Why Do I Have THIS Stuff? Building a Sharing Community

The idea of “stuff” has received a bad rap over the last few years with the growing simplicity movement. There has been a strong pull towards getting rid of everything so you have more freedom, fulfillment, and time for more important things. Cut back on lifestyle, live smaller, enjoy less. Many of these principles have inspired our lifestyle choices as well. But should I get rid of everything? Does it require me to sell everything and live in a tiny apartment in order to really pursue this lifestyle of simplicity?

I believe it’s time to get a God-centered view of stuff. We need a bit more balance.

Why has God given us this stuff? God is the giver of all good things. James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” He has provided us with resources, a home, and the stuff within to be used for the purpose of serving others. God gives us all things to enjoy but desires us to use them for the furtherance of His glory and kingdom.

Ephesians 4:28 reminds us: “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.” It’s a call to work hard. Why? So we have something to share. It’s not just for us…it’s given to provide for our basic needs and to be shared with others in need. Alls we truly need is food, clothing, and shelter. And every other thing should be purchased with intentionality. We could simply give it away once, but there is a way I believe we can use many of the items in our homes to bless others over and over again.

Luke 3:11, ‘John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”

Becoming a Sharing Community

Certainly simplifying will include getting rid of some things, but other things should be dedicated to a sharing category. I love reading about the early church’s passion for sharing. “They were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common…there was not a needy person among them…” (Acts 4:32, 34). This model of sharing and caring for one another was a powerful witness to a watching world around them of the love of Christ in action. This can certainly include selling things and sharing the profits with those in the community of believers that have needs…but it can also include simply making our resources available to one another through loaning, borrowing, exchanging.

What might this look like?

  • Passing around your children’s clothing.
  • Loaning out your maternity ware between your use (We store all our clothes – maternity and children’s clothing, in large plastic totes according to size and gender, so it is easy to loan out a tote as another has need of a particular size and category.)
  • Sharing your baby items in between your use. A bassinet is only in use for 6 months or so…why not loan it to another new family? It clears out space in your home until you need it again.
  • Holding a book library to share the rich treasures of books you have with others. Make a master list of all your books and pass it around to others for their reference.
  • Sharing your homeschool curriculum. Some of these materials are super expensive. Why not loan it to another family while you aren’t using it.
  • Loaning out your extra car or bedroom to missionaries or needy members of your church.
  • Host a clothing exchange, community garage sale, homemade food goods exchange, and exchange items for free.
  • Making a double batch of your dinner and sharing with a family that has just had a baby or experiencing a different trial.
  • Share a skill you have by teaching it to others.
  • Hold a work party to help someone move or get a job done around their house.
  • Open up the doors of your home in hospitality.

Your home, however big or small, is a gift to be used to bless the lives of others through your hospitality. I like to call it missional homemaking...everything you own is held loosely because it’s on a mission. A mission to comfort, nourish and support those that God sends your way. It needs to be held loosely because it may get damaged or broken along the way.

Your carpet may be stained, your toys may be broken. But if you have a God centered view of stuff you will be able to rejoice because it was used for the furtherance of His Kingdom. Having a descent size home is very beneficial for the extension of hospitality. We intentionally bought the biggest house we could reasonably afford. We picked a house that had small bedrooms and a large living space. Because we wanted to make it available for the use of others. We wanted to be able to welcome crowds of people to find refreshment through our doors. Every time you open your door you are sharing the love of Christ to a watching world.

Our basement is set up for hosting worship practice, our living room is open enough to sit larger groups for community group, leadership meetings, dinner parties, church events and so much more. We had several parties last year where over 100 people passed through our doors in a 3 hr period. Praise God! Hospitality is so much fun! Even in our small first home of a condo, we didn’t make the small space an excuse. We filled up that small space with only that which was useful for hospitality and filled it over capacity with people. It was often tight with people but sweetly intimate for the joy and laughter shared with others.

What to get rid of?

God centered simplifying is letting go of anything that is ruling in my heart. What am I afraid might be damaged? That might be a clue to an idol in my heart. Pray that God would change your heart and give you the grace to offer up your stuff for his use and purposes. If it is not beneficial for the use of others, then it can be discarded. Dedicate your earthly goods to his Kingdom use and see Him work. A God centered simplifying lifestyle is letting go of the stuff that’s just cluttering my life (that hasn’t practically served our family or others in the last 6 months) but preserving the stuff that is useful in the ministry to others.

We buy descent furniture but not expensive stuff that I would be afraid to have damaged, scratched, or broken. Yes, it has certainly seen some wear and tear. We buy consignment clothes so I’m not afraid if someone returns our borrowed collection and a few items are stained. We buy used reliable cars that can be loaned out as a brother has need.

We sift out the stuff that is not useful. Is it serving to strengthen our family or be used in service to others? If not, get rid of it!

Make sure everything you buy has a purpose outside yourself! Invest in a few items that will help extend your hospitality: A large crockpot to serve large gatherings? Serving forks, trays, large water pitchers, outside bikes for kids to play with, etc. When we were newly married without kids, we still wanted to reach out to families in our church. An older family in the church gave us a random assortment of small toys that they had cleared out of their inventory. This box was a huge help in assisting to make our hospitality so much more enjoyable for the little ones. This is a beautiful mix of simplifying but sharing going on.

I have learned in this pursuit of simplifying and sharing…the more I share and let go of, the more my heart desires to give. The more we give and share, the greater our treasure is being stored up in heaven, and the less of a stronghold this stuff has in our hearts. When I see everything I own as simply a tool through which I can bless another, it no longer worries me to see it damaged or ruined. And God is glorified as He takes the place of our all-consuming love, rather than it being in anything temporary in this world. Giving and sharing is the greatest investment of your resources!

Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
How can you intentionally share the “stuff” you have right now? How can you seek to build a sharing community?
Comments { 38 }

Our Morning Vegetable Juice in the Blender


My husband and I recently watched, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (watch it free here), and were quite fascinated by this remarkable documentary. I was reminded again how beautiful God designed food to be the healing power to restore order and health in our bodies. I was also challenged to eat more fruits and vegetables and to see that it is more simple than I realized. With my insomnia and hormonal imbalance issues and my hubby’s high cholesterol levels (it seems to run in his family), we have been striving to be more intentional in learning what would be best for getting us both into a place of balance and better health.

Juicing is a simple way to increase your consumption of vegetables in an efficient manner. When juiced, the nutrition is made available to the body very quickly. Juicing helps you to absorb all the nutrients from the vegetables as it helps to break them down and  ”pre-digest” them for you. I also love how it helps us add a wider variety of vegetables to our diet that we don’t often eat or prefer otherwise. Beets would be one of those vegetables that is packed full of nutrition but we just don’t honestly eat a lot of it.

But…I don’t have a juicer. And honestly, juicers are kind of a pain in my experience. I had one a while back and it was so much work to clean the whole machine out after each use, our relationship ended rather quickly. Then I realized…there’s got to be a way I can use what I have. And yes, I have found an extremely simple way to make homemade juice with my blender. It’s so easy to do that it has been possible to add it to our morning breakfast meal.

What you need?

A blender (I use my Blendtec which I love and it works incredibly well! You can also use a standard blender, but plan to add more water and add ingredients one at a time)
nut/milk bag or a paint strainer bag (available at your local hardware store)

Here’s a silly little video of me assembling our juice for your viewing pleasure! Don’t laugh…;)

Our Morning Boost: Carrot, Apple & Beet Juice

This mixture of fruits and vegetables is high in vitamin A, C, folate, nitrate, calcium, antioxidants, electrolytes, and iron, giving you a great boost to start your day!  Carrots and beets are especially good for cleansing your blood and liver. As I understand it, apples are the one fruit that can be safely mixed with vegetables (Learn the recommendations about food combining here). But I did read here, that if you juice it, then it eliminates this problem…not sure who to believe on this one. ;)

1 large beet, diced
6 carrots, cut into medium chunks
1 – 2 apples, cut into chunks
2 celery slices, cut into chunks
Handfull of greens – kale, salad greens, romaine, etc
1/2 -1 cup water (when using a blender for juicing, you have to add a bit of water to help puree the ingredients. This is not necessary if you have an actual juicer)

Directions:

1. Wash and scrub all vegetables thoroughly. No need to peel them, unless you desire to do so. Cut up all ingredients into 1-2 inch chunks.
2. Gradually load your blender with each ingredient and add water. If using a standard blender, start with softest ingredient and try adding one ingredient at a time and blend till smooth between each addition.
3. Place blender onto your base and pulse or use whole fruit setting (when using a Blendtec), till fully blended.
4. Place your strainer bag in a large pitcher and gradually pour your juice into the bag. Gently, squeeze the strained juice out of the strainer bag.
5. Compost the leftover pulp (or make it into a fruit leather snack) and consume the juice! 

Consume immediately, otherwise add a bit of lemon juice and place in a sealed container and store in the refrigerator. Best to consume on an empty stomach and 1 hour before or after other food items.

Yield: 32 oz.

In this manner we have juice each morning and cut back on our other food consumption. For example, we now have a 12 oz cup of juice and 1 egg and a half piece of toast for a full complete meal. My husband and I are feeling so much more energized as as result. The kids enjoy it as well!

I believe it is important to maintain a balanced whole foods diet. I believe God designed our bodies to enjoy a wide spectrum of real food that he has fashioned each with various nutrients for our bodies. Each vegetable, fruit, protein, or carbohydrate offers different value to our bodies. Thus, you won’t see me advocating any special diet. We need a whole variety of real foods in balance and moderation to one another. The disadvantage to juicing is that it does eliminate the fiber in the vegetables through the straining process, although apple juice is high in fiber, thus bringing more balance. In light of this, we try to make sure we have a whole fiber green smoothie or other fresh salad at another meal during the day to make sure we are enjoying the full spectrum of nutrition. The benefit of juicing for us is that it gets more vegetables into our body quicker and gives us that jump start on the day with a clearer mind and increased energy.

For a whole range of fresh vegetable juice recipes and detoxing juicing plans, check out Reboot Your Life.

My next mission is to experiment in using the discarded pulp for other food snacks. Muffins, crackers, fruit leather, add to a green smoothie? No waste is the goal…although composting really isn’t wasting in my opinion.

Comments { 64 }

Kindergarten At Our Home

I am so excited to officially begin Kindergarten this year at our home with my sweet daughter, Karis, who is now 5 years old. After much prayer, I have made some decisions as to how we will approach this new year. My foremost goal is that my children would love to learn and that our home environment would be a place of joyful learning in all areas of life – from nature play to baking in the kitchen to doing our daily chores. I am passionate that my children would have hearts to know and love the Lord and desire to serve him all the days of their life, so character study and Scripture studies are high on the priority list. But I also desire that these beginning years would be full of good memory work in history, language, poetry, and Scripture memory. These are the years when they can memorize like crazy and retain wonderful truths and facts that can be later drawn out and discussed and applied. In this manner, I am adopting many concepts of classical education in our home (chronological history, memory work, etc) but also seeking to balance it with Charlotte Mason’s encouragement to keep learning fun and simple with a focus on nature, music, poetry, narration, and art.

Phonics – My first goal this year is to get my daughter launched in reading. We have started a few unsuccessful times to begin various Phonics programs this last year, but I soon realized it wasn’t worth it to push it too hard until she was more ready. So, this year we are going to start afresh. I am going to use Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and Bob Books.

Memory Work – We will be memorizing one short poem each month, a passage of Scripture, importance facts (address, months of the year, etc), and Westminister Shorter Catechism phrases, along with reciting passages of Scripture before bedtime each night. Through repetition and simply reading these things to the kids, they can pick it up so fast. We recently memorized Psalms 23 simply by reading it every night before bed. It took 2 weeks and they had it down. Since we appreciate the approach of Classical Conversations, but have decided not to participate quite yet, we bought the Cycle 1 companion CD with all the memory work set to music. We will listen to this each week and try to memorize along the schedule.

Here is a free download of our Kindergarten memory work for this year (including catechism phrases, verses, basic personal facts and poems).

Bible & Character – We are currently using the ESV Illustrated Bible for our devotions before we start school each morning. This Bible takes specific portions of Scripture directly from the Bible with gorgeous illustrations. It is an awesome way to transition from storybooks to the full Bible. We love to listen to the dramatized Bible on CD while we travel around. A great way to plant the truth in their hearts through simple listening. We will also read the short stories about character qualities with A Child’s Book of Character Building.

History & Geography - We have returned to using the Sonlight Core A Kindergarten program this year. I cannot say enough about how much I love their materials. I love how learning is based in real books. I love the selection of books and the simplicity of having all the lessons mapped out for you. I found most of the books used through Exodus books or Amazon, in order to make it more doable with our budget, but I highly recommend their curriculum packages! Exodus Books is a wonderful local homeschool store that also sells online and they offer tons of used and new curriculum at great prices. We have chosen to just stick with the core curriculum and read-alouds.

We started the Sonlight Core A program about a month ago, and my kids love it (yes, my 3 year old loves sitting in with us too for most of it)! They are always begging for more! I love the Internet Linked Children’s Encylopedia included in this core, because it sends you to wonderful exploratory websites that include additional videos, games, and 3-D tours of different places around the world. I love how Sonlight includes quality poetry, narration practice with discussion questions, quality book choices (we just finished My Father’s Dragon trilogy – so fun!), and freedom to do whatever fits best for your family. We’ll also be reading the Story of the World Volume 1: Ancient Times by Susan Wise Bauer as a family during our read-aloud time on a couple evenings each week.

Science – My vision for science is to be out in nature and enjoying the beauty and wonder of creation with my kids especially during these elementary years. I want them to treasure being outdoors and getting a bigger view of the powerful God we serve as we explore together. I want to spend quality time out in nature with scavenger hunts and nature walks. We plan to use Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook for Kids, Families & Classrooms and create a Nature Journal for each of the kids with copies from this book in which we could draw various new observations from nature as well as record made up stories of things we find (I’ll be recording the stories that Karis tells me until she becomes more proficient in writing). This book has tons of ideas for exploring clouds, weather patterns, nature walks, and so much more. This will last many years as some of the activities are a bit more advanced. We will take the camera and let the kids take photos of things they find as well.

I will also be supplementing with the Christian Liberty Press Nature Reader K (an adorable little book that goes through the alphabet and shares extensively on different animals – A is for Alligator, etc), some of the Moody Science videos, Planet Earth, and a subscription to Big Backyard (an adorable nature magazine for kids 4-8, an awesome birthday gift!), and Nature Friend (a Christ centered creation based magazine). We will just do one of these activities each day, either nature journal, read, watch a video, or check out youtube videos about different animals we observe or read about.

Music – Since my former piano teaching days, I have been eager to begin lessons with my little ones. We will be doing some beginning piano lessons with Karis at home with Music for Little Mozarts curriculum. This is a very simple curriculum that any mommy could teach their kiddos with. I used it extensively with young children and had great success. We also use and love the Classical Kids CD series (which provide fun listening with classical music set in a story) and The Story of the Orchestra (take you on a journey through the instruments in an orchestra).

Copywork – We will be using Copywork I for our handwriting curriculum. I love how this resources uses Scripture as its basis, but also gives freedom to draw pictures and use the imagination.

Math – I’m super excited to read the fabulous reviews on the hands on Montessori based math called RightStart Math. It uses an abacus and tons of math games to make learning fun. We are starting with the Level A set. Ive never been excited about math until I read how this program works and how reviewers said their kids love math with this program. Really? I’m on it!

Since I also believe in establishing good critical thinking and logic skills, we are using Mind Benders Book 1 for a practical workbook on the subject. We also plan to get the game Zoologic for practical fun at this level.

Finally, we are always reading lots of good books! We use recommended list from the 1000 Classic Books list and pick up 10 or so titles every few weeks from our local library.

We will be maintaining a simple schedule that will be completely flexible and adjust as necessary as the year moves on. You can view what our schedule will look like this year here. I am excited to continue the journey of encouraging a love for learning and all the joys that come with the beauty of learning together with my little ones!

This post includes affiliate links, which means we receive a small percentage of each purchase made through our links. We only recommend products that we use and love and we appreciate your support.

Comments { 52 }

Making a “Place” in your Life for Prayer


By monthly contributor Ann Dunagan of Harvest Ministry

Imagine if someone gave you a brand-new living room set. The pieces of furniture are so much better than you could have imagined, or dreamed. The set is absolutely perfect for your family. The colors. The style. The look. Wow. It’s so much better than that old worn-out set that should have gone years ago.

But imagine bringing that new living room set home . . . and leaving it outside.

You know it needs to come in. You want to bring it in.
But you just aren’t willing to take the time to rearrange your living room.

You don’t want to “bother” with getting rid of the old set.
It’s such a job to get everything moved around.

Making a “place” for God’s gift of prayer . . .

As Christians, we have been given a tremendous gift. God has extended a special invitation for us to spend time with Him on a regular basis; but sometimes, we aren’t willing to take the time to “rearrange” our lives to fit this time with Him into our comfortable old routine.

A simple way to begin a new daily habit for time with the Lord is to find a “place” for it.

Just like we would need to rearrange our furniture to fit a new couch set into our home, we need to rearrange our life (and be willing to get rid of old habits and time-fillers) to make room for prayer.

A new lifestyle of daily prayer will require consistent desire and discipline, but it’s wonderful to know that God will help you to make necessary changes. He is so willing and desiring to give us His strength and His help. As you rely on Him (even for this daily God-empowered discipline and self-control), your time with the Lord can eventually become a highlight of your day and a strength of your life.

In a spiritually-healthy family, our prayer-life can include praying with others at church, praying together as a family, and/or praying (or “interceding”) for the needs of others and for the world.

Yet, nothing is more spiritually beneficial for families than a lifestyle of personal prayer.

Do your kids “see” you spending time with God?

As Christians, we tell our kids that it’s good to pray. Perhaps we pray before mealtime. Perhaps we pray for our kids at night (during those special times when we remember to tuck in our little ones before they fall asleep).

Yet how many of us, as moms, are a bit lacking in our own daily personal prayer lives? As we develop our own personal relationship with God through our own regular time with the Lord, the cooperate effect on the family and on others is powerful. We get more of God’s heart and perspective and we begin to follow His day-by-day leading.

One effective “strategy” to begin to establish a new habit of daily prayer is to literally make a physical “place” in your home as a little prayer spot. It can serve as your reminder to come and spend time, even just a moment, with the Lord.

If time with God is something you want in your life, be encouraged. If you don’t measure up to the expectations of others (or of yourself), don’t give up. It can be difficult with babies and kiddos, but it’s not impossible. Just make a few strategic steps and start moving forward. Even a few minutes a day to set your heart and mind on the Lord is powerful. With God’s help, YOU CAN DO THIS!!!

As parents, one of the greatest ways to instill in your kids the foundation of life-impacting faith is for your kids to actually “see” you reading your Bible, (on a regular everyday basis, not just at church), and for your kids to “see” you taking time to pray by yourself.

Establish a special “place” in your home for PRAYER

  • perhaps a comfy chair in a spare bedroom
  • perhaps in your home office
  • perhaps on the couch in your living room
  • perhaps on a trail outside your house or a quiet walk around your neighborhood

If you haven’t been taking the time to consistently pray on a regular basis, it’s helpful to “round up” a few quiet-time accessories or “spiritual” items and to have them set aside and waiting for you in your designated new quiet-time place.

Here are a few suggestions for helpful “QUIET TIME” items:

  • your own Bible (with a marker to remember where you are reading)
  • a daily Bible-reading chart
  • a journal or notebook, with a pen and a highlighter
  • a devotional or “meaty” spiritual book (to challenge your walk with Christ)
  • a world map, and missionary newsletters
  • a CD with quiet worship music
  • possibly even items for holy communion (with wafers, a cup, and grape juice) for a personal communion time (see I Corinthians 11) perhaps on a daily, weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis, to remember the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice

Remember to be flexible . . . and walk with God throughout each day!

Along with consistency in prayer, it’s important to be flexible. In the life of every family, there will be different seasons and changing schedules. What works today may not work tomorrow; yet even so, we need to faithfully guard our time with God. If what you’re doing right now, concerning your personal daily prayer life, is working, by all means keep it up; but if it’s not working, please ask for God’s help and His grace (along with His unlimited creative ideas) to make a change!

Living a life of prayer is simply walking and talking with God. It’s vital to acknowledge God’s presence right beside you and with you all throughout each day.

As individuals, and as families, we can welcome the presence of God’s Spirit into every dimension of our lives. God cares about everything (whether little or big, silly or significant, everyday or eternal), and we can welcome His presence into every decision and every activity. In our families and in our daily communication with God, there should not be a barrier between what is “holy” and what is “common”; instead, God desires for every dimension of our lives (at home, at school, at church, at work, and even at play) to be lived in constant fellowship with Him.

We need to get that “special couch set” (our daily time with the Lord) into our main living room. Some of our old furniture might have to go. Some of our old decorations and clutter might not “match” with the quality of this new look. But the new pieces are so perfect; and we want that new couch set TO FIT!

“Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased,
that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray . . .
Luke 11:1

Helpful Prayer Guides:

31 Days of Praying for your Children
31 Days of Praying for your Husband
31 Days of Praying for your Pastor
Operation World 

Comments { 11 }

Keeping Your Soul Refreshed as a Mother

It is very easy to get over taxed and discouraged in the role of mothering when there are so many demands at your feet. Every morning our breakfast meal begins the cycle of madness with three little ones desperately hungry all at the same time. When will they be able to learn a little patience? Kids need to be dressed, fed, and changed multiple times throughout the day. I can easily fall into a spirit of moodiness and depression as I seek to juggle all the cares and needs around our home. When it does seem true that a mother’s work is never done from dawn to dust, how do you keep your soul encouraged and refreshed in this journey? How can we maintain joy in this beautiful journey of motherhood when it only seems like neediness is crying out at every corner?

Here are 10 little keys that I have found valuable to keep my spirits uplifted and strengthened in the Spirit. Even if I can practice just a few of these each week, it goes a long way to keeping me balanced and joyful:

1. Get up early. I know many will say this is impossible, but the value is incalculable. There is certainly grace to adapt as needed, but if all possible, try to get up early. This gives me the ability to spend some time with the Lord, start my day by getting dressed, and plan for the day before the little ones are up. Even just 30 minutes can make the biggest differences on my day. I’ve been through toughs seasons of insomnia, and many mornings when it was extremely difficult to wake up, but when I did, God’s mercy was so amazingly present to sustain me through the day.

2. Read the Word. Find a suitable time to be in the Word of God. Watering your soul is essential for keeping your head up, your spirit encouraged, and the beauty of God’s mission for you foremost. Find time in the morning, during naps, or before bedtime, whatever works best. Making time for spending with the Lord is one of the most important ways you can show love to your children. Why? Because then the Word will be ready on your lips to pour out truth and grace in the training and discipleship of your children. Your enthusiasm for the Word will be contagious.

3. Get outside. Even a quick 15 minutes of fresh air does wonders for the body and constitution. It gives me energy to finish the day well. Take a brisk morning walk before your husband leaves for work, or with the kids after naptime, or after dinner. When I start getting stressed, I try to stop, put the kids in the stroller and get outside as quickly as possible. ;) Use this time to pray, memorize Scripture, get down and observe the beauty of creation with your kids, or simply listen to the Word or sermons on your iPod or other device.

4. Take a regular retreat. Schedule a 2-3 hour block of time on a regular basis for a personal retreat. Find another mom that you could rotate childcare with, or schedule at a time when your husband could be home with the kiddos. Or don’t be afraid to hire a babysitter. For the last few months, during my husband’s crazy work schedule, I have been hiring a babysitter for a 3 hour period once a week. She helps with a little housecleaning and then plays with the kiddos for the remainder of the time. It has been worth every penny as it gives me opportunity to get outside and spend time alone with the Lord and do my intentional planning for the week.

5. Listen to the Word. The more you can get the truth of the gospel in your heart, the easier this daily journey will become. The Word is powerful to energize, encourage, and motivate our souls. It is powerful Sword to fight against the enemy who seeks to discourage us in our work, because he knows how powerful the ministry of a mother is in the growth and develop of these sweet souls entrusted to our care. Get a copy of the Bible on CD, or we love the dramatized Bible for listening to in the car. You can find most translations for free here. I also love to listen to sermons while I clean, do yardwork or gardening. Revive Our Hearts podcast (Biblical encouragement for women) or The Village Church are two of my favorites.

6. Memorize the Word with Your Kids. Memorizing the Bible can be difficult when you have multiple children, but it is a sweet and doable thing when done with your children. Read a Psalms to them every night before bed, recite the Lord’s Prayer or another passage each night at the dinner table, etc. and you will be amazed at how much you can memorize right alongside your kids through basic repetition.

7. Stay Close to Home. I’ve talked about this before, and it surely has been one of the most simple ways of keeping my soul refreshed rather than stressed. Keep those outside activities to once a week, or schedule them all on one day. So much more peaceful.

8. Start and End Your Day By Giving Thanks. Start your own thankfulness journal to record the little blessings that take place throughout your day. It has been a powerful means of keeping my soul joyful in the Lord.

9. Take 15 Minutes to Plan. Taking 15 minutes to plan at the beginning of your day or the night before can save you so much time and energy throughout the day. Make a simple list: one housecleaning task each day, one way to bless your kids, one way to serve or encourage your hubby, and 2-3 other miscellaneous tasks.

10. Get Rid of A Little Clutter Every Day. If you can move out a small pile of clutter each day it will keep your load more simple and give you sweet freedom from unnecessary burdens. Yes, throw it or add it to the goodwill pile. It’s worth it. It’s just a way to keep your home simple and clutter free which has a huge impact on your spirit. Declutter one drawer. One shelf. Or one mail pile. Ahh…

Are you feeling stretched beyond capacity? Remember that God’s grace is readily available to those who ask. May the Lord bless and encourage your sweet souls today! Know that He is the Lord and treasures the work that you do in your home. Let it be your worship to him today sisters! Depend upon His grace that is freely offered to you to sustain and lift you up. He is the giver of joy. He is the upholder of all things. He will be with you. Stay strong for your work is beautiful!

Comments { 41 }

Ways to Bless My Kids

A recent food art snack at our house - rice cake, peanut butter, banana, raisins, and fruit leather

How can I be intentional on a daily basis to invest quality time down on my knees just investing in my kids? This has been the question on my heart and mind lately. I so easily get distracted with the to-do lists and miss out on special moments with my kids. The Lord recently led me to compile a simple list of different activities that we could do together apart from school, reading times, outside play, etc. I wanted to title this “Ways to Bless My Kids” because they are simple ways to show our sweet kiddos that we love and care for them and want to be together with them – one of the greatest means of blessing their little souls, as they just want to be with us. I printed out this list and taped it to my refrigerator, so that each day my kids could pick out a special activity to do with mommy for that day. We just pick one a day and it takes less than 15 minutes usually, but it brings such delight to their sweet little faces.

Sing and/or act out a favorite book (going on a bear hunt, wheels on the bus, etc)
Take a walk with just one child
Look at old photos and tell stories (especially when mommy and daddy were growing up)
Have a tea party
Paint fingernails (keep some safe natural fingernail polish on hand)
Build a fort (gather all the pillows and excess blankets around your house and make a fun fort – hours of fun! Snuggle up inside and read stories together)
Read stories in a creative place (let them pick a new special spot – under a tree, in the car, under the table, etc)
Give a massage (get out some lotion and massage them all over while you sing a favorite song)
Dance together to music – do fingerplays to music (the Wee Sing Fingerplay CD is wonderful for this)
Cook something special in the kitchen together (Get a fun children’s cookbook to have on hand for them to pick out something special to make. Share it with a neighbor or friend as a way to bless others together.)
Have a tickling fest or pillow fight
Make food art with a snack 
Color together (Get out the coloring books and crayons and make some beautiful creations!)
Do an art project
Get outside and find something new in nature to explore
(tons of fun simple ideas for outdoor fun and exploration in – 15 Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Outside and Connect with Your Kids)
Build an obstacle course 

Let them pick one of these activities every day and enjoy every minute of it! And remember the simple things can bring the greatest blessings: stopping and giving them a hug and kiss multiple times throughout the day, or just giving them your full attention when they want to tell you something.

What other simple ideas can you add to my list?

Comments { 20 }

Summer Bucket List – Family Fun for All Seasons

What fun activities do you have planned for the Summer? This week I made a list of family fun activities we could do throughout the upcoming summer months and jotted tentative dates on the calendar for each of these events. Things will likely come up and we will adjust as necessary, but making a simple plan will help encourage and guide us to more intentional moments of investing in our family in the warm days ahead. We like to include specific service opportunities to our list that will encourage us to reach out and bless those around us. I also found this wonderful resource offered by a church in Texas, for helping create intentional family activities and Biblical discussions with your kids. I added many of the ideas to our plans:

Check out the Village Church’s free Summer Family Fun Activity Book for some great ideas for intentional family living this summer.

Comments { 6 }

Homemade Healthy Mayo with a Stick Blender in 10 Seconds

I received a stick immersion blender for Mother’s Day this year…and I have certainly been thrilled with the performance of this little machine. I have made guacamole, mayonniase, baby food, pureed soups right in the pot, deviled eggs, and numerous other food items and it has been a huge time saver with fantastic smooth results. This tool retails for approximately $30. I have tried making homemade mayonnaise in my regular blender several times over the years in my pursuit of using more natural home prepared ingredients, and never had the best results. It sure never got really fluffy and took forever to gradually pour the oils in drip by drip as most recipes required. I was stunned when I made mayonnaise in just 10 seconds with my hand blender. Yes…10 seconds.

This recipe is pretty flexible to use whatever oils you desire. For the nutritional benefits, I chose to use 1/2 olive oil plus another oil. Olive oil alone results in a pretty bitter mayo. But coconut oil alone will give you a very solid product in the fridge once it cools completely. I liked 1/2 olive oil and 1/2 coconut oil, but it still got solid over time in the fridge. So our current favorite is 1/4 cup olive oil and 3/4 cup grapeseed or sunflower oil for the mildest flavor. It also does not get so solid with these oils. It is easily adaptable to your preferences.

Ingredients:

1 egg yolk (we use local farm fresh pastured eggs)
3-5 teaspoons white vinegar
1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1-4 teaspoons sugar, optional (we used xylitol)
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 cup olive oil (cold pressed) or coconut oil, melted
3/4 cup grapeseed, or sunflower oil

  1. Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature. Break egg yolk into the bottom of the hand blender jar that comes with your stick blender (or a container that is just wide enough to let the blender pass through – a wide mouth mason jar would work as well).
  2. Add all the other ingredients except oil on top of the egg.
  3. Carefully pour 1 cup oil on top of all the ingredients in the bottom of the jar.
  4. Put mixing blades of hand blender (turned off) flat at the bottom of the jar over the egg yolk, pressing down over the egg yolk.
  5. Turn the blender on high and blend for 5 seconds, holding it in place at the bottom of the jar. Gradually pull the blender up to the top of the jar over an additional 5 second period. Turn off blender. You will then have beautiful fluffy mayonnaise.

Yield: 1 1/4 cup

Caution: Learn from my mistake and make sure to unplug your stick blender before cleaning out the excess ingredients that collect inside the blades. Yes, I lost my finger nail this week in this manner. ;) It wasn’t a pleasant experience. I make silly mistakes just like any other homemaker…

Comments { 50 }

The Blessing of My Husband

My husband and I celebrated six years of marriage this week.

It has been a beautiful and yet stretching six years. Three adorable babies. Two homes, a new business, started a blog (which very rapidly become a family ministry since my hubby is web manager and my biggest cheer leader!), my husband became worship director and deacon in our church, and so much more. I have been blessed to enjoy the trials and joys of life along side my very best friend.

I am so thankful for my husband.

This man that I am privileged to serve the Lord alongside is passionate about serving others. He loves playing with his kids and leading them in family devotions so patiently and graciously even when they are wiggly and struggle sitting still. He prays for them many a night before bed time, singing the Doxology over them as he kisses them goodnight. He takes them on walks regularly one on one to be able to invest quality time with them. He plays wrestling games, builds forts, and reads stories to them inside. He faithfully takes me on dates every other week and gives me multiple hugs, kisses, and “I love you’s” throughout every passing day. He loves opening our home in hospitality and can make a mean hamburger or steak on the barbecue. He’s supportive of all my crazy new adventures in the kitchen and around our house. He keeps my blog going and solves every problem. He is the most committed husband imaginable. I am confident in my heart that he would die before ever leaving me. And all of this amidst working 12+ hour days. But to be perfectly honest…many of these practices have only started in the last six months, since God started changing my own heart from focusing on demanding to be served to serving.

I’ll be the first to tell you he’s not perfect. He has a tendency to leave his clothes everywhere. He rarely makes it to the dinner table on time. He’s likely never vacuumed a floor or cleaned a toilet in our home since the day we were married. He is a bit infrequent on buying me flowers or sending me a mushy love note. His love for computers and technology leads to splurges on all sorts of little gadgets. These are the little things that used to drive me crazy. These were the little annoyances that would easily build a wall of bitterness in my heart. It would build up over time only to come out in a truckload of tears and desperation that got me nowhere. It all depends upon what you choose to focus on.

When my husband first quit his job earlier this year and started on this new business endeavor I fought tooth and nail against his commitment to work overtime, nights and weekends to get the business launched. I wanted “our” time together. I pressed and nagged him on the importance of balancing his priorities. I honestly was often teary eyed as he went off to his office. Ultimately, I did not support him very well. And I could sense very quickly the impact this made on him. He was more gloomy, discouraged, and depressed as a result. He pulled back rather than pressed into our relationship.

It was when God graciously opened my eyes to see the beautiful potential that a woman has to influence her husband to accomplish great things for God, and when I learned that I had the power in my hand to build him up or tear him down, that I began to see things differently. A wife can be the greatest good or the greatest destruction to her man. Her nagging and discontentment can be the ruin of any marriage. I needed to focus on changing my own heart first rather than focusing on all his shortcomings. I needed to start taking my eyes off of what he was not doing and start thanking him for all that he was doing.

When I started seeking to serve my hubby instead of demanding to be served, that God has transformed our marriage into the most glorious of unions. It was when I started getting creative every week in thinking of some way to bless him through a love note, text message, word of encouragement, or small act of service instead of just waiting for him to express it to me, that our love has blossomed and deepened in greater ways then I would have ever imagined. I wiped down his BBQ one week, or washed his car another, or simply brought in the trash cans from the curb on another day. I bought some special new sexy undergarments, or his favorite candy bar or snack. He is easy to serve. He’s not picky. Most guys aren’t. I don’t have any excuse not to show this man that he means the world to me. I’m reminded of the bible verse…”Where your treasure is…there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21) It applies to marriage just as much as to money. If I invest my time and energy into this man, my heart will follow…and the love and sparks will stay alive!

When I started expressing my thankfulness for every simple thing he did to contribute, for the small things of simply taking out the trash, watching the kids for an hour or two while I did errands, or praising him for the hard work he was doing on the lawn, that he has started to take more initiative to get involved in our family in ways I never dreamed possible (as described above). He started initiating in leading family devotions, and praying over the kiddos before bedtime.

I’d watch him tending the lawn, and get frustrated that he was spending too much time out there instead of being with his family. Then the light came on…this is therapeutic for him. He finds it restful. It gives him a little more exercise and fresh air. Why not get out there with him? I am not a fan of gardening, but I could tell my husband really did desire our lawn to look nice, so I decided to get out and get dirty. I started weeding and getting my hands dirty. And you know what? I’m really enjoying it and my hubby is quite proud of my work…especially when visitors take notice. ;)

I love this man more deeply than words can express. And you know what…this week he surprised me with my favorite chai beverage concentrate and a bouquet of my favorite lilies. He has been starting to express his appreciation more faithfully for all the little things I do. I think it’s working. ;)

I’m married to a steady man, cautious, thoughtful, smart, servant-hearted. He may not become a CEO, president, or great philosopher or teacher…but he is the head of our home and he does an incredible job being there to lead and love me when I step back and encourage him in his manliness and leadership. He still has all the shortcomings I mentioned above, but I’m learning to see that picking up his clothes after him is one little way that I can serve him, one little way to be his helpmeet.

I’m praising God for my man. He loves me just the way I am. He doesn’t care that three pregnancies has taken its toll on my physical body. He actually thinks they make me more beautiful.

How can you thank the Lord for your hubby today? How can you express thankfulness to your man in a practical way this week? Make a list of 10 things you admire about your husband (or those 10 things you loved about him before you got married) and use it as a reference point every time you get frustrated. It’s never too late. Get down on your knees. Pray for grace and creativity to love your man. Sure…he’s undeserving. But so are we. You and I are desperately undeserving of the beautiful grace and forgiveness that Jesus Christ purchased on our behalf on the cross. Let’s embrace it and let God shine beautifully through our marriages as we seek to show love and affirm the man that God has given us.

I’m looking forward to many more years to come…

Photos taken by my lovely sister, Christa Taylor. If you live in the Portland metro area and you are in need of some photography services, please check her out!
Comments { 92 }

The Woman Next Door {On Building Community}

Photo Source

Written by contributing writer, Trina Holden.

Do you know the woman next door? Or the one across the street?

Chances are, she’s not much like you. Statistics predict she’s not a stay-at-home mom, and doesn’t have more than 2 children–if she is a mother at all. She may not cook like you, dress like you, or read the same books. And she might not even go to church.

So, why would you want to have anything to do with her?

Because we’re called to love our neighbor and we were created for community.

We as believers all-too-often gravitate towards those who are like us, thinking that the more we have in common, the stronger will be the community we enjoy. While compatibility is a significant factor in relationships, I feel we overlook another key factor:

You live on the same street. And that, sisters, is a connection that is often missed in the face of all that makes us different. Yet that one commonality—physical proximity—is another huge factor in building a relationship, and has been the foundation of many life-long friendships.

It was when we left our first home and the trailer park we’d lived in for 3 years that I became convicted that I had not been a good steward of the relationships that had—literally—been right in my backyard. Part of my delinquency was due to the natural inward focus of that first season of marriage, but I also knew I had let differences in lifestyles keep me from reaching out and building relationship with my neighbors.

At our new home, I resolved to be more faithful to God’s commission by His grace. To step out of my comfort zone, to put forth a little effort, and see what would happen when I chose to love my neighbor. We started by hosting an open house that first fall. I made a huge pot of chili, several trays of cornbread, and we had a bonfire and music and invited everybody we knew—including the family that had just moved in across the street from us. In this group setting we enjoyed our first casual conversations with our new neighbors, and watching them walk back over the street to go home, I thought what fun it could be to have a friend who lived that close.

So, I reached out again. First just a hello across the road when we fetched the mail or were both doing yard work. Then a play date with our kids. Then dessert as families when the strawberries were ripe. For the first time in my life, I was experiencing what it was like to have a neighbor. And I liked it.

There’s something about being able to run down the driveway to borrow an egg, or sympathize over the heat wave or have someone near when the weather’s too bad to go anywhere. Opportunities to fellowship are right out the front door, instead of an hour’s drive.

And while reaching out and being willing to deepen the relationship, I discovered that, though she and I were raised differently and our lifestyles were not exactly the same, we did have other things in common–she was a believer! And we both desired to be a better wife, more loving mom, and to grow in our faith.

So, we started a Bible study together. Three or four times a month, while my kids were sleeping and hers were in school, we opened our Bibles, read a few verses and prayed and asked the Lord to speak to us. Despite our differences, the Lord had brought us together, bonded us, and revealed to me the joy He planned when He told us to ‘love our neighbor’.

Lately I’ve been inspired to explore new levels of community that await at the end of my own driveway, and to encourage you to see what relationships God may have called you to in your own neighborhood. God designed us for community, but it won’t happen unless we invest ourselves.  And perhaps, while celebrating what we do have in common—the same street, weather, and postman—we’ll have opportunity to share our love, our hope, and the God that can change lives.

Little {and Big!} Ideas for Investing in Your Neighborhood Community:

  • Time your afternoon walk for when kids are getting home from school or parents get home from work so you can say hello
  • Share extra produce from your garden with a basket or cooler at the end of the driveway
  • Organize a neighborhood garage sale
  • Initiate a book study
  • Plan a play date in the backyard
  • Invite the locals for a bonfire or seasonal summer dessert
  • Plan a family movie night
  • Find your neighbors on facebook and begin the connection in the non-threatening meeting-place of social media
  • Make friends with the kids first–make your yard the fun, hang-out place
  • Send a personal note on a holiday or just to say hi

How have you been able to reach out to your neighbors? What has worked for you? What challenges or successes have you experienced? How do you foster community in a more rural setting? In the City? I’m still new at this and would love to hear what you’ve done! Please share in the comments!

Comments { 42 }