Laundry and Dishes

Hubby and I had the week off from our kids last week. Before they left , I thought that I would be doing all sorts of things from household honey-do lists to shopping for fun. Then the real kid vacation began and I honestly didn’t do much of anything. It was pretty anticlimactic. And, honestly, eye-opening.

Let’s back up a bit. I have been struggling hard with who I am at this point in my life. I keep asking myself what on earth do I have to offer other people; how can I help. I thought maybe going back to school to finish my masters would be the best thing to do, but it just doesn’t work at the moment for numerous reasons. I have been at a loss. Am I really here to do laundry and make dinner? That just seems too quintessential.

With all that on my mind, I thought for sure that I would have a great time catching up on all sorts of things and maybe have some epiphany of who I am supposed to be or what I am supposed to do with this life while the kids were gone. You know, come to see the bigger picture of what God was wanting in my life. (Which is a whole different post to discuss at a later time, lol!)

Guess what? I did have an epiphany. I realized that, my most important work right now is my family. I am meant to lead those children to become disciples. That is a hard realization. That is an answer which requires me to die to myself daily; to die to my own glory for the sake of God’s glory in them. Ouch.

After being punched in the face with that reality, I felt ashamed of not thinking that I was doing any work worthwhile. I felt guilty for thinking of only me and my life. And then I was brought to my knees with the weight of the task at hand. Hubby and I are our kids examples and leaders to Christ. That is INSANE! That takes my breath away.

So, here we are on the first day of the school year (we home school, yes, we are that family) and I feel more fulfilled than I have felt in a very long time. It has astonished me that serving other people, like my husband and children, actually makes me feel better. All I have to do is give it up to God. Every. Day. Give my life up to God. I wish I would have learned that sooner.

8 Tips from 8 Years of Marriage

Well, hubby and I will be married for nine years this December. I know that eight full years of marriage may not seem like a huge deal to some, but we have learned a whole lot in that time and I think that there is some wisdom to be shared! Without further ado, here are 8 tips from our home to yours:

  1. COMMUNICATE

This may seem like it should be common knowledge, but it took us quite while to be able to fully communicate with one another in a way that we both truly heard and understood. Have you ever had that moment when you said something and your spouse got instantly angry and you’re not sure why? Guess what, your spouse heard one thing while you meant another. Happens all the time! Here’s a tip: learn how your spouse hears things and then speak in that way.

Ask how your spouse’s day was every single day and actually listen. I ask hubby this question every day once he gets home. It lets me know where he is coming from (if he had a bad day and therefore in a bad mood, etc,) and also lets him know that I care enough about him to want to know the details of his life.

Know when to shut up! There are moments when to bring something up and there are moments that are better to wait. For example, don’t bring up something that needs to be done around the house immediately after your spouse gets home. He or she will feel bombarded and get irritated. Know the difference!

2. Build Each Other Up

I know that I don’t feel great after hubby says something that puts me down, even if it is in jest. He feels awful if I do the same. Bottom line here: NEVER put each other down, not alone, not in front other people and definitely not behind your spouses back. Your marriage should be a safe haven, not a war zone. Instead, speak life into your spouse. Tell them how much they mean to you, how much you appreciate them, and stand behind them in their endeavors.

3. Love Language 

There are different ways that every person feels love and gives love. There is a great book that talks all about the five different love languages. At the end, there is a quiz that you and your spouse can take to figure out which love languages are yours! You can buy that here: The 5 Love Languages:The Secret to Love that Lasts. Find out your spouses love language and become fluent in it. Trust me, if your spouse’s love tank is full, yours will be too!

4. SEX

Sex is huge in marriage. Sex is wonderful in marriage. Sex is better without pornography, I wrote a bit about that; you can read that here: 3 Ways that Porn Wrecked my Marriage. Always treat one another with respect and love in this area. Enough said.

5. Family Order

I always thought people that believed there was a particular order in which to prioritize your relationships were a little nutty. Low and behold, it is completely true! I cannot tell you how many times I have seen marriages fall apart because one spouse put their children above the other spouse. DON’T DO THAT. Here is the order that works wonders: God first, marriage second and children third. I talked about this in a blog post earlier, you can check it out here: Growth.

6. SLEEP

Yet another one that seems like common sense, lol! Every single time that hubby and I wait until later to go to sleep , we end up arguing. Sleep is such a detrimental thing in any relationship. I get irritable, emotional and, basically, become she-monster when I don’t get enough sleep. For the love, create a good sleep habit!

7. There is no “I” in MONEY

Finances are one of the biggest causes of arguments in marriages. Look it up. Both people need to be on board with where the money comes from, how the money is spent and how the money is saved. Never hide any financial decision. There is no such thing as ‘his money’ and ‘her money’, just skip that mentality. Marriage means unity in all things including money. If there is one bread winner (like in our marriage) the other person should NEVER feel like the money is not theirs as well. Get on the same page when it comes to finances.

8. Your Spouse should be your Best Friend

Hubby and I are best friends. He is the person that I can talk to about everything and anything and vice versa. We are able to share, laugh, have fun, and just hang out. We both have other friends (which is needed!), but not one compares to our marital best friend relationship and it shouldn’t! Be best friends with your spouse, it’s worth it!

 

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Top 10 Kid Games that Foster Learning

Our family loves to play games. We love it so much that we try to have a family game night every week. (Though lately it’s been difficult, lol). Our kids are finally ALL at an age that everyone can play board games for at least one round. We have rounded up what we think are the 10 best games to own. If you would like to own any of them, just click the name and it will bring you to Amazon. (I tried finding the cheapest version of all of them). They are listed in no particular order!

  1. Hi-Ho Cherry-O

This game is great for the littles that are just starting off in the board game world! It allows the children to count, take turns and learn good sportsmanship.

2. Candyland

It’s an oldie but a goodie! Candyland helps the kiddos to learn about colors, counting, taking turns and good sportsmanship.

3. Sequence For Kids

I was excited to see that this game came as a junior edition; my three year old even loves this game! Sequence For Kids teaches about animals, colors, counting, taking turns, good sportsmanship and thinking ahead.

4. Fairytale Spinner Game

Who doesn’t love a good story? Fairytale Spinner Game teaches children the basics of story telling, taking turns, good sportsmanship, counting, and creativity!

5. Memory Match

While this game may take awhile, it is well worth it! Memory Match helps foster recognition, recollection, taking turns and good sportsmanship.

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6. Making Cents

I had a difficult time trying to figure out new ways to teach our kids about money. This game is perfect for that! Making Cents teaches kiddos how to count change, recognition of money, taking turns, and good sportsmanship.

7. Uno

There are many different house rules when it comes to Uno, as we have found out! But any way you play it, it helps the kids to learn colors, counting, patience, taking turns, thinking ahead, and good sportsmanship.

8. Mancala

Though I had never heard of this game until marrying my husband, I would rather play it than a lot of other games. Mancala is a marble counting game that teaches how to count, take turns and good sportsmanship.

9. Trouble

My daughter loves to play this one! Trouble teaches counting, thinking ahead, colors, taking turns, and good sportsmanship.

10. Monopoly Here & Now

I know what you’re thinking, Monopoly is a horrid game that only ends in someone flipping the table over. But not so with this version! Monopoly Here & Now is a shorter kid friendly version in which there are no houses or hotels! It teaches counting, taking turns, good sportsmanship, patience, problem-solving and thinking ahead!

What games does your family love to play?

 

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Being Relevant in Babylon

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There is no doubt that our current country is very similar to that of ancient Babylon. Everywhere you look there are different opportunities to overindulge, advocate for sin and be instantly gratified beyond what you should be. It seems that our country puts a whole lot of emphasis on sin and whole lot less on everything else. What I mean to say is that sin, all different types, is placed on a pedestal instead of knocked to the ground. Now, this causes some concerns.

A friend of mine and I have been studying the book of Daniel with the Bible study by Beth Moore. We have only gotten through a couple of weeks, but they have been very thought-provoking weeks! (I highly recommend this study, you can purchase the entire kit for a small group from this link: Beth Moore Daniel Study ) One of the very first things that we learned in the study is that Daniel was one of very many that were taken from their home and brought to Babylon. Now, I am unsure of how many the “very many” consisted of, but it is very clear that only four of these people remained named in the story today: Daniel, Meshach, Abednego and Shadrach. Why? What made these four people different from all the other boys that were taken and brought to Babylon? The answer is simple. They did not put sin on a pedestal. They chose not to defile themselves. Even in a world that was completely tempting, completely open to them, everything available that they could have wanted, they chose God. Don’t get me wrong here, I am a dirty sinner. Always have been and, unfortunately, always will be. That is not what I am getting at here. What this story brought to mind is that those four men became relevant in Babylon without having to give into the culture around them. This is the idea that I have been struggling with.

We all sin. Jesus died for those sins. We are all loved. We are called to love God. We are called to love one another. There is no question to me about that. The question is simply, even though we are called to love one another, where is the line between loving and enabling? Between loving and assimilating to the culture around us? Between loving and becoming irrelevant? I know that there will be the “but we are told to love, period.” Yes, absolutely. Love, not enable. Just because you love someone doesn’t mean that you are going to allow them to do whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want because it makes them happy or feel good. For example, Let’s say a man and a woman get married. They love each other. They want to see the other person happy. However, just because those are the truths, it doesn’t mean that the husband would allow the wife to sleep with other men because that made her happy. Chances are, there would be arguments, dysfunction and eventually divorce. Love is not enabling; love is not advocating for sin. Jesus met a woman at a well, a pretty well-known story. In short, he forgave her of her sins and she was extremely excited about this. She ran into the city and told everyone about Jesus.  Jesus did not say to her “Hey, I love, go ahead and keep sinning”. No. He told her to sin no more because he loved her. 

Listen, we can not be relevant in our Babylon if we continually advocate and condone the sin around us. We can love one another without being a stumbling block to those around us. I recently listened to a message from Andy Stanley. The series is called Happy (you can listen to the whole series here: www.happyseries.org). In the last message of the series, he spoke of the fruit of the spirit. The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. What hit me the most was his reiteration of what the Bible says about the fruit of the spirit. “Against these things, there is no law”. That is awesome, my friends. We can love one another by striving to have the fruit of the spirit. We can love one another by loving God first. He will give us the discernment; the boundary line not to cross. He will show us how to love without assimilating to the culture we live in. When we love God first, we become relevant in our Babylon.

How do you remain relevant in your Babylon? How do you love?

 

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Go West Ruff Family!

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As a part of our school year, we traveled by car (agh!!) from Wisconsin to South Dakota. Driving gave us the ability to visit a ton of different spots along the way to our bigger destination of Mount Rushmore! The kiddos loved this trip and, if I’m totally honest, I loved it too. Some highlights (that the kids enjoyed) included:

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Wall Drug! This place is literally a tourist stop and shop, but a well placed one. Every single one of the kids loved stopping here on the way there and the way back. They have just about everything for the hungry traveler. From 5 cent coffee to a full restaurant. And they always offer free ice water! There are a ton of picture opportunities at Wall Drug too, including a fake Mount Rushmore. There is also a random T-Rex dinosaur that pops up and roars at you. To this day, my youngest son talks about the “scary dinosaur that made him run away” to just about anyone that asks!

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Bear Country is in Rapid City and a must see if you ever happen to be in town! Bear Country is basically an open range zoo for animals from bears and antelope to mountain lions and buffalo. Visitors drive their cars (with the windows up and doors locked!) through each animal enclosure and view the animals. We were able to see wolves, mountain lions, mountain goats, antelope, buffalo and of course bears! The animals, all except the mountain lions, could walk right up to your car. Some bears and buffalo got pretty close to us and the kids went nuts! After driving through the open range areas, there is a small zoo that you are able to walk through which holds animals like skunks, badgers, bear cubs, deer and wolves. Definitely a favorite in our family!

Mount Rushmore was an amazing stop for the adults and the kids! Obviously, there is the Mount itself and our four wonderful Presidents on it. But there is also a great museum that teaches so much history about the process of carving Mount Rushmore and the Presidents represented on it. Of course there is also a little cafe and souvenir shop, which we also enjoyed! The kids learned so much history in the short time we were there. I tried to snap a good picture to capture this moment, this is what I got, lol!

We also visited Crazy Horse, a Pow Wow and Lakota museum, the Corn Palace and three different Laura Ingalls Homestead museums (which will be a whole different post!). This was our first long distance road trip with the kids and I would recommend it to anyone! Hands on learning for sure!