Family canning

Caleb cut beans for almost 3 hours today.  With his mama.  At the kitchen counter.  The boy loves doing meaningful work.  He was literally happier than I’ve seen him in a long time.  He thrives on making a valued contribution.  It was a delight to hang out with him.

Audrey and Rylee owned the tomato situation last night.  35 pounds done in just a couple hours thanks to the fantabulous teamwork that took place.  Truly some of our best family times are spent in the kitchen together.

I can barely move at this point but we’ve had a great time canning so far.  I didn’t realize how tired I was or how pregnant I am until I broke down sobbing over a chicken nugget at the dinner table last night!

Many hands may make light work.  They also make a mess.  And memories too…

Blackberry Bars

These are our favorite way to enjoy the plethora of free blackberries that we enjoy searching for every August…

Blackberry Bars
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. butter, softened
1 ¾ cup flour
1 ½ quick oats
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
4 cups blackberries washed with sugar added to taste
Mix sugar and butter.  Stir in remaining ingredients until crumbly.  Press 2/3 into bottom of 9×13 pan.  Top with berries (drain juice first).  Sprinkle remaining crumble mixture and press gently onto berries.  Bake at 400º for 25 minutes or until light brown.

My back-to-school toolbox

We’ve been gearing up for weeks and have just one week left before our official first day of homeschool.  I have a 1st and 2nd grader this year along with a preschooler and toddler.  So in all reality I’ve spent all summer planning, pondering and purchasing what I need to at least try to set us all up for success.  Here are some ways we’re forging ahead:

  1. Menu plans – I am back to trying to do two weeks at a time, with built-in emergency/disaster day meals that are practically ready
  2. Grocery shopping alone on weekends – this really helps my sanity, running to the store for 3 things with 4 kids isn’t something I do well – and one big trip alone always costs us less than many smaller, unplanned trips
  3. Writing date nights and girls nights on the calendar weeks in advance – these two things have to be in place for me or the reality of my 12+ hour days alone with the kids puts me over the top (I learned this last year!)
  4. Housecleaner – with an ever-changing income this comes and goes but we agreed that it would be on the top of the list last September and although it was just a basic, every other week 2-hour clean – it helped stay closer to on top of life and blessed my husband as much as me (he likes clean, but he likes his family more – good thing!)
  5. A good purging – broken, old, uninteresting toys/books have made their way to the thrift store, some toys are put away for rainy days
  6. Practice this week at getting up early – our days go better when I’m up before the kids, but it’s really hard for me to do!
  7. An awesome planner – this year I’m using the Well Planned Day planner and I think its going to work very well
  8. Continued effort at exercise, even just 20 minutes a day I feel more energy and all my parts seem to work better 🙂
  9. Grace – it will be what ultimately pulls us through

For any who wonder what we’re using for school this year, I’ll post that later this week.  I always love reading what other mom’s are doing in their homeschool!

Godly Play

A couple of months ago, as a couple, we’d been talking a great deal about the way we teach children the message of the Bible within the church.  Over the years we’d wearied of flashy, hip, expensive curricula that seemed more geared toward entertaining children than helping them encounter God.  Some kids programs seemed watered down, others focused on having awesome toys or handouts, loud videos on fancy TV screens, some were haphazard and felt thrown together.  On our long summer visiting churches last year we experienced all sorts of things.  What struck us most was that some places our kids were treasured and some places they weren’t even allowed in the main meeting area.

So when I received a random email from my mom with a link to a young church in our area that was implementing something called Godly Play into their children’s ministry, it immediately caught my attention.  The heart behind it can be summed up but the logistics of how it plays out is a bit long to explain:

Godly Play is based upon the recognition that children have an innate sense of the presence of God. All they lack is the appropriate language to help them identify and express it so it can be explored and strengthened. The Godly Play approach teaches classical Christian language in a way that enhances the child’s authentic experience of God so it can contribute to the creative life of the child and the world.

I loved that it acknowledged a child’s capacity to experience God.  I believe that to be true.  I think it’s easy to put children in a box, try to keep them busy,  give them a printed coloring sheet and hope they turn out okay.  It’s easy to read a kid-version of the story of Adam and Eve and make a quick moral lesson of it…”They sinned, things went bad for them, so you see you should obey God and not sin”.  That is oversimplified obviously, but at the core, that is usually the way church teaches the Bible to children.  I don’t believe it is tremendously effective or holds much meaning.

Godly Play draws children in to experience the incredible story of God through a very deliberate, intentional time together.  Truly, I can’t put words to what it felt like to experience a whole Godly Play session this past weekend at a training event I attended.  I was enraptured as the storyteller smoothed out a pile of sand on the floor and talked about the dessert and then told the story of Abraham and Sarah and all that took place in their life in beautiful, captivating story form.  She used little wooden people to represent them, built rock altars with pebbles, blue yarn for rivers…simple.  But when I got home and replayed the whole thing with Chris, I was almost embarrassed.  I retold the story of Abraham with more knowledge, more passion and more detail than ever and from a lesson intended for a 5 year old.

In the fostering of discovery learning children are welcomed into a room that has been deemed and designed to be a sacred space.  They are welcomed by name, brought into a circle time and then drawn into a great story.  Walls are free of bright, garish decor.  The place is meant to inspire and allow children a chance to hear from God.  They even have moments of silence.  On shelves there are simple but beautiful trays that hold sets of elements to all the great stories of the Bible.  Children learn respect of these lovely things and at a set time they can interact with the stories.  They are also offered an artistic response time after the story and offered all sorts of art supplies and their own tray to do this.

If you are familiar with Montessori, this way of engaging children is similar in many ways to that.  But it obviously brings in the spiritual dynamic as central.  There are some fairly significant ways our team agreed we would have to change things to fit our own beliefs but in general the method is rich with so much that we were thrilled about.

One of my favorite things is that instead of forming the lesson principle for the whole group, the storyteller asks them “I wonder what you think about this story” or “I wonder what you love most about this story”.  This allows for children to experience and enter in to the great Story for themselves, to process and ponder deep things (even though they may not realize they’re doing just that!).

I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface!  For those of you who were curious, I hope this is helpful.  I’m by no means an expert and don’t want to make it sound like this is the only way/best way.  It is simply one of many wonderful ways that can be useful in helping children understand the great mystery of God and the incredible story of the Bible.

A beating heart

#182 – hearing a baby heartbeat for the first time…still an utter miracle, even though it’s our fifth

#183 – the mess that comes from having too much fun for weeks on end

#184 – energy to reclaim the home and conquer said mess

#185 – new ideas

#186 – getting ready for starting school

#187 – time alone in the quiet before anyone is awake

#188 – my new laminator, how did I live without one?!

#189 – a daughter who sets the table just like her mama

#190 –  a date with the one I love

#191 – time to look at his face and love him just a little bit more

Why does biblical literacy matter?

“Biblical literacy is a precursor to biblical transformation.”

“More than 200 million people have no access to spiritual food, with no Scriptures in their own language,” says Krish Kandiah, a director at the Evangelical Alliance UK. “Yet we in the West, despite owning more Bibles per household than we will ever use, are slowly starving to death because we have lost our appetite for Scripture.”(CT article May 2010)

These quotes and much more reading sparked my interest into a deeper look at biblical literacy and why it matters.  Raising children in today’s culture presents itself with a myriad of challenges and obstacles.  Each one is it’s own blog post (or book!).  But what my husband and I were increasingly aware of, even before having children when we led jr high ministry, was that we rarely observed young people with passion for God’s word or even an appetite for it at all.  Like Kandiah states above, we’ve got more Bibles that the rest of the world but we, in general, aren’t feasting on it and most don’t even know what it says.

How can the Bible change our life when we’ve got no idea what it actually says?  How can we attempt to live like Jesus when we’re just making a best guess as to what he would do?  How can we share the incredible story of Hope that was meant for all mankind if we can’t even articulate the message?

We can’t.  And this is why it matters that we know what mysteries and miracles the Bible holds.

In this quest for how to facilitate this in our own family and in our lives, several things popped up.

  1. We invested in the Bible on CD (actually I asked for it for my birthday) and it is deeply blessing our family
  2. We implemented a very simple reading time (like only a few verses) after dinner every night
  3. We prayed for new ideas on leading children in the church setting since we’re about to jump in with both feet joining a new church that is just beginning

That last prayer led us on a fascinating journey and discovery of a way of teaching the Bible to children called Godly Play.  My next post will explain what that looks like and share about our one-day training yesterday.

Hard lesson learning

There are always things in life that would really nice if we could learn earlier than we do.  And for me, I seem to learn lessons slowly, painfully and the hard way.  It’s been this way since I was 12 perhaps, throwing tuna fish sandwiches at a wall yelling at my mother.  Occasionally I would heed the advice of older, seasoned ones.  But more often I sought to determine for myself if they’d really meant it.

Fast forward to 18 years old when I was mature enough to throw a shoe at my sister’s head while on a lengthy road trip in our small car.  All because she told me I was “cute”.  She demanded to be driven to the nearest airport and I stewed.  My poor parents drove us all home in one piece and years later we think it’s pretty funny.  But again during that season, I continued to learn my way.

We married young, didn’t get a great deal of marriage advice, at least that I remember.  It’s possible I was blinded by the burning love in my heart.  But the theme continued of learning hard things hard ways.  In the first year we were married I stormed out the door many times in frustration and immaturity, if my memory is correct I think I even ended up on my parents doorstep one night.  Oh the injustice and imperfection I cried!  I was pretty sure things were supposed to be dreamy for at least a couple years.  I made my best effort to prove that the world, marriage and all should revolve around me.

I learned to care more about what my parents thought about things that my husband.  I’d call them for ‘what to do’ about life stuff.  Them or a friend.  It seemed totally normal and good to me at the time.  But it wasn’t.  It was one more ‘hard life lesson learned’ for me that was the opposite of good for our marriage.

There was a season, about three years ago that I was 99% convinced that there was greener grass to be had.  About that time someone said to me

The grass is green where you water it.

I’ve never forgotten those words.  And the more time passes, the more I believe they are true.  Though we haven’t arrived or ‘met the mark’ at this point I just wanted to share that the fruit of sticking with your lifelong companion when things are not so wonderful is sweeter than any fresh start or greener grass you may think you’ve discovered.

Last night I arranged for a babysitter and set up a date night with my husband.  We slipped out the door with no one in tears, a huge feat.  We spent the next two hours enjoying food but more enjoying precious face-to-face time.  We chatted about little things.  Then I began to ask his input and brought out my notepad.  I needed help deciding on some things with the kids.  I needed his level head to weigh in on my emotions.  I needed his direction and leadership on several accounts.  I didn’t argue or think of what smart thing I could say.  I scribbled down notes and by dinners’ end felt a huge load lifted.  I didn’t ask him, but I’m pretty sure he felt valued, respected and important-which he is.

It has taken seriously just about all of these past eleven years for me to figure out that this is the way it’s meant to work.  That life isn’t all about me, it’s about the us we formed the day we married.  It’s about God pouring grace out all over and us finding our way through it.  The dividends of some heart wrenching work are paying off.  It might sound old-fashioned to you and that’s okay.  We’re liking it…

A father who loves well

#160 – exhilaration from doing some terrifying and loving it

#161 – being around awesome women and hoping they rub off

#162 – how it feels to have my dad take me out for breakfast

#163 – delight in being someone’s little girl-still-despite the fact I’m 32

#164 – watching his eyes well up when he tells me he’s proud of who I’ve become

#165 – heart-held truth that for every girl who doesn’t have a dad like mine, God can fill every hole and heal every wound

#166 – little boy fingers that still look like sausages

#167 – letting go of everyone else’s take on “what to do about______” and following my heart

#168 – sun tan lines

#169 – a healthy first trimester

#170 – having the same best friend for 20 years

#171 – slip and slides

#172 – hindsight

#173 – new friends

#174 – watching my husband smile

#175 – sharing pieces of my past that help someone make sense of their present

#176 – early bedtimes

#177 – learning oh-so-slowly to be happy in my own shoes

#178 – books that point my heart to Jesus

#179 – getting what I longed for without asking for it

#180 – receiving grace

#181 – unexpected presents

Boardman Lake Trail

It was a glorious day, over 90 degrees but hiking through an old growth cedar forest canopy it didn’t feel too bad.  The short hike ended at a warm alpine lake where we played for hours…

“Fishing” but catching no fish,
building rock towers,
enjoying the company of lovely new friends,
laughing a lot,
getting wet and liking it

Not sure we could ask for a better Saturday – even if it is a monumental ordeal getting kids ready, lunch packed, van stuffed, etc to head to the mountains (at one point on the way I wondered why we even attempted it-honest!)

Our summer bounty

This year we’ve attempted to grow:

green beans

lettuce

tomatoes (4 kinds)

cucumbers

potatoes

strawberries

zucchini

carrots

snap peas

blueberries

So far:

snap peas gave 3 good harvests then promptly died when we went camping

carrots take FOREVER to grow!

green beans are just coming on – but WOW they are good

tomatoes require sun – this is the NW – it’s in short supply this year

lettuce – several heads harvested and new ones coming on

zucchini has been enjoyed by the slugs and not us so far

strawberries were good and gone fast…same with blueberries

cucumbers may never arrive

potatoes – no one’s had the courage to go digging in the potato sack – no clue what’s in there

but we’re having fun with our tiny garden and that’s kind of the idea!