Category Archives: Proverbs 31 woman

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.

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.

Teaching The Gospel to My Children: Part 2

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Teaching The Gospel to My Children: Part 2

Haven’t read Part 1? Check it out here: Where I realize that my children can’t be kept from sin, but they must be taught how to respond to sin.

Knowing my children have a sin nature, from the moment they are conceived, is an important part of teaching them the gospel. The first part of understanding the gospel is seeing that we are indeed sinners in need of a Savior.

I often get very frustrated with modern parenting that operates from a standpoint of the idea that the child is a blank slate. They are sinless, and if we can juuuuuust get things right, they’ll improve the human race. This thought, however innocuous it might seem, at its core sees man as a Savior. Not Jesus. It assumes the if the children can be raised properly, man can save itself. And I am ashamed that I used to believe this, wholeheartedly.

“But I don’t believe THAT!”  I had once said to myself. In word, I didn’t, but I was inadvertently teaching my kids this. When we discipline our children, we tell them a LOT about themselves, ourselves, and their relationship to God. I am far far FAR from a perfect parent, and I have a lot of mistakes to undo in this area.

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

Take for instance, a popular cartoon, Daniel the Tiger. I recently watched an episode with my children on “sharing.” There were lots of pretty songs about sharing blocks, and how we’ll all be happy if we just share! But the premise of the episode was clear, and repeated over and over and over again. Share, because if you do, it’ll feel GOOD.
Sounds great, right?
Nope. Not so right. Without realizing it, we often teach our children that doing good feels good. And that We ought to do good for the sake of feeling good, or if there is something in it for us.

But is this scriptural? Is doing good about feeling good, or is it about something bigger?
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
Jesus is clear here, doing good is about giving God glory, not fulfilling our own desires. At its heart, selfishness is the root of all sin, putting ME first, making ME God. It is at odds with Jesus’ own commands.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40, ESV)

I used to say this kind of thing to my child:
“If you share with Emma now, she’ll share with you later! Or, what about a trade! You give her what she wants, and she’ll give you something you want!”
We are teaching children that good is only worth it, and is only good, if they feel good.
But this is a selfish premise, we are feeding our children’s selfish sin nature. We are teaching them that their feelings, their wants, are more important than what God says is right. We teach them that feelings, and their satisfaction, ARE God.
And, crazy as this sounds, I was also feeding my own sin nature. I mean, it is MUCH easier to have Ava bribed into stopping the crying. Hand everyone the toy they want, and nobody gets hurt, right? Well… sort of. There is that moment where Ava’s selfish desire can NEVER be sated, because it isn’t about the toy, it is about ME, about how I feel, or what I want.
See what I was doing here? By feeding this selfish nature, I was feeding a beast, one that just got bigger, badder, and all around worse. For the convenience of today (less screaming) we are sabotaging the character of tomorrow, and losing a very important teachable moment to share the gospel.

I now do this instead:
“I’m sorry, but that is Emma’s property, you may not have it unless she says yes.”
Oh good. There is an out, Emma could say yes!
But Emma says “No.”

Uh oh. Cue the tantrum.

Yes, this does mean more work for me, but which is more important, an easy, fun, confrontationless time with my child, or teaching them right from wrong? Teaching them to follow Christ’s commands: To love the Lord your God, with all your heart, your mind, and your soul, and your neighbor as yourself? Christ neatly summed up all the laws in the Old Testament in this little nugget. My job is not to teach my children to love themselves (selfishness) But to love God, and those made in his image, more than self.

In part 3, we’ll get into how this kind of teachable moment often does lead children straight to the gospel.

Teaching the Gospel to my Children: Part 1

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Teaching the Gospel to my Children: Part 1

My children are not sinless. Would that it were so, but they are not. And if there is anything I’ve learned as a Mom, it is that my job is not to keep my children from sin, but to teach them how to respond to it.

Some days, I feel so frustrated, as if I’m banging my head against a wall. Why can’t they just STOP SINNING?! But then I realize, I am no better child to my Heavenly Father. I often find myself doing things I don’t want to do, and in the midst of sin saying to myself. “Whoops. I shouldn’t have done that…” I struggle with many sins, the worst of my vices being laziness. It is tempting to waste my time in trivial pursuits of pleasure, rather than keeping tabs on the mundane reality of Motherhood and Homeschooling. I’d much rather lay in bed all day, reading a book, than doing canning and related food prep, changing diapers, reading lessons, vacuuming carpets, mopping floors, and decluttering, making supper, baking snacks from scratch, or any of the other sundry chores I may need to finish in one day’s time.  I do my best, but some times I find myself failing miserably, easily distracted by the procrastinator’s best friend, facebook.
Some days, I’m spot on, finishing the things I ought to, on time, well done, and I have a cozy, warm, clean, and good smelling home waiting for my husband when he gets home from work. Other days, not so much. So if I, an adult, still cannot completely avoid sin, despite the fact that I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt I will be happier when I do right, how can I expect this of my children?

I don’t know why you don’t just do as I say. You’d be much happier if you stopped doing this wrong!”

I hear these words, or similar ones coming out of my mouth sometimes, or lingering in my heart, and I cringe. I think of that parable, the one of the man who owed a debt to the King that he could never repay. The King released him of his debt, but when the man went on his way, and another man who owed him a paltry sum was passing by, and the first man demanded this paltry debt be repaid. No mercy for the man who owed him so little, he pressed hard for the money. The King heard of this, and brought him back, angry that although GREAT mercy had just been showed to him, he could not show a small amount of mercy to another man.

I am that man. My children owe me nothing. In comparison to the debt I owe to Christ, they owe me crumbs. And yet, I demand payment, and I demand it now.

I have learned, that I cannot demand that they stop sinning. And to do so only frustrates me, and frustrates them. And as Ephesians 6 points out, we are responsible to God, and not an authority for our own gain, or agenda. Frustrating our children is not in our job description. Teaching them, guiding them, nurturing them IS. Our job is not to eradicate sin, or to keep them away from it, but rather to respond to sin rightly. I do my children no favors when I demand a sinless life from them, and I do them even worse when I shelter them from sin, assuming it is only acquired from bad music, bad company, bad atmosphere, or whatever else troubles me. I can stand beside them, as they meet sin head on, and model for them how to respond to it.

This requires so much more integrity than merely trying to isolate them from sin. In isolating them from sin, I take the blame off of them, and off of myself. In being aware of their sin nature, I admit there is a sin nature in me. This takes an uncomfortable amount of humility.

To begin to teach my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, I MUST admit one thing first:
I am a sinner. I gave birth to sinners, and the only answer to that sin is the gospel.

Homeschooling and Dad

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Being a Mom, a homeschooling Mom, whose full time “job” is to raise, teach, and nurture my children, my husband works long hard hours to support this endeavor. This is our first ministry. Training our children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

So how, considering these hours, does Dad get in on all the homeschooling fun?
Well, we have a variety of ways, during the weekends he has time to play with them, take them to work alongside him in his endeavors and hobbies (feeding the bunnies, working in the garden/backyard, going grocery shopping, worshiping in church together, doing ministry together etc.)

Despite all of these wonderful things we can do as a family on the weekend, we found that the children missed his input during the week, and by the time he came home, and other concerns took over, we neglected to communicate about our children’s needs, habits, and how he could address them.
So, we’re trying something new.

This is our new behaviors chart. With a bit of duct tape, some dowel rods, and colorful twine (all found around the house.) I used a small portion of my Thirty One home organizer that I had yet to find a use for. (My friend, Emily, is a Thirty One consultant, and this was one of my fabulous hostess perks.)
I taped the dowel rods on, labeled with each child’s name, and when that child disobeys knowingly, or is insubordinate (for instance, if I ask them to put away their toys and they say “No! I won’t!”) I tie a ribbon around the dowel rod. When the dowel rod is full (5 ribbons) Daddy will talk to them when they get home. He might pray with them, instruct them with scripture, come up with a new consequence, and follow up in the following days to be sure the behavior is improving.  Or, if their dowel rod is empty, he might take some time to reward them for that, like a solo trip to the store together, or an hour to play a board game together. Something simple.

Here is what I don’t use a ribbon for, if a child just needs correction, and then follows through immediately. Like so:
Child 1: But I want it!
Child 2: No! You may have it later!
Child 1: *takes toy*
Child 2: *Cries* Don’t steal my things! Please give it back!
Child 1: *is thinking*
Child 2: Mom! I asked her to give it back! She took it!
Me: Did you steal?
Child 1: Yes.
Me: What should you do?
Child 1: Give it back.
Me: Then do what is right.
Child 1: *Gives it back.*

I don’t tie a ribbon for this. It was solved Biblically (as per Matthew 18) and after the whole thing, the child who was offending was disciplined, and expected to apologize. We usually use a form of restitution (Give them a turn with one of your toys for awhile now, plus returning the toy in question.) to discourage stealing. In this case, when confronted, the child immediately did the right thing. Ribbons only get tied when they have to be reminded several times for the same offense, or when they refuse to correct their behavior on their own.

The reason we implemented this is because I am a forgetful Mom. I know, I’m no supermom! I need ways to remember, otherwise it gets lost in the heat of the end of the day. He walks in the door, tells me about his day, I give him the important messages (Aka: The guy called back about those tires you wanted to buy.) and when I finally do get a moment to tell him about our day it is either out of proportion and not accurate (Our day was HORRIBLE! They were naughty all day long!) or an incomplete picture (we went on a field trip. I’m whooped.) This forces me to recognize that one moment in the day does not a bad day make, and provides accountability for the children and myself.
At his suggestion, we also did something else: Posted a child friendly version of the 10 commandments and other scriptural principles that apply when dealing with other people.

Our Ten Commandments and family rules, as per Phillippians 3

Our Ten Commandments and family rules, as per Phillippians 3

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.

Establishing Homeschool Routines and Another Budget Meal

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Spelling lesson.

Spelling lesson.

As this school year begins (we began on Monday.)  I am staring last years inadequacies down. I know a lot of it had to do with being demonstrably pregnant for a large portion of the year, and it being a difficult pregnancy, not in terms of health or complications for Isaiah, so much as in terms of managing 3 young children, and MY health throughout.

So this year, I am determined to juggle things with more aplomb. Not to say that I will be the perfect Mom, Wife, and Teacher (Ha!) But that this year I will make a more concerted effort to meet some goals.

School books just aching to be cracked open!

School books just aching to be cracked open!

 
This year’s goals:

  • Be more organized
  • Set a schedule
  • Follow a routine
  • Be more organized
  • Keep the house fairly clean
  • Be more organized

See the pattern here? I’ve got years of bad housekeeping habits to break. I’ve never been a dedicated full time Mom and Home Maker before last year, and I am determined that in this chosen career I WILL hone my skills. But goals are nothing without a plan, and so, we’ve implemented a plan for about 2 weeks now, with some success. This past week has been that plan integrated with school, so in 2 weeks, I feel comfortable sharing how we ‘Manage it All.’

History lesson... in a tutu and tiara... This is how we roll.

History lesson… in a tutu and tiara… This is how we roll.

Firstly- Routine does not equal SCHEDULE. I am a seat of the pants kinda gal. I haven’t yet mastered the art of the type A personality. Being child no. 4 out of 6, I was always the clown, more interested in pleasing people in a puppydog sort of way than actually accomplishing much for the sake of just accomplishing things.  I am not the woman to have an excell spreadsheet with a seperate spot for each child. We have a routine that factors in each child’s needs, and quirks. It is flexible enough to accommodate all of that, Mostly because I can’t be bothered to write it down in specifics. Too tedious. I know the baby naps in the AM, while we do supervised lessons. No need to write it down. He’ll change it when he no longer needs 2 naps, and we’ll find something else for him to do during that time. We’ll tweak our schedule to accommodate everyone’s needs. I don’t mind. I know too much tweaking occurs when we attempt to control every detail. There is an art to flexibility that helps children to adjust. Too rigid, and we have to change too often.
Our Daily Routine

Our daily routine is simple, because that is what makes it so flexible.

  • Wake Up
  • Breakfast
  • School-Language Arts
  • Snack
  • School-Reading with Mom time- (Supervised lessons, can be inside or outside. Morning nap for babies.)
  • Chores (While Mom preps lunch)
  • Lunch
  • Finish Chores
  • Quiet Contemplation (Naptime)This is how we do.
  • Outside Play
  • Dinner Prep (Kids play outside with Dad.)
  • Set Table
  • Dinner
  • Family Devotions/Family Time
  • Bedtime

In instances where our day is derailed due to a Dr’s appointment, play date, piano lesson, or money earning ventures, we scoot the chores to directly after breakfast and either a.) Bring school along to said event, or b.) Do school when we get home in place of “play with Dad time.” or directly after dinner during Family time.

Chores are as follows (Again, we keep it simple.)

Mom: Supervise-Train, Polish up undone items.

  • Load Dishwasher/Do Dishes
  • Switch Laundry Loads
  • Cook Meals
  • Vacuum/Mop w/Sarah
  • Clean bathrooms w/Emma and Ava
  • Litterbox w/Sarah
  • Tidy Kitchen w/Ava
  • Clean own bedroom/nursery-inspect, correct, and assist with children’s bedrooms.

Sarah: (7)

  • Unload Dishwasher
  • Sweep Floor (kitchen)
  • Tidy Bedroom/make bed
  • Tidy School Books/Living Room
  • Fold/put own laundry away
  • Clean Litterbox

Emma: (5)

  • Wipe table after meals
  • Unload Dishwasher
  • Tidy Bedroom Room/make bed
  • Tidy Schoolbooks/Playroom
  • Take out Trash w/Mommy (Bathroom cleaning)
  • Put away own laundry

Ava: (2)

  • Help Mommy Tidy kitchen
  • Unload Silverware (dishwasher)
  • Clear plates off of table, put in sink
  • Wipe out sinks w/ vinegar cleaner (Bathroom cleaning)
  • Put away own laundry

As you can see, I’m not a huge worrier when it comes to dusting, washing windows, etc.  It gets done when it does, mostly when company comes, and in a fit of  “AHHHHH! They’ll see the DUST!” At this point in the game, I’ve got a LOT of littles, and I don’t want to unbalance my Bigs with work that doesn’t matter right this moment.

Let the obsessive vacuuming begin!

Let the obsessive vacuuming begin!

I want to teach them diligence, but rather than barking orders over a child who is trying NOT to break the precious family photos whilst wielding a rag full of Pledge, I just dust when company comes, and that is often enough to keep it from getting obscenely thick and dirty.  There are also a ton of unlisted stuffs, like the normal things you do when you clean a room regularly, like wiping the counter, cleaning the toilet, etc. The children are always welcome in a moment of curiosity/boredom, or if their tasks are done early, to work alongside me to learn a new task. A lot of this isn’t done in a “list” fashion. We just have a period of “LET’S RACE!” While lunch is cooking/heating up. We tend to spend roughly 20 minutes a day power cleaning at each meal. Most of the kitchen cleaning is done directly before meals, and other cleaning done at appropriate moments, general tidying as we go (Living Room is always tidied prior to nap, bedrooms prior to breakfast for instance.)

Tips and Tricks:

  • Chores in tandem with major home events, such as meals, or Naps. This makes them a regular part of routines, not something to be thought of independently.  Dishes as a part of mealtime is a natural segue, and ensures clean dishes for the next meal.
  • Work alongside your children, teach them each task, and guide them kindly through it, by either repeating the tasks with them, or by giving them an example, for instance: “When I wipe the sink, I swipe like *this.*  Your turn now!”
  • Begin the work yourself, and the children will work too. Don’t start by announcing “time to clean!” Then the onus is on them. Lead by example, Mamas. Once you’ve begun to clean yourself, if they’re not on board, that is the right time to use verbal reminders.
  • Check in frequently with Bigs, during tasks until completed. This keeps them on task, and avoids the hours later discovery that someone lied about making their bed.
  • Allow children to clean creatively! Sing while you work, dance while you work, groove, boogie, whatever! Or, in our house, laundry folding is a coveted job, because the laundry folder may watch an episode of I Love Lucy while folding laundry, with one caveat- If there is no progress from commercial break to commercial break, the show gets turned off instantly. I’ve only had to do that once.
  • Break it up. Let them do a set of chores with each home event allows for it to seem like a smaller task, and more manageable. Don’t give them a whole list, give them a task, one at a time, and they won’t feel overwhelmed. I know my oldest (7) is beginning to love lists. This rule *may* change in her case, but when it comes to training littles, keep it short, keep it sweet, keep it simple, and keep it predictable (aka, we always do dishes after the meal.)

On the subject of deep cleaning:
With so many Littles, and still learning Bigs, deep cleaning (dusting, baseboards, deep decluttering) is usually something I do late at night, or while the children are folding laundry together, etc. We do a weekly “deep clean” where I focus on one room, not the whole house. I’d LOVE to do the whole house as a deep clean, but I can’t get that far in one day! I’m usually interrupted by nursing, or some other need. One room takes an hour or two, and I can move on to the next room next week! Yes this is an issue, as far as the whole house being clean at once, but it is just how it has got to work for now! I have one CRAZY spring cleaning week once a year as well, where my Mother In Law takes my children to VBS, and I spend a 3-6 hours every day that week going whole hog on one room! By the end of the week, the whole house is MUCH cleaner!

                                                                                                   And now…. For the Thrifty Recipe!

Image credit: Kalyn's Kitchen http://www.kalynskitchen.com/2010/12/recipe-for-baked-mini-frittatas-with.html

Image credit: Kalyn’s Kitchen

I love making this on days I am tired and busy. Deep cleaning days are a good time to make this. It is easy and healthy, not to mention this is obscenely cheap and can be made with whatever is in your fridge at the time.
(For a different recipe than the one I posted below, the inspiration for my version, and the source of the photo: See Kalyn’s Kitchen’s Fritatta recipe made in Muffin Cups!)

Garden and Cheese Fritatta– Heat oven to 350 F
For our family we use 1 dozen eggs EASILY. But the recipe can be made with 4 or more. Just adjust veggies to match portion sizes.

Fry veggies in Olive oil. (I use combos like Broccoli and garlic and carrots. Or zuchini, onions, garlic. Or peas, carrots, tomatoes, garlic. This part is usually free, because this is usually done using whatever we get out of our garden.) Whatever veggies you have in your fridge/garden, toss them in a pan with olive oil. Fry til clear, or tender.

Put veggies, salt and pepper to taste, in bottom of casserole dish. Meat can be added to the pile here too, I like bacon crumbles, sausage crumbles, Pepperoni etc, any leftover meats you have that need using are great for a bit of extra flavor. But it tastes just as good without them!

Beat 1 dozen eggs, pour into casserole dish, covering veggies with beaten eggs. (veggies should be barely covered, but covered nonetheless.) salt and pepper to taste.

Optional: Put a bit of grated cheese on top of the eggs. Mozzarella, Cheddar, whatever floats your boat.
Bake at 350 for 35 minutes (time may be adjusted for less eggs.)
During last 1-2 minutes, turn on broiler, til golden, and cheese is bubbling (if cheese is used.)

Serve HOT!  This is your entire meal in a dish! Great with garlic bread, toast, or nothing else at all! It is filling, warm, and very healthy! Not to mention, super frugal! Enjoy!

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!