Tag Archives: The Bible

Week 4 of Advent Printables!

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Week 4 of Advent Printables!

If you missed weeks one, two, or three, feel free to click on the links to catch up!

Our last week is a short one: only 3 days of coloring pages! On the last day, Christmas, I hope you all will join me in reading Luke 2 with our families to celebrate Jesus’ birth.
I also skipped the activities, music, and art altogether, because if you are like me, you are doing a TON of last minute gift wrapping, shopping, and/or other activities! Enjoy these last few coloring pages, and the blog will return to regular programming in the New Year. That being said, I do have another exciting project in the works for the future, but one I will take a LOT more care and time creating. Perhaps I will try my hand at an E-book or curriculum package. Time will tell.
free printables christmas banner
Without further ado: The coloring pages.

Day 22-Dec 22
Day 23-Dec 23
Day 24- Dec 24
Day 25- Dec 25 – Read Luke 2 aloud with your family, using your own nativity figurines as players on the stage! Get the kids involved, give everyone a character to act out as you read aloud (and hopefully they are able to recite with you!)

Before we all dive into the last few days of our Christmas prep, I want to end this series with this thought: Slow down a minute and think about Christ’s incarnation, and how this is an integral part of the gospel. How does this affect me today? My children? I know this horse has been beaten dead, but what are we doing as we celebrate Christmas? Every day I am reminded by what my children see as my priorities by what comes out of their mouths. “From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” I am giving an example to my children on what Christmas should be focused on. Enjoy this Holiday with your children for what it truly is.
Peace on Earth is a phrase so overused by everyone without much meaning, but it is  beginning to have a different meaning for me now. At some point it was an ambiguous thought. But it is not any more. Peace on Earth? How can that be possible this Christmas when it seems as if our world is changing its ideas of peace, love, joy, hope, and Jesus? Christ did not come to institute an earthly Kingdom *right now* he came to save that which was lost. This does not mean he is not King (He is!) or that he can’t have a material change on the world around us (He can!) But it does mean that the peace on earth begins with the gospel. Because without the gospel, we have no peace. The Holy Spirit brings about regeneration in men’s hearts, and changes men’s lives, and through this, we can see “Peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
Remember too, that God has the power to bring this about, and he did 2000 years ago, starting with one small baby in his Mother’s womb. I am encouraged by the account in Luke 1 of Mary’s submission to some very scary circumstances, that only got harder as she became older. I am amazed by God’s planning and working, even while Jesus was yet in the womb. I am blown away by how God prepared the way for Jesus, using John the Baptist, giving him the Holy Spirit while he was even yet in the womb (Luke 1:15.) God can and will accomplish all his Holy Will, and this Christmas, I am remembering how he did that very thing 2000 years ago, is doing it today, and will accomplish all his holy will tomorrow as well. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Take comfort in the beauty of the incarnation, Christ becoming sin for us, who knew no sin, and taking upon him our own sins. Peace comes when we recognize God’s Sovereignty, his plan, and  submit to it. From our own hearts, to training and preparing our children as well. Keep it up Dear Mama, God can accomplish all his holy will!

Merry Christmas!

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Reformation Day! (Free Printable Coloring Book: Ages 2-5)

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Reformation Day! (Free Printable Coloring Book: Ages 2-5)

As Halloween sneaks up on us, my blogosphere and facebook are erupting with different takes on how families are choosing to meet this Holiday. Some are abstaining entirely. Some are “taking it back” and some are saying: “It is just harmless fun, we just skip the scary costumes.”
Here is a peek into our home; we don’t really celebrate Halloween, we are in a culture saturated by it, and so our children are exposed to it, but not intentionally. My personal take on Halloween is that it is a holiday that glorifies death, sin, and gore, and no matter of cute costumes can take that away. I’m not a fan of it, and our children do not trick or treat.
When it comes down to it, my 7 year old stated our thinking well:
“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV)
I LOVE that her response to things that scared her, and gave her pause was to quote scripture. I know that we will be looking into the context of that verse, because as great as that little soundbyte is, the verses surrounding it are rich with wisdom and truth as well.
We choose to respond to our culture’s celebration of death and sin with love and self control. I don’t think it is about one or more things we do to abstain from Halloween, so much as it is how we react to it internally. Do we respond with the power of truth, with Christ’s love, and do we use self control?  Halloween is a time where we have an ability to share the gospel more often, and to be a witness with each person who asks the children:
“What will you wear for trick or treat?”
The way we often are able to do that is usually more than a bit amusing as well. I have to admit that watching my children learn to speak of their faith is a sweet experience that has all the more ability to catch folks off guard by the earnestness and sincerity of how they speak.
Take the dentist’s office on Monday:
Hygienist: So, what are you wearing for your costume for Halloween?
Emma: Oh I don’t wear a costume for Halloween. I get to be a Princess every DAY!
Hygienist: (confused) Oh, you don’t celebrate Halloween? I’m sorry…
Emma: No, we don’t celebrate Halloween, we celebrate REFORMATION DAY! And we have a FEAST! And we talk about Marfin Lufer. *giggles*

This usually leads into a discussion from all of the children on who “Marfin Lufer” is and why the Reformation was important, with the adult looking on curiously. If the opportunity arises, it can become a really interesting way to spread the gospel. If the person is a christian, it can become a thought provoking discussion. This is one of those cases where we are “ready with an answer” and we let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

So, however you choose to celebrate this controversial holiday, this post will serve to introduce you (or your littles, more accurately!) to another Holiday, one that is entirely overshadowed by Halloween.

Reformation Day!
A bunch of ladies on facebook were having a discussion one day, and we all lamented the lack of material for littles (2-5 years old) to educate them on Reformation Day. So, being the DIY homeschooler that I am, I got to work making material!
But, being the impetuous impulsive seat of the pants woman that I am, I gave myself only a few days to do it, in between diaper changes, nursing sessions, meal prep and clean up, and a really awful cut from the food processor. (it fought back, and I lost.) Making this group of coloring pages and the corresponding read aloud text for Mamas was a fun experience for me.  I didn’t get to make as many pages as I would have liked. Nor did I have the option to make it quite in the form I’d hoped. I am hoping it can still be useful!
Without further ado:
The FREE Printable History of Martin Luther and Reformation Day Coloring Pages for 2-5 year olds!
(Don’t mind the unwieldy title…)
MARFINLUFERClick to Download and Print (in chronological order):
Martin Luther Learns Page 1
Martin Luther And His Horse Page 2
Martin Luther Becomes a Monk Page 3
Martin studies the Bible Page 4  
God’s Plan Page 5
Man counting money Page 6
Nailing ThesesPage 7
To the Glory of God The End Page 8

Feel free to let me know if this content was useful for you!

Happy Reformation Day!

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.

The Great American Discontent

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I have been struggling lately. As a Mom of many children, having to make financial sacrifices daily, and living in a standard very different from the American Norm, I’ve been comfortable. I knew there would be no single bedrooms, everyone would share. I knew we would not eat out often, I knew that we would face snippets of cut corners here and there in large family life. It just is the reality, that in the America that has 2.5 children per household, our life would be far out of the norm. Hand Me Downs galore, shared bedrooms, a “restaurant meal” that I didn’t cook meaning pre made pizza from walmart, or a crock pot meal somebody else delivered. I KNEW this would be the case.

But then things looked even ‘worse’ than I’d imagined. God has given me a hard working husband who puts everything on the line at his job. He works so hard that when he comes home, there is nothing left of him. Does this mean he gets a promotion as reward for his labor? No. He isn’t the extroverted type who can “lead” or be “manager material.” As a result of this, I’ve had to let go of my dreams of “one day” things getting easier. The more real this became to me, the more I mourned the loss of a future I’d expected. A future with a larger home to fit all of our incoming children, with a more comfortable means, where the day to day struggle of meeting the bills is no longer a constant anxiety, and where my friends stop saying “One day, things will get better.” because they already HAD gotten better. I even tell myself sometimes, “One day, things will get better.”

But I don’t think they will. So I sat down last night and cried over that. Cried that my husband works so hard with so little reward for his efforts. Cried that other people seem to have it better than we do, and cried because I felt God owes me a blessing.
Then I realized. God owes me NOTHING. Nothing.
I am a sinner. saved by grace. How can I expect anything? How can I expect things to “get better?” Is my problem my husband’s humble job, and our meagre budget that just squeaks by each year? Or is my problem my attitude?
I read Proverbs 5 today and something hit me squarely between the eyes.

Drink water from your own cistern,

flowing water from your own well.

Should your springs be scattered abroad,

streams of water in the streets?

Let them be for yourself alone,

and not for strangers with you.

Let your fountain be blessed,

and rejoice in the wife of your youth,

a lovely deer, a graceful doe.

Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;

be intoxicated always in her love.

Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman

and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?

For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord,

and he ponders all his paths.

The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him,

and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.

He dies for lack of discipline,

and because of his great folly he is led astray.
(Proverbs 5:15-23, ESV)

I always hurried through this chapter, thinking “it doesn’t apply to me. He is obviously talking to a man.”  But I saw something today. A principle, one I have NOT learned. Why am I looking to other places for happiness? For comfort? Why do I think my life would be so much better if my husband only earned a little more money and we could live comfortably like other people. There it is: “like other people.” I need to be drinking from my own well. Not looking around at everyone else’s.  My problem isn’t this lowly situation we’re in, it is my discontent in it. My assumption that things are hard because we don’t have what I want, or what other people have, or think we ought to have.
I looked at it in a different way after reading this chapter. Are we really so poor? No. Not really. Our home is in good repair, we have indoor plumbing, clean water, plenty of food, working electricity, and 2 cars. We are RICH. Monetarily, we are SO blessed! SO SO VERY blessed! No one in this home suffers from a medical condition that cannot be treated, if we only had money. No one in this home is starving, or deprived. Why am I ordering my thinking and my life on the AMERICAN DREAM? The American dream doesn’t matter. The American idea of what we should own, do, pay for, and have, isn’t important. Here I am inwardly despising my husband because he isn’t going after what Everyone else thinks we ought to have. I’m listening to the wrong crowd. So now is my challenge. Time to stop being so discontented, and to enjoy, be thankful and grateful for what we DO have, and to rejoice in it! To be GLAD for where God has placed us. I will replace my “We don’t have…” with “Thank you LORD!”
So much for the Great American Discontent. Time to rejoice evermore.

Nutritious Reading

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This morning I was folding my laundry, and yelling up the stairs for my children to come down and help. (*sheepish* I know, I oughtn’t yell up the stairs… I can hear my friend now, reminding me that my Mom did that, and if I don’t want to be my Mom… I shouldn’t yell, even if it is only to get the kids attention. After all, as she says, a walk up the stairs to *talk* to the children face to face can only do us both good. Hi Mom! Love ya!) Lo and behold, mid yell, I was uninterrupted by a timid knock at my door.
And in all my holey-yoga-pants and spit-up-covered-tank-top glory, one hand full of laundry, and 2 children hanging on to my legs on either side, I opened it to find: 2 well dressed folks carrying NWT Bibles.
Yipes. Jehovah’s Witnesses. 
I suppose after 4 years of living in the bustling metropolis of Shamrock, I am overdue for a visit from them… But, behind me I have piles of laundry on the couch, children running about in their underpants, and a pile of baby stuff all over the floor. I thought, there is NOTHING that can induce me to allow anyone in my house, least of all an utter stranger. I stood in the door, bracing myself for the inevitable doctrinal confrontation, and thinking to myself, “There is no way that I, or my house, are ready for this.
They began to talk, and I mentally scrambled to keep up. I politely quoted scripture to them, made it clear I attend a local church, am well aware of what Jehovah’s witnesses are all about, and study the Bible regularly.  They were lovely, and very smiley. Not at all as confrontational as I expected. Visions of my childhood flew past, and I felt immediate regret after closing my door. I COULD have used this as an opportunity to preach the gospel to THEM, but to be frank, I was a bit rusty, I couldn’t remember the last time I read my Bible just to READ it. Not to rebut someone, make a point, or look up a specific issue. I was rusty. I have spent all of my spare time reading other things.
Not that there is anything wrong with Piper, or Calvin, or Rushdoony. They are all GOOD ways to further study scripture, but reading Francis Chan’s new book is like eating cake as opposed to an omelet with veggies in it. There is not much nutrition. It tastes good, it is good, and it gives me some calories, but really, The Bible is my main source of MEAT. I’ve been consuming empty doctrine. What is that without reading scripture first and foremost? I felt ashamed today that I lost a very important opportunity, mostly because I’ve been seeking feel good books that do all of the work for me, instead of making scripture a priority.

And once I had thought on it further, I realized it affected so many other things as well. The things I think on, speak for, adhere to, and advocate for were man made causes. Not that it isn’t a good thing to fight for the abolition of abortion, or an awareness of how our lives as Christians should impact all of life, including how we vote and act within our communities, but that I’d put these causes above the gospel. These things ought to be ways to convey the gospel, not replacements OF the gospel. In all of my passionate advocacy, and voracious reading I had neglected the source of all of these things, to a point where it was no longer more important than anything else.

I guess I realized that if our passion isn’t God, his Word, or how to live it, everything else falls apart. If we think that OUR conviction is more important than God’s Word, and OUR performance as a good Christian is where the meat of our Christian life rests, we have missed the mark. As Paul states in I Phillipians 3:14, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” All of the works in the world, no matter how wonderful, when not in light of the cross, are worthless. Our intentions aren’t important, the gospel is, and if what we are doing excludes the gospel for something more important, we’ve lost the most important thing.  Ultimately, living for good works can become our idol. We cannot “save” people from whatever ails them, without first recognizing that without the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit, and a realization of the gospel, Christ’s saving power, they will be saved from nothing. The gospel, then, MUST be central to everything we do, or it is useless.  And how can we preach the gospel, if we neglect the only infallible work that proclaims it in every word? The Bible is first, and foremost, our source on the gospel, and how it reaches into every corner of our hearts, and our lives.
Van Gogh The Bible

How to: Save On Groceries

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I know, this is totally an exciting topic that everyone is dying to dive into. But seriously, my husband has made an art of this! On average we spend $60-$100 for two weeks worth of groceries for our family of 6. He has a lot of *trade* secrets that help us to make our budget, and eat fairly well. I have some as well, being the cook, on how to make food last throughout the week, while giving everyone plenty to eat.

First, a few qualifiers, our youngest, Isaiah, isn’t eating food yet, and our three daughters, Sarah, Emma, and Ava eat about the equivalent of 1 1/2 adults. Sometimes of 2 adults. Depends on what the meal is. (Emma generally can eat more than I do!) So we are pretty much paying for the food of 4-5 adults, depending on the appetites that week. Our budget does fluctuate because sometimes we just don’t find fabulous deals, and sometimes we do. On some weeks, we don’t buy any food because we do some modest stockpiling. No, we are *not* the family with scads of shelves in the basement and enough food to survive Armageddon, our pantry does get empty too! And no, we do *not* empty the sale shelf on a regular basis. We do try to leave some good deals for other folks too. But we do get more than one when there is a great deal. Our rule of thumb is this: If it won’t be used fast enough, if it would spoil before we could use it, we won’t buy it. We buy enough to last our family until the next time we go shopping, and then a little bit more for the nonperishable pantry stockers. This comes in handy for our own needs, or if someone else is in need, we have some to spare immediately.

For all of you folks out there who prefer organic items, and have special dietary needs, portions of this list may help you, but I will tell you, when someone in our home has a dietary issue (it has happened!) our entire grocery budget goes downhill fast. We aren’t picky, we just eat what is on sale, unless someone is sick and needs a particular type of food or foods to help recover.
Stomato and garlichopping tips: (This is my husband’s set of secrets! I love a man who can do a killer shopping trip! I don’t do any grocery shopping unless it is the emergency kind!)

  • Buy reduced. We can’t say it enough! Reduced everything! The dented can? Still good. Buy it.
  • Note what pantry staple items are never on sale, buy those (2 at a time) every time you go to the store. This way you get quite a nice pile without spending a lot all of the sudden when you are out of these pantry staples. My husband does this with kidney beans (we eat them a lot, cheap and nutritious!) and tomato paste. (Same thing, I use it for everything from chili to veg. soup, to spaghetti sauce. One can at 30-something cents can make an entire meal tastier!)
  • Don’t do brand names. Coupons can save you a lot, but generally we have found it is cheaper to buy at Aldi than to coupon brand names at Wal-Mart. There are exceptions to this rule, but not always.
  • Buy local. You save more in fuel. Some staples cost the same no matter where you go. So buying milk up the street when you are getting low is a lot cheaper than going to Wal-Mart 20 minutes away and then buying a ton of food because you went hungry.
  • Don’t shop hungry. You buy more.
  • DO buy reduced fruits and veggies. Yes, the nutrition isn’t as fabulous, but they are great for soups and stews.
  • Have your own Garden. What you pick, you don’t have to buy.
  • Buy pantry staples on sale, get multiples. When he finds flour, or sugar on sale, he will buy 2-3 bags. I package them and keep them in the pantry. This usually gets us to the next sale for the same pantry items that are staples. This doesn’t mean he gets more than I can package, but he does get more than he would if I were out and needed enough to complete a recipe.freezer-bag
  • Skip the snacks! You don’t need them, they aren’t healthy for you. We rarely buy beverages, chips, pretzels, breakfast bars, or any kind of prepackaged food really. I cook a lot from scratch, so it isn’t necessary. We drink water, and if necessary, I make home made soda or Gatorade.
  • ALWAYS look in the pantry/fridge before you shop. You save a lot of money this way. It keeps you from buying things you don’t need, and then having them spoil.
  • Go (semi) vegetarian! Beans, Eggs, tuna etc are all an excellent protein cheaper than meat.
  • Don’t shop at big box stores, or specialty stores. Hunt the deals, then stick with them. We like Aldi, Produce Junction, etc. In your neighborhood it might be something else, Like Wegmans or Costco, I don’t know, but do sniff out the deals, and then keep shopping there.
  • Plan your shopping. Try to minimize trips to the store by going when you know there is a sale, with a list of items. try not to do mini trips when you need something. Do once every two weeks, and limit yourself to trips for staples in between if absolutely needed (like a gallon of milk.) This saves money by reducing unnecessary expenses. Example: You go every two weeks and buy a bag of apples, 10 pounds of meat, 2 gallons of milk, 1 5lb bag of onions, and a 10 lb bag of potatoes, 2 cans of kidney beans, and listed items going short/on sale, like flour, or sugar, or noodles.  This is cheaper than going on Monday to buy chicken breast, rice, and veggies (in small amounts) then on Tuesday for steak, potatoes, cheese, and sour cream, etc. When you buy your cravings, instead of sticking to staples, you spend more than if you buy your staples, and make food based on what is in your kitchen.

Prepari63933_179254385434638_120861161273961_594105_1792248_nng/Cooking tips: (This is MY set of secrets! Combined with my husband’s set, it makes for even more savings.)

  • Cook right away. My husband brings home meat they sold that day because it WAS the sell by date. Before you get squeamish, here is the secret. I cook it THAT day, or the day after. This prolongs the preservation of the meat. If he gets a LOT (once he brought home roughly 15 lbs of hamburger.) I cook it as plainly as possible (I fried it with onions) and then pack it into 1 and 2 lb baggies and freeze it. This makes for an easy “frozen” dinner later. Pop out a baggie of meat, fry it up in a pan, add spaghetti sauce and boil some noodles. VOILA! in 15 minutes you have a meal that costed pennies on the dollar. I love using these as prep for times when I know cooking will be hard. Like weeks I am canning, or when I’m coming up on a due date for a new baby. For hamburger you can use the meat for anything from tacos, to shepherd’s pie, vegetable soup starter, spaghetti, lasagna,  onion gravy starter, Beef Stroganoff, the list is endless.
  • Cook from scratch. It really is cheaper. Generally I find baking bread from scratch is comparable, and sometimes storebought bread on sale is cheaper, but literally 9.9 times out of ten, it is ALWAYS cheaper to make an entire meal from scratch, especially if a home garden is involved. There are other things too, which are cheaper to make from scratch, such as Home made Gatorade, Home cleaning products, etc.
  • Preserve right away. If you have meat or fruits or veggies which you can’t cook now (no time, or whatever) pack them up to freeze. My husband keeps freezer baggies on hand so I can package food however I need to to preserve it. I will take a pack of 8 chicken breasts, and separate it into 2 or 3 portions, and freeze them that way. The same goes for reduced fruits and veggies. clean them up same day or next day, and then freeze or can them. I like to freeze berries, and use them all year in scones and muffins, I also like to clean and freeze bell peppers, as they come in handy in all types of dishes.
  • Substitute. If you find that it is cheaper to make your own baking powder, then do it! I often will use milk in recipes, but I’ll half it with water to limit the calories and the cost. 1/2 c. of milk in cornbread? Nope! I do 1/4 c. of water, 1/4. c of milk. Most recipes it does not affect. Also, if you want to eat a particular thing, find a recipe that uses ingredients already in your pantry. I try to skip recipes that have expensive or exotic ingredients in them. Generally I can find a simpler version that tastes just as good, but doesn’t require a special trip to the store.
  • Stretch the meat. Using beans, peanut butter, eggs, etc, find ways to make meat go longer. Don’t make everyone two hamburgers, Make enough other foods that one will do. Baked beans, salad, potatoes, etc. Fill up on the other foods, preferably fruits and veggies. Don’t rely on a meat heavy diet. It isn’t the healthiest, or the cheapest. Be creative in finding ways to use your meat as a base, not a main food.
  • Reduce the sugar. IF you are making a recipe, easy way to make it cheaper AND healthier is to reduce the sugar. Eventually you find it DOES taste better that way anyway! canning
  • Find a cheaper, healthier, version. Like ice cream? Cool, buy a ton of bananas reduced. Peel them, freeze them, then when you want ice cream, toss those babies (still frozen!) in a blender with a smidge of yogurt or milk, and some chocolate syrup or fruit for flavoring. No sugar required. Cheap ice cream. Healthier too.
  • Portion control. I know, sounds awful doesn’t it? We have 3 meals a day, and 2-3 snack times. Snacks are generally fresh fruit or veggies. Can be a handful of frozen blueberries on a hot summer day, or a muffin on a cold winter day. But most of the time it is carrot sticks, or apple slices with PB or something like that.  This kind of self discipline is good for the waistline, AND the wallet.
  • Limit waste! Use all your leftovers (I try to use them up in lunches, this keeps them from languishing in the back of the fridge!) And re use what you can, or use all parts of a fruit or veggie. I know, it sounds crazy, but we try to use all parts of a food if we can. If we have lemons, we use the juice, and then use the rinds to make our cleaning vinegar smell nice! If we have an empty jar of pickles, we put a fresh cucumber in there for some crunchy no cook pickles! (I wouldn’t recommend doing this more than once though!)
  •  Limit your condiments. Keep it simple. Using ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, and relish, white vinegar, and olive oil we can pretty much cover anything. We do get some salad dressings from time to time, but we do a lot of home made ones!
  • Keep a lot of fresh fruits and veggies handy, and always have a steady supply of onions, garlic, and salt to make broths and stews from scratch.
  • Don’t experiment without a recipe. No matter how much you think you know how to make something, taste, taste, and taste again. Follow the recipe, and make sure you know what you are doing! This reduces nasty food that nobody likes. Same with keeping on track with your baked goods. If you know you’ll be distracted, don’t bake, it isn’t worth a ruined panful of biscuits that burned!

My Disclaimer: This list is to help you better budget your money, and work with a little. As I’ve said in the past, we are far from rich, and live off of very little. If I had a nickel for every time someone squeals: “You guys work with THAT little?” We wouldn’t be so tightly budgeted! But we live this way because it enables me to stay home with the children. We buy what we can afford, no more, and very little less sometimes. We depend on God to provide our needs, knowing that any day, a disaster can, and has happened. We do not have a lot of “surplus” in the way of finances.
Every family, large or small, goes through tough financial times. We have had times of need, where we didn’t know where we would have enough money to buy the next bunch of groceries. It doesn’t happen all the time to us,  but it has happened in the past. Know that whether or not you have the money to buy that next meal, God will provide, somehow.  This doesn’t mean we should spend irresponsibily and assume God will give our children food. Scripture says it is worse to evade your responsibility to provide for your family, than it is to not believe in God. (I Timothy 5:8)

This does mean that if we are doing all we should, and can do to provide for our family, and yet some surprise happens (a totaled car, a roof to replace, a surprise expense.) that God has his hand on us. God WILL come through.

If you have all of your needs met, and you see a family in need, be the hands that help. Step up. Buy them a box of groceries, pass them the extra potatoes your family just can’t eat before they spoil. People have done that for us. We never got to a point of asking for help, because help came before we could ask. I know in the future, as we see families in need, when we have blessings to share, they will be passed on, not just because we know what it feels like to be on the receiving end, but because it is what we ought to do.  BE the person who gives. This isn’t the responsibility of society, of our state, or our country. In other words, it isn’t *someone else’s* responsibility. It is OUR responsibility. WE should step forward to help the people we know and love in our own church and community.

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.  Proverbs 19:17

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ … Matthew 25:35-40

For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ Deuteronomy 15:11

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him. Proverbs 14:31

The Seasons Of Friendship

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My My sister Miki and IDad explained the doctrine of the trinity to me by telling me about the many relationships he juggled. He told me God is one God, but three persons, and then he’d say: “You know, I’m your Dad, and I’m my Mom’s son, and I’m your Uncle’s brother. See? I’m three people, but I’m still one person. Each person is different.” He wasn’t eloquent, but he taught a good lesson. Each person was a different way of relating. As a Father, he related to us in authority. In teaching and guidance, and in placing rules and boundaries. As a son, he related in obedience and respect. He loved his Mother, respected her, obeyed her, when it was his role to do so. As a brother he related in friendship, companionship, and a sense of understanding, compassion. This gave me such a deep understanding of the trinity, and how God operates in three persons. I really appreciate my Dad’s wisdom in this particular teaching.

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My twin and I, at our very best

His wisdom extended to other things too, in this case. As a Mom of 4, I am also juggling a variety of relationships, and at this season in my life, it feels as if some of those balls are going to drop. I’ve gone through periods of anxiety and frustration, feeling as if my friendships are suffering, my family is suffering, and I am suffering, all because I just can’t figure out how to spread myself thin enough to cover everyone. I’ve learned though, through one of my truest friends, that I don’t HAVE to cover everyone. Friendship has its seasons.

First, lets define a friend in the Biblical sense. According to Proverbs “there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” I always assumed as a child that that must automatically mean you spend more time with them. As an adult, my perspective has changed drastically. I’ve learned that friendship is a relationship that puts others before self, that to find good friends, one ought to seek wisdom in their friends.

That our companions influence us, and that there are Biblical examples of friendship that does stick closer than a Brother (David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi… etc.)

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My little sister and I engaging in the normal silliness.

A friend is someone who loves you more than they love themselves. They understand you, and cherish you.

In my life I have lived in fear of losing friendships. But in losing friends, I learned that a friend I lost was one I never really had. There are some friendships that can survive the seasons we all go through, and those are the ones worth cultivating, sticking with. They are few and far between. I am blessed that in these types of friends, I am not truly short.

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My husband, the best friend I’ve ever had. ❤

Friendship does have its seasons though. Marriage is the only friendship in which each season is always experienced (or ought to be) side by side and arm in arm with that friend. My husband has been through everything that I have been through. And I have joined him in his triumphs and tragedies as well. We have a friendship that transcends all others.

Family is similar to marriage, in that you are linked for life. It is a rare and tragic thing for living family members to be so separated, that they do not share in the general hills and valleys of life’. As for my other friends, I have learned that sometimes friendship is like the tide, it ebbs and flows. At one point I feared this cycle, thinking I would lose my friend. I have since found that what maintains our friendship in this ebb and flow is an understanding of permanence, and commitment. No matter what season I have been in with certain friends, the friendship itself remains strong, and is something I can always count on.
Friendship can go from the warm summer of everything going just as it ought, with plenty of things in common, and time to spend together, to a winter where time and opportunity just seem scarce. Do not think you have lost your friendship just because you and your friend have little in common at the moment, just love each other, and you will have that summer again.

Right now, as a Mom, I am in a season where friendship, of all kinds, takes a backseat to marriage and family. I can’t always drop all four of my children to go on a bike ride with a friend. Or take all of them along on a shopping trip. It requires careful planning, and a miracle of sorts for me to have special time alone with my adult friends. I have friends who despite the strong bond of friendship, we have little in common as far as life goes. I want to encourage other Moms, just because your friend of YEARS has no children yet, does not mean you cannot maintain your deep connection with her. Persevere. This is a season. It will ebb and flow with each one. I still go to my friend, Brooke, to cry, talk, ask advice, and whether or not she and I are in the same place right now, I always find her to be a good friend with plenty to think on, because she is that friend who always points me right back to scripture. She is wise, because her wisdom comes from fearing God, and that is what will make her a good friend no matter what season of life either of us are in. She reminds me of that verse in Proverbs: “As iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens a friend’s character.” Proverbs 27:17

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I have many types of friends, with whom I can socialize while our children get together and have fun. I have a few friends going through the same season of life as I, and I find that comforting, challenging even.  We call and write one another to keep each other honest, to encourage each other. One such friend and I have thousands of emails under our belts with subjects such as “How do you handle an earache with your baby?” or “What do you feel God’s Word has to say about what media we expose our kids to?” or “How much chocolate did you eat today? I’ve had 3 bars already. It is a 3 chocolate bar kind of day…”  All I have to do is tell her I’m starting potty training this week, and I know she will be praying right on target, and maybe have some practical hands on advice. This is a woman who introduced me to the feared cloth diapers. And she was totally right! They aren’t nearly that bad. They are actually kind of easy if you know what you are doing, and baby is much more comfortable! Well worth the money saved! Jenny knows just what I need to hear because she has been there. She knows when I need some encouragement, some prayer, or someone to understand just what I am going through. She reminds me of another proverb: “Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda” (Prov. 25:20)

Friendship is not something we can control, or try to. It is a gift. And while we have it, we ought to cherish it by being a good friend. The most important thing I have learned is to have good friends you must BE a good friend. And that starts with thinking about how God has treated you. Loved you. He has forgiven you, loved you when you were unlovable. I know that as a friend, I have caused pain to my friends, whether I set out to, or not. Be the kind of friend you want to have, and be understanding with your friends when you are both in a season where it is hard to keep up with each other.
“A man who has friends must show himself to be friendly, but there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24

Conviction: Where do I go now?

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I do not usually post things of an overtly political or social nature on this blog. Generally I stick to introspective thoughts, how tos, and recipes. But something has greatly shaken up my world lately, and it is heartbreak over a very preventable tragedy. As I hold my newborn son, and go through the beauties, the struggles, and the blessings of daily life with a newborn, I am completely aghast and heartbroken over the trial of Kermit Gosnell (please do not click on the link if you would prefer to avoid graphic images and descriptions. Viewer discretion is advised. The short story is that Dr. Gosnell is accused, and on trial, for gruesome partial birth abortions, and unsanitary and dangerous abortion procedures.) I have been following it for some time, and had heard about it as the trial date was approaching, and as my due date was approaching. Since the trial began, soon after my son’s birth, I read, in horror, of the atrocities this man committed. And I thought to myself; What does this mean to me? How should I, as a Christian, respond to something like this?

I spoke to my mother, knowing that when one feels strongly affected by something, indeed, convicted to act upon it, there are a few places we should go:

  • To scripture: Read God’s Word and find out what God says about what is bothering you.
  • To wise counsel: If God’s Word is unclear, or even if it is clear, seek counsel from those you look up to as spiritual advisers, on how to apply God’s Word to your life, or to clarify, and how to further study God’s Word to get to the heart of a principle or concept.
  • To prayer. Take time to unload your thoughts, burdens, and if need be, confessions, to God. Allow him to take the burdens you carry, and trust in his Sovereign Will, and his Infallible Word.
  • To application. Take what you have learned, toss out your own impulses, and apply God’s Word to your own life.

I know what God’s Word has to say on the subject of unborn children:

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Behold, Children are a heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb a reward.

Psalm 127:3

He values them. He made them. He loves them. They are blessings. I know this.
So what did my Mother have to say when I called her? She told me something like this: “Liz, do not become so mired in this horror that you can do nothing about, that you forget your own responsibilities as a Wife, and as a Mother.”

Good advice. My first responsibility is to the children God has entrusted to me. He is clear in his Word what he wants from me on that score. (Duet. 6, Psalm 1, Eph. 6) So am I meeting the challenges God has given me in my own children? I must admit to falling short on that. It is a constant learning curve, and one that contributes to my sanctification daily, and theirs as well, I’m sure. The Holy Spirit is not done with me in this area of life, and I must admit that this case has had me feeling firmly convicted that my first place to look is here, in my own home, to see, how do I respond to the great blessings God has entrusted to me?

Secondly. Although I am vocal about the rights of the unborn, what do I really do about it? Not much, not really. I don’t talk to my elected officials on this one (and so I should, I’ve called them up enough on things like, personal liberty, gun rights, homeschooling laws etc.)  And do I offer help, compassion, support to any women I know? Not really. Do I offer a witness to others about the blessing of children? Sometimes I even complain about mine. Not that they are perfect, (they aren’t) but do I dwell on the blessings of children before others, or do I snarkily joke about the burdens? Ouch. Guilty as charged.
My husband and I feel firmly that the Bible teaches that each child is a blessing, and as a result, we’ve done something kind of scary, we’ve left our reproductive future in God’s hands. And just as I was beginning to feel overwhelmed with 4 children, and doubt this conviction, two things burst on my sight. Kermit Gosnell, and this book: Does Birth Control Cause Abortion?  I cannot simply read these things with a horrified look on my face, and feel sad. I have to act, and I cannot relent. I have been convicted, and it is time to apply God’s Word to my own life. I can’t stop the Kermit Gosnell’s of the world singlehandedly, nor can I stop the legality of the abortion in the U.S. alone. I CAN stick to what my husband and I have felt compelled to act on, and make our family a priority, and I most certainly can teach my daughters and sons God’s Word concerning marriage, family, and children.

I can also tell them my own story about the heartbreak of sin when we walk away from God’s law, and the ways I am still paying for my teenage pregnancy, even today. I know the heartbreak of those mothers in that clinic. I know the overwhelming feeling of “How will I ever ever EVER be capable of mothering this child?” and I know the emotional terror one faces when we realize our own inadequacy in the looming cliff of parenthood, when we are barely children ourselves. But I also know the redemption in Christ, the blessings of obedience, and the beauty in every single life. I know that I would not trade one moment of that terrifying and overwhelming experience of that first pregnancy for a different life. The beautiful little girl that God gave me is well worth every moment of it. I know God already has a plan for her, and is using her in many lives, including my own, to see the beauty in the work of God’s hands.
When we are faced with conviction, what can we do, but turn to God, and seek his face to remedy our own failures? We cannot stop or solve the failures of others, but we can certainly seek God to govern our own lives, and our own hearts, by his regenerating power.

Kuyper