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Dear Mushka,

How We Discipline (and what discipline really means)

The word "discipline" comes from the word disciple, which describes a student/ learner of a leader. We seen this word used in the Bible towards the people who followed Jesus, soaking up his wisdom and longing to become more like Him. And we see it, practically, in the purpose of discipline as we work to create learners of our children who follow our leadership (and ultimately God's authority). 

Keeping this perspective in mind helps us as we make decisions on how to best instruct and teach our children. 

I am not a parenting expert by any means, and acknowledge that my oldest child (of three) is five; we have so little experience and so much to learn!

With that said, here are a few things that are working for us: 

1. Pray. And remember that parenting is a God-ordained way to draw us into a deeper relationship with Himself. James 1:5 reminds us that when we ask God for wisdom it will be given to us. Psalm 32:8 tells us that God will instruct us in the way we should go, counseling us with His loving eye upon us. When we're at a loss on how to move forward with our children, we can run to our own Heavenly Father and ask for help. He longs for us to praise His omniscience and sit in humility. As He answers our prayers, we grow in faith and love for Him (and our children do as well). 

Books and other mothers' wisdom can be a beautiful tool in God's hands, but nothing compares to the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us. Don't skip right to Google before you've taken your concerns and worries to God. 

2. Remember Your Reliance on the Gospel. You're in just as much need of forgiveness and grace as your child is. When we forget our tendency towards sin and the lavish mercy that has been poured upon us, we're quick to anger and quick to demand perfection from our children. Rooting ourselves in God's word helps remind us of our own sin and points us to Jesus and His compassion. (This is part of why I recommend daily time in the Word; we're so quick to forget!) 

I also recommend this book as a much-needed parenting gut check. It's helped both me and my husband and will be one I re-read every few years. 

Along these lines, demonstrating repentance to your children can be so valuable. Don't be afraid to admit that you sinned and ask for forgiveness. 

3. Think beyond Punishment. If discipline is training our children to be learners, then discipline is more than a consequence for bad behavior. Seeing our children's strengths, praising their growth, and offering encouragement far more than critique goes so (so) far. 

4. Start Young. Ages 0-3 are critical training years. That's not to say that work can't or shouldn't be done beyond the little years, but studies show that young children's brains are the most receptive and adaptable and by six, most children's character traits are set. 

At around nine months old, all of our boys have begun rebelling on the changing table-- joyfully wiggling everywhere when they know they shouldn't. We firmly say "be still" and then give a gentle flick on the thigh if need be. Young children can't be reasoned with ("you must be still because you may fall off and that's dangerous and I'm trying to changer your dirty diaper so you're making a big mess...") but they can understand discomfort; they can begin to associate wiggling on the changing table and disobedience with pain. 

If this sounds harsh, remember that it isn't being mean. It's teaching them how to stay safe, how to trust and obey their authority so they'll one day do the same with God, and how to live in the real world that absolutely has consequences for our actions. (For the record, a few flicks is all it takes before they've learned to lay calmly.)

5. Use Natural Consequences When Possible. This was an eye-opening discipline technique that has really helped me as a mother. This book and this book were both recommended by a few older mothers I greatly respect and showed me that I didn't have to yell, use shaming words, threats, etc to teach my children. Instead, I could let natural consequences help them learn. 

Here's an example: When my children decide to do flips in their seats while they're eating and their plates fall on the floor, I calmly tell them that lunch is over. They lose the privilege of eating a meal and they also have to clean up the mess instead of running off to play. 

Of course, when they're little they are warned and the situation is explained to them multiple times beforehand. But once I'm sure they understand how they're expected to act, I don't argue with their behavior; I let the consequence do the talking. I have so much to learn here (and imagine consequences aren't always easy to come up with or stick to), but can already see it's benefit in our home. 

6. Be Consistent and Clear. Someone once told me: When you're consistent and clear, your children are the ones choosing their own outcomes. It isn't a surprise or a game ("will mother actually hold to her threat?") They know! 

In our home, blatant disobedience and disrespect earn a spanking. Our children know that if we say "come" and they run the other way, the consequence for their behavior is a spanking*. Likewise, they know the same if they talk back, roll their eyes, etc when we're speaking. 

I don't want to trick my children, nor to do I want to be saying empty threats or constantly wondering how to handle disrespect. We all know. 

*I'm not here to tell you whether to spank or not, but the point is the same regardless. Pray and ask God for wisdom here. We're always learning. 

7. Bring God's Presence and Words Into It. More than anything, this is my goal. When my child disobeys, specifically when a spanking or a large consequence is in order, I pray before I act and make sure I'm calm enough to move forward; it's okay for a child to sit in their room for a little while as you gather yourself. 

Then, I ask them to tell me why they're receiving this consequence. If they don't know, we talk through it. I explain what God says about the behavior (this is a tool I created for this purpose) and allow them to ask questions. This is a teaching time. 

After the spanking (or after the big consequence has been announced), I sing Hebrews 12:11 to the tune of Row, Row, Row your boat. I want my children to know that discipline feels unpleasant at the time, but later it yields the "peaceful fruit of righteousness." Then, I pray out loud that God would use my imperfect discipline to change my child's heart. I also want my children to learn the importance of repenting to God and asking for His forgiveness, but we haven't worked much on that yet.  

_____

Q: A question I'm often asked is whether my husband and I agree completely on parenting tactics and of course, the answer is "no." God made men and women differently, and I think we bring various strengths to the situation. I also think discipline falls on the shoulders of the parent who interacts with the children more, which is most often the mother. If you long for your husband to take more control here, pray for it! 

Here's a whole blog post I wrote on my favorite parenting books! Here's another one that isn't on the list but I've really appreciated. 

@simplyonpurpose is a helpful Instagram account to refer to. Risen Motherhood is a great resource for approaching motherhood through the lens of the Gospel. I also recently started listening to this Courageous Parenting podcast and enjoy it.

 

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Q & A with Robert and Katie 1/16/20

Welcome to another monthly Q&A with my husband, Robert. He’s worked with Dear Mushka for a number of years now. You’ll also find him on @yourennegramcoach. To watch the Instagram highlight for this month's Q&A, click here

Q:  How can singles prepare for marriage?

A:  If you feel that the Lord has called you for marriage, first get your spiritual house in order. Marriage isn’t going to fix your sins. In fact, it acts like a magnifying glass! Use your singlehood to work with the Lord on any issues, childhood trauma or sin. 

God needs to be your priority, even in marriage. If you’ve made marriage an idol, you’ll put an unfair burden on your spouse. 

Also, read a book or two about marriage. This helps us rehearse God’s plan for marriage. It’s not to find your soul mate or happiness. To really understand the purpose and plan behind marriage, I suggest books like The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller, You and Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan, and Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel by Ray Ortlund.

Q:  Any advice for an engagement period? 

A:  The purpose of the engagement time should be to plan for a marriage, not a wedding day. Go to counselling and spend this time preparing yourself to hold to your vows. 

Q:  Any advice for the first year of marriage?

A:  Set good boundaries regarding work, family, hobbies, and friends. The Word is clear: you need to leave and cleave to your spouse. Your relationship with them should have priority. 

I’d also say it’s never too early to go to counselling. Even maintenance counselling is excellent just to talk through issues with a mediator present. 

Start early keeping your husband or wife’s name “safe” on your tongue. Speak only positively about your spouse. Respect your partner and let others see that. Remember, we shouldn’t be an expert in our partner’s sins, but rather an expert in their strengths, their God-given glory and their most honourable traits. 

Q:  Do we spend time together in prayer and Bible study?

A:  We pray together daily, but it isn’t scheduled or structured. We’re quick to grab one another's hands to pray spontaneously in different situations. But we study the Bible in different ways, and we’re interested by different readings. 

I used to really want to study the Bible together. I probably nagged Robert to join me in a scheduled devotion/prayer time, but it was too forced. Ultimately I learned that we don’t necessarily have to do these things together. What’s important is that Christ is exalted in our marriage and our home. Our goal is to “Glorify the Lord with me, let’s exalt his name together.” 

We don’t have to be opening our Bible together at the same time. We’d still like to work towards a family devotion time, but not necessarily a scheduled one between the two of us. 

Q:  Are we always on the same page about big life decisions like parenting, business and home?

A:  Almost never! Robert is very black and white while I’m very grey! We do a lot of talking. I remind him that there are other perspectives to consider. He reminds me that we should be definite about certain things. 

There are two main views on Christian marriage. Egalitarianism is the belief that men and women maintain interchangeable roles in the family and the church. 

Complementarianism is more traditional. It says that men and women are equal in value but there are distinct roles. Men follow Christ as the head of the Church. 

We’d call ourself soft complementarians. It’s okay for me to disagree, talk issues out and we work together. But ultimately, Robert is the “head” of our family. I trust him!

So as a summary, we often absolutely disagree on how to parent, spend money, or run our business. We’ve found it helpful to have areas that one of us is generally in charge of. For example, parenting is largely my area of expertise. 

We can and do talk about issues. If we can’t agree, the final decision lands on Robert. And honestly, it’s a lot of weight to carry. I’m glad he carries it and not me!

Q:  Theology book recommendations?

A:  Practical Theology for Women by Wendy Horger Alsup. It’s a really short basic book that makes big elaborate concepts easy to understand. 

Robert suggests Jen Wilkin’s books. His favorite is None Like Him. I’ve read and love all her books. She’s so sharp and clear! She also has great Bible studies. 

Robert also recommends John Stott, J. I. Packer and A. W. Tozer. Mere Christianity by CS Lewis is an excellent but challenging read. 

Q:  What does discipling men look like for you, Robert?

A:  For some reason, men aren’t as comfortable as women signing up for discipling groups. Our pride becomes involved and it’s hard for us to admit we don’t know how to do things. 

Discipling tends to be relational for men. For me, that’s meant meeting with a group of guys for coffee or breakfast on a weekly basis to build trust and relationships. In that environment,  men feel comfortable to ask questions. 

I’m also a groups leader coach and I try to help men get to know each other on a deeper level. We need to be ready to ask deeper or better questions. Don’t focus on work all the time. I like to ask questions like, “How’s your wife?” or “Are you being a better father or worker or husband?”

Also setting aside a time and place and inviting men to come has worked well, too. Sometimes that’s one on one time, group discussions, or a quiet Bible reading.

Q:  How do you stay intimate with little ones in the family?

A:  I recommend the Coffee + Crumbs podcast series. They interviewed a Christian sex expert. It was really helpful. 

Robert says that scheduling it can help! If you leave it up to feeling good or feeling in the mood, it’s probably not going to happen. What’s important is to create an environment of openness and safety where you can talk about intimacy without shame, guilt or fear. 

This circles back to what you do during singleness and engagement will follow you into your marriage. 

Q:  How does a woman encourage her husband to go deeper in his relationship with God?

A:  Deep and fervent prayer is the most important thing. The Holy Spirit is the One who draws us into relationship in the beginning and all the way through. Nagging and brow beating just won’t work. 

You, your church, and your environment can set a good positive example. Continue to be an example of the fruit of righteousness to him. 

It’s okay for you to be the one who initiates ideas like, “Are you interested in reading through this Bible plan with me this year?” The man doesn’t have to be the one who comes up with all the ideas. It just might not be his skill! So bring it up if you feel led, but be genuine! 

The Lord showed me that prayer is the only way to change hearts. He wants us to relinquish control and trust Him.

Marriage Books: 

The Meaning of Marriage

You and Me Forever

Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel 

Theology Books: 

Practical Theology for Women

None Like Him

Podcasts:

Coffee & Crumbs on Sex Part 1 and Part 2

Risen Motherhood on "How Can Mom Support Dad Spiritually

For more on Christian marriage and parenting, follow our daily Instagram stories here.  

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Katie and Robert Answer Your Questions on Family, Discipleship and the Busy Holiday Season

Once a month we like to do a Q&A which you all love and we are so honored that you enjoy listening to us or reading our answers. You can find the recorded interview here.

Q: Robert, what does your day look like?

A: I run Dear Mushka day-to-day which involves inventory, customer service, production, shipping, managing the team, accounting and finance - all of those fun things! I am also chief of staff for Your Enneagram Coach and help run that with all of the courses, public speaking and books that go along with it.

Katie gets up early to spend time with the Word and pray and get the day started with the boys. I wake up after Katie when some of the boys are already up, often with one of them jumping on me in bed or them coming to find me. I jump straight into emails in the morning to make sure our website is still working, that nothing broke overnight. I take the boys to preschool on Tuesdays and Thursdays and I love doing that! My days are largely unstructured. They involve a lot of emails and putting out fires and seeing what needs to happen day-to-day within the business. 

Q: How did you get started with jewelry making and growing Dear Mushka?

A: You can read all about it in this post.

Q: What practical boundaries have you set or found helpful in marriage?

A: Just making a decision to not speak negatively about your spouse in public. Obviously you can share with a friend that you trust, but it’s about not being an expert on their weaknesses and rather focusing on their strengths. It can be challenging, but I always want Robert’s name to be safe in my mouth. I want people to know that I love him and respect him, and that’s how I’m going to talk about him.

I think it’s important to not build an emotional relationship with a person of the opposite gender. You can have friends and coworkers, but it's a bad idea to have an emotionally charged relationship with someone of the opposite sex. Even if you think there is no attraction or no risk, being emotionally or spiritually intimate with someone else when you’re married is probably not going to lead anywhere good. 

We also make sure to be intimate frequently, whatever that means for your marriage. We make sure to bring ourselves closer to each other even in busy seasons. 

Q: What steps can you take to prepare your heart for marriage or just to enjoy your singleness?

A: We aren’t super equipped to answer this as we both got married when we were young. I do think its really important to know that marriage is not the answer - it isn’t going to take away your problems. You’ll probably have more problems! Don’t let yourself believe that lie and turn marriage into an idol. Marriage is hard work. 

Do your self work now. Go to counselling, figure out how you can love the Lord better, how you can serve Him. How has God equipped you to serve His Kingdom? Do all these things now because they’re all going to be important in a marriage. 

Q: Tips for enjoying the holiday season with littles who are overtired and out of routine?

A: Set boundaries and remember your kids can’t stand up for themselves, so help them. We’ve decided that our immediate family is more important than all the other things. If my immediate family’s routines don't coordinate well with other family activities, we don’t go. It’s okay to say you aren’t available during nap time or that you need to be in bed by 8. 

Also remember that the season is only a few weeks. Kids are super resilient, but if you know they don’t cope well without their nap or they can’t handle a lot of sugar, ask for help. Set yourself up for success. We’ll often give a clear indication of the times we’re available in the mornings or afternoons. If something is happening during those times, we’ll either miss out or say we’ll see everyone a bit later. 

Q: What is your approach to schooling decisions?

A: We are in the middle of it right now! We’re figuring out kindergarten for the first time. I don’t really know what to do besides pray and listen for God’s direction. We said that we would never adopt and never homeschool and yet here we are with three adopted children and we feel like God is currently steering our hearts towards homeschooling. We just continue to pray and trust for guidance. 

Also know that you’re not locked into anything forever. Try it out! If you feel like you made the wrong decision or one of your children responds differently, just recalibrate. 

Q: How can I best encourage and respect my husband to lead our family?

A: I did it wrong for so many years - I tried to nag Robert into leading our family the way I wanted him to. This really does not work! It was really helpful for me to acknowledge that what I wanted wasn’t necessarily what Robert needed to do. I needed to see his strengths instead of what I wanted his strengths to be and celebrate them.

When I realized this, I turned to prayer instead of nagging. I prayed that God would equip him with leadership and give me insight into how to best serve my husband. The Lord has truly answered my prayer over and over again. Pray daily for guidance and for your husband! 

(Robert) I would just want you all to understand that being a man in a Christian environment and feeling the burden to lead can feel daunting and overwhelming. A lot of us haven’t had leadership modelled well for us in our lives. When all of a sudden a man is being asked to lead and he's never done it before, it helps to understand his heart and his motivations. Come to him with help and desire rather than with judgement and criticism. Start small and celebrate wins! 

Q:  How do you celebrate Advent in this busy season? 

A:  Once we get into December, we don't launch any new products. We concentrate on fulfilling lots of orders and getting things out. It might be busier for our employees, but I intentionally keep things less busy for me. Don’t bite off more than you can chew! 

You can watch our highlight about what we do for Advent. I do something really simple for the boys in the morning and at night we set aside 20 minutes to light a candle and read a story. Serving and loving the Lord comes first, so if we can’t make time for this simple routine, it means we need to scale back our business. 

Q: What books would you recommend to learn about starting a business?

A: I haven’t ever read a business book. I did skim a few chapters of The E-Myth, but I didn’t find anything relevant to my business. Honestly, a lot of my business advice has just come from praying for guidance. Reading a big book makes me feel overwhelmed with tons of things I should be doing. I just keep praying that the Lord will establish my next step. He’s always brought exactly what I’ve needed into my life. 

(Robert) I’ve read a few business books, but it depends on what you’re looking for. For good practical start-up advice, I would go to blog posts or articles. The internet is the great equalizer of our age. You can monetize absolutely anything, but make sure you’re doing something you love. 

Q: What is your favorite thing about raising boys? 

A: I love wrestling and roughhousing! Katie sometimes has to leave the room because it makes her so uncomfortable. The boys think it’s so fun being thrown onto the trampoline and having pillow fights. This is my favorite! They love being outside and adventuring. And they’re not super dramatic or emotional either. I’m in awe of moms who have girls and seem to have a lot more to cope with! Our boys are so quick to forgive, easy to talk to. They don’t hold grudges. I’m learning a lot from my boys! 

Q: What things did you disagree on in your marriage and how did you work things out? 

A: We parent differently although I do think this is how the Lord created us - that mothers and fathers should be different. There are times I’ll want to talk with Robert about he handled a parenting moment, and vice versa. That doesn’t always go super well in the moment to be honest! We’re still working on how to appropriately handle that.

I think that in any disagreement, just remembering that we’re on the same team with the same goal is so important. Even if we blow it the first time, we’re able to re-have a lot of conversations and they’re better the second time. We’re both opinionated and we have to make room for one another. Remember that you love your spouse more than whatever you’re disagreeing about. A disagreement is an opportunity to grow together and to practice loving your spouse more.

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Books for Christian Newlyweds

I've been getting a lot of requests for best marriage books, specifically for engaged couples and newlyweds, so I thought I'd compile a list here. I haven't read a few of these, but included them due to your strong recommendations when I asked on Instagram.

(Click photos for direct links)

1. I read this book before I was married and appreciated how Keller gave me a better perspective of God’s intention for ALL relationships, marriage included. I still think on this quote, ten years later. 

“Within this Christian vision of marriage, here's what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of what God is creating, and to say, "I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, 'I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!” 

 2. I really enjoy Francis Chan and so appreciated the eternal perspective on marriage he presented here. This book helped me see our marriage as teamwork, moving towards The Kingdom, together. 

“Many people will tell you to focus on your marriage, to focus on each other; but we discovered that focusing on God’s mission made our marriage amazing.”

3. I read this one early on in our marriage, and it radically shifted the way I viewed the purpose of marriage.  This book challenged me in the best ways. I would give this to any engaged couple as required reading.

“What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”

4. I'm sure you all have heard of "love languages" before- How we show and receive love. There are five “languages” the author suggests: Quality Time, Service, Gifts, Words of Affirmation, and Physical Touch. Robert and I are very different, (he is words of affirmation and physical touch; and I am acts of service and gift), but we are able to love one another well through this book's wisdom. If you feel like your spouse doesn’t appreciate your efforts to show love to them, this is a must-read.

5. I haven't read this book, but I respect the Bethke's and have heard nothing but good things about their wisdom here. My guess is that this a very approachable, light book on marriage that combats what our culture describes marriage as. 

6. Many of you suggested this one and I'm a big fan of Paul David Tripp. I'm going to add it to my list! 

 

7. Far too often, books on the topic of sex are left off of Christian marriage lists. This one was so helpful to me as a newlywed! It helped me make the shift from "sex is not okay" to "it's great!" and helped me troubleshoot along the way.

8. Here's another great one! And don't feel like you have to cram all these in within your first year of marriage. I try to read one marriage book a year to keep my heart gospel-focused. 

 

9. (Okay, I added one more book after I designed the graphic for this post. Ha!) I haven't read this one, but it's come highly recommended, too. It's written specifically to wives, and it doesn’t shy away from the tough topics.

In addition to books, I thought I'd share a few jewelry pieces I'd recommend as you pray over your marriage and love your spouse:

1. The Knot Necklace

2. The Portion Necklace

3. The Servant Necklace

4. The Complete Necklace

5. The Trio Necklace

6. The Essential Necklace

7. The Surrender Necklace 

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A Day in the Life: Mom of Three + Business Owner

Every day looks a little different, but here's a typical Wednesday or Friday around our house. I have three boys (5, 2, 5mo) and a growing business! 

6:00 Alarm goes off. I get up, put on work out clothes, and feed the cat.

6:10 Sit down in my cozy chair to spend time with the Lord. You can read my details of a typical "quiet time" here!

Here are the prayer pages I use. 

7:00 I put away dishes and prep breakfast for the boys if I have an extra moment. 

7:15 The boys usually start waking up around this time. I try to feed my youngest his bottle before I let the other two out of their rooms so he isn't too distracted to eat. 

7:30 Breakfast for the boys. We usually do oatmeal and a protein smoothie on weekdays. We also spend this time reading a devotion, saying a memory verse, etc

Lately, we've been talking about a verse from The Fighter Pack and it's been so good for our home's atmosphere. 

8:00 Clean up the kitchen (the boys are in charge of cleaning where they sat), start a load of laundry, get everyone dressed 

8:15 Exercise. I do a 30 minute BeachBody workout while the boys play around me. 

8:45 Take a quick shower and get ready for the day. I usually put my 2 year old in the bathroom with me so I can keep track of him ;) 

9:00-11:00 My youngest goes down for his morning nap and I play with the older two. Sometimes we meet a friend or go to the playground (my husband works from home so he's there with the baby); other times we play in our yard or do puzzles and play dough inside. 

Somewhere in there, I'll make my protein smoothie. You can read about why I do intermittent fasting here if you're curious. 

11:30 Lunch time! My youngest is up and we're all in the kitchen together. Sometimes I read to the boys while they eat and other times I'm folding laundry or posting on Instagram and answering messages.

12:00-1:00 The boys play in the playroom while I get a few things done. I do anything from meal planning, to cleaning a bathroom to switching their closets to the next season. 

1:00-3:00 The boys nap (or have quiet time in their rooms) and I work! Usually, I share on Instagram stories during this time and squeeze in lunch, too. 

3:00 Everyone is up. We snack, read, play outside, etc. 

4:30 The day's orders are packaged and my husband is usually done working so we all pile into the car to drive to the post office. It's nice to get out of the house if I haven't done so that day! 

5:00 I work on dinner while my husband wrestles with the boys to get some energy out. We eat around 5:30. 

6:00-7:00 Playtime

7:00-7:30 Bedtime! Quick baths, pajamas, and a few books in bed.

7:30-8:30 Robert and I snuggle up on the couch to watch a show or catch up from the day. 

8:30-9:15 I head to our room to read or journal as I unwind. 

9:30 Asleep! If I don't get to bed around this time, I won't be ready to wake up at 6:00am the next morning. Sometimes, it's hard to make myself close a book or get off the couch but it's always worth it. 

I shared my entire Day in the Life over on IG stories so be sure to check it out here

 

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A Q&A with Katie and Robert on Christian Marriage

I asked the Dear Mushka Instagram community for questions for a Q&A the other day and received so many about marriage! Robert and I answered them over on my stories, which you can find here or simply read below.

In short, we are two simple people that God has brought together for His glory. We are not perfect and this is not a perfect marriage. The Lord constantly keeps us humble and real.

What’s our dating story?

Robert and I met in college. I had recently broken up with the boyfriend I had followed to college and we met at the college ministry we were a part of. We talked for the first time at a football game. I wanted to talk to him to make another boy jealous - yes, I was 19 and not very smart! We started talking and really enjoyed our conversation so we decided to meet up another time.

We didn’t officially start dating for a few months because I was silly and wanted to wait. We dated for a while and broke up just before Valentine’s Day. But I just knew we’d get married. I don’t know why, but I was pretty confident.

Robert was a new believer and really needed some time to grow. I knew we had issues to work on and was grateful for the time apart to grow. A few months later he came back around and our relationship did a complete 180! We dated for a few months, got engaged and married in 2010.

I love that our dating story is beautifully imperfect, just like us!

How do you know who you are supposed to marry? Is the right spouse just about finding someone who loves the Lord?

It’s more than just finding someone who loves the Lord. Love for the Lord is a great starting point but there can be more to it. God can work through all marriages (even if you are married to a non-believer), but if you’re choosing a spouse look for someone who wants to pursue the Lord fully.

Marriage is too hard not to like the person you are married to. There are seasons and you’ve got to fight for what you want to be true. You’ve got to like the person, want to be around them and see the potential in them.

It’s easy for women to come up with a check list for what you want in a spouse and sometimes the Lord can work through that. But ultimately, don’t limit God to what you think you need. God gives us wisdom! He is for marriage and He is for Christian unions and He will lead us to the right person.

I think He gives us peace when it’s a yes and discomfort when it’s not right. This doesn’t mean that the “right person” doesn’t mean you won’t have trial and suffering in your marriage! But the Lord will give you peace and wisdom when you call out for help.

Find someone who’s imperfections you can live with. Don’t count on change. Can we commit to loving the person in front of us and the person they will become?

Marriage is also not the goal of the Christian life! The Lord works through both marriage and singleness. We still feel lonely, angry and sad in marriage. God is our only hope and lasting joy!

Advice for newlyweds?

If there is frequent bickering (not real issues), you might not be having enough sex? God uses it to form real intimacy. Pray for it and work towards loving one another in that way. I received this advice as a newly wed and it was so helpful!

Also, learn one another. It can be through the enneagram, another test or studying one another. Know that you and your spouse are very different people. You’ll give so much more grace when you understand someone else’s why.

Protect what your spouse is walking through. Your husband does not need you to go behind his back about what he is struggling with. If it isn’t a big issues, speak uplifting words about your spouse. Be champions of each other’s sanctification. If you need prayer for your marriage, make it about YOU.

How do you handle differences of opinion on big matters?

Adoption is the biggest difference we’ve ever had. I felt called to adoption and Robert didn’t. In those situations, commit to praying. God isn’t trying to cause discord between the two of you so seek His wisdom. Ask for a heart that’s willing to submit and respect your husband.

Still talk about big decision and as best as you can, don’t move forward until you can agree. Don’t let yourself be resentful at your spouse.

What to do when one person is pursuing God more than the other?

We’ve experienced this in our marriage and it’s important to learn that your relationship with God will look different than your spouse’s. Robert is never going to have lifetime goals, prayer journals and do everything that I do in my quiet time with the Lord.

Make sure you are giving grace for a person to grow differently than you. Different isn’t wrong or less then.

No man has ever been nagged into pursuing the Lord. You can pray in times of need for your spouse - pray for wisdom and guidance and strength until your spouse is ready to pursue the Lord again. That’s what you do!

Everything is an opportunity to humble yourself and rely on the Lord. Make the goal for everyone to love God more (all of us need to love Him more) because He is worthy of our praise and love!

I hope this was helpful, to hear two very real people talking about marriage! You can catch the video of Robert and I discussing our marriage here. Follow along on Instagram where we post our monthly Q&A’s, answering all of your questions.

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My Go-To Parenting Books

I love to read and have always found a wealth of helpful knowledge and wisdom in books. Here are my go-tos when it comes, specifically, to raising up children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. 

(Click photos for a direct link)

1. The Bible. And I don't say this lightly! If you are longing for wisdom on how to raise children who know and love God, prioritize your own knowledge and love of the Lord. The only way you can rightly reflect His character is to make a study of it. 

While The Bible doesn't address specific disciplinary issues like entire other books do, it is full of wisdom straight from the heart of God on every issue we could want. Friendships, sibling relationships, telling the truth, handling anger, etc. 

 

2. This is the best parenting book I have ever read, aside from the Bible. It isn't very practical (which drove me nuts at first), but gets to the heart of our role as parent and what it should look like. It radically changed how I see raising children, and is a book I reference often. I can't recommend it more!

“When you think your job is to change your child and you’ve been given the power to do it, your parenting will tend to be demanding , aggressive, threatening, and focused on rules and punishments. In this kind of parenting you are working to make your children into something rather than working to help them to see something and seek something. In this form of parenting, it is all about you and your children, rather than you being an agent of what only God can do in your children. Your hope is that you will exercise the right power, at the right time, and in the right way so change in your children will result. That process is profoundly different than working to be a useful tool in the hands of a God of glorious transforming grace, who alone is your hope and the hope of your children.” 
― Paul David Tripp

 

3. This was the first book I read that encouraged me to use scripture to guide the little hearts in my home. It was such an obvious answer, but I'd never seen it done before! The book is practical with lots of examples, and packed with scripture. 

(We have a new product coming this Fall that you'll love if you loved this book!)

 

4. I've made it a point to ask great parents what helped them as they learned to instruct their children, and they almost always include this book as one of the most beneficial tools. And after reading it, I see why! 

It's written by Christians and has scripture inside, but is incredibly practical. It walks through parenting with consequences instead of threats, shame, etc and has lots of examples to learn from. I'm having my husband read it now! 

 

5. This book is similar to the one above. It's recommended over and over again, is full of practical examples, and is packed with wisdom from people who really understand the way children think.

There were a few chapters/examples in this book that I put into action and immediately saw changes from. It's excellent! 

 

6. Sally Clarkson has been a spiritual mother to me through her writing, and it all started with this book. Its goal is similar to no.2 on this list, getting to the real heart and purpose of motherhood. She draws you into her home and experiences as a mother, encouraging and motivating you do live each day intentionally. 

“My calling as a mother is the same as any other Christian’s: to fulfill God’s will for our lives and to glorify him. This means I am to follow the Lord’s design for my marriage—cleaving to my husband, supporting him, honoring him, loving him as my own flesh. I am to be a careful steward of the world in which I live. I am to seek opportunities to bring God’s message of redemption to others, to make full use of the gifts and talents he has placed in my life to bring him glory and further his kingdom. And I am to delight in him and worship him and praise him in whatever circumstance I find myself.” 

 

7. This is another Sally Clarkson book. It's less about discipline and more about a home's God-loving culture, but it encouraged me to be more intentional and consistent in my parenting, so I included it here, too.

 

8. If you have boys, this has been a great read and reference. My heart is wired so differently from the men in my home, I need to know how they operate and think! This one is broken up into age sections so I've read a few chapters and will continue to go back to it as my boys get older. So helpful!

 

9. I haven't read this yet, but the Risen Motherhood podcast has been such a helpful resource for me (and so many others!) in motherhood, I know the book will be just as lovely. I'm so grateful for other women walking this road alongside me, longing to glorify Christ in all we do. 

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Our Family Trip to 30A

I've been vacationing to Florida basically every year since I was little. My family used to do Destin or Panama City, and now we go with Robert's family to the "30A" strip of beaches that runs in between those two big cities.

It's such a fun area- packed with good places to eat, bike paths for traveling the few miles between beach after beach, and lots of memories. 

The boys (ages 4, 2, 3 months) did so well in the car! We left early in the morning when we knew our youngest would be most apt to take a good nap. For the other two, I packed them each a "car bag" with a few car activities and snacks. We also checked out library books that they weren't allowed to look at until we were traveling. (The bags also had a change of clothes inside because #reallife). After they enjoyed the car activities for a few hours, they were allowed to watch a movie on the iPad.

A few things in their bags: 

This, this, this (non messy creativity), and this

Our condo room (here!) wasn't ready when we got there so we spent a few hours at The Hub. It's a really cool area, with lots of walk-up places to grab food, comfy seating, shopping, and most importantly astroturf for wiggly kids to run around on. We got lunch, ice cream, and lots of energy out! 

Everyday, we ate breakfast and hung out in the condo for a few hours while our littlest guy took a morning nap. Then we headed to the beach for a few hours, where we spent the majority of the time in the ocean... and eating snacks/lunch. Around 1, we'd come inside for naps/ quiet time. Robert got a few hours of work in and I enjoyed reading (and napping, too!) Then, more beach time until the boys were absolutely ready for bed. 6:30pm on the beach is the best time, we didn't want to miss it! 

I packed the boys' lunches and dinners in these boxes to make mealtimes easy. I didn't cook dinner once- they loved eating sandwiches, fruit, and goldfish on the beach every day. 

Robert and I went out twice (below) and otherwise ate simple foods, too. It was really nice to take a cooking break for a week :)

We were there over the 4th of July, which is fun. Almost every beach from Destin to Panama City has their own firework show so you can sit on the beach (or condo patio) and watch them all go off. Individuals do their own shows on the beach, too! 

On my birthday, Robert and I went on a date to la Crema- it's an excellent tapas and chocolates restaurant in Rosemary Beach. I'm already excited to go back next year ha! Another night, we went out with family to George's. It gets really crowded, especially towards the end of the week, so plan to go early! 



On the last night, we played in the ocean until everyone was completely prune-y and ate pizza on the beach. 

It was such a special week, and proof that you can travel (albeit, just a few states away) with three little children. Of course, we were all exhausted at the end but memories were made and we loved being together for a solid week!

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Our Goals for Summer

Every Summer, I choose a few skill activities for each of my children to work on and a heart "theme" for us to focus on as a family. This helps keeps me intentional as I mother and also gives direction to our days. 

Here's what this Summer looks like: 

Skill Activities for my boys

Do a puzzle alone and with joy 

Be able to "read" quietly for 20 minutes (snacks help this)

Write all letters (for my 4 year old, just something to work towards)

Put shoes on and off by himself (for my 2 year old)

Ride bike without training wheels (for my 4 year old... check!)

Swim without floats (for my 4 year old)

Learn to use words before screaming (for my 2 year old, ha!)

 

Heart Focus for our family: Prayer! 

We're memorizing The Lord's Prayer (to the tune of Barney's "I love you") and spending meal times talking about what the words mean. 

We're also learning to be quick to ask for God's help as we exhibit fruits of the Spirit, trusting in His capabilities instead of our own (failing) strength. 

We reference this art print frequently, which also helps the boys learn their letters. I'll say "which fruit should we pray for in this scenario with your brother" and one of them will say "love!" or whatever and then they'll find it on the print and maybe even write out the word or trace it. 

These are simple goals, but they're effective and so helpful as we long to make Christ's name great in our home and beyond. 

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How we meal plan (and your ideas, too!)

Over the years, I've found that meal planning is easiest for my family when I choose a theme for each night of the week. It limits my choices, preventing me from decision fatigue, and also lets my family know what to expect. 

This Summer, our schedule looks like this: 

M: Grill Night- usually chicken or steak with veggies and brown rice 

T: Mexican Night- tacos, quesadillas, burrito bowls with chips and salsa or guacamole, rice, and/or a corn dish 

W: Pasta Night- spaghetti or some other pasta with added chicken and a salad

Th: Breakfast Night- eggs, bacon, and waffles, biscuits, french toast, etc

F: Leftovers or Pizza

S: Out- either our date night or a family night to chipotle

S: Hotdogs from church. Alternative is sandwiches. 

As the seasons change, we'll adjust this to be more appropriate!

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I asked you all on Instagram for some other night themes; here's a big list for us to all reference!

  • Grill 
  • Mexican
  • Pasta
  • Italian
  • Breakfast
  • Leftovers
  • Pizza
  • Sandwiches
  • Salad
  • One Sheet Pan
  • Crock Pot/ Instant Pot
  • Soup
  • Casserole
  • Asian
  • Bowl Dinner
  • Fish
  • Panini
  • Baked Potato Bar
  • Meatless Meal
  • "Hodge Podge" where you throw it all together from what you have
  • Charcuterie Board (meat, cheese, fruit, nuts, veggies) on a warm night! 
  • Different ethnicity every week to teach children about a different culture 
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