Archive | September 2014

Messy Beautiful Love {Review and Giveaway}

No marriage is ever beyond God's redeeming grace...Is your marriage struggling? Does it feel one-sided? Do you long for it to be more than it is?

Marriages are under attack as never before. Unfortunately, those attacks sometimes come not from without, but from within.

In Messy Beautiful Love, bestselling author Darlene Schacht discusses just such an attack on her own marriage — one that surely would have torn it apart were it not for God’s redeeming grace.

The biggest marital problems rarely begin big. Seldom are we slammed with something that materializes out of thin air. Our problems usually start out small and grow.

“If I were to pinpoint the one thing that led me to almost destroy my marriage,” Darlene writes candidly, “it would be that I was keeping a record of wrongs…. I took count of [all my husband’s] faults and kept track of each one.”

Do you ever do that? Do you harbor grudges against your husband or nurse resentment toward him in your heart? Be forewarned: doing so will lead you down a path you do not wish to follow.

“I had forgotten what 1 Corinthians says about love,” Darlene continues. “It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

"Love is what is left in a relationship when the selfishness is taken out." - Nick Richardson

Love is unselfish. It puts the other’s interests ahead of its own. While love heals wounds, unforgiveness causes them to fester. When we keep a record of wrongs, we do so to our own detriment. When we give root to bitterness, our love gets choked out and our hearts grow cold, hard, and impenetrable.

“The problem here isn’t your husband,” Darlene explains. “It’s that your level of expectation for him is outshining his character. When you measure him against the weight of expectation, you are left with an unbalanced scale.

“Accepting a person for who he or she is doesn’t mean that you excuse sin. I’d never ask or want you to do that. What I am asking you to do is to look past the human frailty of a man to seek his beauty by removing the weight of expectation you hold. I’m asking that you walk in the grace of messy, beautiful love.”

Darlene opens the book with a prayer that her testimony would bring glory and honor to God, and that it does. Hers is a powerful story of hope and redemption that will powerfully impact the life of everyone who reads it.

Messy Beautiful Love

Messy Beautiful Love is a collection of important life-lessons learned — some of them the hard way — that you can take and apply to your own marriage. When you do, you will avoid many of the pitfalls the author points out along the way.

Want to read this book yourself? Darlene’s publisher has graciously offered to give a free paperback copy to one of my readers. Enter to win it here: a Rafflecopter giveaway

10 Things Your Teenager Hates

10 Things Your Teenager Hates (Are you making any of these mistakes?) | http://lovinglifeathome.comThere’s no doubt about it.

Navigating life with a teenager at home can be a little tricky.

All those hormones raging through the bloodstream will sometimes have you walking on eggshells.

(Of course, teens might say the same thing about living with a menopausal mother, but that’s another post for another day.)

No parent is perfect. We all make mistakes. And it is sometimes necessary for us to make decisions that won’t necessarily be popular with our kids.

But if we can somehow manage to avoid the biggies — if we can refrain from doing these things our teens hate most — then our homes might be much happier, both during the teen years and beyond.

  1. Disapproval
  2. Your teenager hates to disappoint you. Whether he acts like it or not, he is hungry for your affirmation and approval. He needs to know that your love for him is unconditional. Yes, he’ll make mistakes. And yes, those mistakes may need to be addressed. But they’ll need to be addressed in a way that communicates your love for him and your confidence in his ability to do better.

  3. Lectures
  4. Your teenager hates being lectured. Sure, she still needs your counsel and correction from time to time, but it will fall on deaf ears if you deliver it in a spirit of anger or condescension. Don’t talk down to your teen or use sweeping generalizations. Make your point clearly, but don’t belabor it. Always and only speak the truth in love.

  5. Hypocrisy
  6. Do you use one voice for company and phone calls, but another for your family? Is the person you seem to be at work and church and out in the community the same person your spouse and children see at home every day? Teens are especially sensitive to discrepancies in this area. They are watching you, examining you, constantly observing whether your talk matches your walk. Be genuine and sincere. Live a life of integrity. Apologize and seek forgiveness from your family when you fail. Otherwise, you risk having your teen reject not only you, but everything you allegedly stand for.

  7. Micro-Management
  8. Don’t be a hovering, helicopter parent who tries to dictate your teen’s every move. The older she gets, the more important it is for her to take responsibility for making her own choices and decisions. This is a healthy part of growing up. Sometimes she may do things in a different way than you would do them, but in most cases, that is alright. God never intended for your teen to be an exact replica of you. She is wonderfully unique. Give her some freedom to be herself. When you try to control every detail of her life, it sends your teen the message that you think she’s either incompetent or untrustworthy.

  9. Passivity
  10. As much as your teen dislikes it when you’re controlling, the opposite extreme is just as bad. There must be a balance. Your teen still needs you to remain involved, to be available, to hold him accountable. When he pushes the limits, he’s just testing to make sure they’re still in place, the way you might push against the doors of your house each night to make sure they are properly latched. You should expand his boundaries a bit as he grows, but you shouldn’t remove them altogether. Whether consciously or not, your teen takes comfort in knowing that you care enough to keep tabs on him.

  11. Manipulation
  12. Your teen hates guilt trips. If you want or need her to do something for you, please just come out and say so. Don’t expect her to read your mind or try to guilt trip her into doing what you want. Be straightforward in your requests and sincerely grateful for her cooperation.

  13. Comparisons
  14. Your teen may tolerate positive comparisons to people he admires, but he hates to be compared negatively to anyone. Let him stand or fall on his own merit. There’s no reason to drag anybody else into it. If a comparison must be made, let it be in comparing your teen to his younger self and noting the growth, maturity, and progress he’s made.

  15. Discord
  16. This may seem counterintuitive, given how prone she is to argue sometimes, but your teenager hates strife. She especially hates to hear her parents fighting. There is enough turmoil in the world — don’t add to it by being at odds with your spouse. Let your home be a haven of rest, a peaceful oasis where your children can relax, recharge, and take refuge from worldly cares in full confidence of your commitment not only to them, but to one another, as well.

  17. Inflexibility
  18. Avoid letting “no” become your knee-jerk response. Don’t get locked into doing things a certain way, just because that’s how you’ve always done them. Be willing to think outside the box and weigh all the options, especially when making decisions that affect your teen. Attempt to see things from his perspective. Sympathize. Remember what it was like to be a teen yourself. And if your erstwhile dreams, ideals, and love for adventure have been snuffed out in the passing years, do your best to rekindle them — for your own sake as much as for his.

  19. Uncertainty
  20. Remember the verse about not being anxious for tomorrow, because each day has enough troubles of its own? This is especially true for our teenagers. Our kids face so many uncertainties during these years — Will I pass my test? Will I make the team? Will I get into college? Will I ever find love? — they don’t need parents heaping their own worries on top of what’s already there. Remain calm. Don’t overreact. Pray for your teen, point him to the solid Rock, anchor him there when the storms roll in, and assure him the sun will soon come out again.

What other things does your teen hate? Is there anything else you’d add to this list? Let me know in the comments below.

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The Bundle Books I’m Reading First

Wonderful resources for healthy livingAnybody who has followed this blog for long knows that I love to read. I average about a book a week.

Although I like a variety of genres, I especially enjoy books that teach me something new. The more I read, the more I learn. And the more I learn, the more I want to learn.

That’s one reason I’m so excited about the titles included in this year’s Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle.

I used to think e-book bundles weren’t for me. I really prefer reading hard copies of books rather than digital, so I’d skip over bundle ads without much thought.

But then I noticed that last spring’s Ultimate Homemaking Bundle included four books I was already intending to read — and some quick calculations showed me that those four books, bought individually, were going to cost me more than the entire bundle put together.

So I took a chance and bought the whole thing.

And am I ever glad I did.

The quality of books included with the Ultimate Bundles far surpassed my expectations, and all the free bonus products made the deal even sweeter. (I am still using the Dizolve laundry detergent that was included with the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle — I liked the full-sized sample box so much, I bought two more when I finished the first.)

So is the current Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle for you? I’d encourage you to take a closer look to find out, especially if you are interested in making better health and lifestyle decisions, getting fit, losing weight, boosting energy, using greener products, creating nutritious and delicious meals for your family, and/or doing what you can to prevent serious diseases.

If some of the topics appeal to you, but others don’t, that’s okay. Nobody expects you to read them all. Feel free to pick and choose.

Personally, I’m planning to skip reading the books about cloth diapering and natural childbirth, because — as sad as it makes me to admit it — baby season seems to be behind me now. And since I’m not allergic to gluten, eggs, or dairy, I probably won’t take time to read the bundle books on those topics, either.

But there are several books in this bundle that are very applicable to where I am at this point in in my life.

These are the ones I’m focusing on first:

  • The Eczema Cure
  • The Eczema CureI had eczema as a child. Although I eventually outgrew it, I well remember the way it burned and itched and kept me awake at night. Although I haven’t personally been troubled by the condition for years, I have a little son who suffers terribly with it. He has cracked, crusty skin around both ankles that sometimes even breaks open and bleeds. It looks far worse than anything I ever had when I was little.

    We’ve tried lotions and cortisone creams galore, and although they’ve helped to some degree, nothing has been able to clear it up completely. That’s why I was so glad to get my hands on a copy of The Eczema Cure. The author gives detailed, step-by-step advice for treating eczema from the inside out.

    (Note: Just this title alone retails for $30. That’s like getting the rest of the bundle for free!)

  • Money Saving Mom’s Guide to Freezer Cooking
  • Freezer CookingI love every book I’ve ever read by Money-Saving Mom Crystal Paine (which is quite a few now) so when I noticed she had a book in this bundle, I downloaded that one first. Tried, true, and to-the-point, Crystal shares strategies for freezer cooking that will fit any mom’s schedule — whether you have a whole day to devote to preparing your family’s meals in advance, or just fifteen minutes at a time here and there.

    I did a little freezer cooking after buying the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle last spring, but grew discouraged when our freezer broke down (twice!) this summer, and all my hard work was lost. 😦 The frig has been fixed now and has given us no further problems, so I ‘m ready to try again. Crystal’s book was just the motivation I needed.

  • Clean & Simple
  • Clean & Simple Stephanie Langford’s subtitle tells you exactly what you can expect out of this one: “7 Inexpensive Ingredients, 12 Green Cleaning Recipes That Work.”

    When I recently ran out of furniture polish, I searched this little volume for alternatives to what I’d been using. Although dusting spray was not one of the twelve recipes mentioned in the title, Stephanie did include a link in the back to exactly what I was looking for, and it works beautifully. What’s more, she provides in the dozen some simple, easy recipes for other things I use regularly but hadn’t thought of making myself, like foaming hand-soap and oven cleaner.

    Not only are the homemade varieties of each of these better for my family and better for the environment, but they can be made for a fraction of what their store-bought counterparts cost. And they work! It’s a win-win!

  • 42 Simple & Healthy Dinners
  • 42 Simple and Healthy DinnersWhen I learned that one of the authors of this book, Brandy Ferguson, is the mother of eight boys, I knew I had to read it. If she has discovered how to cook healthful, whole food meals that simultaneously satisfy a house full of growing boys, then I want in on her secrets! The book is filled luscious looking photographs for protein-rich dishes such as garlic lemon chicken and pasta, basil beef lettuce wraps, and tilapia tacos, plus a whole section of vegetarian recipes.

    This collection of recipes is meant to complement Brandy’s other book, 42 Days to Fit which contains, among other things, a custom-written exercise plan I’m eager to try designed specifically for mothers. Since that book’s also included in the Healthy Living Bundle, I’m planning to read both concurrently.

  • The Happy Housewife’s Guide to Dealing with Picky Eaters
  • Dealing with Picky EatersI haven’t started this one yet, but intend to do so right away, as I’m dealing with a couple of picky eaters at my house right now and getting a little frustrated.

    They aren’t picky in the usual sense of only wanting to eat junk food. Both are huge salad and veggie eaters, but they turn up their noses at anything with even a hint of meat in it. This their father, who is a diehard meat and potatoes man, can scarcely comprehend.

    Don’t get me wrong — I’m thrilled that my little ones love lettuce and spinach. I’m just hoping the Toni Anderson’s tips will give me fresh ideas for encouraging them to try some new dishes, as well.

  • Simply Salads by Season
  • Simply SaladsAnd if I can’t talk my little ones into eating anything but salad? Then at least Kristen Michaelis’ book Simply Salads by Season (also included in the bundle) will help me add some variety that way.

    Kristen offers a treasure trove of salad recipes, all filed and organized according to when the main components are most readily available: spring, summer, winter, fall, or year round.

    She also includes more than two dozen recipes for salad dressings and condiments using all-natural, whole foods ingredients, making this book a great resource you’ll want to refer back to again and again.

  • The Urban Chicken
  • The Urban ChickenGiven that I live in town in close proximity to my neighbors, the choice of this book may seem a little odd, but I’ve always been enamored with the idea of raising chickens and would like to learn more about how one goes about it.

    This summer, my children and I got to talk to some folks who raise quail, and they assured us those birds would be quiet enough to keep in our backyard without any fear of disturbing our neighbors. I’m thinking that much of the material in Heather Harris’s book, The Urban Chicken, would probably apply to raising quail, so I am planning to give it a look-see as I continue to contemplate the possibility of harvesting fresh eggs every morning from my own back porch.

  • The Nourished Metabolism
  • The Nourished MetabolismI have always had a low metabolism, but now that I am closing in on fifty, my metabolism seems to have sunk through the floor. There was a time (back in my twenties) when three months of breastfeeding was all it took to completely melt my baby fat away. I delivered my last baby the day before I turned forty-five, and — four years later — have still not dropped all the weight I gained during that pregnancy, despite daily workouts and meticulous calorie counting for months at a time.

    I’m hoping that Elizabeth Walling’s book, The Nourished Metabolism, will give me some good guidance as to what I might do to naturally combat this problem. And here again, this one book retails for $30, more than the price of the whole bundle.

  • Get Up & Go: Fun Ideas for Getting Fit as a Family
  • Get Up & Go  - Front CoverI don’t think I’ve mentioned it on this blog yet, but a few months ago, I finished writing my new book, Get Up & Go.

    And guess what?

    It’s included in this bundle, too!

    So if I were to list the bundle books in the order I’ve read them, this one should really come first, as I had to go through it cover to cover at least three or four times during the editing process.

    This book is full of great ideas for staying active as a family. Don’t be duped into thinking you need a gym membership and a babysitter to work in a good work out — it’s much more fun to get in shape alongside your husband and children, and you’ll make some wonderful memories in the process!

So… that’s my list of personal picks for this particular bundle. If you’d like to read them ,too, you’ll need to act fast: This bundle will only be available until Monday, September 15, or until 30K copies are sold. If you wait too long, you’ll miss it!

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Letter to a Weary Mom

Letter to a Weary Mom -- http://lovinglifeathome.comDo you hang on to old letters, so you can read them again and again?

I do.

Especially now that handwritten notes have become such a rarity, I enjoy leafing through that stack of saved correspondence, rereading the expressions of love and appreciation and encouragement recorded there, along with a wealth of old news and commentary.

One of my favorite letters in that collection was not actually written to me. It was given to me, rather, by a friend of mine who had written it to a friend of hers. I found it to be so rich in gentle reminders, timeless wisdom, and loving encouragement that I’ve held onto it for over a decade now.

When I ran into the author at the bagel shop last Sunday, we got to talking again about her sweet letter and how often I’ve re-read and been encouraged by it. I told her I thought it would be a blessing to other moms, as well, and asked her permission to publish it on this blog.

She agreed, so here it is. Enjoy:

Dear Friend,

Hang in there, my dear! In the “seasons of life” you are in the gale season. New house, new city, and five children all very precious, but all very young to home school. Any one of these things would be enough to overwhelm me! However, we know that God has a plan for you and that whatever that plan — His grace is sufficient.

In the middle of a gale, I’m sure it’s hard to even see the grace, much less grab hold of it. But we know that Jesus is with us in every storm, and that God is our very present help in trouble. We can cast all our cares upon Him and lay down our burdens at His feet.

These things are all so intangible sometimes and hard to get a hold of. So please, pray for me to faithfully lift you up in prayer — that, like the disciples, your eyes will be open to the power that Jesus has over every storm. That you might see His grace and help and power in and over every situation. That you might see how to cast your cares upon Jesus and lay your burdens at His feet. That you could “hands up, I give” surrender, so that it’s not you, but Christ in you doing the good work that you’ve been given, always remembering that He who began that good work will be faithful to complete it.

Intangible and hard to grasp, but promises of our faithful God! Let me pray for it all to be real and rock-solid for you! And pray also for His word to be a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path — clearly illuminating His best way for educating your children. And finally, that your joy may be full!

Home schooling isn’t easy. Motherhood isn’t easy. Marriage isn’t easy. Life isn’t easy. Over the years, I’ve had to pray:

  • To love my children
  • To understand my children
  • To see them through the eyes and with the mind and heart of Christ
  • To be the instrument in His hand to guide and train and shape and mold them
  • To enjoy my children
  • To delight in every moment spent with them
  • To say “yes” to them any time I reasonably can
  • To try never to say “no” to a request for my time or interest
  • To say “yes” joyfully. Not grudgingly, “OK, just one game!”, but rather, “That sounds like fun! I think we’ll have time for one game before I have to fix dinner!”
  • To always remember “the cat’s in the cradle.” Someday we’ll desire their time, attention, companionship… and right now we’re sowing what we’ll one day reap
  • For wisdom and for the law of kindness to be upon my tongue
  • For gentle speech
  • To build up and not tear down my house with my own hands
  • To bring out the best and not the worst in each member of my family

The list goes on and on.

I generally feel like I’m in the trenches with SELF as my most constant enemy. I don’t want to play that game or help with that math problem. I don’t wake up hungry for God’s Word. I get irritated and the law of kindness seems to have no authority over my tongue. It’s a wonder God still allows me the use of it.

I frown when I should smile, lecture when I should sympathize, get irritated when I should laugh, etc, etc. For the good that I would I do not, but the evil which I would not, that I do!

So I just continue to pray that day by day and generation by generation, each one of us individually and collectively would walk more closely with the Lord, taking comfort in the fact that I cannot create or manufacture love, kindness, joy, peace, patience, or any other good thing.

I can only ask for it.

I love you all and count you as a terrific blessing in my life!

Teresa Praytor

Scripture references: II Corinthians 12:9; Luke 8:24-25; Psalm 46:1; I Peter 5:7; Psalm 55:22; Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:6; Psalm 119:105; II John 1:3; Romans 8:14-25; and, not paraphrased in the text of the letter, Philippians 4:13

I learned something about this letter last Sunday that I hadn’t known before. Teresa told me she’d written it in the middle of the night when she couldn’t sleep. The letter’s intended recipient had paid her a visit earlier in the day and had seemed unusually weary and discouraged at the time.

So she poured her heart into these words, then read the finished letter to her husband the following morning and asked whether he thought she should mail it.

“By all means,” he told her, “but be sure to keep a copy. You may need it yourself someday.”

She did — on both counts — which is how I came to be in possession of a copy, as well.

What kinds of things encourage you when you’re feeling weary? What would you tell another mom who feels discouraged? I’d love for you to share in the comments below.

And if you’d like a copy of this letter for your own collection, you can click here for a free printable PDF: Letter to a Weary Mom

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Which Shall It Be?

A friend of mine (and fellow mother of many) recently sent me a copy of the following poem. It conveys beautifully the special place each and every child occupies in a family, no matter how big or small that family is.

Unfortunately, several lines had been omitted in the version of the poem my friend shared.

Two things clued me into this fact.

First, the poem is written in rhymed couplets, and one of the lines was missing its mate.

Second — and even more importantly — although the poem’s subject is seven children, only six were accounted for in the verses that remained.

As soon as I noticed this omission, I went in search of the lost stanza. The top results in my Google findings had also published incomplete versions, but I finally managed to track down the missing lines in a YouTube video enactment of the poem (linked at the bottom of this post) and transcribed them that way.

At the time this poem was written, it was not uncommon for poor families to send one or more of their children away from home to work as an apprentice or indentured servant for years at a time.

As a mother, I can hardly imagine how difficult that must have been, although with four of our twelve now grown and gone, I know well how it feels to have children missing from their accustomed places around the dinner table.

Here is the full version of this lovely poem. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we have:

Which Shall It Be?

by Ethel Lynn Eliot Beers, 1826-1879

Which shall it be? Which shall it be?
I look’d at John; John look’d at me
(Dear, patient John, who loves me yet
As well as though my locks were jet).
And when I found that I must speak,
My voice seem’d strangely low and weak:
“Tell me again what Robert said?”
And then I, listening, bent my head.
“This is his letter:

                  ‘I will give
A house and land while you shall live,
If, in return, from out your seven,
One child to me for aye is given.’”
I look’d at John’s old garments worn,
I thought of all that John had borne
Of poverty and work and care,
Which I, though willing, could not share;
I thought of seven mouths to feed,
Of seven little children’s need,
And then of this.

                  “Come, John,” said I,
“We’ll choose among them as they lie
Asleep;” so, walking hand in hand,
Dear John and I survey’d our band.
First to the cradle lightly stepp’d,
Where the new, nameless baby slept,
“Shall it be Baby?” whispered John.
I took his hand and hurried on
To Lily’s crib,

                  Her sleeping grasp
Held her old doll within its clasp.
Her dark curls lay like gold alight,
A glory ‘gainst the pillow white.
Softly the father stooped to lay
His rough hand down in loving way,
When dream or whisper made her stir,
And huskily said John, “Not her!”

We stopped beside the trundle bed
And one long ray of lamplight shed
Athwart the boyish faces there,
In sleep so pitiful and fair;
I saw on Jamie’s rough, red cheek,
A tear undried. Ere John could speak,
“He’s but a baby, too,” said I,
And kissed him as we hurried by.

Pale, patient Robbie’s angel face
Still in his sleep bore suffering’s trace;
“No, for a thousand crowns, not him,”
We whispered, while our eyes were dim.

Poor Dick! bad Dick! our wayward son,
Turbulent, reckless, idle one—
Could he be spared? “Nay, He who gave,
Bids us befriend him to the grave;
Only a mother’s heart can be
Patient enough for such as he;
And so,” said John, “I would not dare
To send him from her bedside prayer.”

Then stole we softly up above
And knelt by Mary, child of love.
“Perhaps for her ‘twould better be,”
I said to John. Quite silently,
He lifted up a curl astray
Across her cheek in willful way,
And shook his head, “Nay, love, not thee,”
The while my heart beat audibly.

Only one more, our eldest lad,
Trusty and truthful, good and glad—
So like his father. “No, John, no.
I cannot, will not let him go.”

And so we wrote in courteous way,
We could not give one child away,
And afterward, toil lighter seemed,
Thinking of that of which we dreamed;
Happy, in truth, that not one face
We missed from its accustomed place;
Thankful to work for all the seven,
Trusting the rest to One in heaven!

I hope that remembering this story will help your toil seem lighter, too. Raising a family is hard work, but the reward of seeing all those happy, loving, little faces around the table (and the joy of watching them grow into strong, capable and confident young adults) more than compensates for the all effort involved.

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