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Category Archives: Motherhood

A True Joy of Motherhood: When Your Children Can Clean the WHOLE Kitchen by Themselves!

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My girl, being a good sport for me! Always the ham!

Well, the most glorious thing has happened in my house.

My 9 year old can clean the WHOLE ENTIRE kitchen by herself. The pots and pans, the dishes washed and put into the dishwasher, the counters, the floor, and I am ALL KINDS OF HAPPY DANCING. For some of you this is no big deal, your kids have been cleaning since they are they were born. Practically. But not my kids!

Let me back up a minute.

I was on the phone with my sister-in-law interviewing her for Having a Martha House the Mary Way, (she’s rocks at cleaning) and she told me that her kids clean the kitchen every night after dinner. Her kids are 8 and 6. 8 AND 6!

I have clearly been slacking. My kids unload the dishwasher and set the table. Dude.

So I asked her to tell me more, and she said that her 8 year old son does it all, dishes, pots, pans, counters, BADA-BING-BADA-BOOM. And I was all, “REEEALLY?!” Her 6 year old loads the dishwasher, and she has 15 minutes to do it or she has to do the dishes for her brother the next night. THAT’S some motivation.

Now listen, my sister-in-law is lovely and kind and gentle and is a great mom. She is teaching her children to take care of a home, and she’s knocking it out of the park. Which is why I interviewed her. Which is why I’m going to do everything she tells me to do.

Which brings me back to my kitchen and my 9 year old.

I said to my girl, “Honey, it’s time you learn to clean the kitchen. You are old enough, and I need your help because we are a family and we help each other. Okay?”

She looked at me suspiciously. I could see the challenge in her eyes. But I was going to do this; I was going to teach her to clean the kitchen, top to bottom. And boy did she have her work cut out for her! I made her learn on a Monday, after the weekend, after dishes were everywhere.

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Sponge fun, thanks to the awesome folks at ePantry and their new pop-up sponges!

I showed her how to wash off the dishes before putting in the dishwasher. As she did that, I decided to make her a pretty little chart with steps to cleaning the kitchen. When I was finished, I, smile on my face, showed her the chart. She looked at it, grabbed a pen, and PROCEEDED TO PUT SAD FACES ALL OVER IT. Oh, ya’ll, I was not having that.

I told her that in addition to cleaning the kitchen, she was now going to have to make the chart all over again, and she had to copy it just as I had made it.

She did it. And when she was done, there were SMILEY FACES all over it. Mom wins.

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Back to the kitchen…

I taught her how to do the rest, and she washed and scrubbed and swept, and I as SO proud of her. She had mentioned a few times that making her clean the kitchen would be an excellent punishment. We had a talk about attitude. But here is the best part: when she was finished, I watched her as she walked out of the kitchen, turned around, looked over worked, and SMILED. I could see accomplishment in her eyes. She felt good about her work.

The next time she cleaned the kitchen, she did it without fuss.

This is a glorious new beginning. I mean, truly, I think there are angels singing somewhere on behalf of all moms. HOPE has sprung!

Next I will be teaching my son and youngest to clean the kitchen, because what I know now is that my kids are capable of doing more than I have given them credit for. Also, I just needed to ante up and do the work of teaching them. Because you know what, it’s worth it.

Not only do I know have legitimate help cleaning, but they are learning valuable skills and their characters are being refined. So good.

But mostly, I DON’T HAVE TO DO IT ALL BY MYSELF!!!!!! WOO HOO!!! Okay, my husband helps. Actually, he’s amazing. But now we also have the kiddos helping, and that just rocks.

Here are some encouraging words in getting our kids to clean from my sister-in-law Sarah, AKA, cleaning ninja:

“As much as I can, I allot to each child according to his/her age and ability, a task.  I work with them and teach them the first one or two times on the “how to’s” and then they are required to help out when asked, needed or scheduled.  The old “many hands make light work” couldn’t be truer. When a job has been well done, I verbally or sometimes monetarily praise the child. If the child inquires is the job “well done”, I often ask them if they did their best and if they would be pleased with the outcome if Jesus were to see it.  I don’t want the effort made to be for me, but for the LORD. I believe having a clean home creates a sense of calm in the home, although keeping it clean can feel meaningless, redundant, and constant. However, if we view our work as serving others and by doing so, loving them, it changes our heart attitudes. When we serve those in our home by taking care of it we become more Christlike. Jesus Himself, came to serve us, we can do the same.

I fail so many times. Our God is not a condemning God, but a gracious one, slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness! Ultimately, all our efforts in this life are to glorify Him.”

There you have it! Go forth and clean NOT ALONE!

Keep on!

SM

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Letting Our Children See Our Humanity

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When I’m frustrated, I make this horrible grunting/groan type sound.

It’s awful, really.

My knowledge of the sound I make was realized when I kept hearing my youngest make the sound. Everytime she would get upset at someone, she made that noise, and she made it loud and long. I told her to please stop making that terrible sound.

Then I got upset about something and I made the sound. “Oh. She gets that from me.”

I was thinking about how I could ask my children to help me by gently saying something like, “Mom, you’re making that sound” every time I did it. But then another thought came in. “You are the parent. You shouldn’t have your children correct you.”

Where did that thought come from? What voice put that in my head? Maybe a parenting expert?

It’s not that I want my children to correct me, it’s that I want them to encourage me to stop doing something I want to stop doing. They’re my people; we help each other. I realize I am their authority for this season of their life, but I also realize, I’m just human.

And we, together, are just walking this life out together, imperfectly, humanly, as we lean into faith.

I am their mother, and I intend to do my best to lead and instruct them, but I also want them to see me as flawed and in need of Jesus everyday, because I am, and I do.

There are so many should’s and should not’s and it kind of exhausts me. And confuses me sometimes. And makes me neurotic. I often say I want to parent from my gut, listening to that inner whisper that so gently guides. I like to think that God puts that whisper in the soul of a mother to help her along, to help me along. And then to also have the Holy Spirit tangled up in me, and God’s Word directing me, I can do this; I can mother. And thank God He gives us wisdom through mothers who have gone before us, and who are willing to teach us. Those women who have heeded God’s call to help the younger mothers, they are gifts.

But all of us, young and old, we are just so human. I want my kids to see my humanity. I want them to see me trying and listening and praying and working out this life, because I want them to know they are not alone in the human experience. I want them to see that life is not cookie-cutter, but it is beautiful. It’s hard and good and delightful and painful, but we get to do it together.

“Caroline” I say, “I’m so sorry I have been making that terrible noise and then yelling at you not to make it. How about this, I’ll help you and you help me. We’ll work on it together. Sound good?”

“Sounds good, mom.”

I show the way, but we walk together. And together, encouraging one another daily, we can do this life, and we can do it well.

One human, holy step at a time.

Keep on, sisters, SM

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Three Ways to Let God Into Your Everyday Chaos

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Today’s post is from such a sweet mama. Her name is Christina and she is just lovely and wise. She has a study out called, ExtraOrdinary, that you can learn more about at the end of her post. Please welcome her here today!

The clock was already blinking 2:30 p.m. I had oodles of work to complete, and not even half of my list was checked off. Pushing aside my laptop, I hopped into the van and hurriedly shoved the keys into the ignition not wanting to be the last parent in line for pick-up…again.

I knew that as soon as we all got back home and in the door: snack time would roll into homework, which would turn into outside play, which would eventually demand nourishment (dinner), then ultimately lead into baths and bedtime prayers. By the time I had my list to think about, I would be too exhausted to even wash my face before falling into bed.

All these thoughts during a short two mile drive to the elementary school.

By the time I arrived and began inching my way through the pick-up lane, I was completely discouraged and feeling like the worst (mom/wife/writer…you name it).

Pulling up to the curb, my little people hopped into the van eager to show me their graded work and remind me that they needed supplies for projects due soon. I sat quietly sulking as they chattered on about kickball at recess and spelling bees.

Pulling into the driveway, everyone jumped out…but me. I sat in the driver’s seat, rolled down the windows, and wearily dropped my head back.

When I give in to my inadequacies, they stack up before my eyes like a mountain of unclimbable rocks. Before I know it, my pity has turned into an all-out party and I am the only guest.

One of the (undone) items on my to-do list was to write an article submission detailing my parenting skills with ease. Ha! How in the world am I the one who is to write on any subject involving parenting, or anything else for that matter?

I gave myself a few more minutes to sit in silence, completely out of sorts. After a bit, knowing I needed to get a hold, I turned on one of my go-to worship songs and let the words soak into my tired soul.

One at a time I lay my weaknesses out before God.

He kindly reassured me (for the gazillionth time) that I am weak so He can be strong. So basic. So easy.

Part of living authentically as a Christ-Follower, a wife, a mama, and a writer is to allow people around me to see those weak times. Not so they can feel better about themselves, but so they might be encouraged as I determinedly forge on.

If I walked into that house, I would fail. I needed Jesus to go before me.I needed His grace to fill me. I needed Him. No one was to blame for my attitude of insufficiency but me.

After a full 6 minutes of “me and Jesus time”, I knew it was time to re-enter my reality. With every step up the driveway, I released more of me, and welcomed more of Him.

Our afternoon crazy hour was just as insane as it always is (even a little more since Mommy had refused to come in the house for a bit). But because of a moment with Jesus in my van on the driveway, somehow I was able to rise above the chaos and thank God for it all.

God demands all of me, in all of it. When I allow just a sliver of myself into the equation, things begin to quickly unravel. I could not even count the number of times God and I have had these conversations. I am so very ordinary. When left to my own strength, I fail so hard!

His love for my human failings, His grace for my selfish moments, His peace for my chaos… they never stop. This is good news.

Three Ways to Let Him into Your Chaos

1.) Take Yourself Out of It

The more “me,” the less Jesus has room to be. Pretty simple. Yet really hard make happen day in and day out. Life is not about us, but we totally make it about us! Every morning, before your feet hit the floor, ask God to fill your thoughts, actions, and words.

2.) Get Out of Bed Before Your Kids

I need at least 30 minutes (if not a whole hour) of Jesus and coffee before I can be a sweet mama. I learned this the hard way. On days that I feel like I want to “treat” myself and turn off the alarm, we all pay dearly. Chaos is rampant. Quiet time in the early hours is my saving grace.

3.) Call a Mommy Timeout

It is totally okay to find a quiet spot in your house and demand a moment to yourself. Now that my kids are a little older I find that in my closet. At least once a day I wave the white flag and fall down to my knees on top of running shoes and wrinkled shirts. It is my place to hide, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Sometimes I will sit there until I hear God’s voice. He’s never let me down. I always leave renewed, even if it just gets me through the next hour.

If you are feeling chaotic, and the clock is blaring at you because dinner should have been started– take a deep breath and let Him into your chaos.  Truth is, He is already there.

Christina is a Christ-follower whose passions include writing, teaching, chasing miracles, and justice advocacy. She is always ready and willing to say yes to God’s next assignment as long as it involves caffeine and deep conversations.

If you think Christina would be a good addition to your women’s conference, retreat, or you just want to invite her to a really good coffee shop, go to www.christinalang.me for more details. 

ExtraOrdinary: When Ordinary People Say “Yes” to an Extraordinary God

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ExtraOrdinary  is a six-week study written for women from all walks of life.

Written by a wife and mother of six kids, Christina Lang totally gets it. She understands that sometimes life feels like it is winning and tired wives & mamas often feel like they are losing. This feeling of hopelessness causes them to grasp anything they can to try and make it all work.

ExtraOrdinary will teach you how to let go of the false sense of control, and fall into your Heavenly Father’s arms. Each of the six weeks introduces a different Biblical character to illustrate how God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. You will find that they are more like you than you may have ever known. Simply put, they were human. As you learn about the humble lives of Peter, John, Hannah, Hosea, Mary, and Lady Faith, I interweave stories from my own ordinary life that has been grounded by mistakes and a need for grace. Together we all find a common ground, and that is our need for a Savior.

Watch the adorable trailer HERE! Get your copy here!

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Merit Doesn’t Make a Mother

For When You Feel Like You're Failing as a Mom

I had a boyfriend in college who told me he could never see me as a mom.

I asked him why he thought that, and he just said, “I don’t know. I just don’t see it in you.” His flippant words hurt. I had always wanted to be a mom, and this person who I cared so much for didn’t think I was worthy of that title.

Fast forward to now, and even though I have three beautiful children who I am absolutely in love with, his words creep up on me. Hidden behind the spoken words I hear, “You’re not good enough to be a mom.”

Some nights I lay awake with anxiety, spinning with thoughts of all I mess up in and all the ways I could do better. I just don’t want to regret my mothering years; I want to do right by my children.

Then the morning comes and everything feels new and I know I can begin again.

And I remember, I am not enough. I am not adequate. I will fail in a million and one ways. But merit doesn’t make a mother. God makes a mother.

Read the rest over at (in)courage today!

Want to win a copy of Desperate for you and a friend?

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Today I’m giving away six copies of Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe! There will be THREE winners, so you are entering to win one for you and one for a friend! WOOT! Just fill out the form below! By the way, the Kindle version of Desperate is only $1.99 right now!!! Get it HERE!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Keep on!

SM

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One of the Secrets to Nurturing a Strong Mind in Your Child

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I have been let in on a great secret.

Maybe it’s not a secret, but it was unknown to me until I actually tried it. My Ella, avid reader that she is, was always picking books at the library that were of the Geronimo Stilton sort. Fun, but in a candy-appetite sort of way. Sure, she was reading, and I always encourage reading, but Sally pointed out to me that just like our diets, what we feed our minds daily is important in being healthy. If my girl always reads “candy books”, her mind would be engaged, but not necessarily strong. Plus, what we consume frequently we tend to have an appetite for. I want my children to crave the good things. I also want her to learn about history and interesting people and science and so much more through “living books” and the wide world around us.

All to say, the secret…

It is, the book basket. And specifically, it looks like this: A basket by the bed filled with a biography, a history (can be historical fiction), a science/nature, a classic literature, and a fun book.

There it is, that’s it. That is what my girl has been cycling through the last few months, and it has been the greatest asset in nurturing her mind. Whenever we go to the library (usually every two weeks), she must pick at least five books on those topics. Of course she brings home more books to read, but those are the requirements. And friends, she is not only becoming an excellent reader, I know she is developing a strong mind. Her vocabulary is vast and her knowledge of historical events and people is growing weekly. And all through story and interesting texts.

People often ask me what I use for curriculum. Mostly, the library. We read. We read good, living books on a variety of subjects. We talk about them, and then we look up more information on what we’ve learned if we’ve become curious. We have a few other texts here and there, mainly for math and mapping, but our go-to is the library.

But how, you might ask, do you get your children to read the five books?

Rewards of course! 😉 My children get to pick a special experience if they read a certain number of books. My nine year old has to read 50 chapter books (or, if they are science or biography, they can be 30 pages depending). Her choice of reward? Hershey park with her dad! My son, who has struggled with reading, also has to read 50, but they are of the BOB book variety. His choice? A night out with me in a hotel. Yes, these are expensive items, but they have to read quite a bit to earn the reward. They keep track by keeping a poster in their room and they put a sticker on it for each book they read. It has been a great success! Now listen, I didn’t come up with any of these ideas; I got them from Sally Clarkson. If you’re not following her, you must. She’s lovely and gracious and wise and has done the work in raising her children well. I love her so and you will too.

If you want more ideas, or book recommendations, pick up Read for the Heart: Whole Books for WholeHearted Families by Sarah Clarkson (Sally’s daughter). It is wonderful, and is filled with practical advice for encouraging your children to read.

And just for fun, you must run right now and get your hands on the deeply touching book, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. It is one of the best books I have ever read. The kids and I were hooked; we couldn’t put it down. It is an exceptional work by Kate DiCamillo.

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Okay, your turn! What secrets do you have when it comes to encouraging your children to be well-read? Also, what is a current kids book you are loving right now?

Keep on!

SM

P.S. Another way we sneak in “reading” is by listening to audio books in the car. We are currently listening to Anne of Green Gables every time we go somewhere. It’s been a fun way to get more reading into our lives!

There are affiliate links in this post. You can read my disclosure policy here.

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