when we truly love one another

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When I was a little girl, I loved going to the library. Housed in an old building with wall-to-wall oak bookcases, a cozy fireplace with inviting chairs in front of it, and a 90-year-old librarian named Minta who fascinated me, the library was my home away from home. I could spend hours curled up in one of the old chairs, reading Nancy Drew or books where the heroine was a horse trainer, a nurse, or a flight attendant. I would get so involved in the story lines that I often went through a period of real grieving at the close of the book because I hated to see it end. It was like saying goodbye to old friends and it would break my heart. Sometimes I would just finish the last chapter and go right back to the beginning of a book and start reading all over again! Best of all was when there was a sequel to the book on the shelf just waiting for me to take it home!

Through the years I have met many moms who were just beginning this wonderful journey, this adventure called “homeschooling.” I must admit that they always made me feel a little wistful as my days of actually schooling my own children were slipping by so quickly. It was as though I was turning the pages in a really amazing book and knew that the last chapter was coming. I was sad and some days wished I could go back. But even better yet has been the sequel, the next book of my life that God has written! 1 Corinthians 2:9 (ESV) holds a promise for us that stirs up great anticipation in my heart. “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” We cannot begin to know how wonderful the next chapter is…whether it is the moving from kindergarten to first grade, graduating the last child, welcoming a new baby, a husband’s job change…whatever it may be, we know that it is for our good if we love God.

Recently, a new friend shared this story with me. She told me how, many years ago, she struggled with a rebellious son who had come through the public school system. At the urging of friends, she and her husband decided to bring home the other children and begin homeschooling. As they attended their first homeschooling conference, a new world opened up to them, a world beyond anything they had ever imagined. As they came out of the conference center at the end of the day, walking in front of this couple was a mother with her teen-aged son towering above her. As they walked, spontaneously and without embarrassment or reservation, the boy leaned over and kissed his mom on the cheek. At that moment, my friend told me that she was so stunned and overwhelmed by their relationship that in her heart she cried out to the Lord, saying, “This is what I want for my family!”

They brought their children home and began schooling them and as the years went by, they were amazed at all the Lord was doing in their lives. Then, at the end of her story she told me this: Just the other day she and her husband went to a family movie with their youngest child who is almost ready to graduate. As they were walking along, the boy, now a man, was in between the two of them, and he reached out and placed his arms around both parents and hugged them as they walked. Her mind raced back to that day so many years ago when she had cried out to the Lord to give her good and godly relationships with her family. When we love God with all our hearts and all our soul and all our mind and all our strength, we cannot begin to imagine all that He has prepared for us!

(from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home)

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gratefulness from a contented heart

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One spring, as March roared in like a lion, our lovely old Victorian home caught fire. No one was hurt, but we lost everything on the second floor and in our attic, including treasurers placed in storage “for safe keeping.”

In the weeks that followed, our insurance company required us to make a detailed inventory of each item that had been destroyed, along with the price of replacing it. We spent days carefully going through each room, my husband scooping up shovels full of items, some barely discernible, as we identified as many things as possible. It was tedious but also convicting as we realized how many things we owned but did not need or, in some cases, even remember we owned!

One afternoon, as we worked our way through the closet where I kept Christmas ornaments, I found the remains of angels I had made for our tree, each one carefully embroidered and lovingly crafted from an antique quilt. My heart sank and I burst into tears. More than decorations, these represented the homey atmosphere I wanted to create for my family and a remembrance of times past when someone else had first made the quilt. And in that moment of grief, they also came to represent anything I had ever lost that had been important in my life: our home, friends, my dad, miscarried babies, and the birthmother I had never met. My grief was real and painful and hit me like an unexpected wave.

Working with a deadline, I had no time to dwell on it, as the next pile of junk fell in front of me. Looking down, amazingly, I saw the remains of the smoke-damaged sampler I had been sewing: “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6) Tears turned to laughter as I considered such a powerful reminder in the midst of so much loss!

In the weeks and months to follow, I began to really consider what it means to be content and a supernatural sense of gratefulness came over me. I found myself giving thanks for all of God’s gifts to me, especially the small things… fresh clean sheets, a warm slice of fresh bread, the soft purr of a cat, laughter around the dinner table, the fresh air outside, right down to every single breath. Scripture tells us that if we don’t praise God that the rocks themselves will cry out His praise and I believe it. Some days I can nearly hear all creation singing to the Lord and praising His name! I have learned to understand the importance of worship as a daily state of heart and mind toward God rather than merely a scheduled event on Sunday mornings!

I also began to understand the purpose for loss in my life. Some loss is the result of our own sin, of making unwise choices. Other loss comes when people sin against us and is completely outside of our ability to prevent or change circumstances. In those times we can only choose how we will respond! Some loss occurs for no reason we can see this side of eternity but we are commanded to give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Refusing to embrace a life of gratefulness places us in the position of not really believing God is God, thus propelling us down the path of darkness and unbelief. The consequences of ungratefulness are severe and bring even more pain: For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:21)

Take a few minutes today to reflect on God’s goodness to you.  Praise Him for His tender mercies toward you. Thank Him for His promises to you. Give thanks with a grateful heart for those things you cannot change, even for those things you have lost. Meditate on these wonderful truths:

 

Praise the Lord, my soul;

all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Praise the Lord, my soul,

and forget not all his benefits—

who forgives all your sins

and heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit

and crowns you with love and compassion,

who satisfies your desires with good things

so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Psalm 103:1-5

 

(originally publishing in Dear magazine, 2015)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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relaxing with tea

tea

My mom’s mom was my “city grandma” who lived  in a pre-Civil War era home and boasted 9 children and 36 grandchildren. Her house was across the street from the old Chapman School that had once won an award during the Chicago World’s Fair so on most days I would take my after school snack in front of the charming marble fireplace in her dining room. The tea kettle was already singing when I walked in the door and hung my coat and book bag on the hooks in what she called her “vestibule.” She brought out the works….tea, cream, sugar, cookies, muffins, and whatever else she had been baking that morning.

My fondest memories of those afternoons with her are of listening as she read Scripture to me, sharing what she had learned in the hours she had spent reading that day. Her old King James Bible was underlined and key passages were noted. The pages were wrinkled and worn; in a way they were like she was. Those times were precious and as I look back on them I am struck by how grown-up I felt as we took tea and talked about Jesus and my school day. She did not treat me like a child she had to endure. She was always glad to see me; she had prepared for my coming. My life mattered to her. What more could a child want?

I have continued to always serve tea in my own home and just recently decided to make it a daily event. Inspired by my friend Stephanie who uses her family tea time to introduce poetry to her children, I have purposed to make this a special time of day where we can relax and enjoy each other’s company. (I am convinced children need much more simple relaxing time than we allow for in our lesson planners! More on that later!) We have various favorite teas but my go-to brand is PGTips. For a special tea I love Lady Londonderry which was Princess Diana’s tea of choice. I was first introduced to it years ago at a homeschooling mom’s retreat and have enjoyed it ever since. A faint hint of strawberry and lemon can be tasted and it is also delicious served with cream.

Sometimes we will make chai tea and and, in my opinion, homemade is the best. Here is our recipe for a six cup pot.

Chai Tea

In tea pot, place the following:

2 Tbs. loose black tea (we love PG Tips)

1 cinnamon stick

2 tsp. candied ginger

2 tsp. whole cloves

Cover with three cups boiling water. Add 1 tsp. vanilla.

On stove heat three cups whole milk to a near boil. Pour into tea pot. Using a strainer, pour into tea cups and serve with honey or sugar if desired. We prefer sugar cubes!

And of course the perfect accompaniment to a proper British tea is a fresh scone. I first discovered this one morning as I served this amazing combination to my mother for breakfast as we watched the live feed of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding!

Royal Scones

2 c. flour

1 Tbs. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 c. sugar plus 3 Tbs. sugar

1 1/4 c. heavy cream

3 Tbs. softened butter, salted preferred

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, 1/4 c. sugar and mix well. Add heavy cream and mix with fork until the dough holds together. It will be sticky. Place on lightly floured surface and knead about 10 times. Shape into 8-9 inch ball and pat out. Spread with butter and remaining sugar. Cut into 12 pie-shaped wedges and place on parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 12 minutes. Serve warm. Delicious served with fresh strawberries, much like a shortcake! 

 

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cheesy chicken tortellini soup

soup

 

3 pounds cooked chicken meat

1 gallon chicken broth

1 Tbs. minced garlic

2 minced onions

1 Tbs. parsley flakes

3 cups sliced carrots

1 pound three cheese tortellini

 

Place all ingredients except tortellini into pot. Bring to boil and then simmer until carrots are nearly tender. Add tortellini and cook until al dente. Delicious! (If you want to save time, use two large cans of chicken broth and a three pound bag of boneless chicken breasts or thighs or a combination.)

 

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cozy Italian Tortellini Soup for the blizzard

tortellini soup

Winter is here and if you live in the South or North Eastern United States, the Blizzard of 2016 has arrived! Time to make a delicious Italian Tortellini Soup! Served with crusty bread and a salad, this will be a family favorite supper!

 

2 lbs. hamburger

1 minced onion

1 Tbs. minced garlic

1 tsp.rosemary

1 tsp.thyme

1 tsp. oregano

1 tsp basil

1 chopped green pepper

3 sliced carrots

1 large can tomato juice (46 oz or 64 oz if thinner soup preferred)

3 cans chopped tomatoes with garlic and onion (15 oz each)

1 lb. three cheese tortellini

grated parmesan cheese

Brown ground beef with onion, garlic, and spices. Add green pepper and carrots. Cook until veggies are softened. Add tomatoes and tomato juice. Heat to low simmer, add tortellini and cook for 10 minutes or until softened. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

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a mini pro-life history lesson on today’s 43rd anniversary of Roe v Wade

prolife historyMy grandmother on the right along with her mom, circa 1910.  The woman’s suffrage movement is in full swing but it would be another 10 years before these ladies could cast a vote!

Those who attended the Treasures retreat a few years ago were introduced to homeschooling mom, Jane Gestrine, and were greatly moved by the story she shared of welcoming two young high school drop outs into her inner city home when they were kicked out of school.  She told us that as the school year progressed, a theme of injustice began to emerge in their readings, culminating in a study of Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, the Modern Prometheus and Jane encouraged us to read and learn from this amazing book.

First published in 1818, Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only 18 years of age. Her understanding of the dangers of technology and modern man along with a passion for caring for the unlovely and most burdensome of society produced one of the greatest novels of all time and one that still causes students to ponder the same questions of Shelley’s day.  But what many people do not know about Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley is that her mother, also named Mary and who died shortly after she was born, was her greatest inspiration for Frankenstein.

Author of  Thoughts on the Education of Daughters and The Vindication of the Rights of Women, Wollstonecraft was an early advocate for the education of women.  She saw young women as valuable in their own right, not merely as being marketable to “suitable young men” and she decried what was passed off as the education of women of that day as teaching “artificial manners, card-playing, theatre-going, and an emphasis on fashion.”  She was saddened by the amount of time and energy placed on superficial things that “if saved for charitable purposes, might alleviate the distress of many poor families, and soften the heart of a girl who entered into scenes of woe.” She placed a high value on motherhood and the home and was tenacious in addressing the inequality and abuses of her day, one of the greatest of these being abortion.

Her unfinished novel, Mary and the Wrongs of Woman, tells the story of a young maid who is brutally and sexually assaulted by her master, in part, because she is sentenced to a life of servitude because of her own illegitimate birth. At finding out that she is now pregnant as a result of the rape, the character says “I know not why I felt a mixed sensation of despair and tenderness, excepting that, ever called a bastard, a bastard appeared to me an object of the greatest compassion in creation.”  The master, concerned only to avoid his wife’s and the public’s disapproval, gives her an abortifacient. She refuses the “infernal potion,” as she calls it. But when the master’s wife discovers him raping the her again, the woman beats and verbally abuses her, throwing her out into the street. The servant girl finally obeys her master and swallows the potion “with a wish that it might destroy me, at the same time that is stopped the sensations of new-born life, which I felt with indescribable emotion.” Calling on her own experiences as a young woman who experienced a crisis pregnancy, Wollstonecraft observed that male sexual exploitation renders women of all social classes “weaker in mind and body

than they ought to be,” thus women “have not sufficient strength to discharge the first duty of a mother and “either destroy the embryo in the womb, or cast it off when born. Nature in everything demands respect.”

Some fifty years later when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony began the women’s suffrage movement, which had been born out of the abolition movement, they called upon the writings of Wollstonecraft for inspiration and echoed her call for an end to abortion.

During that time, women were not allowed to vote or own property or inherit anything if they were married. They could not have their own money, testify on their own behalf in court, sit on a jury, keep their children if they divorced, or to assemble or speak freely. A woman who was visibly pregnant was not even allowed to be seen in public! Stanton and Anthony rightly saw abortion for the evil that it is and the scourge it is upon women, noting “When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.”

Examining this great social evil of the day in their newspaper, The Revolution, Stanton and Anthony observed “Guilty? Yes, no matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; but oh, thrice guilty is he who drove her to the desperation which impelled her to the crime!”

Today is the 43rd anniversary of the US Supreme Court ruling known as Roe v Wade. That one decision set into motion a series of rulings that have culminated in the unbridled “right to choose” that is really abortion on demand during all 9 months of pregnancy for any and every reason and, in many instances, at tax payer expense.

But it has brought with it other costs. Every single one of us today is touched by the life of someone who suffers from the pain of “choice” whether it is a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, a family member, a classmate, a mother, a father, a husband, or a wife. Abortion kills children and it causes life-long grief and suffering for their mothers.

I would encourage you today to take a few minutes and examine the history of the pro-life movement with your children. It did not begin that fateful day in 1973 when America “celebrated” a new right. Rather, it began with courageous women like Mary Wollstonecraft, Elisabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony who recognized that before we can value unborn children, we first must value their mothers because women deserve better than abortion.

For more inspiration on our foremothers who stood strong in their opposition to abortion, read the history archives at Feminists for Life.

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the other side of the admonishment coin

hoover dam

Enjoying a visit to Hoover Dam with our son on his birthday. He is no longer 9 years old but continues to teach us new things every day. I am thankful for his faithfulness to Scripture and that he learned to argue well since he is a criminal defense attorney today!

Anyone who has had a preschooler explain to them how to use the remote control to the television, or a teenager show them how to find the new health food store location on the GPS, understands how it is often difficult to accept the truth that instructing and admonishing are commands both for parents to receive as well as give. In many circles, these commands are considered only for parents to administer, while a child who admonishes a parent is thought to be in rebellion. But the one anothering commands apply to all our relationships within the body of Christ! I must admit that learning this lesson came hard for me and, though the fruits are sweet, the process did sting!

One afternoon my nine-year-old son began to make a request and, frankly, it irritated me! It was not very important to me, obviously, because I cannot even remember what it was. But it was really important to him and as I began to shake my head “no” and reply, he interrupted me and said, “Mom! Proverbs 18:13 says ‘He who gives an answer before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.’ We just memorized this verse but you didn’t hear the matter before you answered!”

Of course my first inclination was to scold him; I was Mom, after all. But I could not. He was correct! He did not argue nor did he speak disrespectfully. Instead, he admonished me in my sin and the Lord’s conviction on me was so great that I apologized immediately. Rather than seeing my son as insubordinate, the Lord gave me eyes to see him as my brother in Christ who understood the truth of God’s word, better than I did! It was a lesson that I needed to learn and the Lord has brought it to mind many times since when I have been tempted in the same way.

(from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home)

 

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before we can mentor

AA

Those we mentor must know how much we love them. There is one important truth that we often miss as we set out to disciple our children. Popular homeschooling teachers often talk about “having the hearts of our children” before we can train them. However, the truth that we should be most concerned about is whether or not our children have our hearts! There are so many, many things that often have a hold on us and divide our affections. I love how Ephesians 5:1 so clearly shows the order in which these things properly happen. “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us.” It is the assurance that we are beloved children, bought with a great price, that enables us to imitate God and that gives us the strength to walk with Christ in love! It is this same truth our children must embrace before they can be discipled; they must know they are loved, truly loved, by both God and us!”

(from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home)

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winter is for ham and corn chowder

chowder

You know you have created a winning recipe when you wake up in the morning and find dirty bowls in the sink from midnight soup snacking! This will quickly become a favorite in your line-up of cozy winter meals!

Ham and Corn Chowder

I stick butter
3/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped green pepper
1 Tbs minced garlic
1 Tbs parsley flakes
Several twists of fresh black pepper
1/2 cup flour
6-7 cups whole milk
Six potatoes, baked and meat removed from skins
2 cups frozen or fresh corn
3 cups leftover ham, cubed (soup is the most flavorful if the ham was smoked and baked with brown sugar)
Salt to taste
Sauté onion, pepper, parsley, and garlic in butter until softened. Mix in flour and stir until dissolved. Whisk in 4 cups of the milk and continue stirring over medium heat until thickened. Add potatoes, corn, and ham. Stir and continue adding more milk until it is the consistency desired. Salt to taste and add more pepper if you like. I like to serve this with slices of very sharp cheddar cheese, a fresh salad, crusty bread, and fruit. It is even more delicious the second day!
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serve one another


a mug
“Through love serve one another.”
   Galatians 5:13

I had the privilege of being present for the birth of my precious granddaughter, Odette. Born at home with a midwife whose gentle and calm demeanor set the tone for the entire experience, I was incredibly blessed by the sweet, young doula that came to attend specifically to my daughter-in-law. Anticipating her every need, Rachel supported the excited new parents before the big day, during the entire birthing process, and in the following weeks. As most of us dozed on and off during that long night, she kept the laboring mama comfortable and encouraged, rubbing her back, pacing the floor alongside her, bringing her sips of ice water and juice. No task was too difficult or distasteful. And while the rest of us stood and cried at the sight of such a beautiful baby, Rachel had the presence of mind to snap amazing pictures!

The idea of being a servant to others does not bode well in our modern world where celebrity, popularity, and self-esteem are coveted. After all, isn’t even the thought of being someone’s servant appalling and degrading? While most of our culture is clamoring for fame and status, true humility and the resulting servanthood are not only ignored but often mocked. Simply standing in the line at the grocery store and reading the list of article titles featured each month confirms this. Happiness and success, we are told, are to be found by putting ourselves first. I will never forget the wedding rehearsal where I observed the fruits of this sort of thinking. I was playing the piano and as I waited for my cue and the bride’s entrance, the back doors of the sanctuary flung open and I stared, dumbfounded, as the bride declared, “Where is everyone? I don’t care who is missing; we will start NOW because I say so. I’m the bride, it’s all about me!”

Though I don’t recall ever making this pronouncement anywhere, I must confess that there have been many times when the thought has gone through my own mind! “I am the mom, it’s all about me” is one of those cross-stitched pieces hanging in my imaginary Mom Hall of Shame! How easy it is for those thoughts to turn into actions. ”Go get me a glass of water, will you?” “I need my glasses from the car, go get them.” “Carry this here, move this there.” But what would happen if your son was lying on the couch reading a book and you asked, “What can I get you, son? Another brownie? A glass of milk?” A young man once told me that one thing he remembered about his mother was that he couldn’t remember when she had ever sat through as entire movie because she was always making sure the family had fresh pop corn and full soft drinks so that no one else had to miss anything! I was so touched by this memory he shared and the impression it made.

Humility and having a servant’s heart come from having a deep sense of our own smallness in the grand scheme of things. It is having a heart that cries out for others to be placed before us. Scripture describes this example of Jesus: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8). He emptied himself! Jesus set aside all his rights and privileges and became what Scripture calls a “doulos” to us! He washed the feet of His disciples. He did not demand all He was entitled to as God Himself. He served us, even to the point of dying for our sins!

 

(from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home)

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