Emerging Beauty

Sometimes we overlook the obvious as mothers. That same pile of papers that need to be filed is tuned out of our peripheral vision every time we walk by it. Sometimes this same overlooking can happen with our children. I always love reading and rereading Psalm 139 and marvel about how God had this all planned out before we even entered the womb. As a mother it is by far one of my favorite chapters of the Bible. But do I really take time to slow down and know my children? Do I see what He planted innately in them, tucking it deep in freshly folded DNA?

I’ve been noticing this in Lily lately. Between her constant fashion pairings of Sarah Jessica Parker-ish skirts paired with urban tops, her interest in more adultish dolls (Monster High), her gothic passion mixed with contempary prettyness…sort of a vintage mod look…this is a girl who is longing for a fashion outlet.

MOM, WHY DON’T YOU LIKE TO BE PRETTY?” she asked me tonight.

What??? That’s what I portray? She’s been wanting me to color my hair back to brown because the red has become passe for her. She refuses…REFUSES…to wear jeans unless dragged in her bedroom and forced to put them on (only because of weather, not because I care if she wears jeans). She desperately wants to dye her own hair and wear makeup. And tonight while pinning some new hair styles to try, she begged me to print out some pictures of pretty girls that she could cut out. She looked through this Beautiful Mess blog and stood there absolutely mesmerized. I can’t blame her. I was too. I printed some thumbnails for her and watched her scrapbook tonight.

Instantly I was transported back to my own childhood. Pouring over Allure, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar magazines and cutting out models. I had no idea what made me act on this. I didn’t know I wanted to dress a certain way or wear my hair a certain way or do my makeup a certain way. All I knew was what I was attracted to and the magnetic urge compelling me to scrapbook these beautiful findings. For me it wasn’t just fashion, it was style…my style. I also poured over (even more than the fashion mags) Victoria and dreamed of my “some day” house.

As we’ve been house hunting and that is turning into a reality I am reminded of how much a part of my soul that is. He created me exactly this way. Kids and finances forced a season of putting this on hold and, until I saw my house, I didn’t even realize it was on hold in me.

As Christian moms we often shield our children from culture and trendy fads. We, as adults who’ve learned the hard way, know that fads are fleeting and there are deeper things we want to pass down to our kids. But too often this turns into us playing the mom “no” card or the Christian “no” card and not taking the time to think about what or why we are shielding certain things.

One of the best parenting books I’ve read this year was Grace Based Parenting by Ted Kimmel. It wasn’t a book so much about how to discipline as it was a book on how to let go of things that don’t matter. Who cares if your daughter wants to dye her hair? Does that have anything to do with her character? Does it have anything to do with Jesus? More importantly, does it detract from Him? Yes, people judge…usually wrong. But God judges our hearts. He knows our character. And we, as mothers, are called to train hearts, not to worry about appearances as the Pharisees did.

I explained to my daughter how hard it would be for mommy to wash dishes in heels…the slipping, you know. And how taking an hour daily to curl and braid my hair wasn’t in the cards since I have many other responsibilities on my plate in a day. But the excuses sounded hollow, even to my ears. My daughter is sobering for me. She is a good dose of exactly all that is beautiful and pure and fresh. How lovely!

Spiritual Weeding

I’ve been meaning to do a post about the act of spiritual weeding for over a year now. The draft has been sitting in my dashboard and occasionally I sit down and try to pen my heart on this issue. It is such a rich discussion and I think of it everytime I am in the garden. Yet whenever I’ve tried to write, the words never come. But then a very dear friend sent me this devotion that says exactly what’s on my heart beautifully.

The Lord is good. It is 5 in the morning and I cannot sleep. I am feeling anxious and I can’t put my finger on why. I read these words and He pierces my soul. Isn’t that just like Him? Leading me gently to just the right words I need. I encourage you to do the same today!

Before weeding.

After weeding.

A few thoughts while weeding my garden about weeding the sin out of our lives.

  • It is never too late.
  • Weeds come out easiest after a good rain when the ground is softened.
  • Sometimes you must hastily chop off the top before even attempting to pull out roots.
  • If you keep up with the task, the roots are easily pulled up, but let it go and the job is an uphill battle.
  • Sometimes you’re not sure it’s a weed or a flower.
  • Sometimes what you thought was a weed turns out to be beautiful and useful.
  • Taking out weeds close to the flowers/vegetables requires patience and care…one must slow down and be careful not to destroy the good plant.
  • Pulling out weed roots closest to flowers/vegetables is easiest because it’s in fertile soil.
  • Even if you can’t get to all the weeds, pulling some is still worthwhile.
  • Sometimes you must destroy the whole garden in order to get to the deep weed roots.
  • If you maintain healthy, fertile soil all weeds can be removed easily.
But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.” ~ Matthew 13:25-26

Prairie Flora

As I drive around town in the cool of my air-conditioned van running errands I can’t help but notice the beauty by the side of the road. This colorful summer treat has been dear to my heart since I was a little girl picking dandelions. There is a soft spot in me for prairie flora…what others would consider roadside weeds that fade into the background of their life. I couldn’t let another season pass without capturing their beauty.

{Yellow Coneflower. Ratibida pinnata}

{Purple Coneflower. Echinacea purpurea}

I braved the hot, humid steamy weather and took a walk with my littles and my camera. We drank lots of water and I filled my soul with pictures while my littles chased turkeys in the prairie grass. Ahh…it feels good to live in the country!

{Black-eyed Susan. Rudbeckia hirta}

{Indian BlanketGailardia pulchella}

How can you not look at this detail…this perfect artistry and not shout out to the Creator in praise? Man is good and we can create some marvelous things. I can make art with the careful cropping and composition of my photography. Another, much more talented person, can take this to another level and capture the tiniest details in breathtaking clarity through paint and other mediums. But NEVER can we create this.

{Partridge-Pea. Chamaecrista nictitans}

Oh, we may be able to drop a seed into the ground. We may nurture and help along the unfolding of life. We may partake alongside the miracle. But it is not our creation. We did not set gene maps to unfold at precise moments. Never can we do that.

{Blue Vervain. Verbena hastata}

All Praise and Honor and Glory be His forever and ever Amen!

Joining Walking with Him Wednesday.

A Mother’s Heart in July

Remember how much fun the Fourth of July used to be?

Remembering doing snakes….

…and smoke bombs…

…and collecting confetti?

Remember the thrill of the food? Lots of snacks and chips and soda…one of the few times a year to indulge.

And the thrill of first twilight when you were allowed to do just sparklers as the anticipation of the night was building up in your stomach?

It is because I have these memories that I long for my kids to also. But I wasn’t prepared for the emotional change that motherhood brought to the fourth. When I was little I could barely sleep the night before anticipating a relaxing day off. Now I am trying to quiet the mother’s fear in my heart.

It’s the only time of year we purposely give our kids fire to play with!!!

Gun powder. Explosives. Fire. Kids and fresh flesh. Dads and over-zealous enthusiasm. Too much sugar. Stickiness mingling with smoke residue into indefeatable laundry stains. Toddlers missing naps. Babies scared of noises and wanting to sleep so badly. Bedtimes thrown off. Noise into the night. Its enough to throw any mom off her game.

Just look at this photo. Can you say heart attack?????

There is no relaxing conversation while sipping a cool drink on a summer’s eve with the twinkling bugs all around. There is only damage control. Most of my day is hemmed in prayer. All I can do is surrender my fear over to Him who is bigger than said fear.

As a homeschooling mom I think of the soldiers fighting as I hear the celebratory booming around me. I have real fears today but I cannot imagine the heart of those mothers during that tumultuous time of fighting. How many of them in the years to come were gun shy…literally…every time they heard the fireworks ignite the sky?

As much as I cherish these memories and pictures of childhood fan fare, I am acutely aware of how precious my faith is to me and that even on a day of me being hyper-sensitively aware of danger, I can fully cast off my cares on Him and allow peace to reign in my soul. There is true freedom in that and only that.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. ~ Philippians 4:6

Grace Moments from Little Hearts

Sometimes I utterly feel the hole in my holiness…that is to say I realize how lacking I am in striving towards righteous living. I know that is not a bad thing because it is what drives me to my knees and helps me stay grounded in my need for my Saviour. Yet as a mom it can seem daunting to raise your children up in the Lord. There are so many what-if’s to life and I never feel like I’m doing enough.

Then moments like these come. Your 2 year old picks up your Bible and, while reading it upside down, prays, “Thank you for the food, thank you for baby Eli…in Jesus name, Amen!” She excitedly tells you she is reading her Bible and you didn’t even know she knew the word for Bible. You whisper a thank you and  believe again in His promises.

Then your almost 4 year old tells her daddy how God makes the plants grow and He lives in her heart. And did daddy know that He lives in mommy’s heart too?

And your five year old excitedly runs to get his sister’s Bible and show you a picture of Pharaoh because he knows what Pharaoh looks like and he wants to make sure you do too after reading about Moses and the plagues.

And the lady whose name you don’t know comes up to you in church and gushes about how sweet your children are because they all went to Bible class and immediately sat down and opened up their Bibles. She could tell how much they treasured their books and she doesn’t see that very often.

It is these grace moments that lift me up so that I may keep walking this holy road.

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. Isaiah 40:11 (NIV)

The Simplicity of Spring in the Country

I wish I could post the perfume that pervaded the air as these were picked! 

I wish that we could just do this and not worry about dishes and laundry and jobs and money and security. 

know that because of the fall we must work. And I even know work is good…good for the soul. 

But it is in the spring with the singing of the first flowers, the praise of the first perfumed spring scents lingering in the evening air where simplicity stirs again in my soul and I long for it like a parched plant in the desert. 

Psalm 104:14-21 You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use, to bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the human heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart. The trees of the LORD are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. In them the birds build their nests; the stork has its home in the fir trees. The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the coneys. You have made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting. You make darkness, and it is night, when all the animals of the forest come creeping out. The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God.

Romans 8:22-23 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

I feel myself groaning as I watch the sun set knowing I will walk inside and have to give baths, do dishes, fold more laundry, and clean the mud off the floor. Let it be a groan of praise…a waiting on Him and knowing His promises stand firm forever!

Budding Fruit ~ an Easter morning conversation

A morning gift in the Easter basket ~ her first Bible that she can read herself.

The Holy Spirit working in her heart ~ 

Me: Lily, please come get your hair brushed before church.

Lily walks out of her room crying. I think, oh no what now?

Me: What’s wrong, honey?

Lily: I’m just so sad.

Me, feeling somewhat alarmed: Why?

Lily: I was reading the Easter story and I just got to the part where God had to turn away…from His own son, he had to turn away from His own son!!!

All week she walks around with this Bible in her hand. She reads it every spare second she can. She reads it to sleep at night. She reads it in her free time in the afternoon. And we talk and share and she asks questions and we talk some more. This morning she just finished the Old Testament. This from the seven-year old girl who thought she could never read. The Spirit is moving in her!

These things I treasure and ponder in my heart.

Linking with A Holy Experience

Letting Go of Supermom: the good, the bad, and the ugly!

Yes, it’s true. I’m sorry to report that they found her, unconscious in the middle of her pristine living room floor. The emergency crew said they’d never seen a house so clean or kids so sad. It was a terrible thing to have happen during the week before Christmas.

Maybe it was the elaborate Christmas decorating and four dozen Martha Stewart style cookies she made for the missions society Christmas bake sale and the late night gift wrapping marathons and the two shifts of bell ringing for the Salvation Army and the organizing of the Christmas pageant at church for Christmas Eve that sent her over the edge.

Or, maybe it was keeping up with her usual two loaves a day of homemade bread, daily wiping beneath the bottom drawer of the fridge and twice daily toilet bleaching routine (she has boys, you know!) and the requisite starching of the children’s turtleneck shirts before they can wear them to their twice weekly playgroup that killed her. It’s hard to say. Either way, she’s gone now.

The oldest kids say that she started to look sick a few months ago, right after the seventh baby was born. She started getting up even earlier so that she’d have time to make it to the gym three times a week and work on that “baby bulge” that so disturbed her.

To compensate, she ordered “Super Mom” vitamins. They helped right away. Her energy came back and she kept right on running. Until last night, when, without warning, she just collapsed on the living room floor. There was nothing anyone could do. She’d worked herself to death.

I took a meal over to the devastated family last night. The house was still clean; the kids are compulsive cleaners now too! They were grateful for my ham and cheese casserole, and shushed the little one when he asked why the bread had a “Market Basket” store sticker on it instead of being homemade. It was the best I could do. The middle child said she’d rather they’d have always had store -bought bread if it meant they still had Mommy. (Read the rest here.)

This is an excerpt from an article in Homeschool Today called Super Mom is Dead by Jennifer Miller.

As I finished reading the article I laughed as I looked around my house. We’d had a full morning of school today. We learned about being a citizen and how to vote and what an election and campaign are. The kids worked on independent creative writing stories and Gabe discovered why we need margins when making a book while Lily discovered the magic of how a Table of Contents works. We started the next book in the Little House series and even did some math.

But the winds of spring were calling. The smell of the outside mingling with the inside told me that this article was spot on and, instead of doing stuffy bills for the afternoon, we should go outside and partake of the day. This is what our house looked like before we went out. And this was after our 5 Minute Tidy before lunch!

Dining Room

Yes, the bills will still get done ~ at some point ~ today. The table will still have to be wiped before dinner and the dishes and laundry will still have to be put in. At some point I will have to decide to actually make dinner and then come up with a meal plan. The clutter will still have to be picked up before bed time. And the beds will still have to be made. But I am not a supermom!!! I am going to stop feeling guilty about buying store bread this week. And because I am choosing to accept this about me today, we did have time to enjoy this…

~ Playing in the new fort. ~

~ Wearing daddy’s special crown of gold. ~

~ Fresh air and tummy time for Eli. ~

~ Afternoon cup of Joe and writing for mommy. ~


The New Love Dare…sacrificial love

I stare out the window and watch them burn down the grass. Beautiful auburn Little Bluestem natural prairie grass. Lush tall, dried ornamental Pampas grass. This golden color has been the landscape of my days. Whenever I walk by the big picture window I say a little prayer of thanks and revel in the beauty of His glory. Even during the harshest part of winter this grass departed only beauty. But today it is up in flames. The orange licks against the blue sky and I feel sorrow. I feel broken inside. Now I stare at piles of ash, fields of black as far as I can see. Death is ugly. But it is also necessary.

I know enough about prairies to know that every once in a while they need a good burn to start over. It helps with the prevention of weeds. It keeps unwanted trees and shrubs from rooting. It provides a good clean slate for new growth. And in weeks this black barrenness will be covered with fresh new shoots of green. Life…vitality…new beauty.

I thought about this emptiness I felt inside. Silly, I know. It is only plants. And then I started thinking about all my bucking against change this year. I was so comfortable with me, with where I was. Change equaled death. And the Lord was calling for change. Dying to myself.

What does this have to do with a love dare, one might ask? Everything. My husband and I have been talking…a lot. The Love Dare is something that is prevalent in our church as in many at the moment. My husband scoffs. He’s flipped through the book. We’ve even watched the movie (not as a part of a church group…just out of curiosity). “That is not what I would want,” he informs me. Then he, very graphically, describes what would be in his version of a love dare book. And it got me thinking. Would I dare? Would I dare to ask him five things that he would like me to change for him? Would I dare sacrifice for him because I love him? Would I do it without defensiveness or justification of my past actions? Because it is different for each of us…what we want, what fills our needs, what ignites our passion for each other. What if he took the same challenge and asked me what five things about him I would change? And then…get this…what if we actually died to ourselves and took up the marriage cross and did those five things? How would our marriages change?

I think we will find that we might buck against such an idea. After all, opening that line of questioning could quickly ignite a fire that burns terribly fast right through our notions of where we think our relationship is. And we would be left with this black, ugly void that left us feeling wanting. But then as we lived out the dares I think of the new growth that would come, of all the weeds that will have been choked out, of the tree obstacles that have just been moved out of the way, and of the healthy root that would continue to get stronger. And, as uncomfortable as it makes me, I might just have to take up this dare…to ignite the fire of my relationship. And then I will sit back this spring and watch the tender new shoots of green come to life.

Small step buttonD1

Knowing One Another

I wake up panicked, the images burned into my retina. I can’t take it back…this dream thing. Why? Why would I dream this? Why now? I have this urgency to see him. To wrap myself around him, clinging. I have this need…this deep-seeded need to be in union with him. To know him. To have him know me.

Sometimes we let dailiness slip in and steal this knowing. At least I do. Not the doing. That physical act is easy enough if you can slip it in between children’s occupied playing or before the night’s soft flannel sheets call you to just lay down in rest. But that knowing…oh, that tricky soul-binding, never-take-it-back-again knowing. That is different. That is more then the physical. It is the invisible soul string that holds two lives together. It is good. A gift from above.

Today I will not let the mundane of the day steal it away from me. I will give of myself…completely, fully, utterly give. And He will say, “It is good.”

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.  ~Genesis 2:24-25

Wooing as Worship

I am reading this passage today…

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.   ~Romans 12:1

Just yesterday I was encouraging a young, married wife that the biggest blessing my marriage had recieved was when I stopped worrying about fixing him and started serving him and his needs. Suddenly I found my own needs being met. My marriage was blessed. Harmony reigned in our house. She said she heard and appreciated but found it hard to put into practice.

I was still reflecting on this when I read Ann’s repost on the Marriage Bed this morning.

And why would a woman rather scrub the grime of the tile grout in the bathroom for her husband, make him plates of heaping mashed potatoes, light the candles, scour the pots, wash his underwear, rather than say yes to his wooing?  ~ Ann Voskamp

And then I reread that passage from Romans and saw it in a whole new light. How often I serve in wonderful ways that are pleasing to my husband ~ making the bed for him even though I hate to, making sure he has dinner when he comes home even though it would be easier to make mac n chz for the kids, allowing him to go to the store for me even though I’d rather do it myself ~ little ways that say, “I love you” with acts of worship. This is always how I saw serving. This is how I interpretted Romans 12:1.

But what about the wooing? Do I serve his needs here as well as the others? Why not the other ways I know will make him happy? Curling my hair for him. Dying my grays a color shade he’d prefer. Wearing a shirt he specifically likes. Allowing him to caress and woo me with compliments and his hands and believing it. Why do I find it so hard to believe that a literal interpretation, serving with my body, can’t be an act of worship? Is our culture really that distorted? Is that distortion largely to blame on Christian women in their false piety? Or feminist women in their false sense of liberation and non-objectifying?

Ann is right. His word does tell us to rejoice in this union, that He blesses those ways of men that we try to shove in the chauvenistic box.

I choose You today, Lord. I choose to say yes to the wooing of my husband and no to the false lies I’ve been harboring. I choose to live this February really loving, loving as an act of worship and contemplating on what that means. I choose to say yes to Your wooing, Lord, as I seek to set that time aside for You and say no to the desires of my own flesh that won’t satisfy.

 And I urge you, dear readers, to visit Ann today. To seek encouragement and drink from the words of honesty and vulnerability as she allows the Holy Spirit to direct her typing. Wise girl, that Ann!


Keeping the Hours

My Google Chrome Internet link crashed this past week. I was devastated at first. All those bookmarks gone. We tried re-downloading but a nasty virus had snuck in and we had to shut down all together. Internet Explorer it is. Slower, older, unfamilar. My heart ached for all those new blogs I had found and bookmarked but never made time to put up on my blogroll. Most of the really good homeschooling sites I have tucked away on a paper (the old-fashioned way of backing up!) but was bummed about the research I was going to have to redo on all the Great Depression and World War information that I had found but hadn’t written down yet.

At first I frantically tried to recall what I could. Then I moved to pouting. Then I moved to looking at a few of my old bookmarks. I saw faithful friend-blogs that have always been there since the beginning and were still favorites…still encouragers of Him…still food for my homeschool mothering soul. And the few that I remembered and could re-add were also soul encouragers, blogs of kind words that only uplift.

The Holy Spirit started speaking to me. I remembered verses about all things passing away, about not putting my heart in treasure that will rust. As I nursed and starting cleaning up my files (to evade any more viruses) the Lord, again, reminded me of how much I already have that I forgot about and am not using. Simplifying was my motive when moving out here. A fresh start. Use what we have to school. And yet here are a mountain of library books stacked up…most unread and I look over while quietly nursing in the night lights of Christmas the bookshelves full of books we already have to read being ignored. Why do I always forget?

And I realize that God is closing a door to prevent me from sliding a slippery slope towards bondage that he wants me free of. Today I am deleting some old bookmarks that no longer exist and I slip among these lovely words. A Mother’s Hours. And I think of last night and picking up the little’s mess of my books and seeing Holiness for Housewives and remembering the beautiful prayers that I was going to type up and put around the house and set to memory in my heart for those oh, so overwhelming mother moments. He is helping me to remember. Just Him. Nothing else. And if there is just that then the rest will come. And I see grace poured out and feel foolish over my own silliness. How so many good, but worldly, things slip in unnoticed to take up heart worship. Thank you that he is a jealous God. Thank you even more that he is gentle and compassionate and always there to take our hand and lead us home!

So please, go over to Evlogia and tuck those Mother’s Hours into your hearts as well! Be blessed, my friends!


Country Living

We are finally moved in and doing well…no major problems transitioning! The kids love being in the open country, getting to ride bikes everyday, seeing turkeys crossing their backyard and skunks foraging for food, getting seed burs in the forest while exploring, seeing a herd of deer cross our driveway out the window while eating dinner…a different experience for sure!

The view from our living room window...breathtaking!

Turkeys crossing our yard.

The most amazing part is how God is working here in the tiniest details. It says in the Bible that God uses all things to spread His glory. And this week I really see evidence of that. On Adam’s first day off we were planning on a leisurely breakfast before heading to the old house for a last cleaning day. Instead, we woke up to a clogged, overflowing toilet that our 3 yo flushed again and caused a waterfall to break through our downstairs neighbors living room ceiling. The maintenance guy had to come out early and help us get the water shut off (I wasn’t strong enough and Adam was out looking for a plunger which we forgot to take from the old house) and help the neighbors tear down ceiling tiles and shopvac their living room carpet. It was a MESS! And there was nothing leisurely or relaxed about it.

But God has His ways and I was amazed at how the day turned out. What I was panicking over, He turned into opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t have existed. We got to have our neighbors over for a pancake breakfast and a hamburger cookout at dinner. Our maintenance guy just happened to belong to the church we are interested in going to and gave us the correct time and building for services (something we would not have known and ended up showing to the wrong place and getting discouraged). Adam took over going to the house for me and cleaning so I could stay home with the littles and actually start unpacking (a huge help!!!). And he got home early enough (because he was not hung up over my same perfectionist tendencies) to carve pumpkins with the kids and our new neighbors and warm our tummies with homemade hot apple cider while strumming on a guitar on the night of a full moon.

All in all, it turned out to be a very good day indeed! I am so glad I get to look at even the tiniest details of our life and see evidence of His ultimate providence and fatherly love being displayed over and over again!

holy experience


Mary and Martha, grace and smores cookies…

It’s been one of those days where just the basic necessities of life get done…laundry, dishes, cooking, baths, haircuts. I did get through two bins of clothes but really this is all I had the energy for. I was up from 4:30 – 6:30 AM with the little one so my movements were slow and I made them count.

I threw porkchops in the crockpot while making up some more granola for breakfast. It was nice to not even have to think about supper as that’s when I feel most worn down these days.

What the Lord has shown me this past week, despite my drive to push and get everything done for this move, is that His grace will sustain me if only I will be a Mary, not a Martha. It took a severe cold to make me stop and sit and stop doing. Instead I finished up Crazy Love and Holiness for Housewives. Fifteen minutes here and there between household duties to just sit until I felt strong enough to get back up and keep going. I felt filled up with His grace and love and mercy and compassion. It didn’t mean I still didn’t have to wash diapers or do dishes or cook for my family or clean the kitchen or give baths or nurse in the middle of the night. My exhaustion did not go away. But my disposition changed to one of allowing Him to mold me to His image…allowing a bit of Jesus living to touch the lives of my family.

And because of this I was able to pray and not only finish the dishes but find grace enough to bake for my family. Adam is now sick on the couch and I am usually too busy with littles to help take care of him much. But my prayer was that even though I was tired that I could push through and show him grace too. Dinner was delicious and so easy that it will be back on my menu rotation again. For sweets I kept thinking smores…googled…came upon this recipe and baked. Oh how heavenly a bit of smores cookie is! (Or, as Gabe calls them, smookies!) And, my tastiest treat, was Adam commenting on how well I was taking care of him as I delivered his cookies alongside a steaming mug of caramel apple cider.

“Are you feeling all right?” he says, “you never take care of me like this when I’m sick!” Immediately I remembered my prayer, smiled and thanked God again for His grace that overfloweth through me to another in such a simple way. How much better this feels then to lose myself in a novel, or television, or the computer, by myself in my own selfish pursuit of tired escapism.

A way in which the wrong sort of escape shows up against the right is in the matter of the effect it produces afterward. This is abundantly obvious in the case of the extremes: self-indulgence leaves a sense of disgust, while perfect correspondence with the grace of the moment brings liberty and confidence in God…If we were to realize that God is our true rest, we would waste far less time running around looking for somewhere peaceful or pleasurable where we could throw off all our cares and enjoy ourselves.   ~Holiness for Housewives

And for any others out there ready to treat their family with a bit of grace today, here is that wonderful recipe brought to you from Baked Perfection. Enjoy! The only changes I made was using shortening for 1/2 the butter (always makes a cookie better!) and skipping the hershey’s bars…didn’t have them and don’t need them, regular chocolate chips work just fine. But, I must say, it’s really the graham crumbs that really make this cookie!

picture courtesy of Baked Perfection

S’mores Cookies – from blog: Baked Perfection
adapted from Make and Bake

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 dash of cinnamon

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

2 cups miniature chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows

2 Hershey bars, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a medium bowl combine the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda, salt, and dash of cinnamon. In a second larger bowl beat together the butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Slowly beat in the flour mixture until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 8 minutes, and remove from the oven. Push 3 to 4 marshmallows and a few pieces of hershey bar into each cookies. Return to the oven and bake an additional 3-4 minutes until fully cooked. Cool cookies on a wire rack. Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  ~Luke 10:38-42

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Home Atmosphere

As I am packing up, decluttering, organizing and overall dreaming of how my new house will fit together ~ or how I want it to fit together ~ I am thinking a lot about home atmosphere. And while organizing my favorite blogs bookmarks I found this post that I meant to read on home atmosphere and culture which led to sharing this whole wonderful series with you. I think it a world of progress that is plowing forward we could all stand to step back a moment and remind ourselves that motherhood and family is a blessing…a calling…a ministry, not one more job that is thrust upon us in this hectic world.

A Wise Women Builds Her Home

So please, click on the button above, scroll down to the bottom for the first in the series, grab a cup of coffee or tea, turn off your mute button and allow the music to soothe you as His words minister to you as a manager of your home. Have a great day everyone!!!

A wise woman builds her home but the foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.

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Feeding the Soul

holy experience

Whenever I am in the middle of making tough life decisions, it is easy to get bogged down in my own thoughts and have no clear direction on where the Lord wants to take me. I find during these moments that I tend to plead in prayer for anything to soothe that anxious spirit I have. That has been my life this week. And the Lord answered faithfully yesterday. Not with a solution to my problem, but with a soothing of my soula breaka rest in Him. And oh how I rested and breathed deep and drank Him in.

It came not in a verse from His word, nor from an encouraging word from friend or article, but merely from a change in weather. Hot and humid is the calling card for weather in August for Nebraska. But yesterday a cold front moved through and, even though I knew it was coming, I was not prepared for the overwhelming wash of refreshment it gave me.

Here I was cooking dinner (a rotisserie chicken) and decided to open the windows as the kids were finally done picking up the basement and wanted to go outside to play as promised. As my house opened up this wave of clean air came rolling through. It is a smell I can’t even begin to describe in words because there are none that would do it justice. But as it rolled through the house mingling with the smell of roasting chicken, my anxiousness dissipated. My heart rejoiced and all I could do was mutter, “Thank you, thank you, thank you…” over and over under my breath as I peeled potatoes.

I could hear the children outside playing with their daddy.

Imaginations churning as nature flourished all around.

I looked around to a picked up house with no dishes in the sink.

With a fresh pile of living books from the library just begging to be poured over.

I smelled dinner being prepared for a table where we could break bread together.

I walked outside to look over the garden (sorely underattended due to the hot weather and I not wanting to partake in it) and found broccoli finally sprouting despite this little moth’s  propensity on destroying it.

We found an extra pumpkin hidden among the leaves.

Apples are hanging heavy on the branches beckoning thoughts of apple butter and applesauce to come.

Ivy had discovered the neighbor girl and the first inklings on how to comunicate and make friends.

I felt a kick and looked down to realize that new life is almost here…and that I couldn’t see my feet anymore!

I walked to the house seeing the first real spider web built as an ode to fall coming soon sang out through the sun’s reflection, which also reminded me to feel blessed that we had the money to spray the inside of our house this fall.

And I walked back in the kitchen through a mud-covered patio door knowing the kids would need a quick dunk before dinner and not even minding.

After our delicious meal we were able to walk together to the park and come home to daddy making popcorn balls (oh man, what a treat!) and shakes.

We slept with the windows opened and I fell asleep inspired to wash the sheets the next day.

I awoke to a cool house, littles wanting to snuggle.

We watched the school bus come take the other kids away as we snuggled in P.J.’s, Lily still asleep, me slowly contemplating what to make for breakfast and feeling so blessed to lead the life we do.

We enjoyed hot sweet biscuits with homemade strawberry jam and eggs and leisurely started school at 10 AM with time for a play-outside break for the kids before lunch and a little time to actually write here (precious of late) to spread my joy and enjoy my first cup of coffee for the day.

And enjoyed our first picnic lunch outside in over three months!

And, again, all I could utter was, “thank you, thank you, thank you…” over and over to my Lord and Saviour who knew exactly, to the uttermost detail what the longing of my heart was and, as my loving Father, took care of that need.

So today I urge you all, rest in Him. Let Him find your joy spot.  It may not answer a problem you are going through but it will surely bring you peace and a light yoke for the day!

Proverbs 13:12

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Matthew 7: 9, 11

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you…If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Matthew 11: 28-30

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Summer Reading

What I just finished reading:

This is a book I’ve been wanting to read for over a year now. In fact, I’ve been on hold for the book at the library for about that long. I read her two new books Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt and Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana and became fascinated with her story. How did she get here? Vampires to Christ? I didn’t even know she was converted until I read the author’s note after finishing Out of Egypt. It was a book I read in the midst of my own searching into Catholicism – not an accident from the Lord, I know! But that is a story for another time and place.

This book was intriguing for me and made a fast read. In the beginning she talks of her faith as a child and it made me question so many things about reverance and holiness and if we’ve lost that in our culture (not her intent at all, but what I gleaned from her beautiful descriptions of faith learned before being able to read). The middle was a little harder for me to get through. For 38 years she was an atheist, wrapped up in secular humanism and claimed to be ignorant of the feminist movement of her time yet her writing seems to be completely enmeshed in it. What I found most interesting was how she came back after that time period. No big event. No big, “aha” moments, just being constantly pursued by our Lord which you can see throughout her writing career. I think that is how it is for many of us. I definately related to this pursual as that is how it happened to me. God, the great Romantic, only wanting to restore relationship.

The most poignant part of the book was years after returning to the church when she was actually wrestling with God about giving herself completely over to Christ…dieing to herself and living for Him. I think she hit the nail on the head that the particular moment of conversion (or reconversion) is completely different and separate from actually living for Christ by dieing to self.

“One Saturday afternoon everything changed. I was seated in the pew and going through the Great Negotiation—what I would give and what I didn’t want to give and what God wanted me to give…” wrote Anne. This was when she made the decision to only write for Him…that ALL her talents could only be used for His service. Not that her other books were wrong or sinful, far from it as they only reflected her faith journey acted out through character. But now she had to give all of herself. Anything else would be a sham. This hit me strongly in the gut. This is where most of us fail as Christians. We justify our lives and what we are willing to give to His service. What if we actually died to ourselves and only lived for Him? How different would our lives really look? In this interview she mentions,

What I realized was that I wasn’t giving Him everything—that I was holding back. And I felt that I had to be able to give Him everything. If He really was the Maker of the universe—the Creator, the Lord, the Savior—how could I hold back? How could I say, ‘Well, I’m writing these books now. Really it’s not clear that I’m a Christian in these books, but it’s OK.’ I realized that that didn’t work anymore. I had to say to Him, ‘Look, I’m going to put all my gifts—whatever I have—in Your service…I’m going to stop negotiating with what You demand, and I’m going to start admitting it.’

As she was knee deep in intense scriptural study, she was confronted with all of the church controversies of the day and, once again, had to take a stand that it didn’t matter. Her only calling was to the Lord as she again says, “My vocation is to write for Jesus Christ.” This was all she could give and the other issues were for other Christians to deal with, not what her Lord had asked her to do. She mentions how so many of us can lose ourselves…even our Christianity…when getting caught up in the division instead of following what Christ wants for their life. How true, how true!

What I am rereading:

Not the book you think it may be, as it sounds old fashioned, simple, stuffy. It is one of the VERY few books (as I don’t do this often) that I will return to and read again year after year. It’s message is simple yet complex and it is everything, as a stay-at-home mom, that I need to hear (not want to, but need to) from Christ to me. It mainly deals with how to worship and serve the Lord amidst that chaos of motherhood…not in spite of it. This, I personally believe, is one of the hardest areas of giving to Christ that a mother deals with. Time for devotionals? Hardly. Quiet and peaceful? Not with a little one screaming to be held, a toddler drawing on the wall, an older child wanting you to listen to a story and another two fighting at the top of their lungs with scratching, hair pulling, and biting involved. Get involved in small group? Not when daddy has to work and there is no reliable babysitter for five kids. So how do we spiritually participate? This is what I glean from this book. I will give one little snippet to wet your appetite.

Too often we make a mental picture of what we think the service of God ought to look like…Thus the mother of a family will tell you that she would be able to give herself much more to religion if she did not have the children to look after. A factory worker will compare her chances with those of a lay sister. ‘I would be very religious,’ says the girl in the post office, ‘if it were not so impersonal, and if I could serve God in a family.’ Everyone creates an imaginary kingdom of God on earth, and sits outside its walls gazing enviously in its direction. But the kingdom of God is within you…Imagined sanctity is no sanctity. A religion that exists in hypothetical circumstances cannot endure the pressure of actuality. To presume to a service of God that the present framework of life does not allow is sheer pride. What sort of a service can it be that has its only reality in someone else’s vocation? How can obedience to God’s will (which is all that religion amounts to) rest upon a concept that is not being realized and may never be? If the mother looks upon her children as obstacles to the prompt response to grace, she is missing the whole point…Your occupation, associates, material surroundings, health, and strength are there, are real, are the solids, are the substance from which the here-and-now house of God is to be built. There is nothing concrete in the dream vocation…Religion is recognizing God in His own setting. The setting is provided by Him, not by us. ‘In Him we live and move and have our being.’ (Acts 17:28): we do not find our being in what we would have become if we had made ourselves. We are made in the image and likeness of God, not in the image and likeness of a mirage…The only thing that really matters in life is doing the will of God. Once you are doing the will of God, then everything matters. But apart from the accepted will of God, nothing has any lasting reality. So if God wills that you should be bowed over the sink instead of over the pew in your favorite church, then washing dishes is for you, now, the most perfect thing you can possibly do…If you leave your dishes, your housekeeping, your telephone calls, your children’s everlasting questions, your ironing, and your invitations to take care of themselves while you go off and search for our Lord’s presence in prayer, you will discover nothing but self.

WOW. You must go read this book!

What I will be reading:

I stumbled upon this little gem of a book by accident. Had never heard of it or its author. It was a link to a link sort of thing and suddenly I was looking inside the book at Amazon and reading and reading and reading and I didn’t want to stop. Here is a book that EVERY so-called acclaimed Christian needs to read! I know this book will challenge me and I hope that I can turn it into a small group so that discussions can be had and other lives will be challenged as well. It is a book aptly named. For radical is what it is. Radical is what Jesus is and what we, as “American” Christians, forget everyday. We tend to justify our comforts and constantly look for more. We tend to want a perfect life without toils and tribulations. But that is NOT what being a true disciple…a true follower of Christ asks of us. Again, it reminded me of what Anne Rice said in her book. We think we are involved in the Great Negotiation with God and can do parts of His will and leave others (more distateful, dangerous, uncomfotable) out of the equation. But if truly dying to self and taking up the cross, how can we give anything less then everything? This book delves into that question in the most real and potent way I think anyone has spoken of in a very long time.

I encourage every one of you to go to Amazon, click on the book to look inside and just start reading. I think you, too, will be challenged. We soft Americans all need to be!

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

How many of us grew up celebrating St. Patrick’s Day? Most of us would answer yes in one way or another. How many of us grew up knowing who St. Patrick was, what he did, or why it is that we even have a St. Patrick’s Day? Probably not many of us. Of course, we all know it has something to do with the church…with “those Catholics” most are thinking. We know there is a shamrock involved and the color green. Some of us are brave and try the food fare of corned beef and cabbage. Most of us just know it from others around us who use it as a day to party and binge drink.

It wasn’t until I started homeschooling that I really dug into the history. Two of my favorite homeschool blogs: By Sun and Candlelight with Dawn and In The Heart of the Home with Elizabeth Foss are unabashedly (and rightfully so) Catholic. It was through the testimony and daily writings of both of these upstanding Christian women of faith that the scales fell from my eyes concerning all my biases of the Catholic faith that I ignorantly grew up with (along with much prayer and seeking after God). And it was through their wonderful book lists that I discovered my first real St. Patrick’s living history book: Patrick: The Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie de Paola.

And it was through this wonderful book that I learned about a faith that would not be shaken in this Irish shepherd-turn-missionary. Where I learned that a man who loved Christ so much felt compelled to share Him and His grace with everyone he met and found the perfect way to illustrate to the Irish people the mystery of the Trinity through the common shamrock. A beautiful illustration of Divine three in one as he pointed to each leaflet from a single clover leaf and said, “God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit… separate yet one.” And, I’ll admit, I cried the first time I read it. Then I eagerly shared the story with my children (who forgot by the next year) and eagerly explained it again the next year (who forgot by this year) and continued the story this year (we’ll see if they remember next year) and will continue to retell every year so that the world’s ways will not become their ways. So that the idea and mystery of the Holy Trinity will continue to grow inside of them as God woos them into relationship with Him.

And as Lily (my deep thinker) is continuing to ask me about holidays and what they mean and continuing to want all the stories (the more fanciful the better) about every holiday legend and myth (she is my storyteller), I will continue to indulge her in the fun, made-up stories of all the seasons and use it as the perfect springboard for discussing what truth is versus a legend or a myth and what the path of righteousness is versus the world’s way of doing holidays. I’m glad they will grow up knowing the real Saint Patrick  – a man who loved God, a man who was sinful because he was human but was a saint because he was a child of God.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!

A verse from the prayer on Saint Patrick’s breastplate:

Christ be with me, Christ within me,

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me.

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

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Creative Play…Telling Stories

holy experience

Every person is made by love and we are love and we can’t stop makingLove makes. God is Word because He must express and we are made in His image…All our lives we all need to create because creativity is the life breath of our Creator Father and if we don’t create we breathe stale air and we wither dry.     ~Ann Voskamp (visit her beautiful creations here)

Yesterday I told of our wonderful “lazy” day off and the fun watercoloring technique that we discovered. Today I would like to share with you the beautiful results of that playing.

Lily started playing with just mixing colors in different combinations with the Tombow Dual-Brush pens.

Then she experimented with mixing colors using the watercolor technique.

Next she actually started working on a picture concept. This one is my favorite that she did…a caterpillar walking on a stormy day.

Then she turned it all into a mini book called “The Color Book”.  I just love it! She even binded it with rings and all. She is my master storyteller.

Gabe was rather frustrated at first (being our perfectionist) that the water just blurred up all the hard work he just did with the markers.

His first attempt.

After calming him down and explaining what watercoloring is and how it works and then demonstrating it for him, he finally got the hang of it and set off to make a mini book on caterpillars.

My demonstration on how to watercolor a woolly bear caterpillar.

He was soon mixing mediums, adding in details with Lyra colored pencils (a wonderful brand!).

What he added to my picture.

His finished picture.

A monarch caterpillar that he made for Lily.

We are made in HIS image. I think we sometime forget this, especially as followers of Christ, as we are working so hard at obeying the word and training up our children and keeping our home. But HE was the Ultimate Creator!!! I love that He has allowed us freedom to play, move, stretch, express, play with perspectives, experiment, dabble, start over. This blog forum is that sort of creative outlet for myself and my photography. My garden is my outside canvas. But the ultimate of my creations (and HIS!!!) are these beautiful children. As I watch them stretch and grow, fail and perfect, I revel in their masterpieces and their trials and errors. They are so beautiful to me, whether it is the first scribbles of Lilah becoming interested in crayons at age 2, Luc making his first circle at age 3 or my oldest two dabbling in arts and crafts and using up all my tape in the process! It reminds me of a quote I came across a short while ago.

Many people have said to me ‘What a pity you had such a big family to raise. Think of the novels and the short stories and the poems you never had time to write because of that.’ And I looked at my children and I said, ‘These are my poems. These are my short stories.’     ~Olga Masters

And that just about sums it all up!