Monday, March 31, 2008

Back to school

Seventeen beds, each one full. Five with our own children, and twelve more we just claim during the school year. Each with his own story, from very different homes, comes seeking structure and safety and direction for success.

After a week off for Spring Break, we excitedly welcomed back ‘our’ boys. The conversation flows quickly today with so much to catch up on. The movies they watched, the visits with family members, the times of relaxation, and the homesickness they feel now even in the midst of the joy of being back among their friends.

I love a full house. I love the noise and activity. I love getting to know their individuality their preferences and personality quirks. I love sharing the love of Christ with them throughout the time we have with them.

Today has been a typical day of checking homework, comforting homesick kids (wading gently when determining if ‘illness’ is medical or emotional), instilling social skills, holding them accountable for what they know, but may have forgotten a little from lack of practice (both academically and socially).

I always look forward to these last nine weeks of the school year. Still schoolwork to accomplish, but with lots of fun intermingled. Baseball games, field trips, plays, field day. Lots to enjoy.

As we head into the home stretch of our ninth school year here I think back to the many boys that we have worked with and gotten to know over the years, over 100 of them! Some with us only a few weeks for various reasons, and some for four school years. We continue to pray that our time with them will not be forgotten. That they will call to mind the lessons learned, most importantly about our faith in Jesus Christ. Lots of planted seeds, many we will not even know the outcome of until eternity.

You never know the lives you may touch on a daily basis, some regularly and others incidentally throughout the day. Whatever the situation, God can use each of those interactions to prompt their thinking toward Him. I am so grateful for this opportunity that we have right here right now. I need to remember to make the most of the last 39 school days; because once they are gone I can’t recapture one of them, and I don’t know which of these students I may never see again. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future, and I need to live for Him today and in all my tomorrows.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Verse of the Week - Seek Him First

Sometimes I get caught up in the here and now. Who do I need to feed? Who needs their clothes changed? Who needs help? Who needs some instruction or discipline? What housework needs attention? So many demands of the day calling out for my energy and time, not to mention all that carries over to tomorrow’s to-do list.

I easily lose focus of eternity. This weekend God called to mind the well known verse in Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” The whole passage leading up to that challenges us on having a sole focus in life, serving God as our one and only master and mindset. I get so stuck on the physical sometimes.

Sometimes I focus more on what my kids eat than on their spiritual nourishment, more on their water intake than their thirst for God, more on their clothes than the fruit of the Spirit they exhibit. Of course, this applies to my personal goals as well. I often show more drive and passion for saving money, eating well, exercising, and daily routines than for my quiet time, building eternal rewards, having a spirit of prayer, memorizing Scripture, and sharing my faith with others.

Worrying often comes with the territory of motherhood. We worry that we will ‘mess up’ our kids, that they will make the wrong choices no matter how diligent our parenting, that they will have ungodly friends, that they will stray from their walk with God. I love the way Matthew 6 ends, too. “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” I definitely have enough to worry about today, and I too often expend effort worrying about the wrong things anyway.

I need to strive to seek first His kingdom, His righteousness. After that, things mostly fall into place on their own, at least the important stuff.

My husband and I have never really been in a position of serious physical need. However, we did experience one year of extreme faith building, that has helped me through times of 'little' worries ever since. We spent a year overseas as dorm parents at a Christian high school. During that time we had very little income and lived mostly off our savings, which as a young, married couple didn’t go too far either. At one point during the year our support was getting a little sparse.

We chatted with a visiting couple after church one Sunday and God used them in a powerful way to strengthen our faith and remind us of the truth of Matthew 6:33. During our conversation the man placed a little wad of something (at the time I honestly thought it was a gum wrapper, rather odd) in my husband’s shirt pocket. Later, my husband unwrapped it and showed me the $100 bill. I didn’t need to worry. God’s message was loud and clear. That money wouldn’t last forever, but the lesson He gently placed in my husband’s pocket that day would. God had everything in control. I just needed to keep seeking Him, His righteousness, and He would take care of where our meals and clothing would come from. We never missed a meal that year. We lived very simply, but we had everything that we needed.

Even if I did not have a year of experiences like that to look back on, Scripture holds enough promises to last a lifetime, and then some. I need to remember this week to keep my focus on the inside not the outside, on the eternal instead of the temporal, on Him rather than all these other things.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God,

and his righteousness;

and all these things shall be added unto you.

~Matthew 6:33~

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Blast from the past -- Brooke's birth

Funny how much sentimentality you can lace up in a pair of shoes. Today I threw away shoes that I have held on to for over four years for no other reason. Long ago the sole split, the color faded, the laces got mangled, and they held onto irremovable stains. And yet, I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away. Because, these were the shoes I wore while my fourth child was born. And her birth was something to remember.

I had looked at the clock, 2:15 am. Ugh! Not again. More contractions interrupting what had actually been a restful nights’ sleep, something hard to come by at nine plus months pregnant. For the past three weeks this happened periodically. I would get out of bed, wondering, “Is this it?” Watching the clock, timing the contractions, sometimes steady at 5-10 minutes for up to two hours. Finally coax myself back to sleep and wake up in the morning to nothing. This night, however, would prove to be different. The contractions were uncomfortable, lasted a minute and came close to every five minutes. We’d been here before though, so I ate an apple, washed some dishes and watched the clock.

Around 3:15 I was pretty sure this was ‘it’ so I finished getting everything ready to go to the hospital. I woke my husband at 4:00 and we debated if we should call the midwife or wait. After he finished getting the sleep out of his mind he said, “What are we thinking? You are six days past your due date, we should call.”

I called around 4:30 and waited for the call back. Of course the whole time I was on the phone with her I did not have one contraction. With a little reluctance in her voice the midwife said to head to the hospital and they would call her when I arrived. The contractions had remained pretty much the same, so that sounded fine to me. I finished getting dressed and put on those black oxfords; my husband showered, had some cereal and we started to pack the kids up. It takes a bit of time to get three young, sleeping children into the car, so it was almost six o’clock when we drove away.

The contractions came every three minutes, and slightly beyond uncomfortable. I kneeled on the van floor, resting my head on the middle bench seat. Our four year old daughter stroked my hair and told me about the beautiful Christmas lights we drove past. I told her “thanks,” but I couldn’t really look just then. The next half hour blurred by between contractions, clock-checking, and looking out the window to see how far we had yet to go.

We dropped off the kids, and took my husband’s parents’ vehicle so they would have all the carseats for transporting our kids later. By this time I did not feel comfortable sitting at all and I climbed in the front seat kneeling backwards on the seat, clutching the headrest for support as contractions came. Another 20 minutes and we should be at the hospital. We were making good time so far.

About half way into this ride the contractions started getting difficult to manage. I did my best to breathe through them and keep my thoughts elsewhere. The labor was painful of course. However, I had already experienced two smooth, natural births even after a Caesarean section with our first. I knew I just needed to settle in and keep the goal in mind.

Labor seemed to continue to progress at a steady pace, and I suddenly had the feeling the hospital might be a little too far away. I pulled my pants down to my knees, which in hindsight my husband said he should have taken as an indicator of just how close this baby’s birth was. However, we both just had in our mind to get to the hospital.

I reached down to check the progress of the birth manually, and realized that the baby’s head was crowning!

Ineffective pep talks ensued in my mind. “I can’t push, I can’t push.” I told my husband that I felt the head. He continued to try to get us to the hospital as quickly as possible. He rushed a red light when the intersection was empty; he exceeded the speed limit, all the while gently encouraging me that we were almost there. And when I told him I now felt the nose, he pulled into the nearest parking lot. We came to a stop in the 7-11 parking lot, four blocks from the hospital. My husband ran around to my side of the car, with his wits about him, checked that the cord was not wrapped around the neck of this child ready to come whether we were at the hospital or not. He was in place and ready. I pushed, and within a few minutes, at 6:45 a.m. according to the car’s clock, our fourth child came into this world.

The baby let out a healthy, newborn wail. My husband set the baby on the seat wrapped in a towel we had on hand just in case my water broke (and we thought we had prepared for any possible scenario), and prepared to drive the remaining blocks to the hospital. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry just then. It was dark and cold and as my husband ran back around to his side and said, “I think it’s a girl.” We didn’t know before that point, the ultrasound had been inconclusive. I double checked, “Yup, a girl. That makes one boy and now three girls.”

We pulled up outside the emergency room and my husband got out to see what we should do. An employee on a smoke break asked if we needed something. He calmly explained to her that we had just had a baby in the car. The woman panicked a bit, started slapping the buzzer to open the door, and out rushed the medical personnel. In the flurry that followed I became thankful for and humored by our unique birth experience. They all fussed and hurried, but peace filled me completely. Everything was fine. We were all healthy, we had a beautiful, feisty baby girl, and we had a story to retell and laugh about for years to come. I finally slipped off those now blood stained shoes and settled into bed with my precious baby.

In the days that followed we recounted the stories to numerous people in a variety of situations. The story flew through our circles of acquaintances and family members, and each time we laughed and marveled at the miracle and preciousness of birth. I rested in the knowledge that God had uniquely designed me to be a mother, the mother of these specific, precious children. Just as He designed my body to give birth naturally, He also enabled me to care for them and ‘mother’ them. It doesn’t mean our days are easier, just that I have an easier time finding the strength to make it through them.

So, I hesitantly let go of these shoes that I held on to as some unusual reminder of that eventful morning. Each day I can still look into those big, sparkling blue eyes and remember the first time I saw them, in the parking lot of 7-11.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Just for fun

This week we have the opportunity to enjoy some true rest and relaxation. I love these times of just being together at home. Nothing to run out and get done, no appointments, no work outside of housework (which, admittedly is enough by itself -- but this week I can actually keep up with it), just a time for getting things in order and having lots of fun together.

My son wanted to pull out the potato cannon and dust it off for some fun. So, we pulled it out of the closet, along with a few potatoes that are sprouting quite a bit anyway.

We found this in a book we received as a gift a few years ago. This book, Backyard Ballistics, has a lot of intriguing projects, especially enjoyed by boys. This is the largest project we have attempted from its pages, but it does also have a number of quick and easy 'ballistic' projects. My husband adapted this cannon to accommodate a smaller launch tube so we didn't have to spend a fortune on the larger baking potatoes. It runs on starter fluid and a little spark for some impressive results.

First, you stuff the canon with a potato that fills the opening. We used a long stick to push it down, just like the old days.

A squirt of starter fluid in the back and quick, close it up. It's ready for launch!

If we didn't have to keep coming inside to warm up our hands we would have enjoyed this more, but some good fun nonetheless.

Inside, we tipped the couches in the great room over, put the cushions all on the floor and made our monster fort. The kids like to sleep out there at night. Kind of like camping without having to leave the living room. It helps that there are couches to seat 20 so it is rather roomy, but definitely not something we can do when all of our boys are with us.

Forts, no matter what the size, create innumerable imaginative experiences, even if just for housing an afternoon snack or tea party. The great thing is there is no wrong way to make them. All you need are couches or chairs and some sheets or blankets. Kids' imaginations run wild once they have a tent, hideout, castle, or headquarters that they helped put together.

More cleaning and playing calling my name!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The rest of the story

One of my closest friends died the other day. Gone so suddenly, subjected to such a cruel death, too. Everything aches. Emptiness fills my being. Just walking takes concerted effort. My mind travels a mile a minute replaying the events leading up to his death, treasuring the memories of his life.

Of course, it doesn’t help that his death became headline material. Everywhere I go people are discussing the events of his life, the circumstances of his death, and their opinion of the whole matter. Armchair editorialists, water cooler gossips all have to share their ‘objective’ take on the happenings.

Now, I travel to the cemetery. I need to visit again. To grieve, to remember, to contemplate. Wishing there was more I could do. Could I have changed something in the past few days and had a different outcome?

Tears come quickly as I remember his gentle ways, quick wit, powerful teaching, and firm convictions.

I enter the cemetery, and mindlessly travel the path to the grave.

---What’s this? Something has happened! His resting place was disturbed, his memory, his peace. His body removed. Where did they take him? How? What happened? Why is this happening? Didn’t we go through enough already?

I had seen his lifeless body removed from the cross, wrapped tenderly in clean linen, placed in this new tomb. To secure it, they rolled a giant stone in front of the entrance to the tomb. The Pharisees petitioned Pilate for an armed guard to keep watch over the tomb. This can’t be happening. There is no way that anyone could have done this.

As sorrow threatens to overwhelm me again I realize an angel is on hand and begins to speak, “Do not be afraid.” The same words spoken to Jesus’ mother at the foretelling of his birth. The same words spoken to the shepherds, now spoken to me at another emotionally charged encounter. The angel continues, “I know you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.”

What? It can’t be true, but it must be true. He told us of this, but we didn’t understand fully. He is risen! He is alive. My mind again whirs with thoughts, trying to process it all, trying to make sense of everything my ears are hearing. My emotions race to catch up. No more sorrow, no more grief, just joy, pure joy!

We turn to gladly bring the news to the disciples awaiting our return, and there we see him, face to face. Jesus, our Risen Lord, the Lamb of God that has now taken away the sin of the world. We fell in worship, the privilege of worshiping God in the flesh. We had all these years together, and yet the fullness of who He was did not reach the core of our beings as it does now. He is God, the Almighty, the I AM. He gave himself in our place.

We know there will be opposition. The Pharisees know if this story gets around lives will be changed, against them. So, they have already bribed the soldiers to say the body was stolen. Foolishness! No person would dare to cross Pilate and his guards to propagate a lie.

He is alive! Nothing will stop this truth, His truth. It will reach the ends of the earth. It will change lives, families, communities, nations. The world will never be the same after this day.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

It is finished

My ABC Adoration today . . .

Atoning work

Blood shed for me

Crucified Lord

Died willingly

Extreme Agony

Flogged in my place

God in human form

Heavenly substitution

Immaculate sacrifice

Jesus Christ my Lord

Kingly servant

Love so amazing

Murdered by consent

Never needing repeat

Once for all

Passover Lamb of God

Quiet before his accusers






Worthy is the Lamb that was slain

X-cellent friend

You in His mind

Z -- It is finished!

Thank you, God, for all you gave up and accomplished in my place.

Friday, March 21, 2008

What I deserved

One of Jesus’ very own disciples betrayed him, turned him in, to those who misunderstood and hated him the most. But, not without regret. Matthew 27 tells us that Judas brought back the 30 pieces of silver they paid him. He said, “I have betrayed innocent blood.” Even the greedy eventually realize they did wrong. The priests and elders didn’t care. Judas threw the money back at them and went out and killed himself.

Jesus’ disciples were scattered, none stood by him in this time of trial. Some violently denied that they even knew him. Now, his accusers brought him before various government authorities to prove his guilt as he stood, alone. No one could come to a decisive conclusion about him. His accusers testified, but not in agreement because so many charges were fabricated or exaggerated.

Finally, he stood before Pilate, a governor. After questioning Jesus, he came to the conclusion that he found no guilt in him, the only person in all of history that could truthfully be said about. However, they had a tradition at this time of year. The ruler would release one prisoner to the people. He brought out Barabbas, a despicable, violent murderer, and stood him next to Jesus. “Who would you like me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” He knew they did not have a legitimate case against Jesus, so he figured he would end the folly now and have Jesus released and declared innocent, especially when compared to this evil individual.

Pilate’s wife sent the message, “Have nothing to do with this righteous man, I was up all night suffering because He was in some dreams I had.”

The chief priests and elders went around bribing the crowd to call for Barabbas. With no answer yet, Pilate asked again, hoping to be freed of the responsibility of deciding in this case that did not make sense.

“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”


“We want Barabbas”

"Give us Barabbas"

Pilate calmed the crowd’s cries and said, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”

“Let him be crucified.”

“Crucify him”

“Why, what has he done?”

“Crucify him” “Crucify him” “Crucify him” "Crucify him!" "Crucify him!"

Pilate, trying to avoid a riot, took a bowl of water, washed his hands and said, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”

“His blood be on us and on our children!”

Barabbas was released. And Jesus was whipped.

Time and again the strips of leather with shards of stone and glass shredded his back as the soldiers whipped him mercilessly, not caring what the crime or whether he deserved this treatment. Jesus could barely stand, his wounded back throbbing, his clothes torn, his physical energy and life draining away.

The soldiers surrounded Jesus, ripped his clothes off and threw royal robe on him, mocking his claim to be a king. Careful not to prick their own hands, they made a crown out of branches with large thorns on them and pressed it into Jesus’ head. Giving him a reed for a scepter they kneeled and mocked, “Hail, King of the Jews.” They spit and hit him with the reed. They pulled the robe back off and draped his own clothes back on him and led him away to the end of his earthly life and his mission.

Jesus staggered under the weight of the cross he carried to his own execution. The soldiers pulled a man from the crowd to carry his cross to Golgotha, the place of the skull, the place he would die.

To the soldiers this started as just another day at work. A task they had grown numb to after completing it countless times. They drove the nails through his wrists and feet into the wooden beams of the cross. They then raised the cross and dropped it into its hole in the ground, with Christ’s body in agony over each move. And there Jesus hung. Every breath an agony. Jesus, completely innocent looked down on the guilty crowd of people gathered, saw their sins that required His payment for their salvation, and His love for them held him on the cross. As God in flesh He could have stopped this at any time and removed the pain. Remember? This was the man that fed five thousand with a small lunch, healed the paralytic, made the blind see and the lame to walk. Yet he hung there, not because the nails prevented Him from getting down, but because His love did. His death would pay the price for all the sins from Adam and Eve to the end of the world.

Even as his heart throbbed with compassion for the crowd they continued to mock him.

“Save yourself”

“He saved others, let him save himself”

“If you are God, the Chosen One, come down from there”

On either side of him a criminal hung, next to this innocent man. The one also cried out, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself, and save us!” The other rebuked him, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” He directed his next comment to Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”

Around noon, as Jesus hung, agonizing on the cross, the sun suddenly disappeared. Darkness covered the land for three hours. During that time, in the temple a curtain ripped from the top to the bottom. Before that time, only the priests could enter in the holiest place of the temple to talk with God, now Jesus was opening that door. All could approach the Almighty God through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. The perfect sacrifice for the impurities in our life had been found and paid.

Jesus cried out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And he took his last breath.

The soldier standing guard at his cross saw all that had taken place and said, “Truly this was the Son of God.”

Please don’t walk away from this scene lightly. Jesus Christ paid a great price so that we could enjoy eternity in heaven. Because of my sins and your sins, he did this. Because no other perfect sacrifice exists. Because God requires justice. Either we had to go to hell, or Jesus had to die. And out of deep love,

He chose to die

I wrote and taught this for AWANA this past week and got a good response from the students.

Many said it helped them see the crucifixion and understand it more than they had before.

I pray that it does the same for you today.

Of course, it's not the end of the story . . .

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

My day and Playdough fun

Bible time always begins our school day. We recite Hebrews 11 (through verse 17 right now), read a corresponding passage from the Old Testament (about Abraham and the birth of Isaac), sing a hymn (When we all get to heaven) and a few other favorites, and pray. Tonight at AWANA I get to teach on the crucifixion and wanted to run it by my kids first. We had a great discussion about all that happened that day and the meaning behind it all. Christ, our great Passover lamb, what a hope to build our lives on! I love hearing the kids' spiritual thoughts and growth as well.

We had a fairly smooth morning and so I figured we would have some fun time this afternoon, especially with the little ones. So, we made my all time favorite homemade playdough recipe. It uses unflavored Koolaid packets, so it has a great color and scent. We made orange today.

The only thing with this playdough is little kids try to eat because it smells so good. It's all theoretically edible, and after one lick they don't usually continue, but that is the recipe's only downfall.

While they worked we read a chapter from Hillyer's A Child's History of the World (about the birth and death of Christ providentially) and started reading George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin. I think my kids (and I) will enjoy this. I love reading aloud together. We just wrapped up Men of Iron. Kind of a heavy book, but we all didn't want it to end. Everyone from my two year old to ten year old listen pretty well to even these long books, 30 minutes at a time.

Oh, the playdough recipe:
Mix together:
5 cups flour
1 cup salt
4 packages Koolaid (all same flavor, or divide into separate batches)

1/2 cup oil
3 cups boiling water

Mix until a soft dough.
Once cool keep in an airtight container when not in use.


Getting to know you . . . part 2

In the spirit of sharing some more personal data about myself, here is another 'tag' I received and figured I would post my answers here as well. If anyone wants to borrow this format to share about yourself on your blog, feel free!

Four jobs I have had in my life

1. Teacher
2. Houseparent
3. Janitor
4. waitress

Four movies I have watched more than once:
1. Princess Bride
2. UHF
3. Monsters Inc.

4. Cheaper by the Dozen

Four Places I have lived:

1. Savannah Sound, Eleuthera, Bahamas
2. Winfeild,Il

3. Elk Grove Village, IL

4. Chicago, IL

Four T.V. Shows that I watch:
1. the amazing race 2. The office 3. Survivor

(I don't watch these consistently, but I enjoy them when I have the time.)

Four places I have been:
1. Israel

2. Hungary

3. India

4. Scotland

Four favorite foods:
2. Thai
3. Chinese

Four Places I would like to visit:
1. New Zealand

2. Thailand

3. Tanzania

4. Galapagos Islands

Four things I am looking forward to in the coming year:
1. Trip to Washington DC with hubby and kids in the summer, hopefully
2. Hawaii (just the two of us -- excited, but a little nervous about this one)!!! for our 15th anniversary, well somewhere around there
3. Enjoying outings with my kids with no diapers!
4. Summer, and setting up our pool!

Anyone inspired to share their own 4's?

Getting to know you . . .

I've been tagged by
Here are the rules:
1. Link to your tagger and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share seven facts about yourself some random some weird.
3. Tag seven people by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

7 facts about myself

1. Out of 7 girls trying out for cheerleading at my high school, 6 would make it. I was the one that didn’t (this is always a great excuse to not be the cheerleading coach at the schools I have worked at) People don’t ask twice when they hear that.

2. I lived on an island in the Bahamas for a year

3. I like to learn foreign languages, or at least parts of them. I can say, “I don’t speak _____” in at least 5 different languages. And can say various words and phrases in 10 languages (English, French, Spanish, Hebrew, Hungarian, sign language, german, Japanese, Chinese, Telegu)

4. I am the fifth of seven kids, named in alphabetical order (Aileen, Beth, Cindy, Dave, Erin, Flynn, and Grant)

5. In college I worked at a Bible club in the housing projects and one week a drive by shooting had us hitting the ground as bullets landed in the grass and hit the fences nearby. We met in the community center after that.

6. I like to eat just about everything except cherry pie, ginger, and cranberry sauce

7. My husband delivered our fourth child in the front seat of the car, in the 7-11 parking lot four blocks from the hospital.

Maybe some day I will have to elaborate on some of those . . .

I am tagging:
only one person, because everyone else that I thought to tag had already been tagged, I guess I have a small blogging circle . . .

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hand Play

My younger two love hand games, as do most preschool aged kids. So, after I repeated pat-a-cake for the millionth time, I realized that I would much rather my kids repeated Bible stories and truths time and time again.

So, I set to work creating Bible hand games borrowing motions and rhymes from other well known hand games. I have a couple that we all enjoy, and here is a video of Faith, Brooke, Nathan, and myself doing 'Moses and Aaron.' I will print the words below in case you don't catch them.

Moses and Aaron

Moses and Aaron shared God's plan.
Ten plagues, Pharoah said, "Leave my land."

Israel quickly packed, God led the way.
Egypt chased, Israel raced
Through on dry land.

Then Nathan says, "Now we done." I guess it took too many practice runs to get the final copy :)

Pie making

Yesterday an unusual thing happened. My kids decided they wanted to bake some pies. My husband brought home some extra graham cracker crust tart tins from work a while back and they have been itching to do something with them.

Well, yesterday was our first day back into school after standardized testing so we had a lot to do, and Brooke was throwing up every few hours, so I didn't really have time to supervise a cooking project. But, part of the joy of homeschooling is teaching kids more independence in learning. So, when Blake said he wanted to make an apple pie, I said, "Go ahead." Then Paige said she wanted to make a butternut squash pie (just like pumpkin, but a great way to use up the abundance of butternut squash our garden produced last summer.) Again I said, "Go ahead."

Now, we cook together sometimes, but I usually do all the directing and recipe reading. I was eager to see what they could accomplish on their own. They were cutting the recipes in half so we wouldn't have too many mini pies around, and I helped Paige a little with those calculations (in between cleaning the carpet and schooling Faith). Blake made his pies completely on his own and they turned out amazing! He put a crumb topping on them, so he didn't have a crust to make, but I was still very impressed. He chopped all the apples, added all the other ingredients and filled the pie shells. Delicious!

Paige needed a little help now and then (like, figuring out how to get 1 1/2 eggs . . . ) But, for the most part she also completed this task on her own. She was so proud of herself and her pies were equally delicious. Sometimes I underestimate just what they can accomplish on their own. However, if kids acquire motivation, independence, and the ability to figure things out on their own, they can do just about anything. Even, make and bake a pie on their own when they are ten or eight.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Verse of the week -- Have no Fear!

I have been thinking a bit about fear this week, after last week's verse of the week, and how it relates to and impacts our Christian walk. It struck me that fear spills into our lives in a variety of ways. We fear the unknown when we worry. We fear failure when we stay quiet. We fear we made mistakes when we doubt. We fear potential mistakes when we avoid action. We fear not getting everything done when we allow stress to rule our thoughts. Sometimes fear motivates us, but not in healthy ways. It may motivate us to do what is right, but without the right reasons. We may homeschool out of fear, buy insurance out of fear, invest our money out of fear, eat healthy food out of fear, join ministries out of fear, and guard our children out of fear.

Then, I started recalling verse after verse in which God says, “Don’t fear!” He said it to Joshua, the people of Israel, Mary, the Shepherds, and many others. One of my favorite ‘don’t fear’ verses is in II Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” When one of my children walk into my room in the middle of the night, quietly whimpering over a bad dream that woke them we call on the power of that verse together. It brings great comfort in the middle of the night, when the darkness holds us tight and the fear seems to ooze in through our skin. God did not give us that spirit of fear. He gives us power! He gives us love (perfect love casts out fear, remember?) He gives us a sound mind. A sound mind erases so many fears. I rarely see the same child twice in one night after that verse is prayed over our fears.

I felt compelled to look at that verse again this week, in context. Paul encourages Timothy for his sincere, solid faith, passed down to him from his mother and grandmother. He then challenges Timothy to keep stirring up the gift of God, because “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

We should not stay quiet and let the gifts God has given us go to ruin. What gifts has God given you? Children, ministries, spiritual gifts, salvation? I had always put this verse in the context of scary dreams, which it fits powerfully. However, how much do I hide or squander the gifts that God has given me out of fear, instead of taking hold of them by His power, love and soundness of mind?

Paul doesn’t let up. He then commands – don’t be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord. A healthy fear only fears God, the beginning of knowledge. He, God, has saved us and called us to action. We have no reason to be ashamed or fearful because we know who we serve.

This week I desire God’s power, love and sound mind to control my actions, attitudes, and thoughts. Fear not!

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear;

but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

~II Timothy 1:7~

Friday, March 14, 2008

Carnivorous plants

Last year my son received a carnivorous plant set for his birthday. It takes a bit to set it up properly (6 weeks in the fridge among other things), and we actually only got one of the four seed types to germinate, but it has been exciting to watch it grow nonetheless.

Now, as the bugs are starting to appear around the house he has been tracking them down to 'feed' his plant. He trapped a fly today, and although he didn't get to see it eaten, it was an opportunity to view a fly close up. We examined the fly's parts and saw it eating off the inside of the cover of the terrarium.

I love this time of year as the world comes to life again and everything seems like a new discovery. Of course, you don't need a carnivorous plant to observe bugs. Any jar will do and can provide lots of opportunity for observation and discussion. It reminds me of one year we studied ants. We put out various foods for them to gather and watched them go to work. Even the toddlers and preschoolers amaze me with the thoughts that tumble out of their mouths when we slow down and just watch God's creation.

Of course, this always offers opportunity for Spiritual topics as well. "Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!" Proverbs 6:6.

Nothing like life, homeschooling, and God all coming together at once.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Frugal Friday -- hair curlers

Sometimes the simple tips make all the difference. My sister in law told about how her mom used cut up strips of towel for curlers in her hair as a child. I didn't think much of it at the time. We had just invested in a decent set of foam curlers since the girls were going to be in a wedding and it was the easiest way to do their hair so it would hold a style.

Well, then we got a dog. And our dog LOVES foam curlers, and almost anything else left on the ground. So, our supply has steadily dwindled and I really didn't want to buy more. I remembered the towel tip, and just happened to have a towel that, again thanks to our dog, had a large hole in it and was beyond use. So, I cut it up into about ten inch long strips, about an inch wide. Each small head uses about 10-12 strips.

I only cut up half the towel and had enough curlers for my three little heads wanting curls. When the hair is freshly washed, and wet, you simply take the hair, wrap around the strip and then tie the towel in a knot. The first time I did this it took a while, but has gotten quicker each time. You also kind of get a feel for each child's hair and how best to roll (how tightly, the pattern on the head, etc.) to fit their uniqueness.

(My model, she enjoys pictures, so I take advantage of it)

Once the hair is all rolled, they just have to sleep on it. In the morning, take out the rollers and as long as it doesn't rain you have adorable curls all day long.

I suppose the real frugal tip here is don't get a dog so you don't need to replace your curlers and come up with creative ways to use torn up towels, but either way, hopefully you found something helpful to make life a little easier on your bank account this week.

For more ideas, check out Crystal's Frugal Friday.

Coloring easter eggs

eeg1.gif picture by avrahamsgirl

Someone sent me this neat link to 'green' Easter egg coloring. I don't know if I will get around to trying it this year, but thought someone out there might enjoy it.

I can't believe Easter is so close already. I have to teach at AWANA this coming week on the crucifixion. What a huge topic! A relatively simple story with huge background and meaning. Please pray that the kids' hearts are ripe to receive it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

You know what I did today?

Today I did something that many people only dream of.

Something that you have to experience to believe it.

Something that gives me a larger view of God.

Something that takes all my energy, but pays me back in indescribable, intangible ways.

Something that required every moment of this day, from the time I woke up.

Something that I couldn't quit and is harder than a lot of people realize.

Something that I never knew how much I would love

Today I got to be a mom.

Same thing I do every day really, I just often forget the privilege, challenge, fulfillment, benefit, extent, cost, and reward of it.

What did it involve? Funny you should ask. Here’s a slice of my day:

- Woke up all 17 kids (okay, I just like saying that. Only 5 are mine, the others I just get to be mom to 5 days a week.)

- Supervised chores

- Made banana bread muffins for breakfast with some little fingers to help along the way

- Discussed the Iditarod winners and some of their tales of strategy and battling wits on the trail

- Read Acts 25, because my daughter really wants to hear the story of Paul’s missionary journey one more time (we’ll finish tomorrow)

- Supervised standardized testing for my older two

- Went on a tour of a nut and chocolate factory (my four year old wanted to know where the squirrels were . . . )

- Played catch with my 10 year old – spring training has already begun!

- Fished an empty bottle of hand soap out of the toilet from around the toilet paper

- Served a yummy spaghetti lunch

- Cleaned up vomit off the carpeting (that had to happen AFTER the spaghetti was consumed, eh?)

- Scraped chewing gum off a t-shirt

- Read silently on the couch with my daughter for a few minutes

- Talked about honesty and integrity as yet another politician falls pray to immorality

- Played at the park with all the kids

- Helped kids hide God’s Word in their hearts at AWANA

- Made a paper cut ‘all better’

- Discussed the contributions of Sacagawea to the Louis and Clark expedition

- More vomit, this batch I caught in my hands (does anyone else do this? I know it’s gross, but I can’t run fast enough and it keeps the mess contained. Gross, I know, but I didn’t have to change anyone’s clothes, just a thorough hand washing of all parties involved.)

- Lots of hugs and kisses, and bedtime rocking, snuggles and nose rubs.

All that, I got to do! The whole day I had opportunities to pour my life and God’s love and character into all these lives around me in my house. Such a blessing! Sometimes our teaching comes more from books, and sometimes it comes more from life.

How much of each day of our adult life do we use our math, science, and social studies knowledge, and how much of our day do we use our social skills, character traits, and God’s strength?

Today my kids learned some academic information, gained some book-knowledge. However, they also learned, how to care for their siblings when they don’t feel well, the importance of moral standards, selflessness, diligence, patience, how to love, and how to work hard and contribute to the home and family.

They need everything that I have to teach them, and it goes far beyond our school topics. Today I got to be a mom. A 24/7, never get a break, unearthly rewarded, teach till I drop mom. And I loved every minute of it, well, okay, a couple of them I could have done without. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Nearing the finish line

Well, after over a week of mushing through almost 1,000 miles of the Alaskan wilderness with a dozen dogs or more, the front runner is nearing the finish line. This race always carries its share of drama, and the finish can be watched in still frame through the eyes of the Nome, Alaska, webcam. We haven't had a whole lot of luck in years past actually catching the musher coming in. You see the crowds build, see the finish line, catch the head of a dog in the bottom corner, and then see crowds of people congratulating the musher. Maybe this year we will actually see some action.

Either way, all of the stories of both man and animal are covered on the Iditarod website. Amazing what these teams go through. It's not too late to jump on the eiditarod yahoo group and check out the great resources there. The Iditarod is just one of many great sled dog races that are also great learning experiences for us, safe in the warmth of our own homes and beds. Scholastic shares some great activity ideas as well. Alaska's newspaper also has more articles and information.

Right now, two mushers have reached the White Mountain checkpoint where mushers must take an eight hour rest before the last push to Nome. The end is definitely in sight and these two will keep pushing until the end. They just happen to be the champions from last year and the year before, so they know what it takes to win this race, and so do their teams. Should make for an interesting finish.

One thing that I enjoy in the Iditarod is the tradition of the Red Lantern. Although the first team in wins, the race isn't over until the last musher, the Red Lantern arrives in Nome. This race is about more than speed, it is about endurance and perseverance. Every finisher earns a share of the prize money, even if it is barely enough to fly him and his dogs home.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Kitchen tip -- Freezing dough

One big time saver for me in the kitchen, while still providing fresh baked goods, has been to freeze yeast dough once it is made but before I bake it.

I do this for my cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls, loaves of bread, and pizza crust. Because I use all or almost all whole wheat the frozen to risen time is longer than if you use just white flour, so adjust this tip according to your flour content.

To use the frozen dough, I then remove it from the freezer and put it in the greased pan I will cook it in. The pizza crust just needs to thaw, not rise, which takes about an hour or two on the counter (or you can put the whole pizza together before freezing and bake right from the freezer). The others need to thaw/rise on the counter for about 5-6 hours. If I am using it for breakfast I leave it on the counter overnight, or it can thaw in the fridge for up to a day or so.

Once it has risen to double in size it is ready to bake as usual. Fresh baked yeast bread without the mixing and kneading!

Some situations this has helped me in: Sunday dinner rolls (pull out of freezer before heading off to church -- my husband likes them crisp, not soft pull-apart, so I bake them in muffin tins); making that mid-week loaf of bread (just pull out of the freezer when I wake up and it is ready to bake for lunch), cinnamon rolls I make in a double batch (but still get fresh baked rolls from the freezer every other week).

(Some of my frozen 'dough' waiting for the hour of need.

Any time that I can prepare double (or more) at one time and still get fresh cooked food every time is ideal! My family members are not big left-overs eaters, unfortunately, so the closer to fresh made I get each meal, the more well received.

For more kitchen tips, check out Tammy's recipes!

Praying for our children -- Part 2

I had intended to finish my thoughts in this area last week, and those days have already quickly come and gone. So, what I started on praying for our children last week, I will finish now.

Once I had chosen a chapter from the Bible for each child, and the topics throughout the chapter that would be the focus of my prayers for that child I at first just randomly prayed through them. But, as with all things, I needed more order in my prayer life as my time became more limited and my mind often more cluttered. My prayer time begins with a focus on God and who He is (Adoration), moves into a time of confession, continues with some thanksgiving, and concludes with supplication (for my children, my husband, and other people, situations, and ministries that God lays on my heart.) Because of the many thoughts racing through my brain at any given moment, and my forgetfulness despite the best intentions, I decided to make up a prayer calendar that I have maintained for at least 6 years now. The squares have grown more crowded as God has blessed us with more children, and names have changed as people have come into and left our lives and realms of influence, but it has remained a great anchor for my morning prayer time.

I started with a simple calendar program in Word, and filled in the squares numbered 1-31 for each day of the month. Each day I pray for a special area for my husband (based somewhat on ideas in The Power of a Praying Wife), a special area for myself, and then something for each of my children. Each square also contains a relative, a friend/neighbor, and a ministry or two. A few days a month I pray as Jesus commanded for 'workers in the harvest' to be sent (Matthew 9:38). I pray for our missionaries in general (for health, boldness, balance, finances, faith) and individually. Anything that I want to remember to pray for is scribbled on this beat up, reprinted, Scripture covered piece of paper.

During the first few days of the month I pray for my children all together.

Day 1 -- I pray through John 17, Jesus' high priestly prayer. Not all of it is applicable, but so much of this prayer shows God's tender heart for us, and is so fitting for a parent to pray for their child.

Day 2 -- I pray that my children will grow in joyful obedience

Day 3 -- I pray for their futures

Day 4 -- I pray for their purity

Day 5 -- I begin into 'their' chapters. Blake - Seeking Christ; Paige - stand firm; Faith - imitate Christ; Brooke - a living sacrifice; Nathan - he would seek God

And so the days continue through their designated chapters. Just recently I added one more help to this process. I copied the chapters in somewhat small print so they all fit on the front and back of one sheet and highlighted the verses that showed the focus of my prayer for each day. Now, I pull out my prayer calendar and the chapters, and open to Psalm 119 (that one was too long to copy, so I highlighted in my Bible the appropriate verses). I love praying the very words of Scripture over my children. So, instead of praying, "God, help Blake to seek Christ." I pray, "Since, Blake has been raised with You, please help him to set his heart on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God." (Colossians 3:1) And the words continue to flow from there. It got to be a bit cumbersome to flip to all five chapters each day, so now I have it all in one place and can pour out my prayers for my children as efficiently as possible.

Now, this may seem mechanical, but rather than binding me, it has freed me. I don't sit there worrying that I have remembered everything, because over the course of each month I hit the significant topics. As Scripture weaves in and out of my prayers, they become more focused and fervent than ever. When God does place a particular situation or character quality on my heart for a certain child I don't ignore it, sticking only to the calendar, but I jot it down and add it to my daily list of prayers for a while.

This format of praying for my children has brought joy and growth to our family. Now and then, I also pray these same individual items over my children as I pray with them at bedtime as well. They get the benefit of hearing these prayers and knowing the Scriptures behind them, and seeing the fruit in their own lives as God hears and graciously answers.

Time spent in prayer is never wasted.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Verse of the week -- faith instead of fear

Faithlessness lays the foundation for fear.

Faithlessness shows up in different ways in different people. God dug deep into my life in recent years to show the sometime shallowness of my faith, how my faith was almost more a culture that I had adapted to than a true surrender of myself to Him. I had grown to live my Christian life out of habit not humility, out of routine rather than desire, out of practice rather than passion.

Not long ago I passed through a very difficult season in my life. The goofy thing is, I can’t say why. I have five wonderful kids, an absolutely amazing husband, and I serve a great God in control of it all! My life is busy, but that’s no excuse. For whatever reason, for more than a year I really struggled emotionally. Many nights as I stared at the ceiling waiting for sleep to arrive I replayed the day’s events and stood as a harsh judge and jury, passing constant condemnation on myself. Condemned for not getting through all my homeschool plans, condemned for losing patience with my children, condemned for not keeping the house clean, condemned for not saving more money, condemned for not preparing better meals.

I had forgotten that “There is therefore now no condemnation toward those who are in Christ Jesus. For the Law of the Spirit, alive in Christ Jesus has set you free.” Yet I ignored His promise and condemned myself, for such petty things in light of eternity.

Through all of these struggles God revealed Himself to me in powerful ways. My intellectual understanding of Him and His Word grew dramatically. My love and reliance on Him increased daily, even while my feelings remained in disarray. Through that time, God didn’t say, “You’re doing okay! Don’t worry, be happy.” He said, “Trust me. Live for me, not your own accomplishments.” His measuring stick looks a lot different than ours.

One concept that God impressed upon me during that time was how faith and peace go hand in hand. Two perfect illustrations – Jesus in the storm, asleep on the boat (Mark 4), and Peter asleep between the two soldiers shortly before his pending execution (Acts 12). True faith in Him would bring peace, and sleep, regardless of the situation. Fear, growing from a lack of faith, keeps us awake. Pondering the ‘what-ifs’ and the shoulda-coulda-wouldas. We can play that game all night long, and always lose. Where was Jesus in the face of that incredible storm? Asleep! Where was Peter on the brink of death? Asleep! Not beating himself up for what he should have done differently, just resting in God’s perfect peace.

I began to trust God to give me the faith that I needed to have peace, to escape the fears, doubts, and discouragements that kept me from trusting Him in the day to day. He gently challenged me, “Why are you afraid? How is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4:40) I trusted Him to truly love me in spite of my daily failures.

Around this time, we faced an incredibly stressful situation. Our future hung in the balance of uncertainty. The school that we had called home faced a financial crisis and the board was most likely voting to close the campus eliminating our jobs, and forcing us to move. Those weeks of uncertainty were incredible. Yet, through that very experience, God continued to call me to sleep, to peace, to complete faith in Him. After two months we found out that instead of closing they were reducing capacity and we would still have our jobs and homes, but before that decision was made God had sheltered me under His wing and I snuggled up in perfect peace regardless of the outcome.

The freedom that comes from faith, from walking daily in the Spirit, now brings me daily peace. Sometimes we have to go through those dark times to see God in a new light, to take the ‘next step’ in our Spiritual journey, for our children to learn as they see us struggle and grow. I would never be where I am today had it not been for that season of struggle.

So, now my days are perfect, I accomplish everything I set out to do, my children are well behaved and I never even need to feel less than the perfect mom, my house is spotless with everything in its place. You don’t believe that, right? No, my days are largely the same as they were before, with one significant below the surface difference: I have God’s peace in place of my guilt and judgment. God walked patiently with me through those trying times, and waited for me to surrender more of myself to Him.

While we face our challenges this week, whether it be cleaning up vomit while yet another mess is being made in another room, or making the most of the day when our homeschooling plans fall flat on their proverbial face, or looking around at the never ending piles of housework, let’s ask, as Jesus did, “Where is your faith?” When we find it, in Him, we find the peace to rest.

Go ahead, go to sleep.

And He said to them, “Why are you afraid?

How is it that you have no faith?”

~Mark 4:40~

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The results are in . . .

A successful day of bargain hunting, as well as emptying my closets of unneeded items.

Today I first went to shop at the used clothing sale, and arrived with only 20 minutes left due to a number of unavoidable situations with my children. Such is life. I spent about $50 on the above 27 pieces of clothing (5 jeans, a few dresses, 6 shorts/skorts, 8 shirts, and a few skirts). I great addition to my children's summer clothes already acquired for the coming season. My favorite purchase was an Easter dress for my oldest daughter for $2! She loves it.

Then, for the even better news, I should have a check coming in a few weeks for at least $200 for the items I sold. I posted yesterday about buying and selling at a children's clothing sale, and today put it all into practice. Here is my before pile to sell:

And, what I picked up at the end of the sale:

Just the way I like to wrap up a sale, more clothing and toys left our house than came in, and more money coming in than going out.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Frugal Friday -- buying children's clothes
I already posted about selling your unneeded children's clothing, but what about buying what we need for the upcoming season?

Well, I have learned some tips in that area over the years as well. This doesn't require quite the description that selling does, so here are some bullet points to help you shop well.

Before you shop:

- Check you storage areas! I don't know how often I have bought something then got into the season and realized I did not need it. Too many pants, too many shirts, etc. Know what you have, know what you need.

- Write a list. Don't assume you will remember what you need. If you can afford it, allow for extras of items you know your child will wear out -- like pants for boys in the 3-10 age range! I can't ever seem to get enough to last the season.

- Set a budget. Enough said, shop smart, not impulsively. Bring money. :-)

- Bring what you need (laundry basket, garbage bag, etc.) to carry your purchases around with you. Some sales have restrictions on these, so check before going.

- Anticipate child care needs. Some sales don't allow children or strollers. Find out so you can prepare accordingly. Sometimes I bring my kids, sometimes I don't. It depends on my husband's schedule, my kids' ages at the time, and my mood, unfortunately.

- Check for half price sale times. These can offer even greater savings, but usually only certain items designated by the seller are half off.

While you shop:

- Stick to your lists and budget.

- Grab what you think you need as you go through the tables and racks.

- Don't overbuy. Just because you find 20 shirts that are a great price, your child probably doesn't need that many. Buy what you determined you needed, no more.

- Probably the most important step: sort through your clothes before you check out. Everything is sold as is. Look carefully for stains, holes, broken zippers, loose snaps and buttons. Know what you are buying, and put it back if it is not worth the price.

After you shop:

- Go through your purchases, remove tags, wash everything and put it away until you need it. My kids love helping with this part and ooh-ing over how little money I spent on it all.

- Note what you may still need to look around for at other sales, garage sales, or thrift stores

Praise God for his provision!!!

More Frugal Friday tips over at Crystal's blog.

Frugal Friday -- selling children's clothes

Twice a year I take the time for something that saves our family incredible amounts of money in our clothing budget. Every March and September a number of local schools and early childhood associations hold used children’s clothing and toy sales. These offer a great opportunity to buy and sell clothes and toys with what has the potential for being a great return on your investment of time and energy. About the only things I buy new for my kids are socks, underwear and shoes/boots. With a family of seven, that’s enough in itself!

I started buying and selling at these sales shortly after our first child’s birth, and have rarely missed a sale. I have learned quite a bit about making the most of these sales over the years. This first post covers selling the clothing and toys, and the second post will detail tips on making the most of your dollars as a buyer at these sales.

Why not just hold a garage sale? Good question. For some people that may be a great option. I don’t live in a setting suitable for one, so that doesn’t work for me anyway. I live at a residential school in a residence hall. No garage, and nowhere near a main road. Also, I find I can ask almost double for my items at these sales compared to the price I would sell them at a garage sale. I do lose 25% of the price I choose to the organization, but even that is tax deductible. Also, I still have to spend the time pricing, dropping off and picking up, but I don’t have to spend 2 – 3 whole days sitting out in the garage haggling with customers. That alone is a big plus from my perspective.

First of all, shop around when looking for where to sell your unneeded belongings. You may not live in an area with many options, but I have at least 8-10 sales that I could choose from within 20 miles. To put this in perspective, I live in the ‘country’ and the closest anything is 6 miles away, so 20 isn’t really too bad for me. Each has its own fees (usually a registration fee and also a price you pay per sheet of tickets that you then fill out and tag your items with) and varying percents of sales it offers to its sellers. I actually go to one 20 miles away to sell because it has a great crowd of devoted buyers, has some of the lowest fees, and offers me 75% of the sale price that I put on the clothes. Others offer as little as 50% and charge double for registration and ticket prices. It is worth it to me, since I sell a few hundred dollars worth of items each sale, to drive and earn the higher percentage. It is most likely too late to get into a spring sale in your area, but if you shop the sales, pick up the fliers they likely have on your way out and do some comparison shopping for the fall.

So, you have decided to sell at a clothing sale and picked the sale you like. Now, it’s time to jump into the pricing. I save anything saleable as my children grow out of it (both clothes and toys are grown out of over time . . .)

So, my first step is to pull everything out of the closet that I have been putting in there for the past few months (no, my son was not in the closet).

Next, I sort the bags and boxes. I sort the clothes into three types – items to sell at this sale, items that I need to hang on for the next season’s sale, and items that are not sale quality. My sale, and most in this area, refuses clothes that they find stained, missing buttons or zippers, with holes, or out of season. Items that I know won’t sell (out of style, ugly, etc. – mostly gifts we never used) or they will not meet the sale’s standards I bag up to bring to either Goodwill or to my mom, who does love to have garage sales (go figure), and she either sells it or gives it to various missions or shelters. The sorting took me about an hour, and I went through about 200 pieces of clothing.

Now, it’s time for pricing. This is an extremely subjective matter. Prices I am sure vary by area, but I can generally get $2 per piece for clothing, a little more for brand name, newer, dressier items, a little less for inexpensive items (shorts, tank tops, etc.) This is something you just get a feel for over time. I don’t price items what I would pay for them, because most people aren’t like me. I don’t like to pay more than a dollar per item, but I have found that I sell 65-75 % of my stuff when I price it in this price range ($2 per item). This is something good to look for as you shop, too, and see what other clothes are selling for. As I price, I do another check of each item to make sure I think it will sell. If I don’t think anyone will buy it, it is a waste of my time to price it and haul it, when I will most likely just end up hauling it back. Pricing took me about 2 hours for clothes (100 pieces) and another 2 hours for toys (I lost track how many toys, a lot!) We recently cleared out our kids’ toys and eliminated about half of their inventory, so I have a lot to sell this time!

Then, box it up and it is ready to go!

I drop off Friday morning, and pick up any leftovers Saturday afternoon when the sale is done. I also shop the sale and get the vast majority of my kids’ clothing for the upcoming season. In recent years I have made more than I spent at the sales, so this has been a very worth while involvement for my family.

One note on toys . . . We try to clear out the ‘toy room’ now and then. As I am going through pricing toys for the sale invariably a child comes and says, “Mom, that’s my FAVORITE toy, you can’t get rid of that!” Never mind that three months ago they said they never played with it and we could throw it out, now it is the must-have item of the century! So, here’s our deal. If they see me pricing something that they absolutely want to have back, can't live without it, all they need to do is trade me something else from the toy room of comparable bulk to take its place (size is the key!) This has worked well for us, and the trades have been kept to a minimum.

My clothing sale experience has generally been a good one. It is work, but it pays off for us with cash back into our budget for other clothing expenses.

Homeschool news

This is extremely important to all homeschoolers, and anyone wanting to keep homeschooling free and legal in our country. I recently had this email forwarded to me. Listen in to Focus on the family for more info, and please sign the petition linked to at the bottom of this:

From the HSLDA E-lert Service...

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends:

In what could be one of the most important homeschooling related
broadcasts in 25 years, James Dobson interviews HSLDA Chairman Michael
Farris on the developing situation in California.

We encourage all homeschoolers to listen to this broadcast, and ask
you to forward this information to anyone who is concerned about
homeschool freedom, parental rights and the direction of our courts.

Broadcast: Focus on the Family daily radio broadcast with Dr. James

Program Title: California's Threat to Homeschooling Families.

Airdate: Friday, March 7, 2008.

Since the broadcast is aired on stations across the country at
different times, please visit ---- and search for "Daily Focus on
the Family Broadcast" to find the station that covers your area.

You can help stop this threat to homeschooling by signing an online
petition to depublish the Court of Appeal opinion at


Ian Slatter
Director of Media Relations

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Why I do what I do

It seems I am drawn to blog after AWANA each week, and today is no exception. However, this week it comes as a result of the conversation that took place with the boys we work with while having bedtime snack.

The Bible lesson for the night had centered around the Last Supper, as we lead up to Easter in just a few weeks. One student asked how, if Jesus is God, does he talk to himself in the garden? How can God talk to himself, and why did Jesus need to go somewhere to pray (talking to God)? Tough question. The trinity is tough to put in everyday language. I always start with that, we are finite and God is infinite, so my best explanation will still fall short. But, I had to attempt to help him understand the trinity. I used the water illustration. Water is all water, but sometimes we see it as ice, sometimes water vapor, sometimes water. All still water. In a way Jesus is like a bottle of water, completely God, still everything that God is, but packed into human form. And, His existence didn't mean that God ceased to exist anywhere else. That seemed to help. I always have a hard time using illustrations to explain the character of God because He is so huge and no illustration accurately portrays Him.

This student I am pretty sure has a saving faith in Jesus Christ, and he continues to grow in his knowledge and understanding of God. However, another student listening in said, "I know God and heaven are real and all, but the only way we really know for sure is when you die." I said, "If you wait that long to know for sure, you will definitely know hell is real right away." Maybe a little abrupt, but we've talked about this before. I think he wants to believe, but he just can't. He needs some proof. I'm reminded of the story of the rich man and Lazarus. He wants a man back from the dead, but he's ignoring all the proof from Genesis to Revelation.

When everyone had settled in for the night, showers and snack done, ready for a good night's sleep, I called him back out. We had a good talk about faith and what it is. It is always awe-inspiring to share my faith, sensing the wisdom of God helping me choose the right words and scriptures to use. We talked about Jesus' perfect righteousness and His taking our place on the cross so we can enjoy eternity in heaven. He asked lots of great questions and listened attentively. I asked if he knew he had a great-great grandma? Yup. Never seen her, never talked to her, never even seen a picture or read a book about her, but he believed in her. But God needs some other proof?

We flipped over to Ephesians 2:8,9. I love those verses. Saved by grace, through faith. We're so powerless that even the faith to believe has to come from God. Nothing I can do, no bragging rites on the road to heaven. We talked some more. He knows what he needs to do. I prayed with and for him.

Please pray for this young man, too. He's got a lot against him in this world, and I pray that he comes to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and finds the joy of a life lived in total surrender to God. Pray as God brings him to mind, that he would have the faith to believe.

~Thank you!