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What 20 years of homeschooling has taught me

This summer I find myself re-reading some of the earliest books I ever read on home education. Turning the pages of these old friends makes me nostalgic.  My level of ignorance in the homeschooling department was matched only by my fear of pursing it in those early years.  I hardly knew how to parent, let alone, teach. These book mentors taught me so many principles that were not simply for “education” but for nurturing people.

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In my ignorance, I was looking for the “right way” to teach English or Math, but God redirected me and taught me big picture stuff about reaching hearts before minds. I learned that education is a misnomer without nurture and I had five little image bearers to consider.

Let’s start at the very beginning.

You are educating a person and their personhood is worthy of respect and love. That’s what Susan Schaeffer MacCualey explains in For The Children’s Sake. She gets this truth from one of the core tenants of the Charlotte Mason method: children are born persons.

Children are born persons.

This principle that a child is a person and deserves respect as a fully functioning, capable person permeates the Charlotte Mason method.  Schaeffer explains that in order to truly educate a person, you have to respect them enough to give them excellent information and assume that they can digest, process, and draw their own conclusions based on that relationship with the idea.

So correct information alone is not enough.

Methodology Matters

A perfect curriculum in a toxic environment will “educate” a child as the school of hard knocks will educate surely enough. A stove that burns can educate a child. The facts might be correct but the methodology matters and must be right as well. We’ve all heard or lived the horror stories. Teachers who wield fear or humiliation as a weapon. I’ve seen it too many times to count. “Excellence” on the altar of results and the child’s personhood is sacrificed and spirit crushed.

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If the atmosphere in the home or school is not filled with love and respect, then what exactly are you trying to teach the child? What’s the point?

Take a small child on your knee. Respect him. Do not see him as something to prune, form, or mold. This is an individual who thinks, acts, and feels. He is a separate human being whose strength lies in who he is, not in who he will become. If his choices made now and in the future are to be good ones, this person must understand reality and see the framework of truth. In the shorthand of language, we call this “knowing.” The child is a person who needs to grow in knowledge…

We are told by many in our generation that this small child is cog in a machine, or even that he is a possession like a pet animal. Many adults now “have” a child in the same way they “have” a washing machine or a collie dog.

We must answer: NO. You are holding a person on your knee, and that is wonderful…

Look well at the child on your knee. In whatever condition you find him, look with reverence. We can only love and serve him and be his friend. We cannot own him. He is not ours.

For The Children’s Sake, pg. 13

Trusting the Method

Looking back, I am so thankful I trusted the wisdom of Charlotte Mason and Susan Schaeffer MacCauley. And if you have young children, I’d encourage you to read For the Children’s Sake,  because no matter what type of education you pursue, the atmosphere must be conducive to the child flourishing. Institutions of learning that seek to control, conform, intimidate, bully, or simply don’t allow the freedom of thought apart from answering multiple choice answers is not nurturing a mind that is interested in the world around them. The WHY of education is as important as the WHAT of education.

What this looked like on a daily basis.

Now that my children are all older and I only have two students at home, I’m more convinced than ever that the Charlotte Mason method works beautifully. It’s a natural and nurturing approach to learning. It still requires careful work and rigorous reading, but it’s never shoved down a child’s throat.

Charlotte Mason wanted the child put in contact with the best books. Nothing dumbed down. First hand accounts and living books were a must. After short lessons, the child was to tell back what they learned from the interaction. She called this narration. It was the precursor to written and oral reports. She insisted that children be exposed to music, nature, and art, things that many children in 19th century London were deficient in. (Amazing that art is still seen as an extra in many schools today!) The goal was education as a life.

It gives me such joy to see my adult children pursue many areas of interest.

My oldest daughter (my homeschooling guinea pig, poor thing!) excels in calligraphy, creative homemaking, and practicing hospitality in her home.

Years of music practice (okay, violin practice was OFTEN painful!!), enjoyment, and exposure produced kids who were interested and who enjoy singing, composing, and practicing together on the piano, violin, or whatever instrument they pull out of the closet.

My son and husband landscape our home and make it beautiful for all of us. My younger daughters enjoy writing, decorating, art, nature, photography, etc…

Early Attempts Were Messy

In the early years, like learning to ride a bicycle, our artistic attempts were messy. Violin intonation was off, sketches were unrecognizable, muffins were burnt, tea cups were broken, milk was spilled, tempers flared, and table manners less than exemplary.

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But every shared attempt was accepted, acknowledged, and appreciated as “relationship building.”

(One of my favorite memories is of Matthew as a cute toddler surprising me with a chubby little handful of my red geraniums that he had picked from my planters! Eek!)

If it’s shared, appreciate it, moms. (Your kids don’t have to share their ideas or attempts with you, you know. That’s a trust. Steward it well.)

Simple things are the big things.

Simple things like tea time or reading time allowed us to exchange ideas and see where our kids were coming from while enjoying great literature.

Small actions that showed care were encouraged. Cookies were baked, and lemonade squeezed. We oohed and ahhed over ideas and someones attempt at drawing.

Little by little, small interactions cement relationship norms, for good or for bad.

We encouraged family times and traditions. Decorating for holidays together. Traipsing through the woods for Christmas greenery and picking the perfect plaid ribbon for our front door.

We ate dinner nearly EVERY night, making time in our schedule because we believed dinnertime to be sacred.

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Ideas were talked about and our values passed down around dinners of spaghetti or garlicky roasted chicken, or bowls of beef soup with LOTS of cheese. We spoke of God in terms of friendship and glory and goodness and read the Bible at the table with our kids.

Of course, our Christian worldview was the basis for all we did (and still do.) We prayed “Thy kingdom come” in general, yes! But we prayed “thy kingdom come” to our family specifically as we lived and honored the teachings of our Savior, Jesus Christ. (We are FAR from perfect so with seven sinners living under one roof and bumping into each other, we really needed grace and enablement and forgiveness many times a day!)

Hospitality was intentionally practiced so we could share our lives and hear stories from different people with different life experiences. Outsiders were always welcomed in.

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We’d have missionaries stay with us for days or weeks and our kids would pour into their kids. By their teen years, our kids could entertain without us if someone dropped by. I recall coming home to Emily who had prepared and served shortbread and tea for grandma when she stopped over while I was out.

What does any of this have to do with education, you ask?

Nothing if you’re talking in terms of textbooks or SAT scores.

Everything if you are talking about nurturing children while they learn. Over 20 years of “home education” has taught me that education should be about life and should never suck the life out of children. Education should leave the child wanting to know more, wanting to care more, and interested in the world around them.

Additional books you might enjoy::

Educating the Wholehearted Child

Charlotte Mason: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning

What have you learned about homeschooling that you could share with our community?

 

*Next post, I’m going to talk about adding the arts to your day, even when you feel unqualified and artistically challenged.

**This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Thanks for reading and supporting my blog.

 

Strawberry Lemon Scones

This is my go-to scone recipe. Until our recent kitchen renovation, this recipe was taped into the cupboard door where I could have quick access to it. I made it so often over the years whenever we needed a pick-me-up during a long, tedious school day.
I still recall all of my children sitting on our old, long Queen Anne’s couch watching an old version of The Railway Children with a table of tea and these scones spread before them.
This recipe is a “base recipe” and can be adapted for whatever fruit is in season: a generous handful of cut strawberries, wild blueberries, or juicy peaches.
I copied the recipe out in watercolor for a friend and thought I’d share it with you here.

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~Old Fashioned Scones~
2 cups flour
3 T. sugar
2 t. baking powder
Pinch of salt
6 T. shortening
1/2 cup milk
whatever “add-ins” you want, about a cup’s worth total: strawberry slices, blueberries, peach, Craisins, nuts, chocolate chips, etc. You can add a teaspoon of lemon or orange zest as well.

My favorite variations: lemon zest and strawberry, lemon zest and blueberry, white chocolate chips with chopped Craisin and a few crushed walnuts.
Preheat oven to 400. Sift dry ingredients. Cut in shortening. Stir in milk and form a ball that just holds together. Press in your “add ins”.  Press into a 1/2″ circle shape on an ungreased cookie sheet. Cut into 8 wedges. Brush with egg. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until slightly browned.

Though these are sprinkled with sugar, you can also add a glaze made of powdered sugar and lemon juice or water if you like, as well.

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Enjoy.

Weeding Wisely to Increase Joy

I spent most of the day outside, tending my herb and flower garden while my 3 year old played nearby.

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It’s warm enough now to plant, so I bought a few herbs to replace several that didn’t survive the winter: parsley, mint, and basil. I spent hours pulling weeds and showing Brayden how to find and eliminate them so we could replace them with something better.

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Among the herbs, I also added pansies (a favorite of mine), freesia, pink flowering ornamental strawberries, and violets.

While I worked, I listened to my Bible App (Hebrews) and also enjoyed a podcast.

I also tried my hand this week at propagating roses for our yard. Though there are detailed YouTube videos on how to do this, you basically cut a piece of new growth under a leaf node off at a 45 degree angle, dip it in water for a minute, scrape the outer layer of the stem off with the side of scissors, dip it into rooting hormone, and place it in a cup full of potting soil or perlite. It is then misted with water until moistened and placed in a ziplock bag to make a small greenhouse environment for each plant. They’ll require misting every few days and in 6 weeks, roots should form. I’m very excited about the possibility of propagating some of my grandmother’s roses and bringing them to my yard. I have a bleeding heart bush from my husband’s childhood home that I propagated using root cuttings and it makes me smile whenever I see it. There’s something satisfying about connecting times and places and people through flowers and conservation.

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Whenever I garden, I’m reminded of how much it parallels life. Jesus used gardening terms when he taught: branches connected to the Vine, sowing, reaping, various types of soil and ground, broadcasting seed, mustard seed sized faith, plants thriving near rivers of water, and the life of the godly being compared to watered garden.

Especially as I pull weeds, I’m reminded that so many areas of life need to be removed in order to make room for what is truly life-giving. Weeds easily overtake and crowd out those aspects of life that bring beauty, nourish your soul, and feed and heal your body.

Weeds will choke out your joy if you’re not alert. “The cares of this world.” It’s a slow creep, barely noticeable. Weeds crowd and steal space and use necessary oxygen.

We may need to weed out busyness where we’ve over-committed and run ahead of God. We may need to plant ourselves still before Him so we can worship.

We may need to weed out the hidden-in-plain-sight sin that has so entangled us that we believe it’s just part of our DNA –who we are.  We may need to plant the Word before our eyeballs and meditate on Truth in order to get back on the righteous path.

We may need to weed out friendships that are mediocre or toxic, or worldly influences that are not honoring God nor helping us thrive spiritually. We may need to plant ourselves with godly friends, older women, and those who are doing right and acknowledging God in all their ways.

We may need to turn off the noise, the social media, the books, the TV, the hobbies, the chatter that steals our attention from the One who truly deserves our undivided devotion. We may need to rearrange our time so that God gets the first fruits.

Weeding is tedious, hard stuff, but it makes space for the crop that you want to harvest in the end.

Saying no to one is saying yes to another. Weeding wisely increases your success and your joy.

Summer is right around the corner, and I want to challenge you to do some weeding so your life can flourish and grow with grace.

Might you have a few weeds to pull? Ask:

  • What is sinful, ungracious, and unlovely?
  • What is hindering me from following God and pursuing His best?
  • What is keeping me from loving others first and best?
  • What is weighing me down?
  • Where am I easily offended and where does Satan enjoy tripping me up time and time again?
  • Where am I easily angered and frustrated? Again, where does Satan keep me defeated by pushing my buttons?
  • What friendship leaves me depleted? Which one is not based on mutual respect and edification?

To purposefully plant, ask:

  • Lord, what do you have for me in your Word today?
  • Lord, where is my first circle of influence and what jobs have you assigned only to me? How can I be most influential there?
  • Where is God burdening me to act?
  • Who needs my kindness today?
  • What is God teaching me through this thing?
  • What virtue is the Holy Spirit asking me to put on?
  • Which friendships refresh and encourage me? Which friendships are based on mutual respect? Whose life points me to Christ?

I hope these questions help you to navigate the maze of your own heart and encourage you to seek the important and eternal aspects of life that will bring you joy.

Have a lovely week tending the garden of your heart and hearth,

Sarah

Homeschooling Mom, You Are in Charge of Your Happiness.

I spoke to a younger homeschooling mom this week who was clearly exhausted and suffering from burn-out.

After telling me why she was dreading the next two months of “school” , I asked her if she’d ever considered this:

“You are completely in charge of your own happiness. You don’t need permission to make changes for your own sanity. If you are discouraged, change something or nothing will change.”

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She needed to look for creative ways to make room for things that bring her joy. She was suffocating and needed some soul-oxygen.

I have been in her shoes too many times to count. We don’t have time so we don’t take time. It’s a vicious cycle.

Sometimes we get so stuck in the same old rut, that we don’t even know we are spinning our tires and headed nowhere. Spinning our tires requires movement and energy, so we equate that with productivity. Fast paced, multi-tasking, non-stop activity does not guaranteed progress. In fact, I’ve found that it almost guarantees burnout.

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The great amount of work that is truly on the shoulders of a homeschooling mom can scare us into a life of hurry and worry.

We begin pushing our kids to perform with a “standardized expectation” where kids can’t be themselves or excel in their own strengths. No, come end of the year, we must all perform for the test. Proficiency in every subject. Just call me Drill Sargent Mom.

Maybe we forget that education is not simply about gaining knowledge to pass tests.

It’s about relationships, training, direction, discipleship, character, and the atmosphere of home.

Charlotte Mason was a huge proponent of the “The Atmosphere” of education, that sense of well-being, connection, and joy that you share with your child that assures them that you are glad that you are together today!

We are training for real life situations.

Grandma is sick. We’re packing it up to get her some ginger ale and make some soup.

Mrs. Jones lost her baby. We’re headed there to watch her kids so she can rest.

Mrs. Smith is really struggling this week. She’s coming here for coffee and we’re going to cheer up her kids. 

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Homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s real life training. And we have to plan time for small things that will yield big results in our happiness. (This will be different for every person, depending on your interests!)

If you are dreading the end of your school year and you find yourself less than enthusiastic about it, evaluate why.

  • What has zapped all your energy?
  • Where are you stretched too thin?
  • Have you become the “do everything” mom, so that the kids aren’t carrying their weight?
  • Have you let behavior slide so that your days are filled with a constant chorus of whining?
  • Have you taken time to refresh your own soul?
  • Have you purposely pursued time away from the kids/classroom to nurture life-giving friendships?
  • What inspiring friend can you plan to spend time with this week?
  • Are you looking for ways to serve others outside of your own home?
  • How can you provide moments of beauty in your daily routine?
  • Are you over-committed somewhere? What can you cut?
  • Have you under-nourished your own interests? What can you add?

Being a homeschool mom should not mean that you are now cloistered into your locked house, only to emerge for necessities like groceries and doctor’s appointments. You don’t stop being a sister, daughter, friend, neighbor when you teach at home. In fact, this role almost requires you that intentionally pursue a connected lifestyle to spark imagination and inspiration.

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If you are suffering from burnout, and you still have a way to go in the semester, it’s time to change something. Write down two things you can do this week to plan for moments of beauty and inspiration.

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Oh, I know. It’ll slow down your pace. You may only finish 130 lessons, rather than 140, but I think your kids’ experiences will be richer. (Don’t worry. The traditionally schooled kids rarely finish all their textbooks either.)

  • Make tea time a daily thing.
  • Take an afternoon to shut off all electronic devices and spend some serious time in the sun and fresh air.
  • Take a nature walk.
  • Arrange a small display of flowers for the table.
  • Notice the beauty around you in nature.
  • Notice the negative self talk in your own mind. Maybe your own words rolling round and round in your head–words or failure, or bitterness, regret, or disappointment–are the reason you are so sour and drained. Dwelling on the negatives will always do that to you.
  • Take a walk.
  • Get some exercise.
  • Head to the library and find books that inspire you to learn something new.
  • Paint outside with the kids.
  • Laugh with a friend.
  • Make a bon fire.
  • Read aloud to the kids.
  • Enjoy a treat together.
  • Invite people over. Connect in meaningful ways. Live. Enjoy your life and the people in it.

If you are dreading the homestretch, change it up. You’re on your own schedule. And you don’t need anyone’s permission to care for your self. You are in charge of your own happiness!

What are you going to do this week to plan for happy and inspiring moments? Share in the comments!

 

10 Ways To Refresh Your Soul

Looking for ways to refresh this winter? The common theme among my friends is that we are all looking for ways to rest our bodies and revive our hearts a bit after a hectic holiday season. We all know that doesn’t happen automatically. It needs to be planned, especially if you are responsible for the daily care of babies, toddlers, teens, or the elderly. These stages of constant giving can be draining.

I’ve learned from experience that when I am depleted, I’m not the wife, mother, or friend I want to be. The more I feed my own soul, the more I have to give out.

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I thought it would be fun to share a few of my favorite ways to refresh. I hope you’ll share yours as well. Maybe your list looks different from mine–that’s okay. But we all have this in common–we all need to rest. So, pour yourself a cup of tea and repeat after me: “Caring for yourself is wise and everybody needs to rest.” 😉

Here goes:

  1. Spend time alone. New research suggests that quiet time–literally solitude and silence–can be therapeutic in the noisy world we live in. If you have young children, try to find a few snatches of time in the early morning, late evening, or during afternoon naps to just sit and listen to the silence. This is a perfect time for a warm cup of coffee, your Bible, a journal, or to meditate on a daily verse. Bonus: A worshipful life gives us the added benefit of direction and strength to face each day, no matter what comes our way.
  2. De-clutter your soul. As you sit, listen to what’s going on in your heart. What recurring theme pops into your mind? What worry, disappointment, regret, or memory is disturbing your peace? Recognize it, acknowledge it, fix it if you can, repent of it if you must, and then give it to God and move on! Don’t let “mind noise” keep you from thinking on “things above.” Colossians 3:2
  3. Rest. We weren’t created to run, run, run. What comes up must come down. After the adrenaline of the holidays you must take a good nap or go to bed early. “You are only as spiritual as you are rested.” ~Jim Berg
  4. Pray. Did you know that simply talking to God and sharing your burdens, disappointments, frustrations, and ambitions with Him is more beneficial than telling them to a friend? Plus, God can actually intervene and do something about all you share…and He’ll never betray your confidence or reveal your inmost secrets. There aren’t too many friends that you can trust like that.
  5. Spend a moment reading for pleasure. Charlotte Mason was a huge proponent of reading quality material in small chunks, allowing the brain time to process and make connections with the material. I’ve found that over-reading can hinder comprehension and appreciation of the material.
  6. Plan time for friendship. Who are your 3 closest friends? If you haven’t told them how much you appreciate them lately, what are you waiting for? Text, write, phone, or visit your friend and make time to laugh, shop, and eat together. You’ll both benefit.
  7. Plan for beauty. When winter is blah, I know that arranging some small vase of flowers, a candle, a freshly pressed table cloth, or some other simple seasonal display does wonders for the atmosphere of my home. Simple creativity bring so much pleasure.
  8. Change of scenery. If you are a stay at home mom or a homeschooling mom, I KNOW it can be hard to load all the kids into the car and go somewhere but just do it. Head to the library, your favorite bagel shop, or to a friend’s house. Go somewhere where you can grab an inexpensive treat and the kids can play. This is a mood booster, especially during long New England winters.
  9. Plan for stimulating conversation. I’m not a small talk person. I love to talk about heart and life matters and I’m not afraid to ask the people I respect their views on difficult subjects. My happiest moments are over a cup of tea discussing philosophy of education, motherhood, and ministry life with a dear friend. If you are far from friends, listen to a pod cast or seminar online about topics that interest you. I loved this one from Sally Clarkson.
  10. Learn a new skill. Anything you ever wanted to learn is on YouTube. What a time to live! Right now in our home, we’re practicing calligraphy and hand lettering, and crocheting.

What refreshes you? Share in the comments.

How I Plan and Prioritize My Weeks

Several of you have told me that you wish you could sit at my kitchen table and see how I plan our busy life so I thought I’d do a post about what that looks like.

For years I’ve used this Weekly Priority Printable that I made for myself.

It’s just to plan the HIGHLIGHTS of our week, not every little task. It’s also a reminder of our IDEALS–how we want to look back at how we spent our life. It’s a run-down of what God calls me to in Titus 2.

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For instance, at the end of a week, I want to have spent time in God’s Word. That’s goal #1. I want to intentionally LOVE my husband and children. This includes meals, emotional support, and mutual spiritual encouragement.

I can’t tell you how many times this little sheet has helped me say “NO” to things that were fine and good, but not the best for our family–LIKE every week. It also helps me see the “ebb and flow” of our life–aka–when I’ve over committed myself and need to rest.

Basically, I set aside an hour a week to jot down my “plan.”

  • I print my guidelines.
  • I pray and ask God to guide me as I “plan” and to redirect my plans as He sees fit.
  • I then plan for my devotional time: what I’ll read and study in Scripture and what devotional books I’m going through. I keep an ongoing “What Do I Know about My God? notebook. I also keep a leather bound notebook for all of my Bible study,notes for teaching or speaking, notes from sermons, seminars, or quotes that impacted me.
  • I try to plan a time to connect with Peter. In this season of life it’s usually either a coffee time or just shopping or doing something mundane together so we can talk.
  • I then mark and plan for “special days” like birthdays or anniversaries.
  • I look at the flyers to make our weekly menu based on what’s on sale or in season.
  • I block out school times.
  • I note doctors appointments, weekly lessons or commitments that I have with the kids.
  • I plan to do something fun with the kids.
  • I plan to do good to someone God has put on my heart by either a phone call, note, visit, or coffee run.
  • I note our ministry schedule and plan to invite people in for fellowship/hospitality if our schedule allows.
  • I plan personal ministry times like blogging, encouraging a friend, watching a friend’s kids, “kitchen table counseling” as God gives me time.

When you write this all down, you’ll see right away where you are out of balance or too busy. As you look back, you’ll KNOW that you lived life according to your ideals instead of just living re-actively and haphazardly.

There you have it. Nothing elaborate, but it works for me.

How do you plan your weeks? Do you struggle to say no to good things so that you can live the best life you can? (I highly recommend Sally Clarkson’s Own Your Life: Living with Deep Intention, Bold Faith, and Generous Love, one of my favorite books of 2015!) Feel free to share any great resources with me! I love to hear how you organize your life.

 

(*Post contains Amazon Affiliate Links at no cost to you.)

Great Gift Ideas for your Teen {Christmas 2015}

Not sure what to buy your teen? I’ve done my homework and today I’m going to share a few favorite finds with you.

If the teen in your life has a serious hobby like skiing, skating, writing, or painting, then theme related shirts, accessories, mugs, and prints are great ideas.

2015 gift guide

I’m adding Amazon links below for all of you die hard shop-from-home types (me!) but you might be able to get better deals on some of these things on Black Friday.

 

Great Gift Ideas for your Teen

Mini Portable Projector to use with iPhone/laptop/iPad. Perfect for a dorm room!

North Face eTip Texting Gloves because you can’t text with normal mittens on. 😉

iPhone Camera Lens Kit (Make sure you choose the style that is compatible with your phone. Peter bought these for me for Mother’s Day and they were really cool.

Eno Eagle’s Nest Hammock These are big on college campuses as they go up pretty much anywhere. Emily has one and it’s pretty sweet.

ESV Journaling Bible in Blue Flora. I’m on my second Journaling Bible and it’s been so helpful!

Boot Socks Topper Cuff or Boot Socks or Lace Trimmed Knit Leg Warmers

Skullcandy Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds

Kindle Fire – Reasonably priced tablet ($49.99)

Amazon Echo– More expensive, but brilliant.  Just ask it anything and it searches the web for you. We had ours set up in the kitchen, and I don’t know how many times I asked it, “Alexa, what time is it in Berlin, Germany?” this summer while Emily was on her Missions Trip.

Jane-A-Day 5 Year Journal if your teen loves Jane Austen.

Puffin-in-Bloom Collection. Just go look. The most beautifully bound set of classics ever.

Of course, flannel pj’s, make up, gift cards, room decor, scarves, jewelry, chocolate, tickets to the symphony, etc…would all be great gifts for teen girls.

And guys might like tickets to a sports event, gift cards, dorm pants, outer wear, tools, and FOOD.

What do you think? What would you add to this list to make it complete? Share your ideas with me in the comments here or on FB. Happy shopping!

 

 

Favorite Things Fridays

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Favorite Things post, so today’s post is newsy.

Yesterday we enjoyed a grower reception at Ocean Spray and got to meet the OS “commercial guys.”

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I am busy getting ready for Christmas. I have a good chunk of my shopping done.

I want to be done early because my kids are coming home for Thanksgiving for a week! Woot! Plus we have three birthdays to celebrate that week as well, so I need to be organized in order to get it all done. :)

And once Thanksgiving weekend is over, life seems to get busier than I like. If we’re not careful, we can spend our time reacting to life rather than planning it out and living it well. I wrote extensively about keeping holiday sanity (and not breaking the bank!) in my ebook “Merry Christmas, Meager Budget” available here.  (<—also, grab 2 free chapters here as well.) Plus, we have an Instagram Giveawayhttps://instagram.com/p/9eF9D4lcMo/ of 4 copies of our eBook going on right now so head on over there to enter for you and a friend.

Here are some of my favorite things around the web. Grab a cup of tea and enjoy.

CRAFTY:: 1 Million free vintage images from the British Library.

Learn how artist/illustrator Renee Graef illustrates a book. She’s definitely one of my favorite illustrators.

MOTHERHOOD:: Sally Clarkson on teaching obedience to your kids.Sally Clarkson on teaching obedience.

Also, we’re newbies to the world of foster care but this was a great article about the need entitled “Wanted: Parents Willing to Get too Attached. Someday, when I can, I’ll write a little bit about the roller coaster of emotions that is foster care, but for now, we’re praying our way through this journey and loving on our little guy.

EDUCATIONAL:: This video: Watch 1000 Years of European Borders Change in 3 Minutes.

This 3D animation of how the heart works is fascinating.

CHRISTIAN GROWTH:: This super insightful post by Piper entitled The Major Obstacle in Forgiving Others might make you think twice about why you like to hold a grudge.

“… if we do this —if we really return good for evil, not the kind of manipulative way that hopes to really draw attention to the other person’s guilt…then very few people, if anybody, will know that we have been hurt.”

Holly Stratton’s article about relational struggles sheds light on our struggles with pride when faced with the pride of others and how God graciously uses other’s sin to show us our own.

KITCHEN:: This is by far my most pinned recipe: Copycat Dunkin Donuts Vanilla Chai Tea Mix. Great for fall and Christmas gift giving.

Slow Cooker Chicken Stroganoff via Allrecipes is one of my favorite recipes to make for a crowd. Serve with green beans, cranberry sauce and rolls. Yum.

BOOKS:: I am currently enjoying Relying on the Power of the Holy Spirit by Elizabeth George, and Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life, which I find myself coming back to again and again. Peterson is extremely insightful and calming, if you know what I mean. Her section on community and identifying with family after a loved one passes away was worth the cost of the book. Also, Contentment: A Godly Woman’s Adornment. Because you can’t be godly and discontent, now can you? 😉 I wrote about that choosing contentment  even when life gets hard and what to remember when it does. 

What links did you enjoy this week? Feel free to share in the comments. Or if you blog, feel free to share one of your own links. Have a great weekend!

*Post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.

When Perfectionism Stops You

So, I haven’t been blogging much lately and a friend asked why. Know what? I’ve got all the excuses:

“I’m just so busy. I’ve got so many plates spinning. I’ve got a toddler again.” She could see through the words.

Truth is, I don’t like doing anything I can’t do well. I struggle with perfectionism.

 

So, since I can’t formulate thoughts as clearly as I like, and since I compare myself to other bloggers who are really gifted with writing, and who can actually edit properly, I’ve pretty much stopped.

My friend said, “I don’t think you realize what a blessing your blog is to so many women.”

I argued, “I can’t even think anymore let alone write. And my grammar– Ugh.”

She said, “You write really well. I don’t think you know that.”

This conversation repeated with another friend last weekend at a conference, and I finally decided that maybe the Lord was using these sweet friends to tell me something. God wants faithfulness not perfection. God honors obedience not ability.

So, my friends, here I am. Mumbled, jumbled thoughts and all. Less than perfect, but willing to encourage.

I’m hard on myself. Are you? Know what? Perfectionism is a lie that will paralyze and rob you of the blessings of obedience.

How do you recognize perfectionism?

It’s usually in those of us who have high ideals. We’re hard on ourselves and strive for excellence.in.everything. You’re afraid of failure. You’re hurt by criticism. You worry too much about what others think. You believe if something can’t be done well it shouldn’t be done at all. Perfectionism is self defeating and unrealistic. It’s dreamland, honey, because nothing is perfect and we all just need to lighten up.

You know what? I don’t have to be perfect–and neither do you. Isn’t that just great and grace? The gospel comes in to save the day, yet again, in our daily walk–Jesus was perfect for me! I don’t have to be perfect, because I’m already loved, accepted, and it’s all okay because of Him. 

Don’t we all need to stop waiting until life is perfect before we step out and really do what God has put on our hearts? Don’t we just need to take courage and lift palms upward and offer our here and now rather than our “As soon as I get it all together, Lord!”

Don’t we need to affirm the truth that God ordains all of our days and our meetings and that the people we serve and the opportunities He brings are not by chance?

If we wait until we all have it all together before we serve, the truth is, the body of Christ suffers and your “light” on a hill disappears.

How are you wired to serve? What gifts has God given you? What is the desire of your heart? Do you love to write, paint, or cook? Do you have the gift of wisdom, discernment, or helps?

Did you know that you don’t need permission to use those good things for God’s glory and you don’t need to wait until you’ve perfected your game?

Did you know that your imperfect words of encouragement or your invitation into a toy-strewn house for a cold glass of lemonade might be the only encouragement offered to a weary soul today.

Just do it. I am. It won’t be perfect, but it will be something. It may not be remarkable, but that’s okay.

Faithfulness not perfection. Obedience, not ability.

What has the Lord been prompting you to step out and do?

I’d love to hear in the comments!

 

2 Minute Ways to Feel Productive

If you are caring for young children, you know that your time is not your own. Many days you don’t have five minutes to yourself. You try to unload the dishwasher and someone needs you. You come back later to the job half done and it’s frustrating.

Instead of getting frustrated, settle for doing things in small chunks of time as you can. If you feel like you’re not accomplishing much, think of your days in small chunks of time and attempt life that way. The small chunks certainly can add up and you’ll find you are not as frustrated and are much more productive.

Something is better than nothing.

What can be done in two minutes? Here are a few ideas.

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  • Glance down at your Bible on the counter for a word of encouragement or instruction.
  • Write out a verse on a card for your fridge.
  • Text a friend, “I’m thinking of you.”
  • Rotate the laundry.
  • Write a thank you.
  • Water the plants.
  • Make a bed.
  • Clean a toilet.
  • Wipe down a counter or Windex an appliance.
  • Wash a glass door that is full of hand prints.
  • Braid your daughter’s hair.
  • Pull out meat from the freezer for dinner.
  • Straighten the pillows on a couch and fold a blanket artfully.
  • Sweep the porch or deck.
  • Check the mail.
  • Tidy up the shoes by the door.

What are some other ways you find to be productive with little snatches of time?