All For His Glory

By Allison French

Mary, a starry-eyed young girl, dreaming of her life ahead devoted to her first love, Joseph, their marriage day, their newlywed bliss, just the two of them, starting a life together, as one. Then there was Joseph, pining for his love, counting down the days to finally be with her, to care for her, to be hers and only hers, to build their family, to build their dreams.

But, at the peak of everything hoped, it all came to a crashing halt. In a flash, everything she had dreamed was changed. A wedding postponed, rumors of her infidelity, the weight of a fatherless child, not even able to settle in for those last aching weeks of pregnancy before they would be displaced, jolt after bounce after step of fatigue to the unknown, no rest for the weary. And then to be serenaded by mire and loneliness, isolated, the thought of them, bringing a baby into the world that would consider them a disgrace?

And yet, when called, she answered without protest, without hesitation. "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May your word to me be fulfilled." -Luke 1:38 

I am stilled, humbled by her response. See, when it comes to motherhood, I expected late night feedings and piles more laundry. I expected bandaids and legos and sippy cups and navigating through these all strewn throughout the house. I expected noise and babysitter fees and diaper costs and peanut butter and jelly. I expected exhaustion. And, yes, my life is so very full of all of these artifacts of childhood. And, yes, quite often I find myself exhausted. But, five years into being mommy, I’m just now starting to learn what it’s actually all about. And it’s hard.

Yes, I believe God is entrusting them to me to prepare them for their role in society. That in and of itself is equally as thrilling as I dream of occupations and accomplishments and what’s to come and sobering as I breathe in the responsibility I have for readying them, training them, equipping them for what’s ahead. Yes, He’s also perfectly planned the personalities, all-knowingly knit each one in my womb and then with love and wisdom delivered them into my life for my own shaping, my own growth. He knows best how stretch the impatient places, humble the pride, slow hurried paces, refine a desire for control. And yes, I realize that as I pour my life into my children, it is often fulfilling the miracles I need in my own heart. 

But, still it’s not where the purpose of my motherhood is. I believe it’s even grander, more far-reaching than our human minds can comprehend.

Thinking back to Mary, She must have known the calling of motherhood wasn’t about her, fulfilling her plans, her visions for what could be. She must have known it was simply an invitation to be a part of a grander vision, a grander mission, a grander miracle. It’s the only way she could have chosen faith as she did. She who packed up her baby, tucked swaddled blankets into crevices of a basket, examining, readjusting, carefully cushioning him,  tenderly brushing trembling fingers across his cheek, tracing his features, memorizing his beauty, murmuring prayers of hope through salty, stinging tears, trusting her Lord to make meaning of the confusion that was His beginning, trusting Her Lord to save  though threatened, though seemingly abandoned. What a beautiful example of faith, despite her longing, despite her fear, she chose what was best over what was good, joining, rejoicing in His plan. 

“And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name.” -Luke 1:46-49 

When we become mothers, our Heavenly Father grants us the privilege of demonstrating our devotion to him through the total self-sacrifice this occupation requires daily, even hourly. He allows us the honor of having a hand in the weaving of His story. And that is what it is, His story. His purpose. It’s all for His glory. 

I first caught a glimpse of this eight weeks into becoming mommy for the first time when date night was suddenly cancelled because our baby wouldn’t stop screaming for the sitter. In reality, I now know this was only the beginning of years of thwarted plans, unexpected failures and disappointing diversions. But it’s all for His glory.

How it would change my outlook each day if I stopped believing mothering had anything to do with my time, my plans, my hope for some self-satisfying results? What if I stopped believing the tedious care for my children was really up to me at all and simply saw myself as being my Good Father’s entrusted servant? Would my patience grow to extend as far as the east is from the west? Would my compassion swell as His all encompassing mercy? Would my energy reflect His everlasting purpose?

How gloriously would this shift in perspective affect my mothering in the moments where all the littles are dressed on time and loaded up and buckled in and we are halfway on our way to our destination, cruising full speed down the highway one gets suddenly silent and then projectiles his breakfast all over himself and obliterating the carseat with disgustingness and my plans for the day just suddenly took a very different direction?

How much more love would I carry with this enlightened outlook in the moment when we join a playdate and as soon as I cozy up with creamed up coffee ready for girl talk, hungry for adult conversation, I hear one of mine in screaming sobs unable to communicate and spiraling in defeat as he is overwhelmed with the chaos? How much more purposeful would I be then when one of my children finds herself helpless in trying to work past her fear to open the door and join her classmates at dance class and week after week we are both left in sweaty tears, in the hallway outside the class frustrated with each other and at a standstill?

We’ve all been there in these moments or similar. And as I tuck each year under my proverbial mothering belt, I’ve come to the more convicting realization that motherhood isn’t just the next step in happily ever after, the one we take on to have a reason for Pinterest pinning and registry making and accessorizing with a new, much larger, fuller tote bag. It’s not about park dates or garage sales or dance recitals or birthday parties or swim lessons or picture books. And when it comes down to it, changing the diapers is only the beginning of the change that’s ahead for my own heart.

But, the whole purpose of my being a mother often has little to do with me at all. It’s actually all simply another opportunity to join my Heavenly Father, their Heavenly Father in His omniscient plan for their lives, my life and the lives around me. And it’s actually all for His glory that He invites me.

So, when mothering is loud and embarrassing and messy and frustrating and overwhelming and all-consuming, I’ll come back to the moments I’m tracing my smallest baby’s tender features and rocking her in a silent snoozing house. I’ll come back to when my heart melts at the slow curving stretch when she throws two stick wrists with furled fists into the air, lashes squeezed tight in slumber’s surrender, when I’m laughing so hard tears slip out of squinted eyes at my children’s crazy, quirky antics, when we pile on the couch, and I’m buried beneath limbs and elbows and fuzzy heads.

And, yet, I’ll know more fully that these moments aren’t the purpose, the goal, the reason I’ve become a momma. They’re not even the fullness of the reward. Rather, they’re simply a sort of tender mercy for the times, the many, many times I find myself stretched and refined and humbled as I myself do my own sort of growing up. And I’ll thank God again for the beautiful honor He’s granted me in inviting me to serve Him in the gloriously rewarding role as mother.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mother of four children under five, Allison French makes her home in Kansas City. Together with her best friend and hubby Chris, their noisy little (big) family thrives on soaking up sweetness in the simple. Photography and writing are two loves that have grounded her in gratitude through these motherhood years as she began to more deeply see the fleeting nature of the things that make each of our lives so uniquely beautiful. She's passionate about the significance of the “in between moments of life,” the creamed up coffee, steam floating softly into the untouched morning, the fresh mornings’ first rays singing of the purest sense of new beginning, barefoot muddy toes in the summer’s warmth and in the crispest of winters, cozy fireplace blazes under piled worn blankets next to the little ones leaning in, freshly cut flowers, dew still lingering, stacks and stacks of richly vibrant children’s books, the finger-running tousle through the locks you nuzzle in, and long, lingering breakfasts together. | @allisoncorrin | allisoncorrin.com/personal

Advent Thought #1: "God, You Are Welcome"

photo by Eve Herrmann

photo by Eve Herrmann

Advent Thought #1
God, You Are Welcome

(For this discussion: you'll need a cross ornament)

Advent is a season of anticipating Christmas. Waiting, expecting, hoping, preparing as you discern how to welcome who is to come: Jesus. The one who brings Christmas, the one who is Christmas.  The birth of Jesus is the moment in God’s redemptive story when he enters the world, and into the brokenness of man to bring about wholeness and restoration. 

> Why and how is man broken? Discuss this especially if you’re having this conversation with children. How does sin make us feel? How does it affect us? 

There was a time after creation where everything was whole, the way God intended. Then sin entered the world, birthed through mankind’s disobedience to God. This is the point in God’s story where his creation became broken. Sin makes us incomplete because it separates us from God and others. Sin breaks relationships, it hurts us, it hinders life and it leads to death. And it is sin that creates the need for a savior, someone to heal and restore, someone to make us whole again. Jesus is the one God chose to enter our world to make all things right, to restore creation back to Him, to unite a people with their God for eternity. 

How do we prepare our hearts and homes for such a birth as this? 

We know how to prepare for the cultural celebration of Christmas. 

> Stop and consider the way your particular family or household prepares for the cultural celebration of Christmas. What are your traditions? What do you do in your home and community to celebrate? Do things in the home get shifted around to make room for the tree? Do you string lights? Do you cook particular meals? What music do you play? Do you participate in activities at church or in your town? 

During Christmas, we decorate our homes, we adorn trees, we shop for gifts that we wrap and give, we bake holiday goods and let carols ring. It’s nearly magical, this time of year. The way all people participate. The way everything glitters. The way children grow eager. The way adults become children again. These traditions bring together communities in a special way, and they facilitate a mood for the holidays. They get us excited for what’s to come. They set a tone for our hearts and home to welcome the moment. 

But how do we prepare for the real celebration of Christmas? The moment in our history that changed everything, that made all things possible. The moment we were given life through a baby. You see, the cultural traditions don’t ready our heart for the coming of Jesus. In fact, it’s very often these well-intended and meaningful traditions distract us from engaging the real moment that gave reason to the holiday. They exhaust our resources and creativity, leaving little to sacrifice to the Lord. We don’t have to abandon all of our traditions to welcome Christ. But it’s good and faithful for us to discern how to be intentional during this time, and receive these days with grace as we engage both the fun and spirit of Christmas. 

Let’s begin this Advent season with prayer. For it is the language of our heart, the love language spoken between a Creator and those created in his image. Prayer invites the Spirit of God to enter into our conversations and thoughts with truth and revelation. 

> Pause now to pray and welcome God into your conversations. Ask him to soften hearts and to bring a spirit of discernment to your Advent preparation. Ask God to help you know which traditions and activities will help facilitate a sense of welcome and embrace of Jesus during these days. Which ones are good for your family relationships? And which ones are okay to say no to this year? 

You might have a time of silent prayer for individuals to make some personal commitment to this process. And community prayer to acknowledge that the body of Christ is called into this process of anticipation together. 

Don’t forget to hang your cross ornament on your altar to symbolize our need for a savior, the very reason for Jesus being born – the one who birthed Christmas. 

ABOUT THIS ADVENT DEVOTIONAL

In this month's Wild + Free bundle called WONDER, we're including the entire special-edition Advent Devotional by Lori Manry. This is the first conversation for Advent, which begins today. You can get the entire devotional, along with the WONDER content bundle at wildandfree.co.

Teaching Gracious Receiving

Allison French

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
-Melody Beattie

As December quickly approaches, I, along with many find myself many times anticipating it highly. Yes, it’s bright and twinkly and engaging and memorable, but beyond that, in the deepest places of our hearts, we know it’s more. Whispering the story as many different ways as we can, recounting the gifts of the magi, hoping our children will marvel at host of angels in the skies, walking through Advent reminders, attending petting zoos and melodious reenactments, we busy ourselves all in hopes that somehow our little ones’ tender hearts and innocent minds will absorb the gift of the season.

And then, we welcome the celebrations, ones with gatherings and gifts, unwrapping and noise. Here, amidst the squeals there’s a chance for a life long lesson, amidst the excitement, an opportunity to empower our children with the habit of gratitude.

Growing up, my mother impressed five specific steps to receiving a gift. Even now, I find them so deeply ingrained in me, I chuckle as write them out because they’re what I’ve always known. I remember us practicing at home, each day, every day up until birthdays and holidays. I even remember being quizzed on the way to events. She always knew how to prepare us. We’d role play, concentrating on our tone sometimes, facial expressions other times. Taken out of context, it could seem silly, overdone, forced perhaps. But she knew what she was doing. It was like Aristotle once said,

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

And so, there we would be training in her secrets, rehearsing alongside her, walking through the steps she taught. And there she was training us, imparting the secrets to not simply impressive manners, but lovingly nurturing a habit of gracious receiving.

1. Card - Open the card first. Remark on the cover, the words written inside, pause to thank the giver in advance.

2. Gift - Open the gift, slowly, next. Don’t tear the paper open, but carefully unwrap it.

3. Thanks - Turn and look the giver in the eyes, make sure to say their name as you thank them loudly and clearly.

4. Hug - While you are still thanking them, stand up and go over to them. Wrap your arms around them tightly and squeeze them in a sincere hug.

5. Comment - While you are there next to them, express a specific quality about the gift that you appreciate. Explain why you’re excited about it or how much you have been hoping for it. Even if it’s a gift you weren’t anticipating, comment on the color, the softness, the practicality of it.

Simple as her five steps seemed to be, it was in the pause of the activity, the act of this habit that she was teaching us the importance of thankfulness, the reward of expressed gratitude. And as a mother now, I realize the gift she herself was giving us.

It’s a grand, beautiful, enormous responsibility.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As a mother of four children under five, Allison French makes her home in Kansas City. Together with her best friend and hubby, Chris, their noisy little (big) family thrives on soaking up sweetness in the simple. Photography and writing are two loves that have grounded her in gratitude through these motherhood years as she began to more deeply see the fleeting nature of the things that make each of our lives so uniquely beautiful. She's passionate about the significance of the “in between moments of life”… the creamed up coffee, steam floating softly into the untouched morning, the fresh mornings’ first rays singing of the the purest sense of new beginning, barefoot muddy toes in the summer’s warmth and in the crispest of winters, cozy fireplace blazes under piled worn blankets next to the little ones leaning in, freshly cut flowers, dew still lingering, stacks and stacks of richly vibrant children’s books, the finger-running tousle through the locks you nuzzle in, and long, lingering breakfasts together. | allisoncorrin.com/personal | @allisoncorrin

This is How We Welcome

By Lori Manry

Several years ago, I began praying how to lead my children into intentional celebration during the holidays. I wanted to discern how to faithfully welcome Jesus among the boughs of holly and brown paper packages tied up with string. As I sought the Lord, he birthed in me some Advent thoughts that later became 11 conversations called This is How We Welcome.

These conversations are intended to help us engage a season of active waiting and preparing for the coming of Jesus. They can happen between two people, a family, a small group or simply between you and God. Each Advent thought has sections to be read out loud and sections intended to stimulate dialogue.

My hope is for these 11 conversations to initiate active responses throughout the days of waiting for Christmas. And that the discussions would bear life in you and your family throughout the coming year. I’m excited to share that This is How We Welcome will be included in WONDER, the special holiday bundle in December.

Check back here over the next several weeks for little peeks into the devotional, and for inspiration into facilitating these intentional moments during the holidays.

Now I don’t know about you, but I struggle committing to anything that has to be done on a daily basis. I will inevitably get so behind that I don’t even know how to effectively catch up! So, it is with great intention that there are only three Advent thoughts per week leading up to Christmas. Our family carves out about 30 minutes a few times a week to gather together to read and talk.

Now…I’d like to tell you that these moments are oozing with divine inspiration. But, the reality is, they are full of distractions and interruptions. That’s just the phase of life we’re in! And if it’s your phase too, don’t let that stop you from engaging these intentional times during the holidays. ‘Cause in the end we are always thankful for the perfectly imperfect moments when we’re all gathered in the living room, fumbling for words and shushing the little people. It won’t always look pretty. It won’t always feel super spiritual. It will sometimes be awkward. And that’s okay.

But the truths that will be spoken as you gather are oozing with divine inspiration. And they will awaken in your heart new understandings of what it means for Christ to be born. Not just unto this world, but into you. So with your sin, with your awkwardness, with all your short comings and interrupting children – surrender just a little time a few nights a week and fly open the doors of your heart to receive him.

Sometimes we need reminders or visuals of the process we’re trying to engage. Historically, those participating in Advent have embraced the lighting of candles and the inclusion of an Advent wreath.

For this particular devotional, I invite you to create an Advent Altar, something to gather near as you lay down offerings of preparation. The altar will serve as a place to hang symbols of sacrifice and active waiting for Jesus. Below are two suggestions on how to create an Advent Altar.

But here’s the thing – the conversations are way more important than the visual! If you choose not to create the altar, the time together in conversation will be just as effective without it.

A Tree Altar can be made by gathering branches from outside or by purchasing curly willow from a store like Michaels and place in a vase. You can hang ornaments on the branches after each time you gather for an Advent thought. A Window Altar can be made by stapling 11 ribbons of different lengths on the top of the molding around one of your windows (If you staple them on the top ledge of the molding, the holes left behind won’t be seen when you later remove the staples). Tie the ornaments to the ends of these ribbons each time you gather.

With both the tree and window altar, you will need to collect 11 ornaments that represent each Advent thought. Below, I suggest images to choose from. You may already have several of the ornaments with your Christmas tree decorations. Or your children can simply color pictures of each image and you can cut them into ornaments and punch a hole to tie a string on each one. I pieced my collection from ornaments I already had, a few made from paper and a few purchased at Target and Hobby Lobby.

1.    A cross
2.    A gift box/present
3.    A heart
4.    A clock
5.    Baby Jesus
6.    Mary and/or Joseph
7.    A manger
8.    A star
9.    A church or a picture of your family
10.    A nativity scene or Bible
11.    An ornament with 2015 written on it (next year) 

This year, Advent begins on Sunday, November 30th.  As we collectively anticipate the coming of Jesus, please join the Wild and Free community as we learn together how to receive him – how to welcome Christmas –  in a fresh and beautiful way.

The Story of the World Curriculum

by Bethany Douglass

The history curriculum, The Story of the World, is certainly one of my favorite resources we use at home. Although my husband has a graduate degree in History, I have always felt fairly weak in this area, knowing a smattering of events here and there without really understanding their connection.

I remember when Liam was 6 or 7, he asked how old I was when I first learned about a certain event in Ancient history. "Right now!" I responded. And it's the truth. Through reading this 4-part series, I am beginning to grasp a more comprehensive view of history, but the best part—I'm learning many things for the first time right alongside my children. I should note: they love this time of our day as much as I do, often pleading for me to continue.

The Story of the World is exactly what it says—a story attempting to weave together the histories of various regions, cultures, and religions into a four-volume narrative. I love Bauer's attempt to bring together the story of history from around the world, so we're not merely learning about Western Civilization and religion but also about events occurring simultaneously in Eastern civilization.

The materials are easy to adapt and use however you wish. I know some families who simply listen to the audiobooks while others create elaborate projects (from the Activity Book). You can adjust it to how your family wants to use it. I should also note: you can still use this even if you don't homeschool. It would be easy to read-a-loud at home or have your children (reading level grade 3+) read-a-loud to you. You can purchase each of the volumes separately, too.

Learning:
Medieval history + practicing the early stages of writing through listening, coloring (or another project), discussing, summarizing, and writing,

Time:
Approximately 30 minutes, 2-3 days/week

Materials

·  The Book - (we're using volume 2 right now)

·  The Activity Book - (includes questions and sample narrations for parents and activity ideas for each chapter)

·  Student spirals - (I printed and spiral-bound the student pages PDF for each of my children. These pages are also found at the back of the activity book, but are painstaking to copy. Trust me, this is easier.)

·  Notebook paper - (I included a piece of notebook paper for each chapter in my older kids' spirals. I inserted them before binding.)

Lesson:
When I announce it's time for history, the kids grab their history spirals from their cubbies and sit at the table. They really do love this part of our day. I bring various coloring supplies to spread out for them. I let them situate themselves and find their pages in the activity book as I announce what chapter we're reading that day. I remind the littles not to talk while I'm reading so everyone can hear. I prompt them with a few broad review/background questions to help connect what we've already read leading up to this point. This is helpful for all of us in building the connections.

Although sometimes I'll have the boys rotate reading aloud, they really enjoy listening and working on the activities, so I mostly do the reading. (You could also play the audio for this part if you tire of reading aloud.) As I read the chapter, the kids are coloring a page on the particular subject, listening. When I finish, I grab the Activity book and read the review questions from that section. We briefly discuss the key characters mentioned and events that happened.

After reviewing with questions, I'll ask the older kids to tell me what we read in 2-3 sentences (practicing summarizing). My oldest writes his narration down on the notebook paper in his spiral. I usually write the other kids narrations for them, and they read them back to me. We don't always do the last part. Sometimes we simply listen and color, but I try to include writing when I can.

This article was taken from the Wild + Free PRAIRIE bundle which is available for free for download here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bethany Douglass and her husband live in a small Texas town where they raise and home-educate their four gregarious children. Although life with four children is often messy, Bethany finds joy in the simple, ordinary moments with her family--a meal, a walk, a conversation. Her family’s homeschooling routine reflects much of this same simplicity: a grace-filled process of learning alongside one another, the fun and the difficult things alike. Bethany photographs and writes about their life and homeschooling journey at Cloistered Away, where she hopes to build courage into other parents on this worthy and often wearying path. | @cloisteredaway

Five Questions with Jodi Mockabee

Jodi Mockabee is a wife and mother to five young children. Her family journal, Mockabee Seven, has become a place to encourage mothers through Christ-led parenting, health and wellness, and to capture the quasi-homeshcooling, adventure-seeking life they lead. You can find her on Instagram at @jodimockabee. We sat down with Jodi to ask her the five things we’ve been dying to know.

What made you decide to homeschool your kids? What are you excited about / nervous about?

While I have always had a heart for homeschooling, I never imagined it being a reality. Our five children are very close in age, and up until a year ago, I was either pregnant or nursing, so the idea of being at home and responsible for the education of my children overwhelmed me. For the past six months, the Lord has been leading our family towards homeschooling. While I didn’t notice his purpose during that period, it became very clear why he had used certain circumstances to call us to the journey we are about to embark on.

I am cautiously optimistic on our upcoming adventure. I welcome change and am excited to utilize the extra time I have with my children, to cultivate their hearts all while teaching them through their own learning style and interests. I am excited to have them all home together, to make our learning process a group effort, everyone taking part in one way or another. I love how the dynamics are when everyone is together, and by adding true education into the picture makes me both excited and nervous! I am nervous about spending a lot of time in my home. I do enjoy my home, when it’s tidy! We do a lot of outings to keep the house clean and get their need for adventure met, but by adding schooling into the mix, I am aware that we may not get out as much and the house may not be as tidy. I’ll be honest, that makes me nervous!

If you could sum up your parenting values in just a few words or ideas, what would they be?

Boundaries and freedom.
Love and respect.
Structure and spontaneity.
Peace and adventure. 

You have five kids - all pretty close in age. How do you balance your life as a mother, wife, friend, and so on?

Oh my. Well, I’m not sure there is ever a perfect balance, but because of that, I am brought to my knees on a daily basis. I rely on the Holy Spirit to guide me throughout the day. Sometimes a child will act a certain way and my initial reaction will be to discipline, but I have been learning to seek Christ first. And often times, he will direct me on how to deal with the situation. I find when I don’t start my day on my knees and in the Word, things get off balance and I rely on my own wisdom (which is surely tainted) to manage our household. We also are fairly structured, which helps keep everyone fed and well rested—a combination that produces a fair amount of joy and predictability in our household! As for friendships, thank God a few of my good friends and their children enjoy nature as much as we do, so we get our social fixes quite often!

It's easy for us to look at other people's beautiful Instagram photos and forget they are real mamas with real struggles. What are some of the challenges you face as a mom on a day-to-day basis?

It would be safe to say that I am a type A personality. With my personality comes a lot of energy and drive, but I also can host unrealistic expectations and lack compassion. The latter traits are not so beneficial when you are a mother! I have one child that I am convinced the Lord sent to break me! He challenges my compassion and expectations on a daily basis (and as mentioned, there is very little of that to begin with!). I spend more time processing things with him and working with him then the other four combined, however, he is my strength. When I think of growth, I think of him. And I know that his purpose is so great and I have been called to direct him until he learns through Christ how to do it himself. But it is draining and by far my largest struggle as a mother. 

I think a lot of the Instagram moms can all relate to struggling with loneliness. I mean, that’s why we hop on Instagram, to connect with others out there, to feel like we are not alone in this. I love to see the small glimpse into another person’s day because it reminds me that we’re all doing it together. While it can cause feelings of inadequacy or encourage insecurities, I really try to view the images that show up in my feed as a highlight of their day, and I love Instagram for that! It’s important to condition your mind to know that they are mostly just highlights and to take inspiration, appreciation and a fresh perspective from said images.

Your kids seem to be outdoors quite a bit. Is this intentional on your part, and how do you keep them engaged in spite of all the other activities kids love with computers, video games, tv, etc?

Kids can adopt a lot of their passions from their parents. I’m not sure if our family’s love for nature started with them or me. But regardless, we all push each other to get outside. I made a commitment over six years ago to get outside every day, rain, snow, or sun. While I look back and remember some days were really difficult, now it’s not even a question. It just is! I am so proud of my children. The babies can hike short distances, climb rock walls, and entertain themselves for hours by a river. My petite little daughter can carry a backpack full of food and water and the older boys assist with carrying babies and hauling nature items back to the car all for the sake of the day’s adventure. 

I am 100% positive that if we had video games, iPads and/or a TV that they would prefer time on those devices. I’m realistic about that. In fact, we’ve tried buying a little tablet one time—they turned into different children immediately!! It just didn’t suit our family. I don’t personally have anything against technology, but I know it doesn’t work with the rhythm in our home. We will avoid it as long as possible because the absence of technology in our home has built a strong foundation for creating all types of healthy, living passions such as art, reading, building, climbing, hiking, pretending, etc. And I am perfectly content with that (although the idea of turning on the TV with just a little button to stop the noise/chaos of five active children seems very appealing at times!).

Free Excerpt of "Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys"

If you're the mother of boys, you know they're a special breed. Their endless imagination, hunger for adventure, and passionate spirit are matched only by their deep desire to be affirmed, esteemed, and loved.  Rather than trying to "tame" them, we should be compelled to understand them. David Thomas, the co-author of Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys is offering us a free excerpt of his book, along with a free parenting plan PDF. Download and enjoy!

Download an excerpt of Wild Things here.
Download the Wild Things parenting plan PDF here.

Also, you can enter to win a free copy of the book by commenting below before Friday, October 17th at midnight. We'll choose a random winner and announce it with a post on Saturday.

Conference Recap

On the weekend of September 19-21st, about 120 of us gathered in the tucked-away town of Virginia Beach for Wild & Free. All of us were nervous. So nervous. About traveling. About leaving our children behind for the first time. About not knowing anyone...

Hardly any of the presenters had spoken to a group this size before. For some, it was their first time. And they were nervous about meeting you. The veil of Instagram was about to be parted. We were about to discover each other for who we really are.

conf1.jpg

And I was nervous! I can tell you this now - I am not a "conference organizer." In the final weeks, as I struggled to homeschool my four babes, look after the home while my husband traveled, and field conference phone calls and emails... I found myself wondering, "What in the world have I gotten myself into?!"

But it was amazing. We came away with new friendships that will accompany us for the rest of our lives. We stayed up later than we ever do to laugh and talk and eat. We leaned in. We listened. We cried. We took selfies.

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Now... I know what could have been better. I learned the Founder's Inn doesn't know how much we girls like to eat. And that introverts (me included) could use a little guided interaction at such things as garden parties.

But we we dared to bring this community to life. And we loved what we found. There is such a thing as an "Insta-self" and a "real self" but I think we discovered true beauty in the hearts of everyone we met. We became sisters.

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Each of us has our own stories, our own insecurities, struggles, and pains. And not just those of us with difficult lives, but also those who appear to have no problems at all. When we took the time to listen, to assume the best, and to show grace, we experienced a kind of community that will help Wild & Free continue to thrive.

So we're pressing forward. We're dreaming of new experiences, resources, and ways to stay connected. I'm pouring into the Wild & Free bundles where you can learn from homeschooling mamas all over the world through their words and photography. In fact, I'm going to release several of the conference talks on the site in mid-October. Stay tuned for incredible things ahead!

xoxo
@ainsl3y