Living not striving…

Random thoughts and daily adventures in my life

Circles… December 1, 2011

Filed under: Deep thoughts,Family Life — erikaivory @ 3:18 am
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We all have circles…in our lives we are surrounded by circles.  As the boys and I raked the leaves in our yard the other day I noticed how as I raked around me and formed a pile of fallen leaves at my feet, it cleared a circle.  Next to my feet was a pile of dead leaves and a ring of cleared grass lay around me.


Then as we each continued to rake I noticed that as we formed one pile after another eventually our circles touched each other.  And gradually more and more of the yard was cleared of leaves.

It hit me that in our lives as we live and love we touch and influence the people around us.  These are our circles.  Everyone that I do life with on a regular, consistent basis influences me in some way and I in turn have an influence on them.  What am I doing with that influence?  It struck me that just as I am called to steward wisely the finances, time, and resources the Lord gives me…I am also called to steward well my relationships and the influence He has allowed me to have.

Am I loving well those I touch daily, with my words, my actions, my prayers, my service?  Am I leaving those that I walk beside better off each day after their encounter with me?  I am given the opportunity to speak words of life each day to my husband and children, to my children’s friends and my friends.  Do I do that?  Am I intentional in the way I interact with the check out girl that I see each week, with my boys’ teachers and the people I serve with at church?

I stopped the boys in the middle of their raking and tried to explain my epiphany.  They looked at me with tilted heads and then ran off to slide from the treehouse into the biggest pile of leaves at the bottom of the tree.  How can they understand?  But hopefully they will see as they grow through the way I live.  If I can simply love a few people well during my days here…and model how to love well, with grace and forgiveness and compassion and joy….prayerfully those that are within my circle will then respond by creating their own circles.

I can’t love everyone, touch each life, respond to every phone call, pray over all the broken hearts or bring the overwhelming number of hurting families a meal. However I can work hard to serve the people I see every day, that I brush elbows with in the hallways at school, that I see in carpool line, or worship alongside at church.

Raking my circles wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t always fun.  It made my back kinda sore and rubbed some blisters.  However, it served the greater purpose of clearing away the debris from the dying leaves and fallen sticks and pecans to make a path.  We all need someone to help us clear away some dead areas in our lives to make space for new growth.  It was much easier to rake my yard with the help of my boys too.  I struggled holding the garbage bags open on my own.  Filling them went much more quickly with lots of big and little hands.  When we each took responsibility for our own circles, the yard was cleared quickly and then we filled our bags as a team.  We can’t do life alone.  We need each other…we need our circles to touch.

You know the best part though?  In the midst of the raking and bending and stuffing bags…we made time to enjoy our hard work by sliding down that green slide into a huge pillow of fallen leaves.  We turned the work of transforming our leaf covered yard into giggles and smiles.  Just as the Lord of the seasons loves to take the hard work of transforming our lives from dead and grey to clean and vibrant into a celebration of relationships.  The business of life on life relationships is hard, it is tiring, it can be raw but it is also, oh, so beautiful.

So my new perspective is this: Where is my circle? Am I loving well those that I touch each day? Am I intentionally stewarding the relationships and influence I have been given?  

How about you?


Taking care of what matters… April 19, 2011

Filed under: Deep thoughts,Family Life — erikaivory @ 2:05 am
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I’ve sent you to visit her before.  She has remarkable insight.  I’ve been really struggling with being more consistent in my time with Jesus….because these days I need it even more desperately than normal.

Here’s a tidbit:

“I can pass on a legacy of intimacy or leave them, shirts pressed and shoes tied, to deal with the broken areas they’ve inherited from me.

So I am sending you to her neck of the woods again because she put to words so well what I need to remember.  What all of us need to remember, especially as we parent, our little ones.  Enjoy!


The Giving Jar December 9, 2010

Filed under: Family Life — erikaivory @ 9:45 pm
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“Leftovers again!?!” “Why can’t we just go out to eat, Mom?”  Ah, these are sounds that most moms recognize and we cringe when we hear them.  With three little boys, ages 9, 6 and 4, I grew just plain old tired of these complaints.  My personal pet peeve is wasting food, so when I serve a meal I take full advantage of leftovers.  My boys do NOT appreciate leftovers.

With the economy struggling and my boys appetites increasing, I have become extremely aware of our grocery and food budget.  In the pursuit of decreasing this portion of our monthly budget we decided to cut back drastically on our eating out.  Once we started eating at home more often we were amazed at the amount of money we had been spending on eating away from home.  It took a few weeks but mom and dad quickly began to appreciate a home cooked meal over fast food or the chaos of a restaurant with three little boys.  My fellas really missed eating out though.  Somehow they had to eat many more vegetables at home…funny how that happens.

Excited by the savings I also began to plan meals that were economical and made enough for a meal of leftovers.  This really resulted in saved money and saved time as well!  However, once again my boys were not in favor of this change.  I become determined to find a way to bring them on board.

As a mother I really strive to help my family gain perspective of the bigger picture.  Yes, we want to stay in our budget and we definitely want to pay the bills and make healthy choices.  The bigger picture though is that as we strive to be wise stewards of the resources we are given, we establish goals.  Our larger goal as a family is to not only meet our budget but have money to save as well.  Then we can decide what we want to do with those savings.

So we instituted the Giving Jar.  We made a deal with our boys.  Every time we ate leftovers for dinner and did not eat out during the week, we put $5 in our Giving Jar.  We researched and discussed as a family what we might want to do with our savings.  We discovered a wonderful organization called The Smile Train. It is an international charity that provides cleft lip and cleft palate surgery to children in need, as well as providing cleft-related training to doctors.  For as little as $250 and 45 minutes, a child’s life can be changed by this surgery.

We decided that our first goal would be to save $250 to give to The Smile Train.  Putting this goal in front of my children seemed to be exactly what they needed.  Instead of complaining, they became excited to eat leftovers.  If I was tempted to run through a fast food place when we had a busy evening with baseball and homework, they would remind me of our goal.  Suddenly, they didn’t mind as much eating out of the cooler at the ball game or eating what we found in the cabinet.  They loved seeing that five dollar bill slipped into our Giving Jar.  We didn’t stop eating out entirely, but it became a planned event that was a special treat instead of where we turned during a dinnertime crisis.

It took what seemed like a long, long time but the day we  reached our goal was a time of celebration.  We sent off our donation and a few weeks later we received a letter from The Smile Train.  Inside we found a picture of the child that our donation helped.  There was a picture of this little boy before his surgery and a picture of him after his surgery.  My boys were amazed at the difference.  We talked about the obstacles a child would face if he did not have the oportunity to have this surgery.  That little boy’s picture hangs on our refrigerator as a reminder of how good little sacrifices can feel.

We started saving again and dreaming of what we would do with our savings this year.  We were not quite to our goal yet for this year, but recently we had the opportunity to give to a family that suddenly experienced the death of a child.  We were so thankful for the opportunity to do something during such a painful time.

My boys & a pic of the child we helped and the Giving Jar

The Giving Jar has turned into the Blessing Jar as well.  We are the ones that have been blessed.  We have found great joy as a family in learning the power and benefit of putting aside our own desires in the anticipation of meeting someone else’s needs.  It has created great opportunities for discussions about: needs versus wants, how financially blessed we are as a nation and as a family, the importance of giving to those in need, living unselfishly, staying aware of the needs around us, and working as a team toward an important goal.

We still use the Giving Jar.  We need to decide on our next goal.  There are lots of ideas on the table…for $100 we could microfinance a loan for a woman in a third world country through the organization, Kiva, for $200 we could purchase a donkey and bring help and relief to a child-headed household through World Vision, or for $300 we could help build a well to provide clean, fresh water for a school in Africa through the Water Project.  We are so blessed…and the possibilities are endless!


Summer Fun November 17, 2010

Filed under: Family Life — erikaivory @ 3:48 am
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I never posted any pictures of our fun visit from our Canadian cousins!  My brother Karl and his wonderful wife, Stephanie, came to visit us this summer with their kiddos, Taryn and Sean.  They drove all the way down from Canada!  They came because my brother Jacob married sweet Danielle this summer.  We had so much fun!

We desperately want to drive up and visit them sometime soon, even more so now that we had soooo much fun.  We spent two days playing on the beach and then had some fun being tourists in Greenville too.  If you have never visited downtown Greenville, you definitely have to go!  We love looking for the Goodnight Moon mice downtown, going over the gorgeous Reedy River Bridge, playing in the river, running around in the hidden Children’s Garden under the overpass and finishing the day off with pizza from Mellow Mushroom and ice cream from Spill the Beans.  Hope you enjoy some of these pics:)  They certainly make me smile!

Eli, McCall, Sean, Taryn, Haig

Steph & Karl at our family reunion at the Seneca Chick fil A:) last wedding we convened at Ikea!

How cute is Layla!!! We also got to see my sister Maura, her hubby Ben and their sweet Layla and Reilley:)


Spending a hot afternoon at the Greenville Children's Garden, such a NEAT place!


Aren't they cute? The boys fought over who could st by, walk with dance with Taryn:)

Reilley is in this picture of the handsome crew at the wedding!

Fun family picture that we now realize is not complete:)

It was so fun being with most of my sibs! It doesn't happen often enough. Great pic of Kelly. The ladies represented on the dance floor!

Dani and Jacob, the happy couple!

Haig and Taryn sharing the dance floor:)

McCall & Taryn attempting a fancy dance move!

I couldn't resist...I just think this is the cutest picture of Layla announcing that she was "done" with the whole thing:) Even mad as fire she is a cutey!

This is an old picture but I just wanted to post it because it is so cute:)







Walking for Water… October 28, 2010

Filed under: Family Life — erikaivory @ 6:42 pm
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In our home group we are doing the small group study for the book The Hole in our Gospel by Richard Stearns, the CEO of World Vision.  I read the book a few months ago and it had a significant impact on me and how I view my responsibility toward the poor and the world around me.  I never realized how many verses there were in the Bible about helping the poor.  Like James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”   And 2 Corinthians 8:1-8, Luke 12:33, as well as Proverbs 28:27 among many others.  Stearns talks in the book about how in our American Christianity it seems we almost cut out many of these passages.  Thus, they leave “holes” in the Gospel.  We are supposed to show people Christ as the answer to their spiritual need but often we are supposed to first meet their physical needs.

It can truly be overwhelming when we look at the physical needs of those around us and downright immobilizing when we consider the needs of the poor and needy globally.  However, our inability to meet ALL the needs does not excuse us from doing what we CAN do as an individual.  And there is much that CAN be done.

The study has a website that you can go to for individual devotions,  This site also has great ideas of ways to help your family and your children really feel the needs of others, at least on a small scale.  We have been talking about the problem that many countries face in not having clean water.  So last week I decided to try one of the ideas I found on the website with my boys.

In other countries people have to walk for miles to find water.  Many times children are the ones that have the job of walking to find water and then carrying it back to their families.  This one bucket of water may be all they have for their family for that day or even for many days.  Sometimes the children will walk for hours just carrying water.  Then that water is usually dirty and truly not healthy or fit to drink.  Sometimes they will try to purify it but many times they just bathe, cook, clean with and drink it, all the while exposing themselves to disease.

So I charted out a course from a park to a friend’s house that was a mile long.  We each carried a bucket and walked that mile and then filled our buckets.  We then walked back to the park with our buckets of water.  This was great!!  I was fully aware that it could have been a disaster.  It was late afternoon just before dinner.  I wanted them to feel the urgency of making it back before dark.  Where many people live darkness means danger with animals coming out that could kill them, as well as humans that will harm them.  I wanted the boys to be tired by the end of the walk.  I wanted them to experience the frustration of trying not to spill the water and being bored along the way.

They were really great.  Eli found a long walking stick and once the buckets had water in them, the boys figured out how to string the stick through the handles of the bucket and then two of them grabbed each end.  They were patient with one another and took turns carrying the lighter load and resting when Eli needed a short break.  We had lots of great conversations along the way discussing how many conveniences we take for granted in America.  They talked about how blessed we are to have indoor bathrooms, running water, electricity, heat and AC, refrigerators, among others.

Eli carried an empty apple juice bottle instead of a bucket.  I thought it might be easier for him to carry that.  At one point he dropped it and the lid fell off and water spilled out on the ground.  He rushed to pick it up and save the water.  All of a sudden that water was much more precious to him after he had walked at that point a mile and a half to retrieve it.  It was a great taste of the desperation people in other countries must feel for clean water.  He was super careful for the rest of the walk to not let any more water spill.

Eli is trying to talk Haig into switching back and letting him carry the bottle:)

This was such a great experience for all four of us.  It helped move our eyes off of ourselves and the things we take for granted.  It helped us realize in a tiny way the weight of some of the needs of other people that we can’t see with our eyes.  I am so thankful the Lord allowed it to be used as a teachable moment instead of a major meltdown:)  And a major meltdown is what I hear going on in the other room…so I better run!


Morning Madness… October 22, 2010

Filed under: Family Life — erikaivory @ 7:58 pm
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I wanted to document this for my own sake but recently a couple of people have asked about our morning routine so I thought I would share:) I am SO NOT a morning person! I am definitely a night owl. I process better and my creative juices tend to flow more freely once I catch my second wind after about 9pm. This became a problem when McCall started attending school and I needed to rise early. So after floundering through each morning and really struggling for about a year and a half I decided something needed to change and it needed to start with me.

I needed to start my day with Jesus and I wanted to establish a routine for the boys that included time in the Word. I also knew in my own life the power of Scripture memorization so I wanted that to be a discipline in their lives as well. I am slowly learning as a mom that so many of the business/leadership principles that I run across online and in podcasts can be implemented in our family system. So as I examined how to reconstruct our mornings I tried to keep things simple and streamlined.

So not every morning mind you, but most mornings this is the rundown.
It actually starts the night before because I quickly learned that I should totally take advantage of my natural strengths…and since I tend to be a night owl I try to prepare as much as I can the night before. The importance of preparation is another good leadership principle that can make a huge difference in avoiding family chaos. So I put the coffee pot on a timer so it will be ready for me when I get downstairs, I set out their clothes and my clothes, I put lunch boxes out, vitamins and meds on the table and lay out our Bible and devotional tools right at Dad’s spot. I do anything I can think of to streamline our morning routine.

My goal is to be up at 6am (give or take) so I can have some time with Jesus before waking the kiddos up. I give the boys a 5 minute warning before it is rise and shine:) I like to hit snooze so this is their snooze button.

Once everyone is dressed and seated at the table we have our devotion time. Currently we are reading two verses at a time out of Proverbs. Nice and slow but wow Proverbs has so much to offer! There are tons of great children’s devotionals out there and we have used some, but my boys are old enough now that we are trying to teach them how to dig into Scripture. I have found in my own walk with the Lord that I love to supplement things that talk ABOUT the Word, instead of actually reading the word. Kind of silly but I do it way too much. So we are hoping to teach them not to be intimidated by God’s Word but to have a passion for it. We talk about the verses and explain any unfamiliar words and chat about how to apply it to our lives. When they were younger my very favorite devotional was “Step Into the Bible” by Ruth Graham . Good stuff!

Then we work on one memory verse a month, sometimes 2 a month, depending on their length. I pray through what we need to work on in our character development and truths I want them to hide in their hearts. Then I print the verses up on the computer and we have a notebook we keep them in. We review ones we have learned and then learn new ones. I make hand motions to the verses and this really seems to help the boys remember them quickly and easily. We usually use the NIV translation but we always make sure it is a translation that is easy for the boys to understand.  Some of the verses we have hidden in our hearts this year are I Thess. 5:16-18, Proverbs 12:22, Proverbs 12:18, Proverbs 4:13, Psalm 119:18, Philippians 2:14(a personal Mom favorite!), Colossians 4:2, Psalm 56:3(good for soothing nightmares), Proverbs 17:22, Proverbs 15:1, Matthew 5:9, 2 Corinthians 9:7b, Ephesians 4:2.

Lastly, we pray together. I decided last Christmas to keep all the cute Christmas cards with people’s family pictures on them that we received. We keep them in the back of our Morning Devotion notebook and we pray for one family each day. It is a fun way to enjoy the pictures all year and pray for our friends and family both near and far. So if you send us a picture this year, you will definitely be prayed over:)

So that’s it…only takes 10-15 minutes. Sometimes the boys pray out loud, other sleepier mornings just Dad prays. We encourage them to participate and pray aloud but we don’t force it. We also have a prayer cube that we keep on the table. (Actually the last month or two the cube has been up on the shelf but it is coming back out next week.) I put different people’s names on the sides of the cube and the boys each choose someone to pray for that day. I try to include family situations that we are committing to prayer, friends or family members that are sick or in need, world leaders, national and local leaders, church leadership, etc. We rotate them and change them. I soon hope to add a prayer journal element where we can write down and then document the dates that God gives an answer to those prayers. One thing at a time but that is my goal:)

So if you are looking to implement a devotion time with your family…you didn’t really ask but my advice:
1-Pray about it and identify a “good” time for the whole family. We were all together at breakfast so there was no use in creating a NEW time for us to be together. Use a time that is already in your daily routine. Maybe that is bedtime. When I was growing up we read our devotion together on the way to school. We were all strapped in our seats and a captive audience:)
2-Keep it simple and as short as their attention span. For toddlers we are talking like 5 minutes. As they get older you can add more elements.
3-Make it fun! If your family needs music, do that…or if everyone wants a part, make that happen…don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
4-Allow everyone an opportunity to be a part but don’t make it a pressure situation. If this isn’t Dad’s thing right now just do it with him around but don’t make him feel like he HAS to lead this. Pray for him to have that desire and comfort level but without resentment simply do what God has laid on your heart with joy and a smile:) God will bring everyone in…no worries. Just start somewhere.


Snapshots October 21, 2009

Filed under: Family Life — erikaivory @ 5:09 pm
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I am not a photographer, although I would love to be creatively inclined that way.  As I was wandering around today doing my motherly duties I kept noticing little snapshots that pointed out to me the wonderful gift that I am a mother to active, busy, messy little boys.  I kind of felt God nudging me to have a more grateful attitude.  Instead of sighing that again the weapons bin is dumped out…smiling that my boys love to make swords out of EVERYTHING and any game eventually becomes a competition.

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I really do want to be better about embracing this season instead of feeling overwhelmed that the toys will never stay picked up for more than 15 minutes and the bathroom constantly needs to be wiped down and the clothes hampers are never empty and the messes are made before I have time to clean up the last one and I continually seem to step on Legos, Tinker Toys and trip over footballs:)

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But this is what I prayed for and asked for!  And I get to stay home with them and be involved in all the aspects of their little lives!  Praise God for this wonderful season of make believe, and snuggles after bathtime and Saturdays full of ball games, and toothpaste on the counters and jelly fingerprints on the door and shoes being left outside and story books everywhere and sweet, sleepy kisses.  Thank you God for making me the mother of three precious little boys.  Please forgive my frustrated sighs and rolling of the eyes and overwhelmed feelings at times instead of lifting up thanks and praise to You!

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