Struggling Believer… I See You…I Am You…Together Let’s Discover What It Really Means to Be Servant Girls

So you believe in Jesus.

You know He was God’s Son, and you know He came to earth and lived among us as a man, as one of us. You know He taught about God and performed some miracles. You know He died on the Cross so the sins of those who believed could be forgiven. You know the tomb is empty because He rose and is in heaven with the Father. You believe. You’re a Christian, maybe even a member of a church somewhere.

But something is missing.

You aren’t growing. Or, you haven’t changed.

You took the big step: you believed.

But you don’t walk every day in what you believe.

You know stories about Him but haven’t experienced Him for yourself.

It is time to walk in what you say you believe. Every day. Be a servant girl. Live in it every day.

It is time to serve.

It is time to respond to the Good News, to God. To what He’s offering.

It is time to discover God’s will for your life and obey it.

It is time to recognize His voice and respond to it.

It is time for an intimate relationship.

It is time to pray and listen.

It is time to open your Bible.

It is time to live the every day details of who you say you are.

(I’m talking to myself, too).

Maybe you’re asking: How do I walk as a servant girl? How do I serve God? How do I respond?

I can’t answer those questions for you personally. God has to tell you that.

But I can tell you how to seek the answers.

I am learning to walk daily.

I am learning to recognize His voice.

I am learning to obey.

Image Credit: challies.com

I have to stop here because this is where Satan is telling me that I don’t do these things that I’m saying I do.

And he’s right. To a point.

I don’t do them every day, all day.

I get full of pride.

I get lazy.

I get distracted.

I get on the wrong path.

I am human, so I make mistakes and try to go my own way and do things in my own power.

But very soon God calls me back. I hear His voice. He shows me my sin. I repent and get back on the right path.

Yes, I still sin. Yes, I still make mistakes and get my eyes off God.

But I know His voice. I have a relationship with Him. We are always talking so it isn’t long before He gets me back where I should be. It isn’t long and I don’t go very far before He corrects me.

Because I know Him. I recognize His voice. I talk to Him and listen to Him.

I walk with Him. I read His word. I obey Him. I submit. I serve.

I want to share with you what He’s taught me about being a servant girl.

In 2021, I want to help you discover how to daily walk with God.

If you don’t already, please subscribe to Servant Girl Stories by clicking the “Follow” button at the top right corner of the blog’s homepage and leave your email address. New things are coming this year and further in the future, and I want to share them with you. As a whole, I hope to offer practical information, action steps, people to relate to and examples to follow as we learn to lead godly lives.

I’m looking forward to the journey.

Image Credit: A Bloomin’ Mum

Prayer of Affirmation

Lord, you have told me that you go behind me and before me and that you hem me in on all sides. You have assured me of salvation through your Son and of a relationship with you through your Spirit. You have shown me that I can always trust you. In these assurances from you, Lord, I am blessed. I will fix my mind on these things and receive your comfort. I will fix my mind on you and what you have already done and already given. I will yield to you. I will trust you. I will rest in you and be at peace.

Amen

A Letter for My Friends Reading Servant Girl Stories

Dear Friend,

With much anticipation, we left 2020 behind and rushed forward into 2021. Many are so anxious for this year to be different…better than the one we ended a week ago.

What are some of your dreams for the new year? Your goals? Did you make resolutions?

My husband and I have been talking about family goals for 2021 like possible DIY projects in our home or maybe even refinancing. At work, our director and staff continue to make plans to reopen our preschool since closing in March 2020 because of the pandemic. On a personal level, I’ve been praying and journaling about my writing goals.

I am part of a writing community called Flourish Writers and will participate in their year-long Flourish Writers Academy. My goal is to get clarity on why God made me a writer and take action on a writing project that has been on my heart for several years.

May I ask for your help in this venture?

First, please pray for me to listen to God and to submit to His will for my writing and my life.

Also, I want to know more about my readers. There are certain things on my heart to write, but I want to serve my reader as well. I want to write the things you need to read as well.

Would you help me do this by answering some questions about yourself? I would really appreciate it. Please click on the link below to take a short survey. There are 9 questions that should take you 4 minutes or less to complete.

Click here to take the survey.

Finally, if you haven’t subscribed to Servant Girl Stories, would you consider doing so? Subscribers get email alerts each time a new blog post is published. On the homepage of the blog, click on the “Follow” button on the right side of the screen. Leave me your email address, and I’ll send you blog posts 🙂

Thank you for your prayers and for your support. I look forward to this new year and seeing how God is going to work in our lives.

With gratitude,

Heather

Why We Suffer (Repost)

{The pandemic has me thinking a lot about suffering, especially its purpose; so I’m reposting this article I wrote in the spring}

It’s 1 in the afternoon.  My husband won’t be home for at least 3 more hours.  And the baby won’t.stop.crying.

He’s had a nap.  Been fed. Had a diaper change.

I’ve held him.  Bounced him.  Sung to him.  Put him down.  Picked him up again.  Everything I can think of.

But he won’t.stop.crying.

I remember a DVD the OBGYN gave me at a prenatal visit.  Something about “purple crying”.  The narrator explained that sometimes babies cry for no good reason – sometimes A LOT!  If you’ve done everything you know to do, and the baby is still crying, put the baby down in a safe place and walk away for a little while.

So, I lay him in his crib and go outside.  I slowly circle the outside of the house a few times to try and clear my head.

Each time I walk by his window, I hear him.  Still.crying.

That day is tattooed in my memory, but that baby is now in middle school.

EthanNewborn2009
Sleeping like a baby for his newborn picture in the hospital – January 2009

When I think of that day, I laugh.  Usually.  But it wasn’t humorous then.

What I didn’t understand as a new mama is that crying is the only way a baby is able to communicate.  To tell us there’s something wrong.

Why is that the only way, though?

And do they have to be so loud?  How is it that they change so quickly from content, cooing angels with their feet in their hands to irate, screaming banshees with their fists in tight balls?

Is there no other way to signal that they’re hungry or need a diaper change?  Surely God, in His wisdom, would have devised another way if there were one.  But, He didn’t.  So, there must not have been.

I mean, would I have kept the baby on a regular feeding schedule if he simply lay there sleeping peacefully or gazing contently at the ceiling fan?  Sure, I’d probably stare at him a lot, marveling at how cute he was.  But would it occur to me to feed him if he wasn’t causing a scene?  Possibly not.

The baby must do something to get someone’s attention.  To snap a caregiver out of her self-absorbed-ness.  To encourage a parent to…well, parent.

Hear me out…

This scene with my son came to mind recently when I read commentary on 1 Samuel chapters 16 and 17 from the English Standard Version Study Bible.  One sentence got my attention: “God trains David, through suffering, to lead his people”.

My immediate reaction: Wait? What?  Why use suffering?  Wouldn’t something else work?

To suffer is to undergo pain or distress.  To sustain injury.  It might involve anguish.  Suffering is…negative!

How does suffering  – which sounds negative – produce someone who will make a good king, parent, teacher, CEO, writer, leader…

Well, if I didn’t suffer, would I learn as much?  Would I pay attention as closely?  Would I even realize I was supposed to learn something?

If David hadn’t suffered, would he have become a great king?  Would he have been prepared to lead God’s people?

Maybe it is necessary to suffer because it drives us TO God.  As David suffered, he wrote songs that we continue to use to call out to God in our despair or to lift His name in praise.  David’s words have become prayers for millions.

When I struggled as a stay-at-home mom with an infant I couldn’t figure out, I cried.  A LOT.  And in my suffering, I turned back to GodWhom I had been ignoring for nearly a decade.

Would I have done that if everything had been all cute baby giggles?  It’s less likely.  If everything were going well, I wouldn’t have seen a need for God.  I would have thought, “I’m doing awesome at this mother stuff!” and gone about my business.

But people aren’t usually compelled to move or change if life is a bed of roses.

I have found that God uses suffering to move me.  To prompt me.  To inspire me.  To change me.  To point me back to Himself.  To cause me to seek Him.

When I think of it this way, I’m not as bothered by the fact that I will suffer in this life.  If that is the way God, in His sovereignty and providence, has designed life to be, then I will meet it head on and embrace what He teaches me.

*Crossway Books. (2011). Holy Bible: english standard version, study bible. Wheaton, IL.

Sin and Sausage Balls

They didn’t taste like my mom’s sausage balls. Not one bit. They didn’t even look like the ones I look forward to eating every Christmas.

I desperately wanted them to be like hers. I wanted to taste Christmas! I couldn’t figure it out! I followed the handwritten recipe on the 3-by-5 index card she gave me.

Or did I?

When I inspected the ingredients, I immediately realized my error.  I didn’t buy the exact kinds of ingredients she uses.

For “1 lb sausage,” she noted, “I use hot.”

Nope. I bought the regular flavor because I don’t like spicy food.

Beside “10 oz grated cheese,” she added, “I use sharp or extra sharp cheddar.”

You guessed it: I got regular cheddar because I don’t like the bite of sharp. {Insert eye roll here}

So, that explained why my sausage balls weren’t mama’s awesome, taste-like-Christmas sausage balls…because I decided to ignore the instructions and do things the way I wanted.  (How crazy was I to think the sausage balls would taste anything like hers if I didn’t make them exactly the same way she did?!)

Please tell me you’ve done this before, at least once or twice. I don’t want to be the only hard-headed one out here in the world, desperately trying to make things turn out the way they’re supposed to but all the while refusing to do things the way they’re supposed to be done.

Anybody?

How many times have you tried to go about things the way you wanted rather than the way you were directed?

Do you sometimes disregard instruction manuals and think, “I know a better way to do this?”

How often have you listened to sound advice but decided to go your own way just the same, thank you?

Do you do this to God, too, when He directs you?

I do.

When I do this – when you do this – it is the result of our pride: preferring our wants, our wishes, and our will rather than God’s will. And pride is a sin.

When I catch myself trying to go against God, trying to do what I want to do the way I want to do it, (when my pride gets in the way) God reminds me of Mary, quiet at Jesus’ feet as He taught, and of Martha, frantic in the kitchen preparing the meal.

I see Martha watching Mary out of the corner of her eye, wondering when Mary will get up and help, growing more frustrated by the moment.

I see Martha, but I hear my own voice (maybe you hear yours, too) demanding God’s help.  Complaining because something didn’t go like I wanted it to go.  Pleading with Him to give me the answer I want.

“But the Lord answered, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:41-42, ESV)

Mary chose to put the right thing first: her relationship with Jesus. She chose the worshipful posture of sitting at his feet and focusing on Him, on His will.  Martha had other things on her mind: her agenda, her checklist…her pride.

Does this sound familiar?  Have you, like me, found yourself in this position more times than you care to count?

Take heart, my friend. God knows we battle our pride every day, and he’s given us a remedy for the pain this causes.

Look at Luke 10:42 in the New Living Translation: “There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken from her”.

The one thing worth being concerned about is God’s will.  Mary figured it out and chose to submit to God’s will for her life.  Her choice ensured her salvation and freed her from the chains of her pride, her sin.  And, as Jesus said, that wouldn’t be taken from her.

God wants to take away the pain of giving in to our pride, too.  That happens when, like Mary, we submit ourselves to His will for our lives.  When we say, “Not my will, but yours, Lord.”

This is what we do when we accept His gift of salvation by believing in His Son, Jesus Christ and the power of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. But it’s also something we have to do every day. We have to daily submit ourselves to His will for our lives. We must spend time in prayer with Him to learn to submit. We must spend time reading the Bible to learn to submit. We must talk with and learn from experienced Christians to learn to submit. Forgoing our own pride and submitting to God will not be easy because it isn’t natural, but it is “the one thing worth being concerned with.”

It seems trite to compare my arrogance in buying different ingredients to make my mom’s sausage balls to submitting to God’s will for my life, but the lesson is the same. 

It might seem like a stretch to compare the times you chose to ignore wise advice from a trusted believer to submitting to God’s will for your life, but the lesson is still the same.

We have to look past our wants and wishes and be obedient to God’s will for our lives.  We have to stop trying to use the ingredients we want to use rather than the ingredients the recipe calls for.  The sausage balls won’t ever turn out right if we’re too arrogant to use the right ingredients. 

Guided Prayer

Father,

I am grateful that you are in control rather than me.  I trust your will for my life.  Help me to choose the right thing.  Help me to put aside my sinful pride that wants to lead me away from you.  Teach me how to submit to you.  Give me the strength to do it every moment of every day.

Amen

Giving Thanks in Suffering

“For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.” Philippians 1:29, NLT

Read that again below…

“For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.” Philippians 1:29, NLT (emphasis added)

You’ve been given the privilege. You’ve been allowed to do something special or important. You’ve been given a gift.

The words “given” and “privilege” stick out in this verse because of what the verse says I’ve been given – the privilege of trusting in Christ (ok, so good, so far; I can do that), and the privilege of suffering for him.

Wait? What?!

I’ve been given the gift of suffering for Christ?!

This sounds backward and crazy. I don’t know many people who want to suffer much less anyone who’d consider it a gift or a privilege. Yet this verse makes it sound like something I should be thankful for the chance to do – to suffer for him.

Let there be thanksgiving…when you suffer?

This is a challenging concept (even for many experienced believers) to grasp that it is a privilege to suffer or that suffering is a gift from God, but we must remember that God’s kingdom is upside down.

It is difficult to explain why someone should be ok with suffering, or why someone might even welcome suffering.

I can’t explain it, honestly. I can only tell you that I have to pray about it each time I go through trials so that I can glorify God through the difficult situation.

You can pray about it, too, when you’re suffering. Talk to God and ask Him to help you understand it.

Even my friends who aren’t believers or who don’t have a close relationship with God can talk to Him. He hears you. He sees you, and He wants to walk and talk with you.

Image Credit: Thebookkeeper247.com

The Bible makes it clear, over and over in Scripture, that suffering is part of the life of one who follows Christ. The Bible even tells us that this suffering is a gift of God’s grace.

Image Credit: The Wicket Gate

Maybe you’re still wondering, Why is it a privilege?

There are several good answers to this question, but the one that comes to mind right now is simple: When we suffer, we experience what God’s Son experienced.

Believers say we want to be Christ-like, and part of that is being treated like the world treated Christ. If we live like Him, we’ll look like Him, and if we look like Him the world will respond to us the way it responded to Him…with misunderstanding, fear, hatred, abuse, and persecution…suffering.

When we suffer, especially when the suffering is in Jesus’ name, God gives us the opportunity to be a part of something Jesus went through. Our suffering is His gracious gift to us.

Image Credit: Faithprayers.org

What To Do When Someone is Ungrateful

Tell me if this has ever happened to you? You recognize a need in someone, you do something to meet that need, and then the person either doesn’t notice at all, notices but shows very little gratitude, or for some reason is extremely rude to you in response to what you did.

Let’s say you noticed a friend at work wasn’t having such an awesome day. So, when you went to lunch, you bought back a slice of cheesecake for her because you know it’s her favorite. She thanked you, took it from you quickly, gobbled it down, and that was all she said about it. And you think, “Wow! I thought I’d get a little more gratitude outta that.”

Or, let’s say she took one look at the cheesecake and burst into tears. She said she doesn’t want it because she’s trying to lose weight and you should have known she was on a diet. Now she’s angry at you!

Definitely not the response you wanted.

Or, your neighbor is recently widowed, and you noticed that her yard needed mowing. Her children don’t live around, she may or may not know how to operate her husband’s lawnmower, who knows? But you mowed her yard.

She either doesn’t say thank you at all, or she says a curt “thank you”, and nothing more.

I imagine we’ve all experienced something like this. We did something for someone because we saw they needed it. They didn’t ask, but we did it. And their response was little to no gratitude or even, God-forbid, they were rude in return.

{We obviously don’t do things just to get a “thank you”, and you never know what people are going through to cause them to react the way they do, but those are different posts for another day.}

What I’m talking about is, when you’re in the situation, when you’ve done the deed of service, and the gratitude doesn’t come, what do you do?

Let there be thanksgiving anyway.

Concentrate with thanks (I saw that phrase in some commentary in my English Standard Study Bible and thought it applied here).

Image Credit: brightontheday.com

Based on the 1 Thessalonians verse, we see that it is God’s will for us to be joyful, and I believe that concentrating with thanks will help us do that.

How do you concentrate with thanks?

In any situation when you feel hurt or angry, when you feel resentment, when you feel unnoticed, etc, think of Philippians 4:8.

Here’s how it works:

Step 1 is to memorize this verse.

Then, you’ll need to pray and ask God for help using what the verse teaches.

Next, you’ll need to train yourself to recognize when you need to use it. When you need it, go through each of the 8 words Paul to fix your thoughts on and analyze the situation to see if anything applies to you, the other people involved, or the situation in general.

Think about what is true in the situation. What is something that actually, truly occurred? Make sure you are only look at the facts.

Think about what is honorable about what happened. This means something that was noble, honest, or worthy of respect. Think about the character of the people involved. Were any of their characteristics deserving of respect? Think about when they may have shown integrity or ethical conduct. What about yourself in the situation? What did you do that was respectful? How did you shown integrity or conducted yourself ethically?

Think about what is just or right in the situation. Were the commands of God kept in any way? What was upright or virtuous.

Think about what is pure or holy. What was “without fault” in regards to the situation?

What was lovely (acceptable or pleasing)?

Think about anything that was commendable. (Commendable means of good report). What was admirable, gracious, what has value? Was anything spoken in good will to others? What was spoken in a kindly spirit?

Was there any excellence in the situation? Can you think of anything virtuous or of moral excellence?

Think about anything worthy of praise. Can you applaud or compliment something about the situation?

We’re going to say that, in Philippians 4:8, Paul was talking directly to us concerning situations just like I described involving your friend or your widowed neighbor.

If there’s anything excellent in the situation that you can think of, think about that. Take your mind off the negative things: the person was rude, the person wasn’t grateful, the person didn’t acknowledge what you did at all…take your mind off those things and literally walk through that verse, list all 8 words, and see if you can figure out something from the situation to apply.

In the situation where you took your friend a slice of cheesecake, what is lovely in that situation? What is true in that situation? What is just, excellent, commendable about her, yourself, or the situation in general?

Focus on that. Anytime you start to get aggravated again, as soon as you start to think bitter thoughts about her – “what a hussy! I can’t believe she acted that way over a slice of cheesecake” – stop that thought, take it captive, give it to the Holy Spirit, and then think back on the things that you found about the situation that were lovely.

You may not be able to think of something for all 8.

Ask God to show you the ones you can’t figure out.

But maybe there isn’t something for all 8 words. That’s ok. Being able to apply any of those words in the verse will help redirect your thoughts and help heal your heart.

Any time your mind goes back to the situation and you start to think hurtful things again, refocus on Philippians 4:8 and the words you could apply.

You’ll be concentrating with thanks using Philippians 4:8.

Let there be thanksgiving!

Let There Be Thanksgiving

God doesn’t require animal sacrifices anymore. No more rams without blemish. No more bulls for burnt offerings. No more blood sprinkled on the altar.

Thank goodness.

Now, believers show our devotion to God with our lives. We present ourselves to Him as living sacrifices.

Sounds scary, but there are no knives or fires involved here. I’m talking about the sacrifice of how we live our lives: what we do, what we say, even what we think since our Lord is omniscient.

We are to live godly lives that acknowledge Him, that show others we love, trust, and believe in Him.

Image Credit: Knowing-Jesus.com

I realize that talking about thankfulness and gratitude during the month of November may be cliche for some of you, but thanksgiving is exactly what we need right now.

Not the thanksgiving where you gather with family and eat all the turkey, dressing, gravy, and pumpkin pie you can hold. Although that thanksgiving is awesome, too. I pray you are able to safely gather with your family to observe your normal holiday traditions this year.

But, the thanksgiving I’m talking about is an attitude, a way of living year round…

Let there be thanksgiving!

Yes, I do know that I’m writing this in the year 2020, a year that is arguable the worst ever, at least in my lifetime.

Could anything good come out of 2020?

No and yes.

If you aren’t looking for something positive, you won’t see anything positive. I can almost guarantee it.

The power of positive thinking is a real and valuable tool.

More importantly, though, I’m talking about counting your blessings.

Here I go being cliche again! But even cliches have some truth to them.

Instead of “count your blessings,” I’ll say this – concentrate with a grateful heart on the things that are good no matter how few or how small.

Image Credit: Bible.com

If nothing else, thank God for giving you another breath today.

If you can’t even do that, pray and ask God to change your heart and help you to be thankful. Ask Him to show you something to be thankful for.

When you find something, say you’re thankful for it out loud.

Do you know what that does? It acknowledges the blessing from God. This is actually an act of worship of God, and worship pleases God.

Image Credit: Angela Schua

Plus, it will soften your heart.

It will help you see other things you can give thanks for.

When you think of more things that are good, thank God for them aloud, too.

Write them in a list and stick it on your fridge or bathroom mirror.

Notice how your heart feels? Are you smiling now?

Thank God for that.

Image Credit: Pinimg.com

This is our sacrifice of praise. This is how we worship our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Let there be thanksgiving!

Could Anything Good Come Out of 2020?

Tell me something good that happened to you in 2020.

I know there’s been more heartache and suffering than we want to think about. I’m not denying that 2020 has been a rough year – personally, locally, nationally, and globally.

But if we only focus on negative, negative will be all we ever see. In difficult times, we have to make ourselves look for the good things that are happening.

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You may have to look hard to find them, but there are things to give thanks for in the midst of all this turmoil and pain. There are indeed blessings in our lives.

Tell me about a blessing you’ve experienced this year.

It’s ok if you have to dig to find it.

I’ll wait.

It’s ok if all you have to cling to is a tiny blessing. EVERY good thing counts.

Tell me one good thing…then think about more. List them on paper so you can see them written out.

Here are a few positive things on my list that have happened in our family in 2020, especially since the virus hit in March:

Emery learned to ride her bike. We’ve been trying to teach her for several years, but she wasn’t interested. Then, one evening just a few days after the school closings in March, she said she wanted to learn to ride her bike. And she did! Quickly! She hasn’t stopped since.

We walked around our neighborhood as a family in the afternoons in the spring time when it warmed up and the days started getting longer. We did this almost every weeknight for several weeks in a row. There wasn’t a rush to go to bed because the kids didn’t have to go to school the next day.

I’ve gotten to spend bonus time with my children. Time I thought was gone since they started school, and I went back to work. The virus shut down the schools and my workplace, and it was like they were little kids again, and I was getting to hang out with them all day.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s been challenging – even excruciating at times. Sheltering-at-home and social distancing from our friends, family, and church. Job-site closing. Sickness and death. Fear…

Remote-learning!!!

But I acknowledge that this time with my children has also been a blessing.

Typically, they’re in school. I’m working. My time with them is short. They spend more of their day at school with their teachers than home with their dad and me.

Then, WHAM! All of a sudden they’re home with me.

Tears have been shed. Tempers have been lost…but it hasn’t been all bad. This is invaluable time with them that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I call that a blessing.

I pray you are able to see the blessings in your life in 2020. I pray you are able to find some positive moments.

If something doesn’t come to you quickly, take the time to sit and think.

Ask God to show you good things you missed. Then watch and listen until you see more.

How to Survive Remote Learning

How are you and your family holding up? Has your job resumed? Is everyone back to school on a regular schedule? Do you have children at home remote-learning for at least part of the week?

Many families in my immediate area are involved in remote-learning to some extent. My children go to school 2 days a week for in-person learning and then work from home the other 3 days, so figuring out how to make it through a day with as much school work done and as few tears as possible is at the top of my to-do list Monday through Friday.

Christian Responsibility and Mosaic Law | The Village Church

Notice Zoe – on her back getting a tummy rub (left side of the image) – helping with the stress of remote learning 🙂

I won’t say we’re doing a stellar job in the Hooks house…we’ve had our share of meltdowns and tears (from the kids AND from me). But we’re learning and adapting. We seem to have more good days than bad days after 6 weeks of this. It doesn’t seem to take as long for the kids to complete their work as it did when school started in August. There is less hand-holding on my part. All those are victories in my book.

Along the way, I’ve attempted to figure out how to navigate learning during a pandemic, how to do it better. I want to survive this experience relatively unscathed AND with my relationship with my family intact.

I want that for you as well.

So, I want to share what I’ve learned through trial-and-error during the first 6 weeks of remote learning. Maybe something we’ve discovered will help you and your family.

Tips for Surviving Remote Learning

*Start your day in prayer. Fill up with God so you have something to give. Enjoy some quiet and stillness before the chaos starts. (Here are some free devotional Bible studies to start you off).

*Do what you need to do for yourself before the kids wake up. Drink your coffee. Watch your morning news show. Read some chapters in your book. Wash your face. Shower and shave your legs…give yourself whatever “me-time” you need to start the day.

*Get your workout done early. Do something physical before sitting down with the kids. (Pro Tip – it’s good for the kids to get some exercise in before they start their day as well. There’s something about getting the heart and lungs going with some physical activity that helps them calm down and focus later on).

**Getting these 3 done for yourself before your children hit the ground running may mean you have to get up earlier, so be kind to yourself and go to bed earlier, too.

*Eat breakfast. Protein will keep you full longer. Eat well throughout the day as well.

*Start the school day as early as you can – soon after breakfast, exercise, brushing teeth, making beds, putting on clothes (if you try to keep a morning routine like that).

*Create a checklist of assignments/schoolwork to do each day. Kids mark off their own work when they’re done.

*Consider the order of classes and work – does it work best for your child to get the hardest or least-favorite subject out of the way first thing in the morning? What is the subject that tends to bog them down if they wait until later in the day to do it?

*Stop work for physical activity throughout the day for yourself and your children. Take a quick walk or bike ride after lunch. Find a quick yoga, stretching routine, or movement video on YouTube that is kid-friendly. (My daughter likes Melting-Flow and some of the silly Moose-Tube videos from GoNoodle).

*Do a small-to moderate-amount of work (depends on their ages as well as the schedule set by their teachers), then take a short, 10 minute break. Go outside. Jump on the trampoline. Get the mail. Throw the ball for the dog. Climb a tree.

*Leave the easiest or favorite subject’s work for after lunch/in the afternoon/last when their energy and focus are low.

**The biggest thing to remember is that this is trial-and-error. Reevaluate everyday with input from your kids. What worked? What bogged you down? Where did you get frustrated? Did you like doing the hardest assignment/class first?

Change what didn’t work. I’ve heard people say that the definition for crazy is doing something the same way over and over and expecting different results, and that’s true. It’s something to keep in mind when trying to figure out how to help your children learn from home. If you end every day angry or frustrated, look back at the day and try to figure out what caused the mood to go that way. Then try different strategies to change the outcome. Don’t keep doing things the same way and expect the day to go differently.

Encourage your children. Praise them when they do well. Help them when they need it. Enjoy brainstorming with them about an assignment. Use Khan Academy or other online tutorials for help with math. (Follow the link or just search YouTube for videos about the math concept that’s giving your kid grief and watch the ones from Khan Academy).

Know your kids. Are they better earlier in the day? Do they get “hangry” easily? Do they need “heavy work” on their breaks? Do they need quiet to stay focused and work efficiently? Does a schedule or outline of the day help? Do they prefer you to be nearby while they’re working or do they work well on their own? Is it comforting to their brain to have the dog sit in their lap so they can pet him while they work? Does it help their concentration to sit on the back porch and hear the birds and the breeze?

Try different things. Throw it out if it doesn’t work. Be flexible and adaptable. Monitor their progress and take breaks when they start to lose it. Have a quick snack or a walk around the yard.

They can do it.

You can help.

We can get through this.

Image Credit: NYPost.com

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