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Got Baggage?

      Emotional baggage. We all have it. It is the thoughts that we carry with us all the time…thoughts, memories, or opinions. Maybe it’s a thought you had about yourself or someone else and now you are buried by the shame or guilt. Perhaps it is a situation that you handled badly or a moment that changed your life forever… these moments that you dwell on. Emotional baggage can cause distress in our relationships. It can also affect our spiritual walk. Most of the time, this baggage is influencing how we see ourselves and how we see God. It can keep us from growing spiritually,  loving fully, and ministering to others. These bags weigh us down and keep us from getting closer to those we love and they even keep us from knowing God as He is.

suitcases big2

 photo by Malias

Over Mother’s Day weekend, we loaded the kids in the van and went to visit my in-laws. Their church has a banquet every year for Mother’s Day. They also have a service and theme for the evening. The service began with a skit about a woman who goes into a store to buy a new bag to carry all of her stuff (she was carrying several shopping bags). She sits down to explain to the sales woman what she needs a new bag for. Interrupting her, the sales woman offers the burdened customer several bags. Each one was designed to carry specific types of baggage. The sales woman goes on to give the customer many bags, purses, and cases that will carry burdens such as fear, addiction, and jealousy. Finally, the customer realizes she is weighed down with all of her emotional baggage and she realizes how it is affecting her life. She turns to the sales woman and asks her what to do. She offers the heavily burdened woman a small change purse. She says, “Change. This is what you need. But you can’t do it yourself. Only Jesus can exchange your baggage for this tiny change purse and give you true peace and fulfillment.” Of course, the woman leaps at the opportunity for this free change purse. And all she did was stand up and take it.

Have you ever been so desperate for something that you couldn’t contain yourself? Well, when we have baggage and we begin to use it against others, or create others’ baggage, that is our heart crying out for change! Even just carrying your own baggage is your heart’s way of playing keep-away with God. When we do that, our spirit cries out for God’s change and healing.

That evening, the speaker spoke out of Psalm 55. This is a psalm of desperation. David is crying out for God to hear his heart. He starts by saying,

Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught because of what my enemy is saying, because of the threats of the wicked; for they bring down suffering on me and assail me in their anger. My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. Psalm 55:1-5

Doesn’t he sound grieved?  David, of course, did not have an easy life. His relationships were definitely not perfect. The king was trying to kill him and later, he had an affair and had the woman’s husband killed. He was certainly not a perfect man. But no matter what David did, he seemed to leave his bags at God’s feet. He may still have carried it for a while like we do. But ultimately, David remembered that God knew it anyway and I think that was a comfort to him. Instead of hiding himself and his baggage from God, he took refuge is God’s mercy and grace.

Listen to his prayer in verses 2-3:

 My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught 

because of what my enemy is saying…

 I don’t know about you, but that sounds a lot like me. My thoughts trouble me daily. I am often distraught because of what my enemy is saying. I may not have a physical enemy searching after me for my life, but I have a spiritual enemy. We all do. And sometimes, I can be an enemy to myself. I give way to thoughts…memories…opinions… and I dwell on things that Satan places in my way. Dwelling on those thoughts…emotional baggage…causes me to be blind to God and forget His plan for me. I lose sight of His power, grace, and love. That’s what baggage does to me. It affects my attitude, it affects my prayer life, my relationships, and it even affects me physically. Emotional baggage is real.

So, how do we get rid of these bags and move on to change? The speaker at the event explained that it’s as easy as ABC:

A- Assess: Search your heart and pray that God would reveal to you the baggage you’re carrying. Psalm 139:23-24 says:

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

praying2

Photo by Lel4nd.

B- Beware: Be aware of situations that cause you to worry or compare yourself. Baggage can come from anywhere. Know where you are weak and be on guard. 1 Peter 5:8 NIV says,  Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. He’s ready for you. Be aware.

 Also, beware of others’ baggage. You can sometimes see it in their attitude, choices, and words. Don’t let another person’s baggage create more of your own.

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Photo by  permanently scatterbrained

C- Check your bags: Drop your bags and let Him pick them up. Leave it all at God’s feet. And my favorite part: there’s no weight limit to check these bags. Whatever your struggles, whatever your choices, your behavior…it doesn’t matter. Check your bags at the cross.

This video from The Skit Guys shows baggage as it really is:

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Budgeting for Real Food

budget2photo by Tax Credits

So the titile isn’t exactly a mystery…and it certainly doesn’t sound too exciting does it? Well, you’re right. It’s not. But keep reading anyway. My husband and I just recently had a heart to heart talk about his worries and mine. One of his concerns was money. (Big shocker, there, huh?) It was no big surprise to me. We aren’t exactly very organized when it comes to finances. So we decided to change all that.

Before I get into detail about learning to budget, let me explain a few things. Last year at this time we were spending significantly less at the grocery store than what we spend on groceries now. We did a great deal of shopping at Aldi and bought discounted products. However, we were also buying mostly processed foods. Canned soups, frozen tater-tots and pizzas, bags of chips and processed cheese. Well, in the past year, our eating has changed drastically. Thus, our buying has changed drastically. Buying farm fresh eggs and produce, grass fed beef and organic dairy not only affected our bodies, it also affected our pocket book. We aren’t buying as much snack food, and processed items, which helps, but there was still a significant increase.

So recently, I’ve been watching what I buy all the time. Yogurt, cheese, and fresh and frozen produce are the items we buy the most. Of course, those can be the most expensive too. So, in addition to learning to make my own yogurt, I also expect these items to be higher than most anything else. So, because we eat those the most, I have been trying to keep other costs down. There are several ways to do this.

1.) Buy in Bulk- A great way to save money on items you use frequently is to buy it in bulk. For us, since we are learning to make bread, we have decided to buy wheat in bulk from our co-op. We buy the organic wheat berries and then sprout/and or grind them ourselves.

2.) Shop locally- It’s summertime which makes this step even easier right now. I can’t stress enough to buy local food. We have several families within a mile or less that sell produce, honey, syrup, eggs, meat, yogurt, cheese, soaps, and many other goodies. Granted, we have countless Amish and Mennonite farms around us. For those who may not have that opportunity, check out your community farmer’s markets. I have yet to attend our local farmer’s market but I intend to change that soon. I’ll be sure to tell you all about it.

3.) Grow your own- One of the easiest and budget-friendly ways to save on your groceries is to grow your own fruit, veggies and herbs. There also are several ways to store this food so you can eat it year round too.

4.) Plan your meals- This is one of the best ways to keep your pocketbook in check. Plan your meals ahead of time. If you’re internet savvy and you like digital lists and recipes, check out Plan to Eat. Otherwise, sit down once or twice a month and plan what you’re going to eat. Breakfast through dinner and snacks. Don’t leave anything out. Then write your grocery list accordingly. Your initial grocery bill might be a little more than you’re used to, but you won’t have as many little trips to the store. Remember, it all adds up.

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photo by david_shankbone

5.) Stick to it. This one is the hardest for us. Stick to your budget for food. Stick to your meal plan. Stick to your list. Stick to it. Don’t alter your meals once you have the plan. Now, I know things come up. Believe me, I know. But try with all your might to keep it up. This past few months has been interesting for us because we ran out of chickens from our freezer and all we had left was a ton of pork from buying half a hog several months ago. So, what have wee been eating? You guessed it. Pork. For months. Bacon, sausage, pork roast, ham roast, pork chops, ribs. But with a little creativity, it’s been fine. We get more chickens in June and we’re looking forward to it!

6.) Pay with cash. This is plenty easy (and necessary when buying local food). Use cash to buy anything, really! Even paying bills. That way, you’re seeing your money and where it goes, and you’re less likely to spend as much. Also, a plus for us has been saving the coins left from our purchases. Recently, my husband counted over $80 in coins just from paying in cash. He was able to buy a power tool with it!

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photo by Tax Credits

And lastly, (though this is actually the first step), don’t forget to create a written budget. Having something in writing always feels more binding. Just thinking in your head “I’ll just spend $50 this week”, doesn’t really do anything. Be sure to have accountability as well. Work with your spouse to establish a budget that will work for both of you. And keep each other to it.

There are plenty of free budget templates. Check out google docs and start putting it to use!

Stay tuned to see an example menu plan and shopping list. Also, I’ll tell you about ordering through a co-op.

Also, to get more real food recipes and ideas, check out my Pinterest board: Whole Food Eating and don’t forget to follow it!

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Have You Heard?

So I was going to wait until Monday, but I can’t! I am so excited to announce that I am now a contributing blogger! Hurray! Starting in June, Jami at Young Wife’s Guide will be bringing out her new team of which I am a part! It’s all about biblical homemaking! From raising children and spiritual help to modesty and gardening, cooking, cleaning, and everything in between. Be sure to like Young Wife’s Guide on facebook (and don’t forget to like Leading Little Ones too)!

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Don’t be shy! Show Young Wife’s Guide some love and I’ll see you there next month!

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New Beginnings

leaindlittleones

Welcome to the new Leading Little Ones blog! I’m excited to begin blogging more often and share some exciting new developments for my blog. That’s coming soon, so stay tuned!

I have added a few of some of my old posts for you to read while I get my new stuff up and running. Until then, I want to share with you my desire for this blog and for my life as a wife and mother. To begin, I want to say I am not an expert. I do not have a degree in child development. I am not a doctor. My kids are not perfect. My house is not spotless. I have piles of laundry in my bedroom. I have dishes in my sink and stains on my clothes. But that’s okay. I am just a young mom who wants to share with other new and expecting moms, the things that I have learned (and am learning) the hard way. But, most of all, I want to share what I am still learning so that I can offer encouragement to those who struggle in the same ways.

     As we all know, moms are not perfect. We are human just like the rest of the world. However, we have to be an example to our children. We have a great responsibility from God to lead those entrusted in our care. Most of this blog is my frustration, fear, weakness, and joy of early motherhood written in black and white. But, through Christ’s strength, I will attempt to raise godly, joyful, loving children who live for the Lord…and hopefully I will be able to finish the laundry and the dishes too.

     Growing up, I was an only child until I was eight years old. So, at family gatherings, I loved to hold, play, and rock my little cousins when they were babies. (I was the second oldest of twelve grandchildren.) I can remember caring for my younger cousins with such awe and desire. “I can’t wait until I am a mommy”, I would think to myself. Then, when I became an older sister, I was able to help care for my younger brother! What a joy! Or so I thought. Now, don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed my little brother. But it was then, and the years that followed, that I realized how difficult it could be to raise a child.

But this difficulty is also very rewarding. 3 John v4 says:

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

That’s what I desire! That my children will walk in truth. But that takes work and investment in those little hearts.

This blog is the documentation of the ups and downs of motherhood! You can keep up with me by subscribing or you can also check out my new Facebook page. Be sure to “like” it and share with your friends! From cooking, to cleaning, home schooling, and biblical child care, there’s something for everyone!

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Laundry, laundry, everywhere! (Including homemade laundry detergent recipe!)

laundry2

Photo by Average Jane

If I could name one major challenge that I’ve had during my career as a wife and mother…it would be laundry. It used to rival doing dishes. But now laundry is my only despised household chore. I’m not sure why I hate it so much. But my disdain is completely evident. Piles, piles everywhere.

I came across this post that has tips to make laundry easier and simpler. So of course, I was interested. One thing that hit me was the name of this website. Simplify 101. Simplify. In my mind, simple is best. It’s just getting to the point of simplicity that’s the hard part. So, I am trying to make laundry (and other things in my house…) simpler by de-cluttering, thinning out everyone’s wardrobe, and storing items we aren’t currently using but want to keep.

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With five people in our household, we have a lot of clothes. Organizing laundry is full time job anyway, but add that on top of three kids, daily cleaning, dishes, gardening, writing, cooking, ministry…and you get prioritizing. And laundry makes the bottom of the priority list.  Unfortunately, that makes things even harder because cleaning the bedroom or even making the bed isn’t very easy when there are piles of laundry everywhere.

So, Aby, the writer of the laundry post, suggests to get started whittling down the laundry by cleaning and putting away every piece of clothing you own. Everything. She says:

Get Caught up! Yep, that’s right. Step one is a laundry fest. Get every single article of clothing and all your linens washed, folded and put way — even the hand-washables! Block out a day, a few evenings, however long it takes, and get caught up. Laundry is your mission, but you can have some fun along the way too. Fold while you watch your favorite T.V. show. Bring a portable CD player into the laundry room. Have some snacks. Read a great book between loads. Do whatever you need to do, but get caught up!

That’s the hardest step for me! She goes on to talk about the other steps- 2.) Do laundry a little more often. 3.) Make it simple. 4.)Separate as you go. I would even add one more. If you can, hang laundry outside to dry. That way, you at least get a little fresh air and sunshine!

So I will be working on step 1. Slowly. You can keep up with me by following along with my laundry/homemaking posts. And don’t be shy… share some of your worst laundry nightmares, or your biggest challenge in keeping a home and share it below.

Along the lines of laundry, I have a wonderful recipe for you! It’s our homemade laundry detergent recipe! Get excited! No more buying that expensive, watered down, chemical-laden, dyed,  laundry soap from the store. This recipe will only cost you about $10 to start and $1 per batch after that. Check out the original recipe here.

This recipe will last us about 4-5 months. Sometimes more. I think it has lasted up to 6 months before. It’s fresh smelling even if you don’t add essential oils. It is even gentle and tough enough for cloth diapers. This soap is a lifesaver. And what’s even better? My husband makes it for us!

Homemade Laundry Detergent

4  Cups – hot tap water
1  Fels-Naptha soap bar
1 Cup – Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda*
½ Cup Borax

– Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.

-Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.

-Stir and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser half full with soap and then fill rest of way with water. Shake before each use. (will gel)

-Optional: You can add 10-15 drops of essential oil per 2 gallons. Add once soap has cooled. Ideas: lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil.

-Yield: Liquid soap recipe makes 10 gallons.

-Top Load Machine- 5/8 Cup per load (Approx. 180 loads)

-Front Load Machines- ¼ Cup per load (Approx. 640 loads)

So get in there, make some soap, and do some laundry! You know I will be!

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Whole Food Eating:Guacamole Recipe

I thought I’d share one of my favorite recipes with you! You can also check this recipe out on my photography blog here. Check out my homemade guacamole recipe:

 

     I love avocados. No, I really, really love avocados. They are so delicious and they are so good for you! Their texture is smooth and just plain delightful. Just cut it in half and spoon out the wonderfully, creamy goodness. (I told you I love avocados!) So what would be a better recipe to make with my beloved avocados than my favorite dip: Guacamole! Who doesn’t like good ol’ guac? I sure do.

     Now, it hasn’t always been that way. I never liked guacamole growing up. To me, it looked like something incredibly nasty…I’m sure we’ve all had our own opinions on what guacamole looks like… Anyway, I hated the thought of it even though I hadn’t really tasted it much. Then one day, I came across a recipe that changed my life forever. Homemade guac! Uh! It looked delicious. So, I decided to give it a try and it has been a family favorite ever since. It never turns out exactly the same every time, but that’s what I love about it most. Unpredictable Guacamole. It sounds dangerous, exciting, and so incredibly yummy.

Homemade Guacamole

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 ripe avocados

1 bunch cilantro

1 lemon or lime

1 medium shallot, finely chopped

1-2 tsp finely chopped fresh garlic

1/3c-1/4c sour cream

sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Method:

Slice the avocados lengthwise around the pit. Once you slice all the way around, it should twist apart easily.

 Remove the pit. Sometimes it comes right out and sometimes it needs a little encouragement. You can use your knife to pluck it out or you can just pull it out with your fingers.

 Once you remove the pit, you can remove the meat of the avocado. An easy way to do it is to score it into small cubes. You can also take a spoon and scoop it out whole.

 Once you have all the avocado scooped into the bowl, you can start preparing the other ingredients.

Cut the stems off of the cilantro. We dont usually use the whole bunch. We use half and then use the other half for something else. Make sure you wash it really well.

Once the cilantro is completely washed, chop it finely.

 Add in the chopped cilantro, lemon or lime juice, shallot, garlic and then the sour cream.

 Mash well.

 Don’t forget to mix in salt & pepper to your liking.

And there you have it. Fresh homemade guacamole. 🙂 Dig in!

 

 

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Desiring to Do Everything

After a long weekend at the in-laws’, my girls (and their parents!) were exhausted. But there is always plenty to do after returning from a trip. (Laundry and unpacking mostly.) Amazingly, with four people in our family, we were able to fit all of our clothes into one small (using the term loosely) bag not including some hanging things. However, it seems after our return, there are more things to wash from our trip than there were when I packed! Of course, all the clothes plus toys, books, and bedding from our extended (2 day) stay up north is now laying on the floor by the door…waiting to be cared for. However, it seems that today there are so many things I want to do, it is hard to say what actually will be accomplished.

Do you ever have those days where you want to accomplish everything and then end up accomplishing nothing? Lately I’ve thought of all the wonderful things I’d love to do. Like, start a garden, clean out our flower beds and do some landscaping, make and sell baby items (learning to sew and create!), write a book, read most of the books ever written, complete the remodeling of our house and then start more, stain the back porch, organize EVERYTHING, care for my children, make a lovely meal every night, and most importantly, grow immensely in my relationship with the Lord.

So why do I desire to do these things and then do nothing? Is it because the tasks seem too daunting? Is it because I get distracted with unimportant things or daily struggles that come with being a mommy to little ones? I personally think those things do play a role in my issue, but the main reason, I think, is because I am not focusing on God. I am not putting Him first in my life. Colossians 3:23 NIV says “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” I love how the GOD’S WORD translation reads: “Whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly as though you were doing it for your real Master, and not merely for humans.” Verse 24b says “It is the Lord you are serving.”

God does care about what we do, but He cares about who we do it for even more. He is the only one who deserves our praise, work, honor and glory. So, it doesn’t matter if I play all day or weed the garden, if I do it for Him, it doesn’t go unnoticed.