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Dear Mushka,

Q&A on Adoption, Christian Marriage & Walking Through Grief

Every month or so we answer some of your questions! I don’t feel wise or deserving enough to share with you, but we’re honored to have you share these insights into our lives. And always remembering, we’re imperfect and completely in need of Jesus. 

This weekend, my Dad got remarried, 10 years after my mother’s death (you can watch the highlight called “My Mamma” here). The wedding was a little weird due to Covid, but the Lord truly brought beauty from ashes and we’re so grateful. The boys did great too.

Have we experienced any adoption hardships or unexpected difficulties?

The short answer is absolutely. You just can’t know until you’re in it. 

In fact, one moment happened at the wedding this weekend. As we were getting our boys ready, an older couple I grew up knowing saw us in the parking lot. This couple loudly asked “Are your boys real brothers?” (If you haven’t adopted, I know how easy these questions are to ask. It’s another example of not knowing until you know.) 

Family friends who heard answered “no” (meaning not biological brothers) and then corrected to “yes” (understanding that adoption makes them 100% “real” brothers).

Then the couple continued, asking where we “got them” and how long we’ve “had them” - a lot of questions that aren’t appropriate in a non-intimate conversation. This isn’t small talk - this is heavy and personal.

Please don’t ask these kinds of questions in front of children. It can be really harmful and shows a lack of understanding of the gospel of adoption! We are 100% God’s children through adoption. Praise God! 

Our kids have heard these questions often and it sparks good and necessary conversation, but it’s still hard!

I wish I’d said, “They are as much brothers as we are children of God.” I always have a great answer after the fact, but the Holy Spirit leads and we can rest in that. It’s never graceful or easy. We’re learning as we go.

The point is, this is something that was unexpectedly hard. It’s harder outside the home (for us) than inside. Inside our walls, conversations are beautiful and hearts are receptive. Outside our home, we have a lot to explain (especially as we adopted trans-racially). We get a lot of stares. It’s lonely, but God is always present.

Do We Do Bible Studies Together?

I get this question all the time. We don’t. 

I wonder where this pressure comes from. Why do we as women feel we should be sitting together with our husband every morning opening the same Bible passage together, reading the same devotion? There is nothing wrong with studying God’s Word together in a formal setting, but it isn’t mandated in Scripture. It also isn’t more holy than studying God’s Word apart from your spouse.

We study and read separately and freely share with one another. I don’t think we’ve ever done the same study. We learn and process differently. And truthfully I think we’re also too competitive for this - I think I’d turn it into a debate about who made the best point.

I’d encourage you to take the pressure off! If you want to do Bible studies together, bring the idea to your spouse and go for it, but it’s not a necessity.

Thoughts on Matthew 22 and No Marriage In Heaven?

Robert used to feel really sad at this concept. He says he had an underdeveloped theology of union with Christ. He felt like he’d be alone in Heaven. 

It’s really hard to understand what we’ll have in Christ when we’re face to face with Him! Everything you love about your spouse (being loved and seen and cared for) will be the ever present reality in Heaven. Marriage will find its fulfilment in Christ. We gain what an earthly marriage was created to point us towards. 

When Robert’s in his “abandonment issues” headspace, it feels scary and sad. He doesn’t want to do anything without me (other than Bible studies)!

But that’s when he’s thinking about Heaven as a loss to earthly things rather than a gain of Godly things. My encouragement would be looking toward that union with Christ and what oneness with Christ will mean in Heaven, and in that you’ll have such joy.

I think the concept goes into parenthood, too. The idea of not being a family unit with my children is weird. It will be SO MUCH better, whatever happens, but it’s hard to imagine. Our greatest longing will be satisfied in Christ, the righteous and pure versions of those longings. 

How to trust God in the waiting (for a spouse, children, job, health, etc.)?

Trusting God always comes back to knowing his attributes well enough, meditating on God’s character as the foundation and Him being bigger than our circumstances.

We have a product coming soon for this because it’s so important. I want God to become greater and greater in my own heart and mind. I want the things of Earth to grow dim in the light of His glory and grace. We study who He is in the Bible and see how He has shown His faithfulness time and time again. 

The Old Testament is full of examples of the Israelites marking God’s faithfulness (via an alter, feast, etc) with the purpose of even their children knowing and remembering who He is. We can claim His character in our own life. We’re grafted into Israel and all God’s promises find their yes and amen in Jesus. 

We have an all knowing and all powerful God. Tim Keller says that if we knew what God knew, we’d ask for exactly what He’s given us. 

Romans 8:28 reminds us that He’s going to work it all together for good. He can’t do anything else. The waiting is less about “having the wrong thing” and more about wondering “why it’s the right thing for this moment”.

What are we most excited about for the future of our family?

We’re praying about the idea of a fourth child. We’re often asked how we’ll know when our family is done growing. I think we just pray and ask for guidance. 

I feel like I’m at max capacity right now, and also that someone is missing. I’m not sure what will happen, but I know God will provide exactly what we need. 

I’m trying to just enjoy these moments. I”ve been thinking about what Phylicia Masonheimer says: “Don’t plan for seasons you aren’t in.”

How do we handle holiday decisions with our family (Like Santa and Halloween)?

We looked at examples around us, grateful for older and wiser friends! Santa felt like a “no” for both of us right away. We didn’t think he would draw our children’s (or our own) hearts to Jesus. We both remember feeling disappointed on Christmas morning because it was about gifts. Satan/sin is sneaky!

We aren’t "anti-Santa” - our boys know the story and not to ruin it for others, but we want the holiday to stay about Jesus without competition.

We’ve been on the same page about most holidays, which I’m grateful for. The Holy Spirit has led us similarly.

For Halloween, we celebrate the celebratable parts of it. We talk about the history of Halloween. We enjoy being with friends and candy and the fall weather. 

Not everyone agrees with us here and that’s okay! I think the Spirit leads us differently. We  talk about lightness and darkness and what the world may believe versus what Christians believe. We have a hands open approach. Every year I bring it to God and ask for guidance as I grow and mature.

We trust that He will redeem all the zillion ways we fail as parents. And we watch the reactions of our kids - they’re built differently and may need different responses to holidays. 

What was the most helpful to me from Robert as he helped me walk through the death of my mom?

I didn’t grieve, really, until this year. I shoved a lot down. I celebrated her Heavenly healing instead of also experiencing sadness. I’m working on it. What he did really well was help me grieve when I was ready - even 10 years later - to cry, talk it out, go to counselling, whatever I needed.

How do you walk through grief together?

Everyone grieves so differently. Communicate as best you can. Be compassionate, love each other, be attentive and listen. Don’t treat emotional wounds like they’re radically different to physical wounds. 

Robert would feed and bathe me if necessary for a physical wound or illness. For emotional wounds, be washed and fed by the Word - help one another experience God’s words if they can’t on their own due to sorrow. Pray scripture over them, read scripture to them, and play worshipful music. 

Thoughts on loving opposite-sex friends?

View the person as someone made in the image of God instead of means to an end. The more immature and younger you are, the more difficult this can be. With wisdom, this view can definitely be achieved.

Opposite-sex friends can also be brothers and sisters in Christ. Seeing people in that light really helps us love one another appropriately. Handle with Care by Lori Ferguson handles this issue really well.

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September Q&A with Robert and Katie

Welcome to our September Q&A where we try to answer some of your questions about marriage, family and walking with the Lord.  We clearly aren’t experts on any of these topics, mostly we’re just real people who love relating to you! You can watch the Instagram highlight here!

How did you prepare your relationship for children?

We did a marriage counselling tune up specifically about children. We wanted to address a few things in our marriage and we just did about three sessions. Other than that, we read some books and said, “I love you - we’re in this together!”

What are your favorite practices for setting the tone in your home?

Robert has decided to be the “chief repenter” in our home. He sets the example for everyone. When we make mistakes, we apologize and we try to make it right. 

Also, we have some sayings or phrases that we frequently say. Robert likes to ask in teachable moments, “What is everyone worthy of?” and the boys have been taught that it’s “dignity, honor and respect.” We also use the catechism answers along with scripture to guide and teach. We frequently remind our boy of how and why we love them.

I like to use the phrase “Telling the truth makes it better, telling a lie makes it worse” for dealing with little moments where one of the kids may not be telling the truth. 

Every family settles into phrases that naturally come out. We’ve never had a “what is our family about” meeting; we’ve just tried things out and course-corrected along the way. We’ll add to this as our kids get older. Certain principles and ideas that matter to you will set the tone for what matters to your family.

What is something about marriage you’ve changed your mind on after getting hitched?

I theoretically knew marriage wasn’t about me, but 10 years in, I feel that in my bones. Marriage is a chief way I’m being sanctified. It’s a regular opportunity to serve someone else and display the beauty of Christ and the church.

Robert’s view of male headship has changed a little during our marriage. If we can’t agree on something, it’s an indicator that we shouldn't do anything yet. This approach has really helped us! He values my opinion and wants to arrive at a decision we both agree on, being led by the Holy Spirit. 

If you were going to have a different business (not jewelry), what would it be?

Robert would like to be a landscape architect! (I didn’t know this about him!) I’d have a cut flower business. Looks like we’re a match in a dream world too! 

For real, he’d have a business assistant company, helping new business owners get their business off the ground. He’s such a champion of other people’s ideas.

I think I’d be a life coach or an author. 

How did you take time to talk and learn about each during the busy time of engagement and working?

You just have to do it! Life doesn’t slow down. You have to prioritize.

I recently heard this analogy about juggling glass and plastic balls. Balls will always have to fall, but you have to keep the glass ones in the air. A marriage is a glass ball. You might have to drop a plastic work ball to hold the glass. 

The Bible story of Martha and Mary is a helpful story. Entering into a covenant relationship with someone else is more important than your job. We can all only pour out what has been poured into us. We’ll experience burnout if we don’t have other people pouring into us. In a marriage relationship, your spouse should be one of those people.

Advice for when your life gets hard and your faith is shaken?

The Puritans had a phrase that said, “Pray until you pray.”

We would advise the same: worship until you worship, believe until you believe. You just make a decision to stick to your faith and ride out the valley of shadow.

Try this illustration: Someone was setting off on a plane. They went through a storm full of clouds and rain and then got above it all to the glorious sun. Of course, the sun was always there, but they needed to get through the storm to see it.

You need community for this. Make sure you’re a part of a local church or body of believers. I re-read books of the Bible until the message sinks in. We just trust that God is not going to leave us, that He uses suffering and sorrow in a beautiful way. 

There are also times when we’re working for future fruit. Right now at home, we’re working in my literal flower garden. There’s nothing in my garden beds, but we’re working the soil for the fruit that will be coming in a few months time. We still do the work now! Even when you don’t feel like the Lord is near, stay in the Word, memorize the verses - the fruit will come.

What would be your advice for someone struggling with assurance of salvation?

Robert lived this for many years. He re-dedicated his life so many times as a child. Assurance comes from the Holy Spirit as you feel the kindness of the Lord calling you to repentance. 

There are times when you don’t feel it! In those seasons, call the Lord up on His promises - to never leave you or forsake you - to honor His promise that whoever has been placed in His hand, no one will take them out. Rely and count on these promises. Ask the Holy Spirit to make Himself known to you. 

We have to trust the Lord to do the work He said He did. 

I think that using the word ‘feel’ can be misleading. Salvation isn’t always an experience and we can put too much weight on needing to ‘feel’ it. 

I wish I could sit down with you to hear your why. Do you feel like you’re not good enough to earn salvation? Are you falling back into a sin pattern?  My encouragement for you is to meet with someone you trust to walk this out together. 

Tips for baby proofing your home?

Put locks on all the dangerous cupboards! We try to keep our home kid-friendly. We don’t have a ton of breakable items. We also set boundaries on what’s okay to touch and not touch. We let our kids touch the shiny new thing and then their interest wanes. Sometimes we say “no touch” and enforce that. Our kids don’t need allowance for all areas. There’s no need for them to play in the fireplace, the litter box, the stove or Robert’s office. The children need boundaries, but don’t make your house unlivable. It’s made to be lived in.

How do you show respect to your spouse?

We had an example today: I could have handled a situation myself in a way that Robert wouldn’t love OR I could ask for prayer to help respect him here even if his way was different to what I’d do. 

Robert is aware of how he treats me in front of our boys. We don’t mind having an argument in front of our kids, but we try to demonstrate patience, respect, kindness and repentance.  Our body language also demonstrates respect. We treat others the way we want to be treated and we love one another. Respect is a natural outcome of seeing someone else made in God’s image. 

Thoughts on date night!

Robert thinks people put too much pressure on date nights - like it’s the thing that makes or breaks your marriage. If you’re living your week in such a way that date night is the only time to connect, your week is the problem, not your date night. Admittedly, he works from home and we connect daily - we’re privileged! Ultimately, we’d recommend you to figure out a way to make your week more enjoyable. 

Also, Robert doesn’t need a lot as far as needing to try out the newest restaurant or the latest adventure. He isn’t longing for that on a date night. We get takeout every Tuesday and eat it after our kids go to bed. We’re intentional with our few hours in the evening together. We try to schedule a date night out once a month alone and once a month with another couple (this is my date night of choice). We do dinner, errands, and then home before it’s too late so we can enjoy some relaxation time at home. 

Maybe this just sets the bar a little lower. The point is to love one another. Find time for one another at home on a daily basis. And we try to teach our kids to respect the times when mommy and daddy need to talk.

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A Day in the Life of Katie

Today on IG stories, I shared a day in my life as a Christian mother of three boys! You can find the highlight here.

6:00am: I wake up around now and spend 45-60 minutes with the Lord. I have an Instagram highlight saved here on how I use this time: how I use my verse memorization box, how I use my prayer journal and how I read my Bible.

If I have some extra time, I spend it in prayer, read a chapter of a Christian book or dig into a passage of Scripture.

For the record, I built up to 45-60 minutes each morning (and didn’t do it with a newborn). It takes discipline to go to bed on time and to get out of bed when your alarm goes off. But God always shows me it’s worth it!

7:10am: We’ve taught our boys (6,3, and 1) to stay in their rooms until I get them. Our chaotic mornings were a pain point in my days, so I’ve learned to get a few things done before they get up. 

In answer to a question I often get about how we get our kids to stay in their rooms until we get them in the morning, I see it this way: We are the parents and set the tone for our household. Just because they want to come out doesn’t mean it’s best. (It may be! Every home for themselves!)

This is what we said to our kids (of course, you could change the rules): “Mommy will open your door when it’s time to wake up. You can turn on your light, look at these books, play with these toys".

They’re allowed to say one time, “Mommy I’m awake,” and then play. Sometimes they come out and I have to correct them, “Remember, this is how we do things in the morning.” 

I get the dishwasher unloaded, breakfast started, etc. I want to welcome them with joy and excitement instead of stress.

The boys will eat a smoothie for breakfast. They like the Orgain Organic Protein Powder and it helps fill their bellies. I add flax seed, banana, milk, frozen berries, lots of spinach or kale and frozen riced cauliflower! They really enjoy it and it’s packed with nutrients. 

Over breakfast, we use the Child Pack and Scripture Memorization Tabs to learn verses. Our mornings are not perfect and there’s often lots of noise, but that's the point! We need Jesus in the broken!

If you’re curious as to how young you can start Scripture memory, I always say that if they can learn words to songs (like Twinkle Twinkle) then they can learn verses. Put them to a tune if you want!

8:00am: I do a workout almost every weekday around 8am. I’m about to finish this Barre Blend in the  Beach Body App and have loved it. Sometimes it’s chaotic around me while I exercise and sometimes the boys play perfectly. Sometimes I have to stop to hold my littlest, but something is better than nothing!

9:00am: I’m showered and dressed! Some of you have asked how I manage to shower in the day with a little one. I keep my one year old in the bathroom with me while I shower. He makes a mess and that’s okay!

I don’t wash my hair everyday. I’ll often just use dry shampoo and my cool Hair Curler Comb which refreshes my hair really well. It even takes away the ponytail line. 

Finally, I’ll put on some WUNDERBROW Waterproof Eyebrow Gel and choose a pair of earrings or a necklace. Today I’m going with the Progress Earrings after I read Phillipians this morning: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” Philippians 1:6

9:20am: Time to fill these little one’s love tanks. We read together on the couch for about twenty minutes. We’re reading Tiny Perfect Things today. 

10:00am: Our eldest started kindergarten this year and we’re homeschooling! My husband takes 20min a day to do maths with him.

While they work on that, I’m taking my middle son to his first gymnastics class! This is our first time doing any kind of sport activity, but he isn’t getting to do preschool this year so I wanted him to experience something special.

I listened to the Alisa Childers Podcast on the way to gymnastics. Alisa is a great resource as we learn to think critically about progressive Christianity.

12:00pm: It’s lunchtime. I’m drinking my smoothie to break my fast. I do intermittent fasting so I eat for the first time at 12 (not counting the celery juice I had this morning because it’s under 50 calories). My delicious smoothie is made of chocolate protein powder with peanut butter. I love it!

The boys are eating lunch while I quickly scan my eldest’s reading curriculum. There is basically zero prep time required, but I like to skim it quickly. 

We have only one child in kindergarten, but I love the flexibility and freedom of homeschooling. This is typical for me and the reason I started my own business! For the program we use, there’s only 40-60 minutes of scheduled curriculum a day. We plug that in wherever and pause if needed.

My three year old likes to learn with us too, but my one year old toddles all over the place. Robert works from home and if I really need him to help for a moment, he does.

1:00pm: Nap time! I’m ready for a break! This is our quiet time / work time around here.

My six and three year old play quietly in their rooms from 1-3pm. My one year old naps from 1-4pm.

As my eldest two got older, I taught them that they didn’t have to sleep, but they did have to play quietly. They have age appropriate toys and an audio book of sorts.  They do LEGOs or blocks and just use their imaginations. They really enjoy this time!

Their nap time is my work time! I work from 1-3pm. After almost 7 years of business at home, I’m learning to set good boundaries. We have a studio space with three employees who make/package everything now. My husband runs Dear Mushka full time, too, but I limit my capacity to a few hours.

Today I’m uploading new product listings. This is also when I record IG stories, write emails, create new products, etc.

3:00pm: Time for me to get my big boys up. They usually eat a snack and watch one 20min show while I meal prep. We’re having nachos tonight! After that we’ll play outside. Robert is usually done working and we can just enjoy one another.

A side note on intermittent fasting: 

I talked about the FASTer Way in this highlight. Basically I limit eating to eight hours a day. I eat between 10am and 6pm. I drink mostly black coffee and celery juice before noon. I feel great doing it! It took about one week to adjust and I almost never get headaches. If I’m hungry though, I eat! I’m not strict.

5:20pm: Dinner is in the oven! My eldest is my cooking buddy! To be honest, I’d love to cook alone while I listen to podcasts, but this time is just so valuable. He’s learning and so chatty during this time!

This mealtime, we’re asking each other what our highs and lows were from the day and then we go over our catechism. I didn’t learn catechism growing up, but they’ve already been such an encouragement to my heart!

Kids are little sponges; they love to memorize and do it so well. My three year old memorized some of these questions in a day or two! The beautiful thing about catechisms is that they begin great conversations and learning together. 

A note on our dinner table chats:
1. We haven’t done this forever - it’s just too chaotic in some seasons. We also acknowledge that sometimes our children are too little! But...

2. The dinner table time is valuable! Be intentional - even if the only thing you can accomplish is being present and keeping your kids from choking.

3. It’s OK to know your own strength in your marriage! Robert had the idea to do the catechisms, but I’m the one who moves things to action. I put it into a plan and encouraged him to do it. My encouragement to you is to work together. And don’t forget to pray for God to grow the gift of leadership in your spouse, whatever that may look like for your family.

06:30pm: We’ll play outside for a little while before baths and bedtime.

7:40pm: The boys are in bed and we’re watching an episode of the West Wing while I work on a puzzle. 

8:54pm: Heading to bed to read for about 45 min and then sleep. I believe that you can set yourself up for success tomorrow by how and when you end your day. Hopefully, we’re learning to turn to Jesus in increasing measure every day, no matter what it holds!

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Q&A with Katie on Motherhood

Join me for a virtual coffee date as we chat about motherhood, finding balance and glorifying God! Watch the live chat here on the Dear Mushka Instagram stories.

Q: How do you balance time reading with the craziness of life?

A: My goal is to read an hour a day outside of Bible reading. Fulfilling this goal sometimes means missing out on a TV show in the evening, but it’s worth it!

Q: What is the importance of following Jesus as a mother and wife?

A: To be honest, I don’t know how women are wives and mothers without Jesus. Every day I find myself praying for strength and wisdom, praising God that my sins of anger and impatience are forgiven. Keeping my eyes on Jesus is a constant reminder to offer my children lasting hope instead of worldly hope. 

Q: Share tips on balancing and maintaining energy for marriage, motherhood and work

A: I think that sometimes we try to get more done in our day than God wants us to have done. It’s important to fuel and care for our bodies - getting enough sleep and eating properly. If God has called us to do something, let’s make sure we’re fueling ourselves. Also, are we taking the time to pray? Don’t rely on your own strength!

Q: What’s your favorite podcast?

A: I have almost zero time right now to listen to podcasts. There are so many awesome ones, but Young House Love’s podcast is my favorite at the moment. I’ve followed their family for years and I really enjoy listening to it. In other less busy seasons of my life, I’ve preferred more serious podcasts.

Q: Talk to us about self care as Christians.

A: The topic of self care comes up a lot. Ultimately my answer is that we need to remember that we were ‘bought with a price’, 1 Corinthians 6:20. Our bodies are not our own; our goal is to glorify God with our bodies, to honor Him and serve His kingdom. 

If you’re coming out of a trauma situation, then the goal needs to be to get healthy, to heal, to go to counselling, to put in the work to recover in that area.

Self care in day to day life circles back to the question on maintaining energy as we go about our lives. We need to fuel and care for our bodies so that we have the energy and strength to do His work and to glorify Him in all that we do.

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Lessons Learned After 10 Years of Marriage

We haven’t done a Q&A in a while, but as we celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary today, Robert and I took some time to reflect on our marriage journey. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing! Marriage can be challenging. For those of you feeling like marriage isn’t what you thought it would be or just needing a little encouragement, we’re sharing some lessons we’ve learned and progress we’ve made.

In Robert’s words, “The worst thing you can do in your marriage is decide that you need to be the Holy Spirit for your spouse. It’s not your job to constantly point out what is wrong with your spouse’s behavior.” 

Look inward rather than outward. God is always doing work in Believers. Let Him do that and be a fellow champion for your spouse, not a constant critic. Do business with God in your own heart instead. This is true for any relationship. What should be first and most important is our relationship with God. Trying to control will always result in disappointment, but drawing close to the Lord will result in joy and peace. 

Let trials push us into God’s presence. He uses these moments to draw us towards Him. Learn how to immediately take your frustrations with your spouse to God, over and over again.

In 10 years, we’ve both changed a lot.

I have gotten softer. I’ve grown in love and selflessness. Although this is still a battle for me, I love it when we can do things together. I’ve grown in emotional awareness and learned not to withhold love when someone else doesn’t meet my desires. Learning how to sit in hard emotions instead of hiding from them has taught me so much. I’m so grateful for how the Lord works in us and makes us more like Him. 

Robert has grown in his ability to communicate well. He was reluctant to explain his thought processes in the beginning and it led to frustration on both our parts. He’s grown as a father in this area, too. We’ve both learned to slow down and meet one another's needs, laying down our own desires. Ten years ago, Robert wasn’t the kind of leader I wanted. Demanding what I wanted didn’t work. God needed to do the work! Prayer has sustained me and brought about so much growth in our life together. 

And with that tiny bit of encouragement, we wish you all a blessed day!

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How to Celebrate Easter... During the Coronavirus

This year, Easter will look different. Instead of gathering with our church families inside buildings, we'll be safe at home watching a service from our couches. We won't be having large egg hunts or hosting all our friends and family for a big meal or dressing to the brim in our finest dresses. 

But the reason we celebrate Easter... He is still very much risen. And we can celebrate all the same from within the walls of our homes!

This week on Instagram, @augustcloth and I are going to be sharing ways to make this Easter extra special. A thoughtful menu with Christ as the center, a beautiful tablescape, meaningful baskets and DIYsfor your children, etc. 

Join me @dearmushka and pop back over here for all the links!

For Your Table:

1. This tablecloth comes in so many color and length options!

2. I've wanted a set of plate chargers for years; the price was right on these and they look beautiful against our dark wood table

3. Bud vases with baby's breath tucked inside is the perfect addition to your table. Consider dropping one off on your neighbor's porch, too! (Baby's breath dries well so grab some anytime between now and Easter. Snipped branches from outside the morning of are also a great idea.)

4. Candles in the middle of the table signify the light of Christ that we celebrate on Easter morning. You could light simple candles or grab a candelabra like this one to pull out on special occasions all year long. This one comes in multiple metal finishes. 

5. Cloth napkins make everything more celebratory. This is an adorable set of 12 for just $14. Go on, let your kids use them, too! 

6. My earrings in the tablescape IG videos. The Comfort Earrings-- so lightweight and full of meaning. 

What to Wear:

This dress from August Cloth has my name all over it (literally haha). There are so many good ones in her shop and she's shipping in time for Easter!

Grab yourself some jewelry that can be an anthem for this season in your life. Do you need a reminder to rejoice in suffering? To praise Him for caring for you more than wildflowers

I'm wearing The Daughter Earrings, The Wrapped Necklace, The Believe Bracelet, and The Priority Earrings

For Easter Baskets:

Children are never to little to begin hearing the Gospel. A stuffed lamb like this one (so soft!)  to celebrate the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and a board book about Jesus are perfect treats for Easter morning. 

For our older boys, a great book about Jesus and an activity are perfect. These Water Wow pads are our favorite.  I'm also going to split this shovel set and give the boys a packet of seeds and some dirt as we celebrate The Creator and New Life! 

Resurrection Eggs are something our family loves. Gift them this year and then use them for years to come. The book Benjamin's Box is a great add-on with them.

 

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Lent: What it is and Why We're Participating

A few years ago, I spent some time learning about the church calendar and how its seasons are in place to follow the life and death of Christ. Very simply, Christ is born (Advent), he is acknowledged as divine (Epiphany), he is tempted in the desert and dies for our sins (Lent), he is resurrected (Easter), and then the Spirit comes upon believers (Pentecost). 

Following the calendar isn't meant to be "religious" or another thing on a to-do list. Instead, it's meant to stir up our hearts and challenge us to pause and reflect in particular ways throughout the year.

For Lent, the idea is that we deny ourselves something for 40 days to represent Jesus fasting 40 days and then being tempted by Satan in the desert. During this time, we stop filling ourselves with all the pleasures of the world and instead empty ourselves long enough to see our sin and brokenness. This may look like fasting from certain foods, social media, Netflix, shopping, nightly baths, etc. 

In A Hunger for God (which I highly recommend!), John Piper says, "If you don't feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great." 

Lent provides us an opportunity to set aside our normal go-tos and instead think on our fallen nature + Christ's beautiful sacrifice. It is meant to be a more sober, heavy season that ends as we welcome in the glory of Easter. 

This year, Lent starts on February 26th and goes until April 9th, with Sundays being "off" days. I plan on giving up something different the six weeks of Lent. For example, a fast from Instagram one week and certain foods the next. 

In addition, I will use this season to focus what I teach and talk about with my boys. In this post I talk about some of our daily habits. During Lent, I'll use our meal times to focus in on discussing passages on our sin, repentance, and why Jesus had to come. 

I plan on reading the daily readings from this book aloud (mostly for myself) and perhaps doing some of the family activities it mentions. 

 

I'll also leave these books out on the shelves for us to grab and read all season long! 

1. A beautiful book! My boys are captivated by the pictures and story. 

2. Great for the week before Easter. Simple, perfect for the littlest ones! 

3. We love this book; read it with these eggs (we start them twelve days before Easter). A favorite around here!

4. We love this one, too. 

5. And of course, this Bible. There are lots of "lent" reading plans to follow with your little ones if you'd like! 

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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.  

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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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