To Everything There Is A Season

A Time For Every Purpose Under Heaven

A blog about raising a young family and keeping Christ at the center of it.

The Cyrs

The Cyrs
Photo Credit: Rachel Dewhurst

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Time to Set Goals

I really can't believe another year has ended. I will say that for myself, 2013 was a blur! Our year over-flowed with blessings! God has been so good to our family. I'm just thankful that I am able to say 2013 was a good year because I know that for many 2013 was filled with difficulties, heartache, challenges, and loss. I have no idea what 2014 will bring to our family, only the Lord knows, but our prayer is that whatever we are asked to face we will do so with grace and a complete reliance on the One who establishes our days.

Not knowing what the future holds is not, however, an excuse for me to not set some goals for myself. I hesitate to set New Year's resolutions because I am terrible at keeping them, even the ones that seem easy to keep! I do want to set goals though because that is how I operate best. When I know what I am trying to accomplish and what I am working towards, that is when I function most effectively. So what are some goals I am setting for myself this year? Well number one (as it is for many of us) weight loss. But, I don't have a specific amount I am trying to lose, I am not planning to follow a specific diet and I don't plan on getting a gym membership. Because life is still incredibly busy and I still do not have a lot of free time I know that if I set a rigid goal I will get discouraged quickly. So my goal is basically to make healthier choices. I plan to eat healthier but not count points or follow rules. I'm keeping it simple...instead or reaching for the cookie I'm reaching for the carrot. I'm also planning to start exercising. A friend lent me P90X so if you don't hear from me it's because I've died.

Also on my list of goals is to read more. I don't read nearly enough and I enjoy it so much. I also want to be more deliberate in my parenting and interactions with the kids. In the business of this particular season of life where there are so many little ones I feel sometimes my older kids don't get 100% of me. I'd like to change that. And of course, the goal that is always on my list and will continue to be is to know my God better. To spend more time with him in His word and in prayer. I haven't figured out how I'm going to accomplish all this yet but I'm at least going to try.

I have so much to work on and I can easily get very discouraged when I sit back and think about all the things I would like to do better or work on or change. I'm going to take baby steps this year and not put a lot of pressure on myself. I'm going to be deliberate about making healthy eating choices but not beat myself up when I cheat (because you know I will), I'm going to make a conscious effort to read more but that might mean that I read for 30 mins a week...that is more than I do now (as far as fiction reading goes) so I'd be reaching that goal. I'm keeping it simple but at the same time giving myself something to strive towards. And hopefully by putting it out there and telling you all about it that will be enough accountability for me to stick to it!

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Time to Tell You Why I Blog

I hope you didn't click on this to get some profound reason for my efforts! My reasons are not at all juicy either. First let me tell you why I DON'T blog.

I don't blog...
Because I want to make money on it...clearly
Because I think I have all the answers 
Because I am an excellent writer and you all should know it
Because I am super talented in the craft/cooking department and everyone should benefit from my abilities
Because I want to make a name for myself...or "brand" myself

So why do I do it? Honestly, the idea to start a blog was not a thought out one. It's not something I contemplated for months and then put a dream into action. I never read other peoples blogs until I started my own. I didn't even really know what blogging was. One night I was home alone because Ben was out of town for work. I had 5 kids and was struggling to get rest and feeling very cooped up. I was desperately seeking some sort of outlet for myself that didn't involve me cleaning a house or taking care of kids. Not because I don't enjoy those things I just don't enjoy ONLY doing those things. And when you have little ones at home the feeling of doing nothing else besides changing diapers and constantly training can become overwhelming. I was looking through the adult ed classes trying to see if something would strike my fancy. Anytime I would see something of interest I would find it was on an evening or time that didn't fit our schedule. The Lord was clearly shutting the door on that option as much as I was desperately trying to open it. He was stronger and it slammed in my face. Then this idea, out of nowhere came to me, "what about blogging?" So I looked into it, decided to try and create one, watched some Youtube videos on how to do some things and there it was... a blog. But it was a blank blog. What would I say? What would I write about? I prayed and just asked God to direct me. I didn't want this to be a waste of my time and just something I did that would lose it's luster in 2 months. I wanted to take a leap of faith and see what happened but I was skeptical. The driving force behind me actually continuing and publishing the first post was a feeling that God was asking me to. As crazy as that may sound, it's the truth. So why do I blog? Here's why:

I blog because...
I love to write. It's an outlet for me and I find it very therapeutic
It's something I can do other than my day-to-day mom/wife stuff that doesn't require money or me leaving the house
I love connecting with people
I enjoy sharing what God is doing in my life, the good and the bad, successes and failures
I believe God brought this opportunity to me and I want to glorify Him through it

All of these reasons are true,real reasons why I blog but the main reason I believed I was doing this when I first began was so our families, who we do not live near, could keep up with our family and see how we were doing . I really thought God brought this to mind so we would have an easier time feeling connected to them, while at the same time filling that need I had to do something "else". The funny thing is though, that is not how God has used it. In fact, most of our family doesn't even read this blog. God has done something totally different and unexpected with it. I have met new people, built relationships, helped new moms, encouraged the discouraged, been transparent (with Gods help) when that is what others needed. God has given me a boldness with this blog and shown me the importance of letting go of pride and appearances and just being real about life. I will admit that its not always easy for me to transparent. My pride fights that. But those are the posts that God has used the most to help others as evidenced by the number of "hits" it gets and the emails and comments I receive. I truly am amazed that anyone reads this blog never mind the way it reaches people. Don't circle of influence is very small! But that is ok since my goal was never to have a following. I write for the few, not the masses but mostly I write for me and my kids. Ben always mentions how these posts will be a great resource for our kids when they are older and can appreciate them. So if nothing else I am building a library of wisdom (and I use that word carefully as I know I have so much to learn) for my offspring.

I have said all of this to be clear of my goals with this blog as I present an idea I have. And I need your help! I have noticed in the blog world that many bloggers create a facebook page and their readers "like" it. What I really love about this idea is it's a fun way to connect even more with those who read your blog without making your own personal facebook page all about your blog. Again, my goal is not to "brand" myself so that is not at all why I am thinking about this. I want a fun easy way to encourage and edify others without the pressure of writing a blog post. As much as I enjoy writing, it is time consuming and I don't have a lot of time these days. A facebook page I feel would allow me to write a line here and there, share quick thoughts, give recommendations on books & blogs, share my own blog posts when I have get the idea, without taking up a lot of my time. How can you help? If you read this blog, even if it's just once and awhile, "like" my facebook page. It's called To Everything There is a Season. Click on the link and it will take you right to it. Every person who likes my page will be entered into a drawing to win something hand-made by my friend Karen from Our Picket Fence. I own a few of her creations and they do not disappoint! If you take the time to visit her Etsy shop and tell us what your favorite item is in the comments here, your name will be entered twice! Who doesn't love two chances to win? The winner will be able to choose between the Lavender Filled Sachets or the Yellow Chevron Rice Hand Warmers. The winner will be announced by January 4, 2014 (2014, seriously!?). Alright, get busy "liking" the To Everything There is a Season's facebook page and visiting with Our Picket Fence...and let your friends know!

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Time for My Thoughts on Christmas

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder:and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor,The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. ~Is. 9:6

It may come as no surprise to you when I tell you I like to keep it simple. These are the things I enjoy...the simple things. With a little luxury thrown in here and there, when God and means allow. So for me (and Ben), Christmas is about one thing: Jesus. And this is what we teach our children. All the other stuff, which I will get to in a minute, are just extras that do not MAKE Christmas what it is. The birth of Christ, our Saviour, the one who would one day die on a cross to save us of our sins, and offer us a place in heaven. HE is what our Christmas is all about.

That being said, we do enjoy the Christmas season in other ways but they are not the priority and they are not the focus. There are 5 things that I do all I can to make time for because I want my kids to have these memories and traditions. I want them to grow up and look back and say, "at Christmas we always..." Those kinds of memories and traditions are special and I feel, worth the extra effort to make happen.

1. The tree. No matter what is going on, no matter how busy life is, we always make time to put up the tree. Even when we had our first apt. and no money, before kids came, we had a tree. It was a pathetic, Charlie Brown tree but it was a tree. Now we have an artificial one because it's just easier right now. Eventually I think we will get a real tree but for now the one pictured above is our tree and we love it. The older kids help us assemble it, Ben and I string the lights, then all the kids who are able start putting on the ornaments. We were not allowed to help with the "real" tree growing up. We had our own tree in the basement that we were allowed to decorate. Growing up I never thought that was a bad thing...till I tell people this story and you can just see the pity for us in their eyes! I want my kids to feel like this tree is theirs too, not just mine, and perfect is not my goal. Memories are. If they showed no interest in putting the ornaments on the tree then sure, I would do it myself but they really look forward to this.
2. Making sugar cookies and decorating them. We did not have this tradition in my house but I think its so much fun so we make sure to do this with our kids. This is another thing they really look forward to! This year I let Jena help me make the cookies. The boys are only interested once the frosting and sprinkles come out! This tradition I will admit is time consuming. I also don't love baking so this is a real labor of love for me. Not to mention the mess...this is a messy tradition. By the end of this everyone was covered in flour, frosting and sprinkles...but it all washes and the memories made are worth every bit of mess.

3. Sticky Buns. Oh my, these are so good. This is one of the traditions Ben had growing up that he was not at all willing to leave behind...and none of us are complaining! We all look forward to our Christmas morning sticky buns! The kids ask for these throughout the year but I only make them on Christmas morning. Whether we are home or away I always plan to make these. They are so good and everyone looks forward to them so much that its usually a hard decision when the kids are asked if they want to eat first or open gifts!

4. The Christmas Story. And I'm not talking about "Twas the Night Before Christmas", though that is a great read. I'm talking about the story of Christ's birth. I will never forget the first time I heard the Christmas story. Of course it is possible I heard it at a young age but I mean the first time I really heard it. It was the first Christmas I spent with Ben's family. Christmas morning Ben's mom told me that the seat reserved next to Ben's dad was for me. That was so special to me. I know that seat was a place one of her 6 children look forward to having but she purposed to reserve it for me knowing this was my first time listening to it with a changed heart. I will never forget that morning. So the tradition continues in our home. On Christmas morning before we do anything else, we sit down in front of the tree and Ben reads the Christmas story. As much as I love our other traditions and would miss them if they were gone, if we could only choose one I would choose this one.

5. Christmas pajamas. This is a tradition we had growing up and I love this tradition but when you have 7 kids this is not always a tradition we can afford. The past few years I have chosen to go with something most of the kids already had, like the red tartan patterned ones we all have, and just buy the one or two sizes I need. This year we had a little extra in the budget and I found Star Wars pajama bottoms at a great price for the 4 boys. No they are not exactly "Christmasy" but the boys are going to love them. For the girls I only had to buy one pajama, for Jena, and got it match what I already had for the younger two girls.

So how does a family with 7 children in a difficult economy afford Christmas without breaking the bank? We get asked a lot and my answer is simple: Christmas is not about the gifts. It just isn't. From the time Noah was born we determined that Christmas would be small when it came to gifts. As parents we set the bar. So even though we only had one child and could afford to do more, we didn't. I'm thankful that we had this perspective early on because we had no idea we'd have 7 and that a small Christmas in the gift department was going to become a necessity. We don't have a strict policy per say but basically it has been one gift per kid (within our budget, which is $50 per kid) plus *stocking stuffers. The past couple of years we purchased one big gift for all the kids to share and if there was any money left over (there usually is) from our budget (which is still $50 per kid, we just combine it for the big gift) we purchase a small item for each of them so they have their own individual gift to unwrap. This year, thankfully, our family members are putting money toward bigger items for the kids to share and we are grateful. This not only helps them but it helps us. When you have 9 people living in a modest home you can only have so many toys! I know to many reading this our budget seems ridiculously small and the idea of only having one gift each under the tree is crazy. This is how we keep it simple. This is how we remain stress free at the holidays and are able to enjoy each other and the things that really matter. Having a small budget for our family at Christmas not only helps us keep perspective but it also allows us to GIVE during the holidays. There are so many with so much less then us and its important for us to get our kids involved in giving and help them see how much they have compared to others. A couple ways we do this are by putting together shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child and picking stars from the tree at the kids school, and donating to Toys for Tots. There are so many ways to give and each year how we give is a little different. I hope that you all are able to experience the joy this holiday season can bring. Even when difficult times fall upon us, if we keep perspective and remember what is really important, we can have peace and contentment. Enjoy your families and your holiday traditions and more importantly...breathe! Enjoy the season, don't stress and focus on building memories!
Still waiting for Emma's
stocking to arrive!
*Stocking Stuffers: This is something I love. As a kid stocking stuffers were my favorite! So I really want to fill stockings for my kids. The problem: this can get really expensive! Not only expensive but I really dislike spending money on trinkets and things that will break a day later just to fill a stocking. So this year what I am doing is putting the Christmas pajamas in the stockings with a couple other things. And I will likely keep it this way for the years to come. Two things my kids love are chapstick and soda. They very rarely get soda and if they do its half a glass maybe three times a year. I buy the small cans of soda (the ones that are half the size of a regular can) and they each get one in their stocking...they LOVE this! So pajamas, a can of soda and a chapstick are what my kids are getting in their stocking. I'm not kidding when I say its very important to us that Christmas remains simple and focused on what is important. I always tell my kids the story my grandmother told me when I was a kid. When she was young her and her siblings received fruit and a few pieces of candy in their stockings. Fruit was a luxury for them apparently and not something they got often. She would talk about how much she looked forward to getting that orange and I remember thinking, "really, excited about an orange?!" I haven't spoken to her about this story since I've been an adult. It's very possible she exaggerated in the hopes it would make me more thankful for all I received. In any case, I tell my kids, and it does make them realize how much they have so its a good story regardless!