Cool cities nearby.

NYC is three hours, Boston is one hour. Other nearby destinations include Martha’s vineyard, Newport, Cape Cod, and pretty much any New England state.

5. Excellent restaurants.

Not only have I spied McCormick and Schmicks, the seafood place whose cookbook I got at a white elephant gift exchange a year ago, but the Melting Pot, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, and Flemings are currently less than 5 miles away. Outside of chains, there appears to be some serious ethnic cuisine of the Italian, Indian, Thai, Japanese, and Mediterranean varieties. My mouth is already starting to water.

6. Possibly being able to have foster kids.

This is something we’ve wanted to do for a few years, but have yet to have legally acceptable bedroom space and plan to live in the same state for long enough. Maybe this will happen here!

7. Attending BSF.

I mentioned this before, but I have officially signed myself up for BSF up here, and am looking forward to studying the book of Matthew and having some multi-age fellowship.

8. The CSA I have lined up for the summer.

I am a sucker for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), and I really am looking forward to the vegetable and meat share we’ll be getting starting in June. Basically, it prevents me from becoming an angry person, which may or may not tend to happen when I try to garden and Bambi eats 23 tomatoes.

9. TSH’s 8 to 5 Job.

Did I mention this yet? And that he gets weekends off too?

10. Family Zoo Membership

Yay for the zoo being 10 minutes away. We get a bring a guest free, so come visit!

As a bonus, here are my first week observations on Rhode Islanders:

1. No one uses their garage for their car, even in the winter. They view garages as storages, and owners of two houses we looked at cut into the back of the garage making it too short for a car anyway. In the words of one realtor we met, “If you put your car in the garage in the winter, then you’re soft.” and “How will people know you’re home if your car is parked in the garage?”

2. A seriously high percentage of houses have pools. Not quite as many as Florida, but definitely higher than Virginia. This is interesting to me, since I am expecting about 3 months of swimmable weather here per year. Maybe I’m too “soft.”

3. Del’s frozen lemonade stands and Dunkin Donuts are on literally every other block.

4. We have not met a single unfriendly person yet, and TSH and I have been expecting it since this is some of what we heard about New Englanders. Way to disappoint, Rhode Island! They do all have accents. TSH walks around practicing his New England accent on the word “Boston.”

5. We have seen several Newfoundland dogs, which I had never seen in real life before. They are big! A lady and girl walking theirs let PG and I pet it.

What do you think? Is there anything I should know about Rhode Islanders?


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Book Review: Simplicity Parenting

(This is one of the parenting books recommending by a reader and friend after my last spell of parenting book reviews. Also, we’re working on finding a place to live up here in New England, so blog posts may be sporadic in the next month, just to forewarn you.)

Simplicity Parenting:Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne, M. Ed.

Summary: Payne is a child psychologist with experience working with children in war-torn countries and noticed symptoms similar to that of PTSD in kids from well-to-do areas of England (commonly diagnosed as ADD and other disorders). He concluded that the lack of simplicity in their lives was stressing them out, and went about helping parents to simplify the child’s life in four areas which he says resulted in noticeable improvement.

The four areas he addresses are “Environment,” “Rhythms,” “Schedules,” and “Filtering Out the Adult world.”

Simplifying the environment involved paring down toys, books, and clothes to the more basic, and keeping scents and lighting as natural as possible.

Establishing rhythm in your day gave the child more predictability, potentially connection with you, and “pressure valves” throughout the day. He especially liked family mealtimes and bedtime stories.

Simplifying schedules meant not overscheduling, but making sure kids have plenty of free time to come up with their own activities and learn creativity. Payne also appreciated the idea of a day or even moments of Sabbath–quiet, restful family time.

Filtering out the adult world involved keeping the television and internet off limits for kids under seven. [Interestingly, this was also what another secular psychologist recommended in a different book I read.] It involves limiting what you say around your kids to that that is “true, kind, and necessary,” and not discussing adult concerns (including crime, environmental concerns [he had one example of a kid stressed about global warming], or workplace negatives).

Pros: I felt like this book echoed a lot of Biblical principles that secular psychology had found to work–go figure. (E.g. Being content with what you have [Phil 4:11], Sabbath rest, thinking on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely…[Phil 4:8]) I also could see how simplifying in the way the book suggested made the parents’ lives more restful (as opposed to adding things to do), and the principles espoused help toward my goal of being strategic with money, because you basically are cutting down on things that require spending lots of money.

Cons: I didn’t agree with this guy’s idea that kids shouldn’t be “racing through ‘Number 23 of the Magic Tree House Series'” because well, I was one of those kids who really liked to read books, including series books, and I still don’t see anything wrong with it. I also was not going to do his suggestion to have a specific type of dinner for each day of the week, such as Soup Sunday. Not my thing.

Overall: I really liked this book. I felt it described the way I want my home to feel–A place of peace rather than hectic stress. TSH and I generally have sought to simplify in the first three areas already, but the place we felt like we needed more work was “filtering out the adult world.” not just from our kid’s life, but from ours as well, haha :).


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Top 10 Things I’ll miss about Blacksburg, Virginia

1. Friends

From about our second week in Blacksburg, we had friends who rejoiced with us, mourned with us, and who we felt comfortable calling to ask for help at any time of day. I am really going to miss dropping in at these girls’ houses, although thanks to a private blog, we’ve done well staying in touch through at least one year of dispersion. Here’s a small sampling of them from last summer.

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2. Blacksburg Christian Fellowship

Also, from about our second week, we were blessed to be part of a wonderful church. Really going to miss them, and hoping God provides another great one up north!

3. Hokie Football season

I generally don’t even follow sports–except Hokie Football. They are just my team. I was even friends with two former longsnappers. I’m not sure people up north will appreciate the maroon and orange colors that now make up all my clothing.

4 and 5. Cheap gas and internet

Due to Kroger points, I paid $2.80/gallon for the last tank of gas I got before we left (originally $3.20). Also, the internet bill is almost certain to go up from $15/month. bummer.

6. The Starlight Drive-in theatre.

This is just a fun and cheap place to go in the summer, and there aren’t too many still around.

7. Berry picking in friend’s yards.

I have gotten mass quantities of free raspberries, blackberries, wineberries, blueberries, black heart cherries, and muscadine grapes the past four summers. Sadly, I’m guessing that’s not going to happen this year.

8. Steppin’ Out

I love this local artisan street fair, and I like seeing so many people I know at it. RI has some fun festivals, but I’m guessing I won’t run into all my friends at them.

9. Kroger

Finally when I got in the Kroger coupon groove, we’re moving to a place that doesn’t have one. going to have to start from scratch. Also, no joke, I always run into at least two people I know at Kroger–benefits of a small town.

10. Fall in Blacksburg

(…and the rest of the weather, to be honest–You get every season, and they are all mild.)


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Guest Post: Letting God Use You Through Mentoring

After we move, one thing I am hoping to do is find an experienced godly mom to learn from, and some younger people to invest in. My friend Megan from Goodness Redefined has a lot of experience being mentored and mentoring others, and I asked her to share her wisdom so the rest of us could learn. I am so thankful to her for obliging. She serves with her husband, Adam, who is a youth pastor in Pennsylvania, and is mom to two young boys.

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Discipleship: n. the process of learning about the teachings of another, internalizing them, and then acting upon them

Growing up, I have many memories of my dad sitting at the dining room table with guys of all ages.  Bibles open.  Reading.  Talking.  Listening.  Praying.

I watched him work on cars with them and cheer on the sidelines of their football games.  I heard the phone ring when they had a crisis or just needed some encouragement.  I saw him hurt when they hurt and celebrate when they celebrated.  I listened to my dad point them to Jesus.

I didn’t have a name for it then.  I didn’t know it as a philosophy of ministry or a method of mentoring.  I hadn’t heard it tossed around as a buzz phrase in the church or a class in seminary.

But now, any time I hear the word discipleship, these are some of the images that come to mind.

When I was 16 years old I was preparing to be on a summer ministry team for which one of the requirements was to find someone to disciple or mentor me.  I asked a lady from my church if she would be up for the task.  I didn’t know her well.  I had never spent much time with her.  I didn’t pick her name from a list.  But I remembered one particularly difficult Sunday 3 years prior when she had put her arm around me and prayed with me.  And I never forgot it.

Lucy was intimidated by my request.  She had never formally mentored someone before.  She didn’t have a seminary degree or counseling training and had never helped with the youth group.  Neither one of us knew what to do or what our time together should look like, but she humbly accepted the task.  It didn’t take long for a relationship to form.

Once a week I would go to her house and sit at her kitchen table.  She always had a pot of hot water on the stove and a plethora of hot chocolate flavors waiting for me to choose from.  Her husband, who affectionately called me “the hot chocolate girl”, would visit for a few minutes and then slip away so Lucy and I could chat.

We read through a book together and talked about what we were learning in God’s Word.  She would consistently have her small 3 ring binder prayer journal open on the table turned to the page with my name gracing the top.  Over the years I watched her write down my requests and worries and struggles…then I’d watch her cross them off one by one and draw a smiley face when God provided.

I was a priority to her and she reminded me of it often.  There was something special about seeing her write my name on her kitchen calendar.  Not like I was just another thing to add to her “to-do” list, but an important part of her life.  I was valuable to her – even worth scheduling time for.

Eventually our time together became less “formal” and more conversational.  We met all through high school and even when I was home on breaks during college.  She became like a 2nd mom to me and listened intently to my heart.  She shared her struggles and weaknesses and allowed me to watch her life.  She prayed for me and I prayed from her.

And we learned from each other what following Jesus looked like.

She walked me through my dating relationship that turned into engagement that turned into marriage.  She read Scripture during my wedding ceremony, visited me in the hospital when my first child was born, and cried with me when I miscarried my second.

Almost fourteen years have passed since my initial request for her to mentor me and she still holds a special place in my heart.

In college I was part of a ministry called “Discipleship Council” where we were consistently challenged to follow Jesus’ example of focusing on a few and impacting them up close.

Sure, Jesus ministered to the masses, but a great deal of His time was spent walking alongside his 12 disciples and sharing an even more intimate relationship with 3 of them.

John 3:22 says that…

“…Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them…”  

The Greek word used here is diatribō, which means “to rub” or “to spend time”.  Jesus focused on His disciples to spend time with them and, literally, to rub off on them.  They listened to Him, learned from Him, watched Him, internalized Who He was and what He said, and then went out and did it.  The time He spent walking with them changed the way they would walk when He was no longer physically with them.

Likewise, Paul urges the church of Corinth in 1 Corinthians 11:1…

“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

Essentially he was saying, “You’ve watched my life.  You’ve seen how I walk, how I’m following Jesus.  Now take what you’ve seen and do the same.”

Howard Hendrix said,

“You can impress people from a distance, but you can only impact them up close.  

The general principal is this: the closer the personal relationship, the greater the potential for impact.”

This, I believe, is what discipleship is all about.

Following hard after Jesus.  Pursuing meaningful, purposeful relationships with others.  Allowing someone to get an up-close view to see how you walk.  Gaining a mutual fascination with God and His Word.  And simply sharing life together.

I’m certainly no expert on discipleship, but there are a few things my husband and I have learned over the years of mentoring teenagers, young adults, and young married couples.  Unfortunately, there’s no “discipleship formula”, as every relationship looks different.  However, these are a few things that have been helpful for us to keep in mind while we strive toward effective discipleship…

1. Effective discipleship may not always follow a particular formula, but it always involves following Christ.

Whether the relationship you seek to build is formal or casual, structured or fluid, organized or organic, Jesus must be the center.  Sometimes it involves sitting and studying through a Bible study other times it’s simply chatting over pizza or working on a car.  Regardless of the recipe, God’s Word must be the main ingredient.  It should come up in conversation, influence decision making, and characterize your actions and your prayers.

A mentor of mine consistently reminded us that the only two things that will last forever are people and God’s Word.  The challenge of discipleship should be to live your life investing in both.

2. Effective discipleship does not happen in a classroom but out in real life.  

Chuck Bomar calls it “non-mentor mentoring” because he believes we need to shift away from the tendency to view the relationship from centering on gaining information to placing the emphasis on actually living out the information we (and they) have been given.  It’s not that learning and studying isn’t important.  But wisely living it out together in real life is what true discipleship and following Jesus is all about.

This also means that your relationship should not be built on you doing all of the talking or trying to always “teach”.  Effective discipleship involves a great deal of listening and looking for teachable moments to impart wisdom, rather than constantly talking at them.

3. Effective discipleship involves vulnerability and sharing your life.  

I’ve heard that one of the truest test of an effective mentoring relationship is that they know where the dishes are in your kitchen.  I loved that!  As we’ve sought to disciple younger people, one of our main methods has been getting them into our home.  My husband says that one of our strategies in college-age ministry is feeding their bellies so that we can also feed their hearts.

They’re in our home enough that they know not to ring the doorbell after 7:30 because our kids will be sleeping.  They know where to find the dishes, the garbage bags, and how to make coffee.  They’ve watched our marriage and entertained our boys.  We’ve allowed them to peek in as we dealt with the grief of losing a child and shared the struggles we’ve faced in marriage and ministry.  We’ve had to confess sin when we’ve exhibited pride or let our tongues lead to gossip.  They’ve slept on our couches, laughed with us in our family room, and cried at our dining room table.  And hopefully, because of that, they’ve seen a clearer picture of Jesus, just as several other couples have done for us.

On the other hand, effective discipleship also involves sharing in their lives.  It means meeting them on their turf and entering into their worlds. Years ago while implementing a discipleship program at our church, we paired one man up with one of our teens that had seemingly nothing in common.  As time went on, however, the older man learned of the teen’s love of technology and knowledge of computers, so he asked if the boy would teach him some things.  Because of his willingness to enter into someone else’s world, an effective mentoring relationship began to form.

4. Effective discipleship doesn’t see the person as a project to be “fixed”, but a person to be loved. 

True discipleship points to Jesus as the only one who can rescue and transform.  In and of ourselves, we don’t have much to offer.  But we have been called to love and to serve and to pray.  Effective discipleship does require confrontation and speaking the truth in love.  It does require helping others in their weakness.  It does require setting up healthy boundaries.

Your role as a mentor is not to take the place of a parent or a spouse or of a personal relationship with God.  Our desire should be for your discipleship relationship to be a catalyst to make all of those other relationships stronger.  Kind of like John the Baptist, I see it as my role as a mentor to lovingly prepare the way for them to really see Jesus.  “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30).

5. Effective discipleship will only go as far as you allow it.

If you are not sharing what God is teaching you or actively living it out, it’s not likely your discipleship relationship will reach much depth.   It’s essential that they see you being challenged and learning and growing and working hard at your personal relationship with God.  After all, Jesus not only taught his disciples, but He modeled getting time alone to pray, forgiving his enemies, and submitting to His Father’s will.  He was such a sharp contrast to the other leaders of His day because He actually backed up His teaching with His life.  And people were drawn to that.

It’s crucial that you be connected to the true Vine so that you have anything at all to give.

Passion for Jesus is contagious.  If they see you running hard after Him, chances are they will want to try to catch up.


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“A Mother’s Prayer” Guest Post

I’m excited to share this guest post by Kristyn Getty of gettymusic.com. (I featured them before here.) One of the songs on Keith and Kristyn’s latest Album is “A Mother’s Prayer,” and what follows is Kristyn telling the story behind the song. At the bottom of the post is a special music video they made of the song, along with a link to a Mother’s Day e-card that includes the song, and a link to Kristyn’s journal entries leading up to and entering motherhood. I love this song. It echos my prayer for PG and blesses my heart. I hope this post and the song bless your hearts as Mother’s Day approaches! And for those of you for whom Mother’s Day is hard because you don’t have a baby that you want, one of the prayers in Kristyn’s journal is for you!

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In the spring of 2008 I first prayed for a baby, and in the spring of 2011 God answered that prayer with the birth of our beautiful daughter.  My joy was full but so were the fears I wrestled.  In some ways I felt like a baby Christian again, caught in a whirlwind of emotions, learning and applying what I have known and trusted into a completely new life – I know I’m definitely not the first to feel that!

Friends of ours had given us a card when their first son was born; it was full of prayer requests for his little life, a prayer for every day of the month. My prayers were not quite as coherent as those, especially at first, but the urgency of the moment drove me to my knees.  “Help her, help me” baby prayers at 3am; prayers as I heard the baby monitor light up in the morning; prayers when I thought of her safety, her soul, her future; prayers with my husband; prayers while Eliza listened in.

When people found out that I was pregnant one of the most frequent comments I received was how my creativity would discover a whole new vista of inspiration as I became a mother.  So, when Eliza came I was anticipating a fresh flow of profound poetic thought, but instead I was swept up in the constant flow of changes and feedings and “Old MacDonald had a farm!” I was expecting full sentences, but I was blubbering looking at my beautiful girl! I actually wondered if I’d ever be able to write again.  I just about tucked some thoughts away to ponder later when my brain would start to fit itself back together again (still nowhere near a completed process!). As I continued to learn the wonderful balancing act and privilege of mothering, homemaking, writing, traveling and singing, Keith and I began to write a song for Eliza choosing this theme of praying for her, and the end result was “A Mother’s Prayer.”

My parents have faithfully prayed for me my whole life, and I remember when I was younger my mum met with other mums to pray for all their children – a “Moms in Touch” group in Belfast. Even just the knowledge of that helped me, and I want Eliza to know we are praying for her and trying to guide her in this context that reaches to the call and purpose of her whole life and an understanding of the Lord’s grace and faithfulness. We’re now in the toddler stage and some of the prayer needs are shifting.  We wanted the song to reflect the different seasons – ones we had discovered and then those still to come.  We also wrote it to remind us of our promise to pray for her through all the years we’re given.  We hope this song for her – and even more our praying for her – might catch her ear and help guide her heart as she grows up.

Link to FREE Mother’s Day E-card with music video. (Everyone who sends a card gets 15% of any Getty purchase.)

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