Traveling Companions {aka Cultivating a Support System}

- by Andrea Birch - Leave a Comment
Traveling Companions {aka Cultivating a Support System}

When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up--one on one side, one on the other--so that his hands remained steady till sunset. ~Exodus 17:12

In the summer of 2008, I experienced what you might call burnout, depression, anxiety, or even a full on nervous breakdown. There were a few things that contributed to this. My oldest daughter was starting public high school, and I was anxious about that and how she would do. We had our house on the market. We had big plans to sell and do something radical with our lives. Years and years of babies and untreated postpartum depression had had its wear on me. Years and years of not properly caring for myself put me in a bad place to deal with all the unexpected stress that was coming my way. And I wasn’t trusting God.

That summer the economy crashed. No one was coming to look at our house. I was on edge all the time, exhausted all the time, and then…I found out I was pregnant! At the time I thought I could not handle another child. In my fragile mental state, I struggled and prayed to accept the pregnancy. There went our big dreams; there went my trust in the Lord. I was devastated that my life wasn’t turning out the way I thought it “should”.

At the time, I thought I had a support system that would help me. I do not have family nearby so I rely heavily on friends and my church to get me through the tough times—whatever my needs are— from prayer to babysitting to a kind and encouraging word—whatever it is in any situation.

There were some of my friends that noticed I wasn’t doing well. They called me, wanted to make sure I was ok, and offered to make me meals. And there were some that noticed and did not do anything—for whatever reason.  I was terribly, terribly hurt by the ones that did not reach out to me in a time that I needed it the most.  When you are in a state like I was, you need others to help you and reach out. You aren’t in a position to ask.

That experience taught me that I needed to take control and cultivate my own support system. I took it for granted that just because I had been friends with people for almost 10 years and had been going to a church for that long that I would be supported. Without going into a lot of detail, sadly I realized that wasn’t true.

Aaron and Hur were an amazing support system for Moses. When the Israelites were fighting the Amalekites, the Lord promised Moses that as long as his hands were held up, the Israelites would prevail against the Amalekites. Because it was impossible for Moses to hold his hands up for that long of time during the fighting, Aaron and Hur stood on either side of him and held his hands up for him, making it become possible. Without their help, it would have been and would have seemed impossible for Moses to endure the fighting and help the Israelites win. But because of his two loyal and helpful friends, he was able to do what God would have him do.

I think this story is a beautiful picture of the community we have been given in Christ. We need our sisters in the Lord to upheld us, encourage us, pray for us, support us, be there for us. I realized that more than ever in my own time of need.

Since then I have really made an effort to cultivate a support system. I assumed that others would take on that responsibility and automatically know I needed support, and I do long for those kinds of people in my life, but for the most part I must cultivate that.

Some ways I have learned to do this:

1.  Realize I am needy.

I am a needy person. I can't do everything on my own, nor was I made to. Its okay to ask for help, the Lord wants us to! He created us to need Him, first and foremost. He created a community of believers, a body, to work together to support and help one another. What a wonderful gift. It is a shame if we don't use what He has given us.

2. Be open.

I realized that when I am stressed and overwhelmed, I retreat into my home and mind and just focus on what needs to be done and do it until I can breathe again. Through my experience, I have learned that I must be open with my thoughts and feelings to others about what I need help with, what I am struggling with, and to also ask for prayer.

A wonderful thing that came out of my experience is that I have a prayer partner who I can go to when I need to know someone is praying. She also does the same for me. I can text her and ask her to pray for a specific situation, but we also have certain requests that we share with each other that we try to pray for each other every day. Since this month is one where I am feeling very overwhelmed, we decided that we would "pray our way" through August for each other.

Is there someone you could ask to be your lifelong prayer partner? Someone who you could count on to be committed to you in prayer and can you do that for them as well? Share with others your need to have a support system. Let them know you need them.

3. Do for others.

If you are in a good place in your life, how can you be a support system to others? I realized that some people need to be taught how to love and encourage and support others. It comes very naturally for me, and I believe it is one of my spiritual gifts, but not everyone is like that. I look for ways to encourage, pray and support people whenever I can. It is what the Lord has called me to do and I must obey Him. I don't always succeed, but I am always open to who He would have me minister to.

4. Cultivate friendships.

This goes alone with number three. I must really cultivate the relationships in my life. They don't just "happen." They take work and care! I am thankful to the women in my life who cultivate friendships with me.

I have found that these four ways have helped me cultivate a meaningful support system in my life. I find myself struggling with a lot of the same things I struggled with a few years ago this August, and now I feel I am better equipped and able to handle them with the support system that has grown and been cultivated over the last four years.

Because the voice of a fellow traveler always stimulates his brother-pilgrim, what one finds and speaks of and rejoices over, sets the other upon determining to find too. God has been very good to you, as well as to me, but we ought to whisper to each other now and then, 'Go on, step faster, step surer, lay hold on the Rock of Ages with both hands.' You never need be afraid to speak such words to me. I want to be pushed on, and pulled on and coaxed on."~Elizabeth Prentiss

Even Though

- by Stacy Buck - Leave a Comment
Even Though

A few weeks ago, I hired a babysitter to entertain my children so I could have a morning in the garden. My husband and I had daunting tasks before us. Weeds! Everywhere I looked there were weeds to be pulled. In every row, crowding every plant, as far as the eye could see...weeds. My husband does most of the planting, all of the organic concocting (I can't handle the smell of that stuff) and most of the really hard labor. The weeds are left to me...simple right? This job would be ideal if I had no other responsibilities - no home to clean-then clean again, no children that need attention, no fights to break up, no tears to wipe, no stories to tell, no car to clean out (which rarely happens), no phone to answer, no groceries to be bought, no laundry to do...I know you could go on and on too.

So I finally get out to the garden without a three year old sitting in my lap, crawling through my arms or standing in an ant piles. I start with one row in mind - if I could just get one row weeded the morning would be a success. However, I sat in the quiet (enjoying it thoroughly), I began to feel "condemned" by the job I had done the last few months in the garden. I mean pulling weeds was the ONLY job I had out there. Obviously if I had to hire a babysitter, ask for help  and give my husband the "big brown eyed - please come to my aid look" I failed at my job. I began to feel discouraged even disgusted with the shape of our treasured place.


God didn't let this abuse go on for very long. The Lord began to whisper these two words to me,

"Even though..."

Those words began to roll through my whole body eventually landing gently in the precious ground of my heart.

"Even though" the weeds were evidence of nothing more than lack of time - not ability or laziness - our garden still produced wonderful fruit and time spent as a family. The roses from mother's day were planted "Even though" none had really bloomed - yet. Our tomato branches are loaded with delicious tomatoes that my girls pick and eat right there "Even Though" weeds surround every bush. I have had fresh sunflower bouquets every week for two months now "Even Though" my daughters have to go through a chigger forest to cut them. My girls have had a blast picking ripe grapes from our arbor "EvenThough" they are sour as sin. We have a pantry full of pickeled okra, carrots, pepporcini peppers, green beans, cucumbers and the best roasted salsa you've ever tasted, "Even Though" our crop didn't produce as expected.


The point I felt God was making was this: "Even Though" you will never be perfect, your soil will never be with out work, YOU will still produce fruit for I AM is your gardener. All that HE touches "Even Though" with imperfections, still brings glory to HIM.

One day, our garden may be featured in a magazine for it's beauty and win all kinds of awards but my home will be empty. There will be no sticky fingerprints,  no snot marks on my couch, stories to tell or little hands to hold. The only tears I will have to wipe will be my own.  So in the mean time I'll weed when I get the chance and sow seeds of kindness, goodness, gentleness (on good days) to my precious children - the most fertile ground entrusted to me. It won't be long and my season for planting will have passed and the flowers of their childhood will be but faded memories.

God is very much part of our life. He is our soul's gardener and He is never too busy, too distracted or too good to get His hands dirty in the details of our heart. May God meet you where you are "Even Though" you may not like the place you are in. 

 Photo Credit

Cultivating Home As Sanctuary

- by Brenda Nuland - Leave a Comment
Cultivating Home As Sanctuary

There is something about the words... coming home... that create the loveliest of images in my mind... a place of Sanctuary from the storms which batter from the outside world.

I truly believe our homes are a blank canvas in which each homemaker creates Art for those she loves.  A home whose meals, and bookshelves, and colors, and garden, and art, and music, and traditions... all tell the story of the family that lives within.

If there is one feature I've noticed over the years that I have found in every home I consider warm and cozy... it is not a big house, or expensive furniture, or even peace and quiet. 

What I have found in every such home is a woman who loves her family and puts thought into making her home a cozy, comfortable place... a Sanctuary.

My daughter and I both love decorating our own canvases... finding lovely vintage items in flea markets, thrift stores, and garage sales within our budget.  We enjoy the hunt itself and the fun of finding hidden treasure.  However, our homes look quite different as one walks through the front door.  I prefer darker colors and English Country while her home is a light and airy Cottage Style.

Is one right and the other wrong?  Oh, my no!  I actually find it interesting that her home looks like her and reminds me of her outgoing sanguine personality while mine hints at the introvert I tend to be most of the time.  Home should most reflect who we are... our Sanctuary.

For home is where you feel safe and loved.  It is the place our children find their favorite pillows, and books, and pictures, and music, and the shampoo that does not sting their eyes.  Home is where favorite meals are served and the table set with familiar dishes.  The same table where prayers are said, school lessons learned, and values absorbed.

Isn't there something wonderful that happens to our senses as we walk through the front door and the aromas of cooking are making their way from the kitchen?   So many of my own memories of Mother took place in the kitchen... although my father was also an excellent cook.

Our homes are Sanctuary where a small child knows there will be hugs and Goodnight Moon as they are tucked in each night and the older children wait their turn for the next chapter of Anne of Green Gables or Robinson Crusoe.

Is home always a place of perfection?  Not in this world!  I have learned through the years that home does not have to be perfect to be good.  In many lovely homes we know the food is simple, the furniture unmatched, the carpet shows the stains of spilled juice, a toddler is having a meltdown at nap time, and a mother needs forgiveness because she is cranky when life overwhelms her.

I often think of a home I visited as a newlywed which belonged to my husband's friends and their parents.  I remember walking into the home and meeting the mother as she worked alongside her children at a large old table, stitching the designs for which she was known.

For the mother was also a fiber artist whose beautiful liturgical wall hangings took one's breath away.  She shared her love for Christ and His Gospel through the works of her hands.  Her home was inviting but if one looked around, far from magazine perfect.

There was the organized clutter in rooms which come with creativity, the background noise of a busy house, and well worn furniture to sit upon as we shared conversation.  But all these years later it continues to be one of my favorite homes I have ever had the pleasure to enter because of the atmosphere within.

We cannot guarantee our children a life with no heartaches, bruises, or trouble. 

However, as we live day to day and year to year, we can create a home which to them is a Sanctuary from the world. 

A place they know they will always be welcome, a place they will always find love, a place filled with mercy and grace, a place that is never perfect... but good. 

Photo Credit

Cultivating Your Home As a Place of Learning

- by Misty Krasawski - Leave a Comment
Cultivating Your Home As a Place of Learning

Today in America it is estimated there are one and a half to two million students being educated entirely at home.  While this educational choice is still unconventional—comprising only about 3% of the total student population—it’s no longer marginalized. Curriculum choices abound. New conferences, retreats, blogs, even television stations devoted to the topic pop up on a regular basis.

Of course the truth is, all of our children are educated at home—regardless of the amount of time they spend consciously focusing on learning. By the time your child is technically “school age,” you’ve already taught him several subjects. He speaks English fluently, using fairly decent grammar, though he has no idea what a preposition is. She is able to walk, run, use the bathroom, and possibly tie her shoes. He can count (how many plates do we need for the table?) and divide (just ask him to share a plate of cookies with his sister). She probably knows her colors and some letters, shapes, how to throw a ball, and maybe even clap in rhythm.

You’re already a teacher. You just may not know it yet!

This is a great time of year for all of us to consider our homes as learning environments. What can we do to ensure that the time they do spend there is conducive to expanding their minds and souls? Here are a few ideas on how to cultivate your home as a learning environment.

Add learning stations

Encourage your children to dream and explore with a geography area. A small table holding a globe, atlases, laminated maps and dry erase markers to trace and copy inspire young explorers and help them feel familiar with the world—even places far away.

Having an area set aside for creative artistic endeavors is a great idea, too. Placing construction paper, blunt scissors, colored pencils, glue sticks, washable paints and brushes, smocks, play-dough, etc. in an area easily cleaned up (not on the carpet!) can bring out your child’s inner Monet.

How about music? All children enjoy tambourines, drums, rain sticks, and castanets. And if you have a piano they can try their skills on, that’s a bonus. Note: Here’s the place for carpet! A CD player with child-friendly buttons (easy to use; hard to destroy!) and a stack of music they’ll enjoy is a great addition here. And when you purchase their music, make sure it’s something you will enjoy, too! Music for kids doesn’t have to be goofy and annoying; in fact, it’s better if it’s not. Look for beautiful sounds, and they will respond.

A cozy corner with a beanbag, comfy chair or a big floor pillow and a bookshelf full of engaging picture books will entice children to spend time cuddled up with words. There are all kinds of ways to store books—make your own rain-gutter bookshelves, or just pile them up in a big basket. If you can find a way to display the covers, it will be simpler for your child to choose which story he wants to disappear into for awhile.

Make room in your schedule

Summer can be overwhelming in part because our days are so unstructured! Taking a look at your family’s days and rhythms may give you a vision for the regularly occurring downtimes when a nudge in the right direction could help. For example: during your morning lull, you may decide it’s time for everyone to pursue *something* on their own—here’s a great time for those learning stations. After lunch can be a wonderful time for gathering everyone on the couch for a read-aloud. Late afternoon might find some children working on chores, others helping in the kitchen, or perhaps that’s the best time to fit in music practice.

Show and tell times with daddy or other visitors can give children an incentive to create or learn something new! Invite some friends over for a talent show, poetry recitation or music night. At dinner, go around the table and let each person share what they learned that day.

Leave plenty of room for getting bored! Children need plenty of unstructured time. Most great ideas, inventions and even cognitive leaps need empty time in order to percolate. When we rush our children from one activity to another, we all lose something very important—time to think! Make sure that doesn’t happen in your house.

Be the example

If you’re telling your children it’s important to play an instrument, they should see you playing something, too! Sports big at your house? Which do you take part in? What’s the last “new thing” you set out to learn, yourself? It’s difficult to convince a child of the importance of something they know very well you are avoiding. Learning was never meant to be limited to twelve years. When you choose something to apply yourself to and they watch you enjoy the process, you’re instilling them with something more than direction: you’re giving them an example. And examples are way more powerful in the long run!

Take a look around this week. What could you do to improve your home as a place of learning?

Cultivating a Home of Peace

- by Joy Forney - Leave a Comment
Cultivating a Home of Peace

As a mama to 5, 4 of them rambunctious boys, a home of peace always seemed like a funny joke. I assumed a home of peace meant we listened to instrumental music all the time, everyone spoke in soothing, quiet voices, and nary an unkind word was spoken. How disappointed I was to realize my reality would never match up with my ideal.  I was wishing for the equivalent of an English tea room, when reality was more along the lines of a county fair. My aha moment came when I realized that peace has more to do with where my focus lies than what my circumstances look like.

Peace in the home begins and ends in my own heart.

As Ann Voskamp says, “Peace is a Person, not a place.” How right she is.  When I am looking to the perfect set of circumstances to bring peace, my peace will quickly be stolen the moment a fight breaks out, the washing machine overflows {again}, or I am interrupted while on the phone.

I have made a checklist of sorts for myself so that I can cultivate that peace in my heart, which then translates into peace in my home. For me, it really comes down to these four things:


1. Am I taking time to refresh my soul personally in the Word?

If my day begins with time in the Word and in His Presence, filling up my soul and my mind with Him and His peace, that is the kind of peace that cannot quickly be taken away. Focusing on the peace that he gives in the midst of the mayhem is the only thing that will bring about a true peace in our hearts.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3


2. Am I cultivating peace in my heart by carving out some time to rest and refresh myself each day?

Enjoying a cup of tea, a chapter of a delicious book, or a quiet nap may sound frivolous, but it goes a long way to cultivating peace in my heart.


3. Am I choosing to use words that convey and communicate peace to those around me?  How?

Using words as worship is an excellent way to begin. Allowing God’s Word to dwell in my heart so that when I am bumped what comes out is sweet.

The most important single aid to my ability to use my tongue for the glory of Jesus is allowing the Word of God to dwell in me so richly that I cannot speak with any other accent.” –Sinclair Ferguson, The Power of Words and the Glory of God

A cup full of sweetness cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, no matter how suddenly jarred.”- Amy Carmichael

“She opens her mouth in wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Proverbs 31:26


4. Am I choosing to love those around me and be patient with them, regardless of how I feel?

Sometimes, it is just simply choosing to do the right thing, even though my flesh wants to disrupt the peace.

I will resolve to love others with the sacrificial love with which I have been loved by God.  I will seek to trust Him to show His love through me by practicing being a servant and lover of all those He has placed in my arena of life.” –Sally Clarkson

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:7


Although life may never be quiet, I can choose to have a peaceful home by having a peaceful heart.