Author Archives: Kjirstin Cole

What I Want Them to Remember When I’m Gone

A few weeks ago, I was making dinner for a family in our church that has been dealing with some undiagnosed health struggles.  My daughter came in to ask what I was doing, and as I explained the situation to her, I thought to myself, “I want them to know this was important to me.  I want them to remember that their mama loved people.”  There are so many things in our days that I hope they don’t remember as the big issues of life.  I hope they don’t remember that I sometimes love my sleep more than I love them.  And sometimes, I seem like I love my clean house more than I love them.  As I finished cooking, I continued to mull over this thought.  What do I really want them to remember about me?  I do want them to remember that I love people.  But what if their gifting doesn’t lend them to hospitality and service?  What if people are tiring and loving others is a challenge to them?  I still want them to remember that I loved people, but there’s more.

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I want them to know that I loved them.  Hard.  I hope they know that I loved them more than I ever knew was possible in my body.  But, even that is not enough.  Because while I hope they know that they are loved by me for every breath they take, what about the day that I am gone?  What does that leave them with beyond a memory?  A legacy, I hope.  A love that teaches them how to love others, and builds confidence in them; I pray it gives them that.  But will that change their life?  Give them strength and vision for their hard days and the calling God puts on their life?  Maybe in some ways.

But still, my love is not enough for them.  But there is a love that is.  And that is what I hope they remember, and know without a shadow of a doubt.  I hope that one day, when they think about their mama, they can say, “My mama?  She loved Jesus.  With everything she had.  Loving Jesus made her love us, and other people, and our daddy with strength only He can give.  She loved us, and sometimes she yelled, and sometimes she chose the wrong things, and she wasn’t perfect.  But she loved Jesus.”

I hope that one day my kids want to be like me.  I hope I give them an example they want to follow.  But if He calls my sweet girl to a life of singleness and missionary life in another country, I don’t want her to be floundering for how to live life because she just wanted to love her kids like her mama did.  And if my boy is introverted and struggles to love people, I don’t want him to feel like he’s failing.  I hope and pray that they go after Jesus with all their heart, soul and strength.  That they can say to themselves “In living this life, I’m gonna love Jesus. No matter what.  Just like my mama did.”

Are You Waiting for Spring?

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I’m sitting on my porch this morning, drinking a cup of coffee.  I’m wrapped in a blanket, and it’s breezy.  But, the signs are there, in the slightest little ways.  My little girl just brought me flowers she found by the pond.  There are birds chirping and pecking for bugs in my backyard.  The sun is warmer on my face than it has been in recent days.  And it does something to my heart.  It feels like hope. I can feel it coming, days playing outside with my little ones; the relief from months of being inside, missing activities because of one more sickness passing through.  Does it ever feel this way to you?

This spring comes at a unique time for our family as I have been on bedrest awaiting the arrival of our littlest since shortly before Christmas.  It has been a long season.  In more ways than just the weather, it has been a winter of sorts here.  It has felt dark, hard, and confining.  There has been grace in so many ways, and I am so grateful for it! But it has still been hard for our whole family.  It has been a day after day trudging through, anxiously waiting for the day when the burden is lifted, when the sun breaks through the clouds.  My son captured it well this afternoon as we were chatting and he told me “It’s just going to be great Mom.  She’s going to make all our lives better when she’s here.”  Yes she will little man, yes she will.

I’m so grateful to live in an area with seasons.  The shifting, inevitable change.  His hand over all of it is palpable.  There is no way for me to imagine that any of it happens without His control.  A beautiful song by Steven Curtis Chapman captures it so well as he sings

“Feel the sun on your skin
Growing strong and warm again
Watch the ground: there’s something moving
Something is breaking through
New life is breaking through

Spring is coming, Spring is coming
And all we’ve been hoping and longing for soon will appear”

Is your heart anxiously awaiting spring?  Physically or metaphorically?  Know that He brings it.  And nothing on this earth can stop His hand when He declares its’ impending arrival.

When You Can’t Be the Mom You Want to Be

There are dinner dishes from yesterday still on the counter.  My daughter’s laundry hasn’t been put away in weeks.  The 2 year old’s clothes I started sorting weeks ago?  Still in a basket in his closet.  My husband wakes up early to settle all the kids through breakfast before he goes to work, and comes home to pick up the pieces I’ve dropped throughout the day.  You see, I am 29 weeks pregnant with our fourth baby, and have been on partial bedrest for the last 4 weeks with quite a few more to go.  And so many days are the same.  There is just so much I cannot do.  I want to.  I long to fulfill my typical role.  But for now, I just cannot do it all.

Sound at all familiar to you?  Perhaps your circumstances are different.  Maybe you’ve had a death in the family, or an extended season of frequent sickness.  Maybe you’ve recently moved, or are preparing to.  Any number of situations could put you in a similar spot!  I don’t know about you, but if I let myself, I feel so.easily.defeated in these times.

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Last night I was awake having contractions and my typical pregnancy insomnia.  My mind was swirling with thoughts of all the ways in which it feels like I am failing my family.  All the different ways my husband and children are having to pick up the pieces that I have left scattered all around.  In the midst of my defeat, the Lord was so kind and gracious to keep bringing the word “joy” to my mind.  I love when He does that.  I woke this morning praying for a different day.  For joy in the midst of these circumstances that are different than I would choose right now.  As I prayed, I realized that while there are many things right now that I cannot do, there are things I can do!  I can pray for His grace to cover our family and carry us through these days.  I can choose to have an attitude towards my children and interactions with them and my husband that are honoring to Him and helpful for their hearts!

In my house today, this meant that instead of doing a more involved science experiment that I just wasn’t up for, my kids helped me scoop ingredients for dry mix bags of baked oatmeal.  It means that when I started contracting again after 15 minutes of folding clothes on my girlie’s floor while she cleaned, we all stopped, and moved on to playing and snacks.  Because her room being clean is just NOT the most important thing right now.  Sure, I could have stayed there, pushing myself physically, or snapping at her to keep cleaning and making us all miserable.  But nothing about that is helpful or encouraging for any of us.  Believe me, there are plenty of times when I don’t take it in stride.  When I live in frustration and discouragement over what isn’t happening or what I can’t do, I make my entire family miserable in the process.

There are days where tasks must be accomplished – when I have to push through the attitude, or my own exhaustion, or any number of things to get the house cleaned before Bible study, or get a full solid day of school in after a week of sickness.  But right now, in the midst of this season?  I don’t have to, and in fact, it is better if I don’t try to.  Because for these weeks and likely a few months, life just looks different.  It looks like snuggles, books,  naps,  movies, and more electronic time than I prefer.  And IT IS OKAY!  It will not always be this way, but for now, my goal is to relish this time for what it is, to enjoy puzzles and games and books, and to let my attitude about our circumstances not make this any harder than it is already.

What about you, mamas?  Are you in a season where every day requires you to take it in stride?  It is hard, but so worth it, to rest in what He has for us, even in times where we just don’t feel like we are doing all we should.  He gives grace and peace for these days, and will help us see His plans if we only ask.

Essential Oils: Where Do I Start?

Almost 2 years ago, I was home with a 5 year old, a 2.5 year old, and a 2 week old.  As luck would have it with a December baby, my 2.5 year old was coming down with a nasty cold, and I was looking for anything that could help keep my 2 week old son from catching her bug.  My sister was here to visit and well, let’s be honest, keep us all alive!  I had heard of essential oils, but didn’t know anything about them.  A few hours later, I was the proud owner of peppermint oil, a First Response oil, and some frankincense.  So started my journey into learning how essential oils can be a helpful tool for my family’s health.  I’m not against medications, but any time I can find a natural alternative for myself and my kids I’m so much happier to use that!

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Essential oils have been so useful for us!  I’ll be honest, it’s a really overwhelming world to get into. Even after 2 years there is still so much I don’t know.  But, I have learned a few things, and I’d love to share them with you.  I have no certifications in this area, I’m no expert for sure, just a mama trying to help her family in as natural a way as is possible.  Here are my 5 favorite oils and how they have helped us in case any of you are beginning to look into them and are as confused as I was.

  1. Lavender – What can I NOT do with lavender?  Love this one.  So gentle and versatile, it is a great one for using with kiddos* around.  A swipe of lavender can change the mood around here for my fussy toddler, emotional preschooler, or hyper 6 year old.  The first few months I felt so silly trying it and thinking it couldn’t possibly be working – but I can’t deny the mood change that occurs almost every time I use it!  We use lavender on bee stings, bug bites, and burns for quick relief for little ones, and add it to lotion for dry itchy skin.
  2. Frankincense – Am I the only mama who too frequently finds herself with a spinning brain full of thoughts and plans, but can’t quite process what to do next?  Well, maybe I am, but somehow I think not.  Using frankincense in a diffusing necklace, a room diffuser, or just a few deep breaths over the empty bottle really helps to clear my thoughts and balance my brain on these kinds of days.  It has also been really helpful for my headaches, used together with peppermint and lavender.  (Frankincense is one of the more expensive oils, but remember, you only use a drop or two at one time so it really stretches out.)
  3. Tea Tree (Melaleuca)- This is another incredibly versatile oil, and is used in our house on a daily basis.  A drop in my face lotion helps keep my skin clear.  3-5 drops in my laundry loads, especially those loads that have been washed multiple days in a row because the next step keeps getting missed.  Oh wait, does that happen in your house too?
  4. Peppermint – This oil is one to be cautious in using on little ones, but has been very helpful for me.  I used it for morning sickness to help survive my first trimester, use it on the back of my neck with lavender and frankincense for headaches, and it helps clear out stuffy sinuses quickly.  I’ve used it in lotion on for my back muscles that aren’t thrilled about the second trimester baby growth spurts.
  5. Lemon – I love lemon oil.  Honestly, I just love the smell!  I love mixing it with frankincense to freshen up the smell, as I don’t love the smell of frankincense.  It’s great for adding to laundry to freshen it up.  You know that lovely sticker goo you find folding a load of laundry that’s already gone through the washer and dryer?  A few drops of lemon oil and it will wipe right off. Amazing right?  I thought so.  Gum stuck in the little girl’s hair because her brother told her he would make it pretty?  Yup, takes that out too.  Mixed with peppermint, it makes a great morning blend to help wake up after a sleepless night.

One of Heidi’s favorite brands is Spark Naturals, and you can use the coupon code THEBUSYMOM for 10% off all the time!

While it can certainly be an overwhelming world to get into, I have so enjoyed finding all the different ways that these oils can help our family.  What a gift that God has created plants with properties that can help our bodies function more healthily and naturally!  What is your favorite use for essential oils in your home?

*Note: Not all essential oils are advised around children and babies!  Please research your oils, dilute and use kid safe oils around your little ones!

Simplify Your Dinner Prep Today!

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Am I the only mom who has come to dread the 430-6pm hours of the day?  Man, these people, they want food every single night!!  There has got to be an easier way to do this.  It seems like freezer meals and once-a-month cooking posts are all over the place these days!  For a long time I couldn’t see why this would be necessary.  Well, I’m about to start my second year homeschooling, and am almost through my first trimester with our fourth baby, and it’s become pretty clear that cooking dinner is no longer my strength!  Over the past few months I’ve been looking for a few ways to simplify the process.  Thus far, I haven’t done a lot of fully cooked and frozen meals, but have focused on the most time consuming part of the process – MEAT!  For me, just having this step completed has made it SO much easier when 5 o’clock rolls around.  Here are a few ways I try to batch cook meat so it is ready ahead of time.

Ground beef ~ I’ve found that on a day when I am making something that requires ground beef, it is almost no additional effort at all to do it in a large batch.  I buy the family size packages at Costco or Wegmans (sometimes 2 if I’m feeling brave!), brown the meat (sometimes with garlic or onions depending on what I am cooking), use enough for dinner for a night or two, and freeze the rest.  I’ve done this with spaghetti sauce, chili, lasagna or tacos.  It can be done with meatloaf too, although it is more time consuming to do ahead of time in bulk.

Rotisserie chicken ~ What would I do without Costco’s rotisserie chicken?  This has saved me on so many evenings!  Aside from the last minute dinner though, it has become an ingredient for many other recipes.  Casseroles, soups, salads, there are so many options!  On a day or evening that isn’t overly full, I’ll buy 5 or 6 chickens, pick them all and cut up the meat, then freeze in 2 cup portions to use in any of these recipes later on.

zayconwithTBMlogoChicken breasts ~ I’ve started buying my chicken from Zaycon Foods.  Farm fresh chicken, $1.89/lb.  You can’t beat that!  When you buy from them, the chicken comes in a 40 lb. box and has to be trimmed, separated into bags
and frozen at one time.  Definitely more time consuming than cutting up a cooked chicken, but worth it!  Last time I ordered 2 boxes.  My husband and I worked together, and in one evening we had 80 pounds of chicken prepped and ready for different meals.  Sometimes I have gone the most simple route and just trimmed, frozen and bagged the chicken.  Sometimes I make up a few marinades to add to bags or simple recipes and freeze a few portions of it that way to have a few ready to bake servings too.

 

There’s nothing amazing here, and I’ve also just learned to simplify our meals in this season for us.  As much as I love fancy recipes (I’m a bit of a foodie), I’m just not in a season of my life where it serves my family well to cook involved recipes.  But  maybe there are some others who are looking to save time in simple ways like I am!  What are ways you have been able to simplify cooking processes in your home?

“Just wait until…” {three words to consider}

There are few words that can leave me feeling more defeated, fearful, and weary than these 3 following: “Just. wait. until.”

Oh, there’s nothing in the actual words.  Someone could be saying, “Just wait until you’re married, it’s so amazing!”

“Just wait until you feel that baby move, it’s such a cool feeling.”

Quite honestly though, that’s not usually the experience I have when I’m hearing these 3 words.

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Far too often, I find myself in conversations hearing these words with individuals in various stages of life ahead of myself, and it is usually more along the lines of “Just wait until they are teenagers, you think they are hard now?”  or “Oh sweetie, just wait until they do ____.”  And on goes the conversation that puts dread in me for the future. The intention is not always bad, and I’m sure the heart of these people is not to beat me down.  Nonetheless, as a mom of young kids, if I’ve just been vulnerable enough to confess that I’ve been angry at my kids, telling me to “just wait until…” is quite honestly, incredibly unhelpful for several reasons.

  1. It invalidates others’ feelings.
    Hindsight often shows us that past struggles were not as horrible as they seemed when we were in the midst of them. Sometimes we see that they were in fact just as difficult as we thought at the time, but in looking back we can see the work that God has done in our lives and hearts as He walked us through our trials.  Either way, the trials God allowed us were just that: trials!  So when we are in conversation with others that are a few years “behind us” in a life phase, minimizing their situation is a devastating way to invalidate their very real emotions and current struggle.  Don’t miss the opportunity to love and encourage a hurting friend in their struggle by invalidating their feelings.
  2. It does not bring encouragement or hope for the future.
    As a mom of one baby, I remember the overwhelming difficulty of figuring out what bothered my son’s tummy so badly that he threw up everything he drank.  It seemed like an insurmountable challenge.  I’ve now had 3 babies, my oldest is 6, and now the challenge is how to break the habit of an argumentative response to everything I say.  It’s different.  And yes, in some ways it is harder, and stretches me more.  But it doesn’t mean my new baby challenge wasn’t a challenge. And for me to go to a new momma struggling with a fussy baby and communicate that it only gets worse is a sure way to crush any hope for the great things that the future has to bring!  Sure, there is “different” hard in having 3 kids than when I only had one baby, but it wasn’t “less” hard, just different.  Let’s choose words that cast vision for the great things that are to come, not to instill dread in the hearts of our friends.
  3. It takes away from the message of God’s grace we could be sharing.
    I don’t know about you, but when I have a friend who repeatedly tells me to “just wait,” I’m much less likely to go to that individual for wisdom or solidarity!  What if instead of a “just wait until” approach we could say, “I completely remember how hard that was.  But look how God met me there!”?  What an amazing effect on our friendships and our mentoring relationships we could have if we could set our minds on communicating the grace that HE has given us instead of the struggle there was in the moments.

There is always someone in a phase behind us, and someone in a phase ahead.  Let’s try to remember the difficulties we’ve had in the past and be faithful to share who HE is and what HE has done in our lives as we talk to each other. Let’s choose to just wait until we see what the Lord will do as we encourage one another!

What I’ve Learned as a Rookie Homeschooler

15 math lessons. 13 reading lessons.  I can hardly believe it.  We’re almost done!  If we go with the sports language, I have almost completed my rookie season of homeschooling.  Rookie year is a wild ride folks.  At least it has been for me.  In September of last year, I sat down one Monday morning with my little people at our awesome little desks in the corner of our living room, with some pretty awesome plans for our year.  I was gonna rock this.  We did some preschool, and I mean, all my sisters homeschool, so it’s not like I haven’t seen it done.  Piece of cake, right?  Ha!  Just like almost every other area of being a momma, this new role of mine has brought me to my knees an awful lot this year.

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I wouldn’t change it for the world, but I’m looking forward to next year even more and the chance to put to use a few of the things I’ve learned along the way this year.

  1. Have a plan. ~ We have had good school weeks, and we have had rough school weeks.  I would say 80% of our rough school weeks start out as my fault.  You know the ones. The weeks when it’s Tuesday afternoon and those books you needed to pick up from the library so you could do science this week are still sitting on their hold shelf, and tomorrow is a full day already, so it’s not looking hopeful! (Or maybe you don’t, in which case you should be the one writing this post!)  The weeks when I am ill prepared to teach these little people of mine are fertile ground for feelings of condemnation and failure, frustration with myself, and poor behavior from my children as I’m trying last minute to print worksheets or find that game I told them we would play.  It’s also the prime time for my printer to decide it hates me, which only escalates my frustration. (Just ask my husband.)  Having papers printed, supplies purchased, and at least a loose plan for the week written down is, for me, most certainly the wise way to approach our school.
  2. Be willing to flex from the plan. ~ Then there is the other side of the coin.  A plan is just that, a plan.  It’s been easy for me to write off the school day when somebody wakes up with a tummy bug for the 5th time, or when the baby has pneumonia for the 3rd time, or when Mommy was at the hospital until 3am with a friend having surgery. (Yes, all these and more have happened in our house this year – craziness.) But what about when you’re halfway through math, and the tensions are rising, or when somebody is misbehaving and being disrespectful during reading?  These situations don’t feel quite as “easy” to put down the school books and really address the heart problems.  Theirs and MINE.  Oh, mine, sweet goodness.  At the end of the day, will He be more glorified if I have allowed disobedience or have trampled on my 6 year old’s heart for the sake of completing a math lesson on time?  I firmly believe that answer is a NO.  This is one of the primary reasons I am homeschooling. To be available and present to address all these heart issues when they happen.  Sometimes that means that lessons are completed later, after heart issues are worked out. Sometimes it means that schoolbooks are shelved until the next day, and we go to the park together to play and love our way back to each other.
  3. Learn about THEM. ~ One evening a few months ago, my daughter was “quizzing” her older brother on some math questions.  At one point, there was a question he didn’t get right away.  I looked over as he covered his eyes with his hands for a bit, then his eyes popped open and with no doubt at all, he yelled the right answer to her.  When I asked him what he was doing with his eyes covered, he told me “Well when I close my eyes I can see my number line, so then I do it just like I do in my book.” Well ok then!  Apparently I have a visual learner on my hands.  This has been helpful as our year has continued, and I can help him use this to his advantage.  I’m so grateful I caught that happening, and have been able to adjust my teaching to this part of my little man.
  4. It’s OK, and GOOD to say NO! ~ This one is fairly simple!  I am not good at saying no. There have been a number of playdates, appointments, requests for help from friends, and other things that have at times interfered with our school days.  Sometimes, this is just fine!  This is an advantage of homeschooling after all.  We’re allowed to have a playdate at 10am when we want to!  It’s awesome.  But there have been other times when I know I should be saying no, but it just doesn’t feel like doing school is a “good enough” reason to do so!  This is just not true.  “We have to do school at that time” is a perfectly good reason to not be available!  I have a responsibility to my children to teach them, and that is one of my primary roles right now.  I am doing them a disservice if I frequently make the needs of others higher than the needs of my children. Thankfully there is no right or wrong for these scenarios, just the need to have wisdom and to walk confidently in what I know is best for our family.
  5. I can’t do this. ~ Wait, what?  You read correctly.  I can’t.  There is no way this momma can homeschool well, cook well, clean, parent the toddler and preschooler, be a friend, go to work, and do all the other things required of me.  Not in my own strength.  There is nothing in ME that is good enough to do all these things.  Thankfully, I don’t have to be good enough!  Because God has given me all that I need in Himself to be the mom, teacher, wife, employee and friend that He has called me to be.  Thank goodness for this.  On our hardest days, this is what I cling to.  Because when I think I am enough, it goes downhill fairly quickly.  Being well aware of my weaknesses is what allows me to be well aware of HIS strength.

What about you?  Are you a new homeschooler?  What are a few things you’ve learned along the way?