Why I Have the Most Amazing Friends

*This was originally posted in November 2013 by Jessica Hiltz.  Her words ring true for me this month as I’ve been the recipient of the blessings from some amazing friends.  I wanted to share this again to encourage us all to be a blessing when and how we can!   Although Jessica’s struggle was regarding infertility, I feel like this post can be applied to any struggle that we or those we know are going through.

It is a blessing to me to have my good friend, Jess, guest posting today.   I hope you are blessed (and learn how to be a blessing) through her words.

Make Me a Blessing

I was diagnosed with endometriosis at the age of 22. It has been a disease that causes me to live in pain most days of my life. I’ve been through numerous tests, procedures and surgeries to keep things under control, and unfortunately there is no cure. I’ll live with this disease for the rest of my life.

Besides the physical pain, this disease has brought me face to face with infertility. When we were first married, I felt that God would bring us a miracle and give us a child. But up to this point, His plan for us has not included children.

This has been a road filled with heartache and sorrow at times; but on the other hand, it’s been a road lined on both sides with abundant blessings.

One of the many blessings God has given me is my friends. I have some of the most amazing friends; and they have helped to bring comfort, joy and laughter to this road. They’ve been sensitive, caring and understanding of this battle that I face. I could not ask for better.

I want to share today why I have some of the most amazing friends in the world and how they’ve touched my life.

* Make time for just us.

Most of my friends are young mothers. Their social lives consist of play dates and birthday parties. I have one very special friend who’s a young mother, but every few months, she invites me to go to Wheaton’s for a Girl’s Morning Out. We go, shop, eat lunch and just chat about what is going on in our lives. She makes a conscious effort to spend time with just me apart from her children, and that means a lot to me. I know that she’s very busy with children right now, and I appreciate her taking time to do something with just me.

* Listen to my struggles.

I’m so blessed to have friends that listen to my struggles or sympathize over my latest problem with my endometriosis. They don’t minimize my struggle with infertility, but try to put themselves in my shoes. I have one very special friend who listens ALL the time. The Lord used her to help me talk through a lot of the struggles I was going through, and eventually I was able to write about them. Had I not had a friend to listen, I would never have had the courage to write about my struggles.

* Reach out to me on difficult days.

I was so blessed this past Mother’s Day when I had some friends who texted and emailed me that morning to let me know that they were praying for me and thinking of me. It meant more than they’ll ever know. Most people who see me on those difficult days would never know that anything is wrong, but I had friends who could read beyond the outward into my heart and know that I was struggling. Their encouragement meant so much to me.

* Send specific encouragement.

I remember one friend who sent me one of the sweetest letters I’ve probably ever gotten. I was facing yet another surgery and was very discouraged about what the outcome would be. I’d emailed her to let her know about the situation, and she replied to give me some of the greatest encouragement I’ve ever had. She told me that if God never gave me children, I needed to always keep in mind that her children were so much richer because I hadn’t had children. If I had children, I would never be able to spend time teaching hers in school. Talk about a blessing. Those were words that I have never forgotten, and they have gotten me through many a rough day through my struggle with infertility.

* Never pry or ask awkward questions.

Infertility is a very sensitive topic. It’s one that entails a very private part of a person’s life. I have wonderful friends that never pry or ask questions that are none of their business. They respect my privacy and leave many questions unasked. It is wonderful to be able to be comfortable enough around my friends not to have to worry what they are going to say or ask next. I never need to be on edge waiting for them to ask those awkward questions.

*Walk with me through difficult times.

The Lord has blessed me with friends who have walked with me each step of the way. There were often times when I couldn’t express my own feelings or emotions, but my friends were there. Sometimes there was nothing to say, but they were there. They’ve helped me when they probably didn’t even know they were helping me.

Maybe you know someone who is struggling with infertility, either openly or privately. The best thing you can do is to be a friend to them. Make your friendship a “safe place” for them to open up about how they’re feeling. If they choose to remain private about their struggles, respect that and just be there so that they have someone to talk to when they’re ready to open up about their struggles.

You may think that there isn’t much you can do to encourage someone who’s struggling with infertility because you don’t understand their struggles. But know that if you are a kind, compassionate friend, God will use you in their lives to be a blessing and an encouragement.

I could go on all day about how God has blessed me with wonderful people in my life, and these are just a few of the ways that they have been a blessing to me. I thank God often for them. My infertility road has been so much easier because of the wonderful blessing of godly friends.

1Samuel 23:16 says, “And Jonathan Saul’s son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God.” Truly, when my hand was weakest, God often sent a strengthening through the hand of a friend.

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Jessica Hiltz is an elementary and music teacher living with husband Jonathan in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. As a freelance author, she enjoys writing on a topic that has affected her life as a Christian woman and that has brought her closer to other women concerned with the same area: infertility. Having found that life is fulfilling in full-time Christian service, Jessica can most often be found enjoying the company of children, whether it be in the classroom, at the piano, or in children’s church.

6 Ways to Communicate Love to Your Child

Communicate with your children

In this age of emails and text messages I find that the art of communicating is being lost.  Facebook and Twitter have made conversation almost non-existent as everything anyone could ever want to know is splashed across statuses.  Too often we spend more time in front of the computer than in communicating with our children.  Even children are spending their time in front of computers/tablets/ipods/ipads, now.

Lately I’ve been feeling the need to communicate more with my child.  And I’m not talking sit him on my lap and have a conversation.  There are so many other ways of communicating love to a child than just by talking.  And, let’s face it, a 2 year old doesn’t really get much when you sit down and try to have a conversation with him!  He’ll probably be more interested in the buttons on my shirt or that toy over in the corner.

Today I want to share some of different ways of communicating with children (that even I can work on!) and at the end I’m sharing a free printable that you can use for Valentines Day (or whenever you want really).

1. Pray with them.  I think this is monumental in communicating with children.  Since I’ve started praying with Little Man I have seen his heart really soften towards the Lord and church.  At his young age I want him to understand what a real relationship with the Lord is like.  And you should hear the things he prays for all on his own!  It’s a really sweet time for us together.

2. Play with themNo, I’m not going to alliterate all of them (grin).   I read somewhere once that children feel more loved and accepted by their parents when moms and dads spend just 20 minutes of one on one time with them each day.  20 minutes!  That, seriously, is nothing when you consider how many minutes are in a 24 hour day.  I bet we lose that amount just checking Facebook once a day.

3. Love your husband.  Your children need to see you spending time with your mate.  That communicates so much to them!  Let them see you sit together on the couch, hold hands, kiss, etc.  Knowing that you love each other will communicate your love to your child as well.

4. Discipline them.  This is not a very popular topic in our world today.  However, children need rules.  And they need to know that you love them enough to discipline them when they don’t follow the rules.  Hebrews 12:6 tells us that God loves us enough to chasten us.   Love disciplines.  Children will respect you if you are consistent and often will disobey just to get attention, even if it’s the wrong kind!

5. Listen to them.   I don’t have time as a mother to sit with my child on my lap all day and let him talk to me.  However, Little Man will often come and tell me things (whether or not I understand him) while I’m working around the house.  And he knows when I’m not actually paying attention to him.  His voice gets louder and louder and he repeats himself over and over until I fully give him my attention.  As women, we do have the gift of multi-tasking and it’s not that difficult to give your child your attention while continuing to wash dishes or fold laundry.

6. Send them messages.  I love sending notes to people.  My children, however, are not old enough to read, therefore it would be a little silly on my part to send them a hand written note.  For older children this would be great, though (remember the mailbox idea from last week’s Valentines Round-up?).   I still have some notes that my mom left under my pillow when I was growing up.  However, there are many neat ideas of ways you can “send a message” to younger children.  Especially around Valentines Day!

a.  Make a badge for them to wear.  You can make it look like a war medal, a sheriffs badge, or an athlete’s medal (Olympics start tomorrow!).  Just put the simple word, Loved, on it and tell your child what it says (or another word that you like).  I can guarantee they will be so proud to go around wearing it and show it off to Daddy when he comes from work.

b.  Use your child’s name to make a mural on the wall.  In October, we had a Thanksgiving Tree on our wall.  The falling leaves (our handprints) held the things we were thankful for each day.  I had Little Man’s name on one leaf and he knew it!  He loved that his name was up on the wall and would point it out to people.  No, he can’t read.  He just knew which leaf had his name on it.  Something simple will mean the world to them!

c.  Decorate their bedroom doors so they get to run through something fun when they wake up in the morning.  And we come down to the free printable I’m sending your way.  I’ve seen this done for birthdays, but I decided to do this for Valentines Day this year.  Owls was our theme for Little Miss so I made a set of pink and purple owls for girls and a set of blue and red for boys.  I can’t wait for Little Man to wake up to this next week!

Communicate with your children

I made my owls bigger for the purpose of the picture.  They are smaller and I would space them farther apart.  The hearts have little messages on them.  Little Man’s “song” that we’ve shared since his birth is, You Are My Sunshine, so that is on one heart.  And we love the book by Robert Munsch, I’ll Love You Forever, so I used the phrase, “My baby you’ll be.” on one heart.  Another heart says “Love”, and a fourth says, “Be Mine”.  I left a few blank so you can add your own phrase/note, or just leave them blank.  Just click the links below to download the set you’d like to use!  I also made one set just black and white so if you don’t have colour ink for your printer and want different colours you can personalize them to your taste.  Just print off as many pages as you’d like.  Cut out the pictures.  And attach them to yarn. It’s as simple as that!

Girls Valentines Printable

Boys Valentines Printable

Black and White Valentines Printable

 

Communicating with your children is very important.  Are there other ways you communicate to your child?  I’d love to add my list.  Please leave me a comment below!

A Home Away From Home

Gathering at David Nims House in Roxbury New Hampshire

“Friends are the family we choose for ourselves . . .”

I stepped off of the plane with a stomach full of butterflies. There was excitement mixed with fear. I’d just landed in Newfoundland for my first ministry teaching job. I knew no one. I was surrounded by rock and water, miles away from family.

It was such a huge change for me. I kept busy teaching, ministering in the church and settling into my apartment. I loved this new life, but I definitely missed my family. There’s something special about family. I kept busy with my responsibilities, but began to pray for “family” in Newfoundland.

God answered my prayers in an abundant way. He blessed me with a Malachi 3:10 blessing, “…if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”

I met a very special family who became a blessing to me. They became my “Newfoundland” family. They invited me over for meals, reached out to me when I was sick and just generally looked out for me.

I began to spend many hours with this family. I was invited over every Sunday for “Sunday dinner.” If I was lonely, I could drop in and find someone to watch a movie with or chat with. When I had a rough day, I could always find one of them to talk to. They became a huge blessing in my life.

Not only was this family a blessing to me, their extended family became a blessing to me as well. They accepted me as part of their family and invited me to all family functions. The extended family got together every holiday and had a huge meal. I always knew that I was welcome and I began to spend holidays with this family when I was away from home.

Their family functions were wonderful to attend. They loved each other and had so much fun together. There were no harsh words or family drama. Every one cared about each other.

I learned so much from them and such things that I have carried with me as I started my own home. Some I’ve not been able to put into practice yet, since I live in a small mini home. I also need to work on more of them!

· People, not the meal are important.

I often fall into the trap of worrying about how good my meal will be, but really this is secondary to reaching out to people. People may not remember the meal, but they’ll remember the kindness you showed to them.

· You entertain to bless, not impress.

Another lady who I met in Newfoundland taught me this important lesson. She was so good at inviting visitors at church over for lunch immediately following the service. She didn’t have anything “special” planned, but she shared what she had. Her house may not have been just “spring-cleaned”, but no one noticed. People appreciated her friendly, down-to-earth style.

· Space isn’t that important.

I sometimes use the excuse that I don’t have enough space. Often when I was with my “Newfoundland” family, it was crowded and we didn’t have as much space as we could have used (there could be 20+ people there), but it didn’t matter. Everyone was happy to be together and made the best of the situation!

· More than one dessert takes everything to a new level.

Ok. So this one is a bit funny, but it’s so true! There’s nothing like a few good Newfoundland desserts! Google them – you won’t be disappointed!

· It doesn’t have to be fancy.

Everyone has their niche. Some people have the “touch.” Everything matches perfectly. Decorations are beautiful and you feel as if you’ve stepped into magazine pages. Others have a simpler house with more traditional decor. Regardless of how a house is decorated or a meal is presented, it’s not about the decorations or presentation! It’s about showing others that you care about them.

· Some of the best memories will be made.

As I look back to my seven years spent in Newfoundland, some of my most special memories were made with my extended “Newfoundland” family. They took me in and blessed me in a very special way.

I’ve been in Nova Scotia for the last four years, and I’ve been able to spend Christmas with my family and my husband’s family. I’m thankful to be close to family again, but every Christmas I dream of being able to go back to Newfoundland for one more Newfie Christmas.

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jess

Jessica Hiltz is an elementary and music teacher living with husband Jonathan in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. As a freelance author, she enjoys writing on a topic that has affected her life as a Christian woman and that has brought her closer to other women concerned with the same area: infertility. Having found that life is fulfilling in full-time Christian service, Jessica can most often be found enjoying the company of children, whether it be in the classroom, at the piano, or in children’s church.

5 Ways To Be a Blessing To Your Neighbour

 

Everyone is talking about “Random Acts of Kindness” this year, especially during this Christmas season.  I’m not sure I completely agree with the concept as it seems to include TELLING everybody what random acts of kindness you did that day.  However, I do agree that we can be doing more for others than we do now.   

In keeping with our “Make Me a Blessing” series from last month I decided to give us some practical ways to be a blessing to those around us in various aspects of our lives.  Today I’m going to give you some ideas of being a blessing to your neighbour (keep in mind that these ideas can be used for others, too, not just specifically your neighbour).

Make Me a Blessing

I had seen some posts from other bloggers of things they did during the Christmas season and I loved their ideas so much I wanted to share two of them with you.

1. Courtney from Women Living Well wrote:

Spread the love of Jesus while driving around looking at Christmas lights. Every year before we leave the house to go look at Christmas lights, I have the children color 5-10 pictures of baby Jesus. (click here for coloring pages to print) Then as we drive we search for homes that are displaying the nativity. Each time we find one we clap and cheer. Then we roll down the back window and allow the children to take turns putting their picture in the mail box. I write on each picture “Thank you for displaying the reason for the season.” We hope it blesses them as they have blessed us!

(click on the link above to read the whole post)

2. Ann Voskamp from A Holy Experience wrote:

Jesus is the Gift and we keep giving Him away, down the road and around the corner and the world —He is the best Christmas to give — because when we share Christ, we most have Him.

And on the backside of that little verse liner, we write a Christmas note to our neighbors and tape up the back of the little cookie envelope — and tuck The Greatest Gift cookie envelope in with a little love-something for the neighbors — a hot chocolate mix, a bag of coffee, a good book, a little candle, a loaf of bread.

(by clicking on the link you can read the whole post AND download the cookie envelope template that she used)

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I think these are some wonderful ideas for being a blessing to your neighbour.  Just think how fun it would be open your mailbox and see a coloured picture and a thank you note…or a little wrapped box of cookies.  I even like the idea that Ann had of adding a hot chocolate mix or a loaf of bread to it.  Something to make them feel special.

Here are a few more ideas:

3. Make a homemade ornament for your neighbour.  There are so many ideas on the internet now for homemade ornaments ranging from simple to hard, from costing nothing to some that are more expensive.  Do what works for you!

4. Go Christmas caroling.   I think this is becoming a lost art in our society.  It used to be a common event to have people come around your home singing carols.   Our youth group used to go every year.  We usually had specific homes that we went to, shut-ins in our church, etc.  I really enjoyed it and miss doing it.

5.  Do something “free” for them.   Brush off their car in the morning if it snowed the night before.  Offer to rake the leaves off their lawn for free.  Shovel their driveway.  Offer to babysit one night (if they have kids) so they can go out.   Mow their lawn (if you live where it doesn’t snow!).

There are so many ways we can be a blessing to our neighbours.  How can YOU show the love of Christ this Christmas AND in the months to come?

 Christ didn’t come here just for Christmas, He came for every season of the year!

Advent Ideas!

It’s that time of year…when the world starts to count down till Christmas cheer, every year…

heheheh…I know I’m terrible at changing the words to a song.  That’s one of my favorite songs at Christmas, though (when the world falls in love every song you hear, seems to say, Merry Christmas). =)

Well, I wanted to get this post in before December hits because you have to start an advent calendar on the 1st!  I mean, you could totally start one on another day, but it would be weird.  Yeah.  Okay…moving on.

This year I decided to use this Christmas tree advent calendar from Pink Suede Shoes

advent calendar tutorial

And for the insides of them I’m using this list of ideas from Live Love Laugh

with a few changes for our own family traditions.

  1. Go outside and look at the moon & stars before bedtime. Remember the star that the wise men followed?
  2. Take Christmas pictures
  3. Decorate bedroom doors
  4. {candy}
  5. Watch a Christmas movie
  6. Bake cookies with Mommy
  7. A special present…To Be Announced (or thought of, lol)
  8. Make paper snowflakes
  9. {candy}
  10. Take Christmas goodies to a shut-in member from our church
  11. Make a Christmas card for friend
  12. Build a fort from blankets & pillows. Read a Christmas book in the fort.
  13. Have hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows or whipped cream.
  14. Donate food to a food bank in the area (or a needy family)
  15. {candy}
  16. Make window clings with fabric paint
  17. Play with our nativity and talk about Jesus as a Baby
  18. Eat dessert first (brownies with peppermint ice cream)
  19. Make a shiny star.
  20. Drive around and look at Christmas lights in our pajamas
  21. Sing carols
  22. Make paper toys (http://www.thetoymaker.com) (this looks sooooo cool!)
  23. Go on a Christmas scavenger hunt (I may regret this with a two year old!)
  24. Read Christmas story from the Bible and open Christmas Eve present from Mommy & Daddy

I’ve changed some of the original ones because they wouldn’t work in our city AND/OR with a 2-yr old.  I’m not sure about the paper toy one, but it looks really fun so I’m game, hehe.

I’ve already gotten a couple of sources together for next year..and following.  But YOU might be interested in them now.

I love the idea of having the wise men follow the star in this countdown activity from Sun Hats and Wellie Boots:

 

And this wreath (that she apparently found at Target, WHAT???) is pretty cool (I feel a DIY coming on)…also from Live Love Laug’h

And if you’re like me and love using fun activities to include a teaching moment…here is a REALLY neat idea from Creekside Learning

Character Traits Advent Calendar

Unfortunately, the Littles wouldn’t quite understand this for a couple years yet, but it’s tucked away on my Pinterest board for when they’re old enough to appreciate good character.

December Photoaday Challenge

This year I’m also planning on doing something a little different.  I want to join in on this December “Photo-a-Day” Challenge from Raising Mighty Arrows.  I WILL NOT be posting the pictures here on my blog, but I will be posting them on my Facebook page: Quiet Workings – and if I miss some, well, what can I say?  I have a lot going on in my house right now, lol.

 

I hope you all are enjoying the “Make Me a Blessing” series.  I plan to continue it on into December with some ways that we can all be a blessing to others.