What to have more of for Lent

For the most part, I think the majority of us think of Lent as a time to give up something–to fast. Fasting is very biblical. It is a time of purposely abstaining from something for the express purpose of devoting yourself to prayer and focusing on God’s word. That’s a simple definition of fasting.

Many use the Easter season for this time of fasting. Recently, though, I’ve encountered some who choose to add something to their life during Lent, something that they feel will help them draw near to God.

Maybe it’s getting deeper into the Bible, committing to spend more time or consistent time reading the Word. I like to read through some of the gospels before Easter, getting to know Jesus even better and the road He walked before His crucifixion. Or you could choose some verses to memorize that speak of His sacrifice.

For others it might be prayer. I know of one woman who wanted to make midday prayer a priority, remembering to call out to God in worship, confession and surrender in the middle of her day.

The method isn’t as important as forming that habit of drawing near. These are simple things, but have a tremendous impact in our faith. They say it takes 30 days to form a new habit. Maybe we can use this time to create new habits and anchors in our day where we meet with our God and invest in that relationship.

I know in my busy day, I need to make this more of a priority. To dwell in my Maker’s presence as often as I can.

What do you need to have more of this Lent?

Advertisements

My Little Homemakers

Abby making chocolate syrup

Abby making chocolate syrup

I’ve mentioned that my girls have been sick the last few days. And boy, have I missed their help! I mean, I’ve actually had to empty the dishwasher myself!

Before you roll your eyes clear out of your head, or tell me I’m spoiled (I know, by the way), let me remind you that my kids have moved past the mommy-can-I-help-but-make-an-even-bigger-mess phase. I spent my time in those trenches. My first two are only 20 months apart and for many moons I was the only one really accomplishing much in the homemaking department. (Yes, my husband is super helpful. I’m talking about everything that goes on while he’s out there, working hard.) When your kids are babies/toddlers/preschoolers you pretty much only get the basics accomplished, and some days that’s even iffy.

Fast forward a few years. I have many more plates spinning in the air. I’m homeschooling, teaching at our co-op, co-leading a ministry and cooking most everything from scratch to meet some special diet needs. But now, I have a great little team of helpers.

Teaching my kids how to take care of basic household responsibilities is important on their road to adulthood. We’ve all known the grown man or woman who can barely scramble an egg or never bothers to clean their bathroom. I don’t work them like little servants, but most days, they have one or two jobs that they are responsible for. At this point, they fold and put away their laundry, vacuum once a week (I usually still need to run the vacuum some in between), clean sinks and toilets once a week, keep their stuff picked up, empty the dishwasher and set the table for dinner. There are other jobs that come up now and then, like helping in the yard or garden, or being the assistant chef for dinner.

Now, before you accuse me of using my kids to do all my work, let me assure you, I still do plenty in the housework department. What they help with is regular, light cleaning. Most of their jobs only take a few minutes. I still need to step in and do a deep clean here and there. And lots of times, we’re working side by side. A family is a team. And we want them to be a part of what it takes to make it work.

I frequently tell my kids that I couldn’t do all the things I need to do if it weren’t for their help. Just keeping up with all the special allergy free cooking and baking is time consuming. (Even though you know I love me some kitchen time.)

I encourage you, include your kids in what you do. Homemaking is a learned skill. Keeping and maintaining a house takes practice (I’m still working on it :)). And it’s something they need to learn. Don’t feel guilty about giving them jobs to do.

For those of you with little ones, keep teaching and showing them how to help. I know it’s almost more work and SO much easier if you just do it yourself. But it pays off–big time.

What about your family?  Do you get your kids involved in housekeeping jobs?


First Steps to Real Food–Eat Real Fat

realfoodgraphic.001

* Once again the disclaimer: I am not a nutrition expert. I realize the great fat debate is a heated one. These are just some of the things that we’ve learned along the way.

One of the first things we began to change in our diets as we learned about real food was the kind of fat we ate. In the last few years, I’ve done a lot of reading on this area. Partly because I had a little girl that I knew needed fat for brain development and such, and partly because I got to thinking about natural fats, created by God, vs. the loads of other options I was being told to eat. Think about it. For THOUSANDS of years, humanity had never heard of soybean and corn oil, or of hydrogenated trans fats, or “butter” spreads, or vegetable shortening. People ate butter, tallow, lard, coconut oil, olive oil and palm kernel oil. (I might have missed something in there, but those are the star players.)

Contrast that with all the relatively new fats all over the stores and in the products we buy. Soybean, corn, cottonseed, canola, hydrogenated shortenings, margarine, butter substitutes and that only scratches the surface! What I never realized is that most of these vegetable oils are factory made fats, extracted with high heat, chemical solvents and then deodorized because all this processing makes them go rancid rather quickly. Yum.

There is a great deal of information out there relating to the fat debate, and I’ll list some for your own investigation at the end of this post. But let’s just simplify a bit. I think we can say that we believe that what God made is good (He said so Himself). And I think we can also admit that not everything that comes from a factory should find it’s way to our table. Even the same food industry that once told us to choose margarine over butter for our health’s sake now realizes that whatever they have to do to get vegetable oil to look and taste sorta like butter, may not be so good for us after all. This whole thing is a mega-money industry and we have to see above the latest over-funded study and get back to the basics.

But what about weight management and high cholesterol and all those scary things?!?! I can’t say I’m the expert on all that.  But this is what I do know. I know quite a few people who switched to a real food, real fat diet due to some health issues. All of those people lost weight (while eating butter, gasp!), and saw all those scary cholesterol, triglyceride numbers go down.

Plus a little fat helps you feel fuller, faster. And it is absolutely necessary to even absorb certain fat soluble vitamins, like vitamin A.

So what fats do we love? Which have stood the test of time?

  • Real butter (NOT butter spreads)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (full of important medium-chained fatty acids like Lauric Acid, antimicrobial, and very heat stable for frying)
  • Palm Oil (another tropical oil that is solid at room temperature, so it’s almost like a natural, unprocessed vegetable shortening; great for high-heat too)

You might accuse me of over simplifying this topic. You bet-cha. Fact is, it’s a very broad subject. I really encourage you to do your own research. Eat mindfully. Here’s some of the things I’ve read:

So what’s your feeling about fat? Are you a lover or a fat hater?


Nourishing Natural Remedies

It’s the end of February and although I had hoped we had somehow missed it, the flu has come to visit. My girls have been fevered and quite ill for a few days now, though thankfully the oldest seems to be on the mend.

But if you’re a family trying to eat a real food diet and taking a cabinet full of supplements you should never get something like the flu–right?  WRONG. That would be silly to say. Now, I will gratefully declare that this is the first real bug that any one of the kids have had in quite a long time, probably more than a year. When I took my oldest daughter in to the doctor a couple of days ago (cause her fever was at 104.2 and rising despite ibuprofen and a tepid bath) they had to update all her records cause the last time she was in there she was so young she had weighed 30 lbs. less!

I don’t know if our recent run of good health has been because of the way we eat or God’s mercy or both (probably), but I don’t take it for granted. Nothing is guaranteed.

When the nasties do strike, however, I think the biggest sign of  a healthy body is a person’s ability to recover, in a reasonable amount of time, without a lot of heavy medical intervention. But there are things we can do to help the body along.

IMG_1877

  • Cod Liver Oil  (now, don’t gag) It’s full of important vitamins, including D, that help out our immune system. Ella and I actually take this everyday, all year, to help keep our very dry skin a little healthier. We buy Carlson’s. There are better brands, but they’re a little out of my price range and this one still ranks as good by most.
  • Vitamin C    We all know this one is a biggie. I give my kids a little extra when illness strikes.
  • Herbal immune boosters.  There’s tons of evidence to support the use of certain herbs when you’re feeling run down or sick. Elderberry, echinacea and golden seal have all been prized during the cold and flu season. (Don’t take echinacea for more than 10 days straight, and always check with your doctor if you’re pregnant or nursing.) I’m big on herbal medicine because I’ve seen it work for us. My husband takes mullein for bronchial problems and is able to stave off bronchitis, which he used to get a lot more often. I use eyebright to help out with some seasonal allergy symptoms and post nasal drip.
  • Homemade stock.  Remember mom serving you chicken soup when you were sick? Well, if made with real, homemade bone broth, a bowl of chicken soup is a nourishing powerhouse. Protein, veggies, a host of minerals from the bones, collagen and gelatin to help soothe the digestive track and lots of liquid to prevent dehydration. I’ve literally been spooning this into one of my girls with a particularly upset stomach, and she said it really helped.

IMG_1879

  • Herbal teas.  Though not as concentrated as the tinctures or powdered and concentrated herbs, there’s nothing quite like a cup of peppermint tea for an upset tummy, or a tea full of ginger, cinnamon and clove for a congested head. Our favorite herbal teas are from Yogi and Traditional Medicinals. You can usually find both in the tea or health food sections. Be sure to sweeten with lots of honey, proven to soothe sore irritated throats.

Usual disclaimer…I’m not a doctor or medical profession. (But you knew that :)) Just a mom trying to give her family the best she can to fight illness. The best thing we can give them, though, is our nurturing presence. To be there to wipe the forehead and the tears, lift the straw or spoon to their mouths, read a book or play a game. Our closeness and care goes along way on their road back to health.

Please share! Got any home remedies that work for your family?


Family Fun Night

I truly believe that one very important part of redeeming the home is being intentional about family time. I’m sure all of us would say that meaningful family time is important. But making that happen on a regular basis can be elusive. After all, we have school and work and ministry and sports and music lessons and (throw in the kitchen sink) to keep up with. Add to that a family illness, special event to plan for, moving or any other major life event and quality family time gives way to plain old survival.

So far in my parenting journey, I have found that there’s not much that can replace a weekly family fun night. It fills the quality time, love tank. It becomes an anchor in our week. It makes us lay down all our to do lists and reminds us that we really do like hanging out together!

For us, it’s nothing fancy. Just pizza night, every Friday evening. We come home from homeschool co-op on Fridays, exhausted but in a good way. I retreat to the kitchen and lose myself in soft, stretchy pizza dough. The kids usually play or watch a little TV. And when the pizza is done and everyone is home from work, we come together and chow down. Activities might include playing Apples to Apples Jr., watching a movie or playing Wii.

See–this isn’t complicated or magical. But everyone is off their electronic gizmos. We talk. We laugh. We snuggle on the couch. The secret is in the repetition. There are occasional exceptions. But I’d say 90% of the time, we make it happen.

My kids are sort of in the middle, age wise, right now. I have to urge you, if you have littles, start making these little repetitive family traditions now. I know it can be very hard to pull off a game night or something with babies and toddlers. But it’s worth it. (No matter how much you hate Candy Land.) Because when they get older, they expect it. They count on it. My oldest might spend time during the week gaming with and talking to friends. But I get no arguments on pizza night. I’m hoping that we can keep that going into the teenage years as long as possible.

It really is the little things that add up in their hearts and let them know that they’re more important than your latest deadline or to do list. It’s the rhythm of intentional family time that creates security, opens lines of communication and gives everyone a soft place to land when life gets hard.

Do you have a regular family fun night? What do you do to stay intentional with those you love most?


Lent is For Confession

Confession…

A spiritual discipline…a non-negotiable for the Christian whereby we take full responsibility for the sinful flesh that still rages within us. There is no dressing up the evil in our hearts. We dare not attempt to make light of it. We cannot act like it’s no big deal. It’s SIN. All of it. The secret bitterness and lust. The overt public outburts of anger that we’d rather forget. The good we ought to have done, but didn’t. Not one ounce of it is meaningless, because it is my sin and yours that sent Jesus to the cross.

If sin weren’t a big deal, then God the Father has really over reacted, hasn’t He? Destroy the whole world, except one single family, with a flood? That’s a bit extreme. Rain down fire from heaven on Sodom and Gomorrah? Harsh. And sacrificing His own perfect Son on the cross…Well, you see if sin isn’t really that serious, then surely God’s reactions have been severe, unnecessary, uncalled for.

But we know better, don’t we.

You know what I think? I think sin is more serious than we can really comprehend.  We are quite accomplished at hiding it’s true effects. It reminds me of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. In the story, Dorian lives a life of hedonistic pleasure, sin and corruption. He remains beautiful and handsome (his most treasured qualities) while his portrait continuously deteriorates, bearing the consequences to reveal the vileness of Dorian’s heart.

We (I’m speaking to myself here, too) do the same thing. We hide. We cover. We dress up our motives and behavior and justify everything—or just blame it on someone else. On the outside others would believe that we are the picture of spiritual maturity and personal holiness. But within, our hearts resemble Dorian’s portrait—ugly, scarred, worn, broken.

And beyond what sin does to us, we have sinned against God. It’s hard for us to see how our sin is an affront, almost an insult to a holy God. It builds walls in our relationship with our Maker by transferring our love from Him (where it belongs) to something or someone else that we would rather serve. Sin separates.

Considering all this, you’d think we would run to confess. Knowing that there is a God ready to forgive, running to meet us like the father of the prodigal son, why wouldn’t we turn and fall into His arms, fully admitting—as that prodigal did—that we have sinned against Him and don’t deserve the love and grace He offers us?

Oh, we are stubborn, we sons and daughters of Adam.  We can only see what we think we will lose if we have to give up our sin.  And we just plain don’t like to admit we’re wrong.  It’s weak.  It’s uncomfortable.  It’s humiliating.

In his first letter, John wrote to fellow believers, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9)

And so I ask, dear Christian, do you remember?  Do you remember the first time the Holy Spirit showed you your wretchedness, and you threw yourself before the cross, and you knew that you were dead inside—rotting with sin and hopelessness—and your only real hope was to cling for dear life (literally) to Jesus?  Suddenly everything became very clear, and you knew that there was NOTHING that the world could offer you that would compare to the kind of love and completeness that Jesus could give.  

No matter how much our old self tells us to put off the habit of confession, nothing compares to what it does in our hearts and minds.  The Lord knows that it is good to humble ourselves, lay down our self righteousness, and accept the forgiveness and grace He offers every day.  It refreshes our spirits—lightens the load. It helps us look more like Jesus today than we might have yesterday.

And perhaps most important of all, it brings glory to the One who paid the price, points to the only One who’s ever lived this life perfectly.  Oh praise the One, who paid my debt, and raised this life up from the dead.

I so often neglect confessing my sins to God. I want to use this Lent season to bow low, admit the truth, confess and receive His forgiveness. I want to make confession an important part of my life. What about you?


Just Keep Swimming

Homeschool Encouragement for Long Winter Days

nemo-dory

It’s mid-February. We’ve used up all the excitement (and candy) of Christmas, New Years and Valentine’s Day. The weather varies between gray and muddy, gray and rainy, and gray and snowy. We’re neck deep in fractions, long division, the Pythagorean Theorum, respiratory system, and the 30 Years War.

Yes, homeschooling in these long, dreary winter days can feel like pushing a rope uphill. Somewhere in the back of my head, I can hear Dory from Finding Nemo singing, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”

We have to keep plugging along. Make the most of the days we are given. And I think we know that, especially since we have taken on this great responsibility for our children’s education.

So how can we practically keep the train moving (I think I can, I think I can) when days are long and dreary, siblings squabble, and mom’s patience runs thin? These are just a few practical things we’ve tried…

Shake up the routine.  If you spend most of your days doing math first, language second, history on Mondays, science on Tuesdays, why not shake up the schedule? It can be as simple as starting your day with a fun read aloud.  Or take the first few days of the week to do a deeper study into one of your history or science topics with library books, artwork, or experiments.

Change locations. Maybe you and your kids need a change of scenery. Move school to a different part of the house. Maybe cozy blankets on the  living room floor. Or spend an afternoon at the library. Of course, the ultimate in location changes is a field trip. This week, our homeschool co-op is taking the older kids to a folk life center while the younger ones explore a fire station. But you can plan a field trip anytime, with just your little homeschool.

Use good media. Movies, audio books. This is especially great for those days when someone might be feeling a little under the weather, but is still in good enough shape to get a little school done. On Netflix, for instance, you can find loads of great documentaries for your family. Whatch the movie version of whatever novel you just finished. Or get an audio book from the library and work your way through the Chronicles of Narnia, a little at a time.

Get outside. Whenever I can, I try to get my kids to spend an hour or so outside after school work is completed, even in the winter. Sled riding is obviously their favorite. But as long as it’s not pouring down the rain, they can probably still go outside for a bit. Get them some gear to make it happen. Mud boots are a must at our house. And if the weather is just too nasty, get out to see grandma, walk laps at the mall–anything to break up cabin fever.

Some other ideas might include declaring a game day with scrabble, or monopoly (still some great learning going on!), a craft afternoon complete with paint and glitter and glue (and all those other things that make us cringe :)), and the ever popular school work under a homemade fort.

Winter is long. But we can still make something great out of these dreary cold days!

I know I’ve only scratched the surface of ideas, here.  How do you fight off the winter blahs at your house?