All Crafting Aside…

One thing I’ve known about myself but maybe never told everyone else because I never thought about it… I’m a recovering craft-a-holic. I’ve been known to dominate half a master bedroom closet in an apartment full of craft supplies in my early marriage years. I’ve been known to be into beading, crafts with scrapbook paper, sewing, bow-making, and wreath-making. I have a love-hate relationship with the hot glue gun and have learned to decoupage, basic painting skills, floral work, and a variety of other hodge-podge crafty nuttiness.

We just moved (yes, again!) and I let go of some of those hoarded crafty “just in case” gems.It was harder than I imagined and a bit of myself escaped when I let go of them because I love crafting! Creativity flows freely from my fingers and brain when I’m doing my crafty thing. Nonetheless, much of it was donated. Large plastic tubs full of stuff dedicated to crafts with no craft time to do them equals a full garage filled with stuff instead of  a vehicle. And when you live in the desert like we do, you want your car in the garage in the hot summer months.

All kidding aside, my heart just had to realize in this season of my life crafting can’t be my obsession or hobby like it has been in the past. So, really, all crafting aside substitutes have taken its place. My husband’s care as he is still working full-time and I am homeschooling and training our children.  We’re still helping in a church, we don’t have huge activities or a full-schedule to keep up with like we have in the past. Don’t feel sorry for me though, it’s been GOOD for us to take a break from the highways of ministry activity.

The crafty girl is still inside me… crying a bit.

She needs to wait on the shelf for really cool projects or fun crafts with the kids… or an opportunity to bless someone or the church with that creative part of me.

Better things have replaced my crafts:

  • Consistency in building the character of our children. Regularly taking time to talk to the kids about heart problems and counselling in those areas.
  • Faithfulness as a Christian example to our children, as it requires my dedication to God.
  • Doing daily tasks and caring for my husband fulfilling my roles as his spouse. Helping the kids learn chores and skills also takes time. I’m prepping them for life y’all!
  • Last year God allowed me to study and create new lessons for our children’s Sunday School class for the summer.

Crafting distraction has never built those things in our life when my attention has been diverted. Oh, believe me, I’ve tried. Many years ago I spent two months creating items to sell at a craft table at a ladies retreat. I found I only broke even money-wise after neglecting my family. They ate at crazy hours around my crafting and the kids were entertained by the television for long hours of the day instead of being watched by their mother. We lost a lot of ground in that time in our children’s behavior and it took much more work to bring our home back into order since crafts had dominated every work space in the house.

The Ministry Mamas Facebook posts have decreased because spending regular time focused on trying to help others was robbing our family too. Helping others blesses me only when it does not negatively affect my family’s well-being. Writing articles here has not happened as much either because a chubby fingered toddler is requiring training and regular supervision (imagine that!). She is a wild mess.

For me, it would be better to put all crafts aside (and any other distraction) and gain the hearts and influence God wants me to have in our home than to indulge in my heart’s fondness to create. It has required shifting creativity elsewhere.

Maybe you share that same feeling of putting a piece of yourself on the shelf for a while to focus on the most important things of family or ministry life.  You’re not less of a person for needing to focus on a different aspect of your family life. You’re not failing because you can’t do it all.

Food for thought: There are times that it would be better not to have the church activity than to kill yourself (and the family) trying to fit in another thing on the schedule. Then, there are other times we need to seek help. There are also times when the people in your home need your focus and attention more than anyone and anything else, not because you don’t want to minister but your ministry is only as effective as the health (physically and spiritually) of your family.

If you have already are the type of person who can easily set things aside or you’re learning those things yourself, you are better because you’ve minimized your distractions.

The lesson is: Don’t indulge in ___(name your thing here)____ to neglect those who God has called you to minister.

Putting things aside, just means you’re hitting the “pause” button in one area of your life so you can push “play” in another. It is in its own way the fulfillment of John 3:30, “He must increase but I must decrease.” When we divert our attention to making God’s priorities our priorities, we are investing in a worthwhile (eternal!) investment that will yield some type of profit as a direct result. It is honing in on the season of life you’re in with no regrets and embracing today as the gift and the purpose for which you are made and able to make a difference.

Do not misunderstand, it is good to have a few personal pleasures and allow yourself brain breaks to escape the trials and mind-work that these other focuses drain out of you. You may be able to get your craft-a-holic self out every once in a while but it may be that it cannot be that one thing you run to regularly to fill your time. The common used phrase says, “You can’t feed others if you don’t feed yourself first.” The same idea is here, if you aren’t feeding the needs of your own personal family then they will starve while you’re handing out the food to others.

Self-Inspection Questions

Does God want me using my time and talents elsewhere?

What does God want me to set aside?

Who or what has He been inviting and calling me to invest my time in instead?

How will I deal with those things that are tempting me to be distracted from God’s plans and purposes for me in this season of my life?

It’s not always easy to give up those things you love or your talented in but there may be a profit to be gained in a spiritual investment if you will be willing to set it aside and focus on God’s invitation to do something different. We never know what God will do with us until we follow Him completely. Run to His will and put all other things aside and give Him the chance to show you some special blessings ahead. Plan ahead to stand before God with no regrets in the investment of your time and your family!

 

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Pen Pals for Our Boys {Free Printable Pen Pal Themes for Boys}


Pen Pals for Our Boys

Writing and boys do not always mix well but a ministry mama and I sparked an idea that it would be good for our boys to get to know each other. We live across the country and three time zones apart from each other but hey, who doesn’t need more friends of like faith!? My boys are eleven and ten years old and her boys are about the same age. The boys do have a lot of things in common already but they do not know it… yet!

This dorky writer of a mom may be a little more excited about their pen pals than they are because of my positive experiences of having pen pals. You can read my last article 3 Reasons Ministry Kids Can Benefit From Pen Pals.

After digging around for pen pal ideas for boys (on Pinterest, of course!) I was coming up very empty-handed because most of the ideas are girly. It challenged me to come up with a pen pal theme list for boys to write about or for little things to exchange. Our plan is to have the boys try to write once a month so these ideas won’t break the bank if we send out any of the fun items on the list — like socks, stickers, paper airplanes, rocks, etc. The list also includes creative things to write about or send to each other that won’t cost more than a bit of their creativity (Christmas card, drawings, a secret code, and more!).

My friend and I decided to have the boys use snail mail with these pen pals. My oldest son has already been writing a friend via e-mail who had moved away many years ago. He uploads pictures of our outings and likes to add in emojis to his e-mails and usually keeps them short and sweet. I love both types of pen pals because it gives him experience typing and writing by hand! <– Homeschool mama is coming out there.

Here’s how we’ve started:

These are things I printed out so our kids could share about themselves with their new friend.

All About Me Freebie by Science Doodles on Teachers Pay Teachers*

All About Me Selfie Template by Angela Jerpe on Teachers Pay Teachers (Free)*

This is a free letter writing help for those who may struggle with creating the draft of a letter or need guidance on how to make sure there letter is neat and ready to mail called the Pen Pal Writing Process by Alexandra Henry on Teachers Pay Teachers.*

And a free downloadable Pen Pal Set for Kids from Beyond the Inspiration, complete with downloadable stationery. Some of the papers have lines, others have lines with pictures.*

And here is the Pen Pal Themes for Boys printable I created for our boys. It’s a fun way to keep the excitement of writing your pen pal going and contains gift ideas to send or swap with pen pals. The list is geared toward boys but could be helpful to girls too!

Pen Pal Themes for Boys (<—-Download)

Our oldest son, Uno, chose rocks from his rock collection to share and Dos chose to send an “All About Me” paper with his first letter. I don’t know where these pen pal friendships will take the boys or how long they will last but I hope in my heart that it will be a great experience! We did Flat Stanley many years ago and it was a fun adventure to see all the places Flat Stanley traveled.

Ministry and family life doesn’t have to be boring… keep it fun Mamas, be creative, make connections, and ENJOY!

*Not affliliate links.

3 Reasons Why Ministry Kids Can Benefit from a Pen Pal

Every ministry kid needs a friend!  Did you ever have a pen pal? I had lots through the years when I was a kid and teenager. I even have a pen pal I have written for the past 3 years and I still love it.

I would encourage you to help your child find a child who is also in ministry or another Christian kid of like faith and practice. Ministry kids need to know there are other ministry children who are doing similar things they do in their family and in their church. I believe the common factor of similar beliefs alone will help establish a good friendship (but Ministry Mamas, we may have to help the kids be faithful to writing… more on that below!) Missionary children can also benefit from pen pals because it helps them be able to express themselves about their life and experiences on the mission field.

The truth of it is, they wouldn’t have to write a child but maybe a trusted Christian you know. A godly person with wisdom who would encourage and cultivate a good relationship with them that points them to Christ. Other people to keep in touch with might be: A Christian soldier who is deployed, a Bible College student, a youth pastor and/or his wife, a young adult on the mission field, or any other godly influence with time enough to sit and write.

 

3 Reasons Why Ministry Kids Can Benefit from a Pen Pal

  1. Writing to people keeps children connected to a broader world. There are lots of ministry kids who are lonely because they go to a church with very few children their age or missionary kids are in a foreign country surrounded by a different culture. Having a pen pal can connect a ministry kid with another child who lives like they do, serving God with their family.  Another lesson under this umbrella is that writing a person who is different lets your child understand variations in personalities and family preferences are common and that’s a good thing! When our children learn people can be different and still love and serve God the way they do then it helps them understand we do not have to be exactly alike to enjoy the company of one another.
  2. It teaches children about the joy of giving and receiving. To keep a pen pal relationship going there has to be reciprocation between letters — I send one, I receive one, etc. (This principle applies in so many aspects of life.) Receiving real mail is exciting! Letters have a mysterious element to them because you do not know its contents until you read it. Ministry kids who may be seeing or experiencing trials or personal struggles can benefit from the blessing of the letters from a friend and giving back. It can also help them look outside themselves by asking about the other person and being interested in their life.
  3. Having a pen pal teaches how to converse and encourage others. Reading letters can help your child learn to read tone and understand the feelings and heart of the other person. This practice of learning about the heart of another person can generate the qualities of empathy, compassion, and kindness. Children may open up to each other about their experiences and it can allow them to be able to have an opportunity to be a prayer partner with their pen pal and encourage them in life’s joys and struggles.

 

Helping Your Child Succeed as a Pen Pal

  1. Create a basket or kit that will have the necessary supplies they need to be able to write to their pen pal. Paper, pens, envelopes, and stamps are the very basics — add in stickers, gel pens, and stamps for more fun. There are great ideas for pen pal kits to send to your pen pal all over Pinterest, check this one out. It does not have to cost a lot of moolah, dollar stores have cheap supplies and cards. You can also teach your children to invest in buying the supplies for writing with money they earn.
  2. Help them with their writing skills. Teach them to write a letter and then teach them how to read a letter and respond with care. Teach them that writing a good letter can contain stories, descriptions, and questions. Writing without “I” as the main subject can be a challenge and should be attempted. Note: Boys may only have a factual type of letter exchange while girls may tend to share anything and everything going on in their lives and that’s okay! Help them spark their creativity with ideas and examples if they need it.
  3. Remind them to write when they receive a letter. There’s nothing worse than being a pen pal waiting desperately for a letter to arrive only to find out that you have been forgotten. It would be better for your child to write to their pen pal explaining why they will not be writing than no explanation at all. Before committing to a pen pal relationship consider the amount of time your child has. If they will be too busy to write it may be best to postpone having a pen pal until a better time.
  4. Be knowledgeable of the content of the letters if you can. Help them navigate even a pen pal relationship if they need help. Your job is to protect and nurture a good relationship. If the relationship goes south because of inappropriate content or the two pen pals are not a good match, then be willing to let that pen pal go. Be there for your child when and if those disappointments come. It is understandable people do change over time and so do their interests and not all pen pals are a good fit with each other.
  5. Spark their creativity! Help them keep the pen pal relationship interesting by being promoting thoughtfulness. Encourage your child to praying for their friend, include drawings, poems, whatever creative medium your child is good at doing. Or teach them to stretch themselves on the behalf of someone else just to be a blessing. You know your child best and can help them use their talents and gifts to be a blessing to their pal.

Hand writing letters is not for everybody so maybe pen pals won’t be for your kid– but what about Skype pals? or e-mail buds? Or phone calls? Or writing cards to missionary or church planter’s kids for their birthdays? There are other ways to “pen pal” and have our kids connect to kids in ministry (and others!) who may not be local.

Encouraging godly relationships is always good for us because we never know how God will use those things in our lives later on down the road! Just recently my husband was reunited with an old acquaintance he attended church camp with in junior high, and it seems they will be working on some upcoming projects together. God’s paths often intertwine in the most unusual ways.

Stay tuned for an upcoming article about how I’m involving our oldest boys in pen pals and for a free printable with themes for boys to write about or gifts/exchanges to make with their pen pal!