Friday, 28 November 2014

A month of Advent fun and giving {plus me giving to YOU... FREE printables and a GIVE-AWAY!}

I am so excited!

This year, I am going to lighten up and make December a fun-filled month, in the middle of the dark, cold winter.

IT all started when I found an "Advent Calendar", in the form of a stocking garland, for a great price! It was only £4.50 in Home Bargains - a bargain, indeed.

At first, I thought I would just put one decent chocolate in each, and the children would take it in turns to have one.

Then, I decided that I wanted to make the whole month more fun.

That's when my brain started going wild with ideas!!!!

Firstly, I want to focus on scripture.

Now, I know we don't know exactly when Jesus was born, but I reckon it's always a good thing to focus on His birth - it's so incredibly wonderful and special.

So, I have come up with 24 different scripture verses, or portions - one for each day.  We will read it together, and talk about what it means. I had such a special time, today, looking through various scriptures, and trying to wheedle it down to just 24! It brought great joy to my heart to read those special verses - it really did reiterate, to me, how precious the Incarnation IS!

I will pop these little scripture cards in each stocking, along with the cards I will get to in a moment.

If you want to print off the same cards, shaped as tags, click on the images below, and it will take you to the file.  They span from Genesis to the accounts of Jesus' birth in Matthew and Luke.

You could, of course, use any scripture verses you want, and use the printable via the image below.


Next, we are going to go through the book Jotham's Journey.  This is a fictional story, based on scripture, which brings many fascinating things to life, associated with the account of the incarnation.  It should be a lovely read-aloud for each day.

The next thing I want to focus on is GIVING.

I think it's SO easy for children to get caught up on GETTING at this time of year.  Thinking about what they WANT.  I really want to instil in my children - not just now, but all the time - of the importance of GIVING.  It's such a scriptural principle, that shouldn't be ignored.  I have come up with a list of things to do, which go from the simple, to the more complex - from those nearby, to those further afield.   I am going to use the blank tags above, to write out which "giving" activity we will do each day.  I will share some of these with you now, but will tell you about them, either as I do them, or when we have finished.

This is the list, so far.

Gifts to each other
 - having a “give each other kind words” day;
 - do chores for each other; 
 - do chores for Mummy, 
 - do chores for Daddy
 - help prepare for Christmas meals, to help Mummy, Daddy and extended family, too!

Gifts to extended family 
 - making place cards for Christmas; 
 - recital for Great-Granny;  
 - make cards and thank them for their love, and tell them what you love about them;
 - make Christmas craft kits and send them to your cousins (shhhhhhhh - parents, don't tell!!)

Gifts to friends
 - visit Jean (elderly lady in Church)
 - bake for elderly 
 - invite friends over and make them a meal
 - surprise a friend with a visit and do something to help them

Gifts to those nearby
 - sing at Broomfield (local nursing home)
 - bake for Police/Fire/medical staff 
 - give away toys
 - donate  something to Specsavers gifts for children 
 - donation to local homeless shelter 
 - sort through clothes and donate to charity; 
 - donate craft kits to the children at the hospital

Gifts to those abroad 
 - letter for military 
 - support a child abroad 
 - send a letter to a foreign child  

The next thing that we plan to do is to just have a general, merry time making  seasonal themed crafts, and doing lots of seasonal read alouds.

If you want to see my ideas for crafts, visit my board,  on Pinterest, which you can find up at the top of the side bar, here on the blog, on the right.

 I will also find free, printable worksheets for the basic school subjects, just to make it more fun.  We will do a few Christmas themed writing projects, such as these writing prompts from Writeshop.  Keep reading for exciting news on that topic!....

You can find more great suggestions at 101 Random Acts of Kindness, here.

The Minimalist Mom has some ideas for advent activities here.

Anna, at The Imagination Tree has done her own version of "Elf on a Shelf", and provided me with inspiration for some of my activities.

Now, I can't have a month focussing on giving without giving, right??

The lovely Kim Kautzer, from Writeshop, has kindly donated the prize for not 1, not 2, but THREE of you to win your own Winter Word Bank writing prompt set.  It's a great little product, filled with word based writing activities for your children.  They give you several ideas of what to do with the over 200 winter words they give you, as well as about 120 printable cards, to use for inspiration.  You can enter below, by either visiting my page for The Joyful Keeper, on Facebook, or by commenting under this post.  Feel free to share with your friends, so they can enter, too!

So, there you have it! Free printables, a give-away, and some fun ideas, for December!

If you have any ways in which YOU have done activities through this season, then please link up, or share in the comments.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Tots on a Tuesday {Mess free finger painting - ohhhhhh yeah!}

I was tidying up my homeschooling supplies, in a bid to chip away every day at my clutter problem, (Yes, I have a clutter problem - the first step in rehabilitation is acknowledging, right?.....) when I came across a set of finger paints I had stashed away.

Now, I am the epitomy of the useless home-educating mother.

I HATE strongly dislike things that make mess.  Mess = extra clearing up to do, on top of normal life with 8 children.


I avoid messy activities like the plague.

I have recently come to the conclusion, however, that it MAY be ok, under strict management.


Better still is finding a painting activity that makes NO MESS?!!?

Yes, you read right.


I was wandering around on Pinterest (wandering? perusing? obtaining creative inspiration?), when I came across a GENIUS idea.

It's quite simple, really.  All you need is ziplock bags, electrical tape, and paint. Not in that order, or it won't be mess free....

Put a few good squidges of paint in the bag, and squeeze out the air.

Shut the bag.

Put a piece of white paper onto the table.

Tape the bag  VERY firmly to the table, over the paper.

(Of course, making it a sneaky lesson in colour mixing, and primary/secondary colours, is always good!)

Let the little ones loose.

Hope fervently you have taped the bags down correctly....

The result??

(Elijah, only second time writing his name - not perfect, I know, but *I* didn't teach him, he taught himself - clever little chappie!)

This activity is a lot of fun, easy to do, and if you are careful, very much reusable.  I will be doing it again, especially when we get to doing phonics with the younger children, as it's a great kinesthetic, and fun,  way to do letter formation.

Oh, and remember the "no mess" part??

Just don't leave any pencils nearby a 2 year old, and it will be FINE.

Minimal mess, thankfully. Minimal.

Compared with normal painting??

LOVE it!

On Pinterest, I also saw people putting it up on the window, for little ones to do. My slight concern would be that if there were a leakage in that situation, clean up would be more tricky than my tiny dribble on a wipe clean cloth. If you're brave, you could give it a go! 

Please feel free to link up with any posts you have on Tots Activities, and pop the button on your post!  We'd love to see what activities you are doing with your tots! 

<a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="TheJoyfulKeeper" width="125" height="125" /></a>

Monday, 24 November 2014

"That's Amazin' {telling our children of God's greatness}

At the weekend, we were all in London, as Robert was preaching at a service there. Our journey brought us past Terminal 5, at Heathrow -  its newest terminal building.

It was night time, and it was all lit up.  It's a huge, glass building, and looks pretty awesome.

As we drove past, a little two-year old voice spoke up from the back, and said

"LOOK, Mum. That's AMAZIN'"

He was absolutely awed by this enormous, bright and shiny building.

You see, we live in a sleepy country village, and he doesn't see many building bigger than a manor house.  Rarely, we go to the big towns, but shopping centres are not quite like Terminal 5!

His new word (I've never heard him say "amazing" before!), and the gasps, and tone of voice that went with it, made me smile.

Then it made me think.

It made me think about God.

We, as the parents, know how wonderful God is.  We may have known Him, through our personal relationship with Jesus, for many years.

We know how wonderful, great, and amazing He is.

Sometimes, we can even lose the wonder, because we don't dwell upon that greatness as much as we ought to.

Our children, however, will not see how amazing God is, if we don't show Him to them.

If I keep Simeon at home, and never expose him to places like Terminal 5, he'll never have those amazing moments where he sees something new, and takes great joy in it.

Similarly, our children need us to tell them about our great God.

Of His love, grace, mercy, lovingkindness, and most importantly, His great salvation.

Look to God's Word, and see it for yourself.

"We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done."
Psalm 78:4

We need to tell them, so that THEY can see the wonderful of it, and how truly amazing it is.

They won't know, if we don't expose them to the amazing truth of God's Word, and how they can know it for themselves.

As those bright lights shone out, on a dark night, making a building look spectacular, if we share God's Word and ways, with our children, the wonder of it will shine out, like a light in the darkness, into their hearts.

We need to keep the wonder in our own hearts, so we will share it with our children.

Remember His wonderful acts toward us.

Remember His incredible attributes.

Remember His greatness.

Expose your children to the wonderful knowledge of God, and His ways. Then, watch as they learn of His greatness, in a personal way, in amazement.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Faithfulness {every night}

Another "working" week has come and gone.

I know, I know, us mothers don't have a "working week".  It's sun up, to sun down, every day of the year.

In this house, though, there is a little pressure lifted off, as school has finished for the weekend.  Yes, there are still jobs for me to do, but the added strain of school is lifted.

I'll not lie.

I love to homeschool, but I love Friday nights.

I'm about to iron for a little while, as I do every Friday night.  Then I will relax. Internally, and externally.  It's a chance for a "breather", when I can unwind, and the pace changes.

This evening, my mind has been drawn to God's faithfulness.

My lovely friend, Menekse (Men-eck-sha, in case you are wondering.....), has just started up a home business, making hand made items, in particular fabric art to hang on the wall.  (Shameless plug coming up ..... find her at The Primrose Parasol, on Etsy, or on Facebook)  When she opened her Etsy shop the other week, after giving sneak peeks of the upcoming products, my eye was drawn to THIS beauty.

THIS is one of my all time favourite verses.  I'll not get into the many reasons why, right now, but suffice to say, I have MUCH to be thankful for, and I try to do so every day.

The next verse, though, is so important, too.

"To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night".

Thankfulness stems from two crucial things.

God's lovingkindness, and His faithfulness.

Without those two elements, I have NOTHING to be thankful for at all.

Without it, I am lost, and hopeless.

The Psalmist also says

"Because thy lovingkindness is BETTER THAN LIFE, my lips shall praise thee".

My life is FILLED with wonderful things, all graciously given from God.  


No matter what testing and trials I am going through (and, trust me, I have them), I have so much in my life for which I can be thankful.

Think of it.

Think of all the wonderful things you have, right now.

It will take you some time.

Now, think that God's lovingkindness is BETTER than that.

His love.  His kindness.  It's better than any of those wonderful things for which we are thankful.

How can we do anything BUT praise Him, and return thanks to the Giver of every good and perfect gift?

Now see how that verse tells us we should begin and end our day?

We don't begin with a sigh, as we have to get up, yet again, from beautiful sleep, to attend to our daily responsibilities.

No, we start by shewing forth His lovingkindness.

Not "think", or "breathe a silent thank-you", for it - SHEW FORTH! Let everyone around us KNOW we are thankful for His lovingkindness, in the way we greet the day, and greet them.  Our lives should be ones that reflect our gratitude. 

How should we end?

With a head hitting the pillow, thankful once again for sleep, awaiting us, and a "I'm so glad THAT day is over"?

No, we end with expressing appreciation for His faithfulness, every night.

Not forgetting it -  but being thankful for it, and saying so.

I am guilty of forgetting.  I remember to say thank-you through the day, and forget to end it well, with acknowledgement of God's faithfulness.

Oh, how faithful!
Faithfulness encompasses God's security, stability, steadiness, truth and trustworthiness.

At the end of the day, we can raise our Ebenezer - "Hitherto hath  the Lord helped me".

No matter what happens, GOD IS FAITHFUL.

I can't worry about the "what ifs" of my testing situations, I need to just trust that God is, and will be, faithful.  Ending the day with that thought chases away any doubt, fear and anxiety. 

Focus on the thankfulness.

So, today, I look at so much around me, and I am thankful.  

Thankful for God's lovingkindness and faithfulness, which then gives me SO much for which to be thankful, right here, right now.

Thankful for my crazy children, making funny faces to their Uncle, a token of God's faithfulness in giving them life, health, wonderful personalities.

The faithfulness of God in the salvation of Bethany, and her realisation that she needed to share that with others.

God's faithfulness in gifting me with a wonderful husband, whom He gives great leadership, grace and love, to bless me with as his wife.

My precious girls, who God has faithfully given to us, to bring joy into our lives. 

God's faithfulness in giving me strength to deal with my two most challenging children, so far!  Such joy, along with the challenges!

God's faithfulness in giving life to this precious, growing girl, when we thought that her life was gone.

A recently rediscovered photo, reminding me of God' faithfulness as He placed me in a loving, kind, supportive and wonderful family, as I grew up, who all love and serve the Lord where He has placed them,

(Photo August '05)

Every morning....

Every night....




Equipping Godly Women

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Being a soft place {good wives use soft words}

I have been through some very testing times in my courtship, in days long, long ago.  Being in a long distance relationship brought many hardships.  As I look back, I see things which I would have done differently, with the advantage of age, and experience, now on my side.  As the nature of life is, however, I came across difficulties that really challenged me in many ways.

In the course of one such trying time, a certain gentleman told me I was to be a "soft place" for my "young man".

At the time, I was so heartbroken  over another incident, that the words didn't really sink in.  I thought I WAS being a soft place, already.

I was thinking about it again, today. You often hear of someone being stuck between a "rock and a hard place".  This was the context where my "soft place" was suggested. I realised, today, that the concept of being a "soft place" still slightly stings in my heart, when, in fact it shouldn't.  Today, I needed to bring this to the Lord, and instead focus on being exactly what I need to be for Robert - a soft place.

I know, in many ways, I already am.  I have not always been, to my sadness.

How CAN I be a "soft place" for my husband?  What can I do to be "soft" instead of "hard"?

When you think about a soft place, what does it even conjure up in your mind?

Mine thinks of my snuggly, soft bed, with a deliciously comfy mattress, which I can sink my weary body into at night.

That's what we need to be for our husband.  No sharp edges.  No lumpy, bumpiness.

A soft place.

A solace.

A comfort.

I think the most important thing, that this "soft place"  can be, is my words.

Proverbs tells us

"A soft word turneth away wrath".

We have SO much power in our words. How we say and what we say can influence the spirit of those around us, especially our spouse.  We have the power to be soft and gentle, which leads to anger being turned away.

It's so easy, in the hustle and bustle of a busy mother's life, to forget that our husband doesn't want to come home, at the end of the day, to a screaming, crazy wife, getting schitzy at the children, and snippy with him!  What has HE done to deserve such hard treatment??

Maybe there are times when you DO think such treatment is deserved?

I'm going to be frankly honest with you here.

I made a lovely dinner for my hubby and myself the other night.  We don't have opportunity to get out on our own, so I try, once a week, to make us our dinner later in the evening, to enjoy alone.  Duck was on the menu - a special treat.  I told him I would ring when it was ready, which I did. He was only a few minutes away, at Church, but I could hear he was busy doing something. I waited at home, whilst the greens turned into puce, soggy looking things.  He eventually arrived home. I wasn't happy.  Sadly, my sinful heart made it known in a less than soft way, commenting, indirectly, to a question asked by a child "What's that, Mummy?" - "A soggy dinner" said I.


The answer the child WAS looking for was "duck" - as they didn't recognise the meat in question.

My answer was to my husband, just in ear shot.

Nothing soft about that.

It was harsh, and borne out of my frustration and impatience.

I quickly felt my wrong-doing, and carried on serving up dinner and bringing it to him.

You see, it didn't really matter why he was late.  He likely had a very good explanation, which I would have been given had I but asked, in a soft and gentle way.   he may NOT even have had a "reasonable" explanation at all! That was irrelevant. The dinner was still entirely edible, just not the way I had planned and hoped (nor the way I knew he liked it).  He did the right thing, thankfully.  He said nothing, and ate the dinner with thankfulness, stating how lovely it was upon completion.

My lack of "soft" words could have ended differently, because it could certainly have produced anger.

It was uncalled for.


Not soft at all.

Then there are times when our husband may say something that riles us up inside.  We think we are entitled to harsh, angry words, because we are in the right, or we think they need to be said.

II Peter 2 gives us a wonderful run down of how one right choice leads can lead to the right responses, including in our words.

"Add to your faith virtue; 
and to virtue knowledge; 
And to knowledge temperance; (self control) 
and to temperance patience; 
and to patience godliness; 
And to godliness brotherly kindness; 
and to brotherly kindness charity"

You see, what starts out as our profession of faith, leads to a desire to be excellent in all we do, which leads to having self control in WHAT we do, and patience in HOW we do it, which makes us more godly, which extends affection, which produces love.


What our relationship as husband and wife should BE.

Our soft words are an extension of our love.  Our self control in what we say, and the patience in how we say it, is an evidence of our love.

You see, it doesn't matter what someone else has done, it's our place to still be soft and gentle.

It's our place to love in our words.

As I have been studying the verses to bring you, here, I stumbled across something I have certainly not noticed before, to my knowledge.

 "Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof. 
 Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD." 
Proverbs 18:22  

It explains that the tongue has the power to cut so harshly that it brings death, or it can bring healing words of life.  

Then, we are told that a man who finds a wife finds a good thing.

I'd never made a connection between the two things before, but boy did I notice them today!

I can just imagine how a husband feels when his wife uses words which bring death, instead of life.

"I thought having a wife was a GOOD thing?"


When I use words that are not soft, I'm not exactly being the poster woman for the wife campaign.

If we want our husband to think he's got a "good" thing, we need to use soft words.

Good wives use soft, life-giving words, not harsh, hurtful ones.

We can be hard in the words we say.  We can be hard in how we say them.  We can be hard in our attitudes and responses to our husband.

All of these things need to be soft.

Soft = loving.

Soft in what we say and how we say it - soft in our attitudes and responses.

I still have so much to learn, and maybe I am not so changed from my 18 year old self, as I think...

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Tapestry on a Tuesday {Myth-busters - Part 2}

The next "myth" that the folks at Tapestry of Grace are seeking to dispel, is this...

"Everyone says Tapestry of Grace is expensive to use"

Now, this is a fairly subjective question, in many regards. What IS expensive?

I can firstly tell you from my perspective.

We used to use ACE curriculum.  It is by no means the cheapest curriculum out there, in fact, it's quite costly.  You pay for each student workbook, as they are consumable.  The score keys are non-consumable, so there is a little saving on that.  For a large family, the cost was starting to mount, even with only ever having three using it at once, before we ended our time with it.

When I was researching a new curriculum, I was coming from the standpoint of someone who was used to expense.  Pretty much anything was going to be a saving!

For me, the main financial attraction toward TOG is the fact that it only gets CHEAPER as you use it, due to the cyclical nature of it.

Let me break down the cost for you.

Initially, you need to be buy the curriculum.  There are three options available.  Digital, print, or both.  I went for digital, as an International customer, because it was virtually instant delivery, and no expensive shipping! The print version is pretty heavy, so shudder to think of the expense of getting it over to this side of the Atlantic!  I love digital formats.

The digital only version is $170 per year plan, print is $295, and both is $315.  As always, this works out better for us on the $-£ exchange. Whoppee-doo!  Now, bear in mind, once you have it, you HAVE it! If you plan to use this for many years, and for several children, it's GREAT value! One fab bonus of the print is that you can view it all on up-to-date Apple and Android products! I regularly pull it up on the iPad to reference things.

Next, you have the option to add on various products. I will tell you about the ones I consider the most useful - the rest you can find over at the Buying Guide. Firstly, there is MapAids, which is $25 per year plan. Again, like the main curriculum, once you have it, you have it. It has all the maps you need to print and use on the way through.  Then you have Writing Aids.  This is a complete writing programme, which includes elements of grammar, as well. It has 12 levels you can work through, and is very thorough. It is not at all ESSENTIAL, but having a writing programme that dovetails with the rest of TOG is just lovely! It is $40 for digital, and covers your entire 4 years. Next, there is the option of lapbook templates.  These are invaluable if you have learners who love this format, but not, of course, essential. They are $75 for a year. Then there are evaluations.  These are great for reviewing what the child has learned, and I use them more as an extra worksheet, rather than an evaluation. I didn't use them my first few years, but after someone else pointed out their usefulness, I added them on. (oh, another bonus - adding things on when it suits!) They are $15 per year, per LEVEL (4 levels), or $50 for all four levels.

There are a few other options of add-ons, which, in my opinion, are even less essential, especially if you are on a budget. You'll learn more about them at the buying guide.

In my opinion, you want to at least get the MapAids, and then WritingAids and Evaluations are next in line. If you got all of those, it would be around $250 (around £160) for the first year (maybe a bit more, depending on how many levels you were getting for the Evaluations.  Obviously more if you add on every element available. Now, when you consider that this is for multiple levels of learners, and you won't pay for year 1 EVER again, then it's not bad value at all.

The next thing you will need is the books.  TOG has a reading list, with the primary books you will need.  They also provide a secondary list, but these titles will not be referenced in your reading schedule every week, so you'll have to hunt for the content you need in these.  You can, of course, buy these books.  I have managed to find nearly all of them over here in the UK.  All of them are available directly from Bookshelf Central, TOG's book store.  You can also find most of them second hand, on sites such as Amazon.  Additionally, you can get many of them in the library system.  There are many ways in which you could also make this cheaper, including borrowing them from someone you know who has them, who also uses TOG.  The one major thing, which benefits people with multiple children, especially over a wide age range, is that the books will also be used again! I have taken great joy in coming back to year 1, and already having all the Lower Grammar level books.  For Year 2 onwards, I also have all the Upper Grammar books.  This year, I am having to add Upper Grammar and Dialectic books, so next time around I will only have Rhetoric to buy. Of course, it's ONLY the books I need this year, as the curriculum was bought first time around! That's making it so much cheaper, which is fabaroony!

One of the other fabulous reasons to BUY the books you need, is the excellent quality, detail, and range of books they use.  My children take great delight in picking them up and looking at them when we are not even studying that era of history.  The literature titles, in particular, especially the picture books in lower levels, are a pure joy! Brilliantly chosen, in my humble opinion.

You will want to add science, maths, English, and any other subjects you consider to be vital.  Those, of course, can be obtained as cheaply or as costly as you wish.

My summation is this - there is a reasonable amount of cost involved in the purchase of TOG.  You can spread the cost of certain elements, if you need to, which is a plus.  The next benefit is the fact that when you come round to use it again, the costs are far reduced.  Then you only need to find or purchase the books which you use with the curriculum.  Are there cheaper curricula available? Yes, of course! Are they as thorough, detailed, delightful to use, and multi-faceted in their options of learning styles you can use? I doubt it.  Then, I AM biased, being a sold out user of TOG. It's worth every penny, to have such a well planned, full of detail, Christ-centred curriculum, with a whole ton of support and encouragement from staff and other users.  I have made so many wonderful online friends through it, who have blessed and encouraged me in ways that money could never buy, and for which I will ever be thankful to the Lord for.

If you want to read a far  more detailed break down of the costs and value for money of TOG, go over to their Mythbuster post here.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Subduing and making peace {More words of wisdom from Sally}

I'm still digging into Isaiah, and my heart is being so challenged and blessed.  Imagine my delight when it dovetailed, PERFECTLY, with another truth I took away from listening to Sally Clarkson, so recently.

Let me explain.

Today, my parenting got a finger pointed at it, again.

I know there are some families with quiet children, but our offspring are just not that.

I was talking to my Mum, recently, about Tabitha starting to show a determination in her personality.  She's certainly not quiet, and we were discussing who, out of all of them, IS quiet. The answer? None of them! Susie is, perhaps, the quietest, in some ways, but none of them are truly shy and retiring.

Funny that, given how shy and retiring the parents are..... *aherm*

Given that we have a large number of children in the house, people regularly comment on the fact it mustn't be quiet here.  You are SO right, if that's your suggestion.  It's only quiet once they are all tucked up in bed.  Even at that, we have sleep talkers and sleep walkers (which can be rather amusing, but that's a who other story...), which disturbs the peace on some nights.

The lack of quiet is often not simply "general noise of multiple people" in nature.  Lack of noise is not necessarily peace, after all.  It's just quiet, not true peace.

The lack of peace is arguing, complaining, and yelling.  Let's not even get started on the children....

Just keeping it real, friends.

I have times when I enter into arguments with the children (rarely, with my husband.... much less frequently than my shameful, early years of marriage), I complain about their behaviour, and wind up yelling at them.

Peace is NOT the watchword of this household, on a far too regular basis.

Enter Isaiah.

It only took three words to challenge me as a mother, yesterday.

"I make peace"
Isaiah 45:7

 Those words hit me as a challenge to my heart.  The Lord MAKES peace. It doesn't happen naturally in the hearts and lives of men and women.  Yet, the Lord can bring it in our lives.  His Word is filled with references to His peace.

It's something that comes from God, this experience of peace in our lives.

Enter the wise words from Sally.  When God created man and woman, He put them in the earth to SUBDUE it.  That means taking control, and making it fruitful and good. We can subdue in whatever situation God has put us in. God gave us the capacity to work in that situation HE has placed us in.

If you think back to Eve, her name meant "the mother of all living".  It was given to her to nurture and bring life.

  If we are mothers, then our family is the setting in which we need to subdue.  It's where WE need to take control and produce fruit, to God's glory.   As you probably know, if you have children, or you live in a family at all, peace doesn't happen by nature.  If we then want our family to be a place of peace, we need to MAKE it - we need to SUBDUE.   Children, especially, have hearts which are inclined towards being argumentative and noisy.  Some of that noise is just children being children, but when it starts to become a rabble, and sinful behaviour rearing its ugly head, it's OUR job to step in and make peace!

How can we do this?

First of all, our hearts need God's peace poured into them.  If we are agitated in spirit, or screaming inside our head (only to be heard by the animal world, obviously...) then we are NOT going to be able to help our children have peace.  We need to make sure that we are spending enough time with the Lord (yes, that old, broken record again, but it's the truth!).  That is the way we will have peace in our hearts.

Then, we need to KEEP our focus on the peace-giver, all day through.  If we can do that, then we will be spiritual swans - still busily working away "under the surface", when life happens, but with a calmness visible to everyone who looks at us.  Trust me, I am nowhere near being a "swan" - I have frequent, loud, "flapping" moments, instead. Those flappy moments are when I move my focus away from the one who brings peace, and instead focus on my circumstances. I forget to take a deep breath, control my emotions, and react with calm and control.  In the flappy moments I get impatient, yell and lose control of the situation. In those moments I am not subduing my own spirit, never mind anything else.  It's up to ME to make peace, by focussing on having a peace in my own heart and reactions.

We also need to remove the "tinder" from potential explosive, non-peaceful, situations in our home.  What tends to CAUSE the clamour?  Is it fighting over leisure time choices? Maybe they need to be removed until arguing doesn't happen. Is it impatient attitudes?  Teaching, and reinforcing, Biblical truths about attitude may need to happen.  Is there too much volume on the "talking" level, resulting in shouting, leading to angry reactions? Gentle instruction about using the right level of noise in speech and communication, perhaps needs to go on.

Then, we need to facilitate change.  We, like Eve, can be life-givers. It's within our power to bring peace, and take control in our family.

Sally told a wonderful story of their home in Austria.  They had opportunity to have a house up in the mountains.  So, they worked, and worked to turn the barren, rocky hillside, into a garden! They worked with their hands to plant grass seed, and plants, to make it a place of joy.  It was hard work, but they subdued the land.  They controlled their situation to make it into what they wanted it to be.

God's Word reminds us

“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts…”
Colossians 3:15 

Do you see the word "rule"? To rule means to be in control.  As we need God's peace ruling in our hearts - being the controlling factor in our lives - so we need to rule our homes by bringing peace.

Children cannot learn if we don't TEACH, though.  The default setting on children in "sin and strife".  It's our job to MAKE peace.  We need, by our words and deeds, to make our home a place of peace.

There are endless reasons for non-peaceful situations to arise.  As the one spending the time with the children, and in the home, we need to analyse what's going on, and go about making changes to bring peace.

It's not an easy task, but we are told, two times, in the Bible, to seek peace and pursue it.  Search it out, and chase after it!

The icing on the cake?

"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." 
Matthew 5:9

Being a mother who makes peace in her family, identifies her as a child of God.  It's an evidence of our walk with the Lord, if we can bring peace into our homes. It's a blessing, to be a peacemaker!

I have a lot of improvement to make, on this one.  God's arrow has pierced, and now I need to work diligently to subdue my domain, making peace in the home.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Bringing glory to God {let the Light shine}

It's been a mild autumn, here, until just recently, and I am still seeing flowers blooming, due to the lack of frost. (I think we've only had one morning frost, so far!)

However, I was looking out into my garden the other day, when I saw something that made my heart smile.

I had planted some geraniums in the summer, in my border at the back of the garden.  I was sure they would be happy enough there, because they had been happy a bit further along, on the same side of the garden.

I waited, and waited, and waited for these plants to bloom.  I had looked forward to the pretty, pink flowers that were supposed to appear.  Appear, they did not.

Then, just the other day, I finally saw ONE pink flower had FINALLY appeared!

It had mystified me all summer.

The truth of the matter hit me just today.

You see, the border that the plant is in has a tree in front of it.

That tree is much loved by my children, who are unstoppable climbers.  They now have a swing on it, created by their talented Daddy.  They also rigged up duvet covers, slung over a branch and tied in a knot, which they sat in, and swung like a hammock seat!

The tree provides shade in the sunny, summer's days. It has beautiful blossom in the spring - and I ADORE blossom.

The geraniums, on the other hand, did NOT like the tree.  You see, the tree was stopping the light from getting to them, and it seems they needed more direct sunshine to bloom as they need to.

How that the leaves are rapidly fluttering from their original position, to carpet my lawn in shades of orange, brown and red, the light is finally getting through to my geraniums, and so a flower blooms.

What's the answer for my geraniums?

Well, they are growing, alive and providing a level of greenery in that border.  I didn't buy them to provide greenery, though.  I bought them to FLOWER - to be everything that they were created to be, and bring glorious beauty into our garden! Leaving them where they are, and doing nothing, will not allow them to do what they were designed to do.

I could cut down all, or part, of the tree.  Then the tree couldn't do what it does best - provide usefulness and joy in our garden.

The last option is to move the plants, to somewhere that they get the right amount of sunshine.  Exactly what they need to be able enhance the garden's visual beauty.

It struck a chord in my heart.

There are things that I can do in my life which are good.  They may be beneficial to myself, or to my family and friends.  Maybe they are leisure pursuits, or even day-to-day duties that I feel compelled to complete.

Maybe, though, they are stopping the "light" from getting to me - the light of God's Word - in order for me to show fruit to the full potential that I have?  They are stopping me from bringing glory to God, in the way He designed me to.

I could get rid of these things completely.  It's not necessary, and it would make my life a less interesting place. Those things CAN be used to bring glory to God.  But not if they are stopping the light from getting to my life in the way I need it to.

The best option is for ME to move.  I need to make sure I am always getting as much "light" as I can.  Soaking up God's Word without the "shade" of other things blocking out the "light" of truth.  I need to not allow other things to block the light, and seek the SON. I need to have His light filling my life.

I want my life to be blooming with that which brings glory to my Creator, and not to be just living a life, with no beauty being added to His praise.

Don't let the things of life get in the way of the light of the Lord shining in your life, so you can bring glory to Him.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Blogging through the alphabet {Totally Useless, Very Willing.... and some eXtremely lovely Yarni-ness}

I was watching a film with my hubby recently, which included a scene in a psychiatric hospital. I looked at the patients all sitting quietly - some doing jigsaws, some drawing, some just sitting quietly.

Do you know what thought crossed my mind?

"I would LOVE to be sitting quietly like that, reading or doing a jigsaw"!!!

Yes, my life is so hectic, that a scene in a psychiatric ward appealed to me.

If you are mother of small children, this concept will not be lost on  you.

I hope I am not the only one that thinks that way, anyway!?!

So, back to blogging through the alphabet.

I was doing SO well to begin with.  I kept up, in ways beyond I could have imagined.  Then, reality struck.  I ended up having a week that found me unable to join in with the letter of that week.  I managed to do a nifty little "squish two letters together" week, the next week.

Then, it happened again. This time I needed to merge THREE letters together.  Wonderful as they were, and one of my most precious posts, but still a reminder to ME of how useless I am.

Today, we hit the ultimate catch up. FOUR weeks of catch up, to be precise.

I sigh at myself, and shake my head in despair.

More than that, I look deeper into my life and see myself over and over - I start things, and I am USELESS at keeping up.  It's a character flaw for sure.  You see, I am so very willing to take things on.  I see something, and know I will love it - I see the benefits it will have.  I despair at myself, however, at how incredibly awesome I am at failing.

People often comment about how I am a "Super Mum", and other such nonsense.  I know the real me, and there's not a lot "super" about it. I just see the things that are far from perfect, and how much room there is for improvement.

I guess people just compare me to their own situation, or their own perceptions of life and how simple, or not, it should be, and reckon that what I do exceeds their own limits?

There is one thing that drags me up from the gutter of despair, as I look at my useless ability to set out what I plan to do.

God's perspective.

What I am expecting from myself is PERFECTION. I want to do things perfectly, and completely.  I am learning that I am not perfect, and never will be.

We are reminded that we are to GROW in grace. It's not something that instantly and entirely transforms us from sinner to "saint".

I've learnt that much of my feelings of failure, in life, come from trying to please others, and not God. I worry, more than most people imagine, about what other people may think. Weirdly, not in major issues - those I feel quite comfortable in. It's the insignificant little things.... the "what if someone sees", "what if someone thinks I am useless", "what if someone thinks I look silly"?

What matters most is HOW I do something.  Did I begin something, doing it "heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men?".

"Whatesoever ye do, do all to the glory of God".

Was my aim to glorify God in the doing of it, not the COMPLETING of it? Beginning something, and not completing it, doesn't make me a failure.  It means that something has come up, which I hadn't envisaged, and has prevented me from doing it in the time or manner I had planned. God's plans are higher than mine.  If He has planned that something interrupts MY plans, and I can't do it the way *I* thought was best, then my way WASN'T best!!!

Learning, always learning. Learning more about myself.  Learning more about God and His grace.

And simply because I am at least consistently useless, and I have missed more letters, lets just finish on a high note!

It's kinda related, though. I started off sharing some of my crochet creations with you, and haven't kept up with it. That's not to say I haven't still been creating crocheted loveliness.  I have.  I am still loving being able to pick up my hook and make things both beautiful and useful.  It's a great hobby.  So, I shall share one of my recent, lovely, yarny creations with you, and endeavour to catch up with sharing others I have made.... at some point.  *aherm*

I give you one of the least favourite items I have made.  Well, I didn't really enjoy making it, for most of the time.  Does that sound weird? It's a shawl, and for a good part of it you only use SC/DC (US/UK terms).  Lots, and lots, of DC. Little, tiny, fiddly, DC FLO (front loop only). It seemed to take AGES to grow. The only break in the monotony was the variation between the stunning yarn from Unbelieva-wool (find her here on Facebook - FANTASTIC yarn dyer), in her "Sunset Boulevard" colour-way - it's stunning, as yo will see in a mo.  I also used the end of a purple gradient from Sam, too - alternating between the two. EVENTUALLY, I got to the border, and it got a little more interesting.  I still wasn't falling in love with the thing, and was just desperate to get it finished. Then, I locked it.  Suddenly, I decided this thing was GORGEOUS.

You wanna see?....

I rarely make myself anything with my crochet, but THIS one I decided to keep! It just looks stunning with the bright colours, and it looks just like a sunset! I have never had so many comments about something I have made, as I did when I wore this to Church last week! The chilly weather reappearing was the perfect time to wear it.

If you want to make one for yourself, you can find the pattern on Ravelry - it's called "Desperately Seeking Shallow".  You will need sock weight/fingering weight yarn, and a size 4 hook. Also, a lot of patience.  The pattern is particularly versatile, and even allows for some fluffed stitches - especially forgiving in the border.  You can make a deeper border, but you will need quite a bit more yarn, as it's a hungry pattern.  I probably used about 120g for mine.  You will also need to follow the instructions carefully regarding the stitch marker at the end of the rows, or else you won't get a nice, flat edge.  I learnt that the hard way, and had to frog quite a bit to get it right. Another bonus - it's FREE!

So, there we have it.  6 letters in one post.  Let's see if I can get the Z at the right time!?

(Editing to add that I haven't, but I must get this one published, and get a "Z" added!!!)

Friday, 7 November 2014

How to help our children to be great {gently does it}

I love it when you are reading scripture, and a verse just jumps right out at you, which you have NEVER noticed before!

Despite having read something over, and OVER, it just never catches your attention like this one time.

It's times like this when you truly realise the power of GOD'S word.  It's Him, speaking to us, just when we need to hear it.

I was reading in Psalm 18, which I have read many times. It's one of those Psalms which contains power verses, and I went to it the morning of returning back to school work, after a break.  I needed some strength in my morning, and I knew I'd find it there.  When you consider that David wrote it after being delivered from Saul, then it makes so much sense.

"I will love thee, O LORD, my strength. 
The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. 
I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies."
verses 1-3

Such well known, well loved verses.

Or these verses

 "As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him."
v 30

This, however, is the verse that jumped out to me, and pierced my heart like a burning arrow.

"thy gentleness hath made me great."

These words convicted me deeply.

It doesn't say God's anger made him great. Not his justice, nor his mercy.  Not even his love.

I am sure all of these things can make a person great, but the Lord saw fit to mention gentleness.

There are not many mentions of gentleness in scripture, but I read another one just today, in Isaiah.

"He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young."
Isaiah 40v11

This one even specifically points to our Saviour, like a shepherd, leading us - leading the young, and those with child. We see tenderness, closeness, protection and gentleness. 

The Lord, dealing with us like this. 

An example for us to follow.

WE can help our CHILDREN to be great, by being GENTLE!

To my shame, I am not the gentlest of mothers.  My words, FAR too often, are not gentle.  They are harsh, impatient, grumpy and snappy.

I can be abrupt, frequently.

Anger surfaces more than it ought to.

It shames and saddens me to think of my lack of gentleness.

I could attempt to blame tiredness, exhaustion, frustrations, naughty children, or any number of other things.  

Only one thing causes a lack of gentleness.  



We see here, however, what gentleness can achieve.  God's gentleness made David great!

God was gentle toward David.  Like any sinner, David deserved God's righteous anger and justice.  He was no perfect man - far from it, in many ways.  Yet, God, in His gentleness, made him GREAT!

Oh, the power I can have in the lives of my children, if I am GENTLE! I can help them to be GREAT!  

If I only use harsh words, impatient attitudes and snappy behaviour, I am never going to build them up.  Every little harsh reaction to their childish, or even their sinful, behaviour, will tear them down, not make them great.

And yet, my sinful heart keeps making bad choices.

I have SO much work to do.  

I WANT my children to be great.  I know that only God can make them truly great, but GOD has given ME the job of being their mother, and I have it within my God-given power, to build up, or to tear down.

Just today I had the chance to put it into practice. My sweet little Simeon was desperate to help me in the kitchen. He took it upon himself to try and dry a GLASS, and it fell on the floor, smashing into tiny pieces. So often my response would be one of impatience, and anger. It would have wounded that poor little boy, in his spirit, had I not stopped and chosen to be gentle.  I picked him up, placed him out of harms way, and he lifted his little face up and said "sorry Mummy".  Oh how glad I was that I chose gentleness. He was only trying to help, not be naughty.  He watched as I cleaned it all up, and I kissed his lovely little lips and thanked him for being helpful.

Gentleness - it can make our children great.

Choosing gentleness today showed him that accidents don't matter.  That Mummy will sort things out.  It showed him that it's important to say sorry, but also that Mummy appreciates his helpfulness.  It showed him that he needn't fear the outcome if an accident happens.  Mummy will sort it out.

Perfection won't make him great.

Lack of failure won't make him great.

Money won't make him great.

But, my gentleness could help him to be great.

It can teach him what godly character is. It can teach him that God gives me the strength and self-control not to react in the wrong way in a tricky situation.  It can teach him how he, too, needs to not be anything but gentle.

By God's grace and strength, I am going to truly endeavour to make my children great, by my gentleness.


My Joy-Filled Life

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Accepting our cup {Words of wisdom from a meeting with Sally Clarkson - Part 1}

Today, I had the joy of meeting a godly woman, who is the author of several of my favourite books.

Today, I met Sally Clarkson.

Have you ever heard of someone, or read someone's work, and really hoped you'd meet them one day?  Someone who the Lord has used to speak to your heart, and life, and wanted to meet in person?

If you are at all like me, you may have wondered whether she would be how you imagined. I had heard her, and seen her, on short videos on the Internet, so that part was as expected.  I mean, the REAL person.

I have a single word I want to use to describe her.


  1. 1.
    (of a material or article) allowing light to pass through so that objects behind can be distinctly seen.

Do you know why I use that word? Simply, because the "Light" passed right through her today - the Lord Jesus, who she loves so much, shone right through her, and cast light upon all those who listened.  That "object behind" was the Lord Himself, and His Word, and it shone through Sally, and gave light to those ladies, all wanting to be more like Him.  Sally channelled those precious truths, like the mirrors in a lighthouse, and they bounced right into the hearts of the eagerly listening ladies, gathered cosily in the living room of the home that used to belong to C.S.Lewis. 

Sally is one of the most sweet, gentle and encouraging people I have had the joy to meet.  She was able to share her personal experiences in a very honest way, allowing us to see that she has walked where we have walked, and experienced the same struggles and trials that every mother has. The joy of the Lord just overflows through the words she speaks.  It was really, simply, wonderful.

I was so incredibly blessed by my wonderful husband, who looked after ALL ( yes, ALL) the children, so I could go and listen without having my mind on the children. It was a rare, and special, thing.  The Lord KNEW I needed to hear the words of wisdom she had to share, and I pray that the Lord gives me the grace to put the many truths into practice in my life.

Now, my job is going to be that of a mirror.  Sally was transparent, and the light of Jesus shone through her.  I will try and reflect some of that back out to those who read my words here, so you, in some measure, can bathe in the light of the truths she shared! 

The slight trouble is this - there was SO much, it will be hard to choose! 

I may need a few blog posts.... 

Before I begin, I want to say that some of what she said helped me to feel less guilty about my lack of posts here recently.  As you know, I am the mother of eight precious blessings.  When my life is straightforward, I have the opportunity to blog more easily.  When life shifts from the norm, the blog will NEVER be my priority.  It will ALWAYS be family.  Does this mean my "following" may decrease? Yes.  My stats section on Blogger tells me my answer. Does this matter? NO! I only ever share simple thoughts, many of which are just a passing on of what God teaches me. If it even blesses ONE other, then that's wonderful! Sally reminded us, today, that our family is most important, and I will not apologise or feel guilty for that. It's a blessing.

The first thing I want to share with you relates to something which Sally loves.  If you have read her books, or followed her blog posts, you know how she loves to have a cup of tea.  In fact, tea cups are something she a lot of, and takes great pleasure  in using them to host gatherings with many ladies she has encouraged over the years. 

A "cup" is one concept that Sally shared with us, about our lives, as mothers. She talked to us of the portion that God gives us in our lives.  In Psalm 23 we find the word "cup", which also means "portion".  The portion that the Lord allots to us - that content of our lives which we have been given - is like the contents of a cup.  We have it, held in our hands.  It's ours.  Sometimes, especially as mothers, and home educating mothers, our cup feels incredibly full. It may even be filled with something we'd rather not have.  What the world tells us to do is to throw the cup and away - smash it on the floor and tip the contents out.  Why should we have a cup filled with something that's not easy to swallow? Why?  Because it's the Lord that fills our cup! It's the portion HE has allotted to us!  

It's NOT always easy to swallow.  Think of the words which the Lord, Himself, spoke.

"O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt."
Matthew 26:39

Our precious Saviour asked for His cup to be taken away.  Not, however, without adding that He was willing to accept the Father's Will.

We, too, need to be like Jesus.  

Perhaps the content of our cup is bitter. It may be hard - REALLY hard.  It could be heavy to bear.  It could be a broken cup.  Maybe it's awkward to hold, because we are tired and hurting.  

The thing is, it's the cup that the Lord has given us. It's His will for us, and we need to cry out, as Jesus did, "not as I will, but as thou wilt".  

We need to accept our portion.

Sally told us that there is no limit to what God could do for those who will trust Him fully.

We need to trust God.   He gave us our cup - He filled it with the things in our life that we have.  Our family, our circumstances, our responsibilities.  They are just the cup we need.

Today, when things aren't going the way you hoped, expected, anticipated or desired, remember you are holding the cup that GOD gave you.  It's a privilege to have something that we know is just right, and the perfect portion.  What God has given us, He has the strength to see us through.

I will return with more of what Sally shared with us, in another post.