Thursday, April 30, 2015

Believing the Lies


It was Homeschool Teacher Appreciation Day and I was pouring over my journal, reflecting on the week thus-far and the dangerous path I had been traveling.  The flaming arrows of the enemy seemed to be at rest.  I had, after all, identified his position, placed him under surveillance and sent in some snipers.  It seriously felt like that kind of battle.

Why the attack?  We are so insignificant in the grand-scheme of life.  I'm no Beth Moore, my husband is no Billy Graham.  So why us?  Perhaps, simply, because the enemy has no regard for who we are, rather, he loathes what we do and Who we represent.  ANYTHING to further God's kingdom falls onto the enemy's attack list.  The saddest part is how he knows all the best angles of attack.... he knows how to get us to believe his pathetic little lies....

You aren't good enough, just give up.
It's too hard, you might fail, just don't do it.
As teacher mom, the lies were flying EVERYWHERE, I had a hard time getting out of the way.  I almost broke under the pressure while helping my daughter gather necessary info for the application process at a local Christian college where she plans to study music ministry.  MUSIC MINISTRY, of course the enemy was on the attack.  He was hitting us both.  For me, the encourager and helper to this process, it sounded like this:

You have failed your daughter and she isn't ready for dual enrollment and college level classes.
You are a bad teacher, she is going to fail because of you.
She wants their teaching, not yours, it is proof of how bad you are.
You should have just put them in public school, they would have a better chance....

It was all lies which I was duped into believe at first.  By mid week I stood blankly wondering where my strength went and how I might get it back.  For my daughter the attacks were even more brutal:

No one cares what you have to say.
You always mess up.
You never do anything right.
How do you expect to make it at college, you aren't smart enough.
You are such a screw up, you will screw this up too.

Oh the ugly lies.  Why do we believe them?  Why can't we see through to the beauty of God's Words?  God doesn't guide us through negativity, He speaks to us through positive reinforcement and gentle guidance.

In the midst of the dark battles we faced I found hope in God's Word.  As God would have it, I was reading in Psalm 37 and through it, I felt strength returning...

Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust him and he will act.
... Be still before the Lord and
wait patiently for him
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, 
over the man who carries out evil devices!
- Psalm 37:3-5

I saw commands and hope from my God;
Be still
Wait patiently

It wasn't a fighting Psalm equipping me to fight back, no, it was a Psalm to remind me God was still in control...

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, 
When he delights in his way;
though he fall
he shall not be cast head long,
for the Lord upholds his hand.

Wait for the Lord and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land.

The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; 
he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
The Lord helps them and delivers them...
because they take refuge in him.

I knew I could
            be still
               wait patiently
because God was my stronghold, He would deliver me.  All my troubles and doubts and weariness were in His strong and capable hands.  He would help me and hold me up AND he would show me the TRUTH in the midst of the ugly lies.  When He led me to Psalm 71, I knew the deal was sealed:

For you, O Lord, are my hope
- Psalm 71:5a

My hope wasn't in my kids, their past, their future.  It is in the Lord.  With that focus, why not have peace?  After all...

If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.
When I thought "My foot slips," your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.
When the cares of my heart are many,
your consolations cheer my soul.
- Psalm 94:17-19

These Words made all the lies so completely obvious, I couldn't help but deny them power after that.  I even sat down with my daughter and helped her walk out her heart and recognize the voice of the enemy and deny his lies because the Truth of God's Word carries more power.  We gave the cats a fright as we boisterously tackled each lie together:

No one cares what you have to say. People DO care what I have to say.
You always mess up. Sometimes I do mess up, but not ALWAYS, I will learn from my mistakes though.  I'm doing better all the time.
You never do anything right. Always and never are earmarks of the enemy.  I'm onto him and even though I mess up sometimes, I am learning and getting better.
How do you expect to make it at college, you aren't smart enough. I am smart enough, I CAN do it.
You are such a screw up, you will screw this up too. No I am not. I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength.

And the one which covers them all:  I praise you [O, God], for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:14)

The key to countering the enemy's lies is to turn them around.  If he says "no you are not" you say "yes, I am".  If he says "no you can't" you say "yes I can".  And you claim Psalm 139:14, all humility aside, because it is TRUTH!!

As homeschool mom, I turned those lies around too.  I havent' screwed my children up.  I have answered the Call to homeschool and trusted God to equip me.  My kids are doing great because of Him and they will continue to do great on whatever path God calls them to take in life.  We have our bad days, our days when I feel like I have messed up for the last time.  But we have our good and great days too.  Public school was what I rescued them from and even on our worst day it is still better than their best day in public school.  My eyes are on God.... not them or anyone else.... simply.God.

I shared the overcoming part of this message on Friday in my Claiming Victory article and I promised to write more today... so I have.  Sitting here a week later, I feel GREAT.  It was a rough spot there for a short while, but we are through it and stronger as a result.  Feeling super blessed to have God's Word as a light unto my feet and strength for my soul. 

I pray you would recognize when the voice of the enemy tries to tell you lies and that you would deny him access to your heart and hope!

I hope in your word.  
- Psalm 119:81b


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

This Mama's Heart and Higher Education

She warms my heart.  No one fully knows the crazy challenges we have faced, in all their chaotic detail, raising her into the sweet girl she is today.  I have blogged over the years and shared some...
    ...praying for a heart for the daughter I loved but couldn't understand...
        ...learning how to teach (and have extraordinary patience with) an ADHD child...
            ...trying to string her through the higher expectations of high school when she
               is so strong willed!

Nope, it hasn't been easy.

Sometimes her impulsiveness lead to unfortunate and even awkward situations.  Mostly it resulted in relationships we had to help her learn how to repair (and not repeat certain mistakes).  I have even prayed over potential depression or panic disorder issues and working with her to learn how to focus on Christ and talk to the right people to get through it.  We have even endured the concern and tests of potential temporal seizures... tests which remain inconclusive but did identify temporal activity.  Yet......

She has done marvelously.  

God's hand is on her, we see It in how she has grown and overcome so many challenges.  And now, we stand on the doorstop of higher education and I am scared and nervous all over again.  Will she pay attention in class to get full notes?  Will her flaky and flighty tendencies obstruct her ability to not only understand but also retain the information presented?  Will she set her strong will aside to give the ground needed for compromise in relationships (both academic and personal)?  Will she remember all the lessons learned through impulsive mishaps... and not repeat old mistakes?  Will the pressure of higher academics push her more willy-nilly into depressive or panic-type episodes?  Will the stress of studies insight temporal activity resulting in more seizure type episodes?

Can she do it?

I think she can.  I think she can because I am not in control and she is not in control and the people of the wonderful Christian College we are looking at are not in control.  I think she can because she (and we) believe in a greater Power at work to guide and help her succeed.  I believe she stands on the threshold of one of the most transforming experiences she will have in her young adult life.  Will it be easy?  no.  If it was easy, everyone would do it... right?  Will it be spiritually and intellectually challenging?  yes.  But it is through the challenges we often become stronger and closer to our Heavenly Father. 

In the midst of our preparations over the last week or two, God placed a wonderful analogy in front of me:  In the Old Testament, under Mosaic Law, special vessels were made for the temple; gold cups, candle stands and so on.  It took a great deal of preparation to make these things perfect for use in the most Holy Place.  Unlike a regular cup or pot made from clay or wood for private use, these items took more time and skill.  Being made isn't easy, it requires hammering and sanding and detailing and fire through quite an extensive process.  In the end you have a perfect piece which can be used for the greatest Work.

And so I believe it is with our children.  So it is with my daughter.

Today, my mama heart just had to pour all this out. I breathe a short rest from sitting by her side to help encourage and guide her entrance essay and filling out her first full-length application (on her own)....
... as I take a break from pouring over classes completed and grades earned and pushing all the numbers to reveal a necessary transcript...
... reflecting these days over the years of her high school experience and fearing all her high marks were my favoritism yet recognizing how much they were truly earned....

And yet, while I breathe in this break, post-application drop-off, my throat swells and my eyes water remembering all the challenges overcome and all the love poured into this amazing young woman and how many times I would walk that battlefield again and again just to see how far it has brought her.  Will it sustain her when the going gets tough?  Will she remember, in those hard places, not just my love and teaching but, more importantly, her Savior's?

I think so.

Her extraordinary faith is the best thing to come out of her mountainous trek to this stage of life.  We are blessed to see the Mighty Handy-work!  I don't know if she will be accepted or if God will see fit to provide at this time for the financial aspect of her higher education.  I do know she is driven, knowing a ministry degree awaits her on the other side of the trials and triumphs of college.  All the while, I cant help but look at this young lady and see the little girl who still had so much in front of her.  I guess she still does, only this time she has the tools.

That is just this mama's heart.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Homeschool Journal: Claiming Victory

It has been one of those weeks.  You know, the kind where your faith is tested, your patience is tried, your roll as mom and teacher is hung out where shots are taken.... Some weeks are like that (even in Australia!)

Honestly, though, I don't mind.  Weeks like this test and try me and make me stronger.  Two words sum it all up:  Spiritual Warfare.  My husband and I discussed it this morning, walking off the battlefield sore yet feeling victorious.  He pondered how many parents realize and tackle the battles we and our children face, recognizing and handling them through the power of the Spirit.  So many times we chalk it up as a challenge, a phase to get through, or a road we must walk.  To an extent that is all true.  However, we have to recognize Paul's words in these situations:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but 
against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 
- Ephesians 6:12

 When our children walk through the muck of a dismal bog, we have to ask, 'what is the REAL issue' and tackle accordingly.
One of my daughters is preparing for dual/early enrollment to a local Christian college.  Her passion peaked this week when she realized she wanted to study Music Ministry.... shortly after excitedly declaring her intended focus, 'flaming arrows' began to fly.  By yesterday afternoon, any topic of discussion with her was like walking through a mine-field.   I will admit, I was frustrated and fed-up.  She is ADHD, impulsive and inclined to shut-down and walk away in a slump rather than face problems productively.  I was blessed with a cool-down session while driving my husband back to work after lunch.  My plan upon return was to sit her down and talk about attitude.  Then God stepped in and I remembered: it is spiritual
As we talked I realized the voice of the enemy telling her a multitude of lies about herself.  (Watch for next week's article on Lies We Believe!)  We opened God's Word, addressed and acknowledged the REAL problem... the spiritual battle we were fighting.  After all, why would our 'enemy' (Satan) want a young woman off at a Christian College learning how to use her God-given gift of music to lead entire congregations and people from all walks of life to lay down their burdens and follow the one true King?!  OF COURSE SHE IS UNDER ATTACK!!!!  There are other areas of her life where she is seeking to move forward in God's will for her.... homework, church activities and even her relationships at home all play a part in victoriously claiming the plans God has and therefore, all these areas will come under attack in a spiritual battle to detour and/or destroy.  

But we CAN overcome.  God gives us that power.

When us, as mommy teachers, feel like we are failing, lost, inadequate.... the adjectives could string on.  My guess is, you know what I mean, personally.  We have to ask, 'what is the REAL issue' and tackle accordingly.

Sometimes I feel like the more I work with my kids, the more I learn and become capable at what I do.... sometimes I feel like I am forgetting everything I learned in high school and my few years of college.  I never did finish my degree, it's a long story.  I can say, I prayed about it and God had other plans.  HE equipped me for the job of teacher mom and he called me to it.  As I look at one ADHD child and one Dyslexic, both in high school, both needing to be prepared for the 'real world' and both NOT typical of their peers in more ways than one.... I feel like I am failing.  The lies and flaming arrows of the enemy tell me I am a failure.  He tries to knock me down by saying they would be better off with ANYONE but me.  Yet, Psalm 119 tells us the power of God's Word, the faithfulness of God if we seek Him each day.  And through that power, God steps in and the spiritual battle that wages insights me to arm myself, dig in and counter attack. It isn't always pretty and some days I feel like I am loosing ground rather than gaining it. 
This particular one was long and nasty and took almost an entire week before I drove the enemy and his lies back.  So what was at stake?  How about, the simple fact that I choose to homeschool my children?  I am given the great privilege to teach them according to God's Word.  To encourage them rather than throw them to the den of peer pressure and secular idealism.  My high schoolers started their career in the public sector.  With their challenges they did NOT do well socially or academically.  My oldest, brilliant and the only challenge was the lack of a challenge, spent his entire career in public school.... today he confesses to a detachment from the family because the public school stole him away from us.  I look at my youngest, like my oldest in every way accept I kept her home.  She thrives.  What hope do my kids have if I give up on them?  What opportunities really lay before them if I deny God's call because the spiritual battle overwhelms me?  Where is God's glory in that?  And this week, as I help my daughter prepare for enrollment at the college, where would her hope be if I gave in and gave up?  If I didn't walk this battle field with her?  So I pour through God's word, I CLING to His truths and I tell the enemy NO, YOU CAN'T HAVE ME AND YOU CAN'T HAVE MY CHILDREN because God's power is greater.  I believe God when He tells me I am more than enough when He works through me to teach and lead my children and I claim that victory.

As a writer and a blogger, these attacks try to get through.  An article in the wings on a topic a friend asked about, homeschooling early education, sputters under these attacks.  If I am not a good teacher, how can I presume to encourage others?  But it is a lie (and despite the attacks, the article WILL proceed!) 

Schedules which never go according to plans, chores undone and hard to get on top of, curriculum you doubt, dissatisfaction, feeling you aren't enough, feeling there is TOO MUCH.... it is all a distraction, an attempt to detour us from our Hope and our Trust in God to sustain and complete us.  To pull us through, perhaps not perfectly but certainly victoriously.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 
Romans 8:37

What could be MORE THAN????!!!!  Wow, more than conquerors.  Let us claim that, cling to it, shout it on the charge and CLAIM VICTORY over the enemy who wants to steal our joy and hope and peace as we homeschool and live each week.

Here is a song I pray you will crank and shout and use as your battle cry.  Maybe you had a positively, perfectly, great week this week.... or maybe you are like me, repairing the dents in your armor and dressing wounds.  Let us link shields and claim our victory!


Linking up today with:
*Pictures are from last spring, we were wrapping up a study on Ancient Rome and the kids wanted to make shields and swords out of some giant boxes we had in the garage (Brenden went for full armor). They then proceeded to have gladiator fights in the front yard with one of the cats sitting in the window acting as Caesar giving the thumbs up or thumbs down to "finish him"!! 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Becoming the Titus 2 Woman: A Heart for Husband

'I can just consider it an arranged marriage.... right?  After all, many admirable women of the Bible (and other areas of history) did it and they eventually found a place of love and peace in their unions.'  This was a repeated thought I entertained, even after my husband finally dedicated his life to Christ.  Somehow I thought, after 10 years of prayer for his heart to be handed over... when the wonderful moment came we would suddenly be peas-in-a-pod.  But here I digress.

You see, I was running from God and he was ignoring the Almighty when we met almost 18 years ago.  He was a short, red haired buzz cut, cigarette smoking, know-it-alling, glass is half empty, t.v. and gaming addict, metal-head, recovered alcoholic with no job and no strings attached.  I was a tall, long dark hair groomed, clothes coordinated, bubble gum rock listening, A+ credit, clean living, no t.v. watching, optimist, who had only mildly partied but no longer had time because I was raising my 3 year old son while working full-time on my own.  Great picture?

How on earth did we end up together?  Good question.  AOL (you know, "You've Got Mail", it really happens... or it did to me anyway) and long phone calls where we talked cooking and kids.  We heard each other's hearts before we discovered the actual countenance (we are talking pre-Facebook, a time when life wasn't on display 24/7).  Meeting in person was meant to cinch the deal but when reality smacked fantasy in the face I was too dizzy from the blow to think straight.  Some of his claims were stretches of the truth.... really, not lies, there was some truth to them... the details were a little foggy though.  But there was something.  I can't explain it except to say everything happened seemingly beyond my plans or intentions.

The years that followed were hard ones.  Almost two years after marriage God drew me back into church.  One Sunday a message whopped me right upside the head.  It was actually the message that 6 years before had driven me out of the church; Abraham and Issac... how could God ask a father to sacrifice his son.  I couldn't get behind a God that would do such a thing.  But the Sunday I quit running from God, the eye-opening-earth-shaking-on-my-knees-crying Sunday, I saw how Abraham was deeply trusting his Father and I saw the greatest sacrifice of all through the symbolism of what Abraham prepared to do.  THAT was love, that was trust, what kind of person couldn't see that and want a God so mighty and full of grace?  My faith was set on fire and I haven't stopped running since TO Him since!

Yet, as my faith grew, my troubles did too.  I wanted out of my miserable marriage but I also knew I had gone that route once before.  Divorce had been hard on my oldest son and now I had 3 more children to worry about.  I couldn't just hop around from marriage to marriage because I was tiered of being neglected or tiered of the differences or tiered of the fights. What was more, no matter how I tried to justify the idea of fleeing, God's Word glared His distaste for divorce.  I not only repented of my first disillusion from my first marriage but I committed to follow God on how to navigate the rough seas of this one.

In a pivotal stage of this renewed commitment a particularly nasty argument raged in our house.  I stormed off to vent and grumble about my stubborn pig-headed husband, I looked up to heaven and cried out, 'please God, change HIM'.  God answered almost instantly in a powerful movement of the Spirit I could not deny.  The answer?  'Ok, but first, I am going to change YOU'.  I laughed haughtily.... me, I don't need the change, HE does.  God laid on my heart that He knew we BOTH needed to change but He wanted to start with me. I knew in that moment I had a choice: trust God's plan or keep trying to do it on my own.

I chose God.

He began to show me how my attitude and manner of handling and responding to my husband left a lot to be desired.  God showed me I had a responsibility for myself and MY actions regardless of my husbands.  I reached a point where, when I failed to remember to handle things with grace, I would be nearly in tears over the lost opportunity to SHOW the love of Christ in my words and actions.  It was hard at times.  I had Christian friends who tried to tell me I didn't need to "honor" my husband as the Bible says, they argued those passages as only applying to Christian husbands.  But I didn't see that stipulation.  I saw this one:

To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, 
and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.  
If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, 
she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife,
- 1 Corinthians 7:12-14a

If I am not meant to leave then logic through the Bible dictates I am meant to stay AND show love and grace as Christ did.

In the months and years that followed I experienced so many wonderful as well as hard things.  First, a Bible study I was participating in on prayer asked, "If you had just one thing you could pray about, what would it be?"  I considered our floundering business, our shaky finances, our growing kids.... but that still-small voice said, think bigger.  Business and finances would come and go... kids will grow and change.... ONE thing was everlasting.  ONE thing would help navigate all the rest.  Then and there I bowed my head, "Please, God, give me a husband I can pray with."  I began praying daily for my husband's salvation, refusing to miss a single day.  Whatever my prayers were for him each day, they always ended with, "Please, God, give me a husband I can pray with."

Sometimes it seemed hopeless.  I wondered if God would ever answer.  In order to protect my husband and respect his own testimony I won't divulge details here but I can tell you, there isn't much you could say to me about your own husbands which I couldn't whole-heartedly reply: I understand, but trust me, pray through it.  Some days I still thought maybe I could leave and just stay single as the Bible says is the only acceptable route post-divorce.  But I knew God hated divorce and I was positive he was telling me to stay.  His Word told me so.  And even though I did not have mutual respect and treatment, I wasn't meant to give up... none of us are.

Miracles began to happen.  Little ones at first which I can only now see in retrospect.  One of the bigger steps was one I felt called to add to my daily studies by reading my Bible at bedtime.  My husband, an avid gamer, started to become interested for no apparent reason.  He would shut down his game and come into bed with me and ask me to read to him.  The following year we learned of a Bible study going on next door and he actually wanted to attend.  Then, one day, it just happened.  He surrendered his heart.

It was a private thing and I knew the instant he had because he completely changed.  The edgy, gruff and tough man was replaced by a tender, smiling and loving husband.  Prayer after prayer continued to be answered including God sending mentors to my husband which grew him exponentially faster in his faith walk than anyone else I had ever known.

It took time to work out the change.  I no longer had to be in control of certain areas of our household because he now wanted to take part... to assume his Biblical roll.  I didn't realize it at first, but after 10 years of 'wearing pants' I had a lot of habits to break so our co-leadership would look more respectful and smooth.

The changes in me, which HAD to happen first, produced love, patience and kindness.  Instead of getting angry at him all the time, I learned to give grace and speak tenderly.  I quit yelling and accusing and started talking and asking.  I encouraged the kids through my actions and words to pray for their dad, to love on him and give him grace as I was.  To this day my husband will tell people that what drew him to Christ was seeing the change in me.  Even when I didn't think he was paying attention or caring.... he was and it changed our lives profoundly.

So when you hear me share on this blog, as I did last week, how we are to be submissive to our husbands and I add 'trust me.... no excuses', I hope you understand my heart a little more now.  It has been a very hard road... one which I would travel again and again just to have the humble privilege of seeing God work and have the wonderful faith-filled, EX-cigarette smoking, EX-gaming addict, mission minded, sold-out-for-Jesus husband I have now... and to have this amazing, bigger-than-life, wholly trusting faith and peace God has grown in me through the process. Sure we may still be very different and he may drive me crazy as a result (I'm sure I make him a little crazy at times too!!) but we share the same heart for Christ and that is what matters most!

 I pray you may know the peace of God's hand on your heart and in your marriage... even if the waters seem rough... that you may Trust He is steering the ship and you WILL make it through!


This article is a follow-up on last week's article Titus Meets Proverbs: Becoming a Titus 2 Woman

Friday, April 17, 2015

Homeschool Journal: Normal is Knocking

Is it Friday yet already? Our first fullish week back to schoolwork ALL together in FIVE (yes 5) weeks.  It went better than expected with afternoons spent more as accidental schooling than our typical middle/high school directives.

In case you don't know what I am referring to, I have a small rant about it in Chicken Noodle Confessions last week.  Easter was suppose to wrap-up our 2 week break (which started early on account to various illnesses).  Isn't it wonderful to see how art exploration blessed me Easter morning?
Easter Bunny debate aside, my kids tend to believe longer than the average.  Brooke turned 12 this year and started youth group.  I felt it was pressing to let her in on the 'magic' of the holidays lest she come under ridicule by her older peers when Easter Bunny discussions arose.  We have a special way of breaking the news, she was sad at first but in the end, it made Easter her favorite now because she appreciated her Savior even more (it's a long story but the 'card' says it all!)

At the end of this past week, as Ashley's 2nd... or was it 3rd???.... round of sickness was hitting fever pitch, she decided to seek peace in some sort of accomplishment if it couldn't be homework!  She lined up her rubber band creations to help in the decision on what new creature to add to the collection. She plans to sell these at the Farmer's Market, though she never hesitates to give them to kids at Bible club or youth group for some cheer.

 Last week rounded out not only feeling like spring but looking like it as well.  I felt blessed to be out-and-about even if only with ONE well child and blessed to live in such a simply pretty town... the picture does it no justice but if you look close, you can see the signs of spring!  Brooke and I ran errands and visited the Library where we found some videos on scientists, exploration, and the American Girl movies.  Something to help the sick-time with Brenden and Ashley not so.... wasted.... for lack of a better word.  I think that is what I despise most about illness in our house: NOTHING is accomplished and when the illness drags on I feel like so much learning time is lost, especially since the two sick ones are high schoolers.

This is also critical because Ashley does entrance testing next month for dual enrollment at a local Christian college.  Her ADHD and tendency to panic along with our travels and the lack of more consistency have me nervous if everything will transition smoothly.  I so want to see her making greater leaps forward in her curriculum this year.

And just when things looked up.... we spent Saturday morning in the ER.  Ashley was apparently having Bronchiospasms and Pharyngitis.  Brenden appeared to have strep.  Another round of antibiotics. I was super worried this week would be week number SIX with no school.  However, the good Lord blessed us with healing on the upswing by Monday.  Brenden and Ashley didn't feel GREAT but they were well enough to push through basic lessons.  I felt it was an important skill to learn: working when you don't feel great.  It is a lesson they will need all of life.

By Tuesday we all felt like "normal" was knocking on our door after a looooong stay far from here!  Ashley made the casual suggestion that "we" should make banana bread to which I replied, "Why yes, YOU should!"  A proud moment for this worry-wort mama, apparently my 16 year old has absolutely no problems jumping in the kitchen and kicking out a double batch of bread shaped goodness with ZERO help from anyone!  Her dad was proud and requested one of the loaves to share at work (his co-workers enjoyed it very much).  Home Ec is in the bag!

Here is a little side-note on our week: "spring" in south-central Montana.  I'm just glad we got some precipitation in any form.  We all want a bustling garden but need good moist soil first!

Thursday wrapped up with the first bike ride since illness spread.  Antibiotics having had full effect, Ashley (who had been the sickest) led the pack!  Everyone did great though Brenden's cough re-appeared upon return.  It is manageable and all of us are looking forward to more outings as both weather and viruses clear.

The basic 3 Rs were done through their regular curriculum each morning.  Brenden tried a new Spelling plan which he found interesting since it integrated Language Arts (anything to get done quicker!!).  History, Science and Health were more on a discussion basis.  Our regular curriculum will re-enter next week.  This week I read from the Science section of Under the Influence, How Christianity Transformed Civilization. You can imagine all the bases it covered!  We have been studying the Renaissance mostly through secular resources so this was a great opportunity to discuss the Christian perspective and profound impact men (and ideas) of faith had on this transformational period.

I was excited as I wrapped up grading today and set-up lesson plans for next week.... despite all the missed school, Brooke will finish her math program before we had planned on being done with school for the year!  I am thrilled because we have never made it to the end of a book.... let a lone when so much school has been missed!!  All other subjects and students are another story entirely though!

So that is our last two weeks in review.  I hope it encourages you in whatever ups and downs your homeschool has just now!


Linking up today with:

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Making it Through the Moments

"You didn't even try to resist, did you?" her head dropped despairingly as she choked back tears.  I was trying not to be angry, grateful she had trusted the safety of a mother's heart for confession. Yet I pressed her for reason as to why she couldn't resist the temptation of the moment.  I breathed deeply His strength and exhaled grace.  I, too, had once (and even still) had to fight temptation in a loosing battle like the one she faced.  I set my shoulders to lean in and more gently remind her, "These are only moments... passing pieces of time leading into the next.  You only have to hold on for a moment."

It is a theme echoed in my midst this week, even in the verses I soak up from my morning Bible reading.  Psalm 30, a familiar one sung on Sundays but often forgot in those moments of fleeting temptations.  It struck me deeper this week, though, as I look to my children growing and facing new and bigger challenges.  As I look to a world now which resembles little of the one I grew up in.  Black and white are replaced by gray and fleshly desires surrendered to are praised more than ever before.  How do we resist?

Resist snapping at our loved ones because we just don't want to muster the strength to act in love.

Resist giving up the coveted spot in line while making a million excuses why we don't have time to let the person with fewer or quicker go first.

Resist desires or secret addictions because, after all, God gave grace and it is much easier to give in.

Resist dark thoughts and succumbing to deep sadness because we don't want to try to understand or order our universe according to Divine control....

Resist trying to control everything because surrendering ALL things to God's hands means we are helpless.... right?

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God 
through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith 
into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces 
endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 
and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured 
into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
- Romans 5:1-5

Resisting is often harder than surrendering.  We suffer when we resist but Romans 5 tells us suffering brings growth and, ultimately, Glory to God.  The more we resist, the strength to resist grows and the hope to continue with battle after victorious battle makes winning so worth it!

Psalm 30 glared at me this week because of this.  Like the Titus meets Proverbs idea of process and results, I saw HOW we resist to grow into the Romans 5 form and reflection of growing in faith and hope in Christ.  Psalm 30 tells us these challenges, temptations, trials and hardships are temporary.  As I told my daughter recently.... they are a moment.  A moment which feels like forever when, in truth, it is only fleeting.  Yet, how we respond in that momentary affliction is what becomes lasting.

Do we snap and walk in regret for hurting feelings or causing strife?

Do we hog our spot yet knowing the distress we are causing someone else and the opportunity missed to share and show the love of Christ?

Do we give into that secret thing knowing it is an act of betrayal or breaking God's heart and essentially blaspheming the Spirit, leaving a trail of guilt for many moments after?

Do we wallow un-necessarily in sadness and hopelessness when God is ready and waiting to wash us with joy and hope.... even in the darkest moments.... spending countless hours simply lost?

Do we hold so tight to control, no moment seems to carry peace for the suffocating weight of it all?

Some moments are blinks.... others are longer but ALL are just moments.  In the grand scope of eternity and our temporary passage through this place their transitory existence is not worth the loss our lack of resistance will cause.  Simply put: if each temptation to do and be good vs. bad is recognized as fleeting we can than except our need to resist is equally temporary.  We do not have to resist every minute of every day from now until eternity.... we only need to resist in this minute of this day and then enjoy the beautiful character building joy that awaits our wise choice.

It may not always be easy.... but it is simple.

I pray you may find the strength for each temporary moment to claim victory for all the moments and eternities which come after!


* The Psalms graphic in this post is available for sharing on my Facebook page

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Titus Meets Proverbs : Becoming the Titus 2 Woman

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
 - Titus 2:3-5

“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
- Proverbs 31:29

In a study this week with my youngest daughter these verses really struck me.  I am crazy about the Proverbs 31 and Titus 2 women.  I study them often, set goals according to their attributes and my callings.  I have compared and thought on how the two relate.... sisters or one in the same they may be.  But this week what stood out was process and result.

Sure, both these chapters stand on their own two feet just fine.  However, reading verse 29 in our study called me to flip over to Titus 2 and consider how we might raise verse 29 in tribute to the woman who has fulfilled Titus 2.  I considered, also, how this applies to women in my own time, especially as mothers.

We, as mothers have a duty to our children beyond just raising them 'in the way they should go'.  Titus 2 shows us the details of a mother's life more than just her personal 'busy work' as in Proverbs 31.  Titus 2 calls us moms to:

- teach what is good.  Easy enough, what mother is going to teach her children what is bad... right?  However, consider this:  your children are watching you.  They watch what you wear, listen to what you say and watch what you do (how you spend your time and energy). They observe every single detail of your life whether you want them to or not (Titus 2:3,7-8 suggests this as well). When we consider 'actions speak louder than words' we have to realize and accept the responsibility that teaching what is good means modeling it too.  All the time. (And recognizing when we mess up so we can teach our children through our own mistakes!  They learn humility in these lessons as well!)

- train the young women to love their husbands and children.  I would argue that we can teach our young men to love their wives and children as well.  Again, teaching isn't just words, it is actions.  Remembering not just how we speak to our husbands but also how we speak about them when they are not around and our children are.  The best way our children can learn love is through observing and emulating our own actions towards them and their father.

- to be self controlled, pure.... [and] kind.  Model it.  When you are tempted to betray the witness of Christ and the model of control, kindness and purity, remember all that Christ endured for you and let his torment be your strength to squash the words and actions which you would later regret.  Remember, too, we don't live in.this.moment.... all moments are passing by.  We do live with the consequences of our actions/reactions in a moment though.  So when a moment seems too much to bare, breathe in and out, count to 20 (or 50 or 100...!), and step into the next moment renewed and ready to go!

- working at home.  Don't cringe.  Even if your children aspire to be doctors or lawyers, home life is a fact of life.  Learning the joy of contributing to household order is a blessing.  Learning a wonderful attitude for that work is, again, modeled and encouraged.  Remembering and reminding that we ought to work at ALL (not some but ALL) things 'as working for the Lord' because our attitudes in the work God has blessed us with (dirty dishes and laundry ARE a blessing) brings Him glory and if the purpose of life is to glorify God.... why wouldn't we invest the energy and time in taking joy in the work we do at home.  Consider it this way: what a great gift we have to offer our children's future spouses if we create in them the heart of joyful work at home which inevitably leads to a happier home where the Spirit delights in dwelling!

- submissive to their own husbands.  This isn't a dirty word as our modern culture wants you to think it is.  Biblical submission is a beautiful thing and indicates order and harmony.  Consider this concordance definition:
This word was a Greek military term meaning "to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader". In non-military use, it was "a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden". []
We ought to model to our children the art of companionship, accepting our husband's council, and seeking his approval on anything but especially those things which affect the family as a whole.  I have tried to be the head of the household and can I just say, ladies, our house runs much smoother when I 'submit' with an attitude of cooperation and respect to my husband.  Remember, the husband's call isn't to "lord over you" in a domineering fashion but to care for you and be the helper/leader of the family.  When we consider this esteemed roll, it makes submission a joy.  (I know this topic goes much deeper than one blog article can cover.  I am aware of relationship complexities and as a result, a more in-depth look at marriage in the model of Titus 2/ Proverbs 31 will be discussed next week.)

The job of a mom may feel overwhelming at times.  The significance often becomes lost inside the mess of dishes, piles of laundry, sticky floor and incomplete assignments.  But know, beautiful woman, YOU are a model, a picture, a marvelous image pointing your daughter in the direction to become a Titus 2 woman herself (and your sons to become Titus 2 men).  

Don't give up.  

When you want to blow your top or turn your back... hold on for the hope that comes later and while our moments are here to live in, the moment is not where we stay.  It only leads to the next moment... and the next and the next and the next... each one with the promise of being better than the first.  If we only hold tight to the process of Titus 2 till we hear many women have done excellently but you surpass them all.  

Well done, my good and faithful servant.

I pray your strength is renewed in God's Word and wonderful Presence to persevere as you teach and train the young women (and men) in your life.

P.S. sorry for the BIG letters today, having formatting issues!!

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Curriculum Wars

It is that time of year again.... homeschool conferences and curriculum fairs.  For a new homeschooler the choices can be overwhelming.  For the first few years we homeschooled, it was exciting AND overwhelming to me.  I don't claim to be an expert even now, after over 7 years of homeschooling (not counting the preschool years), but I am one of those people who believes in learning through mistakes and sharing knowledge.  I felt led to write this article because I believe I am not alone in my experiences.  This is for the new homeschool parents as well as those who have been at it a while and need a pep-talk!!  What I share here is what I have found to work for us... it may not be for everyone....
Know your child's learning style and teach to it... you will see this a lot in blogs, books and articles.  If you listen to nothing else veteran homeschoolers suggest, listen to this one.  It will save you a TON of headache and help you pick the best educational materials.  This article gives a quick run-down on styles with some helpful links to assessing your child's learning style.  Keep in mind, sometimes learning style changes as they get older. If you keep their learning styles in mind and not your own idea of how they should learn, your homeschool will be more peaceful (not necessarily perfect, just less overwhelming!)

Pick a Math Program that works and stick with it... if I were to change one thing about our homeschool, this would be it.  I have one public school graduate, pulled 2 out when they were 4th and 2nd grade and a fourth who has never attended public school.  I was on such a budget when we first started (my husband got laid off halfway into our first year) that I pieced our math program together with odds-and-ends, half missing workbooks I found at garage sales, gifted public school curriculum and partial freebies on the Internet.  This left gaps in their math learning I am having to make up for now, 7 years later.  We could have actually had more fun had we just stuck with one.  When I did find a program I (mostly) liked and could afford, I let other people's poor opinions affect my own and I tried to find alternatives to replace what was already working.  There are rare exceptions, but if it works, stick with it.

More money does not always = better curriculum.  If you can't afford Teaching Textbooks, don't think you are failing your kids in their education.  If you can't drop hundreds of dollars on full Sonlight curriculum, don't fret!  There is a plethora of more cost effective programs (and even some free ones), your kids can and will still excel with.

Pick a Language Arts Program that works and stick with it... some will say L.A. is not critical, I'm not here to debate that idea.  Just, simply, if you are pro-L.A., stick with what works for your kids.  Another mistake I made recently!  Our program worked but I thought I could find something better.  I didn't recognize the step-by-step process and value which comes from sticking with it and following it all the way through.  Now, the fact is, we all miss the old program (and are going back to it in the fall).  The cohesiveness produced results.... maybe not always instant results.... but results none-the-less.  For you, this could be Notebooking, it may be full Charlotte Mason, you might prefer Classical.... whatever it is, if God has led you to it, if it fits your kids' learning style, USE IT and stick with it, don't let the surrounding debates dissuade you from what you feel Led to do.

There is no such thing as "perfect".... perfect curriculum, perfect homeschool, perfect anything.  Math and L.A. above as just two examples.... I have yet to meet a perfect curriculum that I didn't feel the need to alter in some way.  Pray over material you and your children feel comfortable with.  Seek help for the tricky areas, cut out the non-essentials, and enjoy it for it's intended value.  Nothing in life is "perfect", why should homeschooling and the curriculum we use be?!

Consistency is key... perhaps the first few points subtly say this but I want to be clear! Whatever the subject, whatever the schedule, whatever the method.... consistency is key.  It is true, if something doesn't work, drop it.  However, in all fairness, give it time.  Some methods, curriculum, schedules don't seem like they are working at first.  It often takes time and consistency for everyone to fall in line with expectations and the rhythm of things.  Results will come, just be consistent, be patient and give it time.  On a related topic.....

Kids complain, it is unavoidable...  We may be homeschooling but we are still working with kids who will often find an excuse to complain or simply get out of school work for the day.  Don't think this means your curriculum is to blame.... and don't despair.  It doesn't mean you failed, it simply means our children are human!!  You are blessed indeed if you tour through ALL the homeschool years without this age-old annoyance occurring at least once but most likely, expect it from age 11 on up (some kids even sooner)!! 

Repetition is a good thing... maybe you know this.  I had a chip on my shoulder when we started homeschool.  It is a long story but sufficed to say, I was tiered of the boring repetition of public school so I did away with it.  I'm finding out, 7 years later, that rotations on a cycle of repeated topics actually re-enforce learning.  Maybe not every year on everything, but every couple years come back around.  For example, we did an in-depth study of the solar system 7 years ago and again about 4 years ago.... yet, when I asked my kids (in review and out of curiosity) to name all the planets this past fall.... they couldn't!!!  On that note....

Don't feel like the dunce when your kids don't know...countless times we have been around others who, upon discovering we homeschool, feel the need to pop-quiz my kids on a topic and my children reply with blank stares.  I usually rush in to explain we really have covered the topic but they don't remember.... or we haven't touched on it yet.... I'm always afraid someone will judge our ability and qualifications as homeschoolers if my kids don't get it right.  I realized something these last few years: does anyone do this with public schoolers?  I tried it and guess what I found out.....?  They don't know all the answers either!!!!  So rest assured, your homeschooler doesn't need to be an expert on everything to pass the sniff test.  After all, how many full grown adults loose on public t.v. while competing in Jeff Foxworthy's "Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader"!?!

Pray and Follow What God Shows You.... This is the single.most.important.point in this entire article.  There will be many opinions, facts, and great ideas out there, but you will have to follow what God leads you to do, no matter what that is.  Which leads me to the partner of this piece...

It isn't about looks... don't worry what others think or say.  If you are following God's plan for your homeschool, that is all that matters.  Maybe you feel led to un-school, don't let the rigid schoolers tell you you can't.  Maybe you feel led to do school-at-home complete with desks for each student, don't let the eclectic or un-school groups tell you you are wrong. If you know in your heart it is the plan God has for your family, that is ALL that matters.  Most of all, don't let the public school advocates make you feel wrong or uncomfortable for homeschooling... even if they are your parents or siblings or best friends!  They aren't the ones who answer for your children's upbringing, you and your spouse are.

I hope this helps as you consider upcoming book sales and curriculum fairs.  It is easy to get excited and want one of everything!!!  Or overwhelmed and dazed.  Pray and stick to the plan God shows you.

I just attended a book fair on Friday.  I was blessed to order my upcoming Senior student's Civics, History and Economics and my sophomore's Geometry along with teaching key all on discount and payment because it was a display fair.  The second greatest part; if I cover and take care of them, they will last for all my students and maybe even my grandchildren (one of my kids mentioned this the other day!!)  Also, our local homeschool organization holds an annual book sale in May which I just LOVE attending.  Parents bring their used/not needed curriculum and usually, for around $20, I can round out the remainder of the next year's needs while blessing fellow homeschoolers! 

I pray all your homeschooling adventures are blessed ones, guided by the Father's hand and given for His Glory.


Article to come.... Confessions of a Curriculum Addict!!!!

Linking up today with:

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Chicken Noodle Confessions


Four weeks.... I couldn't believe it.  Four, long, weeks.  That is how long it had been since we last partook in our regular homeschool schedule.... in a regular anything schedule.  Two of those weeks were pre-scheduled for spring break but ALL of them were spent with someone in the household sick, of which I, as mother in charge, took care of.... until I became ill.

Four weeks.  Reflecting and relieved to get back into our routine Monday morning, post-spring break and done with illness... or so I thought.  My youngest son shot out of the gate with a fever ranging from 100.9-102.7, depending on whether he had just chucked back ibuprofen or not.  I wasn't going to let that deter me.  He could rest, my girls could help with the extra chores and do their lessons.  I'm especially insistent because my oldest daughter has one year left and that will be spent in dual enrollment, she really needs the focus after missing so much school this year from illness (the last 4 weeks aren't all she has missed).... until she woke Tuesday morning as bad as her brother had been 2 days before.... and he still wasn't better either.

I felt weary.  I felt crushed.  Still trying to corral strength which left in the first round of my own illness and hasn't fully returned.  Can I just have a mommy vacation and come back when everyone is well again?

Hubby came home for lunch and as I took the orders to fry up grill cheese and boil soup, nothing seemed to be going right.  The morning had been a flop, I felt like I was pulled twenty different directions and I was just ready to scream.  I tried to bite my tongue so he wouldn't regret his choice to see his family mid-day but it was growing harder.  Returning him to work so I could have use of the car, I thought it would help to vent so I complained through half the ride to his office, until he, in his own way, reminded me I needed to 'chill'.  My venting was turning into an explosion.

I was destructive and becoming more and more wreck-less.  Really, can I pleeeeease run away?  My youngest was with and after we dropped her father off we made our way to the grocery store for more soup and ginger ale and 5 minutes of no demands.  In her kind, sweet way she gently spoke with wisdom beyond her 12 years,

"You know, I try not to complain anymore.  Pastor at youth group was telling us that when we complain we are basically ignoring God and focusing more on ourselves."

She carefully glanced over at me as I pushed the cart out of the soda beverage isle, our Ginger Ale secure in the basket. I smiled and laughed lightly, "Boy, I needed to hear that.  Did you say that for me?" I fully expected her to reply 'no', that she was merely sharing.... but in her humbled modesty she flashed a bashful smile and quietly said "yes", nodding her head, seeming to inwardly dare herself to boldly keep her eyes on me and not look away, though I could tell she wanted to.

I looked away, I couldn't hold the gaze through quiet conviction, my emotions were a mixture.  This youngest daughter of mine is too tenderhearted to ever deliberately wound someone.  She was simply being honest and seeking to gently restore me to Truth.  I didn't have the heart to be upset.  What was more.... I knew she was right.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, 
work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, 
both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 
that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish 
in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud 
that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
- Philippians 2:12-16

As I pondered her words, knowing in my heart scripture confirmed them, I realized the example I was setting.  My mounting frustration that morning had threatened to teach my children that illness is a burden not just to self but to others.  My lack of grace and loving actions did not reflect my desire to teach my children compassion.  My Actions did nothing to point them to Christ.  I was ashamed.  My children were a gift and this season of illness and set-back was only a trial and an opportunity to show my love for them and teach them about tender care through my own actions.  I knew, too, it wasn't too late to repent and try again.

I wrapped my arm around her shoulder and gave a deep-hearted thank you for her kind reminder.  I then purposed within myself to spend the rest of our excursion focusing on the positive and NOT complaining!  I meditated on the fact God allowed this season of illness and extra work.  He desires I glorify Him in the trial and draw near to Him in my weakness.  I don't want to be self focused.... I want to be God focused.  I want to be counter-cultural in how I handle distress in order to be a light.... His light in this world.

When I returned home I sat down and texted my husband an apology.  I shared our daughter's wisdom and he heartily agreed.  I feel grateful and blessed that at a time when I felt I was pouring so much of myself into my children I was about to run dry.... one of them answered the Call to pour back into me with rivers of fresh water.

I pray, when your world seems to much and you are tempted to complain yourself into an explosive disaster, that you would pause, look up, and trust the hand of God on your heart and situation.  Know, He will work ALL things out for the good of those who love him.... even if it seems like you are taking the long way around!!


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Easy Peasy Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake

Ohhhhh, yes, it is as great as it sounds!!  This was my birthday cake this year which I made for myself because sometimes baking is therapy to me.... especially if I know someone else is doing the clean-up... and on my birthday, I am blessed, someone else always does the clean-up!!! 

Beyond great taste, I also love this cake because it has that "WOW" factor while being ridiculously simple to make. I have modified the ingredients and steps some to make it more chic`!  Yet even in its modified state this cake is easy and will make you look like a professional baker.  Ready to impress guests and family?...

The simplest form of making this cake is this:

1 box milk chocolate cake mix
20 oz can cherry pie filling
3 eggs

Mix all the ingredients by hand.  Transfer to a greased 9x13 pan.  Place in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.  Remove from oven, cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar or frosting of your choice and enjoy.


My modified version reconfigures the process to provide a cherry gel filling:

1 box triple chocolate fudge cake mix (you can use any brand, any flavor of chocolate you like.  This one had small chunks of chocolate in it!!)
20 oz can cherry pie filling
3 eggs
1/4 - 1/3 cup almond milk (or any kind of milk preferably whole or 2%)

Empty cake mix into medium bowl.  Add eggs.
Strain cherries and reserve gel in separate container.  I did this by pouring the can of cherries into a plastic strainer and gently stirring them around with my hand to release them from the gel.  After only a minute or two I removed the cherries by hand fulls into the bowl of cake mix.  I didn't try to completely remove the gel, I simply tried to get enough separated out to provide a good glaze for the middle of the cake.  You can see how much I removed in the picture above.

Add milk 1/4 cup if you only removed a little cherry gel, or 1/3 cup if you removed alot of the gel.  (I actually eye-balled this part, the milk was a replacement liquid for the gel which, in a typical cake mix, would be oil and water)

Mix with spoon by hand until moist and combined.

Pour into two greased 8 or 9 inch round cake pans and bake according to directions on box for pan size and type.  Once done, cool and remove from pans.

Place first round on serving platter, "frost" the top (not the sides) with reserved cherry gel.  You don't need to go all the way to the edge because when you place the top cake layer on the gel will be pressed and spread some.  You can spread the gel to within approximately 1/2 inch from the edge.  Then place next cake round on top. 

Frost cake with powdered sugar, cool whip or frosting of your choice.  I used the frosting recipe here: Carmel Potatoes Texas Sheet Cake (good but VERY rich frosting).  You can also use store-bought frosting and warm to soften for 10-20 seconds in the microwave or briefly on the stove top and it becomes pourable.  You can simply drizzle it over the top of cake!

** I didn't have 2 of the same size cake rounds so I improvised with a spring form and cake round.  When I stacked and frosted them the top wanted to slide off the bottom!!!  I fixed this by placing a wooden chopstick in the center of the cake while it finished setting up.... the frosting seemed to 'glue' it in place after it set-up.  When I removed the stick I sprinkled some frosting over the hole and set a sprig of silk flowers to conceal!  (If you look closely at the above picture you can see the stick!!)

The cake was a HUGE hit and I felt super special having something so decadent yet so amazingly simple.

Blessings for beautiful baking and home-cooked Christ-centered hospitality!