Dear Mother of Boys (Who Always Thought She’d Have Girls) PLUS A Giveaway

Dear Mother of Boys (Who Always Thought She'd Have Girls)Growing up, I always pictured myself as a mom of both girls and boys.

I wasn’t entirely sure how many children I would have, but one thing I knew: our toy baskets would contain both baseball bats and dolls.

As it turns out, though, God’s plan for my family wasn’t exactly the same as my plan.

My husband and I have two boys…two rough, dirty, always-on-the-go little men who love trucks, tires, and wrestling.

We also have four babies in heaven we lost to miscarriage. After our most recent loss, we decided to stop trying for our girl…to give up our dream of having another baby. The pain of loss—at least for our family—was too much. We couldn’t imagine losing another.

Needless to say, giving up my plans to accept God’s plan has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done…

To read the rest of this post AND enter to win a giveaway, please head over to Jenny Sulpizio’s blog where I am guest posting today! 

Is It Safe to Make a Mistake In Your Home?

No More Perfect Kids Book ReviewLast weekend, I finished reading a new book by Jill Savage and Kathy Koch called No More Perfect Kids.

In the book, Jill and Kathy asked this question: “Is it safe to make a mistake in your house?” My stomach sank as I thought about this, because honestly, I’m not sure.

Sometimes, I’m afraid my perfectionistic tendencies spill over into my parenting.  Sometimes, I’m afraid my kids don’t know they can make mistakes in our home.

The other day, as my five year old was struggling to tie his shoes, he dropped his foot in frustration. “I’m never going to be able to do this,” he said in defeat. I sat beside him on the floor and talked to him about practicing and working hard and how everyone struggles. Then he said something that broke my heart: “I wish I was perfect at everything.” Ugh…like mother, like son, huh?

I have struggled with perfectionism for years, and now I think it’s beginning to rub off on my children.

That’s why I’m so thankful I had the chance to read No More Perfect Kids. It’s a book about letting go of perfectionism (in yourself AND in your kids), and it’s a book about learning to really love your kids exactly as they are….exactly as God made them.

If you also (like me) struggle with perfectionistic tendencies, this book is a must-read.

Throughout the book, Kathy and Jill share seven questions our kids are asking us:

  1. Do you like me?
  2. Am I important to you?
  3. Is it okay I’m unique?
  4. Who am I?
  5. Am I a failure?
  6. What’s my purpose?
  7. Will you help me change?

In each chapter, Jill and Kathy provide practical advice on how to overcome the perfection infection and how to really love your kids-not because they are perfect, but because they are exactly how God designed them to be.

Our kids aren’t ever going to be perfect (and neither are we, for that matter). But that’s okay. Progress is the goal…not perfection.

If you struggle with perfectionism, I’d encourage you to pick up a copy today.

*I received this book for free for review, but all opinions are my own.

 

How Moms Can Enjoy Their Days (Plus a GIVEAWAY!)

How Moms Can Enjoy Their Days (PLUS a GIVEAWAY)We have probably all been there. A sweet grandmother looks longingly at our children squeezed into the cart at the grocery store and utters words similar to these: “Enjoy these moments. Time goes by so fast.”

And though we appreciate her sentiment, there’s another part of us that wonders…How can we enjoy these moments full of tantrums, middle-of-the-night feedings, hours of crying, and more diapers than we can count?

How can we enjoy these moments that are just plain hard?

I have been there (more times than I care to admit). I have been the mom wishing for the next phase of parenting…wishing away the newborn stage so I could just sleep through the night…then wishing away toddlerhood so my schedule could no longer hinge on the nap of my child.

I have been the mom struggling to survive the day.

But now, as my oldest prepares to enter kindergarden, I’m starting to understand a little bit more what those grandmothers mean. Time really does fly, and these moments (though hard right now) really do pass quickly.

I’ve heard it said that though the days are long, the years are short. And it’s true.

Here are a few tips I’ve found to help me enjoy the moments.

How Moms Can Enjoy the Moments (even the hard ones):

1. Choose Gratitude…

To read the rest of this post (and to enter to win the giveaway!), please head over to The MOM Initiative

Mother’s Day Promotion (Or How to Get FREE Books and Change a Child’s Life)

Mother’s Day in just around the corner.

Many churches and moms’ groups provide parents with Bibles or other gifts to celebrate. My new parenting devotional, Searching for Sanity: 52 Insights from the Parents of the Bible, would be a perfect gift for a new mom!

And now is the perfect time to pick up several copies for your church or group.

You will not only have the opportunity to get FREE books, but you’ll also have the chance to partner with me in supporting a ministry that changes the lives of children.

Here are all the details:

Any churches or groups that buy Searching for Sanity at a largely discounted rate of 9.00 a piece (plus shipping if you aren’t local) will support Rapha House with their purchase. PLUS, for every 10 books you buy, I will provide you with 1 book FREE! 

Rapha House is a ministry that fights child trafficking and sexual exploitation, so it is a vital ministry to our world. These children deserve better, and my plan is to give a portion of my proceeds to this ministry.

Will you help me?

If you’d like to participate in this promotion, or if you’d like more information, send me an email at lindsey (dot) m (dot) bell (at) hotmail.com. 

I look forward to chatting with you soon!

4 Signs You Trust God With Your Money

Most Christians want to believe they are trusting God with their money. 

4 Signs You Trust God With Your Money  (Photo courtesy: freedigitalphotos.net/dan)

4 Signs You Trust God With Your Money
(Photo courtesy: freedigitalphotos.net/dan)

After all, who wants to admit they love money more than they love God? That they think about their finances more than they think about their Savior? That they worry about their future more than they trust God with it? That they rarely give back to the One who gave them everything?

We all want to believe we are trusting God with our money; the only problem is…sometimes…deep in our hearts, we know it’s not entirely true. 

We know our checkbook does not reflect the life of someone who has given God everything.

We know our constant worry over how we’re going to pay the next bill does not reflect the life of someone trusting God with her future.

And we know giving God our leftovers does not reflect the life of someone who claims to have given God all.

All too often, when we think about what it looks like to give God our money, we focus on the wrong part of the equation.

We focus on the money…when God is focusing on the heart.

Trusting God with your finances has less to do with your money and more to do with your heart.

Because here’s the truth: You could have a perfectly balanced checkbook…and still have money as your idol. You could have a hefty savings account that you worked hard to develop. You practiced good stewardship, budgeted, and saved…and yet you could still worship the gift over the Giver. Or on the flip side, you could have very little money and still cling to it so tightly that God isn’t able to open your clinched fists.

The amount of money you have or don’t have is not what matters most (at least not to God); what matters most is what you do with it and where your heart is.

Trusting God with your money is more about your heart than about your finances. 

The trouble with this, of course, is that it’s harder to gauge a heart than a checkbook.

As I was thinking about this topic and trying to figure out how we can know if we are trusting God with our finances, the Lord led me to these 4 characteristics.

These four outward signs provide evidence that your heart is in the right place…that you are, in fact, trusting God with your money.

4 Signs You Are Trusting God with Your Finances: 

1. You Give.

Generosity is one of the key ways to tell if you love your stuff. If you’re willing to give it up, you probably aren’t clinging to it too much. On the other hand, if you struggle to let go of that $20.00 or that favorite sweater or whatever the item might be, it’s  a good indication your heart might be a bit too attached to something other than the Father.

2. You Don’t Love Money.

A second indicator that you are trusting God with your finances is that you don’t love  money.

It’s tempting (for those of us with fixed incomes) to assume that the love of  money is only an issue if you make a lot. But let me assure you, it’s just as easy for someone who lives in poverty to worship money as someone who lives in luxury.

The question is not whether you have a lot of money; the question is whether or not you love the money you have.

When you have to choose between making more money and being with your family, what do you choose?

When you have to choose between saving for yourself or giving to someone in need, what do you choose?

When God lays it on your heart to meet a need, do you do it…or hesitate because of the cost?

3. You Don’t Worry.

A third sign that you trust God with your finances is that you don’t worry.

Hebrews 13:5 says, “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.’”

I love the application of this verse. God is saying through the book of Hebrews, “You don’t need to love money. You don’t need to trust in your wealth to take care of you, because that’s MY job. I will never fail you. I will never abandon you. Trust in ME..not in your money.”

When we worry, we basically tell God we don’t know if he can handle our futures. We don’t know if he’s capable enough or loving enough to take care of us.

Those who trust God with their money also trust Him with their futures.

4. You are a Good Steward of the Money You Have (whether it’s a lot or a little). 

Those who trust God with their money recognize the importance of managing it well.

In Matthew 25: 14-30, Jesus told the parable of the 3 servants. Two of the servants used the money their master gave them and gained more. The third servant, though, was too afraid to do so. Instead, he hid the money and later returned it to his master.

The application of these verses to us is pretty straightforward: Manage well the things God has given you (and that includes money, gifts, time, and anything else God has given us).

I’ll be the first to admit that handling money can be difficult. We are a family of four living on one ministerial salary. It’s hard. I have learned over the years, though, that the amount of money you make (or don’t make) is not really what matters as far as stewardship is concerned.

You can make a lot and be a terrible steward, just as easily as you can make a little and be a terrible steward. And vice versa. The key aspects of stewardship are heart and diligence.

Heart-Why do you want to handle your finances well: for you or for God? 
Diligence-Are you working hard to manage well the things God has given you…or are you just going with the flow, hoping that your money stretches to the end of the month? 
 

I’d love to hear from you. Can you think of any other signs of someone who is trusting God with her finances? 

If you’d like a practical guide to help you handle your finances, please sign up to receive your free copy of Financial Freedom on a Fixed Income on the sidebar of this blog. 

How to Spend Less Money on Groceries

How to Spend Less on Groceries  (photo: freedigitalphotos.net/foto76)

How to Spend Less on Groceries
(photo: freedigitalphotos.net/foto76)

Is it possible for a family of four of spend less than four hundred dollars a month on groceries?

I’m here to tell you that yes, it is possible. In fact, my husband and I spend less than $400.00 on groceries and toiletries combined (and that includes diapers, dog food, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, etc.-EVERYTHING we buy for our home).

It’s possible…but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Here are a few tips to help make it happen:

1. Plan your meals ahead of time. 

Along with saving money, meal-planning has other benefits. First of all, it takes the stress out of the 5:00 hour. We no longer have to stare into the fridge every night and try to find something to put together for dinner. Now, we just look at our monthly calendar and choose an entree. Plus, when we are planning our meals, we can intentionally plan healthier options.

One thing I’ve done that has sped up the meal-planning is this: I made a list of 28-30 dishes our family enjoys. Then, we just rotate the meals in any given month (and I usually throw in a new Pinterest meal to try too).

2. Stop buying luxury items. 

Don’t buy (or limit the amount of) pop, juice, alcohol, chips, cookies, junk food, etc. Not only will this help your pocketbooks, but it will also help your waistline.

3. Buy generic. 

I used to think generic wasn’t as good as name brand, but really, I can’t tell that much of a difference. The money you can save just by switching to generic is huge, so it’s totally worth a try.

4.Watch for deals. 

But be careful. Don’t fall into the trap of buying something you won’t use just because it’s on sale or you have a coupon.

5. Shop at Aldi or another similar store.

These grocery stores really can save you a lot of money. Yes, it takes a bit more time because you have to go to another store. But, if you really want to save money, it’s worth the time involved.

6. Shop with a list (and only buy what’s on the list). 

Along the same lines…don’t shop while hungry. Your willpower will be much stronger when your stomach is full.

7. Use cash.

There’s just something about dishing out two hundred bucks that makes you want to do a better job about spending less. Another thing about using cash…if you are diligent and only carry the amount of cash you budget for the month, you will be much more careful about your purchases and much less likely to make an impulse buy you’ll regret later.

Let’s talk: What tips would you add to this list? 

*If you are interested in getting your finances in order and would like a little more help, please sign up to receive your free copy of Financial Freedom on a Fixed Income. You can sign up on the right hand side of this blog.

What God’s Word Is Supposed to Do In Our Lives

God’s Word was never meant to leave us empty.

It was never meant to be something we have to do…something that’s on our “to do” list, right along with laundry and soccer practice.

Look at Isaiah 55:10-11, a couple of verses that talk about the Word of God:

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11).

What God's Word Is Supposed to Do In Our Lives

God’s Word isn’t meant to leave us empty. It’s meant to leave us full.

Let’s break this text down  to see exactly how God’s Word is meant to refresh us…

To read the rest of this post, please click over to Do Not Depart.

A Resource for Parents Who Feel Stuck in a Crazy Family Cycle

Years ago, when I was first married, I read Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. Love and Respect has benefited hundreds of marriages, so when I heard that Dr. Emerson Eggerichs had a new book available that applied the principles to parenthood, I knew I wanted to read it.

Love and Respect in the Family is a great resource for parents (both moms and dads) who feel stuck in a crazy family cycle.

Love and Respect in the Family

It’s the perfect book for parents who:

  • feel like they are constantly losing it with their kids
  • feel disrespected by their children
  • just need a little practical advice about parenthood
  • long to parent God’s way
  • want to become better parents than they are today

The book is divided into three parts:

1. The Family Crazy Cycle. In this section of the book, Dr. Eggerichs paints the picture of “the family crazy cycle” and then offers two tips to parents to help them end the cycle of frustration.

2. The Family Energizing Cycle. In this section, Dr. Eggerichs uses the acronym GUIDES to arm parents with 6 practical tips for parenting God’s way.

G-Give. 
U-Understand.
I-Instruct.
D-Discipline.
E-Encourage.
S-Supplicate.

He also  talks about the differences between parenting boys and parenting girls and the importance of working with your spouse in this section.

3. The Family Rewarding Cycle. In the final section of the book, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs challenges moms and dads to parent God’s way…to realize that everything we do is ultimately being done as “unto Christ.”

One of the primary ways this book impacted my life is that it reminded me that I cannot blame my loss of control on anyone other than myself. Eggerichs said it like this: “My response is my responsibility…My child does not cause me to be the way I am but rather reveals the way I am.”

So when I lose my temper, it’s not my child’s fault, regardless of how he might have been acting. I am in charge of my responses. Period.

I highly recommend this book to parents, especially those of you who are struggling in your parenting.

*I received this book for free for review, but all opinions are my own.

How to Speak Life Into Your Children

3 Ways to Speak Life Into Your ChildrenI totally blew it.

We were in the process of transitioning our two-year-old son to a toddler bed, and it wasn’t going well.

I was tired, and he refused to stay in his room. (That was before we bought a heavy-duty baby gate to help teach him). About an hour into our typical routine (and by “routine,” I mean full out bedtime battle), I yelled at him.

Something inside me just snapped, and my poor son took the brunt of my anger. I spewed words at him he didn’t deserve.

Was he disobeying? Yes. Was he pushing the boundaries? Most certainly.

But did he deserve my words of anger? Not at all.

I am the grown up, and in that moment, I didn’t act like it.

My words, instead of speaking life into my child, spoke frustration and anger.

He went to bed after that; I, on the other hand, lay on the couch and cried over my loss of control.

Proverbs 18:21 tells us that “the tongue has the power of life and death.”

As parents, we have the power to speak life into our children.

I’ll be the first to admit it’s hard at times, though.

  • When we’re tired
  • When we’re over-scheduled
  • When our children refuse to obey
  • When we’re sick
  • When we’re struggling through infertility treatments or other difficult circumstances
  • When our marriages aren’t going well
  • When finances are tight

Speaking life into our children isn’t always easy, but it’s one of our greatest privileges as moms and dads.

Our children, especially when they are young, hang on our every word.

Here are a few ways to speak life into their lives…

To read this post, please click on over to Come Have a Peace for my guest post there.

How to Survive Church with Children

How to survive church with childrenEvery church-going parent has been there at least once (if not numerous times). It’s quiet—probably prayer time or another somber moment—and your child begins to noisily fill his diaper, throw a fit, or wail for a bottle.

When my oldest was a baby, I remember leaving church mortified that I couldn’t keep him quiet for an hour. For some reason, I mistakenly assumed it was easy for other parents…that I was the only one who struggled when I brought my child to church. I also worried what people thought of my son and me. Were we a distraction?

To read my 5 church survival tips for parents (and what churches can do to help!), click on over to Mothering from Scratch where I’m honored to be sharing today.

*If you’re wondering where my post on money is located, check back next week for the continuation of my March Money series.

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