What’s Your Next Step???

Cindy2015It is a brand new year!

Are you moving strong…or, still stuck?

Are you ready…or, are you a bit reluctant?

Busting at the seams to kick off your New Year…or, are you just sick at the thought of yet another year?

Reaching your resolutions…or…are they already a bust?

Are there things that you would really like to see changed by January 2013? TODAY is the day to make that commitment! If you sincerely want to see change, you have to begin today!

Sunday was a MILESTONE. Did you miss it? It is not too late! Pull away for a bit today. Set your resolutions. Set reachable resolutions.

1. Start with an honest evaluation!

Where are you?
Are you where you want to be?
What do you want?
What do you need?
What is it going to take to get where you want to be?
Are there things that you want to see changed?

Don’t get locked into the same old, same old repetive behaviours. Don’t get stuck in the same old rut. If we are not moving forward, reaching for resolutions, goals, and dreams, we are not living the life that Christ died to give us. Where are you now?

2. Set goals!

Today, set a goal! It is your NEXT STEP. You may not be able to get where you want to go TODAY…or this week…or this month…or even this year. However, don’t let that keep you stuck in a rut!

Today, look at where you want to go. Get a vision! Can you reach it? Do you believe that you can? Well, set goals, steps, to get there. Don’t think it is possible? Well, ask yourself–what IS possible? What do you think you CAN DO? Let’s set goals to get moving toward that! Don’t let yourself get stuck! Set goals that will make your proud!

Test your goals all along the way– is it….

  • Small–Small enough to reach with ONE STEP? Baby steps?
  • Clear–Can you see how to get there or is it still FUZZY? Make sure it is FOCUSED!
  • Purposeful–We must have PURPOSE or otherwise we will fail, fade out, give in to excuses, get distracted, quit, go astray, procrastinate, get off track and misdirected, and GET STUCK!
  • Actionable–A goal that you CAN and WILL dare to take action, massive action, to accomplish NOW. Not a wish. Something that you are READY TO DO.
  • Specific–What, why, and by when? Describe it? Be specific about what you want, why you want it, when you want it done! BE SPECIFIC–the more specific the more likely you will be to reach it!
  • Definable–It isn’t a goal unless you can define what you want. Otherwise, it is just a WISH.
  • Definitive–Get an idea of when you can accomplish it! Set a deadline! No more maybe’s or someday’s. Let’s set a date! Let’s set a deadline of when you can do THIS!
  • Reachable, doable, attainable–No more self-sabotage! Self-sabotage is when we set a goal that we KNOW is just impossible from where we are. We let ourselves down. Then, we get into a place where we don’t believe ourselves any more. Don’t self-sabotage! Set goals that are just out of reach and get moving toward them. You can attain it! You can do it! You can reach it!
  • Realistic–No more pie in the sky goals! Slow down and get realistic! Otherwise, your goals and resolutions will frustrate you and discourage you. You will LOSE your motivation! Let’s set smaller, REAL goals.
  • Measurable–Be EXACT and VERY SPECIFIC about what you want! You need to be able to measure it. Otherwise, you won’t know what is neeeded. Also, you will never know when you have got there!
  • WRITTEN–Write it out! Write it out TODAY! “Goals not in writing are just wishes.” Brain dump! Get those goals out of your head and onto paper! Put them on your calendar. Plan it out–with LOTS OF MARGIN! Put them into your to-do’s each day. Focus on each task until done!

3. Get MOVING!

So many people never even try to reach for their resolutions, goals and dreams.

  • They immediately discard them.
  • They don’t slow down to truly SET THEM.
  • They trip up and quit.
  • They can’t seem to work them in.
  • And, many never get going because they never take that first step.

I have been asking God to show me when I am not moving forward in an area, to help me know that first step, and to give me the power to get moving. That first step is the key! In fact, my preacher said this weekend that the hardest part of working out is “to tie your tennis shoes.” Why? It is that FIRST STEP!

My dear friend, what is that FIRST STEP?

I know it can be scary. I know it can be intimidating. But, today, ask God to show you those areas where you have not been moving forward–building a godly marriage, quiet times, ministering to the hearts of your children, getting out of debt, building a business of your own, getting fit and healthy, getting your home decluttered, etc. Ask Him to show you what He wants for you to do and to show you that first step so you can get up and get moving–He will! Ask him to empower you and give you everything you need as you step out. My sweet friend, HE WILL! Just get started with that first step! GET MOVING!

My dear friend, you have a NEW year ahead of you! It is time for a NEW BEGINNING! Dare to set your resolutions this year. Don’t let this year slip by. You CAN do it! Set those resolutions. Set goals to take you step-by-step toward your resolutions. Keep them before you. MOVE OUT! Celebrate your victories all along the way! You will reach your resolutions one step at a time–what is your step today?

Easy Bible Reading for YOUR Family by Cindy Rushton

Cindy2015Bible Reading. Sound tough? Do you really want to instill the habits of daily Bible Reading and quiet times with your children, but have NO IDEA of where to begin or what to do? Well, here is a little bit of help!

  • Pray…Never begin a time of Bible Study on your own! As everyone settles in for read alouds, go to the Lord in prayer! Ask Him to teach each of you. He will be faithful to meet you every time you come to Him!
  • Review from your last reading… As we read through our Daily Bible Reading, we begin by reviewing the passage from the day before. I allow our children to do this. They love this!
  • Read aloud from the Bible! Yes, directly read from the Bible. Choose YOUR FAVORITE version. Begin wherever you prefer. Need suggestions? We recommend beginning in the book of John or Psalms. Proverbs can also be a great place to begin.  As for versions, we use a wide variety of versions.  Since my children have gotten older, we often read the same passage from different versions. Talk about enriching our reading and discussion! We begin anew each year reading through the Bible. Each day we read the passage that leaves off from the day before until the “story” or section ends.  Some sections are not as friendly for making a “story.” We read until we get to a good stopping place. The next day we pick up where we leave off.
  • Narrate the story or discuss the principles from Scripture…This is simply letting the children re-tell what the passage is about. If it is not a passage that is easily shared in a story, then let them share their insights into the passage!
  • Discuss ideas, any questions, and any difficult words. Look up any new places on a map. This is WHY you should read/study Scripture WITH your children. This is when you will share insights with one another… glean deeper truths from Scripture…really search for more than the casual glance at Scripture!
  • Mark your daily reading in your Daily Bible Reading Log. We designed a Daily Bible Reading Log for our children to see HOW MUCH they were (and weren’t reading!!) each year! It has been awesome to see how much Scripture we are reading together, individually, and even in our church studies. If you need a log that is ready for your family to use, check out our pricelist. They are wonderful!
  • Pray… Finally, end your Bible Reading time in prayer. Ask God to really work in your lives to make your study applicable in your lives!

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Psst! A Secret to Scheduling Success! by Cindy Rushton

Cindy2015Want to know one of my biggest secrets to homeschooling the easy way? Want to know one of my biggest secrets to scheduling success? This one secret can make your daily schedule finally fit. It can end your scheduling frustrations forever.

I am not a “schedule by the minute” type of person. (GRIN)  I fail with schedules like that. They don’t meet my needs. My life includes too many areas that have different needs daily. Timed schedules just do not work for me.

So, what has worked for me? Setting up a framework to my day. This is one incredibly powerful tip. It can make a HUGE difference in your day as well. It just might be the secret that has alluded you through the years.

Wondering what I mean by a “framework” for your day? By framework, I mean a general flow to each day that includes all of the areas of my life that I juggle. But, how do I do that? Here are some quick tips:

1. Decide what should be included in your daily schedule.
Look at what you are all about. Look at your goals, activities, values, priorities. Look at your husband’s schedule–wrap everything around him. Look at what you need to include in your day to get everything done–quiet times, lessons, homemaking, read alouds, work, etc. This is important. Otherwise, you will include things in your schedule that may not be the very best choices. And…one big risk…you may never get around to the things that matter the most. Decide what really needs to be a part of each and every day for your day to be successful.

2. Decide the best time for the tasks you need to complete each day. This will help you get a good flow to your day. For me, quiet times are just best at the beginning of the day. Chores are great right after them–I need them completed so my brain can focus on the table time.  Our business work and errands need to be done in the early afternoon. Read alouds are best before bedtime.  You get the picture. When I tried to read aloud over lunch, we had so many distractions that we could never fit it in. Trying to work the business in the morning would never work…and of course, we couldn’t take care of business errands at night. See how important it is to really look at the best time to get tasks done. Look at the best time for all of the tasks that need to be done. Look at the best flow to get everything done easily each day. You may not get this right at the beginning, but you will get closer and closer each day. You will love it!

3. Balance your day.
Don’t let any one area of your life get out of balance. Everything that we do in our day has a tendency to grow into a big time thief–homeschooling, homemaking, home business. Those important aspects of our life can easily grow out of their boundaries. While I love each of them, they can get rather exhausting if we don’t keep them in balance with the other things that we have to do. The best way for me to stay balanced is to be reasonable about what I expect for each day, keep things simplified and easy, and keep everything inside of its time of the day. I don’t mind those days that we want to dig deeper in a topic that we are studying. I also don’t mind those days that we tackle a messy room. I don’t even mind those days that we have a special business project that needs more time. But, if those areas were demanding extra time every day, it would be easy to get burned-out, frustrated and battle with our time each day. Want to make it work? Find a balance for your day.

4. Set up routines.
Talk about a HUGE help for me. Without routines, things can get so frustrating every day–there are constant decisions, there is more strife in the family, there is no consistency. Routines help us to make things go faster, without the strife and struggle of figuring things out DAILY. Routines reduce the stress of making decisions daily. Routines help our children to know what to expect so they can move through all of the things that they need to do each day. Routines are crucial. They assure a smooth ride. They keep us on track. They keep us out of the ruts. They take us in the direction that we want to go. One of the toughest things I ever did was develop routines in my home. However, one of the most rewarding things that I ever did was develop routines in my home. When I got very, very sick, everything kept going. During those times that I have been stretched, things kept on going. All because of routines. Set up routines. Then, your children will know what to expect. They will learn what is next and next and next. The decisions will be made for you. They will be able to “just do it” with or without you. Set up routines for your family. Develop one set of routines at a time–look for the time of day that things go haywire. If it is morning, for example, look at all that needs to be done. Brainstorm. Make a to-do list for that routine. Write it out. Work it as a checklist until it becomes a habit. If you see other things that need to be added into that set of routines, add them. Tweak it until it is smooth. Then, move to the next troublespot. Do this for all of the times of your day. Watch to see how much it helps!

5. Prune anything that is not necessary. Truth is, we cannot do everything. What we do in our day keeps us from doing other things. It zaps our time, energy, strength. We need to be picky about what we add to our day. Every single thing that we do costs us something. We need to constantly prune those things that are not necessary. Prune anything that hinders, distracts. Be honest. Be ruthless. Prune. Even the good things! Go for the best!

6. Take the squeeze out of your schedule. Watch out for the squeeze in your schedule. Don’t fill every minute of your day with something to do. Why? Because there are always going to be crisis situations, interruptions, melt-downs, delays. If we have our schedule maxed out, we will constantly be overwhelmed, overworked, and squeezed. Find ways to take the squeeze out of your daily schedule–cut out extra running, watch out for time thieves, prioritize your daily to-do’s (and eliminate any that make the day too tight), cut out extras that are unnecessary, keep the day simple and easy. Keep a relaxed atmosphere. Constantly, take the squeeze out of your daily schedule.

7. Stay flexible! Stay adaptable! Actually, one of the reasons that we really want to develop a framework to our day is so we have more flexibility, so we have more “space” in our day to be adaptable. We want to be able to seize opportunities that come our way. We want to be able to slow down and enjoy our children. We don’t want to miss teachable moments. These days just go by too fast. We want to enjoy every second. We want to make sweet, sweet memories. This requires that we stay flexible and adaptable. So, take the time to develop your own framework to your day. Do the tough work. Get your plans together. Work on these suggestions. Then, stay flexible. Stay adaptable. Grasp on to all that God has in store for you!

Need MORE Help?

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Let’s Make a Memory…Over Books! by Cindy Rushton

Cindy2015Hummm…was it the giggles the whole way through adventures with Pooh? My constant sobbing through every page of The Little Preacher? Our total addiction to every single page of Pilgrim’s Progress? The giggles and strategy as the children would run off to “play” every single bit of Daniel Boone’s life—with stiff warnings from Mom that NO ONE really got the hair-cut! Peeking outside to see the hard, hard work as forts were raised and mud pies “baked” for our beloved “soldier.” Oh, the precious, precious memories! Precious memories that are OURS forever!

Why not make it a priority to curl up as a family over the pages of a great book each day? Get the water going…pull out some nice snacks…settle down for tea (or hot cocoa!!)…and dig into great books! Game? But have no idea where to begin?? Come home with our family and get a picture of how easy AND awesome building a memory—over a great book—can be!

Decide a Good Time for Read Alouds…

Over the years, I have found that even though I LOVE great literature and believe passionately in the power of a great book to inspire us toward greatness, teach those facts in a palitable manner, and feed our hungry minds with great ideas, there has still been a constant battle with distractions from our beloved typical family reading time. Constant phone calls…friends dropping by…never the same day to day family life because of constant interruptions…the list could go on and on! I found that we needed a more consistent time to read, study, and cuddle. A time that was just ours!

The best time for this was at the end of our busy day. Our family reading tradition began years ago when my husband worked as a State Trooper. We found ourselves up until very late hours. Those last few hours before he came in seemed perfect. They were not likely to be times for calls, errands, or drop-by guests. They were the easiest to preserve for our special time whether we were on the road traveling or cuddling on our sofa or snuggled in my bed for a nice, long read aloud! Those moments were the perfect ones for our family. Now, since the children are almost grown up, the schedule is more complex than ever, and dad is now retired and running the family business the ONE constant that we all cry out for in the midst of busy or chaotic or even the most hum-drum day is our evening family read aloud and pow-wow time!

So, the first things to decide–what time would work best for your family? Look at your schedule? What time of the day is the most constant…the most uninterrupted…the easiest to settle down? Set that time aside—you have a treasure house of memories coming your way!

Bit-By-Bit…

Perhaps a set time is not the problem. Perhaps the greatest need is dealing with the struggles that make read-alouds an utter impossibility. An ideal! Certainly not a reality! You know…settling down the children…containing the messes long enough to finish one small part of a story…getting their interest? The habit that becomes a treasured tradition begins bit-by-bit! Here are a few ideas that may help:

* Get to know YOUR family and their interests. Each and every family is completely unique. What we love to read as a family, your family may not like at all! Our children may be completely different ages as yours. Our family preferences may be completely different than yours. In fact, our choices for read-alouds now that our children are at these ages are very different from the choices we made in the early years. The key to a sizzling read aloud program rests with getting to know YOUR family and their interests and then basing your choices upon where you are.

* Use a reading list! Have no idea which books to begin with? TOTALLY confused with all of the options? We have a couple of recommendations. First, we recommend our book The Never-ending Rushton Reading List (soon to be re-released in ebook format after being TOTALLY revamped–working on that now!). It is very reasonable, compact, simple, and easy to begin using today. It includes suggestions that are perfect for teaching every subject with great books AND it has a basic list of recommended read alouds that EVERY (smile!) family should read through! As they get older, another recommendation that we have is our book Inspiring Our Children Toward Greatness Using Great Literature (also, out of print right now–look for it to be re-released in ebook format very soon too! One powerful book!) which has an extended list of recommendations for life-transforming literature and great books that you won’t want to miss. You can also find great recommendations in other books, catalogs, and at your local library.

* Make it FUN! Reading need not resemble the drudgery from our school days. Rather, it can be a great big family party! We have a daily “tea time” with our read alouds. When the children were little, I found very soon that our children were much more attentive if their bellies were full and their hands busy. Being a “tea-time addict,” it was almost the “given” thing to do! This may seem a bit artificial to your family. Find what works. Some families settle down with snacks like our family. Others entertain the children with play-doh to keep their hands busy while mommy reads. Other families give their children sketch books to “draw” what they imagine while mommy reads the book. Just make it a FUN family time! You will be amazed at how much the children will learn while making a memory!

Choose the BEST! Great Literature!

The still, quiet spirit of our home was only the first part of this special family tradition! Great books were musts! My children love to read. We have a library just for them filled with books that they can choose during their free time. They cover a wide-range of studies just by using whole, living books full of ideas and great information. For our read alouds, I did not want a repeat of those books. Instead, I wanted life-changing literature. Because of this heartbeat, I am extremely selective to choose the very BEST books for this special time.

I have a very simple test for discerning if the books are life-changing. I ask myself, “If these were the last moments that I had with my children, would this be the book that I would want to be the LAST ONE?? Would this be the memory that I want for them to carry with them?” “Is this book capable of teaching those life-lessons that they need to carry them through life?” This limits my choices to those books that are absolute MUSTS for my children. Those books that all well-educated children should dine upon. Those books that feed the spirit…challenge the soul…and encourage us to keep on persevering through it all!

I have been amazed at the way the Lord has led us by His Spirit to each book that He has wanted for us to read as a family. From The Hiding Place to Basket of Flowers to The Elsie Series to Hedge of Thorns to Passion and Purity to great poetry to Christmas stories to a multitude of biographies…God has had specific direction for us right when we needed to know His next choice!

Once I know which book we will read next, I usually hunt for a nice, large print edition, if at all possible. These are wonderful for helping us take turns. My son used to be so intimidated by small print in books. The large print editions are easier for him to read comfortably from. They also make great texts for copywork lessons. I saw the advantage to the large print as we read from Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. There were so many wonderful quotes that I felt were important for the children to copy into their copybooks. While we read aloud, I simply marked them with a highlighter. On those mornings that the children were drawing blanks for copywork ideas, all they had to do was open that book to find a plethora of excellent choices! I found that to be helpful for my writing and speaking as well because I could easily find those great thoughts that had been planted in my mind while we read!

We usually take turns reading. This is the perfect way to help beginning readers ease into reading aloud for others. Their work can be so mundane if they practice with readers or insignificant reading lessons. A great book invites children to read with expression. When I would notice them tiring out, (you probably know that time because that is when they get REAL monotone…AKA boring!!) I would join in and read for a little while. That usually brightened up the pace so that when they would begin again, they would sound expressive and enthusiastic. Now, I absolutely LOVE to listen to them read aloud. It is neat to hear them stress those words that I would stress…or pause as I would pause! What a treasure!

Well, that is only part of the treasure! One thing that I love about this precious time with my children is that I find out just what they think, feel, and believe. We have tremendous discussions almost nightly about great ideas. I remember this being a goal for my children as they matured into adulthood. I never dreamed that I could have this blessing with little children! It is during these quaint moments of reading while sipping our tea, that I get a peek into their heart! I see their heart’s desires…their struggles in their character…the depths that God’s Word has worked in their lives…and their instant choices when faced with adversity (through the pages of the books). I can also help them trouble-shoot making decisions that may prevent them from irreparable errors later in their lives! Yes, those are the gifts that come with serving up great literature to our children.

Just This Easy…

Our daily read aloud time is just this easy. We don’t make it complicated by tests…by book reports…by written narrations on all we read. We are not even legalistic that our time be limited to books. We have been known to cuddle up with art prints JUST like we do our books. When we include art prints, we simply cuddle up to “listen” to the artist as he or she communicates through the canvas. My little ones have been known to sketch or paint the recent art print with their own style while I read a section from a great book. We also LOVE biographies, so we have enjoyed reading sketches about artists or the latest composer that we are getting to know! Each day, we use this time to also read through the Bible together as a family. This only takes minutes, yet the results have been overwhelming in our lives. Just a bit here and a bit there has helped to carry us into our world with a little bit more understanding about the worldviews of our culture! Not to mention, great art and music feed our minds with ideas that keep us growing into the vessels that God can really use in our culture!

Well, why not put on a little Classical Music in the background. Warm some water…EVEN if you prefer to use it for hot chocolate with fluffy marshmallows! 🙂 Dust off those poetry books or that book you keep putting off for another day. Curl up with your little ones…there is NOTHING quite like the memory that can be made over a great book!!

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Let’s Make a Memory…Over Tea! by Cindy Rushton

Cindy2015A cup of tea???

Tea…What comes to your mind?

As I think back over the years since that first cup of tea, I think beyond the various types of tea…the beautiful tea rooms and homes that have welcomed me for the ritual…the unique cups and teapots, each with its own story…all those details blur. But, one thing brings me back to “tea” over and over again…relationships! Relationships forged over moments shared over a cup of tea. Sweet, sweet memories that forge forever relationships.

My very first memories of tea were on the front porch, truly Southern Style with Iced Sweet Tea. There was never a meal served or a family gathering without plenty of Iced Sweet Tea. Just visiting Mamaw, I could always expect a big, tall glass of Sweet Lemon Tea whether we were working in her kitchen or swinging on the front porch enjoying her flowers and sweet conversation.

My very first cup of hot tea was typical Southern Style as well. At the end of my first year of homeschooling, I spent a wonderful day with a dear fellow homeschooler. We were preparing dresses for her to hand-smock for her youngest little girl. Her precious pre-teen came in mid-afternoon to ask if we would care for any tea. Being the TRUE Southerner that never passes up a great cup of tea, I said, “Sure!” She went on preparing tea, as was usual in her home. When she brought it out, I had to ask for directions on how to “take tea.” That moment my true love for tea was born!

Since that moment, I have developed a true passion for ANYTHING to do with tea of ANY kind! I love the different types of tea. I love the books that all share little tidbits about the fine art of tea. I love collectables that each have a story to make them more and more endearing. I love the recipes for goodies that make a nice addition to ANY day. I love the versatility of tea for all ages, all settings, all occasions. Want to see me in pure bliss? Take me to a tea room! But, most of all, I love the many sweet, sweet relationships and precious memories that have been forged over cups of tea, both hot and cold!

Tea truly meets us right where we are. If we love to collect antiques, we can’t help but to fall in love with the little dainties that are hidden away in all of the antique stores around. If we are looking for a healthy treat, none can be greater than tea! If we want to take a moment away with our children to build relationships and memories, tea is a must! If we want a perfect touch to a holiday, tea makes the day. If we want a theme for a party, tea always step forward with its touch of femininity. If we just want to minister to a friend or relative, tea ministers to their belly while “we” pour forth into their heart!

My prayer is that you will see the beauty, grace, encouragement, tradition, and fun that is awaiting you. I pray that you will find that touch of tea. I pray that you will make sweet memories with those you love the most, over a cup of tea.

So, my friend, do you hear the call beckoning to you? Take a moment, pour a hot steamy cup and come apart with me…

…it is time to make a memory over a cup of tea!

With Love, Cindy

“You prepare a table before me…my cup runs over.”
Psalms 23: 5 Amplified Bible


Ready for Tea? Let Cindy Help! Grab her best-selling book, A CUP OF TEA. Includes her easy recipes and fresh ideas for your tea-time!

A Cup of Tea
Ready for a cup of tea? Do you just LOVE tea?? This NEW book was a blast for Cindy to write. She wrote this book as a gift to Elisabeth, her daughter so she would have all of the “Family” recipes and ideas that have been part of their family traditions. Now, this is available for you and your family as well! If you are intrigued by tea and want to bring the tradition into your home, this is your book. If you want lots of recipes and ideas for tea time or even a tea unit study, this book is just what you are looking for. Even if you are looking for that perfect gift idea, this is one that you will find perfect for anyone, any age, at any time of the year.