I use to think every decision was like a fork in the road where God’s choice was either left or right. And since God doesn’t talk, we had to guess the answer and choosing the wrong path would lead to great peril.
After all, The Bible does say to acknowledge Him in all our ways and He will direct our path. So I agonized over every question-big and small…which car to buy, house to live in, college major to choose. I stressed over every option praying God would reveal Himself in the details. He almost never did. I guess only the devil is in the details.
Over the years I’ve discovered a few things about God’s will that I’ll share here.
1. God reveals His will through scripture. The great thing about an unchanging God is that what He said thousands of years ago is still true today. Two thousand years ago The Bible recorded that true religion is to care for widows and orphans. No need to wrangle over whether to adopt or not. God’s will on that has already been made clear.
2. Sometimes God speaks through opened and closed doors. A couple of years ago Shaun found himself unemployed. Our church plant had failed. His business had failed. In 30 days time we had nothing and were pretty scared. Thankfully he had a few job leads at 3 different churches. Two were in California and one was in Baltimore. We invested a lot of time pursuing one in particular. We flew to California, met with the staff, looked for houses in the area, thought we had the job sewed up actually. But it didn’t work out. Neither did the one in Baltimore. We had only one option left. It was a second church in California. It was in the same area as the first church actually. It was really amazing because the exact part of town we visited pursuing the first job ended up being where we lived-just working with a different church. I realize now God allowed us to pursue that first job (which was a total wrong fit) for 2 reasons. One, it caused us not to despair. Because there was such a strong possibility that we would get the job, we remained hopeful in the midst of so much uncertainty. Second, it gave us a chance to see a completely different part of the country and open our minds to living there. Months later we literally drove down the same streets, frequented the same beaches, and ate at the same restaurants we had visited and fallen in love with during our interview process with the first church. Though we didn’t get that job, I see now that God was preparing the way!
3. God gives us free will. I shared the scripture above about acknowledging God in all our ways. But now one of my favorites comes from Isaiah 45:2. God says He will go before His people and “make crooked places straight.” So there are times when it doesn’t matter if I go left or right. If I choose wrongly, isn’t God able to make it right anyway? Is He not capable of smoothing the road before me to ensure it leads where He desires it to lead?
4. There are those awesome times when God reveals to us in prayer what He would have us to do. For me it often works that after days of thinking and praying about something, it comes to me exactly what to do. And I know it’s God because suddenly I have peace about the situation and no longer waffle and waver. This is my favorite way for God to reveal His will. Though I have to admit it’s also the rarest.
Unfortunately, God has had to straighten a lot of paths as a result of wrong choices I’ve made. But through each twist in the road I’ve learned of God’s character. He is indeed faithful, forgiving and just. He’s not waiting to strike me down as soon as I go left instead of right. His will is revealed in many ways-sometimes quietly and other times loud and obvious- but always through compassion and loving kindness.
I just finished making gifts for the kids’ teachers. I made each teacher a personalized post it note holder. I got the idea on pinterest at this site. My Aunt accused me of trying to bribe them. My response: yes, you’re right!…lol.
As a former school teacher I have to say that one of my favorite parts about teaching was the cute little gifts you’d get on the first day of school, Christmas and Valentine’s Day! As a matter of fact, much of my household Christmas decor comes from my years teaching elementary school.
Listen, being a teacher is tough. It really is. It’s tough if you love it, and doubly tough if you hate it. Out of my 5 years in the classroom I only had a one month period when I hated it. I was about 8 months pregnant with Savannah. I was moody, tired, and all around miserable! Other than that, teaching was always one of my greatest joys.
One of the things that made it so great were the great parents. There were some parents who were just so thoughtful that it made it such an extra joy to teach their children. Here are a few secrets and tips on how to be an outstanding school parent!
1. Know that teachers do have favorites. You may not be allowed to have a favorite birth child, but a teacher has no such restrictions. She/He is not allowed to treat students differently based on their personal preferences, but you can believe they have them. There are always particular children who can make a teacher laugh, or feel great about a lesson they’ve planned, or are just all around good citizens. How this displays itself will vary from teacher to teacher. A “favorite” child or “teacher’s pet” may be trusted to run errands to the front office or to another teacher’s room. They may be allowed to stand next to the teacher on the playground and chat when the other kids are shooed away to go play. Or they may be allowed to carry the teacher’s things while walking to the lunch room (my kids always loved to carry my lunch bag…go figure). Having attentive, caring classroom parents goes a long way to helping your child be one of those “favorites.”
2. Send supplies. It really is true that teacher’s spend much of their own money to make the classroom run. When I was teaching Georgia’s governor supplied $100 at the beginning of the school year to each teacher to use in the classroom. I believe that has stopped now. Even with that, I was constantly running to the local teacher store and Target and Walmart to purchase supplies. My last school even began rationing how much copy paper each grade level received. Supplies like dry erase markers, tape, and chalk were kept under tight guard by the front office. If you’re at Rite Aid and catch a buy one get one sale, pick up an extra set of markers or crayons to send to the classroom. Copy paper is golden. And dry erase markers ESPECIALLY in pretty colors will curry a lot of favor!
3. Discipline is a team sport. If you know your child is difficult (and we all know which of our children that is), check in regularly. Tell your child in front of the teacher that you have that teacher’s back. Make sure the teacher knows that you are on their team and will deal with any issues that arise quickly and decisively. Discipline in the classroom is MUCH easier when the teacher knows she has the parent(s) to fall back on.
4. Volunteer. I know it can be difficult if you work a 9-5 yourself. And this might not work as well in the middle and high school years. But if you have a day or a couple of hours during the week volunteer to make copies. I know when I was teaching making copies for the next week took up A TON of my Friday afternoons. Maybe you can even help grade papers-another time consuming task. Spending time in the classroom will enable you to have conversations with and get know the teacher. Then if misunderstandings or frustrations arise, you’ll have some rapport that will hopefully make difficulties easier to address. Spending an entire day or half a day in the classroom will also give you a better understanding of what your child’s day looks like and what concepts they are learning.
5. Send gifts :-) Which is how I’m starting my kids’ first day. It doesn’t have to be anything big. The frames I used to make the post-it note holders came from the dollar store. I paid $2.50 for the post-it notes. I already had everything else. If you bake a banana bread, wrap an extra piece in some clear wrap, stick a bow on it, and send it to school the next morning with a kind note. Nothing cures a bad day (and every teacher has them) like a sweet treat or thoughtful note/gift from a caring parent. It helps them know that their hard work is seen and appreciated.
6. Teachers are people too. So don’t be intimidated, or worse, mean. Parents ran the spectrum when I was teaching. Either they were so intimidated they answered me in “yes mams” and “no mams” and never expressed their concerns openly. Or they were extremely presumptuous and mean. I had one parent who berated me over the phone so badly over a simple science assignment that I was in tears by the end of the conversation (I was a few weeks postpartum mind you and highly emotional. Otherwise I might’ve lost my cool…lol). Remember that your child’s teacher has a life too. They probably have children of their own who need their attention, spouses with marriages that might be in trouble, illnesses, friend problems, or professional issues. They might be in school themselves or even working another job. You never know what’s going on in someone else’s life. Your child’s teacher is no exception. So cut them some slack. Be patient, and address your concerns in love. Basically embody the grace you wish to receive!
Here’s a picture of the note holders.
About 6 months ago I was looking for a good book to read. I saw this title and quickly read the description. It didn’t sound like my kind of book, so I passed and read a Stephen King novel instead.
Fast forward about 4 months, and I’m once again browsing amazon for a great read. Shaun tells me he’s heard a lot of buzz about some book called “50 Shades of Grey.” I search the title and read the description. It sounds vaguely familiar and I remember that I’d passed on this book already and am not very interested. I am however, desperate for a new book, and this does say #1 New York Times Bestseller. So I upload part 1 onto my ipad and resign to give it a try once our cross country road trip gets underway.
Now picture this. Me, Shaun, and 4 kids in the car somewhere between California and Texas and I’m in the passenger seat about 300 miles in with nerves that are beyond frayed! I open my kindle app and decide to try to get into my new book. We stop at our hotel for the night and I’m about 3 chapters in to 50 Shades, and honestly I’m a little bored. Reading about the awkward life of a 20 year old college student doesn’t normally constitute good reading for me. I like books that start with a bang! and this one wasn’t it. And then all of a sudden I’m about 1/4 of the way into the book and…..BAM!! All hell breaks loose in this novel. I literally find myself in the bed next to Shaun at about 1 am covering my flushed, embarrassed face with my ipad and giggling out loud. I can’t believe what I’m reading, and I can’t pull my eyes away either. After a few giggles and “oh my gods,” Shaun is dying to know what’s going on in my book. I’m much too mortified to tell him. But he insists, and so through many starts and stops (because I can’t bring myself to utter aloud some of the words in this book) I read him a few passages. He is equally as shocked as me, but is also shall I say “intrigued.” What ensues is…well…a good night of marital fun that I would say is one for the books!…lmbo!!
So why do I say all this??? Not to give you a glimpse into our very private sex life. Shaun and I share a lot online, but I do have to draw the line somewhere.
I share this because I am shocked actually that I haven’t seen one post or discussion about this book among any of my friends on twitter or facebook. This book has sold over 16 MILLION copies!! It is the first amazon kindle book ever to sell over 1 million copies. So despite the deafening silence from my super Christian, stay-at-home mommy friends, I KNOW at least half of you have read or are reading this book! My non-Christian friends are certainly talking about it. There was even a book group about it among some stay at home moms (again, only the non-Christian ones). The only Christian related post I have seen was something from someone admonishing women that sin is sin and porn is porn whether it is seen or read.
Hear me, I agree with that statement…mostly. I know all about porn. Well maybe not ALL about it…I’m no expert or anything ;-) But, I know that it is a struggle for way more Christians than will ever admit to it publicly. And for some of yall it’s not a struggle at all. It is a very real and accepted part of your lifestyle. I’m not being “judgy” either. Over our 11 years together, Shaun and I have used pornography as a tool in the bedroom. The truth is, however, that we have found it to mostly be destructive and counterproductive to true intimacy. So we’ve made a commitment to never use it again-seperately nor together. It takes away much more than it adds.
That being said, I do feel differently about reading the 50 Shades series. It’s like the disclaimer “no animals were harmed in the making of this product.” I feel the same way about reading 50 Shades. Part of the problem with pornography is that watching it electronically or looking at it in magazines requires you to be a participant in the spiritual destruction of real people. Another problem with pornography is that it often leads to selfish acts of masturbation that draw affection away from your actual spouse. I didn’t find either of these to be the case while reading 50 Shades. For one, it is pure fantasy. Literally. There are no real people. No real scenarios. As a matter of fact, most of the erotic scenes in the book couldn’t be more out of touch with reality. And I have to agree with most critics and fans alike when they say that the book is very poorly written. It won’t be winning any literary awards. But beneath all the straps and whips and oohs and aahhs, there is an actual love story. Don’t twist your lips and roll your eyes, I’m serious…the love affair between Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey is quite moving! Underneath all the bad writing, and crazy red room antics, is a very human story of passion, need, and vulnerability. I was so drawn to the characters and storyline that by part 2, 50 Shades Darker, I found myself skimming past the sex scenes to get to what I felt was the real good part: the love story.
I know many will disagree with me about the sin level of partaking in the phenomenon that is Christian Grey. That’s fine. I see the holes in my argument about what makes this different than your run of the mill porn. I read this book on my kindle and am slightly mortified whenever I see a woman openly reading it in public. And I finished the series over a month ago and am just now working up the nerve to admit that I even know this book exists. But what I do think needs to be discussed is this epidemic of Christian marriages that are being ruined by our lack of ability to discuss sex and pleasure openly. I literally have friends whose husbands are struggling with addictions to pornography. And some of it is because they (the wives) are too prudish to approach their husband’s needs in any way that is not specifically spelled out in the bible. I literally had a set of friends who proudly professed that they never pleased each other orally, and never did any position other than missionary. Ok, that’s fine…I guess. But fast forward 3 years and come to find out the husband has a secret addiction to porn! When I found out I was shocked!!! I didn’t think this couple knew what porn was much less engaged in it. And this couple I speak of is just one of many. Over the past year, I have been floored to learn of the men who actively engage in pornography behind their wive’s backs.
I am convinced that the secrecy, shame, and fake “holiness” of Christian sex lives is doing so much harm that it is leading to dissatisfied husbands (and wives) who think that their prudishness is pleasing to God but is actually fueling sinful addictions outside of the marriage. My husband doesn’t have a secret porn addiction because he doesn’t have to. I’m not saying that he’s above sexual sin. I’m just saying that the openness we share and express inside and outside of the bedroom ensures that his imagination is engaged and that we are both MORE than satisfied with one another. Do we have other problems? Sure. But I can guarantee that sex isn’t one of them. We talk, we share fantasies, we even visit adult toy shops.
I’m not encouraging anyone to sin. I am talking about MARITAL relationships between one man and one woman. There’s no swinging going on here and like I said earlier, we don’t watch or look at porn. But everything outside of quiet missionary style isn’t sin. And I think the biggest gift of the 50 Shades of Grey series is that Shaun and I both learned about things (in a safe, monogamous environment) that we never knew existed and have had a great time purchasing and using “enhancements” that make sure that the fire stays burning 15 years into this relationship.
Set your limits, and stay within the sacred confines of your marriage. But don’t be a prude. And don’t close yourself off to the shared pleasure that comes from a sex life that evolves, learns, and explores. The unmarried version of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey might not be pleasing to God, but neither is a dissatisfied husband who turns to pornography and neither is divorce.
I am such a terrible blogger! I attended the wedding of one of my dear friends this past weekend and while there spent some time with another one of my dear friends from my dear ole’ Spelman College! Much to my surprise, my friend, Sam, told me how much she enjoyed reading my blog and how it made her feel like we were just sitting down chatting together! That was so cool to hear, because me and Sam were such good friends our freshwoman year and to think that we she could still feel connected through my ramblings online was awesome! So when she said that I had the thought that I really should blog more.
I actually blog in my head all the time. I think of posts I should write several times a day. But seeing as how I am almost NEVER home, and when I am there are 50 million other things going on, blogging is close to my mind, but the furthest thing from my “to do” list.
Right now the kids are with Granny, and Shaun is still asleep, so I find myself in a rare moment of peace and quiet, and am actually going to put fingers to keyboard and blog!
This is my third “blog.” And as I look back over all of my posts from the past 4 years, I realize that I blog mostly for myself now. Blogging for me is like scrap booking. It is a way to keep record of my wild and crazy life. I was shocked when I visited my first blog (www.hisbetterhalf.com) and read about some of the experiences I’d forgotten I’d had. I was also surprised at some of my thinking and how much it has changed over the years. It was great to see the changes, growth, struggles, and developments that have taken place from hisbetterhalf to raiking.com (which I affectionately refer to as “the tortured years”…lol) to now this lifeloveandbabies blog.
I can easily see the progression from hisbetterhalf which started as a piggyback off of my husband Shaun’s blog (shauninthecity.com). A great deal of that blog was written as my take on the going’s on of his life. I started it as a place for me to express my opinions on discussions he was having on his blog.
Raiking.com was almost completely about me: my thoughts, my frustrations, my difficulties, etc. I didn’t blog much about my life with the kids, nor happy times with Shaun. There was some of that. But what stands out are the angry, disgruntled posts. I don’t particularly enjoy going back and reading that blog, but I’m glad I have it. Those posts really are a record of all that I’ve been through and what God can sustain and grow you though.
So now that my children are all going back to school (no longer homeschooling) and until I start school in January, I will have at least a couple of dedicated hours a day to actually sit down and think straight, I am committing to blogging more.
As a matter of fact I am going to write another post right now about something quite salacious and “juicy” as my husband loves to say!..lol.
I actually should have started my trip planning blogging with this. When planning a trip of any sort the first thing I do is create a budget. I’m the money person in our house. I hate it. It’s stressful, but it’s necessary. So with the help of my Dave Ramsey style envelopes, every month I create a budget. Working a vacation into it-especially one of this magnitude- has proven to be very tricky. A couple of things help: traveling only when it’s work related (Shaun’s work). This way our hotel and gas is normally covered by whatever conference/church has invited Shaun to speak. Also, visiting as many “free” sites as possible during our trips saves on entertainment tremendously. So national parks, and simply walking famous streets while posing for photo ops tends to be how we entertain ourselves on the road.
Anyway, here’s a very basic schedule and budget that will be our guide as we travel (with the actual numbers “x’d” out b/c it’s none of your business :-)
Leaving California Friday July 6th
Driving East Friday July 6th-Tuesday July 10th
Orlando Tuesday July 10th- Friday July 13th
Disney Friday July 13th- Wednesday July 18th
Leaving Atlanta Thursday July 19th
Kentucky Thursday July 19th- Tuesday July 24th
Driving West Tuesday July 24th- Saturday July 28th
Returning to California Saturday July 28th
Gas Roundtrip: $xxxx
Hotels Roundtrip @$xxx/piece: $xxxx
Disney Tickets: $xxxx
Dining Plan: $xxxx
Spending Money: $xxxx
Universal Studios: $xxx
Museums and Stuff: $xxx
Leaves: $xxxx that we have to save in the next 3 months
Today I am working on the logistics of the actual trip. I am planning how many miles we’ll drive each day, where we’ll lodge, what we’ll eat, and what sights we’ll see. I use these three books, with the internet, to make these plans.
When we moved to California the Next Exit book was sooo helpful! It tells you what stores, restaurants, gas stations, and hotels are off every exit of every interstate in the country. It helped immensely in gas refuels and emergency bathroom breaks.
“Let’s Go Roadtripping” helped to identify famous and interesting landmarks on the most famous roadtrip routes across the country. They highlight stops along Route66-which we traveled on our move from Kentucky to California. Other routes charted are Pacific Coast Highway, National Road, The Great North, Oregon Trail, Southern Border, East Coast, and Deep South. It includes the operating hours of each museum and attraction mentioned as well as prices, phone numbers, and addresses. It also lists area hotels and top-rated restaurants.
And finally, the Road Atlas has state maps with big cities, small cities, highways and interstates. I don’t always trust the GPS and used the maps to make sure we didn’t get lost.
Below is a how I have planned our first day’s travel. I will do this for each leg of the trip.
Cross Country Summer Trip
Aliso to Tucson- 400+ miles, 6+ hours
Painted rocks & petroglyphs RDT pg.881; I-8 exit 102
Center of the world RDT pg. 883; exit 115
Tucson I-10 exit 246 or 256 Holiday Inn Express
Also Roadrunner Hostel or Loews Ventana Canyon Resort RDT pgs. 866-67
El Charro RDT pg. 867
Traveling has always been a big part of our homeschooling. It’s actually a large reason why we decided to go ahead and make the transition into homeschooling- to have the flexibility to travel. So whenever we take a big trip, I like to put together activity books for the kids. I include facts about landmarks, history of the state and city we’re visiting, important people, events, etc. It takes me FOREVER to make these books, but it makes sure the kids are actually learning something as we travel.
A couple of years ago I bought these journals at a homeschool conference. I kept forgetting about them, so unfortunately we haven’t used them yet and the kids have missed many opportunities to record their adventures in here. But, I’m breaking them out for this trip for the 2 big girls. I will make an “easy reader” version for Ezekiel.
Inside this journal are:
*a checklist page listing items to pack
*a list of car games to play
*a list of good car games to buy
*a list of car friendly arts and crafts
*a page to record the addresses of old friends to mail postcards to during the trip
*a page to record the addresses of new friends made during the trip
*a page to record personal information about the journal owner w/space for a picture
*two types of journaling pages: short version for short visits, and a long version for longer visits.
So today in preparation for our trip I will be creating Ezekeil’s travel journal and maybe even one for Savannah. I will also help them all fill in the personal information page, glue in a picture, and create a packing checklist.
My family is just 16 days away from taking our summer vacation. Shaun has to speak at a conference in Orlando, Florida. So we’re packing up the family and spending 2 weeks on the road to travel with him. We’re Disney fanatics, and though we’ve grown to absolutely love Disneyland out here in California, Disney World in Orlando is super special to us. The kids are beside themselves with excitement at the thought of returning to our first love :-)
Every time we tell someone about our trip, they are shocked that we’d even attempt it. I understand that 6 people (4 of them children from ages 3 to 12) in a van for 36 hrs would strike fear in most. But we did it when we moved to California 8 months ago and lived to tell the tale. There were car fights, and frustrating times. And Shaun and I might have gotten divorced on the side of the road if a lawyer and papers had been conveniently waiting, but all in all, it was a great time ;-)
I’m knee deep in the planning process now, and will try to post updates and resources to show exactly how I’ll be putting this trip together, so stay tuned!