Balancing online ministry and home (guest post)

This is another fantastic post from SisterLisa. This is a great topic that I am glad she has addressed. It’s easy to get your life out of balance but she gives you practical advice I really appreciate.

Many moms of faith have very busy schedules at home and it has limited their opportunities to reach out to minister in their own towns, but can reach out to minister to their online communities quite effectively. In this day of a growing awareness of the incredible need for powerful moms to be at home to raise and educate their children, we see an ever increasing need to minister to one another online.

We were once a part of a church that emphasized outreach in their ministry, but our lives were so busy that we couldn’t fit everything in to our schedule. It grieved us to hear the leadership was not in support of online ministry, but we continued nonetheless. However, even with online ministry we need to find a healthy way to balance our online ministries and our home. Sometimes we can be physically at home full time, but not mentally or spiritually.

There have been countless times in the past when I have been off balance. Those times when I am consumed with in- depth thought as I type out an article, I have been oblivious to the kids saying, “Mom? Mom! LISA!” and all of a sudden I am snapped into reality by my own children who wondered ‘where I was’ even though I was sitting right in front of them.

I am thankful that my husband and family have been supportive of my blogging and that they see the need for my online time to be a vehicle for me to express my faith and minister to others, but we have to re-evaluate my time and each week is adjusted as needed, because life has its way of throwing curve balls.

These are just a few things I take into consideration for balancing my home and online time for faith.

A blog post has lasting influence. The beauty of writing a powerful faith provoking article can have insurmountable opportunities to minister to millions of people all over the world, whereas ministering in town has limited reach. I’m not intending to minimize ministering in town, for the words you speak to a broken mama at the nursery counter can positively affect her faith for years to come. The love you show people in your town can lead them to healing. However, when you’re blogging your faith effectively, those words remain online for many to read and be fed through. Don’t underestimate your online time to minister to others.

Set aside a block of time to write uninterrupted. I have Sundays set aside for my uninterrupted time. My family knows that Sunday is my day to write several blog posts that will minister to my readers and online friends. Just as I would not interrupt my husband ministering in real time to a homeless man, they do not interrupt my writing.Family still comes first. Even though I want my family to respect my writing day, I will pause as necessary to minister to them as well. Thankfully, my husband is home on Sundays and takes care of things on that day for me, but I’m still a mom who has kids with needs. Moms can be a little lighthouse for our families and keeping a good schedule can be a lantern.

Prepare for your writing day in advance. If you don’t want to cook a large meal on your writing day, prepare something the day before. You can make a larger meal earlier in the week and save it for your writing day. We often have fajita leftovers or chicken in the slow cooker.

Take breaks. This isn’t always the easiest thing for me since I love writing, but we need to take breaks from the computer and re-enter the realm of the home. Not only do we need to be mentally home for the kids, but we need to make time for our husbands too.

Schedule your commenting on blogs and other forum conversations. The online community is filled with people from all different time zones and we can easily get sucked into the computer screen at any time day or night. They aren’t going to ‘fall’ if we aren’t online to answer their questions. We aren’t the Holy Spirit. Even if there was such a thing as a curfew where the internet can’t be accessed worldwide, people would still live life and be able to walk by faith without us.

Remain humble. A mom who has left the realm of humility and put herself on a pedestal of pride can destroy a family and her online ministry. Be willing to listen to your family asking you to step away from the computer for family time and don’t assume that you have all the answers for everyone online. It’s perfectly acceptable to downsize ministry to take care of the family first.

Sisterlisa at The HomeSpun LifeSisterlisa at The Homeschool Post.

Where are the grown ups?

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

1 Cor. 13:11 NKJV

This video from Paul Washer got me thinking. Back in the “good old days” children couldn’t wait to grow up. They looked up to parents and other adults. They longed to share their responsibilities and respected their position as elders. And adults had great expectations of children. They took on responsibilities at a young age (partly because of the short life span). Not so today.

These days many adults don’t want to be grown up. They want to be hip and cool, accepted by the teens and children they know. Instead of setting the bar for adolescents in their lives, they allow the child to set it for them. Children decide what’s cool, what’s acceptable.

But not only that. Adults want to play. A lot. Online games, video games, chatting, messaging, farming, you name it. Adults flock to sites children think are cool and to products children have approved. How do we have time to study God’s Word, minister to our neighbor or train our children if we are always striving for entertainment?

So If the children aren’t the grown ups, and the adults aren’t the grown ups, who is doing the hard work? Who is striving and growing and mentoring and training and encouraging? Who will the next generation follow if we are following them?

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Matthew 16:24 NIV

What if we tried as hard to lead as we do to fit in? What if we put as much effort into shaping the next generation, into blazing a trail for them to follow, as we do to update the meaningless details of our lives?

Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.

1 Cor. 11:1 NKJV

What if we looked up, stood up and grew up, not only for ourselves but for those who are depending on us? We need to follow Christ and take up our cross daily. Not take up our smart phones and laptops and game controllers. If we don’t make the tough decisions and stand for hard Truth who will the next generation look to? No one will take the Gospel to peoples in the jungle, where disease and wild animals could take you out. No one will work three jobs to provide for their family. No one will cross oceans to live in a country they have never visited to love the people and open a medical clinic to save lives and souls. No one will suffer in prison for preaching the illegal Gospel to their fellow countrymen, enduring untold abuses with quiet faith.

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.

1 Peter 2:21 NKJV

Home

No need to dress up

Room to mess up

Strength to fess up

Home is where grace lives.

More corny jokes

Laughter evokes

Fun, happy folks

Home is where joy lives.

No secrets to keep

Enjoying sweet sleep

Drink it in deep

Home is where peace lives.

Forgiving a wrong

Heart ties are strong

Where I belong

Home is where love lives.

©2020 Anna-Marie Durham all rights reserved

Peace

I was snuggling with my almost 3 year old this morning. He had his ear to my chest when he suddenly exclaimed, “Oh! I hear your feelings!”

“What do they sound like?”

“Like a roar bear.”

He doesn’t know how right he is.

My emotions are like a whirlwind, a howling storm of misplaced desires with a flurry of unanswered questions. What is to be done when the storm that rages is on the inside?

…he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!” The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass.  Mark 4:39 The Message

I run to Jesus. When I can’t calm the storm I call on the One who can.

And He does.

The lost art of listening

There is no shortage of noise today. In fact, it’s hard to get away from noise at all. And when we do, often the awkward silence makes us uncomfortable. We want to fill every moment with talking, with music, with anything. What are we trying to avoid? What are we pushing away in the cacophony?

A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.  

1 Kings 19:11, 12 The Message

We hear things all day long–car horns, children talking, phones ringing, TV, radio, music, you name it. Even in our prayer time the tendency is to do all the talking. In this passage Elijah hears God speaking in a still, small voice. You can’t hear that kind of conversation if your mouth is open.

Listening is an acquired skill, an art. It is more than just hearing; it’s actively taking in, processing. It is alert, quiet expectation. It is straining for the input, for the voice at the other end of the line.

Prayer is just as much about listening as it is about talking. You cannot have a conversation without two parties engaging. Next time you have a time of prayer, I encourage you to be aware of how much you talk and how much you listen. God is just waiting for you to ask what He has to say to you.

The weight of the world on tiny shoulders

As I watch my children growing up in this chaotic world, I am a little stunned about something. It seems that the adults have put all the “hope” for the future on the shoulders of people who don’t even shave yet. When I surf the kiddie cable channels I am amazed at the steady stream of so-called news and environmental propaganda aimed at children. The message is “you can save the world.” Um, isn’t that a lot of pressure to put on a child who probably doesn’t have all their permanent teeth yet?

Why not let children be children? With the availability of media today it is easy for a child to learn about with local murder statistics on a TV at a local restaurant, terrorism plots during talk radio news breaks or read about child molestation cases in the newspaper stand. I think where our children are concerned the children’s song is a great rule of thumb: “Oh be careful little eyes what you see…”

I do not encourage my children to “save the planet” or expose them to unfettered input of the latest worldwide catastrophes or other disasters. (Of course age does make a difference.) I do not keep my children from all news but I do filter what they know because it is my responsibility to keep them safe, and to me that includes emotional safety. I cannot in good conscience fill their heads with the myriad of troubles in today’s world. They do not have the perspective or the frame of reference to process the information they receive. They are egocentric by nature, so it is easy to make everything their fault or to distort their relationship to it.

Children shouldn’t have to look out for their parents; parents look out for the children. The Message 2 Cor. 12:14

As I Christian parent it is up to me to keep drawing my children to God, to nurture that special relationship. If I allow them to repeatedly dwell on the problems in the world their eyes are not on the solution, but the problem. They are not looking to God. They are only filled with anxiety and dismal foreboding.

13 The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. 14 The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. 15 Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” 16 Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.               The Message Mark 10:13-16

We talk about our responsibility to the planet as God’s stewards and to our fellow man. We are filled with compassion kept in perspective by scripture and prayer. We, as parents, must be careful to keep our children from taking on too much pressure and responsibility before they are adults. Childhood is a time for wonder, for exploration and for learning, not for saving the world. There’s plenty of time for that when they are grown.

18 Place these words on your hearts. Get them deep inside you. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder. 19 Teach them to your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night.        The Message Deut. 11:18, 19

Life is tasty in small bites

Being an all or nothing kind of person, I tend to “go big or go home.” I struggle with the idea of just a little of anything, which is why I avoid certain situations where my tendencies could get me into a lot of trouble. But as I get older I am starting to see the value of incremental living.

Because I still have very small children my life is chopped into a hundred little pieces. There is no lovely flow from one activity to the next. It’s hacked and sawed and sometimes jagged because I am always in one thing when I have to leave to take care of something else. At the end of the day sometimes I see behind me a handful of unfinished projects and the carcasses of the best laid plans in my wake. Sigh. Well, there’s always tomorrow, right?

I have always wanted–and tried to carve out in my day–big chucks of time to work on school. I have to study and prepare my heart and my lessons. I enjoy it and for me it is a necessary activity for our school day to flow smoothly. I have learned something this week: this magical block of time doesn’t exist. It’s a mirage I keep trying to get to but now I realize it’s just not there.

At this time in my life there is no time in my day for hours of uninterrupted study. But I can eat away at the proverbial elephant one bite at a time. So I have resigned myself to small doses. A little study throughout the day, throughout the week, instead of long times at a stretch. A bite at a time the study will get done, the dinner cooked, the children snuggled and the home cleaned.

I am finding that it’s not as difficult as I thought it would be to slip in and out of study mode. And I keep a notebook with me at all times to catch ideas, scriptures or resources that come my way as I move through the day. Like praying without ceasing, I think this studying in small bites all day will leave me more satisfied than gorging anyway. Biblical Principle Approach is about reflective learning and little bites allow me to savor each morsel before I go on to the next. I think I’m going to embrace this idea of living in small bites instead of allowing frustration to take over my thoughts. Then I can truly embrace this time of life and all the small bites it offers.

Yes, home educating is my job

I used to bristle a little when people would ask me what I “do,” only because my answer seemed to disappoint them. It implies that work outside the home is somehow more valuable than what I “do” within these four walls. Now that I have given it some thought, I am glad to say that home educating is my job. People with a “job” have:

A defined task(s). I have the task of teaching my kids. Love it. Best job I have ever had. And I have to plan. I have a defined set of tasks that I prepare for. I am not a mom that does well with unstructured or vague school time. I know that all of life is learning but I am also obligated to make sure they can work with numbers, read and write and know something about the natural world. For my family that is best done with a set time for lessons and my kids look forward (most of the time) to learning something new that I have prepared ahead for them.

Measurable goals. My Bible is my standard. It’s filled with my goals. I try to evaluate myself regularly and I ask my husband to do so as well. Once in a while, when I’m feeling especially brave, I will ask my kids how I’m doing. That always gets me more than I bargained for. They are also surprisingly gentle. They often focus on different things than I do and they help me lighten up a bit.

I also set yearly and long term goals for each of my children, and for our home education in general.

Opportunity for advancement. I get promoted every year. It’s never boring and I get to constantly experience new things alongside my kiddos.

A schedule. There are certain hours for working certain jobs. I find we are the most productive when I guard our homeschooling hours. If I schedule time that is dedicated to learning and actually stay home to homeschool, amazing things happen. My children thrive on routine and a regular schedule is a tool that will make learning easier and more productive.

Commitment. Companies expect commitment and loyalty. I have to be invested if I am to do a good job. I believe if you are going to homeschool you have to be all in or it won’t work. When you are tentative your kids sense the wavering and school won’t go as smoothly. Whatever you do, do with all your might. If you are going to homeschool, why not go for it? You will have a much more fulfilling experience when you do.

A boss. I work for Him. I’m not trying to sound super-spiritual, but it’s true. He’s Who I most care to please. I look forward to the day I hope to hear “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Remuneration. My pay comes in the form of well-written papers, drive-by hugs, and peanut butter sandwiches with my kids as we watch the clouds. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not all about the “Benjamins.” When my daughter won the essay contest I was paid. My hard work teaching her paid off. I don’t think of their learning success as evaluation as much as payment. And when they are able to receive scholarships to university because of what we have done in our little homeschool, I really will get paid.

Benefits. I have a day that I can schedule and a life that I order, with God’s help. I have vacations, days off (for errands) and sick days (not mine, theirs). My benefits include snuggling to read in the middle of the day and being a part of my childrens’ light bulb moments. Benefits are not always evident, so you have to look out for them and be aware–things like flexibility of schedule for things like doctor visits, not having to get out in the cold and snow to take them to school, being able to travel, taking special field trips to enhance learning and tailoring your child’s lessons to their learning style and bent.

The other side of the encouragement coin

In my post on the encouragement addiction I tried to make the case that sometimes we can be a little too quick to let others be our Holy Spirit, seeking validation and affirmation from others when we should be looking to the Lord. I stand by my argument but I want to add something.

There is a place, not for empty platitudes, but for true encouragement. It is right and scriptural and compassionate. Who, while traveling the often difficult road of life, would not stop to comfort and strengthen a struggling soul along the way? Sometimes our dry and thirsty hearts long for the refreshing touch of another person.We may understand the idea that God is with us but sometimes we need a tangible sense of His presence in the form of a hug or an encouraging word.

A word spoken in season can be like a gentle rain, softening the ground for God’s Word to sprout forth. And hopefully this little sprout will become a tree of Life, offering fruit of the Spirit to another weary traveler on life’s highway. This is the Power of One, this life-giving relay race that depends on the generous love of one person for another.

Never think for a moment that someone may not need your kind words. You could be the difference in a bad day and a good day, between frustration with life and a little peace. Be liberal with your kindness and stingy with your criticism and you will be surprised how even your own burden has become a little lighter.