Pumpkin PB2 Chocolate Chip Muffins

Pumpkin PB2 Chocolate Chip Muffins

Although she is only 19 months, this morning my daughter gobbled up a large waffle and an egg. Her cute, protruding belly bears witness to her favorite pastime: eating. My son, on the other hand, is more selective about his eating, and since he randomly decided that he didn’t like eggs, I’ve been struggling to find ways to get protein into his diet, particularly his breakfast. To this end, I’ve modified a recipe that I love from some of my favorites, The Meal Makeover Moms. I’ve added some peanut butter in the form of PB2. If you haven’t tried this stuff, it is awesome. This super convenient powdered peanut butter is easy to add to the dry ingredients of any recipe. Of course, if you’ve got a nut allergy in the family, you can always substitute sunflower seed butter. You might be thinking that  the pumpkin/peanut butter combination sounds a bit odd, but trust me, along with providing great vitamin A and protein, this combo is delicious.  I’ve also made these muffins vegan since my husband is dairy-free. All of us love these muffins, and I hope you will too.

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Pumpkin PB2 Muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • 2 tbsp. PB2 or peanut butter (or more if you like)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup 100% pure pumpkin
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar (or sugar of choice)
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or milk of choice)
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil (or oil of choice)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup Enjoy Life vegan chocolate chips (you could also substitute dried cranberries if you want to leave out chocolate chips)

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a mini-muffin tin with coconut oil spray (or whatever nonstick spray you like)

2. Combine the flour, flaxseed, PB2 (if using regular peanut butter, save for step 3), baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.

3. In a different bowl, combine pumpkin, egg, applesauce, coconut sugar, almond milk, oil, and vanilla.

4. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients.

5. Stir in chocolate chips.

6. Place batter into muffin tins. Bake 15-18 minutes. Enjoy!

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AN UNCONVENTIONAL WAY TO SERVE YOUR FAMILY

Here at Family Service Club, we focus on service. Sometimes we serve others with our families, and sometimes we serve people in our family. When I have time, I love serving my kids by baking them treats that are relatively healthy. I’ve made many, but this is the most requested and loved. If you try this recipe, please let me know what you think, and if you’d like daily ideas on sharing kindness, follow us on Instagram. Also, if you are interested, click here to start a Family Service Club of your own, or if you live in the Conejo Valley area, we’d love to have you join our local chapter. Thanks for reading, and let’s go love others on purpose.

 

 

 

The Magic of Tidying

The Magic of Tidying

I know what you are thinking: seriously, another person is talking about this book? Yes, yes, I am. Like many others, I’ve been reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. You may have heard mixed reviews, but I’d like to share my thoughts with you as I’ve been obsessed with this book (and Kondo’s decluttering method) recently.

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When we moved into our home a few years ago, my son was a toddler, and we didn’t have time or energy to organize our house very well. Since then, my daughter was born, and things have gotten even more chaotic in our home. As a result, we didn’t really have a working organizational system, and there was clutter everywhere. Of course, it was contained clutter, multiple “junk” drawers and overflowing cabinets. As a working mom who isn’t awesome at large-scale cleaning projects, I had no idea where or how to start tidying up.

Enter Marie Kondo’s book. When I started reading it, I was immediately convicted that I needed to start discarding. She asks her clients (and readers) to get rid of items that don’t “spark joy.” Although time-consuming, this method of decluttering is surprisingly easy and intuitive, and I found myself able to give away things that I have held onto for years.

I’ve also benefited from her admonition to assign everything a specific place. Now that I have fewer items, and now that my shoes, t-shirts, and hair ties have a place, maintaining order seems much more manageable.

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And although I don’t always relate to her emotional connection with material objects, I like her practice of “thanking” her items for their service when she puts them away. This practice of gratitude has helped me have a better attitude while folding laundry.

For about five consecutive nights, my husband came out of my son’s room after putting him down to find me systematically going through drawers, cabinets, and closets. I made some big messes on my way to tidiness, but I can say without a doubt that it has been worth it. I honestly feel more comfortable in my home, and although I’m not totally done organizing, I can see a huge improvement already.

If you are already super organized, you probably don’t need this book, but if you have even one or two chaotic closets or drawers, this book may just revolutionize your home life. I found it to be life-changing.

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AN UNCONVENTIONAL WAY TO SERVE YOUR FAMILY

As I’ve mentioned before, one way my husband and I serve each other (and our kids) is by trying to keep the house relatively clean and clutter-free. My family and I have both benefited from the Konmari tidying method described in this book, and I hope yours will too.  Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?  Do you have any strategies you use to organize your house? Please share them with us, and if you’d like daily ideas on sharing kindness, follow us on Instagram. Also, if you are interested, click here to start a Family Service Club of your own. Thanks for reading, and let’s go love others on purpose.

 

A Letter to my Mom

A Letter to my Mom

Yesterday, I went to a Mother’s Day event at my son’s preschool. Complete with table cloths, music, muffins, strawberries, and 4-year olds, it was a lovely morning.  Paxton proudly unwrapped my present for me, presenting me with a cut out of his handprint. Despite fun mornings like this, Mother’s Day always brings mixed emotions for me.

My sister wrote a letter to moms last year, and this year it’s my turn.  I have an incredible stepmom and a wonderful mother-in-law, but this letter is for my mom, Alice, who passed away when I was 17. I can’t give her my handprint, but I offer this tribute instead. If you have a mom, had a mom, or if you are a mom, this letter is for you too.


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Dear Mom,

Happy Mother’s Day! Now that I’m a mom, I’m more aware and appreciative of all you did for me.

Thank you for enduring a difficult pregnancy. Thank you for being faithful in your bed-rest, and thank you for weathering a traumatic delivery. Thank you for thinking of my needs before your own before I was even born.

Thank you for rocking me to sleep, for placing me gently in my crib each night, for praying over me. Thank you for changing every diaper. Thank you for buying me Rainbow Bright coloring books. For encouraging me to be imaginative. For biscuits and gravy on my birthday. Thank you for warm soup on cold nights. For tackling relentless stacks of dishes and laundry. Thank you for completing mundane tasks so we could focus on exciting adventures.

Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for putting down your projects so you could listen to me. Thank you for constantly giving me eye contact and attention. Thank you for knowing the names of my friends and for loving them too. Thank you for creating meaningful traditions. For spontaneously breaking me out of school for chocolate ice cream. Thank you for taking me to Coco’s after Church every week and for teaching me faithfulness. Thank you for buying me that book by Cindy Crawford, using something I loved (books) to teach me about something I didn’t (makeup). Thank you for letting down your hair, for using silly voices, for correcting me in a loving way. Thank you for disciplining me when it would have been easier not to. Thank you for reading parenting books, for always trying to be the best version of yourself.

Thank you. Thank you for not giving up: I know you wanted to at some points. Before becoming a mom, I never realized how hard it was.  How hard it is to see your kids behaving in ways  that you don’t want them to. How hard it is to keep the house clean and the kids fed. Thank you for laughing when you felt like crying. And Mom, thank you for loving me. I never realized how intense mother-love is! Love that feels heavy in your chest; love that worries: love that can hurt. Thank you.

I love you, Mom. I’m sorry I didn’t say it enough when you were still around. I love you for all you did. I love you for who you were. I forgive you for all you didn’t do, and I forgive you for who you couldn’t be. Thank you for teaching me how to live, and thank you for teaching me how to love. May I be to my kids even half of what you are to me. Happy Mother’s Day.

Love,

Kellie

An Unconventional Form of Service

I miss my mom. In her honor, I issue this charge: this Mother’s Day, let’s make honoring our moms an intentional act of service. Are you doing something special for your mom this Mother’s Day? Is there something that you’d like to thank her for? If you have ideas on how to honor moms this Sunday, please share, and if you’d like daily ideas on sharing kindness, follow us on Instagram. Also, if you are interested, click here to start a Family Service Club of your own. Thanks for reading, and let’s go love others (including our moms) on purpose.

 

3 Things You Can Do to Make Bedtime Better

3 Things You Can Do to Make Bedtime Better

My awesome husband usually puts my four-year old to bed, and I enjoy the time to myself, typically putting away laundry, periodically checking on my snoozing daughter in the nursery. This  quiet time hasn’t been as peaceful recently, however. I have a monitor in my bedroom, and I can hear how things are going downstairs. My son begs for more stories, more water, more “check-ins.” Frustration growing with each new request and complaint.  “DADDY…I’m really hot.” “DADDY…I’m really cold.” “DADDY…I have to go potty.” Being somewhat of a compulsive planner, I decided it was time to make a new plan for bedtime.
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My son recently moved into a bigger bed, and I figured it was a perfect opportunity for a more structured routine. So, on Sunday night, instead of doing dishes, my husband and I started crafting a plan. We talked about what time our routine should start, what we were already doing, and how we wanted to structure the new plan. I consulted my son, trying to involve him in the process. I asked him, “would you like to put your jammies on before or after we read you a book?” After that, I wrote it all down, and we started following the plan. We are only a few nights into it, but so far, things are working out pretty well. It isn’t a perfect solution, but it is better than what we were doing before. We all know what to expect, and he is going to bed a bit earlier, which leaves a bit more time for my husband and I to hang out.

If you don’t have a system that works well for you, here are some ideas to try.

3 steps to a better bedtime

1. Talk it over: Discuss the optimal routine with everyone involved, be as specific as possible.

2. Write it out: After you’ve talked and made a plan. Write it down. (You can even type it up if you want to make it look more official) Even though my son can’t read yet, he responds really well to seeing things on paper.

3. Follow the plan: We have placed the “Bedtime Plan” in a specific location, and every night we read through the steps and do them in order. You can see a condensed version of our plan below.

bedtime plan

an unconventional form of service

As one who relishes routine, I enjoy hearing my son follow our new plan through the monitor. I hope it will continue to make bedtime better as we get more accustomed to following it. I’m constantly trying to serve my family is by working to maintain sanity and order. It is hard to love each other really well if we are getting frustrated on a nightly basis.  My family and I have benefited from this new routine, and I hope yours will too.  Do you have any bedtime struggles at your house? Are there any strategies you use that help? Please share them with us, and if you’d like daily ideas on sharing kindness, follow us on Instagram. Also, if you are interested, click here to start a Family Service Club of your own. Thanks for reading, and let’s go love others on purpose.

The End of an Era

The End of an Era

Heading to work, I stepped into my son’s room to turn off the light. What I saw moved me to tears. Without mentioning it, my husband had moved Paxton’s toddler bed so he could begin setting up his “big boy” bed. I knew it was coming, but I didn’t know it was coming today. I didn’t know that last night was his last night snoring under his Ninja-turtle sheets. I didn’t know that last night was his last night in his crib-turned toddler bed. I just didn’t know.

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For my husband, this change is welcome. He loves my son’s growing independence as well as the fact that the “baby clutter” is gradually on its way out. For me, this change is hard. Since we are done having kids, I find myself sentimental about everything. How can my baby boy be growing up?

All of this causes me to reflect. As much as I want to, I can’t slow down the ever-ticking clock. Whether I like it or not, my kids are getting older each day, and so am I. (This fact isn’t as disconcerting to me for some reason: a few new wrinkles is trivial compared with independent potty trips and the like)

Usually, when I write a blog post, I try to come up with some sort of didactic lesson. I don’t really have one today, except the ever-cheesy reminder to cherish the time with my kids. Because even though some one-hour park trips seem eternal, I blinked and his toddlerhood ended. And here I am, typing this article as my husband sets up his big bed.

Next time I am struggling with a particularly hard parenting moment, I will remember this one, and I will remind myself that sometimes things seem challenging, and sometimes, you walk in to see your son’s toddler bed for the last time.

Do you struggle with your kids getting older? Is there any thing you have done to help you cherish moments with your kids? If so please share, and if you’d like daily ideas on sharing kindness, follow us on Instagram. Also, if you are interested, click here to start a Family Service Club of your own. Thanks for reading, and let’s go love others (especially our kids) on purpose.

How to Have a Less-Cluttered Car: 4 Steps

How to Have a Less-Cluttered Car: 4 Steps

My Experience

It all started a few weeks ago when we arrived early at our destination. We were due to meet a friend at 9:15, and we arrived at 8:45 (you know how some mornings go: sometimes you have to leave the house before things get crazy). Anyway, I didn’t want to unbuckle my content toddler as she relaxed in her car seat, and I’m trying not to be too tech-obsessed, so I decided that, instead of checking Instagram, I would tidy up my CRV.

It had been awhile, so I made three piles: one for trash, one for items to go inside when we got home, and one for items to stay in the car. Surprisingly, this didn’t take too long even considering the disgusting amount of crumbs I was collecting. After this, my floorboards looked more like floorboards and less like chaos. Nice!

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Encouraged by this success, I invested in some containers: a trash “can,” a car container, and a basket for the trunk so I could bring things inside easily.

Since then, I’ve tried to tidy my car every Wednesday, and I’ve really loved the results. My 4-year old remarked immediately about how he enjoyed the extra room in the back seat, and I was in a good mood, having found some “lost” sunglasses. You know it is true: a tidier car makes for a happier mom.

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So, to recap, here are some easy steps I take to help my car stay (relatively) clutter-free.

4 Steps to a Tidier Car

1. Sort: put every loose item into three piles: trash, car, home.

2. Contain: buy three corresponding containers so you can put each pile in its proper place. When you can, bring the “home” basket inside, empty it and place it back in the car. Empty your trash frequently. I do this every time I get gas.

3. Repeat: pick a day of the week when you can repeat steps one and two.

4. Extra Credit: Vacuum!!: Now that your car isn’t crammed with random socks and toys, you (or someone at a car wash) can vacuum your seats and floors. I don’t always have time for this step, but what a happy day it is when I do.

An Unconventional Way to Serve your Family

You might be thinking: wait, aren’t you supposed to be writing about service?  Well, one way I serve my family is by striving to maintain sanity and order (easier said than done). Driving a car that isn’t littered with wrappers and toys adds sanity (to me) and order (to my car). My family and I have both benefited from this weekly habit, and I hope yours will too.  Do you have trouble keeping your car clutter-free? Are there any strategies you use that help? Please share them with us, and if you’d like daily ideas on sharing kindness, follow us on Instagram. Also, if you are interested, click here to start a Family Service Club of your own. Thanks for reading, and let’s go love others on purpose.

 

 

Michelle’s Story

Michelle’s Story

I’m really excited to bring you a guest post from my wonderful friend, Michelle. She and I taught English together for years, and she has always inspired me. She is a woman of faith, character, and conviction, and as we focus on supporting children in foster care this month, I wanted to allow her to share her story with you. I love the way that Michelle and her husband, Nader, have opened their hearts and their homes, and I hope her story will inspire you as much as it inspired me. –Kellie 

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It was one of those weeks. You know, the one where all you want to do is drop your kids off in Children’s Ministry and run to church, just for an hour and a half of time to reconnect with Jesus. I knew I wasn’t the best mom that week. I hadn’t slept enough; although I can’t remember why, was it teething? ear infections?

Of course, it was my week to serve in the nursery. And boy did I have a bad attitude about it.

I grew up in the church and saw Children’s Ministry as a responsibility that I had to do, especially since I had two boys now, the older 2 years, the younger, 6 months.I tried to hide my bad attitude. I sat in the Newborn Room waiting for babies, silently wishing I could go to “big” church to meet Jesus and recenter before another long week of parenting started. And then, the first two babies were dropped off, Makai and Mackenzie, two new foster babies that a family in our church had taken in. I had already met these two babies and had taken great interest in Makai, because his name is so similar to my own son, Mekiah. I placed Mackenzie in the swing and began rocking Makai. Makai was special. At only about three months old, he had a large scar on the top of his head, with several staples in place. I could only imagine what had taken place to put him into foster care.

And then, in a moment that has shaped my heart, I heard the Holy Spirit speaking to me. “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship” and “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after widows and orphans in their distress” I started crying silently as I continued to rock Makai. I cried because something awful had happened to this child, something I would never be able to comprehend. I cried, because the Holy Spirit had gone past my bad attitude and met me in a way that could never have happened in “big” church. I cried because my arms, already tired of holding my own children, were in that moment being a “spiritual sacrifice” that was “holy and pleasing.” This moment changed my life.

Shortly after this moment, my husband and I began trainings to become certified foster parents. It was an unknown process to the both of us, and therefore a bit scary. I often wanted to back out, because of fear or because my kids felt like “too much,” but the facts before me never changed. 400,000 kids are in foster care in the United States. 400,000!

Although the process to become certified can only take four months, we stretched it out to 18 months to make sure we knew exactly what we were doing. We talked a lot to our two biological sons about what was going on; we asked them if they would be willing to help take care of a little baby whose mommy was sick. And then when she got better, we would give her her baby back. My kids emphatically said, “sure!” It was really quite an easy answer for them.

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And so, in October 2013, when my biological boys were 2 1/2 and 4 1/2, we took in a little baby boy. And, being a part of his life has changed ours forever. This journey has been wonderful, emotional, hard, sleepless, and miraculous. We took in a little baby who had some serious issues to overcome in the first few months of his life. But, he has overcome! As I write this, I reflect on the fact that we’ve fostered our son Baby J for 18 months. His future is still uncertain. But I believe in the One who knows the future. So, on the days when I fear that my heart may be broken if I have to say goodbye to this little one, I rest in the fact that God loves the orphan and the fatherless far more than I ever could. And His heart breaks for them too.

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As an outsider, I have loved watching Michelle’s family grow together on Facebook. Their boys seem to be having a blast, and I know that Baby J is thriving as he receives abundant love. If this post inspired you, check out our recent service project, Supporting Foster Youth, to see how you can help kids in the foster program. Not everyone can foster, but everyone can make a difference. Let’s all work together to make kids in foster care feel acknowledged, loved, and supported. If you have any thoughts on this post, or if you have other ideas about how we can show love, please let us know. Also, if you are interested, click here to start a club of your own.  Thank you so much for reading, and let’s go love people on purpose.

 

The Service Project is Over: What Now?

The Service Project is Over: What Now?

Last weekend, four Family Service Club coordinators dropped off Easter baskets for families dealing with pediatric cancer. (You can read about this exciting project in this article on Showing Love to those Suffering from Illness). I was out of town when our coordinators dropped off the baskets, but my eyes were glued to my phone as I teared up looking at pictures of baskets, hugs, and smiles. We can’t cure cancer, but we brought joy to a few families, and that is awesome.

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Not long after the delivery, I was on the phone with my friend, Katie. As she should have been, Katie was concerned about following up after dropping off the baskets. She and her daughter met Dylan, an amazing 2-year-old boy suffering from brain and eye cancer. Compassionate by nature, Katie is now committed to spending time with Dylan and his mom, and she wants to continue to help them meet their needs. In fact, she is so passionate about this that she is working to help raise money for them to buy a car. During our conversation, I started thinking about the importance of following up when it comes to relationships, life, and service. The truth is, it is difficult to make a lasting impact without creating lasting relationships. I really want to work on this myself, so I’m going to share a few ideas on how to follow-up after service projects, and I would love to hear yours as well.

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Tips to help build relationships after service projects

1. Devote time to talking with individuals: when you are in the middle of a service project, make a concerted effort to talk to people and listen to their stories. This is, of course, the first step in building a relationship. Follow-up is easier when you begin to care for people.

2. Learn, remember, and write down names: Did you bring brownies to firefighters? Write down the name of the fireman who gave you a tour and enjoyed your brownies. Did you bring valentines to residents from an assisted-living home? Write down the names of a few residents that you connected with.

3. Return to the place where you served: One of the members of our club had a great experience delivering valentines, and she is now visiting the same assisted-living home regularly with her family. I was thrilled to hear about this. We can really serve people by getting to know them, remembering their names, and seeing them as often as possible. If you and your family really enjoy doing a specific type of service project, do it as often as you can! We can make an impact through creating relationships.

4. Help people meet their needs: When we get to know people suffering from illness or struggling with poverty, their specific needs often become clear. You may not be able to meet all of their needs, but you can think creatively about how you can help. You can organize a donation drive for kids in foster care; you can start a gofundme fundraiser to help a family buy a car; you can bring socks to a homeless person. Whenever we help anyone meet his/her needs, we get closer to that person.

Reflections

I created the Family Service Club in part to introduce my kids to different types of service, to expose them to different people, and to help all of us think creatively about service, but in this process, I don’t want to neglect to take the next steps. Time permitting, I want to reconnect with people we have met in order to build and grow relationships. Like I said, I’m still thinking about how to do this well, so please let me know if you have ideas. Let’s work together to make people feel acknowledged, loved, and supported. Also, if you are interested, click here to start a club of your own. You can also follow us on Instagram for daily ideas on sharing kindness. Thank you so much for reading, and let’s go love people on purpose.

Facing Playground Fears

Facing Playground Fears

I faced one of my fears today: a green pole at a playground. We’ve come to this park many times, and my son always begs me to slide down the daunting pole. When I get to the top of the play structure, the ground looks super far away, and I always decline. “That isn’t something grown-ups have to do,” I rationalize. Today, however, I changed my mind. Later, on the other side of the park, whining and shaking, my son refused again to attempt the rock-climbing wall. I decided to climb it first to show him proper technique (what can I say, I’m super athletic when it comes to tiny rock walls). Then, he asked me again to face the pole. I figured if he was conquering his fears, I should too. And do you know what? Both of us felt stronger and more confident leaving the park.

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An Unconventional form of Service

Play on the Playground: I’m certainly not going to do this every day, but after sliding down the pole and climbing the rock wall, I was motivated to play. We went down the large tunnel slide several times, and both my kids loved it. The time passed quickly, and once I got over myself and my fear, we had a blast at the park. Some days we try to do bigger service projects, and some days, we conquer our park fears.

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What are some small ways that you bond with your kids? Do you have any fun playground stories? I’d love to hear them, and if you’d like daily ideas on sharing kindness, follow us on Instagram. Also, if you are interested, click here to start a Family Service Club of your own. Thank you so much for reading, and let’s go love people on purpose.

Give Yourself a Break

Give Yourself a Break

You know what my days look like, many of you are living them too, packing lunches, doing drop offs, monitoring sugar consumption, navigating playground politics, and trying desperately to keep all the plates spinning. Things were particularly tough last week as I brought home ominous slips of paper known as “behavior reports” from my son’s preschool.

Thankfully, I was able to get away from the grind for a few days with some girlfriends. Giggling and crying, we caught up and shared some sweet time together. As we meandered through an outdoor mall, my friend Lorisa asked all of us the question “is there any area of your life where you need to extend more kindness to yourself?”

Silence surrounded our group as we reflected. It is a difficult question because there are so many areas where we need to extend grace to ourselves. One friend feels guilt over not working out as much as she wants to, and a few of us constantly feel guilt in regards to parenting.

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What I’m learning

We all know that we can be better wives, better mothers, and better people when we are joyful, and guilt never produces joy. So this week for #serveyourfamilyfriday, let’s show more kindness TO OURSELVES!

I’m working to forgive myself when I don’t live up to my own expectations. When I’m too permissive with my kids, when I’m too strict with my kids, when they eat too many cookies, when they watch too much TV, etc. Today, I will forgive myself. Today, I will be kind to myself. And hopefully, as I let go of some guilt and take hold of some joy, I will be able to love my family more wholeheartedly.

Do you struggle to show yourself kindness? Are there any strategies that help? Please share them with us, and if you’d like daily ideas on sharing kindness, follow us on Instagram. Also, if you are interested, click here to start a Family Service Club of your own. Thanks for reading, and let’s go love others (and ourselves) on purpose.