15 Minutes to Intentional Living–Spiritual Training

15 minutes intentional living

 

So far in our efforts to live more intentionally, we’ve talked about housekeeping, food prep, and saying yes to our kids more often. Today, let’s think about our children’s spiritual training. I’m not necessarily talking about a formal catechism program, though that certainly would qualify.

I think it can all be summed up in this verse:

Fix these words of Mine in your hearts and minds…Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.        –Deuteronomy 11:18-19

Looks to me like that’s pretty much all the time!

This takes two things.

1. I have to fix God’s word in MY heart and mind FIRST

So I have to be reading my Bible first. I have to know what it says so I can pass it on to my kids. And I also need to make note of the story of God in our own family’s life. This command in Deuteronomy was both about the law itself and about the acts of God on Israel’s behalf. He didn’t want them to forget what He had done for them. So although the Bible itself is of primary importance, I also have the responsibility to open my eyes and see the hand of God at work all around me.

This, I believe, is how we make our faith and our God real and relevant to the next generation. Some have trouble connecting with the God of the Bible. They see it as archaic or stale. But they cannot deny your own personal story of faith. And for our kids, it helps them to see real faith in action in their own history and lives. Those words of Scripture you’re teaching them have a context for application when you tell them how they have applied in your own life.

2. Teach them consistently and often

It’s supposed to be a way of life–woven into the fabric of our days. This is where stealing those 15 minutes comes in. We can intentionally build into our days little pocket of spiritual instruction that act as anchors or bookends. Like reading a chapter of the Bible or practicing a memory verse at breakfast. Maybe it’s focused times of prayer at meals. Or Bible stories at night. Those would be habits that we try to keep every day. (Though I’m far from perfect at that. But if we miss a day or two, we just get back as soon as we can.)

But beyond that, those verses tell us to find moments in our daily activities where we can point our children to God, where we can tell His story in our lives so that the next generation will not forget. So while you’re waiting in traffic and your older child tells you about a struggle she’s having–listen well and then let her know what God says about it. And tell her how He’s brought you through a similar circumstance. When your in the garden, tell your little one who makes the plants grow and who created everything he sees.

Other ideas:

  • Help your kids keep a gratitude journal, or maybe put a gratitude list on the frig they can add to at any time.
  • Encourage them to keep a prayer journal, so they can see how God is working in their lives.
  • Bible story coloring books
  • Audio Bibles
  • Christian music (I am particularly partial to this as a worship leader. I can’t believe how many little pieces of Scripture my youngest as memorized just by singing the songs on KLOVE.)

 

There are probably a hundred more ways we can make spiritual training a part of our everyday lives. I want to hear your tips! Please share 🙂


School’s Out! Looking back on what we’ve learned.

Last week was the end of our “official” schooling. And yesterday I hauled all our work up to our very wonderful portfolio evaluator. There’s nothing like getting all your kids’ school stuff together to help you see what you actually did, and where your best intentions may have fallen short. It helps me do a little self-evaluation and make plans for next year.

And while it’s tempting for me to fixate on the gaps or struggles I’ve seen (cause we homeschooling moms are just a little hyper-vigilant that way) it’s good for me and for them to make note of the great progress, too.

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Ella’s Reading!

My kindergartener started school this year with just a basic knowledge of the alphabet, most of the letter sounds and numbers 1-10. And she could write her name. That’s about it. I had my doubts that she was developmentally ready to read and write much. Any fine motor skills were especially hard for her. Tracing a simple shape or manipulating a pair of scissors frustrated her. I wasn’t panicked about it. By the time you’re homeschooling your third child, you’re well aware that despite what the school system would like us to believe, children reach stages of developmental readiness on their own timetable. I knew she’d get there eventually.

It was slow going at first. We began with Explode the Code book 1, Math-U-See Primer book, and some Kumon tracing books since she wasn’t ready for independent handwriting practice yet. (I also wrote words for her to trace in her phonics book with a light colored marker for a while.) She was attending a kindergarten science discovery class at our homeschool co-op and we covered some U.S. holiday, history and literacy with different books and activities.

Oh, that first semester was brutal at times! I even remarked on more than one occasion that I didn’t think she was ready yet and if the school system would have let me, I would have waited another year to start any formal phonics training. But as most children do, she chose to prove me wrong. And really it shows how fast young kids grow and mature in just a few months.

Somehow, during Christmas break, when I barely did anything academic with her, she made the learning leap that I’ve seen my others do so many times. She began sounding out words fluidly and remembering some sight words. And now she’s trying to figure out just about every word she sees! We’ll be continuing with the third Explode the Code book this summer and reading together often to keep her moving in the right direction.

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Abby’s writing with confidence!

My oldest daughter is not the verbose child that her older brother is. When you ask her how her day went while away, she’s content to say, “Good.” Not much for detail. So when I’d give her a writing assignment, sometimes she just didn’t know where to start, or feel like she had much to say. I was always asking for more detail and she was always getting frustrated.

But this year, I feel like we’ve made some major progress and found a way to meet in the middle. We worked on various writing assignments as well as Writing Strands level 2. The Writing Strands book really helped me to discover what would help her the most. Prewriting. Lists. I know that prewriting is a good thing, but my oldest has no love for the practice and yet still manages to crank out good stuff.

The prewriting I had been suggesting to her just wasn’t clear and structured enough for her. She needed to make lists of words or phrases that she’d be including in the final text. This is what Writing Strands does and it works great for her.

I also realized that sometimes all my extra instruction was just making her more nervous and frustrated and that sometimes I just needed to explain the assignment and then leave her alone.

Another key to her writing improvement–reading. The girl has been a reading machine this year. The more she reads the more her flow and own voice come out. It’s exciting to see!

Wyatt, algebra, and some awesome science workshops

My oldest is blessed to be rather articulate, both orally and in writing, and has a really good memory (except for when I ask him to clean the bathroom or empty the trash). So school work has never really been too tough for him. My biggest challenge has been finding things to push him beyond what’s comfortable and easy.

But this year he moved into the Pre-Algebra Math-U-See book. I feel like this is where the rubber meets the road, skill wise. With algebra, you find out how well you really can add, subtract, multiply, divide, use fractions, decimals and all that–many within the same problem. If you’re lacking in any of those areas–algebra isn’t gonna happen. He’s doing pretty well, and the difficulty level has made us work together a little more often, something I don’t do as much as they become more independent learners.

Wyatt has also had the opportunity to attend some amazing science workshops at a nearby NASA facility.  They frequently offer classes for school age children, and about once a quarter, our co-op gets to attend.  This year he studied robotics, planetary astronomy and aviation. It’s all very hands on and a lot of fun!

I’m feeling blessed and encouraged as I look back on our year. And also challenged to keep up with them and all the preparation they’ll need for the future. It’s one bite at a time though. And if you too ever feel overwhelmed when you look at the mass of skills your kids need to learn, remember to just keep moving forward, one step at a time. Eventually, we’ll all get to the finish line. We just have to be faithful in the little things all along the way.

How has the school year gone at your house?


Tip Tuesday–Labeling Food with Dry Erase Markers

tiptuesdays

Welcome to Tip Tuesday, where we share little tips that hopefully make life a little easier!

Label Your Food with Dry Erase Markers

If you’re making lots of your family’s food from scratch, and you’re trying to avoid processed, packaged stuff, you likely have a multitude of random containers in your pantry, freezer and frig. I sure do. I’ve got zip top bags, pyrex, and jars galore.

Ever forget what’s in those containers?

I sure have. Maybe you’re much more organized than I am and that’s not a problem for you. (Be sure to share your secrets!) But I frequently open the freezer and stare at two quart jars filled with red stuff. And I ask myself–is that BBQ sauce or pizza sauce?  (Cause I tend to make a large batch and freeze the extras for other meals.) And just the other day, my mom was hoping to find some espresso in a jar for some ice coffee, but she passed it over because she thought it was chocolate syrup.

(Have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE canning jars? Well, I do. But that’s for another post ;))

The solution to all this culinary confusion? The dry erase marker.

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This is seriously easy, people. A dry erase marker will work on glass, metal or plastic jar lids, and plastic bags. And it washes off easily so you can use that jar for yogurt starter next time! It would be good for labeling your homemade creations with dates, too, if you’re concerned with expiration or spoilage.

Well there you go. Feel free to label away 🙂

Got any helpful tips to share today?


Menu Plan and Why I Want to Grow My Own Food

This week, as I sat down to plan the menu and work on the grocery list, I felt like it was a labor of great frustration. Sometimes I get like this. I want SO MUCH to be able to feed my family real, whole, clean, organic food. Not because I’m a food snob. No, it’s actually because I know too much.

I know that the news on GMO‘s and pesticides have been alarming. I know that food that is raised in a responsible, organic way (usually) has more nutrients. And I know that I already have family members (including myself) with either severe food allergies or sensitivities, so I don’t want to compromise our gut and immune health any further.

But I have two things stacked against me. One, I live in North Central West Virginia, where the real food movement is still in it’s infancy. My organic produce options are limited and EXPENSIVE and finding clean sources of animal products can be even harder. And two, I sort of already referred to…money.

Now I know there are lots of strategies out there for how to eat organic on a budget and you probably think I’m a little lazy or unaware of all those wonderful methods. Dear reader, I’m already using them just to keep up with the regular rising food prices and snag the organic, local foods when I can. I’m kind of at the end of my options, or maybe my wallet. I’ve got to be responsible with the resources God has given us, after all. Can’t go into debt over food.

But this is not a post about me whining over the cost of organic food in WV.

This is why I want to grow food.

If I can’t find what I need for the funds I have at the store–then, by golly, I’m gonna grow it myself. Or at least as much as I can. I can raise that food without pesticides. I can preserve it without cans lined with BPA. I can feed my kids veggies that haven’t been irradiated, but are live with beneficial enzymes.

And I can do it on the cheap. One packet of lettuce seeds cost me $1.29. But I’ll get at least $12 worth of lettuce from that patch. Maybe more.

Growing food can take some work and time, for sure. This weekend, we had an unexpected frost and had to cover our plants two nights in a row, and then get up early and out in the cold to uncover them before the sun got to the plastic.  A few of our green bean plants got a little damage, and we lost a few berries off the new bushes, but over all I think everything is going to be fine.

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Covering green beans, beet sprouts and lettuce. I’m SO glad that time and weather had prevented us from planting peppers and tomatoes, yet.

The lower patch of zucchini, butternut and cucumbers.

The lower patch of zucchini, butternut and cucumbers.

It’s a labor of love, a large garden is. But out in the cold fog yesterday morning, uncovering the veggies with my hubby, I didn’t resent my garden and the work it brings me. It is SUCH a privilege to have this land to grow on, to watch the seedlings emerge, to work together.

And then I saw him, the husband in the mist.

And then I saw him, the husband in the mist.

So in the end I guess there are lots of reasons I want to grow some of our food. And I’m working on lower cost, clean, local sources for our meats and such. Regardless, God continues to provide. We have more than enough.

Oh yeah, and here’s what’s for dinner this week 🙂

Burgers, potato salad, gf peach crisp (last year’s frozen peaches given by my brother-in-law)
Curried Lentils, rice (been wanting to try this recipe for a while)
Cobb Salads, garlic toast
Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken, Mexican Rice Salad
Homemade Pizza, raw veggies and dip
 

And I just have to add this pic in too. More outdoor fun!

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What motivates you to grow a garden?


Whole Grain Gluten Free Tortillas

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Victory!

You may think I’m being a little dramatic here, but have you ever had a recipe that was your kriptonite? I have a few and gluten free tortillas were one of them. Every recipe I’ve ever tried left me with dry, gritty, and fragile tortillas that were even worse on the next day.

But then I came across this recipe for wheat tortillas that called for milk instead of water. Really, milk? And not much fat either. Traditionally, tortillas are made with water and lard, or oil. But after I thought about it, the milk made sense. If you want to make a soft roll, or hamburger bun, you use milk. So maybe, I thought to myself, maybe the milk would make a softer gf tortilla.

But then I took it one step further. I’ve been experimenting with soaking gluten free baked goods in an acidic medium. It’s becoming a more common practice for wheat products. If you’re new to soaking, it basically helps break down any anti-nutrients (phytates) that would otherwise bind with the minerals in the grains and prevent you from absorbing them. In gluten grains, it also helps to pre-digest the gluten a bit, making it more digestible for folks who may just have a small gluten sensitivity.

Why soak gluten free grains?

Well, even though you’ve eliminated the gluten, there are still varying amounts of phytates in other grains as well. (Buckwheat and millet are both rather low on the spectrum, though.) This can still cause malabsorption of certain minerals as well as a bit of tummy trouble.

But, if that doesn’t motivate you, I’ve got something else. TEXTURE. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the holy grail of gluten free baking. Most gf flours leave you with a grainy, sandy feeling product. I’ve found that soaking, even for just a few hours, gets rid of that grainy texture and more closely mimics the feeling of wheat. So, if you’ve got the time, soak the dough. You’ll thank me.

Whole Grain Gluten Free Tortillas

These tortillas have that chewiness I love in fresh wheat flour tortillas. They’re flexible enough for burritos or wraps–even the next day! Just warm them in the oven or toaster over on low wrapped in a slightly damp kitchen or paper towel.

Makes six 8-inch tortillas–easily doubles
1 cup gluten free flour blend (I used 1/4 cup each of brown rice, sorghum, buckwheat and potato starch)
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 TB olive oil 
tsp apple cider vinegar + 1/3 cup milk or unsweetened coconut milk (makes a sort of buttermilk)
 
In the morning, mix together the gf flours, buttermilk mixture, and olive oil until everything is well blended and the dough can be  shaped into a ball. You could knead it a few times. Cover well with plastic wrap and ignore it for a while. (I’d shoot for about 6 hours. Mix in the morning and make them before dinner. Or you could soak overnight and make in the morning.)
 
Update: I’ve found that depending on the flour mixture you’re using, you may need to add a little more liquid. All gf flours behave a little differently. So if you’ve added the oil and 1/3 cup milk and it’s still dry and crumbly, just drizzle in a little water (just a tsp or two at a time) and work it with your hands until the dough comes together/all the flour is wet and it is no longer crumbly. 
 
After you’ve soaked the dough, pull it apart or flatten it out a bit and sprinkle the salt, xantham gum and baking soda. Fold it over on itself (knead) to mix it all in thoroughly. You don’t have to worry about over kneading it, since there’s no gluten. 
 
Divide the dough in half. Divide each half into thirds. (Fractions!) Roll into six balls. I drizzled a tiny bit of olive oil over the dough balls and rolled them in it. To shape, use the ziptop bag trick. Cut the end off of a gallon zip top bag and cut down the sides. Now you have a place to roll your tortillas so they won’t stick. I dusted both sides of the inside of the bag with a little arrowroot to keep things from sticking. 
 
Put one dough ball in the center of the bag. If you have a tortilla press, you know what to do. You can also use a plate to press the dough into a circle and then use your rolling pin to get it a little thinner. Gently peel the plastic away and place your tortilla on a hot griddle or cast iron pan. If your pan is non-stick, or a well seasoned cast iron, and is quite hot (just about to smoke) the tortillas shouldn’t stick. Flip when they just start to blister and brown. 
 
These are still pretty fragile when you’re rolling and handling them. I think it’s just the nature of the gluten free beast. Be patient. Keep them oiled. Keep your plastic bag well dusted with arrowroot. And don’t roll them too thin. 
a tortilla all rolled out and waiting for the griddle--I'm not too concerned with a perfect circle :)

a tortilla all rolled out and waiting for the griddle–I’m not too concerned with a perfect circle 🙂

 
To keep them soft, place tortillas, hot off the griddle, on a plate, wrapped in a slightly damp kitchen towel. You could also line a gallon zip top bag with paper towels and place the hot tortillas in there. The steam will help soften them. 
 
 
 

Happy tortilla making! Hope you like ’em!

 
 

15 Minutes to Intentional Living–Say Yes to Your Kids

 

15 minutes intentional living

 

 

I suppose this could be a piggy back on yesterday’s post of building a home that’s a refuge. But this one’s a lot easier–I promise! 

Stealing Moments with Your Kids

On any given day, a mom goes rapidly from one task to the next. For the stay-at-home mom and the mom putting in 40+ hours somewhere else, I’m sure most of us have a to do list that’s never quite finished. Dinner needs made. The wash needs put in the dryer. The phone needs answered.

And while in a previous 15 minute post, we talked about how to find hidden moments to get all that stuff done, today we’re going to set that aside just a bit and find the time to say yes to our kids a little more.

You know the questions…”Mommy, can you read me this book? Can you help me put this doll’s clothes on? Can you take a walk with me? Can we play a game?” Let’s all try something this week. Say yes to those little things, as often as possible.

Sometimes you might have to turn the stove top on low and just let something simmer for a few. You might have to take your hands out of a sink of dirty dishes. You might even have to get off Facebook! 😉 But the vast majority of the time, whatever you’re doing can handle a 15 minute delay.

 

Really? Just 15 minutes?

I’m serious! (Unless it’s a game of Candyland) I started paying attention to this. A little library book–less than 15. Dressing Polly Pocket–even fewer. You can even play a game of Memory in a relatively short period of time (sometimes we don’t use all the cards!) And I began to think, why not just set the spoon down, head over to the couch and read that book?

Try it. You’ll notice something remarkable. It’s like filling up their love tank in small little bites all day long. It tells them that they are worth leaving some other activity just to spend a few moments with them. My daughter beams, snuggles, and gallops away happy.

I wish I had done this a little more when my older two were still littles. They don’t need me for all that stuff much any more. Sometimes, now, I have to initiate the little break together. But once you start, you’ll see the power in those short moments.

 

What I’m not saying…

I’m NOT saying that you only spend time with your kids in short little bursts. They still need longer, more concentrated time investments here and there.

I’m NOT saying that you have to jump at their every whim. They need to know that sometimes, what you’re doing is necessary to the  family and it teaches them patience.

I think it’s about perspective and priorities. Some things that we get so engrossed in just don’t matter that much in the long run. But they do.

 

Try saying yes more often. And let us know how it goes!


Best Part of Being Away

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The best part of being away last week at a worship conference was COMING HOME. Sappy, I know. I can’t help it.

It was a good 3 days of challenging instruction and reminders that I definitely needed as a worship leader. But I just felt out of sorts while I was away. It had been a year since I’d been away from my kids for more than a day and well over a year since I’d traveled without my husband. And I missed them.

We’re not connected at the hip or so co-dependent that I can’t function without them, but I genuinely like their company. Which is a blessing and privilege. My family is a soft place to land.

That’s one of my goals and prayers for this blog and for all our homes. Part of “redeeming the home” is making home a refuge from the draining, discouraging, ugly parts of the world. This doesn’t happen easily or by accident. I think we have to make some serious choices if we desire our homes to be a place of restoration, encouragement and peace.

It means we are very careful to pick our battles.

 Some things that seem like an issue really aren’t. Ask yourself before you decide to launch an assault on your kids or husband if anything you’re about to say will matter in one month or one year. I think we vent too much, give our two cents worth too freely, and genuinely listen too little. (I still need to improve on this a ton.) I frequently tell my kids that proving that they’re right and someone else is wrong isn’t always the best thing for a relationship. Sometimes we just have to drop it. (Unless it’s a Biblical issue, of course.)

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Or try considering how you can bless the folks in your home.

This goes beyond seeking peace to looking for opportunities to bless them. It doesn’t have to be grand or cost a penny. Picking up your husband’s stuff without making an issue out of it. Bringing your son or daughter a drink while they’re working hard on homework. Rubbing a back. An unexpected hug.

Maybe you’re naturally good at that stuff. It’s not always so easy for me. Not because I don’t want to do things for my family. But I tend to get tunnel vision when I’m working on something and I forget that anything else is happening. It’s good for me to take a break from my agenda and direct my energy towards them every now and then.

Pray.

Pray, pray, and pray some more. Boy, do I need to take my own advise here. Have you ever tried to have a rotten attitude towards someone and pray for them at the same time? (I mean really pray for them. Not the kind of prayer where you tell God all the things you think He needs to do to fix someone.) I can’t do it. If I’m bothered by someone and I start praying for that person, my heart changes completely. And God replaces my irritation with compassion.

Sometimes making your home a refuge requires laying down your own desires. It might require sacrifice. It might be hard. If your home feels more like a war zone right now, or a giant hamster wheel of stress, then prayer might feel like all you have. But it’s SO much more than we think.

I think this is important to our Father too. It speaks of the truth of the gospel in our lives.

“By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10

“Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace.” 1 Corinthians 13:11

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”  Ephesians 4:2

I know these verses aren’t specifically about family units. But shouldn’t it start there?

How do you make your home a refuge?