Looking For A Good Photographer?

A good photographer not only knows how to work his camera and have a good eye, he also needs to be personable.  The personality of the photographer makes a huge difference in the outcome of the shot.  If I am not comfortable with the person taking the pictures, it shows in the final product.  It is for this reason why I am here to recommend an excellent photographer, Ronald Coulter.  Over the years, he has captured many special moments for our family and he is great with kids and adults alike.  He does it with such love and care. It warms my heart to look back on some of the shots he captured.  He is kind and one of the most patient people I know. If you are looking a for a great photographer, I highly recommend him.  Please visit his site for more details.

Be Blessed,

Anika

What you need to do Vs. What you want to do

Yesterday, I took my super tired 4-year-old to bed for a much-needed nap. As we headed up the stairs to her bedroom, she started crying real tears. She protested repeatedly, “I don’t want to go to bed!” I kissed her on the cheek before putting her in the bed and told her, “I know you don’t WANT TO but you NEED a Nap.”

Then I had another one of those moments when God shows me myself through my children. I have had many “I don’t want to” moments with God after He tells me what I NEED to do for my own good. He doesn’t force me to do it, the choice is always mine. However, I continue to learn that God is a lot smarter than me so it is ALWAYS in my best interest to submit to Him. My current NEED TO list from God includes; a drastic reduction of my sugar intake, forgiving others and not replaying the offense, and being confident in who I am in Him and not obsess about what others think of me. By the grace of God, I have made huge strides in these areas. However, there are days when what I need to do gets hard, REAL HARD and I just want to cry and scream, “I DON’T WANT TO GOD!”

There is a similar tension in 2 Kings 5. In this story, we have Naaman the leper who was given a message from Elisha the prophet to go and dip seven times in the Jordan River in order to be healed of his leprosy. Naaman, a respected leader was appalled that Elisha didn’t even come out to greet him. He had different expectations on how his healing would take place. However, after some wise counsel from his servants, Naaman went and dipped 7 times in the Jordan as instructed and was instantly healed of his leprosy. The very thing he did not want to do was the thing that he needed to do to receive healing.

How about you? What is God saying you need to do? Have you been doing it or have you been disobedient because it is not what you want to do? I want to encourage you to respond in obedience because God ALWAYS KNOWS what is best!
Be Blessed
Anika

Tips For Creating A Schedule

Each day I have a God given purpose and I must be intentional about fulfilling it. Having a schedule helps me to effectively manage my time, be more focused and provides direction for my day. It brings a sense of order and discourages me from being lazy and idle.  “Winging” it every day leads to unproductivity and lots of frustration.   With all that said, below are some important tips to consider to help you create a schedule that works for you.

  1. Have I asked God what my schedule should look like?

We are good at bringing God only the “big” things.  However God has specific tasks for us to accomplish each day, which is part of the bigger picture for His purpose for our life.  Take the time and ask the Lord what your schedule should look like.  This means that you will have to spend time in prayer.  Trust me when I say this is not a small matter, seeking the Lord’s face on what you should do and when you should do it makes for a more productive day.

 

  1. Ask yourself, “What part of the day am I most energetic and focused?”

Knowing the answer to this question helps you to prioritize doing the most difficult task when you have the most energy.   For example I am totally a morning person so I do most of my cooking and cleaning in the morning.  If I wait until the evening, I am absolutely drained and the quality of the completed task is greatly compromised because I am tired.  I reserve the evening for doing homework with the children, giving them face time and less demanding household task.  So often we get annoyed with our children because we see them as distracting us from our work.  However when we are careful with our planning, some of this frustrations can be eliminated.  I have six children so I realize that even with careful planning, some children are needier than others but a schedule is a great start

  1. Which tasks do I need to do every day and which ones should be done once a week?  

Having established routines is important and it helps to take away a lot of the guess work out the day.  I not only answer this question for myself but I also include the children in the process.  They also have things that they must do on a daily and weekly basis. Established routines helps to set clear expectations for everyone in the home and minimizes a lot of frustration and repeating of oneself.  Note:  notice how I said a lot of the frustration and not all….children and adults alike know how to get you to repeat yourself…amen.  When you are trying to establish a routine, be prepared to hit repeat over and over again.  PRAYEFULLY everyone will eventually catch on to the routines.  Be patient and BREATHE!

 

  1. Schedule in some me time.  

This is so important to do.  My me time may just be 30 minutes on some days and 1 hour another. However as a stay at home mom I can become resentful about doing for everyone else and not for myself.  I had to get over feeling like this was selfish, it is needed. I typically have my me time while the younger ones are napping. During this time I pick something that will refresh me in some way.  It may be browsing Pinterest and admiring all the projects that I can’t fit in my schedule (just keeping it real here folks)…nothing wrong with a little dreaming.  I may take a nap, give myself a pedicure or call a friend.  But again, this is something just for me.

  1. Ask yourself, “What are some things that can take me off schedule? In other words, what things distract me throughout the day?  What parameters can I put in place to hold me accountable?

Let us be real with ourselves when answering this question. I know that surfing the internet can be a huge distraction for me and totally take me off schedule.  To combat this issue, I put certain parameters in place.  I may set a timer to remind me that it is time to get off or I may deliberately wait until I know I have only a limited time because I have to go somewhere.   This restricts my time and I have no option but to get off.

During the school year, I try not to turn on my cell phone until I have completed most of my necessary tasks.  Having the phone on first thing in the morning can be a HUGE distraction because there is someone or something that is demanding your attention. There are times when I do have to turn it on in the morning when I leave the house.   However, I turn it off once I get home because if anyone really needs to get in touch with me, they can call the house phone.  I also don’t have Facebook or other social media notifications coming to my phone because it is so easy to get drawn in.  Since I am a blogger, I get on Facebook most days to see if I need to respond to any comments from my posts.  I try to restrict my time and may only visit my page on some days.

There are times when the unexpected happens and I have to forgo my schedule and deal with the issue at hand.  There are also days in which the Holy Spirit takes me off schedule and leads me in a different direction.  I try to yield to His voice. So while I promote a schedule, I also encourage you to not hold too tightly to it and miss the voice of the Holy Spirit.  I would love to hear from you.  Do you have a schedule?  What are some of the things you consider when creating one?  Do you think that having a schedule is helpful?

Psalm 37:5 (NLT)

Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.

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When God Changes Your Mind…Celebrating 14 Years of Marriage

I never set out for all of this to happen, at least not so soon and not quite like this.  Him? All of them?

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No they were not in my real life plans.  I left for the University with big bags and big dreams.  I had declared that I would not become a Mrs. until I earned my PhD.  Yes I was on a mission, my mission. Then I met this young man name Tyrone at the 22 Illini bus stop on 2nd and Chalmers in Champaign.  I had no clue that this meeting would forever change my life.

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I came home that faithful winter break my junior year of college.  I was full on the outside but was empty and hurting on the inside. Salvation had been a long time coming.  The church was having a revival and my soul desperately desired to be revived.  I had been running, and when I stepped foot in that church I stopped.  It was then that God began to change my mind.

I went to the altar and said Yes to Jesus.  3 years later on August 11, 2001, I went back to that same altar and said yes to Tyrone.  The vows I uttered were poetic but for the record, I had no clue what I was really saying yes to.

  • I did not know I was saying yes to Jesus at another level inviting Him to use my marriage as a tool to go beneath the surface and do some spiritual deep cleaning.
  • I did not know that I was saying yes Jesus please begin a deeper process of changing my mind, changing my agenda, changing my plans and changing my heart.
  •  I did not know I was saying yes Jesus use this marital relationship to prune me, to show me the depth of my selfishness and pride, and teach me true submission.
  • I did not know I was saying yes God, overthrow our five year plan and let the babies start coming after year one, and continue to come for that matter!

The” for worse” part came sooner than thought.  We had some extreme lows (full display of flesh, hair loss, income reduction, sick babies, shed tears, and anger) but these lows created a greater surrender, pressing out a “yes God go ahead and change our minds because you know best.”

The beauty and the challenge of getting married young is that you get to “grow up” together.  We have seen God perform surgery on our hearts on more than one occasion over the last 14 years.  God has birthed beauty from great pain and closeness when the enemy sought to tear us apart.  My love for this man has gone deeper than I thought possible.  All of my initial plans have not been accomplished but here I am 14 years later thanking God that He changed my mind!

 

Quick and Effective Potty Training Method

I do not like potty training. At. All.  But it has to be done. I have often heard that you have to go when the child is ready but I think it is equally as important that the trainer is also ready.  Potty training a toddler is not for the faint of heart.  My almost two year old has been showing signs that she was ready, but I was not…until yesterday.  I was talking on the phone to a good friend and she encouraged me to not ignore the signs and miss this “great” opportunity to get number 6 out of diapers.  I had to get my head in the game.  So off to Walmart I went with all six kiddos in tow.  I was tickled by how excited the siblings were at the idea of getting Faith potty trained.  We picked out a potty and she was beyond thrilled.  She screamed if anyone touched her potty. It had to be in the front of the cart with her.  So one would think that she would immediately sit on it when we got home…not so.  She screamed and refused to sit on the potty last night. I backed off and decided to give it a try again today.  I was pleasantly surprised at how she “Embraced” this new adventure.  I think it may have had something to do with the fact that she did not have 7 people standing there cheering her on to go potty…yeah I suppose that was not a good introduction.  Today most of the crowd was at school so I think she was a little more relaxed.  I have used different methods of potty training but the one that I am choosing to go with has proven to be the quickest and most effective.  It is tiring and flat out gross but totally worth it. So what am I doing?

  1. Clear out my schedule and stay at home MOST of the time for the next three days.  Consider this potty training BOOTCAMP.
  2. Get rid of the diaper in the day and put on big girl underpants.  No pull ups?  Yes, no pull ups, it really makes a difference in the long run.
  3. For most of the day she is in her underwear and a T-shirt (diaper only at naptime and when she goes to sleep for the night).
  4.  Set the timer and every 30 minutes we take a field trip to the potty.
  5. We have toys and books to entertain when we are on the potty.  Believe me when I say the distractions help.  I like to have Legos on hand because the putting together and pulling apart takes a lot of time and is a great distraction.
  6. It can be difficult for a child to get used to the idea of sitting and waiting.  I do not have her stay on the potty for too long, the point is not to torture her.  When she begins to fuss, I let her get up.

This method was not my original idea.  You can read here and  here for more details.  Most promise that if you use this method you can have your child potty trained in 3 days… consistency being key.  I used this method with child number 5 and he was potty trained in a week and a half…not a bad deal.  This is not to say that we did not have accidents after the initial training.

The first day is the MOST DIFFICULT.   Be prepared to clean up messes and your patience to be tested in new ways.  But hang in there, it will click for your child if you remain consistent.  What is your favorite potty training method?

Does Jesus really care about that? Thoughts on what drives me to be healthy post pregnancy

I gave birth in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013.  In between all of that I had two miscarriages, one in 2006 and another in 2008.  I think it’s fair to say that my body has been through quite an adventure.  After each birth, I was left with a sweet baby and some extra pounds as a souvenir of the journey.  I was not one of those moms who lost all the baby weight while nursing.  I would have loved for that to have been my testimony but it was not.  I have found what works for MY BODY to be healthy without counting calories and spending hours working out.  I follow the Paleo diet 90% of the time.   I also work out five days a week in the comfort of my home for 10-20 minutes in the morning.  My short workouts are better than doing nothing at all.

My body certainly doesn’t look like the girl I knew before child birth and I am learning to be ok with that.   I can’t obsess about returning to what was, just work on keeping healthy what now is (not sure if that’s grammatically correct but you get the point…right?)   I have tried to return to old eating habits (mainly consuming way too much sugar) and not only does it pack on the pounds but it also brings some not so pleasant side effects.   After a really long morning a few weeks ago, I found myself hiding out in the pantry with my twenty month old eating just about all the caramel flavored popcorn from Costco.  I was so convicted at the end of the day, not because eating caramel popcorn is a sin but because at that moment I was being gluttonous and using the sugar as my god and comforter.  I was certainly not hungry at the time, just extremely irritated.  Prayer should have been my recourse not sugar!  I have to continue to ask God for the grace to exercise self-control to do what I know is right for my body to be healthy.

My choice to eat healthy and exercise has a trickle-down effect with both natural and spiritual implications.  When I eat and exercise like I should, I have more energy to effectively fulfill my call to be the keeper of my home. My sleep is better which in turn helps me to get up feeling well rested giving me quality time in prayer and bible study.   I am not as emotional and snappy. Ok…I still have my moments but they are not as frequent.  I am not constantly in a brain fog because I have consumed all the wrong things.

So to answer the question, does Jesus really care about my eating habits and my overall health…yes, He absolutely does!  I know from personal experiences that He directs His children in EVERY AREA.  If you have not done so already ask Him what the best health plan is for you.  If He has already told you what to do…OBEY!  My goal to be the healthiest me for this season of life now goes beyond vanity.  However I must confess that this was the initial  motivation.  I recognize that my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and also its God’s desire for me to be healthy in body as I am strong in spirit (3 John 1:2).  Hear me when I say that the goal for every woman should not be to look like the model on the magazine.  We are all built differently and not everyone was intended to look the same.  Instead, be driven by the desire to please God by taking care of the temple He has given you.

I don’t want you to walk away from this post feeling condemned because you struggle in maintaining healthy eating habits and are challenged with the idea of consistently working out.  Instead I pray that you walk away feeling encouraged to do what you know is needed believing the Lord to extend His grace as you make up your mind to walk in obedience.  Let us take this journey together, striving to be healthy so that we can be used even the more for God’s glory!  Are you on board?  Leave a comment below to let me know.