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How do we protect our children in an over sexualized society?  It seems everywhere we turn we are inundated with images of half-naked men and mostly naked women.  After writing about women and pornography I really began to realize how we as mothers have such a huge impact on our children.  Our reactions are our children’s future reactions.  If you consider pornography a rite of passage for children/teens, your children will not be protected and you hand them over to the bondage of sin and a life of shame.  If you scream and yell and make a huge deal about it, your children will as well.  Even though that sounds like it’s the right thing to do, it’s not.  Avoiding something or yelling about it doesn’t build a foundation of truth for them to stand on, it just makes a rule to follow.

When we deal with anything in our flesh, it remains there.  If we want conviction to come to our children’s we must go further and explain purity.  Our eyes, ears, heart and mind must all be protected.  Just removing pornography doesn’t create a moral child (or a moral mother).  We must replace with thoughts, ideas and truth that will allow them to walk out their lives.  Protecting their eyes is vital, they are the window to the soul.  Protecting their ears is so important because words can be just as vile as images.  I highly recommend the Squire and the Scroll and Princess and the Kiss by Jennie Bishop along with their study guides.  They are 2 vital messages for boys and girls before they ever have to deal with the battlefield that awaits them in the world.

These are some safeguards you can do to avoid unnecessary images or messages in your childs brain and help build a foundation that God can build upon.

-Look around the store, there are images everywhere!  From the magazine aisle, books, posters, even the mannequins.  Avoid them as much as possible.  They are like potholes on a road, purposely steering into them will probably do some damage.

-Know your childrens friends parents well, do not allow them into a home where you know pornography is kept.  Over 80% of a childs first exposure to porn is accidental and mostly at a friends home.  The average age is 11.  Don’t mess around.

-Avoid sleepovers at friends’ houses.  You may know parents well but you never know who else is influencing their children.  They could have a magazine stolen from a friend’s house or even a victorias secret catalog.  Since they are less likely to be properly supervised at night, its best to just avoid sleepovers completely.

-keep dialogue open!  Do NOT avoid this subject!  It may be uncomfortable but that’s your issue, not theirs!  If you are silent then you are purposely allowing them to only get the immoral side of the story!

-I have seen my oldest son really strive to guard his eyes.  This is something I have driven into my children for a long time!  I commend him every time.  Do not get angry if they do not guard their eyes but realize you must explain why guarding their eyes is vital.  I typically do this later privately and not on the spot.  Feelings are not shameful, just as sex is not shameful, but those feelings must be saved for their future wives/husbands.  Building the walls of purity not only help by keeping the enemy out of the courtyard of their hearts but also helps when they are married to keep intimacy within the walls of marriage.  Boundaries are beautiful things!

-INTERNET FILTER!!!!  Did you hear that?  Yes, filter the internet!!!  Supervise, supervise, and supervise! My children know they are not able to do certain things, go on certain sites or search without me or my husband in the room.  They do have a handful of sites they are free to look at.  Check their history to ensure they are being obedient.  My children’s computer is also password protected; they cannot use it unless I enter the code.  It’s not that I do not trust them, it’s that I love them too much to give them the potential to stumble in ignorance.

-Again, more is caught than taught.  If you, as a mother, look lustfully at another man other than your husband, your children notice!  If your husband looks lustfully at another woman, your children notice!  If you dress immodestly, your children notice.  They learn SO much just by watching you!  Your reaction is key.  If we walk past an image of an immodestly dressed woman (which is naturally noticed, I don’t go out of my way to point it out!) I usually say something like “If only she knew how much God loved her she wouldn’t need to look like that”, “I wonder what her husband thinks of her trying to draw another man’s attention” or “Wow, that’s someone’s sister, daughter or wife, I wish the men in her life would tell her she is beautiful for who she is and not for what her body looks like.”

Remember, God is in control.  Our children need to develop a thick skin and learn to bring lustful thoughts or actions to the throne of God and into captivity by the Holy Spirit.  Even though they are our precious children they will someday be sexual adults.  God gave them sexuality as a gift!  It’s not a shameful aspect of their personalities, it’s a beautiful element of their lives… once they are married!  God gave clear and defined rules.  Instill those rules in them even if our culture says something else.  Let them know they have a gift, meant for one person whom God created them for.  Even more, remember that same gift God gave you is meant for your husband alone.  Your imagination is his and only he should dwell there, not Magic Mike or any other man.

If you have stumbled into pornography, immodest dress or immoral thoughts, repent and remember that the shame you feel is a tool to know it is wrong.  BUT you do not have a scarlet letter before God!  He forgives all that is brought to Him with true repentance.  Ask for help if you need it.  Your children may have watched you walk in sin but they can also take the example of how to walk out of it and into the forgiveness only Jesus brings. Though our culture makes it seem okay, it s not and it must be dealt with.  They dealt with this over and over again in the Bible, there is much wisdom to draw from there, go crack it open and read it!

We hear the battles of men who are addicted.  We hear of the marriages that crumble because a woman has lost the heart of her husband to an image on a screen or magazine.  We weep with women who are broken over their husbands choices and the ripple effects it has had in opening up that door to their sons as well.  Rarely do we hear of a woman’s battle. Rarely do we hear she is just as addicted as a man.  Why is this so?  It’s because pornography for women has sadly become mainstream.

There is something in a woman’s brain that is wired to a great story.  Our God given creativity and heart is drawn in differently to the imagery of stories, both in movies and books.  There are beautiful stories of love out there; Song on Solomon is an entire book of the Bible devoted to love and sex!  We hear so often that sex outside of marriage is wrong that we forget that sex within marriage is not only okay but quite encouraged by scripture!  After all, what do you think God meant when He said ‘be fruitful and multiply’?  He meant, ‘Here’s a great gift only you two will share and as a bonus you get little people out of it!’ That’s a great bonus to an already good present!

Satan, in his efforts to cause all people to turn from God, has placed a huge stumbling block in the path of women, stories of sexual fantasy and romance.  Women tend to me drawn into a great book while men are more visual, Satan saw this and decided to use it.  Recently a book called 50 Shades of Grey was a bestseller.  I have heard several Christian women talking about what a great book it was.  After looking into it I found out it is flat out pornography!  As men flock to images, women flock to imagination.  The book has pushed the envelope of ‘romance novels’ (which, by the weay, is also pornography!) and created a huge perversion of sexuality, embracing the passions of Sodom and Gomorrah as opposed to the passions of Holy sex.  Just because the world is trying to rework the acceptable/unacceptable forms of sexuality doesn’t mean the church should be as well.

Seeming that it couldn’t get worse now we have the movie Magic Mike, a story of a male stripper, hitting the big screen!   Women… including Christian women, are sitting in theaters drooling over a man stripping!  Ladies, how would you feel about your husband doing that over a woman?  Statically we know that is NOT a good thing for marriages!  According to American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, in 2003 internet pornography was an issue in 2 out of every 3 divorces! According to Todays Christian woman, 1 out of every 6 women struggle with pornography.  These are huge statistics when you look at the current trend of making pornography for women far more bold than the days gone by.  By the way, these are the statistics with the category of ‘Christian’s’!  This isn’t women as a whole, this is women in the church, proclaiming Jesus as savior!   There is a huge issue that must be dealt with.  The hearts of wives are straying from their husbands and their husbands hearts are straying from their wives.  This is a cycle that must be stopped.

Women seem to be okay with their pornography being out in the open where men tend to hide.  There is both a good and bad element to this for women.  Good being that it can be dealt with.  Godly women can step in and point out to a woman that even if the world says books like 50 Shades of Grey or movies like Magic Mike are okay we can boldly tell them they are not okay!  Not only are they not okay but they are sinful!  They are betrayals of our husbands, the only man our eyes and hearts should be for.  We are in a covenant with God in our marriages.  The very bad part of women’s battles being so open is that small eyes are watching their mothers as they talk about this, often mothers not realizing they are even in a battle.  Children see the books their moms are reading, movies they are watching and eavesdropping on the phone calls women have with their friends.  They hear their mothers heart and affection directed towards another man.  What would a little girl learn other than its okay for your heart to stray from your husbands, little boys learning their wives will not just be their helpmeet but the helpmeet of other men as well.  That is not biblical and is a recipe for disaster in marriage.

Marriages often die because people compare their husbands/wives to other men and women.  That discontentment grows into disconnect and we start hearing things like ‘He’s not my type’ or ‘Things have changed’.  NO!  You have looked elsewhere and compared and you don’t like the comparisons results.  Change your ‘type’, not your spouse.  If your husband is blonde, you like blondes.  If he is tall, you like tall men.  If he is formerly skinny, you like formerly skinny!  You no longer have a choice in types, you chose and you live with your choice, you don’t seek fulfillment elsewhere.  That’s a betrayal to both God and your husband.

If you are a woman who struggles with pornography, you are not alone.  Many women out there battle the same as you.  You must put barriers in your life to help and give you accountability.  Covenant eyes is a great internet filter for this purpose.   To seek further help go to Dirty Girls Ministries, a great place to find resources and tools to win your battle, save your marriage and be healed by Jesus.

If you are in this place, where you know you have an issue, do not shy away and hide.  Stand and yell as if you are drowning!   There are women who have overcome who would be more than willing to pour into you.  Most important, there is a Savior, waiting for you at the foot of the cross.  He is waiting to heal you, make you clean and pure, washed in His blood and now free from the bondage of pornography.

The day I became prolife was not a day recent but one long ago and far away, many years before I was a Christian.  I was a junior in high school and I walked into my favorite teachers class, Lisa Reynolds.  Lisa was awesome!  She let us call her by her first name, she treated us as if we were people and not just ‘lowly students’ and she, by far, was the most respected woman in our high school.  Lisa is one of the teachers who made an impact on my life, not by what she taught me in a classroom but what she taught me about life.

It was a normal day like any other.  I was walking into my physics class and having a conversation with a friend about abortion.  I remember saying “I think its far better to have an abortion than to give a child up for adoption.  Why would let your baby think they were unwanted for the rest of their lives when you could just abort them and not worry about it?”  You could almost hear the screech of tires as I turned and was faced with Lisa, standing, red faced and looking right at me!  I had no idea what I did!  Then, in the same way I grit my teeth and speak quietly through them to find out the truth from my children before reacting, she said “Did you just say its better to kill a baby than to give it up for adoption so they don’t feel unwanted?”  Time stood still… I, in fear, responded “Yes….”

Like I said, Lisa was a woman I respected (and feared a little!).  She walked out to the front of her desk, leaned on it, obviously gathering her words and said, “Then what your telling me is that you think I should be dead.”  Gasp!  She then went on to tell me, and whomever else came to class at that point, that she was adopted.  Her biological mother gave her life and gave her, as a gift, to another family.  A face was forever etched into my brain.  Every time I heard a friend tell me she was having or did have an abortion I would think of Lisa face and I was grieved.  To this day when I hear of an aborted baby I think “That could have been a Lisa”.

I learned very little in high school, mainly because boys, drugs and rebellion were far more interesting to me, but I did walk away with one huge lesson and that is that a person is a person, no matter how small.  Lisa put a face to the unborn for me and also made me realize the babies that are killed are the same size each of us once were, we were all grown in 9 months, we were all 9, 12, 20 week babies, safe in our mothers wombs.  We were not blobs of tissue, we were the same person then that we are today.  Look at your hands, the first time those hands moved was most likely even before your mother knew you were there, those hands could feel then just as you feel today.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made, as is every child, no matter how small.

Just because abortion is legal, doesn’t make it right.  The slaughter of a person in the name of choice should not even be up for debate.  Millions of ‘Lisa’s’ have already been killed and adoptive parents left empty handed because their child has been killed.  What can we do?  We can stand and be a voice to the voiceless.  We can become the vocal majority!  When I became prolife it wasn’t a political reason, it wasn’t a faith based reason, it was because I could not look a woman in the face and tell her she should be dead.  Sometimes, it really is that simple.

Time magazine has blown up media with their new article on attachment parenting.  So much so that even on my social media fast I have been pulled into reading articles and seeing opinions.  I have been challenged by the articles daring question, ‘Are you mom enough?’  Heres my answer.

I am an extended breast feeding, feed on demand, co-sleeping, baby wearing mommy.  I adore the times I have worn my babies.  I love cuddling in with my babies each night (cuddling and nursing a sweet 3 week old as I write this!) and the extra sleep I get co-sleeping.  I have no issues nursing my babies and letting them self wean, though all have weaned between 11-18 months.  I am NOT however and attachment parenting mom.  I was one so it may be better to say I am a recovering AP mom!

If you look at my family you will see a 5 year break between child 2 and 3.  Though we leave our fertility up to God I prayed He would not give us children during that time.  He granted my prayer and in the meantime fixed my heart.  I was an incredibly selfish mother who did my big boys a huge disservice by allowing them in a gentle parent environment.  They both thrive on routine, I gave them none because of my philosophy of child led home.  They need no’s to feel confident that I have their best interest at heart, I said yes and do what you want all the time.   My 2nd still wanted to ride in the cart at the store when my 3rd was born… he was 5… and he thought he ran the show!  God opened up my eyes when he was 4 but wow, that boy has taken lots of deprograming to show him the world beyond himself.

Now, with 6 children, a good routine, a firm(okay, somewhat firm!) no and a combo of redirection and Biblical chastisement I have happy, well adjusted children.   The Lord, having a sense of humor and proving His book is better than Dr. Sears book, has given me a huge challenge in my childrens personalities.  My oldest had a major speech issue in which communication wasn’t possible for him for several years other than grunts and pointing. I met his every need!  Just now, at 11, have I seen him blossom to look beyond the end of his nose.  He dealt with rejection when I removed AP from our home and it took a few years to manifest.  I though he was doing fine, he wasn’t and it didn’t bubble up until 3 years later!  My now 9 year old also dealt with finding out he wasn’t the center of the universe with rebellion and attention seeking behavior.  They are also notorious for arguing and bickering.  Why?  Because they viewed each other as competition.  This is getting better each day but it’s a challenge I do not have with my younger children.

God has a different plan.  His is a reflection of His true nature.  An outstretched hand, a safe place to be held, a firm yes and a firm no.  A willingness to lay down His life and a willingness to give a rebuke.  A challenging Word with a perfect, loving tone.   The promise that we will have challenges in the life but the reassurance He will be with us and never leave us.  The most perfect picture of His parenting is the cross when He died for our sins so that we, as Christians who have turned, repented and followed after Him, will never taste death or Hell but live with Him forever!  Even when He ascended into heaven, leaving us the promise of His return, He sent the Holy Spirit as a comforter for us and gave us the Bible to read and treasure.  That is a loving parent.

If God deals with our pride, shouldn’t we deal with our childs?  We are boss, they are to follow, not vice versa.  My 5 year old is a perfect display of this Biblical philosophy.  She is an alpha female… perhaps  a bit like her mommy.  She is strong willed, stubborn and I am pretty sure she was out to have me die of a stroke for the first 3 years of her life!  My dad had joked she was like a terrorist.. and she was… but I knew something vital, never negotiate with terrorists!  One day, she got it.  She is my go-to girl, she is a leader, she is kind, sweet and a helper anyone would be envious of but she is rightly submitted to Mommys authority.  She is me but with greater self control at 5 than I had at 25!  She is fruit that Gods plan works… which allows me to persevere with her 3 year old brother who I think is trying to create a permanent eye twitch and a nearly 2 year old who is showing signs of turning on me!

Though God has created each child different, His plan still works perfectly for each of them.  My children are still one of the greatest blessings of my life.  My salvation is the greatest gift and serving God through motherhood is a huge, humbling blessing.   This is my ministry, my heart and my greatest focus.  The worldly philosophies of AP no longer trump the God given guidelines for parenting.  God created my children and I will answer to Him on my mothering.  I am so thankful He saved me from destroying them.  His NO to me about AP was a life changing event showing me the dreaded NO is a blessing, not a curse.

This is not a war of gentle mothers vs militant mothers.  This is a war of the Word of God reigning supreme.  So wear your baby, nurse your toddler, co-sleep (most likely how Jesus Himself was nurtured by Mary!) but make God supreme, dish out some ‘no’s, lay some boundaries, claim your mommy authority and raise selfless Christian children to the glory of God!

I am pleased to announce I am now the mommy to 6 awesome children!  A half dozen blessings, all hand sculpted by the Lord!  Never did I think God had such favor to find me fit to raise 6 people!  He either grades on a curve or sees something I don’t, either way, I am blessed!

But there is a dreaded moment in my near future where the questions and comments I receive change.  The temperature drops and suddenly the warmth of congrats turns to the coldness of ‘This is it, right?’  I am not looking forward to it but I know my life is not the norm so I must be okay with answering my critics, whether I know them or not.   Today, I will answer some just for you to eavesdrop on.

“What about your other children, they must feel so left out with no one-on-one time.”

This is one that I really dislike.  Please find me the scripture about one on one time with children in the Bible.  I am not saying it’s not important to spend time with our children, I often reward good behavior with a mommy/child date to get ice cream or I take one of my older ones to the store, my husband does the same with all of them even if its just a simple project like changing oil.  It’s important to know each of our children for who they are but you do not always need to be alone with them to know them.  You can learn a lot about a person in a group setting, even within a family.  Often one person will ask questions another never thought to ask or a topic comes up you didn’t realize intrigued them.  I have some that prefer alone time, others that prefer a crowd, it depends on the child.  I do my best to meet the needs of each of them where they are.

I will admit I am not perfect and there are times my priorities shift to a sick child, pregnancy, a newborn, a big house project, ministry work, etc. and someone feels left out.  I do my best to avoid this but it happens.  This is a hard life lesson for children to learn when they realize they are not the center of the universe but they must realize it.  Typically if this happens the symptoms become clear quickly through outward rebellion and the issue can rooted out and it can be fixed.  Though its often not one on one time they crave, just time to be part of the group.  My 3 year old often feels left out of bigger kids activities, slowly he gets to be a part of it.  Last year, he couldn’t go to the springs to swim with Daddy (mainly because he did NOT grasp the concept of ‘underwater=bad’ and why sinking and swimming are different!), this year he gets to go with the older 3… and Leah, almost 2, is upset she can’t go with Daddy yet.  The cycle continues!  Alas, we must all be told no at some point in time but when we can say yes we should!  I think of proverbs 3:28 “Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you” (ESV).  Same for children, if your able, allow it or do it, if not, don’t.

My point here is it’s not just one on one time, it’s a family unit we are built as.  I enjoy the times my oldest goes to the bank with me and we chat in the car or the times I get to cuddle a toddler but its not a goal.  Our goal is to raise strong people to the glory of God, who can serve, lead, follow, work, pray, contribute and know they belong to something greater than themselves.

“But your body is so worn out!”

First off, thanks for the compliment (insert sarcasm here)… and yes, people say this!  We, as women, were created to have babies.   God, being God, is not dumb.  He does not accidentally create life and He gives us what our bodies can handle.  Is pregnancy tough, absolutely!  I have had 2 pretty easy pregnancies and 4 pretty tough ones .  I have 6 wonderful children.  They were worth every time I threw up, every ache and pain, every pound I gained or struggled gaining like with Piper.

God never promises easy, He never says ‘this trial will be a breeze!’  Pregnancy can be a trial, just look at the fact its 40 weeks long!  That’s a big number to God.  I was 40 years in the desert for the Israelite’s, 40 days fasting for Jesus before He walked into ministry, 40 pops up a lot in scripture and usually it’s not a 40 day feast or party!  This is no coincidence.  But at the end of those 40 weeks we are sweetly rewarded with a precious new life entrusted to us to raise to the glory of God!  My body is not worn out, it is being used for the reason in which it was created, to bring forth life.  Maybe my stomach isn’t flat or those few extra pounds will never really go away but I get to bring people into the world.  I will trade a pair of size 5 jeans for that privilege any day!

“But your risks of complications go up so much with each pregnancy!”

Let’s talk about what it means for ‘risks going up with each pregnancy’.  My risks of dying in a skydiving accident is zero, why?  I don’t skydive therefore making my risk level zero… unless I get hit by a skydiver who is landing!  If a person skydives 1 time a year, they are increased risk than my zero risk, if they skydive weekly they are at a far greater risk.  Have their risk per jump gone up, no.  It’s the amount they skydive that increases their personal risks.  Some could skydive daily for years with no issues.  Others die the first jump.  The more times you put yourself in a situation, the greater the risks.

Now this is true for most pregnancy related complications except for a few which are early postpartum hemorrhage (within 24 hours of giving birth), repeat c-section complications and gestational diabetes if you have had it before.  I am not in this category fortunately, for those that are they need to bring that to the Lord and to their Midwife/doctor for advice.  There are always exceptions to the rules but for the most part, in a normal healthy woman, increased pregnancy risks only increase because we are pregnant more often.

Funny enough a study came out recently that said women who have 6 or more children live longer.  Same for fathers of 6, watch out world, Vince and I aren’t going anywhere soon, we are now in the elite class of ‘parents of 6’! J

“I only had 2, that’s all I could handle!”

I couldn’t handle 2, that’s why I had more!  There is more peace in my home of 6 children then there ever was with just 2.  We have a 5 year gap between #2 and #3.  I had a very different (and wrong!) philosophy on parenting then, creating more rivalry than peace.  God gave us that gap by His grace and fixed a lot that we had broken.  Adding more children has really helped!  It may be contrary to what everyone thinks but adding children breaks selfishness in other children, helps draw out personalities, helps me see Gods plan for our family even more clear.

I cannot handle 6 children under my own strength, in fact I can barely handle our yorkie, but God sees differently.  He obviously sees something in me that’s stronger than I see myself.  I am weak, He is strong.  He gives me the grace and mercy to handle 6 children.  I could not handle 6 when I had 1, I couldn’t handle 8 now that I have 6, why?  It’s because I stand in my present, where God has brought me.  With each child I have grown, each addition brings challenges and triumphs, exposes selfishness and pride and allows me to grow more into the likeness of my Savior.  I cannot handle breathing without Jesus nor could I handle marriage, finances, friendship or anything else without His grace!  Parenthood is the same no matter how many children you have.  To raise a child without the grace and guidance of the Lord in your life is to drive blind, that’s why you crash into things!  I need that light to see the path He has carved for me and each of our children, that wouldn’t change if we had 1 or 21.

“How selfish to have so many children!” (this one often said behind my back)

Yes, I can see how you feel I am selfish because I obviously must enjoy doing dishes, laundry, cooking and cleaning up after 6 children, a husband, dogs and myself.  Ummm…no.  My problem was that I was selfish which is why I needed a large family!  I am an only child, I have perfected selfishness.  I am good at manipulating, putting myself first, being lazy, sloppy and unorganized.  Those are my talents.  God didn’t see those as talents so He has broken me of those talents and created an environment that I must die to self every day!  What a blessing!  Being conformed unto Christ is hard, no matter our path or how God brings us there.  His strength is made perfect in our weakness.  I am weak; I praise God He has found this as a way to show how strong He is through me.

“wow, 6, God bless you!”

He has, 6 times!  I don’t have any idea why I found such favor with Him!  This is usually said with sarcasm and no true intention of actually saying ‘God bless you’.  Its more of a weird ‘I don’t know what else to say’ kind of statement, no longer holding on to the ‘God bless you’ we hear in church or from fellow Christians and more of the superstitious ‘God bless you’ we get after a sneeze.  It’s a funny thing to me how people see children as a downside of sorts.  The more there are the more burdened we are, oh, poor family with so many children.  I have never had a conversation with someone whose husband got a promotion from $45,000 a year and now makes $55,000 a year and have them say “but I know that this is it for us, we are going to make sure we don’t make any more money than that, hes going to his boss on Monday and having his sign a paper that says ‘no more raises’ because we really feel he has hit the maximum level of promotion, have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”  That would be craziness!  Who is going to put a cap on financial blessing and reward?

Yet this is what we do with children.  We put a cap on God.  We say “Oh, I trust the Lord” when it comes to health, financial and increase in things but when it comes to children we cut Him off, not allowing Him to make the decision, just simply stating we ‘know we are done’.  Do you really think the God you trust enough for your salvation is going to mess up with your womb?  Children are not a happenstance; they are a heritage from the Lord.  They don’t just come out of nowhere; they come out of Gods hands.  If you trust Him with your soul it should be easy to trust Him with your womb.  I am blessed to be the mom of 6.  Could I be fortunate enough to have #7?  I don’t know but I know the decision is not mine to make.  I leave that up to the One who knows me best, my Creator.

Just a side note, I am not anti-birth control when it comes to barrier methods or NFP.  I don’t believe they are Gods best but I don’t believe they are sinful unless God has convicted you and you are disobeying Him.  I am against all hormonal birth control, IUD’s, etc.  These are classified abortifactents and can kill a baby if it’s conceived (which happens more often than you may realize!).  I believe the use of those kinds of birth control are sinful as they can result in the loss of life of a baby.  They also have horrible side effects for a woman and can shorten her life by causing diseases like cancer.

“You know what causes that, right?”

No… please tell me, random stranger?  People seem to not realize how inappropriate their comments are… until you turn it around on them and say, “no, what causes it?” or “yes, happy marriages!” or my favorite “oh, we dont have TV”.

and drumroll please…. the one I hear most often… the one every mom hears… the one that people STILL think is original…

“boy, you have your hands full”

Oh yes, I do!  I also have a heart full of joy, love and blessings!  God is amazing to have chosen me for this adventure I call family, my hands my be full for this season but one day my nest will empty.  I will look back with no regrets on the number of children I had even if its more than the norm.  I will watch them grow into the people God created them to be and remember they are here not because I am their mother but because God is their Father and their paths are created by Him.  I have a front row seat and both hands fully immersed into the lives of 6 people.  Yes, my hands are full, full of the greatest blessing I could ever imagine, motherhood.

In summary, I am telling you I am abundantly blessed beyond my wildest dreams!  The Lord took a wretch of a 19 year old girl, saved her and has found her fit to not only be a wife but also a mom to 6!  I went from an atheist, evolutionist ,‘live like Hell’, ‘you name the sin and I have done it’ person to a soundly saved, homeschooling mom of 6 who has the greatest passion to serve God with all of my heart, mind, soul and strength.  You may dig through the Bible looking for miracles but I look at my life to see what God has done and realize it’s a miracle I am even here!  Its amazing I am called to be the helpmeet to my husband, the mother to my children and the daughter to the most high God.

Let me start here with a part of Psalm 66, it’s a verse my heart has cried before the Lord for the past few years, through great trials.  It was the only way I could remember that God was hearing me at times, hearing every prayer and cry as I was navigating a long and hard trial, many times in weakness.  Though some of the symptoms of the trial are lingering still, I knew the Lord has given us a new beginning this year.

Psalm 66:16-20

 16 (R)Come and hear, all you who fear God,
   and I will tell what he has done for my soul.
17 I cried to him with my mouth,
   and high praise was on[a] my tongue.[b]
18 If I had (S)cherished iniquity in my heart,
   (T)the Lord would not have listened.
19 But truly (U)God has listened;
   he has attended to the voice of my prayer.

 20 Blessed be God,
   because he has not rejected my prayer
   or removed his steadfast love from me!

As I prayed about this year I knew this would be vastly different than the last four years.  The Lord woke me up one night, reminding me He gives good gifts.  This was right after Christmas, which He supernaturally stretched $250 to give my children a great Christmas! I may be a good shopper but I knew under the tree was adding up to way more than $250 yet I knew how much I spent.  When He said he gives good gifts I knew what He meant, though I had no idea what was in store.

First, we got a random check in the mail.  Then, another!  Wow, thank you Lord!  Then my brother in law sent his old xbox to my children as a gift.  Awesome!  My Dad’s xbox had recently died so he was concerned the kids may be playing an xbox that would die soon, or as my Dad calls it, the red ring of death!  He didn’t want the kids to be without their new xbox any time soon so he got us a brand new one with a Kinect!  I had prayed for that for Christmas but it never panned out, why?  Most likely, because God knew 2 weeks after Christmas a brand new one would be in our house as a gift!   During this time I also received a bunch of maternity clothes from a friend, ones way nicer than I would EVER get for myself.   We were also given a Nook from my mom which my oldest son now uses for reading his school books.  Simply amazing for a 3 week span especially after the 4 year drought we had suffered in a great trial!

One of the convictions we hold as a family is trusting God for the size our family.  Since the birth of our second son we have trusted He would provide fully for every child He creates, no matter how many that is.  Though its not always easy we have stood on that.  As we are preparing to have our 6th child we realized we grew out of both of our vehicles.  I prayed about our need for a large van and God just gave me full peace.  I assumed we would be a 2 car caravan for a while.  I also joked we would get my husband a moped to follow behind us when we went places!  I had no idea what God had planned.  My husband and I have been going through some of the great teachings and lectures on Embassy Institute lately.  We had just listened to one by Gil Bates, a father of 19, on how the Lord kept providing vans and other things for them.  I have been standing in faith God was going to line something up for us.  If He takes care of a family of 21, surely, He will take care of us.

I called my best friend Kristen one morning, as I do most every morning.  I was recapping all of the awesome things God was doing and how floored I was with all of Gods gifts.  I said “I can’t even imagine what the Lord has next!”  Little did I know, she already knew!  You see, that morning her husband had just gotten a third word of confirmation that a certain amount of money the Lord had been telling them to put to the side was actually to buy us a van!  Her husband Joe called Vince to tell him, we were both so overwhelmed.  To know people who do Gods will constantly is a blessing enough, its awesome to watch God use people to bless people, to know people so committed to serving God they will obey Him is something you do not find often in churches today.  Obedient people are few and far between, especially when you are talking about thousands of dollars.  But not them!  I am unbelievably blessed to call Kristen my best friend anyway.  Shes a woman I prayed for in my life, one who will tell me when I am wrong, agree when I am right, never sugarcoat things and shes funny as icing on the cake.  I have watched her walk with the Lord from the time she found out there are 2 testaments in the Bible, watch as her husband was saved, as the Lord blessed them with a business, bless them with new babies and so much more that God has done in their lives.  I have had a front row view to seeing God work in her life and that alone is a blessing.  To be at the receiving end of a blessing the Lord gave them to pass forward to us as a testimony of His amazing faithfulness is a great blessing.  If you don’t have a Kristen in your life, pray for one.  I can’t imagine how people survive without one!

So on Monday, the van the Lord gave us came home.  I will never enter the van and not think of what God has done.  I look at it and see Gods faithfulness, His grace, His planning, His perfection and the fact “has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!” (Psalm 66:20) even as we went through great trials.  He is so faithful!  If you stand on His word to provide, He will.  I am not a ‘name it and claim it’ person for many reasons but a HUGE reason is that I could never name the things the Lord has blessed me with to try and ‘claim them’!  They are so far above and beyond my expectations! I wouldn’t have even thought of these things to as for!  I am a sinner, saved by grace. The only reason Paul was able to say he was chief of sinners then is because I wasn’t born yet to give him competition!  I deserve Hell but God blessed me with salvation.  I do not deserve 6 children but God has blessed me with them.  We do not deserve a van as a gift, but the Lord found us fit to be stewards of it.  I am humbled at His faithfulness and His gifts.  He gives good gifts.  We deserve nothing more than Hell but by His grace, mercy and loving-kindness He uses a far different measuring stick to see what He will give us when we submit our hearts and lives to Him fully.

Just a disclosure, this is not a testimony about me, Vince, Kristen and Joe, my dad or anyone else who has given these gifts to us.  This is a testimony of Jesus Christ active in our daily lives.  This was all 100% from Him.  All people who were used were used by Him, all gifts were provided by Him and everyone will be used to glorify Him alone!  The same God who created the world created these miracles in our life.  This has nothing to do with us but solely a reflection of Him.  If you read this and want this testimony it doesn’t begin here with gifts, it begins at salvation.  To know more, please go here and listen to Hells Best Kept Secret or visit this website for more information.

Here are some pictures of the van!  :)

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My new years goal is to eat healthier but not less convenient and to avoid stores like the plague.  I already have a long term food storage. I have enough in long term storage to feed my family for 1 year, crazy to some but better to be prepared than to need it and not have it!  That completed my goals for last year.  

This year I am all about simplifying and not relying on walmart for every whim and need.  I also do not want to coupon like crazy because it was getting too time consuming.  I have been looking at simplification for a while and really bringing it to God.  Heres my goals for the year.

Stock up-  I have made a list of basics I get from the store each month; shampoo, toilet paper, trash bags, etc.  I plan on buying a years worth (which isnt as much as I thought it would be!).  I have a bunch of storage space thats unused in my garage.  By stocking up I may be putting a bit more money out at first BUT I will not just reduce but eliminate impulse shopping!  If I am not at a store because I ran out of something I will not be impulsed to buy anything.  This will be a huge budget saver long term!

Making it from scratch-  I am not talking about grandmas scratch, I am talking about things I use like mixes, meal kits, etc.  I found out that Sams club carries a lot more online.  You can get things like dehydrated cheese, eggs, milk, peppers, onions, etc. all in #10 cans or 5 gallon buckets for much cheaper!  Augaston farms is the company name.  I plan on making my own mixes.  I am going to go to tractor supply (cheapest in town and best lids!) and getting 1 & 5 gallon buckets to make mixes.  Then, when I want ‘tuna helper’ I open up the bucket of mix I have premade, scoop out enough for our dinner, add pasta and tuna and bam, I have dinner, still easy, premade, free of MSG or other preservatives (I plan on using oxygen absorbers to keep it fresh) and its still super easy!  This will save me ALOT of money.  Even on sale I pay $1 a box for tuna helper, for my family thats $3 a meal (7 of us) (not including tuna which bumps it up to $5).  I can probably make the same meal for less than $.50 (once I get my recipes right!) and I know everything thats in it! If I serve this once a week (and I will with my little tuna helper lovers!), at $2.50 savings that saves me $130 right there and thats just 1 meal!  I am hoping to see a big dent in my long term food bill.  

I also plan on restocking cooked chicken and cooked ground beef/turkey.  I make about 50 lbs of cut up boneless chicken and 50 lbs of seasoned meat (with onion usually) and freezer packing it.  That way I cut down on impulse eating out.  It takes a good full day to cook and pack it all BUT I basically have the meat portion of dinners done for 3-4 months.  Saves lots of time as well as money and again, keeps me out of the store!  Less stores, less impulse, less gas used, more time at home, easier to be free to do other things like love and serve my family!

I am a terrible baker so I buy most of my bread (like subrolls) fresh.  If you ask at sams in the bakery dept for bread dough they will sell you a whole box of frozen dough.  Cheaper, less hassle then making and freezing your own dough (for the ‘baking-challenged’ like myself!).  You can also get boxes of pizza dough balls.  Really, you can get anything there cheaper!  I am sure you can buy frosting, tomato sauce, etc. cheaper.  Asking saves LOTS of money!

Online shopping-  I save a lot of money on diapers buying them online!  Easily 40% off store prices on amazon when you use subscribe and save, way better then the savings you would get in store with coupons.  There are other things you can save on there with as well. PLUS its shipped to your door, free!  You save on gas, you save time since you can put it on auto ship and you dont have to worry about coupons, sometimes they even have ‘clipable’ coupons right on the product page worth up to $3!

Of course, I will still have to go to walmart and get things like milk, fresh eggs, fresh fruit, etc.  Some things like mac n cheese may still be cheaper at aldi (though I plan to price compare!).  This wont free me completely but the chance of impulse buying goes down with a smaller list.  

So thats my game plan this year. Hopefully once I have some good recipes with the dehydrated foods I will be able to share them.  Saving money is always needed no matter how much we have.  Saving time is something we also need!  Self reliance is an art form, one that looks different today when we dont live on farms.  This is my modern way of being farm style self reliant, except it comes in the form of a few 5 gallon buckets, some #10 cans, stocked shelves and good old innovation!

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