Monday, January 19, 2009

Six hours of educational DVDs, Sportsman Banquet and the A-Team

Several months ago, I ordered some DVDs with lectures by Dianne Craft. They are about helping children with learning disabilities. I learned so much from Lynne Popp in Omaha in 2006 and I believe the principles I learned from her have really helped. But I know I can always learn from others who are experts in this area as well. Well, I had these six hours worth of DVDs and just had not had time to listen to them. I finally decided I was going to have to MAKE time. So on Thursday, we took the day off from school so I could watch them. Wow! My brain is still spinning from all I learned. I am anxious to start implementing some of her ideas. We will begin as soon as the materials I ordered arrive. If any of you are interested in learning more about her, here is her website:

On Saturday Josh went to a Sportsman's banquet with his friend Seth's family. Seth helped in a seminar that was given (he skinned a deer!). Josh really enjoyed it.

While Josh was gone, the rest of us watched an episode of the A-Team. We laughed so hard. I had forgotten how funny that show is. Not only were the intentionally funny parts funny but it cracked us up how a car would roll three times and then the "bad guys" would walk out without a scratch. Or someone would get punched hard in the face and not have a single mark on them. Watching it brought back a lot of 1980s memories. :-)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I have been tagged to write "17 Things About me"

1. I like to eat ice cream in a glass instead of a bowl.

2. I have been pregnant 12 times (13 babies because Joseph has a twin in Heaven). Sadly the majority of our children did not live past the first trimester of my pregnancies.

3. I love rainy days.

4. I married my high school sweetheart.

5. I have lived in five countries (Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Peru and USA).

6. History is my favorite subject.

7. I love to travel and see new places.

8. I paint my toe nails but not my finger nails.

9. I am highly allergic to make up, perfumes, and most soaps.

10. I have this reoccurring dream that I am still in high school and will never graduate.

11. I don't like the winter! Especially when it is as cold as it is right now (-16 with -30 windchill).

12. I love Russel Stover's Sugar Free Peacon Delights!!!

13. I like mayo, lettuce and tomato sandwiches.

14. I have arthritis.

15. I have an unreasonable fear of creepy, crawly things like spiders and snakes.

16. Should I admit this? Okay, I will. I rarely make our bed. Jeff sleeps until 9:30 (he works nights) and by then we are in the middle of school and I never seem to get back into the bedroom to make it.

17. I have read the Little House on the Prairie books every other year since I was 11. I am reading them to my children now. I named my daughter after Laura (one of my daughter's middle names).

Monday, January 12, 2009

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!!!

Wow! I can't believe all the snow we have had. We got several inches on Friday night/Saturday morning and it turned muddy central Iowa into a Winter Wonderland. It is just beautiful. Today we received several more inches. For most of the day it was a soft gentle snow. The children and I kept looking at the window to enjoy the beauty of it. However, in the late afternoon it turned into a blizzard with strong winds and a windchill advisory. Not quite so lovely. I am praying that Jeff gets home from work safely at midnight.

On Saturday (after the snow stopped) Jeff and I went on a date to Perkins. We had a fun, relaxing time chatting and being quiet together. It was nice to chat without interruption and it was also nice to just sit and enjoy the quiet the rest of the time. We purposely went at a non-meal time (2:30) and the whole restaurant was quiet. Only two or three other tables were occupied.

Sunday afternoon, my good friend Sherry's daughter, Johanna (age 16) came over to spend some time with the girls. She gave them knitting lessons. It was Jennifer's first lesson. Jessica has had several now. She also made cupcakes with the girls and taught them some new things on the piano. At Sherry's request, I talked to Johanna in Spanish as much as possible while she was here (Johanna is taking Spanish 3). Later in the day most of our children and Johanna watched Secondhand Lions. Very cute movie!

So between the pretty snow, the date with Jeff and the visit from Johanna, it was a really nice weekend.

Brrrr! The wind is really howling out there. Even though it is warm in our home, I feel the chill to my bones when I hear the wind like that.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Children Who Learn Differently

The Lord, in His great wisdom and sovereignty, has seen fit to give my husband and me some children with difficulties learning. They struggle academically in varying degrees from perhaps one “grade level” behind in a subject or two (who determines grade levels anyway?) to barely reading after years of hard work. One son has been diagnosed with severe learning disabilities. Even though they have not been tested, I know that two of my other children have similar issues, too, though not as severe.

I asked my son who struggles the most in school if he was okay with me writing about his struggles in this article. I told him I would not use his name but only say “my son.” He said “That is okay. Maybe it will help someone else who has trouble reading like me.”

For years, I struggled with the fact that some of my children are not academically “normal” children. I would hear other homeschooling moms talk about how intelligent their children were and how advanced their homeschooling children were. I would wonder what was wrong with our family, most of all, with me as a teacher. I knew that their academic struggles were certainly not from lack of trying on my part, but was I doing it wrong?

Gradually, for I am a slow learner in this area, the Lord has taught me that my only job is to be faithful. God has called us to homeschool our children. My job is to teach them with the best of my ability. The outcome is not in my hands, but in the hands of our Savior. That brings me more comfort and confidence than I can possibly express.

Over the years, the Lord has taught me many things concerning my children who learn differently. Here are some of them:

1) Pray, pray, pray! I cannot rely on my own strength and wisdom to help my child. I need wisdom from my Heavenly Father. So many times I have been SURE I should teach my child a certain way. Then, after prayer, the Lord has led me in a completely different direction. It is important to be open to the Lord’s leading, even if it goes against what we may think is best.

2) Forgive well meaning homeschooling moms who have completely “normal” children and are sure that if you homeschooled their way, your children would not have any academic struggles. They really are not trying to be arrogant. They truly do want to help. Over the years, I have learned to look at their hearts instead of the words that hurt me.
No one can completely understand something they have not been through. I have a friend whose husband was deployed for a year. I could sympathize and pray for her, but I could not truly understand what it is like to have a husband gone for a year, especially being in such a dangerous situation. Likewise, parents who do not have children who struggle in school cannot understand what it is like. They can sympathize and pray for us, and I treasure friends who do this. However, unless they have walked in our shoes, they do not fully understand.

So when another homeschooling mom, or anyone else, comes to you with the perfect answer for your child’s struggles (more often than not, it will be something you have already tried) just smile and thank them for their concern. Usually a polite “I am really glad that works for your family.” is all that is needed. I have learned not to go home and stew about it or think of “the perfect comeback” that I should have said to them. I remind myself that they have struggles in their life that I do not understand.
3) Certain homeschooling magazine articles can be hurtful. I have learned to avoid them. I don’t know how many times I have read stories about the “light bulb” experience. The story will tell about a child who struggled for years to learn to read and then one day he could suddenly read huge chapter books. That truly does happen. In fact, it has happened in my own household. One of my children went from haltingly reading first grade readers to reading chapter books in a two week period.

However, many children never will have that “light bulb” moment. Instead of a light bulb, it will be more like a slow-moving tortoise going up a slippery, muddy hill that slides back two feet for every three feet it goes forward. We waited for years for my son who struggles so much to magically get that “light bulb” experience. It has not happened.

Gradually and reluctantly, I have come to accept the fact that my son may never will have that “light bulb” experience. He will probably always struggle with reading. He will probably never be able to have a job that requires a lot of reading. It has been a hard pill for me to swallow but a necessary and important thing for me to accept.

4) Rejoice in each little victory. I remember the first time my son read the word “of.” He was ten years old. He had struggled with this particular word from age six when we first began his long, difficult up-hill reading endeavor. I had shown him flashcards with this word. I had read him chapter books and had him read this word every time we came to it. He had rolled out this word with play dough. He had written it in sand and in salt. We had cut that word out of newspapers and magazines in many different fonts. Still, every time he came to that word in the books he would read aloud to me, he would not know it.

One day, after four years of working on this word, he was reading a story to me in his usual painfully halting and slow way. He got to the word “of” and he read it!! I held my breath waiting to see if it was a fluke. Sure enough, he got to the word “of” further in the story and read it again. I got so excited and I said to him, “Did you know that you just read the word ‘of’ twice!” He grinned and was as excited as I was. He saw my excitement and heard my praise, but what he didn’t know was that after he finished the story, I went to my room and cried. I was thinking, “I can’t believe I am crying tears of joy because my ten year old can read the word “of.” When you have a child who struggles so much, those little things mean the world to you.

I should tell the rest of the story. The next day, he could not read the word “of.” I didn’t say anything to him, but I was inwardly heartbroken. However, over the next few days, he read it more often than not, and eventually was able to read the word correctly every single time he saw it. That is what I mean about a tortoise going up a slippery, muddy hill.

5) As homeschoolers, we tend to avoid outside help. However, with my son, we came to the point where we knew we needed it. We went to someone who was highly praised by other homeschooling families who have children who struggle. She had helped their children and we were confident she could help our son. That proved to be true. This person gave us valuable information as to how to help our son with his reading and spelling, and we have seen definite, though very slow, improvement since then. I am able to implement these tools with my other children who learn differently as well.

I should caution though, that outside help, however good it may be, will not remove our child’s learning disabilities. The person that helped us was very upfront with us about this. She told us she could give us tools to help him with his particular disability (which proved to be true), but that these tools would not remove his disabilities.

6) Sometimes we get so bogged down in the academic struggles of our children, that we forget about helping them to grow to be more like Christ. It occurred to me once a few years ago, when my son was struggling greatly with a particular sin, that I should be far more concerned about his sin than I should be about the fact that he could not yet read. Yes, learning to read is crucial, but more importantly still, we need to keep eternal values in view.

Sometimes we are tempted to overlook behavioral issues with our learning disabled child. Yet, sin is still sin, no matter what their disabilities may be. We still need to help them grow and become more Christ like with each passing year.

Along the same vein, we should be careful not to pity our child who is learning challenged. We can encourage and help them to achieve the best of their ability. We can sympathize with them when they are discouraged, yes. But never pity them. It will cause them to grow up with a “Woe is me, the world is against me and so unfair” attitude, and that will not help them in any way, shape or form.

7) Another important thing that I learned is not to hold any of my children back from learning because they cannot read well. They can still learn so much about science, history, literature and most of all, God’s Word. I read to my children constantly. It is one of my favorite things to do. I read the Bible, great works of literature, science and history textbooks, character building books and just plain fun books to them. Often my non-strugglers will listen, too, even though they could read the material on their own.

They can also learn in other ways. They can still memorize Scripture if I help them orally. It may take my struggling learners longer to learn verses but they can still do it. We also do science experiments, take family nature hikes and do art projects.

8) I found that I did go through a grieving process about my childrens’ learning struggles, much like what I went through after each of my eight miscarriages. I went through denial, sadness, some anger and finally acceptance. It is difficult to see one’s child struggle so much and it is normal for most of us who have children with disabilities to grieve because of it.

The important thing to remember is something that a good friend of mine said after she went through an unimaginably difficult time in her life, “Run to Jesus, run to Jesus, run to Jesus.” There is nothing sinful about grieving or the Bible would not tell us to weep with those who weep. It is comforting to know that we can run to the arms of our Savior and He is waiting and ready to comfort us. I cried out many times to the Lord in tears and He heard my prayers and brought me comfort in many ways. He brought me hope and comfort through the encouraging words of friends and family, through passages of Scripture, and just from knowing that He cared and understood and loves my children.

9) It is very important to accept our children the way God made them. They may struggle in ways that “normal” children do not, but they are still precious children created in the image of God. If they get even a sense that they are a disappointment to us, it can leave scars that may last a lifetime. God created our children the way He wanted them to be. As hard is it may be to believe this, God loves our precious children more than we do. No matter what their struggles may be, they can be used of God and they can live a life that glorifies God.

Our children who learn differently have their own unique talents and strengths. We should help them develop those gifts to the best of their ability. My son who struggles so much with reading has a tender heart, is very good at crafts, is fascinated by medieval weapons, and wants to be an inventor some day. I have learned to really appreciate his gifts and to focus on those instead of worrying so much about what he can’t do.

One of my editors encouraged me to add something that I realized is very important. Sometimes it may be hard to see their gifts. I have a difficult time with this with one of my struggling learners. We can pray and ask God to show them to us so that in turn, we can encourage our child with the knowledge of these special abilities and help foster that talent or gift in their life.

I have learned not to talk about my children’s learning struggles except with people that I really know well and trust because it opens up my child for criticism and the possibility of being pre-judged. Plus, as I have mentioned before, I have come to realize that most people do not truly understand unless they have gone through it. However, I was sharing some of my son’s struggles with a close friend once. She said something that I always remember. She said basically this, “I am kind of jealous. If God feels you can handle a son with these learning disabilities, you are very blessed.” I have always remembered those words and God often brings them to my mind when I am discouraged.

It is also very important to remember that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Teaching our struggling learners often seems overwhelming from the human perspective. I have often thought, “Lord, I can’t do this one more day.“ I can’t tell you how many times I have gone to my room and cried. That is exactly the time when I must run to the loving Arms of our Heavenly Father and ask Him for strength, mercy and wisdom to help my children.

God bless you as you homeschool your children, whatever their strengths and their struggles may be.

Homeschooling Through Trials

Homeschooling Through Trials and Tragedies

A friend of mine just lost a baby. The miscarriage happened very early in her pregnancy. In fact she had only found out she was pregnant a couple of days before. However, when I learned that she has lost her baby, I knew her pain was very real and very deep. Memories of the ache of empty arms and the heartache that seemed overwhelming came back to me as I remembered my own eight babies who died before they were born.

In the first thirteen years of our marriage, we experienced one trial after another in rapid succession. We lost eight babies, were burned out of one apartment, flooded out of another, had a son undergo ten surgeries, I underwent six infertility and miscarriage related surgeries, I was on bedrest with problem pregnancies for months at a time and Jeff was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. Those are only the “main” trials that we went through in those thirteen years!
Though past eight years have not been nearly as traumatic, our family has still gone through some additional trials. As I mentioned in a previous article, we have some children who really struggle in school. Also, in 2006 my husband broke his arm badly and was out of work for several weeks and my daughter’s foot was badly injured a few days later. 2008 was rough, too. A sweet niece was badly injured in a bus accident and my beloved father-in-law had a debilitating heart attack. That only begins to scratch the surface of the difficult year our extended family has had this year!

In our own home, our youngest daughter had a very rough year with many health problems which have been difficult to diagnose. In fact, in the middle of the night on November 20th, I watched as Jennifer hemorrhaged a huge amount of blood and was rushed into emergency surgery (thankfully we were already at the hospital when it happened). Waiting in the lonely, deserted waiting room, knowing there was a chance my little girl might not pull through, was one of the longest, hardest nights of my life.

That night, while I was waiting for Jennifer’s surgery to be over, I paced around the waiting room, unable to sit down, until I saw a Gideon Bible. I picked it up, praying the Lord would lead me to the right passage. I opened the Bible to Psalms, the book of the Bible I have always turned to for comfort when I am most afraid and sad. The Lord led me to Psalm 91. The whole chapter brought me great comfort that night and I would encourage you to read it but the two verses that spoke to me the most were verses two and five.

“I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him will I trust (vs. 2). Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day (vs. 5).”
Seeing your daughter covered in her own blood and having her rushed into emergency surgery in the middle of the night certainly does qualify as “terror by night” and I took great comfort that night in knowing that the Lord is my refuge and fortress and that I can put my trust in Him. No human being, not even my dear husband, would have brought me the comfort that those verses from God’s Word brought me that night.

The purpose of this article is not to make you feel sorry for the Stilwells (though we certainly could use all the prayers we can get!). It is to share with you some of the lessons I have learned along the way as we have gone through these difficult times. I fully realize that many of you could be writing this article and perhaps do a much better job than I can. In spite of the heartaches my family has gone through, many of you have been through far greater tragedies.
One lesson I have learned is that of compassion. While I used to feel badly when people went through difficult times, I can now empathize in a way that I would not be able to do if I had not been through some difficult times in my own life. When I talk to them or send them a note or card, I can speak and write as one who knows how deep a heartache can be. I know better than to brush off their hurt with a cliché or act like everything will be okay when, in reality, it may not.

Another lesson I have learned is to acknowledge the pain that others are going through. If someone has recently lost a loved one, I should not avoid eye contact with them when I see them in the church foyer. If my friend’s husband just left her, I should not avoid calling her. Saying the “wrong thing” is much less hurtful than saying nothing at all. When I went through my miscarriages, it was very hurtful when others ignored the fact that I had just lost a baby. On the other hand, those that sent me a card as if a real person had died (and a real person HAD died) or gave me a hug or told me they were praying for me brought me comfort and encouragement.
I learned not to expect others to understand completely. How could someone who had never had a miscarriage truly understand what it was like? How could someone who has children who are reading by age three understand what it is like to have a twelve year old who can’t read fluently? Yes, they can sympathize and pray, and I have dear friends who do both of those things, even though they have not experienced some of my particular trials. However, they can not fully understand, nor should I expect them to. Just as I do not understand completely what it is like to have cancer or an unfaithful spouse, because I have not gone through those trials, loved ones who have not been through my heartaches will not understand mine. Even those who have been through nearly identical trials will not fully understand because we all react differently and there are variables in each situation. Our Heavenly Father understands each and every one of my heartaches, trials and fears. In fact He understands them far better than I do. It is wrong of me to expect a person to understand or comfort me in a way that only our Lord can. Learning that only God, and no human, could bring me true peace through my trials was an extremely important lesson.

They say tragedy will make or break a marriage. In our case, I am thankful and grateful to say, that the difficult times we have been through have brought Jeff and I closer. We do not always respond to a trial in the same way but we have tried hard to support each other through each difficult time. We have learned to accept that the other one will not always respond the same way we do. I would be less than honest if I said that there have not been tense moments between us from time to time but, over all, our trials have brought us closer and made us stronger as a couple.

I have also learned that no matter what is going on, I cannot neglect my children. After my last miscarriage, I had four children ages eight and under. Not only was I emotionally devastated but that miscarriage had been my most physically painful miscarriage and it dragged out for six weeks. The last thing I felt like doing was taking care of children some of whom suddenly seemed to become clingy and naughty. I am sure they sensed my tension and they were also grieving. Feeding the children, educating them, disciplining them and showing them love seemed overwhelming to me at that point. Yet, looking back, forcing myself to care for the four living children that I had is what got me through the very difficult months following that miscarriage. I have many sweet memories of the four of them curled up with me on the couch while I read to them and having the ache in my heart relieved a bit by the four children I had to cuddle close to me. We had sweet chats about their tiny sibling in Heaven. (The Lord sent us Jennifer a year later and, though she didn’t replace the baby we had lost, she filled an empty spot in our hearts and brought us great joy.)

I have learned that many trials in life come in the form of having to wait. The longest, darkest moments in my life have been when I am waiting for answers. Many times when my body was threatening to miscarry one of our babies, I spend hours and days of agony, wondering of the baby would survive (sometimes I would go on to miscarry, other times I would not). As I mentioned before, Jennifer has had many health issues this past year. Some of the things she has been tested for are horrible illnesses like leukemia and multiple sclerosis. Waiting several days, sometimes a week or more, for the results of those tests was very difficult (thankfully, they all came back negative). Through all the months of her illness, seeing our little Sunshine Girl in so much pain was heartbreaking and waiting to see if anything we tried to do for her would relieve the pain was very difficult. Yet, I also found that with each trial, while waiting, I cling to the Lord like I do at no other time. I find myself praying constantly through out the day and spending time in His Word as often as possible.

I do actually intend to bring this around to homeschooling because going through difficult times in our lives definitely affects homeschooling in our home. As a homeschooling mom, it is my job to educate my children. Yet sometimes, over the years, the trials we have been through seem to get in the way of our homeschooling. This year would be a prime example of that in our home. With Jennifer’s extreme pain, doctor visits and tests, there were days when we have done little or no school. We did not finish our 148 days from the previous school year until late July of this year. (I gave my children two weeks off and then we started this school year.) At times it was very discouraging. Yet, I reminded myself that God is in control of our home. He knows and understands what is going on far better than I do. Apparently the lessons we were to learn from Jennifer’s illness this year were more important than the three R’s at this point in our lives. I need to remember that it is more important that my children learn to be Christ like than that they be scholars. During her illness, Jennifer has learned, at a very young age, to trust in the Lord, even in great pain. Her siblings have learned compassion and patience. We, as parents, have learned, yet again, that our children belong to God and are only on load to us for a little while.

One of the most important things I have learned is to ask myself “What can I learn through this that will help me become more like Christ?” As Christians, when we go through trials, becoming more Christ like should be our ultimate goal. I also have learned to ask myself, “How can I glorify God through this?”

I don’t know about you, but one of the biggest encouragements to me, as a Christian, is to watch someone go through an incredibly difficult time in their life, and seeing them trust God through it all and to see them come out on the other side closer to the Lord instead of bitter towards Him. That doesn’t mean that they won’t have moments when they are in the depths of despair and want to give up. Yet, they trust in the Lord through it all. I could write a whole article on people who have encouraged me greatly in my walk with the Lord by their testimony through tragedies and trials.

Last, but certainly not least, as I go through life’s trials, I need to remember the words from a friend of mine, Christine Scott, who was widowed at a young age and left to parent three little boys all by herself. Her words are simple yet say it all. She told me once that when life brings you to the depths of despair, “Run to Jesus. Run to Jesus. Run to Jesus.”

Homeschooling Frugally.

Living frugally is a top priority for many homeschoolers. Most homeschooling families live on a single income. Often, the dad has chosen a profession where he can spend more time with his family so he does not have a large income. Because of this, homeschooling moms have learned to save a penny wherever they can. I will share with you some things that we do at our home to save money.
One thing we do is to keep our meals quite simple. This will not work for every homeschooling mom. Thankfully, my husband is a missionary kid who is not picky and does not mind eating the same foods on a regular basis. We eat beans and rice twice a week. I can feed the whole family for under $3 when we eat that. I vary the kind of beans and the flavoring so that it is not exactly the same thing every time. In the winter we eat soup two or three times a week. Most soups can be made cheaply, and if I vary the kinds of soup, the family does not feel like they are eating the same thing all the time. We also buy the cheaper cuts of meat such as chicken hindquarters instead of chicken breasts and ground turkey instead of ground beef. We do most of our grocery shopping at Aldi, which saves us a lot of money.

Rarely do we ever buy brand new clothes. My children are blessed to receive nice hand-me-down clothes from older children in our church. If they need more clothes we purchase at DAV, Goodwill or Salvation Army. While I admit some visits to these stores have been a flop, we have also found very nice name brand clothes, occasionally even with the tags on them.

We do not own very many shoes. Each of us own one pair of dress shoes and one pair of tennis shoes (occasionally more if they are given to us). The girls and I also usually own a pair of sandals and flip flops for the summer. I admit that owning only one pair of dress shoes can be a huge problem on Sunday morning when someone can’t find one of their shoes, but that is for another article on organization. Someone more qualified than me in that area will have to write that one!

This may sound a little too cheap to most people, but we water down our liquid hand soap, shampoo and dish soap. A little bit of water will stretch it a long way. When the bottle is about 1/8 gone, I fill it back up with water.

We try to keep most of our family activities cheap or free. When the weather is warm we go to a lot of parks and go on bike rides. When the weather is cold it is a little more challenging to find free family activities so we often play table games. When it snows, Jeff takes the children sledding. In fact they just went sledding this morning, with their cousins who live in Peru and only see snow once every five years, and they had a great time.

Another way to save money is to get most of our books from the library. We also pass down school books from child to child. I do not buy teacher’s books, workbooks or test booklets for science or history in the elementary years. I do not buy any teacher’s books for third grade and under. Having the children tell me about what they have read or having them write a paragraph on each chapter tells me that they are learning the material. Instead of spelling books, I make their spelling lists from words they misspell in their writing.

Teaching our children to be economical also saves a lot of money. Little things such as teaching them to turn off the lights every time they leave a room, or to use only the amount of soap and shampoo they need saves quite a bit. Having them save the leftovers that they were too full to eat at supper, for their next snack saves a lot of money over time.

Wearing sweaters or sweatshirts in the winter while we keep the furnace on low really helps cut down on the heating bill. In the summer we only use our air conditioner on the very hottest days and get by with window fans the rest of the time.

My husband cuts the boys hair and I trim the girls hair. I stretch my own hair cuts out to every three months by trimming it myself in between times.

I have found that in some areas I do save money in the long run by spending more to begin with. If I buy $4 nylons to wear to church, they will last me for six months but if I buy them at the dollar store, I usually only get one or two uses out of them. The same is true with the girls’ tights as well as socks and underwear. So there are times when spending more money up front actually saves money.

We keep Christmas and birthdays very simple. On their birthdays the children get $2 times their age. They can save the money or spend it, it is up to them. For Christmas they get three gifts, usually a book, a movie and a toy. Our children are certainly not deprived and seem to look forward to Christmas and birthdays as much as their friends who receive a lot more.

When we want to buy something, we ask ourselves a couple questions. Do we really need the item? Will life as we know it come to an end if we do not have it? Usually the answer is no. That does not mean that we never purchase anything that is not absolutely necessary but we are very careful about our choices.
One important thing is to think about what is important to us as individual families. I would be less than honest if I said our family never spends money that is not essential. There are certain things that are important to us as an individual family so we spend more money than perhaps is absolutely necessary in those areas. For example, to me it is very important to keep in touch with friends and family at Christmas time so, even though we could save quite a bit of money by not sending Christmas letters to over 100 friends and family members, I do so nearly every year. My husband is a diabetic so better quality running shoes and vitamins are important to him, even though we would save money by buying cheaper shoes and only having him take a multivitamin. Some of our children enjoy drawing and, since we want to encourage creativity, we do not scrimp on paper or pencils. Our oldest son is passionate about history and politics so we help cultivate this interest by helping him to pay his way to TeenPact and other worthwhile events like that. We want our children see new places and have new experiences so we try to take a family vacation each year, although we take it as inexpensively as possible. Since we value a healthy diet for our children, we also eat quite a few fruits and vegetables, although we usually stick with the less expensive varieties. Basically, this long, random paragraph is to emphasize that each family needs to prayerfully decide how the Lord would want them to spend their money.

I will be the first to admit that it is not always fun to live frugally. One minor example of this is that I really like beef and we do not get if often. It is much cheaper and healthier to make meatloaves, hamburger patties and meatballs out of ground turkey. To me, those things sure taste better when made out of ground beef! However, over time, my taste buds have adapted and I do not mind as much any more. That is not to say that I sure don’t enjoy ground beef on the rare occasions I get it!

One huge side benefit to being so careful with our money, is that our children have learned to be content with little. My children, like other children, have many sin issues they deal with. However, lack of thankfulness is not one of them. Since we only go to Burger King once a year or so, it is a really fun experience for them when we do go. Recently one of their grandparents bought each of the children a brand new store bought outfit. You would have thought someone given them the moon. When these kinds of things are rare treats instead of common occurrences, children appreciate them so much more.

However, even though we do “miss” out on certain things, the rewards far outweigh the sacrifices. Other than our mortgage, we are debt-free. We have the joy of knowing that we are being good stewards of the money the Lord has given to us. We also have the joy of being able to help those who are in need from time to time.

Everything we have belongs to the Lord. May God bless you as you spend His money for His glory.