Category Archives: God Provides

John 15 is for Mamas

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John 15 is for Mamas

John 15 is for Mamas (and everyone, really, but Mamas, take heart.)

I was thinking this morning, admittedly envious, of my sister’s ability to enjoy Israel for Christmas, for New Years. Amazing pictures are coming back of her fantastic exploits. Digging in cisterns to find preserved tiles and pottery that have laid like hidden treasure for millenia. Rings, of untold ancient beauty that were unearthed, tried on, enjoyed, and then handed over, like the treasures they are, to be shared with all.

I have to admit to suffering from the green monster of jealousy at times, seeing my sister’s “carefree life”. She is 32, single, and has enjoyed a bit of freedom and financial security, and a stable career. She is not held down by a husband whom she must please, or children she must care for. She has the ability to serve in a variety of ways in her church and community, and has been the enthusiastic participant of many ministry endeavors, from missions trips to playing piano faithfully in her church, to sponsoring needy children, and taking jaunts around the world periodically. From my standpoint the grass is periodically greener, although she will tell you, her life is not without its own difficulties, and struggles.

In stark contrast, I am at home. Changing diapers. Wiping noses. solving bickering, tattling, and finding lost toys. The excitement of my life pretty much is a mastered recipe, or bundling up in 30 seconds or less to help my husband get his car out of a ditch JUST in time for him to make it to work for 5:30am.  Yes. I live on the… ahem. WILD SIDE.  I am just THAT exciting.
And yes, I chose this. Eyes wide open. I had a chance to have “it all” a career, a husband, children, school. Having it all was having nothing, really. I was unhappy trying to have both things, Motherhood, AND what my sister has. Stretched in so many directions. Unable to enjoy or really throw myself into anything, because no matter which I was doing at the moment (Mom, wife, career, school) I was always wishing I could do another.

So, I felt jealous. How come she gets to have all of the fun, do all of the travel, and I’m ordained by God to wipe noses? I felt a bit defeated. I will NEVER travel, will I? *panic* I’ll die having only seen a package of WIPES, and a smelly diaper pail! My longest travel will be the 5 miles I drive to babysit my nephews! My most exciting adventure will be shattering a hip trying to sled with the kids in the backyard!
But this popped into my head:
“Greater love has no man than this, than that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

John 15 isn’t just about Jesus discussing his future. He is giving us a command. To follow his example and lay our lives down. God has called me to lay down my life for my family. That, in my case, means giving up on many things I once thought I would have. Things I still want sometimes. My sacrifice is nowhere near as dear as Christ’s, but, meagre as it is, it is an honor to sacrifice this life to teach my children about him.

Mamas, John 15 is for YOU. Read it, the WHOLE thing, and think about what God has called you to do? How God has called you to love.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
This is NOT something we’ve been told to go and do alone, God has provided us with the victory in Christ to do what we would not, could not do alone!
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:8-11)
That our joy may be FULL! We have full joy in doing what God has planned for our lives! And I DO have full joy in my children. Why do I feel discontent? Because I’ve allowed myself to think that if only *I* could plan my life, I could come up with something better than what God has ordained for me.
But I’m wrong.
Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” (Proverbs
3:3-8)

Mamas, as you lay down your life for your children daily, remember where God has placed you is important Kingdom work. What we do has generational and eternal significance. I am working to obey God in shaping the next generations of my family. God has placed me in a job where I must proclaim the gospel daily. What I do may impact how my grandchildren are raised, and if my great grandchildren are working to advance the Kingdom. Though it may seem mundane, it is these ordinary things that shape my children’s knowledge of God. Charles Spurgeon said:
“Yet I cannot tell how much I owe to the solemn words of my good mother. It was the custom, on Sunday evenings, while we were yet little children, for her to stay at home with us, and then we sat round the table, and read verse by verse, and she explained the Scripture to us. After that was done, then came the time of pleading; there was a little piece of Alleine’s Alarm, or of Baxter’s Call to the Unconverted, and this was read with pointed observations made to each of us as we sat round the table; and the question was asked, how long it would be before we would think about our state, how long before we would seek the Lord. Then came a mother’s prayer, and some of the words of that prayer we shall never forget, even when our hair is grey. I remember, on one occasion, her praying thus: “Now, Lord, if my children go on in their sins, it will not be from ignorance that they perish, and my soul must bear a swift witness against them at the day of judgment if they lay not hold of Christ.”

Take heart Mamas, in laying down your life for your children, what you are doing, although it seems like lowly hard work, you are doing something precious, vastly important, and lasting. Soldier on Mama.

And as for my sister, I will endeavor to enjoy her exploits with contentment in the ones God has given me, and to rejoice with her as she enjoys the one that God has given her.
And I shall hope, that when the hard dirty work of these early years is done, that I will be blessed with many new ways to serve God.  I will remember the example of women before me who served without expectation of returns, or adventures, but laying down their lives selflessly for their children in imitation of our great Savior.

God Bless Mamas. May he keep you, and hold you up as you go about the difficult work of Motherhood.

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An Announcement!

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An Announcement!

I was completely overwhelmed by the response for the Reformation Day Coloring Book Printable. I have to admit to being so overwhelmed I haven’t posted since, mostly because, how DO you follow that up? So many people downloaded it, and I did NOT expect that!  I was honored and completely blown away.
But today I saw something on another blog, a free unit study, that got my juices flowing! It wasn’t at all related to the subject matter I am considering tackling, but it occurred to me, that printable pages aren’t the only thing I can share with you! I can share a lot of the things my children and I do! Hopefully you find it as useful/fun as we do!

Thanksgiving tends to center around one week, and is mostly tangible activities, baking pies, cooking foods, gathering to thank God, and enjoy one another’s company. It is such a family centered Holiday, that most of the reading/writing etc that my children do is directly recipe related. I tend to drop my computer around this time. I won’t be doing any online activities for Thanksgiving, not because it isn’t a big Holiday in our home, (it IS!) but because we don’t do that kind of celebrating around here. Thanksgiving is about relating, praying, thanking. It isn’t about coloring, reading, etc. I enjoy it best working, using a rolling pin, mixing a batter, tasting something together, wiping flour covered cupboards down in a rush before the guests come! Then, the coma in an armchair, snuggling and napping. Thanksgiving is quiet reflection in the rewards of hard work, and the blessings God provides in that medium.

Christmas on the other hand… It is a WHOLE month around here! We celebrate it from the time we get up on Black Friday until sometime late January! Ok… more than a month? But we don’t do the shopping, the lists, etc. We try to center it around 2 things, Christ, and showing love to one another. We try to do activities that benefit those around us. (Food drives, donating clothing, etc.) We spend a large amount of time painting, sewing, baking, making gifts for one another. There is a lot of quiet down time with a cup of tea or cocoa in hand. Plenty of time to color and relax in between the parties, and singing, and time just to sit around the fire together, feeling warm. Coloring, now that happens during this season!
So without further ado, I announce that I am going to make a free Advent Printable! We like our Christmas to be Christ Centered, and I am often dismayed by the amount of Santa and gift centric coloring books that are all over the place. I want my children to focus on the most important part of the season. Jesus.

I have many fond memories of when I was a child, and my parents had similar goals in celebrating Christmas. My Mother had us memorize Luke 2. Every Christmas morning, we would gather around the nativity, and recite it together, each of us (there were 6!) taking on a particular character, or group of characters, and reciting that precious passage of scripture and acting it out. MANY fond memories center around this tradition.


So this printable will have the goal of within one month (during Advent), teaching your child how to memorize a large passage, such as Luke 2. It will be geared to the younger group as well, ages 2-7. There may be optional activities for Moms to use. I am not sure how this will be posted, my thought it is may be posted one day at a time, or one week at a time, so you can print out a week ahead of time, and plan on having the materials for the activities on hand. Many of the activities will contain a measure of my own childhood memories, and what I wish to pass on to my children.

Let me know if you’d be interested in this activity, and how you’d prefer to see it made available to you. I will be making it anyway, even if there is no feedback, if only for my children. I am not crazy about candy centered Advent calenders, or a series of unrelated and non-chronological scripture readings. I want to make something that will give them a lifetime of perspective on Christmas. Something they will carry forever. Luke 2 is an excellent way to do that.  I will never forget the memories, year after year, of reciting that passage.

Teaching The Gospel to My Children: Part 3

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Teaching The Gospel to My Children: Part 3

Missed the first 2 posts? Check them out here: Part 1, and here, Part 2.

One of the hardest things about teaching your children the gospel is that, unlike an adult who has never heard of Christ, they don’t always have that “Ah HA!” Lightbulb moment where the gospel makes all kinds of sense, and they just respond then and THERE!
Mostly it is a slow and laborious process where we teach it to them over and over and over and OVER again. It begins with us understanding their sin nature, and more importantly, that they understand their own sin nature. It is harder to tell a 2 year old who is in a state of 24/7 denial, that they are sinners, than it is to tell a remorseful 5 year old, who has only recently discovered that their actions have consequences. Often, difficult, and heartbreaking ones.

But we never know when their heart is tender, so we must preach the gospel to them

Every.

Single.

Day.

But how can we do this? At one point I thought “My kids will get tired of me beginning each morning with a recitation of Bible stuff they need to know.”
It isn’t as literal as all that. Best time to teach the gospel to your child? When their heart is soft, and their conscience is pricked, and if your children are as inherently sinful as mine, it will happen daily. At least. Not to say that every child is sorry every time they take their sister’s cookie, but that, in a moment, with the proper instruction, they will be sorry. And not in a mean “YOU’LL be SORRY!” kind of way either.
Here, let me tell you a story.
My daughter, Emma, is a sweet little girl. She loves others with a deep heartfelt kind of love. She is unique in every way, and the way she looks at the world is, well, different, but it is exactly what makes her so special and lovable. One Sunday, when she was particularly happy to be attending church, we sat in our pew, and the service commenced as normal. We sang together, she colored on her bulletin, and the children’s service was lovely. As soon as the children re-entered our pew, to settle in for the sermon, there was a scuffle over something tiny. I forget what, probably a patch of neutral pew that had a… ahem… territory dispute? Emma was upset, so she asked to move. I let her move. She sat next to Sarah, when another dispute arose. She asked to sit with Daddy, and I promptly moved her. Within 30 seconds, she was crying, loudly, to sit with Sarah again. At 5, she understands to be quiet, calm, and respectful during church. I took this moment to remind her that she is expected to, and often does a fine job of, sitting beautifully, coloring quietly. Today, She did not.
“I WANT to sit with SARAH. NOW!”
I told her to calm down, and just sit beside Daddy, the sermon was beginning, and handed her her coloring materials. This would not do. A hiss arose from beside me:
“NO. I will NOT sit here! I want SARAH!”
Uh oh. A no had escaped her lips. I will calmly deal with many things, but when my children say no to a direct instruction that is not only understandable, and normal, but within the scripture’s scope (think of others as higher than yourself = be quiet in church, please.  Or: Be gracious in your speech= do not hiss at Mom.) all bets are off.
I informed Emma, this would not do, and we left the service.

It wasn’t calm, pleasant, or easy. She cried, and cried some more, about how she wanted to sit with Sarah. She yelled at me, she hissed at me, she said some not very nice things. But we sat, in the van, while I nursed Isaiah. After a long time, must’ve been only 10 minutes, but it seemed an eternity, she began to calm down.  She was still crying, that she hadn’t gotten her way, but she was beginning to see that she had done wrong.
“Emma, what did you do, that I had to leave the service with you?”
“I was being loud. And I disobeyed you. I was bad.”
Tender heart. Tender soul.
Cue the gospel. The tender heart is there, the remorse is there. Repentance is a real, tangible thing in this moment.
This was my springboard. In the 5 minutes we had left, my sad, remorseful little girl had a firsthand lesson on unconditional love, sin as separation from God, repentance and what it means, and how Jesus can wash away our sin, because of God’s plan.
This can be as simple, or as elaborate as your child needs, but the simplest terms, for the littlest ones are this:

  1. You did wrong. (You took your brother’s toy, stealing is wrong.)
  2. Are you sorry?
  3. Then say you are sorry. (To God first for breaking his law. Then to your brother, and I)
  4. Jesus took your eternal punishment. (God is not angry with you anymore,  because Jesus died on the cross to pay for stealing.)
  5. God forgives you, and he loves you even more than Mommy does. He can change your heart, if you believe that Jesus died and rose again to “win” against sin.

I know, simple, but every time your child disobeys, is a perfect time to bring them straight to God. The first offense is not against me for disobedience of house rules (stealing) Or even their brother for stealing. Their first offense is to a holy God, who hates sin, and justly, must discipline us for sinning.

Bring them straight to his feet to apologize there first. When they are at ease with their conscience, then to you, and then their sibling.

Teaching them the gospel is a 4 step process. 1. Sin separates me from God,  2. I know MY sin is deserving of God’s anger. 3. God has a way to forgive me. (Jesus) 4. I need to ask for his help, and believe (have faith) he can, and will change my heart.

But how do I know my child is saved? Well. You don’t. Hard to hear, but I can’t tell you how many times my children have walked through this with me. I figure, I will know they are saved when their behavior begins changing to reflect a change in their heart. When the Holy Spirit works in there, and it is clear to them, without my prompting, that they cannot earn salvation on their own, but that it is a gift of grace, through faith. Meanwhile, my job is to teach them: Sin separates, God loves, Jesus died and rose again, to “win”, we must repent, and believe.

Most importantly, we must model the gospel for them. Pray with them, Pray for them, show them your response to God and the gospel. Every. Single. Day.

Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, I don’t even play one on TV, check what I’ve said here against God’s Word. Go with God’s word, every time. It is right when I am wrong. And if you find scripture that conflicts with what I’ve written here, please share.

How to Maintain Sanity in the Midst of Motherhood

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How to Maintain Sanity in the Midst of Motherhood

Disclaimer:
I am far from perfect. I mean, I can barely keep myself from pilfering my kid’s chocolate stashes, and even then, a piece or two goes missing on my most stressful days. Anything I write here is first written because I NEEDED to find out how scripture addresses my shortcomings. So here is a glimpse of my dirty laundry.  This isn’t a matter of me peering into your junk closet, so much as it is an airing out of mine.

Photo credit: Leann Sacks

Photo credit: Leann Sacks

So before I even begin listing ways to keep yourself from going batty, I have to say the number one way to maintain sanity in the midst of Motherhood is to get in God’s Word.
I often think if I can just talk to someone over 3 ft. tall, I could have a little sanity rub off on me. Or if I could just get a run in, I could regain some sanity.Sadly, it doesn’t work that way. More often than not I am disappointed. I need something to talk about with another grown up, and frankly, they’re not all that into how many diapers I can change one handed while pouring milk and solving a math problem. Running does me no good if I have nothing to think about. A blank mind drives me even more crazy! First and foremost, sanity begins with wisdom, and wisdom comes by hearing the Word of God. So before you try any of these *tricks* Get a little time to read, listen to, or reflect on God’s Word. It is the one way I often forget, but most need to get some sanity when I’m ready to lose a marble, or 12.

  1. Clean something. Half the time the reason I’m unhinged is because the mess without is contributing to the mess within. Start at your feet, as my Mom says, you will be surprised how quickly a determined attitude, a large trash bag, and a tote of clorox wipes can make it a LOT better!
  2. Take the kids for a walk. A little sunshine never hurt anybody, and this is a free, and easy way to get out of your house, and your head! Plus it is a good relationship builder if your kids are driving you NUTS.
  3. Lower your expectations. Being a perfectionist doesn’t make you more perfect, only more stressed. Check your expectations first with scripture, then with reality. Ex: My children are overly energetic, and I’m tired and headachey. Scriptural expectation: obedience. My expectation: absolute quiet. So where should I fall on this? Perhaps giving them an instruction that allows for quieter activities, and expects obedience. I can’t expect them to sit, hands folded, absolutely still until I’m satisfied. I’ll get a bigger headache just trying to maintain an impossible standard of behavior. I *can* expect them to eat a snack together, read or color, and find a quiet activity if those don’t suit them.
  4. Work first, play later. I know, the last thing you want to do when you are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and insane, is work. But I think better, feel better, AM better when I’ve got my work done. Sitting down and selfishly goofing off while obsessing about all the work I HAVE to do only stresses me out more. Don’t procrastinate. DO. You’ll cherish your free time much more!
  5. Pamper yourself, just a smidge. This is not a blank check for selfishness, just a reminder that a little bit of niceness goes a long way. When I want to pamper myself, I plug in my fragrance plug. The sweet spicy scents that I like help me to focus, calm down, and move on. Doesn’t hurt either when my house smells awful, like children gone wild.
  6. Ambiance.  Make your home a HOME. Pop something easy, sweet, warm and spicy in the oven, and something warm and savory in the crock pot. My favorites are Beef Stew and Apple Crisp. Both are easy, and take 10 minutes prep, tops. Beyond that, put on some soothing music, and have a cup of tea.
  7. Manage your emotions, Mama! Angry? I used to play music to suit my mood, but I found that angry music only feeds my selfish anger.  “A soft answer turns away wrath.” If you are angry, don’t sin in your anger. Take a moment, why are you angry? Is it because the kids forgot to flush the toilet AGAIN? Count to ten, breathe, quote a Proverb, (Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.) and then call a family meeting to address the issue. There. Done. Manage your emotions. Don’t let them control you, because by giving them free rein, you are allowing yourself to be deceived. “The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked.” This only leads to more sin, which will, naturally, destroy peace and joy in your home.
  8. BREATHE! “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”  Take a minute before you act in anger, frustration, or whatever else. Don’t plod on into a bad situation you know is only going to get worse. Ex: I was tempted to lose it when I found out the girls slathered glue all over the playroom in the five minutes it took me to put Isaiah down for a nap. I looked, confiscated the rest of the glue, and walked away. I took the girls up to the bathroom, calmly cleaned them up, and went back to washing dishes, as I had been prior to nap. Once I was cool, calm, and collected, I peeled the dry glue off of the plastic surfaces, and told the girls the new glue rules. I didn’t tell them the new glue hiding place though. That is my secret to keep! There. Unpleasant frustration sidestepped. Breathe Mama!
  9. Be Busy/Get Bored. Whatever you have too much of, balance it! We’ve found a nice happy medium (until the next crisis comes along.) We have a few ministries we’re involved in that suit our family budget, schedule, and schooling goals. We also leave days where we can chill, explore books, backyard, garden, and just BE. Just say no if you are overstretched. Nobody is going to think you are SuperMom if you do everything. And nobody is going to think you are SuperMom if you don’t do everything. Your responsibility isn’t to impress the world, but to love your husband, love your children, keep your home. (Titus 2) DO that, and nothing more, and nothing less. If it doesn’t fit into that ministry (and really, that is a LOT of leeway!) don’t do it.
    Example: We’ve found meals ministry to be easy, fun, and helpful. The children enjoy making the meal for another family in need. We’ve also found a local ministry that we count as a school day, it involves a morning outside in the sun, harvesting food, enjoying nature, and then a park/play time afterward with the other homeschooling families we’ve met there while ministering.
  10. Last but not least: PRAY. Pray without ceasing. Rejoice Evermore. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

There you have it! May you remain sane through all the spaghetti flinging, broken china, tough spelling lessons, transitionary moments, sibling rivalries, and remember that our strength is in the Lord, maker of Heaven and Earth.

Is Canning Cost Effective?

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2 years ago I was terrified to do canning. I thought it would be expensive, difficult, and that it would not be something I could do with 3 children under the age of 5 in tow. I managed.  But was it expensive? Is it cost effective? The answer is: no. Not conventionally, but my husband has a knack of making ANYTHING cost effective! Here are some of the ways we’ve made canning cost effective in our home:

  1. Never Buy Full Price.  First rule of all penny pinchers! We found a variety of ways to do this:
    Buy in bulk. Grocery stores are not the place to buy your produce, if you want to be cost effective. We buy ours at the produce auction, in bulk. (Last haul was $35 for 200lbs of produce, mostly peaches, nectarines, with some tomatoes, and green beans thrown in.)
    Work hard. Growing your own produce is another way to cut costs. Also, swap with friends, family, or neighbors. I cannot begin to count how many times we got free plants, or swapped produce with someone who had a prolific tomato plant. My husband has an arrangement with his Brother. Allen’s brother and his wife have 2 apple trees. They don’t want to harvest the whole lot every year. So Allen picks the apples, his brother’s wife picks out the ones she wants, and Allen brings the rest home. Didn’t cost a cent, but it did cost some work. The apples pictured are only SOME of what he brought home. I’d already made roughly 12 pints of apple butter and apple sauce.
    Shop around. Don’t just go to Wal Mart to get your canning supplies. Allen found out the Dollar General near our home was cheaper. This way we saved on gas AND canning supplies. Double win! Remember that your jars and rings are reusable. The first year might seem like quite an expense, but every year after, all you really need to buy are the lids, and those run $2-$3 for 12.
    Buy used. Allen found me two water bath canners for a song at an auction. Yes, they were used, but who cares? Its only water. Be careful though about buying used jars. Check for nicks, scratches, and imperfections in the glass, it could end up costing you in produce later, if the jar bursts in the canning bath.
  2. Skip the gadgets, doo dads, and tools. All you really need are the jars, the water bath canner,
    22240

    Apple Peeler, Corer, Slicer

    rack, a jar lifter, a knife/peeler and a few bowls and pots for cooking. In my experience the gadgets don’t ever work as well as you think they do, or process as fast as you think they will. They’re fun the first couple of gos, or can be good when your hands need a little bit of a break, but nothing can replace a knowledgeable person on the business end of a knife. It is faster for me to core, peel, and slice apples myself than to use this gadget. (pictured)

  3. Be humble. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people up their calculation of the “cost” of canning by factoring in time spent. How much is your time worth? My time is worth whatever I want it to be worth, and it is worth it to me to have low sugar preservative free foods for my children to eat.
  4. Consider your habits. Do you only eat canned veggies? Or canned tomatoes? Those are cheap at the store, and so it might not be a better option to can them yourself, if that is all your family eats. But there is the other group of items to consider, do you eat a lot of pie filling? Canned fruit? Pickled items? Jams and Jellies? It may be more worth your while to can if your pantry is usually full of these more expensive items.
  5. Limit your expensive ingredients. It does not cost much to buy the produce, if you are careful about where, when, and how you buy/get it. But you can spend a lot on things like pectin or sugar. Try to make sugar free applesauce with apples, Don’t do a ton of Apple Butter or Pie Filling, if the cost will be prohibitive. Also, buy bottled lemon juice. It goes farther than the lemons themselves, and makes for a more stable acidity content. You know what you’re getting, and it costs less.
  6. Do big batches. It takes a LOT of energy to heat up the water bath canner. Try to manage your canning so that electric and energy is not wasted.

I’ll be honest, canning isn’t all roses and Unicorns. Some downsides of canning:

  1. You’ll have no life. It really takes up a lot of time and energy to can. I spend most of that time on the couch, peeling apples, peaches, or whatever else. Helps me not to be bored, plus it is nice time with my kids, watching their favorite Disney movies together.
  2. Your house will be a wreck. Canning is messy. It makes a lot of dishes, and you have no time to do much more than take a few minutes to swish some clorox in the toilet, tidy the house a bit, and hope nobody comes over to see you, in your sweatpants, hair slapped back in a hair tie, and covered in apple sauce.
  3. You don’t come out unscathed. Nicks, burns, and blisters, Oh My! If you are like me, you’ll sustain an injury, or eight.
  4. Your muscles will be angry… Believe it or not, canning requires massive amounts of fine motor skills, and large motor skills. You’ll have achy muscles from head to toe, despite the fact that most of your canning hours will have been spent on your bum, peeling stuff.
  5. Your house will be a myriad of smells. From fabulous (Apple Pie Filling!) To dreadful (Apple pie filling mixed with pickled jalepenos? Ew.)

Canning is mostly a lot of hard work. So the question is, is it worth the work involved? If not, then it will never be any kind of effective, cost or otherwise. It takes a lot of time and effort to peel, cook, clean dishes, etc. If you are up for all the elbow grease required, then happy canning!

Repurposing… With a Twist!

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Repurposing is quite the buzz word these days. For a couple of reasons, I think. The current state of the economy is forcing many families to do more with less. So we repurpose all sorts of things we have, but do not use for their original purposes. A bookshelf as a shoe rack. An old sewing table for an end table. An entertainment center for a kid’s play kitchen… etc. We’re learning the value of working with what we’ve had, because even in our state of need, we are still very blessed.

So today, I’m going to tell you about repurposing… with a twist.
Ready?

Repurposing Food.
Sounds like a waste, or gross, or something like that, but it can be an oh so tasty way of not allowing food to spoil in your fridge when the price of groceries is skyrocketing higher and higher and higher!

Repurposing no. 1- Taco Meat to Chili

Tacos. Yum. For tacos you might eat: Shredded Taco Pork, Chips, tortillas, cheese, tomatoes, salsa, etc. In our house, we LOVE tacos! But so we don’t get tired of them, I take all the ingredients the next day, toss them in the crock pot with a bunch of kidney beans and some tomato paste and Voila! Chili! It is delicious, uses up the rest of the ingredients, and doesn’t overplay the leftovers!
Recipe for Taco Meat Chili
Ingredients:
Taco meat (whatever you got, this is more for flavor than weight.)
1 can of tomato paste
1-2 diced fresh tomatoes (Whatever you have leftover from tacos!)
3-5 cans of kidney beans, depending on your crock pot size.
Leftover Salsa, whatever is left in the jar, 1/2 or 1/4 of the jar. The more you use, the more kick and flavor it will provide, and the less optional ingredients you will need. If you’ve got enough salsa, you won’t need/want any other ingredients.

Optional (to enhance flavor, if salsa is not plentiful):
2-4 cloves of garlic OR a good sized dash of garlic power
1 onion, diced
1/2 diced green pepper
A handful of rice,
1 cup of sweet corn
1-2 pickled jalepenos, plus juice from jar

Directions:
Put Taco meat with a little bit of water in the crock pot (don’t cover the meat with the water. Think of it as cereal and the water as milk. Use the water accordingly.)
Dump in tomatoes, Salsa, Tomato Paste, Chili beans, and Green Peppers. If you want chili with LOTS of flavor, cut up some onions and garlic cloves and add those in. For kick, use some leftover jalepeno juice from that jar of pickled jalepenos with one or two of the jalepenos. Cayenne Pepper will do in a pinch too.
Set crock pot on High, cook for 2-3 hours. Set to low, let simmer till dinnertime, for a total of roughly 6 hours. A little more or a little less isn’t a big deal. The point is to let the flavors marry. I like to add a little bit of rice or sweet corn during the last hour, just to add a few carbohydrates.

Spaghetti Sauce Pizza
Ingredients:
Leftover Bread, stale is fine. (We’ve been known to use leftover garlic bread from spaghetti dinner the night before.)
1 cup or less of Spaghetti sauce. (We use whatever we’ve got from the night before.)
Cheese (One 8 oz. pack mozzarella.)
BONUS: if you used sausage with your spaghetti and saved a little for tonight’s pizza.
Directions
Cover each slice of bread (or half a roll, or bagel, whatever you’ve got!) with a shallow covering of sauce. Sprinkle on cheese. Bake at 425 for 16 minutes, or until cheese bubbles.

This can apply in many ways, I’ve been known to use leftover beef broth from soup to make onion gravy the next day, or leftover roast chicken bones to make stock and chicken noodle soup. I’ve used leftover mashed potatoes for Shepherd’s pie. There are many ways you can “repurpose” food, you just have to think of your leftovers as ingredients, not meals.

Bon Appetit!

Why “Oh, Let Them Play, They’re Only Children!” Shortchanges Our Kids: Part 3

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In Part 1 I wrote about the presuppositions we hold on children and their sin nature, and how this influences our parenting.
In Part 2 I wrote about what scripture says about raising our children.
Here, I have some practical applications in how to train, guide, and love our children on a daily basis, giving them opportunities and ways to work and play in a God honoring manner. These aren’t the only ways to do this, but they are some that have worked beautifully in our home, when I apply them faithfully, because, lets face it, no Mama is perfect! I’m still growing and learning myself, and this is written as much to me, as it is to anyone.

So how can we practically apply scripture in our daily lives training, teaching, and loving our kids?

  • Don’t put your children in the next room to watch TV so you can clean and bake undisturbed (full disclaimer, I STILL struggle with this, and catch myself doing this.) Invite them to bake bread with you, fold laundry with you, make beds with you, wipe sinks while you clean the toilet, sweep the floor while you tidy up. I am NOT talking about slave labor here, but age appropriate training and exposure to the value and satisfaction of work. For instance, my 2 yo uses the dustpan to sweep the dust into the trash after I sweep the whole floor. My 7 yo likes to sweep the whole floor herself. My 2 yo only puts clean silverware away (after I’ve removed all of the sharp stuff, of course.) While my 7 yo usually   does the plates and cups, and my 5 yo usually does the plasticware. Each child has a job that varies based on their abilities.
  • Reward hard work with *positive consequences.* This keeps consequences from becoming a bad word. My 7 yo rushes to finish her school and chores, because she knows once she has done them, she gets to go outside to play, or choose one 1/2 hour show to watch. If she rushes too much, and does them poorly, she knows she will have to work with me to learn how to do them properly. So she doesn’t rush too much. My 2 yo, for instance, only has to complete the chore, I teach her as she goes, and we work together. They know that once work is done, good things come. Things like free play. They also keep their playroom clean now, because, as my 5 yo put it. “It’s no fun to play in a dirty playroom. I can’t find my toys!” They also LOVE to do kitchen chores with me, because a clean sink, a clean counter, and a clean stove means we can BAKE! Baking means…. brownies, muffins, fresh bread, you name it. I always bake enough to meet our needs, plus that initial “taste test” for the hard workers.
  • Don’t overwork your children. Work is not a distasteful thing. Lets not make it one. Keep it short, keep it simple, keep it age appropriate. Give them chores they have a stake in, chores like putting their own laundry away.  I have an agreement with my 7 yo. She is expected to help with dishes, laundry, and tidying, because she lives in our home. My flower garden, however, is purely for my pleasure and beauty. If she weeds *MY* flower garden, I pay her money. She has the option to say “no” to that chore, as it is really mine. She also has the option to name payment, within reason.
  • Work CAN BE a natural consequence. I’m not a proponent of work as punishment, but if a child is careless, or downright naughty, I do allow it to be a consequence. For instance, my 7 yo stole $5 from my 5 yo. She worked it off. A single Aunt offered her a “job” folding her laundry. We did one load a week, to the tune of $1 per load, and at the end of 5 weeks, she had worked off her debt and repaid the $5 she stole. That was a natural consequence.

As you train, guide, nurture, and love your children, remember that as God has a purpose for our lives, and as scripture is explicit in giving us good instructions for a productive, happy life, so we as parents should teach our children about our God of order, beauty, and righteousness. We should be an example of the blessings of obedience, and the beauties of grace, and mercy in our own lives.

We are a living example of what God can do in our lives by Grace, and every day is a day to show them firsthand his work in our hearts and homes. Paul said it best in Ephesians 2:8-10 :

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Why “Oh, Let Them Play, They’re Only Children!” Shortchanges Our Kids: Part 2

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In Part 1 we discussed the presuppositions we make about our children and their sin nature. I also came to the conclusion that a child centric lifestyle is harmful, and not right from a scriptural perspective. The best place we can find how we ought to raise and guide our children is in God’s Word.

So am I saying our children need to be little automatons? Slaving away daily in submission to my own will? Nope. I’m not saying that either. What I am saying is this:

Daddy working out a science experiment with Emma.

Daddy working out a science experiment with Emma.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7, ESV)
I know I refer to this scripture a lot. Like here, and here, and here. But that is because it is a lot of what I do, day in, and day out.
As Proverbs says, our job, as parents, is to train our children. Training our children the value of work, and that play is a natural consequence and result of hard work, is more appropriate than teaching them that play is owed to them.

  • We need to be Intentional– Letting our kids play indiscriminately isn’t training them. “A child left to himself brings his Mother to grief.” Proverbs 29:15  We need to give our children goals, purposes, things to do, places to go, We can’t allow them to determine what is right for themselves, but we need to intentionally expose them to what is good, true, and right. Does this mean we need to be on top of them every minute of every day? No. This leads to my next point:

    Playing with their new baby brother.

    Playing with their new baby brother.

  • Teaching discernment is the first part of training, and the last part too. In fact, it is a constant thing when they are young, as it gives them skills later on in life to meet sin head on, with wisdom, and knowledge. In Hebrews 5 Paul talks about discernment as something that is a result of constant training and practice. It is something we must do with our children from cradle to adulthood, and never stop. They need to see us using it, and we need to teach them how to use it, and practice it with them. Proverbs 2 gives us a beautiful example of a father speaking to his son on this subject: “My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”
  • We need to walk beside our children as we train them to do new things, and we need to expect them to work at skills as they go. As soon as my children can walk, they begin to have chores. Why? I want them to know the value of hard work, and practice it often. Isaiah puts it like this: “To whom will he teach knowledge, and to whom will he explain the message? Those who are weaned from the milk, those taken from the breast? For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.” It is a constant action, something that is block on top of building block. The best way to do that is to follow the practical instructions in Deut. 6, do it daily, in everything you do with your children.

    Playing together outside.

    Playing together outside.

  • We need to be educated. Proverbs says: “The companion of fools suffers harm.” If we don’t want our children to be fools, we need to seek wisdom ourselves. How can we teach what we do not know? Where to look for this education? Everywhere in Scripture. God has given us all instructions for a productive and just society in his word. EVERY word is profitable.
  • We need to be gentle, loving, and nurturing. Ephesians 6 reminds us that we need to raise them in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” and not to frustrate them. This doesn’t mean we always have to accede to their whims, so much as we need to be careful that what we require of them is in God’s Word, without adding in our own wants. In other words, the parent who is disciplining their child for “being annoying” (guilty!) rather than for “breaking God’s law” is frustrating their child. There is no consistency to my feelings as a parent. My annoyance is an ever changing yardstick. God’s Word is ALWAYS the same. Do not kill, Do not lie. Do not steal. Give to the Poor. Obey your parents.
  • Training them the value of work, and appropriate priorities begins day one. Proverbs is chock full of wisdom on this one. If we are lazy, our needs can’t be met, Work produces good things. Work allows us to bless others. Work has an eternal value to that end. Work glorifies God. Work feeds us, there is a direct relationship between our willingness to work, and our ability to provide for ourselves and our family. Working as a team is better than working alone. I could go on and on about this one.
Practicing writing words.

Practicing writing words

In conclusion: When we say “Oh they’re only kids, just let them play.” we are assuming that training them for adulthood is something that only happens when they either enter, or get closer to adulthood, and not a lifetime proposition. My children do play, they do have fun, but they do so with an understanding of what God expects, what he provides, how we personally fit into his plan, and that everything has a goal, a purpose in a world made by a God of order.

In Part 3, I’ll discuss some practical applications of scripture in teaching, guiding, and training our children.

Why “Oh, Let Them Play, They’re Only Children!” Shortchanges Our Kids: Part 1

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Heavy statement, I know. But when we say “Oh, just let them play, they’re only children!” we do our children a disservice.
Disclaimer: I am FAR from perfect on this issue myself. This is just as much a Series aimed at me, as it is to anyone. This does not mean I’m opposed to play either, just that I’m opposed to play without a purpose, or play without discernment.

So why do I think this? Let’s unpack this statement.

Hairdresser

The girls playing “Hair Salon”

Firstly, as an Early Childhood major, I’ve read a LOT of expert opinions on play. “Play is the child’s work” is the prevailing opinion in the early childhood world. I’ve studied all sorts of things, mostly stating that play is something we ought not to limit, guide, or contain. But that we should feed children’s ability to play by listening, repeating back, and providing materials, encouragement, or opportunity.
This is built upon the idea of a “blank slate.” That every child is born perfect, and only sullied by their environment. This presupposition leads us to let the child direct the play, and follow along, allowing their pure spirit to teach themselves. We are only there to facilitate experimentation. Any kind of negative response is only limiting them, and any wrongdoing on their part is because we are deficient as teachers, parents, adults. I used to believe this wholeheartedly, and constantly found myself puzzled because I was doing everything right, so WHY did the children in my care persist in doing wrong? I felt like such a failure, and I ran out of tools quickly. I just couldn’t keep a perfect enough environment to produce a perfect child. It took a long time for me to say: “This isn’t right.”

Why? I knew scripture says this:
Psalm 51:5 ESV “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
Romans 3:23 ESV “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
Romans 5:12 ESV “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—”

We are born with a sin nature. Children are born with sin in their hearts. As Proverbs says: “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child.” We need to avoid this child led form of play because it is giving free reign to the natural sin in their hearts, without turning them from it.

Adam and Eve aren't the only folks who enjoy a good fruit!

Adam and Eve aren’t the only folks who enjoy a good fruit!

This is why I think that allowing them to play without a purpose, without guidance, and without goals isn’t the best we can give them. We teach them to make their own rules, morals, goals, and outcomes. Under it all, we’re telling them that to trust, obey, submit, and to learn from others mistakes is wrong, that experience is king and the source of true wisdom, and to disregard rules is right and good. The underlying truth we communicate frequently is that nobody really loves you enough to want what is best for you. Selfishness is the only way to survive, and thrive. We teach them to “follow your heart” “Do what is best for YOU” and to “get rid of anything or anyone that doesn’t serve YOU.”
I think that after 2 generations of this approach to child rearing we are seeing a society that is making its own laws, its own morals, and disregarding authority, except the individual authority of man. And I don’t think it is too much of a leap to say that a lot of our gleeful declarations of “Don’t be afraid to break ALL the rules!” in nursery school are now finding purchase in the hearts of young people, who “call evil, good, and good, evil.”
“But studies show…!”
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human traditi
cutefilleron, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8
As Christians, our authority isn’t the philosophy of fallible men, but God’s wisdom. Proverbs says the beginning of wisdom is the Fear of the Lord. Paul says that “ALL scripture is profitable for reproof and instruction in righteousness.” We know where to go if we need to know what to teach our children, and how to raise them.
I always have to bite my tongue when someone says: “Too bad they don’t come with an instruction manual!” Oh but they do! In God’s Word! Who better to look to on how to raise, train, and teach them, then their creator?

(Want to know where I’m going with this? Check out Part 2)

Eating Well on a Tight Budget

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Eating well on a tight budget isn’t as hard as it sounds. It just requires… creativity.

For instance, my husband bought one of these:
A Sweet Italian Sausage Round. It was roughly 2-3 lbs of meat. He bought it for $1.99 a lb.
I wanted to make this last for 3 meals.
pepperonion

Meal #1
I didn’t have money to get new ingredients, and some of my pantry staples were already claimed for two planned meals, one for a party, and one for my daughter’s birthday supper of choice. So I have to get more creative here. I made up my own recipe. Now that I’ve been cooking for nigh unto 6 years as a married Mama, I’m a bit better at this than I once was. Still learning though! But this one turned out fabulously:

I started  with the sausage. Before starting to use it for any meals, I cooked it for an hour at 350. It dries it out a bit, makes it crumbly and crunchy. JUST how I like it! If you like it more moist, cut your cooking time by 15-25 minutes, and ramp up the heat, maybe to 425, for 30 minutes.

Everything but The Kitchen Sink Summer Garden Pasta
Makes 8-10 servings. (Enough for our family for 2 meals. Dinner, and lunch the following day usually.)

1 LARGE freshly picked Zucchini, sliced as needed.ttar_zucchini_v
4-5 cloves fresh garlic (Finely diced)
3 LARGE garden tomatoes (coarsely diced)
2-3 tbspns Olive Oil

aprox. 1 lb (pre-cooked as mentioned) sausage, cut into medallions.
1 lb mini bowtie noodles
Salt/garlic salt to taste

Drizzle Olive Oil into large, deep skillet. Turn into medium/high. (remember, the sausages are already cooked through, so we’re just heating up and flavoring.) toss in medallions and diced garlic cloves. Stir to coat,
Add in Sliced zucchini, and diced tomatoes.  Add water (Enough to steam veggies and stew tomatoes a bit. Don’t stress over the skins,) Put lid on skillet, and cook on medium, for about 10-15 minutes, until tomatoes are soft and zucchini is clear. About the time it takes to boil the noodles in another pot.
Once noodles are boiled, drain. While draining noodles, remove lid from veggie skillet, allowing the water to boil off a bit, and the “sauce” to thicken. Salt to taste, using table salt OR Garlic salt. I did a mixture of both.
Add noodles. Toss. Serve with buttered bread and green veggie, such as broccoli or salad.

Meal #2

Pancakes, scrambled eggs, and sausage. Need I say more? 🙂 Everyone had one “link” This used almost 1 lb. A bit less.

Meal #3

Quick and Easy Pizza Crust
(I got this from Allrecipes, but I modified it a bit to suit our needs. Makes 2 large and 1 medium pizza crusts. Enough for one meal for our family, plus lunches the next day.)

3  .25 oz. packages of yeast ($.79 at Aldi!)
3 tsp White Sugar
3 cups warm water pizza

Mix, let stand 10 minutes till frothy.
Add: 6 tablespoons oil
3 tsp Salt
7 1/2 c. flour

Mix til smooth. Let sit 10-20 minutes in bowl. 10 is fine.
Turn out onto floured surface. Knead. Separate into 3 rounded balls. We used 2 large pans and one medium, so I separated the dough accordingly.
Cover pans in light dusting of corn meal or flour. Spread dough into pans (Keep your hands well floured to prevent sticking and tearing of dough.)
Use desired toppings (we used sausage medallions, Pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese. I like to throw in green peppers and onions for veggie power!) Bake until cheese is golden and bubbling. Aprox. 15-20 minutes.

Sauce for pizza:
Mix:
1 can Tomato paste
2 cans of water
1 tsp salt
1 tbspn sugar
spices as desired (I use an italian blend plus sweet basil and garlic powder.)

Put all ingredients in saucepan, heat and stir until thoroughly combined. Spread on Pizza dough, then add remaining toppings.

There you have it! 3 frugal easy meals that are delicious, nutritious, and just plain good eating! Enjoy!