It Really Is Simple

“Why do I have to make everything so complicated?” I asked myself as I was trying to figure out the details of my son’s birthday party. My son’s birthday falls two weeks after Thanksgiving (a holiday we host every year) and two weeks before Christmas (a holiday we were hosting for my husband’s side this particular year). The holiday season is hard enough on all of us, but to host three large gatherings every two weeks during the most hectic time of the year, I was feeling overwhelmed and burnt out.

For months I had been hearing a voice inside saying “it really is simple” and for the life of me I could not figure out what this voice was referring to. Over and over again I would find myself lying in bed at night, walking on the treadmill at the gym or standing in the shower and this voice would pop up speaking simplicity into my soul. I decided one night to really give it to God and ask what on earth I was supposed to do with this message.

The next two weeks I spent a lot of time praying about what specifically I needed to simplify. One look around my house told me I had WAY too much stuff (especially after just having a December birthday party and celebrating five, yes five, family Christmases)! But I knew there was more I was being called to simplify.

2018 was an exciting year for our family, we welcomed our nephew into our home while my sister was deployed to Iraq, and we also welcomed a new baby in the fall. There was a lot of change and, while it was all positive, the impact it had on our family life and my sanity (if we’re being honest) wasn’t always cheerful. With three kids under the age of three I recognized very quickly that my parenting style was best described as “survival mode” and my relationship with my husband was, at best, lukewarm. It’s not that we weren’t a team or no longer in love, but we were running on fumes most days and hadn’t spent much time investing in our marriage. These were all areas I knew I needed to spend time nurturing but if I thought I felt overwhelmed in the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, trying to determine how I was going to work on every area of my life and home was starting to feel like too much.

Yet the voice persisted, “it really is simple”.

The first Sunday of the new year I was sitting in church and our sermon that weekend focused on a marriage that works. Our pastor asked us, speaking of our marriages, “are you enduring or are you enjoying?” and I recognized that this question is applicable in every aspect of my life.

Am I enduring parenthood or am I enjoying parenthood?

Am I enduring a cluttered house or am I enjoying this space as a place where love and joy can flourish?

Am I enduring feeling sluggish and tired or am I enjoying this body as a temple where the Holy Spirit dwells?

Am I enduring my life on earth as a Christian or am I enjoying the rich and full relationship God has called me to with him, through Jesus Christ.

That weekend I resolved that in order to simplify my life in the areas I was being called to, I first needed to start with my relationship with God, another relationship that I felt was lacking. All throughout the Bible, when the Israelites or Christians were struggling, the same message was given: “return to me.”

Lamentations 3:40 tells us “let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.”

God isn’t asking me to be the perfect Christian, the perfect wife, the perfect mother, sister, friend, etc. God is asking me to turn back to Him; to start with him and to watch how he can help everything else to unfold. He’s reminding me (over and over again in his word) that he loved me SO much, he gave up everything for a relationship with me and in turn, he’s asking me, very simply, to love God FIRST and then to love others. He’s asking me to put HIM before the birthday party details, before the laundry list of things I think I need to be doing, before the “stuff” and before my unrealistic expectations of other people (especially my poor husband).

See, what I found was that the more I let things clutter my space and my mind, the more out of control and complicated things become. By ridding myself of the things that are taking up unnecessary space in my home, heart and mind, by handing them over to the one who has it already figured out (see Jeremiah 29:11), I can spend more time focusing on being who he called me to be.

So, while I’m not one for resolutions I am working on simplicity, or actually- just making things less complicated. I’m working on turning my home from a vessel of items to a place where my marriage and children can flourish, where guests feel welcomed and loved. I’m working on making parenting less complicated (which actually starts with bored kids – maybe a topic for another post?) and taking time each day to enjoy the gift of being loved, so very loved, by God. I’ve got little notes all over my house with three simple words: “return to me”, as a way to continually turn my thoughts in every situation back to Christ.

To think that God has found a way to use a couple of post-it notes to help me take captive my thoughts is nothing short of incredible. While not always easy, it really is simple.

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Meditations on the Vocation of Motherhood / Volume 1: Old Testament // Book Review

Are there any good devotional books you’d recommend???

It's a question we get a lot here at Holy Hen House. And with good reason! It can be tough to find a devotional that not only a) keeps your attention but also b) contains some good scriptural "meat". So when one of our readers asked if we would review her latest devotional book, "Meditations on the Vocation of Motherhood, Volume 1: Old Testament", we were eager to do so!

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There's so much jam-packed goodness in Marie K. MacPherson's book I almost don't know where to start! Since I love lists, I figured I'd number some of my favorite aspects of this devotional, in no particular order :)

  1.  Biblical content: As the title says, each one of these devotions are based on passage/section of the Old Testament, drawing a correlation to our journey as mothers. Not only are these connections made by Marie on point and thought-provoking, they also remind me of some of the Bible history I learned as a child but have long since almost forgotten. I love the way her correlations draw me back into the text and have instilled a hunger for more knowledge of these Biblical events.
  2. Length: Each devotion is only one page long in the 5' x 7' book, which make them absolutely perfect for reading while drinking your coffee, eating breakfast or in between running your kiddos from point A to point B.
  3. Opportunities: IF you end up with extra time on your hands (HA!) or can find a second moment to sit during the day, she offers plenty of opportunity to further your study and extend the devotions by including at a minimum of two additional Bible verses or chapters at the bottom of each page "for further reading". I absolutely love this as my schedule rarely ever looks the same from day-to-day and sometimes I am able to sit for longer than others. This is also a perfect opportunity to "journal" if you're a Bible journal-er like me :)
  4. Broad Audience: Somehow Marie has found a way to write to all mothers, not just those who stay home, not just those with little kids, not just those with careers. She writes in a general enough manner that I am quite confident that all moms could glean encouragement from her words.

Any criticism I would have for this devotional would be purely based on preference. If you are a story-teller like me and love somewhat in-depth, real-life experiences shared by the author, you may miss that in this book; however, this also makes for a more direct, shorter message which I can definitely appreciate.

All-in-all, if you're looking for a devotional which is strong in Scripture and provides great encouragement to mothers in all stages of parenting, than Ms. MacPherson's book is a must-grab for you. What a great gift it would make for the other mothers in your life! You can purchase the book and read other reader's thoughts about the book on Marie's website HERE or find it on Amazon.

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A Prayer for the Littles

As I watch you imagining,

pretending,

sharing,

singing,

I have so many questions about you,

my sweet ones.

Will you be kind?

What will you be when you grow?

Will you be weak,

or will you be strong?

What are the things you'll want to know?

But so much more important, 

my dear littles.

Will you still believe?

Will you pray, learn, will your faith grow?

Will you be weak,

or will you be strong?

Will you share your faith and what you know?

So I pray hard and I pray often for you

my precious ones.

I pray your faith is fierce.

I pray God keeps you close to Him.

I pray you can be bold.

I pray you share your love for Him.

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May God keep you and I together

in a faith sure and true.

May the Holy Spirit guide us

to fan our faith flames blue.

May the peace in knowing

that      Christ      Jesus      has       died.

Help us be ever courageous

until we are there by His side.

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2 Steps to a Simple Summer

When you live in a state like Wisconsin, where it is winter a good portion of the year... okay pretty much mostly winter all of the time, it can be hard not to come to the sweet, sweet summer months with guns-a-blazing. 

"Let's do all the things!"

says every well-intentioned mother on the planet. 

But then summer hits. I'm almost never organized enough to get anywhere on time. Somehow, the house is a disaster on the daily, even though I thought we were playing outside (because, THE SUN IS SHINING PEOPLE!). My visions of children building ornate sand castles get stomped. The joy of summer seems to get sucked right out of me like a one of those ridiculous straws that I can never get cleaned. 

I am trying a new plan this summer. A new mantra if you will. Well the mantra isn't new but it is a new one for me... you get the idea here. 

Keep it simple (stupid). 

 You can leave the stupid part out because shhhh we don't even say that word in this house! 

This is my last summer before my oldest child starts Kindergarten. <insert a mom's ugly cry here> She will be in school all day, every day. I want to enjoy this summer for the simplicity that it is. From here on out there will be practices, groups, clubs and what not. And that's okay. But for me, right now, this year, I need simple. 

So here's my plan. I have no idea if it will work. I have no idea if I will stick with it. But hey! I'm sharing it anyway.

  1. Share the work. We all clean for around 15 minutes per day. Many hands make light the load. Even if the hands are small and distracted, it's still better than me doing nothing at all. We set a timer and get to work for 15 minutes and then we're done! I follow a cleaning schedule usually which helps overall to the general house cleanliness. 
  2. Plan simple. This is tough for me. My daughter is one that enjoys doing things--but cannot be scheduled all the time. My son could be running 24-7 and still have enough energy to do more. My other son still naps twice a day. With all these different needs I am planning to make our days reasonable. Let's go to the zoo.... for 1-2 hours only. Let's go to the pool... for just a little bit. I don't *have* to pack lunch. I don't *have* to miss nap time. Filter in a few day long adventures here and there (when we are all feeling good and rested) and it shouldn't feel like we are missing out on anything. 

So that is kind of it. 

Simple, right? Only two things to remember.

I love being outside and enjoying God's beautiful seasons with my children. I don't love the mom I become when I'm overwhelmed with housework with cranky kids hanging on my hip. I want our summer to be about sand and sunshine, parks and pools, watermelon and strawberries. So I'm hoping my new simple mantra will help me out.

I hope that you fellow mothers out there can find your groove this summer as well. It doesn't have to be The Best Summer Ever. It doesn't have to be Instagram or Facebook approved. It just has to be what works for you and your little creatures. And, also, you have to be okay with that. 

So I tip my (sun)hat to you. I hope you and I can share a relaxed laugh together. Soak up some rays. Thank God together for these beautiful days to make the mundane and the memorable memories with our littles. 

Happy simple summer friends.

 

 

 

 

decisions, decisions...

I am an over-thinker. An over-analyzer. A dweller. A not very good decision maker. Maybe you have found yourself in my shoes, once, twice, or a million times?

While I have to admit my decision making skills (or lack of them rather) spill over into the other parts of my life, I find them to be the most debilitating in my mothering. This lack of quick thinking can be rather annoying because mothering is full of so many choices from basically the most ridiculous all the way to the really difficult.

What should I feed my children for breakfast today? What will keep them full the longest and not begging for snacks?

What should I dress my children in today? What is the least likely to get destroyed in today's activities?

What should we do today? What will wear my kids out enough to rest later?

Should I send my daughter to school this year? Will she freak out everyday until summer?

Should we attempt church? With an out of control, crazy, almost two year old?

How should I discipline my son and daughter? What is the most effective but not traumatizing (for both of us) way?

How can I lead my children to want to know and love God? What if they don't?

While I might be alone in my inner contradictory dialogue, I'm guessing I am not the only one who has questioned whether or not you were making the right decisions for your children.

Fortunately for all of us, the decisions that our Heavenly Father has made we don't need to wonder whether or not are correct. Decisions He made to provide us with our individual children. God knows what is best for us and for our children and fit us together accordingly.

I need to remind myself just that! God gave me my children. He gave them to me because He knew I was good for them. God guides me to make all of these decisions both small and large. I can trust that He is guiding me and my children on the right path. I may not be doing things the same way as my friends, or the internet, or even my own mother, but I am doing the best that I can with God's help. I don't need to stand around wondering the what if's, I need to pray. I need to stop the worrying, and put my trust in my Heavenly Father.

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Heavenly Father, Thank you for the children you have given me. Thank you for their unique, crazy, and amazing personalities that keep me on my toes. Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to be their mother, example, and leader. Forgive me for the messes I've made with them. Guide me. Guide me to discipline them. Guide me to love them. Guide me to make the right decisions for them. Help them to grow to know and love you. Help them (and me) to lead a life pleasing in your sight. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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