Friday, May 29, 2015

Montage Moments

My life has been a montage of moments.  I mesh of memories, current compellings and future hopes.  Frustrating, exciting, drawing, drowning, underwhelmed, overwhelmed and just.whelmed.


It isn't the simplicity of those sweet soft curly headed days when diaper explosions and dinner explosions were the biggest deterrent in my otherwise (mostly) structured world.  Where bed time was just that, bed time.  Sleepy eyes drifted shut (even if they needed some coaxing first) and the quietness of the house enveloped me as I would often draw out my leather bound bible and the hard cover of my journal would flip open to the next neat page.

Life was order.

I couldn't see it in the buzz then.  But it was.  My faith and hope grew in leaps and bounds in those days.  Studies, sermons and searching which was more readily available then I realized then.


Will they stay up?  Will they stalk me for a late night chat on life and living and growing.  Will they jump up early to join me in the quiet of Bible time, flipping up their leather bounds and hard covers?  Will they need me?  Will they busy themselves?  Will they laugh or cry today?  Will hearts explode while dinner cooks?  Will sleepless nights ensue as futures loom?

Like is non-stop.

This non-stop, fast-track, all in need of one mama's heart while this one mama's heart scrapes and searches for those deep heart moments, alone, wrapped in the quiet that once was in sleepy hours with a leather-worn Bible resting on my knee and journal pages filling with His Word, His Hope and the heart of a mother on the grow.

I never would have guessed or expected life to be like this. 

Right smack-dab in the mix I lost something.  I lost my focus in the mess of the montage.  Praise be to God who never looses His focus on me though.  In the midst of the mayhem he filtered in messages. 

When bitterness over past experiences and present knowledge of the health (or rather, unhealthiness) of the church began to scrape for a hold, His voice whispered give grace, don't let bitterness sink in

When weariness of the Work was wearing me down, tugging at my temper, His voice whispered hold on a little longer.

When fear reached for a grip and worry was trying to overwhelm, His whispers did not stop, I am your comfort and your peace.

Monday was mayhem.  I was certain the chaos of the montage in my mind could not get much worse without breaking me.  Friday I laughed out loud and all but danced to the song in my heart as victory laid claim to the dry and parched land.... streams of water gushed forth.

All that I blog about here, Ashley's prospects for school and work, Brenden and Brooke preparing for summer missions, our family's experiences with the church in this country, extended family full of brokenness and this one mom who, like most moms, often asks if I have, am, and are planning to do it all right.... have I done my best part in each of these situations and what is coming down the pipe... what do I still need to do... and so on.

Somehow all this din deafened me and in the past 24 hours the trumpet shouts broke through. 

It started with a song.  One of those which drifts over the radio waves in familiar tones.  So familiar you tuck it aside.  I can't remember the name of the song, I was doing such a good job of tucking it I barely paid attention.  Yet, in the midst of the hum these words drifted through and lodged in my heart and mind:

...You are the God of the Mountains that I face...

I looked up and there before me I saw montage mountain.  Un-climbable.  Right above Mt. Montage was my heavenly Father and I knew right then: how could I ever doubt my ability to climb a mountain when, with my eyes fixed on Him, nothing was impossible.

Then, last evening, an un-expected email addressing a real-time problem in a church we once served came through.  My heart ached for their dilemmas and I knew I had to let go.  My prayers were the best I could offer and in the midst of this mediated message between other parties were the words, focus on your blessings, and the reminder of how our focus greatly impacts our spiritual health.

How could I have lost this focus?  I thought I was doing fine. 

But I wasn't.


This morning, the flood gates opened.  I woke heavy of heart.  My stress?  Tomato plants being eaten by bugs and a garden investment beyond what I planned and now in danger of being wasted.  Stress, worry, dark clouds brewing I sat down in front of a scripture calender I have had up for the last 29 days.  I stared at the same passage from Psalm 29 which I have stared at multiple times since May's page flipped.  This time was different (KJV says it best):

Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
Psalm 29:2 (KJV)

worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.  Something told me I didn't have the beauty of holiness right now.  Worship is HUGE to me (it should be to every Christian but that is another story for another day). Needless to say, my heart broke.  If I want to give God the glory due to him then I needed to worship in holiness.  My best holiness was missing.  In that moment my heart ached and I asked, how do I get it back? 

God reminded me that I had shifted my focus from Him to my circumstances.  Even something as small as the garden, He was in control.  He also showed me how I had quit praying over all the little things.  I had even quit praying for his guidance and blessing over our finances, instead reverting to a mode of 'I can do this' and a business-like attitude in all my dealings.  Faith isn't business, it is a way of life.

Priority and Pray.  Prioritize life's needs both financial and physical and pray over each point.  Quit looking at the moment.  Instead, look to God who is over the mountain.  NOTHING can overtake me and steal my joy if I do. 

Prepared to close my journal with excitement, one last word filtered in.  I felt led to read ONE entry on my Bible Read-through plan which, in my next installment, had me in Psalms. 

Put not your trust in princes
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation
When his breath departs
he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish
Psalm 146:3-4

I had been looking to princes all this time.  Why?  When they are gone... when I am gone.... when this world falls away, their plans will perish.  God's Word jumped right off the page.  It didn't stop there...

Blessed is he whose help is in the God of Jacob
Whose hope is in the Lord his God.
Psalm 146:5

When I remember and heed God's help, placing my hope in Him, I will be blessed.

I want to be blessed!!!

...the Lord loves the righteous...
Psalm 146:8b

I want to be righteous!  I want to worship in holiness!!!

The Lord watches over the sojourners...
Psalm 146:9a

I am only passing through.  I have not passed out of His sight.  God is with me and I can see his face IF I keep my eyes on him, His help and His hope...

Leather bounds and hard covers closed with an AMEN!  I flipped on the radio and danced across the room as this song came blaring through the speakers:

I could hear that thunder and I sang His name and rejoiced as a result!

I don't want to turn back.  I don't want to slip back where I have been.  It may take time and accountability and deliberate directives, but it is worth it!

I pray your montage moments don't run a-muck in your life!  That you hear the thunder, sing His name and feel the pouring rain on dry bones...


Monday, May 25, 2015

Ready to Wed in Review

It may seem odd that I might request such a book for review.  After many years of marriage it is hardly a necessary topic of interest.  But it is.  If I take the call of a Titus 2 woman seriously, I am reminded how important it is that I do not forget those younger years and seek opportunities to be well versed in the issues facing new marriages today.  Besides, all my children are approaching that age and interest as well.  My husband and I had a very unconventional courtship and early marriage (neither of us were Christians at the time) I felt I needed to see the advice of experts in order to advise well.

Many couples will say that their first year of marriage was difficult.  For some reason, we think that two totally different people coming together to share life will be easy.  Two people from two different families with different upbringings, ideas, thoughts, feelings, and emotions-no problem.... 
- Tim Popadic, Ready to Wed

Ready to Wed was that expert advice I needed.  I found the book's instruction and shared experiences mirrored what I would tell any couple preparing to take the plunge.  I may not have started out Christian, but as I came to the Lord I found myself applying many of the concepts this book discusses.  I was certain, at that point, it must be Holy Spirit inspired!

The book is divided into 12 topics.  Authored by Dr. Greg and his wife Erin Smalley, they open the writing podium up to other topic-relevant expert advisers to offer their own words of guidance and encouragement.  Intrigued?  Here are the 12 topics they discuss in detail:

Leaving your Parents and Cleaving to Your Spouse
The Power of Commitment
Honoring You All the Days of My Life
Soul Mates: Building Spiritual Intimacy
One Flesh: Sexual Intimacy in Marriage
Communication: The Language of Love
We are So Different!
What Do You Expect?
Fight Our Way to a Better Marriage
Teammates: Ending the Chore Wars Before They Start
Our Money Relationship
Storm Shelter: Dealing with Stress and Crisis

The series of insight is kicked off with a chapter discussing God's Design for Marriage.  This and the intro prepare couples to take the book's journey, and marriage as a whole, together.  The authors are good to remind couples that marriage isn't about the wedding day... it is about every day after.  Their views are refreshing and to-the-point, helping couples tackle the hard topics (and some topics which most people don't discover need tackling until much farther into the marriage) right-up-front. 

Scripture references appear throughout the pages helping couples recognize God's design for their future. Each chapter walks them through the topic being discussed with first an intro, then a relevant story from either personal or counseling experience, next some advice and insight on topic and scenarios and finally the topic is turned inward by presenting discussion topics and challenges for couples to take in an effort to set up realistic expectations and understandings even before they say "I Do"!

I knew, after the first few pages, this would be my new gift to ANY couple upon their engagement. The book is intended to be walked through AS A COUPLE over 12 separate sessions before the wedding day.  Doing the math, consider purchasing this book at least 3 months before the wedding (or sooner) if you want to tackle a topic per week.  However, there are no set rules for this book and 'cramming' weeks before a wedding would be most definitely acceptable!

Conversely, Ready to Wed can be helpful for ANY couple, especially those struggling in their marriage and feeling you could use a refresher on this journey of wedded matrimony.  I found many of the chapters helpful reminders for my own marriage, even as secure as we are, and feel certain points issued a much needed booster-shot to areas of my relationship with my husband.  This seems especially true when you consider this statement in chapter 13:

Opposition happens in a couple's life for many different reasons and can come in many different forms. The target of opposition is to keep you marriage from its God-given destiny-becoming what God intended it to be.

No matter how long you are married, the opposition is real, so why not arm couples with the tools they need to fight it from the beginning?!  Ready to Wed is a GREAT weapon in any arsenal.

The only issue I took with the book was the fee for some of the tools the book refers you to.  I feel this is a ministry and I understand the book costs money to print, but once a couple has invested in the book (possibly even 2 copies), all materials to enhance the experience online should be free. It looked like only the financial tools had no cost related to them.

The other issue (and not entirely an issue or fault of the authors, rather, a cautiousness on my part) is the suggestion to find a mentor couple and stressing the importance of this.  Good advice, so why do I consider this an issue?  Because there are MANY couples out there whose marriages look more secular then Christian.  The book does not give clear guidelines for what to look for in a mentor couple and, therefore, the couple reading and following this advice might randomly pick a couple they simply 'like' without considering where this couple's spiritual walk is in their marriage.... ultimately leading to pour mentoring and contradictory advice which could be exasperating for the perspective newlyweds.

On that note, my advice: IF you know a couple who truly seeks to honor God in their honor of one another, does not cut each other down, does not treat each other like the couples in your favorite sitcom and who is, without a single doubt, faith-filled in every single area of their life.... seek them as your mentor couple.  If not, it is better to do without a mentor couple then to have the wrong one!  The Holy Spirit was my mentor as well as looking at all the bad marriages around me and choosing NOT to duplicate them!

I pray your marriage (perspective or current) is blessed with readiness for each situation.  If you are secure in your 'bliss' then I pray you might be that mentor couple who guides others on a path of real and lasting relationships.


Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mooring at the Cross

I'm working on a review for a book concerning getting ready to marry (hopefully to be posted by the week's end).  It is like a convergence in my life right now:  the book, my daughter read and shared Fireproof, we watched the movie (of course!), a family member struggling in a new marriage, and my own reflections on the trials and triumphs in my own marriage.  Then the above graphic appeared in my private Facebook feed. 

I shared.

How could I not?  Within hours, however, I thought of the typical mindset of couples upon reading the above.  It goes something like this:

YES!  And I am always giving 100 but he/she isn't. 

Which inevitably leads to this next statement and/or thought:

I shouldn't be the only one ALWAYS giving 100 when he/she doesn't. 

Next thing you know there are separate households and separated hearts.

I know, because I once spoke these heartbreaking statements and I have known many others who have as well.  Men and women my husband and I will try to counsel through the sharing of our own testimony have fought to deny the Truth.  A testimony reflecting a give more like 5/100, with myself on the 100 end.  When my husband became a born-again Christian he apologized for most of his first year.  He recognized  and he repented.... for something I had long-since forgiven him for.  I share in-depth on how God gave me A Heart for my Husband here, so I won't restate the entire story now.

I began to cringe as the illuminated graphic stared back at me from Facebook.  It is such a GREAT graphic for those who know... but so many will read this and not know...

They won't know that YOU, yourself, need to always give 100%

They won't stop to consider the impact 100% has on any less percentage.

They won't remember the apostle Paul when he says:

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.
1 Corinthians 7:12-13

They won't consider WHY it is so important to always give 100%:

For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
1 Corinthians 7:16

I know I shared these scriptures in the previous marriage article, this is simply a reminder of how and when to reference them.  Marriage should be 100/100 but it often isn't... at least not 100% of the time.  I would almost restate the graphic to say Marriage is effort exerted 100/100. That is to say 100% of the effort we have available because, lets face it, some days we don't have much left.  This is where one of my favorite statements enter and washes away any need to keep up with each other's numbers!

Marriage isn't a give-and-take, a meet in the middle, in marriage we are meant to meet at the foot of the cross.

I don't have the exact quote anymore where this ideal came from.  I have noticed, though, when I quit looking at WHO is GIVING MORE and start just focusing on the cross, much of my stress rolls away.  Sure, sometimes I'm sitting at the foot of the cross alone (and sometimes my husband is). Doesn't it make it easier when you go 'looking' and you don't find each other lost and wandering but instead, you are drawn through your own troubles by finding the strength of your spouse as they are sitting at the feet of Jesus? 
It is like trying to pull a drifting boat to shore when the mooring line and ores are sitting on the dock.  It always helps to have one person on the dock rather than both in the boat trying to paddle with your hands until exhaustion sets in!

Realistically, I know, sometimes we are stuck in that boat together.  That is OK. Two voices calling for help is much louder than one!  Join forces!!  Seek the foot of the cross together and don't worry about numbers, who is giving a 100 and who isn't.  Lift each other up, spur each other on. If you are the one sitting at the foot of the cross, call out to the one who isn't, pray for them, don't give up. They will make it and perhaps your perseverance, holding and pulling that line, will be what God uses to get them there.

I pray your marriage is flourishing at the foot of the cross... whether you see 100/100 or simply the pleasure of your spouses company... and if not, I trust your, through your effort, God will make sure you both get there!


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Homeschool Journal: Time Gets Away

Oh boy, it has been nearly a month since my last Homeschool Journal post.  I thought I would shoot for every-other week.... time got away (as it often does)!  So what have we been up to for the past few weeks?

Since "Claiming Victory" on the 24th the warfare took a turn and instead of self-defeating mantras I instead struggled with worry, which I shared about in This Mama's Heart and Higher Education.  I am happy to report that Ashley's college application is turned in and the only 2 things left to do are take her entrance test and find the money to pay for fall semester (the school's scholarships won't cover all.)  Her school JUST got accreditation... which means, yay, they qualify for federal financial aid (FAFSA)... but their school number isn't in yet so that probably won't be till spring semester.  It is simply a reminder to trust God.... IF He wants her at this school in the fall, a way will be made and if not, we trust His timing.

May Day (May 1st) offered a FREE self guided tour of a local mansion once owned by a pivotal figure in our city's founding history.  I LOVE touring old mansions in tact, the kids enjoy the 'walk through history' with me and all the studying I have done through the years has helped me to provide valuable information even on self-guided tours.  I feel blessed by this base-line, though the personal lives and stories to fixtures was missing.  We did enjoy ourselves and I only wish I had taken more pictures as we went.  The mansion seemed a bit dark in many areas and I had all I could to just soak up the textures and details of 1900 opulence.

We wrapped up our study of Renaissance Europe with a Jeopardy style game of Review the European Map.  It was a lot of fun, though the Jeopardy theme song gritted at Ashley's nerves so I tried to use it at a minimum!

Last week, at the climax of my over-whelmedness with our predicament post-nearly-two-months of illness and trying to play catch up, I offered Brenden and Brooke the option of self-study research/project base schooling for the remainder of our scheduled school year, or continued work through text books which often require my assistance (especially for Brenden who is severely Dyslexic).  Brenden chose the hands-on approach which I expected and feel is more his learning style anyway and Brooke choose her book-work claiming she likes her text books... which I also expected!  Ashley has NO option.  Trying to keep her on par to complete base-knowledge and young-adult 'training', she doesn't seem to mind since most of her studies are self-led anyway, I just grade the work!

Fixing broken pieces on a museum display a couple months ago!

The funny thing about all that is 1) the complete liberation I felt when I didn't have to sit at the table next to Brenden all morning.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE sitting with him, teaching him, and seeing him grow in knowledge and understanding.  However, after discussing my stress levels with my husband and how behind we are post-illness in many things, I needed SOMETHING to open up my availability to re-balance our household.  I look forward to Brenden's book-work picking back up in the fall, yet knowing and trusting he is learning to search out and understand information on his topic of choice (he is researching clocks!) gives me great peace and joy.... finding and processing information is such an important life-skill, ESPECIALLY for a high schooler!

2) I never thought Ashley would be capable of self-teaching.  Ranked pretty high on her scores for ADHD in elementary school, she has always struggled with focus and textbook learning.  Yet there she sits, each weekday, pouring over the books around her and enthusiastically sharing tid-bits, even choosing to do assignments not prescribed!  Her main texts this year are Exploring Creation with Biology by Dr. Jay L. Wile, Abeka Consumer Math, Abeka Literature, Abeka Vocabulary (she LOVES vocab!) and currently she is reviewing for her entrance test using last year's Abeka English Composition book.  She is even correcting my work at times!!  Her other subjects are research based and she does a marvelous job with those.

Hold on mamas... the prospect might be bleak right now as you wrestle with elementary school, memorization, dedication and the such.  It does come... in it's own time.... and trust me, you will miss many parts of what seemed like the harder days!

Another item consuming our time these past weeks (and to blame for my spotty posts on the blog) is the garden.  We extended it some this year.  The weather has been amazing and perfect for planting though it took to raining these last few days.... forecast seems to 'assure' me that my early season crops are safe.  Seeds went in over the past week.  I have mixed feelings since we meet with a loan officer on Wednesday to discuss options in buying a house!  It is possible my garden will be left for my neighbors to harvest!  I'm ok with that though.  After all, it is possible I will be harvesting it!  Either way, I keep praying for an abundance to whatever purpose God would have for it and the kids love getting their hands in the dirt!

They also enjoyed some water 'play'.  Yup, two high-schoolers and one middle schooler and they STILL build with recycling and make temporary wading pools out of old shower curtains!  At least they clean up after themselves now!!  It was fun listening to them talk and watching them build as I worked on planting and putting in a stone path in my garden area.  Who needs to pay for therapy when you have good ground to work and wonderful kids to listen to as you do!

Ashley was blessed with an opportunity to play during the offering at church 2 weeks ago.  She shared one of her songs she wrote.  They enjoyed her gift so much they have invited her to do it again!  She will be playing and singing next Sunday.


Mother's Day was marvelous.  The kids hi-jacked my change at Michael's last week when purchasing felt and bought me a beautiful necklace, which Brenden picked out!!! Brooke started making felt bookmarks... I got to be the first recipient of her beautiful creations!  Then, while everyone worked at making dinner I decided to tidy up the front of my house and transplant a few more pretties into the area that greets people when they visit.  My oldest son called me from Seattle where he attends University and we had a wonderful chat, I miss him so much!

This week was serving week it seemed.  Brenden and Brooke are fundraising to attend training next month with CEF and Christian Youth in Action.  They will be summer missionaries this year helping in backyard Bible clubs and VBSes.  Monday they helped an older couple with their yard and Wednesday evening we worked with a local Christian owned pizzeria.  Ashley and I pitched in on that one too. Multiple workers with CEF bussed tables and shared about the program.  All the tips and 20% of the checks that night went to June's training.  We had a great time and kept very busy.  Even enjoyed some free food and, can I just say, if you are ever in Billings, Pizza Ranch on King Ave is the place to go!

Friday Brooke started back up with piano lessons.  Her teacher moved away back in October.  For various reasons it has taken forever to get re-started.  Our elderly neighbor 2 doors down started teaching a little boy in the neighborhood so I asked her if she would take Brooke in through summer since she would understand the goofy schedule ahead with summer missions (her and her husband are part of the missions program at our church!)  Brooke is glad to get back to lessons but I can tell she misses her old teacher who was a fraction of her 'new' teacher's age!  My hope is that she will come to have a deeper appreciation of the generations before her through this interaction... and if she gets better at piano too, then that is great as well!

We breathe a long sigh this weekend and prepare for the only semi-normal week we are likely to have between now and July!!  I hope for moments, like above, when Ashley brings out her ukulele and sings us sweet songs.  Bitter sweet, I know these days are wearing thin, I want to savor every last one. 

I pray your school week(s) is blessed by sweet memories in the midst of all life's happenings!


Linking up today with:

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

So-Easy Mexi-style Chicken

Looking for a quick, easy, DELICIOUS dinner to liven up the repetition of chicken?  That is what I was doing when I developed this recipe.  Chicken is cheap (at least where we live it is).  It is the most cost-effective way to feed a family of 6, half of which are men.  This recipe is so versatile, you can cook it 4 ways:

Slow cooker thawed
Slow cooker frozen
Stove top
Oven baked

... and if you are a grilling expert, you could even use the sauce as you would BBQ... but I am not a grilling expert and I like the tender flavorful version of the above methods.

What you need: 

The pictures say it all, you can see I go super cheap!  But here is the list:

Onion Powder
Garlic Powder
Chili Powder
Red Pepper (if you like super spicy)
     (I don't always have these last three seasonings on hand but it still turns out great)
Stewed tomatoes (you can use crushed if you prefer)
Salt and Pepper
Chicken of choice (I used boneless skinless breast)
     When feeding a crowd I will fillet my chicken to make it stretch

If you are baking, grease your baking dish with cooking oil first.
When I use my crock I mix the sauce straight in my cooking dish.  All other methods, I mix in a bowl and then pour it in.

Salsa and tomatoes first.  For 5 pieces of chicken I use about 2-3 cups salsa.  It doesn't have to cover the chicken but I like a good 1 1/2 to 2" lining of sauce in the bottom of my cooker. I crush the tomatoes by hand like so:

Then I sprinkle all my herbs to taste.  Usually about 1-2 teaspoons each (except the red pepper which I just barely put a pinch in).  A dash of salt and pepper and then give a quick stir. 

In the slow cooker:
Add the chicken and stir around just till coated.  Place the lid on and cook on low all day or on High for approximately 4 or 5 hours.  (For frozen chicken, cook on low)

On the stove top:
I use a deep frying pan with lid.  Put sauce in pan, lay chicken on top, cover with lid and fry on medium high, turning ever few minutes.  I usually remove the lid in the last few minutes of cooking to let some of the juice cook out and brown the chicken just a bit.  Add a bit of water if your juices cook out too quick, once they are gone your chicken will brown fast.  I then garnish with cheddar and/or Monterey Jack cheese before serving straight from pan.

In the oven:
Pour half of sauce in 13x9 baking dish.  Arrange chicken in pan, pour reaming sauce over top.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes and check.  I don't use this method as often as the other two but I believe cook time is 30-45 minutes.  I will also garnish this with cheese before serving.

I forgot to take a picture of the finished product!!  You can imagine how great it looks (and tastes!)  I love serving it with a side of salad and black or pinto or refried beans, and even tortilla chips.  All with trimmings of sour cream, green onions and cheese of choice.  I have also served it over a bed of Spanish rice which I have a crazy simple recipe for:

White or brown rice
cook in chicken broth (I use bullion base in water)
once done cooking, add salsa to taste
.... viola!

This is a filling and nutritious meal, almost ruin-proof.  It is my go-to meal when I know company is coming and they don't mind a little Tex-Mex! It feeds a crowd easy and cost effectively... two things I LOVE in the kitchen!

Blessings for great cooking and delicious dinners in your home!


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Balancing, Eclectic Style!

I had hoped to blog a Balance update where I share this wonderful system I set up for chores so my time and housework balances into this beautiful homemaking haven.  You know, the perfect little system where everyone has their job and we all pitch in to work towards a beautifully kept house.  I'm not talking the quick vacuum clean and dishes are clean and toilet doesn't look diseased kind of clean.... No. I'm talking the deep clean one room a week kind of clean.

The grand idea was to spend about an hour each day on a "Zone"... AFTER we had spent all day on homeschooling, .  An awesome idea I discovered through and even blogged about in February.  I meant every word I said there... especially the part about developing MY own version over the years... and why did I need to change it???  Oh the headache that ensued a few weeks ago.  But here I digress.

"Balance" was a subtle undertone as I looked over my slowly deteriorating house.  We have lived here more than 1 1/2 years and have managed to maintain order and in-the-cracks clean, though I can't explain how.  I think the cats we were *blessed* with have something to do with the slow decline... I am certain almost 2 months of family illness hasn't helped either.  None-the-less, I am NOT truly OCD and there is a LOT I often overlook, however, certain areas of the home have gotten so out of control I have felt overwhelmed:

The garage can barely be walked through (a critical route when bringing in groceries).

Our basement rec room has turned into a WRECK room.

My laundry room has become the catch-all for craft supplies, material, yarn and done-using-decorations... we are often in danger of tripping just trying to get to the washer.

A visitor might wonder if we ever dust surfaces or sweep and vacuum the edges!

It has seriously been THAT bad.  And while Fly Lady is GREAT, it just wasn't a fit for me right now.  I spent most of a Saturday afternoon re-developing a system.  Pouring over pdf.s, making flash card chore cards (one idea that has worked well for us for quite some time), typing up deep clean lists and modifying old ones by hand.  I even drug out my old Fly Lady binder I used back in the day when she was my crutch to get me out of CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome) with 4 small children around.

Week one hit.  Zone 3, which entailed the basement WrecK room and a bonus room.  I was hopeful to tackle the laundry room since it is in the basement as well and the super-ambitious side of me wanted to order the garage before the week was out.  We dusted and swept and even cleaned the windows, light fixtures and railing.  At the end of our hour we traipsed up the stairs covered in dust and worn out.  Our brains were tiered from learning all day and now our bodies were beat from the deep-clean.  I cringed to consider the rest of the week in this way.

Tuesday was put on pause on account of youth group.  I used the time to pray for direction and strength. Then, as I was browsing Pinterest, I stumbled across this article (which it would seem I forgot to pin!!) where the author talked about cleaning once a month.  You bet she had my attention!!  She proceeded to discuss how they set aside one day a month where they did NO schooling and No laundry and basically none of the mundane daily tasks.  They teamed up and did a house-wide deep clean.  Hubby brought home take-out (so she didn't have to dirty her fresh sparkly kitchen!) and the rest of the month was just touch up.


I realized, in my effort to balance my time well AND balance the chores and the running of my house, I was trying to use a system that just didn't fit right now.  A GREAT system that worked at one time (and may work again) but life for me is currently more complex than it use to be.  Trying to Fly while teaching elementary was a breeze.  But seeking to balance all that is needed for a good homeschool high school education, while still teaching an early middle schooler, while still trying to do ministry work, while still trying to cook most food from scratch.... adding an entirely new chore regiment on top requiring a focused hour of cleaning a day was too much.

I was reminded how recognizing what doesn't work and being flexible to try something else is critical for the domestically inclined mama and wife who finds herself overwhelmed by her tasks.  Balance in the schedule seems like a simple thing.  However, when the roller coaster of life kicks in, learning to negotiate the mound of tasks which often pile up while still maintaining critical time for rest and bumpers is not so easy to configure.  In my efforts to re-balance our current situation I am finding that old-meets-new is the key.  Going with once a month cleaning (I still think that is beyond awesome!!), daily touch up, chore cards and a splash of Flying, I believe the scales will even out.... balance... eclectic style! 

I pray you may find balance in the chores and daily to-dos you have.... seeking His hand to guide you and His peace to sustain you when you haven't quite found the balance yet!


Monday, May 4, 2015

A Spring of Parables in Mother Chicken's Eggs

A few months ago, along the stream of linky parties, I stumbled upon a wonderful post about scripture journaling by Kathryn Ross at The Writer's Reverie.  I was inspired to comment and what followed took me by surprise:  a few email conversations and then I was invited to join the launch team of her freshly published book, Mother Chicken's Eggs. I'm so glad we found each other!

It took more than a month to get to my review since shortly after accepting the opportunity we were kept down with family illness and then processing my step mom passing away.  This book was the perfect close to this rough season. 

Intended for children but enjoyable by all ages, Mother Chicken's Eggs is a charming parable of challenges, overcoming, and growing into great things. We get to peek in and watch as Mother Chicken hatches her eggs and see how well her little chicks come about.  Set on Old MacDonald's farm, the story is original yet nostalgic.  The illustrations are absolutely charming, somewhat reminiscent of Beatrix Potter and just as captivating.  I found myself pouring over the map at the opening of the book and dreaming of walking down the lane, waving to neighbors and visiting the farm where Mother Chicken lived!

The story of Mother Chicken and her hatchlings has a rhyme interlude between each 'scene' which is fun and engaging even for the smallest of listeners.  If the anticipation of the story line doesn't capture their attention, the illustrations will.  Older children can enjoy this book as well for it's suspenseful progression of events carefully crafted to lead to the final lesson.

Mrs. Ross is an expert story teller and her years of experience and passion show through.  She even includes a study guide for use in church group or with your child(ren).  I received the e-book version but I am going to order a hard copy to keep handy for when the good Lord blesses me with grandchildren!  I look forward to sharing this with them.

Other materials have been developed; an audio version, original prints of the illustrations and music CDs.  Mrs. Ross is also planning more wonderful stories in the Parable Springs series.  To learn more you can visit Mrs. Ross at Pageant Wagon Publishing

Blessings for happy hours of reading!

* This book review is my opinion alone.  Kathryn Ross provided this book free of charge in exchange for my honest opinion.