Special Mother's Day Gift: "Circle of Love Bracelet"

One of my favorite things to do for fun is to design and make jewelry.  I enjoy the process of choosing colors, beads and findings to design the perfect gift for a family member or friend.  One of my favorite designs is the "Circle of Love Bracelet." As my mom's memory was fading, I wanted her to have a tangible way to remember that she had a big family who loved her very much.  I created a bracelet of birthstones of my dad and each of her children and her grandchildren.  She loved it and wore it every day for many years.  Since then, I've made bracelets for my mother-in-law and for other dear friends. If you are looking for a creative gift to give your mom this Mother's Day, look no further.  I am now taking orders for the "Circle of Love Bracelet."  Each bracelet is made of 6mm bicone Swarovski crystal birthstones with a simple sterling silver toggle clasp.  If there are fewer family members, I use each birthstone twice in the design or I alternate a single birthstone with white Swarovski pearls, depending on the requested size of the bracelet.

I am also able to customize the size for the recipient--Medium is about 7 inches for the average wrist, Small is approximately 1/4 in. smaller and Large is approximately 1/4 in. larger.  You may also send the wrist measurement if the gift isn't a surprise.

The cost of each bracelet is $30.  Orders will ship 2 business days after the order has been placed.  All orders must be placed by midnight May 4 for delivery by Mother's Day. Order here...

She May Have Alzheimer's but She's Still My Mom

My mom and I celebrated her 69th birthday on Sunday, but today she probably doesn’t remember.  Dementia has been slowly stealing my mother.  Just four days before her birthday my dad moved her to a full time nursing facility in a town near his PA home.  I had already planned to make the five-hour trip from VA to celebrate Mom’s birthday, and her change of residence didn’t change my plans. On Saturday night, I got my first glimpse of mom since Christmas.   Her eyes were still vacant, her mobility nearly gone, yet she still wore a smile.  Dad, one of my brothers, both of my sisters, and I sat around the table exchanging conversation and trying to piece together a conversation from her short, sometimes nonsense responses.  She stayed awake the entire time and enjoyed the cake we brought.  It was an unusual but sweet birthday celebration.

On Sunday, I returned to have some alone time with Mom and “to have church”.  She never missed a Sunday and most were spent serving the body of Christ with her exceptional musical gifts.  Her face showed surprise and a big smile when I found her sitting in the dining area with the other residents.  I greeted her with a hug and a kiss and then pulled up a chair to sit beside her.

Words cannot adequately communicate the reality of our time together.  On paper, her words are neatly strung together, one after the other.  In reality, there were many stops and starts and pauses.  Though the paragraphs here flow together swiftly, there was actually much silence and hand-holding during the course of my 45-minute visit, with little more conversation than what I recorded.  This woman was surely not the intelligent, vivacious, creative mother who raised me, but I saw glimpses of her.

I made some small talk with Mom about her birthday, how old she was, and what she had for breakfast. (She couldn’t answer, but the nurse had told me).  We sat quietly together observing the surroundings—a TV blared in the corner, a nurse was taking a resident’s blood pressure, and several residents walked aimlessly through the room.  It was hardly a setting for church, but I opened the service with some hymns.  I started with, “Heavenly Sunlight,” her favorite hymn and one she and her sisters had recorded on a CD about a decade earlier.  I repeated the chorus very slowly.  She knew many of the words, but she watched my mouth intently to help her keep up. She still loves to praise her Lord.

Next, I read from Psalm 34:  "I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.  I will glory in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together."  Then I read the first few verses from Isaiah 61, her life chapter.  All the while I read, she nodded her head and said “uh-huh” at appropriate She still loves the Word of the Lord.

Next, I gave her the updates of my girls.  When I told her that Victoria’s graphic design work had won a contest and that she was excited, mom replied, “That makes me happy, too.” She still rejoices with those who rejoice.

When I told her that Elisabeth had her own piano studio and was giving lessons to young children, she remarked, “I know she’s good at that.” She’s still an encourager.

I mentioned that Anna still wants to be a nurse and go to Africa.  Africa holds a special place in her heart since her sister had been a missionary there for 15 years and mom had traveled there on a mission trip in 2000.  She responded, “Oh, I hope she can make that happen.” She still has a heart for the nations.

Lastly, I told Mom that my musically gifted Abigail was still playing violin and that her talent must’ve come from her (Mom).  Mom played piano by ear with only 3 months of lessons and had a beautiful singing voice.  Mom’s response was that she got it from me.  (I have a degree in Music Education.)  When I disagreed, she said, “She got it from both of us.” She’s still humble.

There was a lot of activity in the community room where we were sitting.  When someone walked close to the stool where her swollen feet were propped, she moved her feet.  “Every time they walk this way I have to move my feet,” and she flexed her foot slightly to demonstrate. She still thinks of others.

Later, one of the patients knocked over a chair and she remarked, “Some of them don’t know how to act.”  When I mentioned that the staff thought she was pleasant, she said, “I’m glad you told me that.” She still brings peace in chaos.

Before I left, I asked her if she wanted me to pray for anything.  She said, “No, I try not to hold onto anything,” and proceeded to hand me the wet washcloth she had been holding in her hands.  Maybe she was talking about the washcloth, but it really is how she has lived her life. She’s still teaching me how to grow in Christ.

I prayed with her and she agreed throughout the prayer at appropriate moments.  She was clearly in her element with her Savior.  For years her days began around 4 am as she spent time with her Savior in my old bedroom turned prayer room. She’s still in love with her Jesus.

After the prayer, I leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.  Through tears I told her how special she is, how I glad I am to be her daughter, and how much I love her.  She responded, “I love you, too—well, you oughtta know that.”  As I stood to go, she kept repeating, “I love you. I love you so much.” She’s still my mom.

 My mom and I before she was diagnosed.

My mom and I before she was diagnosed.

The Cleaning Game

When I was growing up, spring was the signal for an all-out war on dust and dirt at our house.  Mom removed and cleaned the curtains and drapes, got on her hands and knees to strip and wax the kitchen and dining room floors, and cleaned out every inch of the kitchen cabinets and every closet.  Taking care of her family was her full time job—and she did it well.  Most days we could’ve eaten off the kitchen floor because it was so clean.  (Some days you can eat off my kitchen floor because there are enough crumbs to feed a small country.)  When my brothers and sisters and I were at school, my mom had many uninterrupted hours to order her home. As a homeschool mom, my time is divided between home and school so I had to find an alternative. “Many hands make light work.” (John Heywood) When daughter #4 arrived, I knew I could no longer do everything around the house on my own.  The oldest was only 6 and the next was 4, but I immediately enlisted their help.  My solution was based in three principles:  1.The girls couldn’t do everything I did, but they could certainly do some things.  2. If their hands were busy working with me, it would be more difficult for them to undo what I was trying to do.  3. Working together as a family, no matter what the project, would build teamwork.  And so I invented The Cleaning Game--a fun way for our family to work as a team to clean our home.  When the house is clean, everyone wins!

How to eat an elephant You’ve probably heard the saying, “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.”  The same principle works for the overwhelming task of cleaning a home—take one bite at a time.  The Cleaning Game (TCG) is played with 100+ task cards that each list one bite-sized task, brief instructions for how to accomplish the task and a list of supplies needed.  Cards include chores for two vehicles and houses with 6 bedrooms and four baths.  Blank cards are included so you can customize the game to meet the needs of your family.  Three diligent, expert players over the age of 6 are able to clean a 4 bedroom, 2 bath home in under 3 hours—not including floors.

“You can expect what you inspect.” (Anonymous) Remove any cards from the deck that don’t apply to your family.  Begin by dealing the cards to each player.  (TCG comes with instruction cards explaining several different ways to play with the same deck of cards, but our family plays once a week.)  I recommend that you introduce a few tasks each week, instructing and demonstrating how the task would be completed to your satisfaction.  Add tasks each week until all cards have been introduced.  Ideally, players who can read can work independently, however it is critical that work is inspected and that players receive both positive and negative feedback—especially in the start-up phase.  Parents can choose cards, remain only an “Inspector”, or complete the jobs that children are unable to do.  Players seem to be best motivated when a parent is involved in some part of the process.

“A family that plays together, stays together.” (Joy Moore) If you are interested in playing with your family, you have two options:  purchase a CD with the pdf file of The Cleaning Game for $7.99 and free shipping OR purchase and download the pdf file of The Cleaning Game for the introductory rate of $3.99 during the month of March.  Both forms of The Cleaning Game are available only at the Daughters 4 God Shoppe.

February Organization Challenge

The 2011 Organization Challenge is in full swing at my house!  I think I did pretty well in January. I am happy to say that I have completed a major project and have begun two new ones.  (I was never good at math…)  I am grateful for your comments of support and I’ve decided to post personal updates more frequently (I’m hoping for weekly updates, but not promising…) for those of you who may be interested in how things are progressing in my neck of the woods.  I won’t be sending those updates by email, but they will appear on the “Articles” page of the website.  Any comments or helpful hints you would like to post  will be greatly appreciated!  So here is my January update… During Week 1, I cleaned out my old planner and organized it so it was ready for use.  I also set some goals, but we had an out-of-town guest so I wasn't able to finish the list.  I haven’t gotten around to that yet, but I’m hoping to have some time this weekend.  Week 2 was easy because I already had a schedule that needed only minor adjustments.  Actually, I plan to make a few more minor adjustments for next week.  I spent Week 3 recording birthdays and other events in my calendar.  It’s been great to have them all in one place.  And Week 4, well it was a challenge.  I tried to use one to-do list for the entire week, but I found that didn’t work so well.  I am now trying a daily list with a 5 item per day limit—besides my daily work.  Overall I was more productive, but not as focused as I would  like.

The February Challenge It’s been said, “The kitchen is the heart of the home.”  The focus this month is bringing order to the kitchen and our food responsibilities including planning meals, making a grocery list, and preparing meals.  Food requires us to make so many decisions throughout the week—what to buy, which brand, what size, where to store it, how to fix it, when to have it.  My goal this month is to organize and clean my kitchen and to simplify my experiences with food—aggressive goals, I’ll admit.  Let’s get started!

Week 1:  Collect Recipes and Organize the Pantry Collect Recipes Begin this week by gathering all of your unbound recipes—magazine and newspaper clippings, 3x5 cards, or typed pages.  Gathering recipes may seem like a waste of time, but truly it will save time in the long run.  When you need a recipe it will be at your fingertips.   Here are two options for storing your recipe collection, listed from simple to more time-consuming: OPTION #1:  Purchase a three-ring binder (with an inside pocket) and 3-ring pocket folders or dividers.  Sort your recipes into piles based on regular cookbook divisions.  Label the folders and put the proper recipes in each folder.  Be sure to return the recipes to the proper folder after each use. OPTION #2:  Make your own family cookbook.  Purchase a 3-ring binder, page protectors, and dividers—I think the plastic pocket dividers work best.  (I keep all published recipes in the folder pockets or print them directly from the website.)  Make a recipe template and enter each recipe on a separate page; combine two shorter recipes that are in the same division.  Print the recipes on cardstock and slide them into the page protectors.  I suppose you could hole-punch the recipe pages, but the page protector protects the recipe from food drippings.

Four years ago I started our family cookbook as a present for our oldest daughter.  I’ve made several cookbooks for family and friends, adding new recipes each time.  And since I have digital copies of my favorite recipes, I am able to print them or email them to friends.   Yes, it does take time, but it is worth it.

NOTE:  Be sure to copy only recipes that are not already published.  Electronic storage of copyrighted recipes is illegal.

Organize the Pantry Next, we tackle the pantry or the cabinets where you store your food.  I feel very blessed to have a pantry, but the process is the same for those who don’t.  First, take everything out of the pantry and wash each shelf.  Then, start by grouping like things together.  Here’s a tour of my pantry just after I organized it in January.  A little personal, but maybe it will spark some organizational ideas.

The top left shelf is for my coffee maker and the large stock pot to make my Grandma’s Chicken Corn Soup.  The top right shelf is for paper products.  I discovered that sometimes Styrofoam rained down on my head, so I put my disposable plates, cups, napkins, and silverware in a box.  I don’t have to worry about reaching to the very back of the shelf, either.

The second shelf on the left is for my vinegars, molasses, and a few things don’t use very often, in addition to “extras” that I buy for something that is just about to run out.  It’s much easier to make a grocery list when you know what you have.   The second shelf on the right is for pasta and rice.  Since the bags sometimes got lost in between things, I put the rice in plastic storage containers and taped the instructions on the back of the container.  You can't really see them, but they are behind the large bag of noodles.

The third shelf on the left is for larger containers of oil and honey.  The third shelf on the right is for all of my canned goods organized so I can find them easily:  starting at the far right, tomatoes and tomato products, then beans and other veggies, then canned meats in the back and fruits in the front, and finally soups and pumpkin when it’s in season.

The fourth shelf on the left and right is for my baking supplies:  oatmeal, shortening, and on one side and sucanat, honey crystals, lecithin, and gluten on the other.  (Yeah, I’m trying to get away from using shortening, but the White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies just don’t turn out the same.)

The fifth and bottom shelf on the left is for cereal.  We kept the cereal on the lower shelf so the kids could get out and put away the cereal when they were younger.  Notice we have a large container to store cereal that we purchase in bulk in bags.  It’s so much easier for storage and for the kids to use.  On the right side I have some canisters that previously held white sugar and white flour--we still use them sometimes, but not every month.  I'm planning to make some changes to that shelf this week.

The drawers under the shelves give extra room for smaller things that don’t store neatly.  The set on the left is for coffee and baking supplies such as nuts, chocolate chips, and sugars.  The set on the right is for envelope mixes, potatoes, onions, tea bags, and grocery bags to recycle.

The shelves on the door were an idea I borrowed from a friend.  The left side door has large spice containers on the top two shelves and the bottom two are for smaller boxes or bags of whatever we have—raisins, craisins, croutons, cornbread mix, The right side door has more baking supplies like salt, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, on the top shelves and pudding on the bottom shelf.

In case you’re wondering, the rest of my spices are in a cabinet near my stove and my plastic wrap and foil are in a drawer.

Take a good look at your space (and your budget) and decide if you could make better use of your space by investing in some shelving or other organization tool.  I find that I save money when my pantry is more organized.  I don’t buy duplicates of food I already have, I am able to see and use what's available, and I’m more content to cook and eat at home because I haven’t spent a lot of time searching for the ingredients.

Week 2:  Planning a Weekly Menu and Making a Weekly Grocery List Planning a Weekly Menu Planning a weekly menu may seem unnecessary, but it will save you time and money.  It will save time spent standing in front of the panty or refrigerator hoping that meals will throw themselves together like Ezekiel’s dry bones.  It will save money because you will purchase ingredients for specific recipes and not merely items that look good.  Yes, it still takes time to make a weekly menu, but the time is well spent.

Make a divider in your planner/household notebook for Menu Planning.  Make your own form or use this combo form for menu planning and as a grocery list.

Here are some suggestions to help you make a weekly menu plan. OPTION #1: Pre-Planned Menu When I was making a gift purchase at Dave Ramsey’s website, I noticed an advertisement for E-Mealz, a business founded by two moms who create a weekly budget-friendly dinner menu and the accompanying grocery lists for regular, low fat, low carb, and gluten free menus based on the grocery store where you shop. The cost is $15 for 3 month subscription, billed quarterly.

A few weeks ago I took the plunge and subscribed for the next three months.  I logged into my account and printed the menu and the grocery list.  Menu done.  Grocery list done.  That was nice.  So far our family has really liked most of the recipes—an amazing feat for girls who are more “selective.”I can’t recommend it yet, since I've used it for only two weeks.  I’ll let you know how it works after I’ve used it for at least a month.  For those who might be interested, you can check it out here: E-MEALZ Easy Meals for Busy and Frugal Families.  To be fair, I want you to know that if you sign up from the link, I’ll receive some sort of credit.  I’m not even sure how that works.  Like I said before, I haven’t used it long enough to strongly recommend it but it is an option.

OPTION #2:  Freezer Cooking About 10 years ago, I was a desperate homeschool mom.  With two toddlers and two in elementary school, I found it difficult to get a decent meal on the table.  While shopping at a homeschool curriculum fair I purchased a freezer cookbook from 30 Day Gourmet, a combination recipe and instruction book of how to cook once a month and freeze all the meals.  I knew I could never do the “once-a-month” cooking, but the thought of having meals in the freezer was very intriguing. (I do not have a freezer, but I do have an extra frig in the garage.)  The recipes were simple, didn’t include too many or exotic ingredients, and seemed family-friendly.  True enough, the family did like the recipes and I liked the idea of having a homecooked meal on even the busiest of day.  Today my freezer cooking goes in spurts.  Here are two ways I’ve used the cookbook.

Big Cooking Day

  1. Purchase a cookbook or peruse some recipes from 30 Day Gourmet.
  2. Choose 3-4 recipes and choose how many of each you plan to make.
  3. Make a grocery list based on your recipes and the number of dishes.  Don’t forget to include metal pans or Ziploc bags to other containers you’ll need for freezing.  I think about the large roll of ground beef and figure out how much I can make using the entire roll or I consider how many dishes I can make from the large bag of frozen chicken.
  4. Choose a cooking day—at least 6 hours.  I find it easiest to have a “beef day” and a “chicken day”.  For instance, I brown a lot of meat at one time or I may make several meat loaves.   It’s similar on chicken day when I boil and shred a huge quantity of chicken.
  5. Assemble your meals in the proper container.  Whenever possible, I use Ziploc freezer bags.  They’re easy to label and I can fit many flat bags in my regular freezer.
  6. Be sure to label your meal—what it is and when you made it.  If you’re like me, you think you’ll remember, but then several dishes have tomato sauce and chicken and you’re not certain how long that bag has been in the freezer…
  7. Enjoy your frozen meals.  Most meals can be taken out of the freezer in the morning or be baked from the frozen stage.

Slow Start Up

  1. Purchase a cookbook or peruse some recipes from 30 Day Gourmet
  2. Plan your meals for the week.  Choose 2 frozen meal recipes for each week and  make 2 batches of each.
  3. Make a grocery list based on your recipes and the number of dishes.  Don’t forget to include metal pans or Ziploc bags to other containers you’ll need for freezing.
  4. On the day you plan to have your frozen meal, make two batches of the meals—one to eat for dinner and one to freeze.
  5. Assemble your meal in the proper container.  Whenever possible, I use Ziploc freezer bags.  They’re easy to label and I can fit many flat bags in my regular freezer.
  6. Be sure to label your meal—what it is and when you made it.
  7. After several weeks, you’ll have a collection of several frozen meals that you can choose from on the days you are unable to cook.

OPTION #3:  Consider the Crockpot My crock pot is my friend.  My mother never used a crock pot for her family of 5, but I’m not sure why.  It is  a convenient way to have a warm meal ready when you don’t have time to cook.   My biggest issue is that I only have a few good crock pot recipes that our family likes, but those few regularly find their way into our winter menu plan.

Planning a Weekly Grocery List Once you have a weekly menu, it is simple to review each recipe for ingredients you’ll need.  Record what you need on the grocery list portion of the menu planning form.  Also, when you run out of something during the week, add it to the grocery list.  I’ve taught my kids to do this, too.

Shop once a week for groceries.  When you start with a list and stick with the list, you save the money you would've spent on snacks and ingredients for recipes you think you might make.  Once-a-week shopping  also keeps you out of the grocery store for the rest of the week, which saves even more.

Week 3:  Clean the Appliances Appliances work so hard for us and they get little thanks or attention.  This week, choose to spruce up one appliance each day.  I realize that many of you may not need specific instructions, but I included them for those who haven’t been taught.  There may be a better way; I’m only relaying what I’ve been taught.  I am also planning for my daughters to help so I can pass on the knowledge.

The order you clean the appliances doesn’t matter, but it would be logical to save the bigger jobs for the days that you aren’t as busy—if there is one of those days in your week.  Since you’re inspecting these work-horses so closely, you may also want to make a page in your notebook for a “to do” list of things that need to be repaired or parts that need to be replaced.

Monday—Clean the stove Remove the drip pans and soak them in a sink of hot water.  Raise the cook top and clean under the burners.  Use water and vinegar or some other grease-cutting cleaner for the cook top and back splash of traditional stoves.   Use an approved non-abrasive cleaner for ceramic cook top surfaces.  For years I didn't realize that the knobs on the back of the stove could be removed for easier cleaning.  Remove all knobs, clean the surface and the knobs, and then replace the knobs.  Use steel wool to make the soaking drip pans sparkle like new or purchase new ones if they’re too far gone.  Lastly, replace the drip pans.

Tuesday—Clean the dishwasher Start on the inside and empty any food from the trap.  Wipe down the inside walls and the inside of the door, giving special attention to the sides that tend to collect food as the dishes are loaded.  Protect your dishes from rusted racks.  Consider replacing the rack or purchasing small caps to put on the tips of the rack.  (BTW, white duct tape doesn’t work.)  We searched online and found a new rack for a reasonable price.  Lastly, finish by shining the outside of the door and all knobs.

If you don’t have a dishwasher and you ARE the dishwasher, take a bubble bath and clean the dishwasher.

Wednesday—Clean the sink and garbage disposal For a porcelain sink, use a non-abrasive stovetop cleaner or an abrasive cleaner with bleach for an older sink.  To clean a stainless steel sink, use aluminum cleaner or a non-abrasive cleaner.  Clean the garbage disposal with frozen lemon juice ice cubes or disposal a lemon cut into fourths.

Thursday—Clean the microwave and any appliances on your counters Fill a mug with water and bring to a boil—about 2 mins. on high.  This will loosen any baked on dirt.  Remove the glass bottom; wash and dry.  Using a dish detergent solution, wipe down the top, both sides and the bottom.  For grease, use a solution of vinegar, water and a little ammonia.  Replace the glass bottom.  Clean every outside panel of the microwave.

Clean the appliances on your counters such as toaster, toaster oven, coffee maker, food processor, bread machine etc.  Wash the components and then wipe down the outsides of the appliances.

Friday—Clean the refrigerator and freezer Prepare a bowl of warm water and a small amount of dish detergent.  (Most manufacturers recommend NOT using a stronger cleaner.)  Starting with the top shelf, take everything off the shelf and use a wash cloth to wash the shelf with the warm water mixture.  Replace the items that are still good and move to the next shelf down.  Continue the same process with each shelf, working your way down to the drawers.  Remove the drawers and wash them in the sink with dish detergent, and rinse well.  Clean the space under the drawers and then replace the drawers.

Next, clean the door.  Open the door and start with the seal on the top of the door, removing crumbs and dirt.  Remove everything from the top shelf and wipe down the door and shelf like you would a chalkboard.  Check expiration dates before you replace the items.  Use the same process for remaining shelves.

For the freezer, use a bowl of warm water and a small amount of dish detergent.  Take everything out of the freezer.  Remove the grate, if you can, and clean it with the dish detergent solution.  Wipe down the top of the freezer, each side, and the bottom, rinsing your dish cloth often.   Restock only those frozen foods that are still edible.

Next, clean the freezer door.  Start with the seal on the top of the door, removing crumbs and dirt.  Remove everything from the top shelf and wipe down the door and shelves like you would a chalkboard.

Finally, clean every panel of the outside of the frig, including the top.  For textured handles, use a nylon scrubber to remove dirt in the cracks.  Remove the grate/vent from the bottom; wash with dish detergent solution.  Replace the grate and smile at the shining piece of beauty.

Saturday—Clean the oven Clean your oven according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Be sure to remove the racks and clean them separately.

Sunday—Rest! Even God rested on the seventh day!

Week 4:  Clean Cabinets and Drawers Each day this week, clean 2 cabinets and 1 drawer (or clean them all in an afternoon and get it over with!).  Take everything out of the cabinets or drawers.  Clean the bottom of the cabinet, the shelves, and the inside of the door using your cleaner of choice.  Replace only the items that you need.  (See the checklist below to help you decide.)  Clean the outside door of the cabinet or drawer and the handle.

Helpful Hints: Group similar items in the same cabinet or drawer. Don’t be afraid to move contents of drawers or cabinets to a more convenient location. Consider moving dishes to lower cabinets so children can unload the dishwasher. Store Christmas and other holiday dishes in a high or hard to reach cabinet to make better use of the reachable cabinets. Eliminate any gadgets, dishes, pots or pans that you don’t use. Eliminate mismatched dishes. Match plastic storage containers—discard  orphan containers or lids Donate gently used dishes to a newlywed couple or your church kitchen.

Sweet Words from Abba Father

February is the month our culture has designated to celebrate love.  I am so glad that Jesus showers His love on us throughout all 12 months of the year.  He sends us love notes nearly every day, whether we recognize them or not.  He calls us to Himself and longs to spend time with us.  What more could we ask for! During the past two years, I’ve been on a journey with God.  I’ve learned so much, but I’m still learning about His unconditional love for me and for you.  I’m learning how to balance, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21 KJV)  and "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."  (John 15:15 NIV)   Ultimately, I want to be so close to my Lord that He would call me His friend.

Recently during one of my quiet times, I confessed to God I didn’t feel close to Him and asked Him what that meant.  These sweet words came from my Abba Father.  Though I was the receiver, I believe He would like me to share these words with all of His daughters.

Being in My presence goes beyond feeling.  Quiet yourself and focus on Me—on who I am, on My faithfulness, on My never-ending mercy.  Sit in My lap and be at peace.  Nothing else is required; nothing else is expected.

Lean back.  That posture is not one of warfare, but of intimacy.  It is easy to whisper in your ear what others cannot hear.  When you lean back, you can feel the warmth of My breath; you can hear the beat of My heart.

I didn’t say, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you STRENGTH.”  No, I said, " I will give you REST". (Matt. 11:28 NIV, emphasis mine)  Even in the midst of so much to do, I ask you to rest and trust in Me.

Why must you go at breakneck speed?  I didn’t set that example.  The spirit of the knowledge of good and evil enforces the need to earn your value and title of being exceptional.  You are exceptional!  I created you.  There is no one else just like you in all of creation.  I made you in my image.  You need not do anything more than breathe and smile.

It is my prayer that you’ll join me as I learn how to be a human being and not a human “doing”.  Make time to sit in the lap of the Creator of the universe who just happens to be the Lover of your soul.

2011 Organization Challenge

Are you ready for a challenge?  One of my goals for 2011 is to create a more organized life and home.  I’d love some company on this journey!   Join me as I organize my home, one room at a time, one project at a time.   I’ve heard it said:  How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  The only way to tackle the challenge of being more organized is to make small changes and take one bite at a time.  There is one suggested assignment for each week, allowing enough time to complete the plan and to encourage a new habit.  Of course, you can work at your own pace.  I’ll be using some printable forms from the site:  www.organizedhome.com, more specifically, the printable pages for a household notebook.  Those of you who border on obsessive/compulsive behavior will immediately want to print every form and read every article.  Not a bad idea, but when I’ve tried that approach in the past, I have become discouraged because I can’t do it all.  This year, I’m taking a new approach:  slow and steady wins the race.  If I can make one change each week  I can make a big change, and hopefully a permanent change, by the end of the year. You may want to include your son or daughter in this project.  Help them set up their own organizational system for activities and school work.  It will give them necessary organizational skills to run a home or a business in the future.

During this journey, I would love to hear your stories.  Post a comment to this article and let me know how you’re doing, what suggestions have worked for you, or ideas that you have for other readers.  So, if you’re ready, let’s go!

WEEK #1-Buy or Make Your Own Planner, Set Goals

Ok, so it does seem like two goals in one week but since it’s the beginning of the year, you’re probably more motivated and won’t have any problem finishing both projects.  Let's start by managing information.  I just can’t keep everything in my brain anymore, and gratefully I don’t have to!  Einstein said he never memorized anything he could look up.  I agree, so I write things down—on tiny scraps of paper that seem to disappear from my home.  This year, my goal is to write down phone numbers, addresses and important notes in a planner so they will be accessible when I need them.  If don't already own a planner, then purchase or make one.

What you will need:

Three-ring binder with pockets

Dividers  (Plain dividers are sufficient, but office supply stores carry heavy duty plastic dividers that have pockets.  The number of dividers depends on what you prefer.  You will need at least 8   dividers.  Also, you’ll need 11 more dividers if you would like one divider for each month.

Pack of Notebook Paper

Page Protectors, optional (a small pack should be plenty)

Cover (Design your own or print one from organized home.com)

A pencil (I write everything in pencil because you never know when you might need to make adjustments.  I particularly like the mechanical pencils because they always have a sharp point.)

Divider #1-“Goals”

Set Some Goals

Ask God what His goals are for your year ahead and write them down.  Sure, there are lots of things you could do, but what does God want you to do?  And yes, you have to write them down.  Somehow they’re more official that way and you’ll probably be more committed.  You may want to use the link from the December 2010 Newsletter to access  Remembrances and Revelations tool that can help you evaluate the past year and plan for the year ahead.  Listen to God carefully as you choose your larger goals.  No one knows better than I that if you choose too many goals for the stage of life you are in, you will feel discouraged when you aren’t able to accomplish them.

Establish smaller goals to achieve the larger goal.

Set smaller goals for each month or even each week.  For example, maybe your larger goal is to get into shape.  If you are currently NOT exercising at all, set a goal to exercise 2-3 days a week for a month or so and maybe increase it to four days for another couple months.  Keep adding days until you reach your goal.  For each larger goal you have already established, write numbered smaller steps below that will help you achieve that goal.  This is your game plan for the year.  Put it in a page protector in the goals section of your planner.

Stay focused on your goals.

In my life, there are always more opportunities and activities than I have time for.  When the girls were little, God gave us a system to make decisions about family activities.  Here is a very simplified version of some of the questions we asked: Is this something God wants us to do?  (That answer isn’t always easy.)  How much free time do we have available this week/month?  Do we already have a commitment? (Don’t abandon one commitment if you get a better offer!) Does this activity conflict with God’s word or any principle in it?  Is it good for the family or just one of the members?  Is this activity part of the calling for our family or one of our children?  Will this activity help us reach our goals?  Is this something we want to do?

Don’t give up.

Sometimes it seems like two steps forward and one step back.  But that’s still more steps forward!  Using that same goal of getting into shape, exercise today, even if you haven’t exercised in a few days or even a few weeks.  Don’t wait until Monday to start or to change your eating habits.  Start today.  Maybe you’re working hard and meeting your smaller goals but things are happening as fast as you’d like.  Don’t give up.  Ask and expert or experienced friend for advice and look for ways to make adjustments.  Above all, ask for help from God.  He hears and answers the cries of His children.

Week #2:  Make a daily schedule.

Divider #2 “Schedule”

A daily schedule is budget for time, a guide to help make the most of each minute of the day.  However, unexpected situations arise and require flexibility.  Use the schedule as a guide to help you, not as something to control your day.  You may want to put this page in a page protector or post it on the refrigerator.

While a yearly calendar includes special activities or events, a daily schedule should include activities that happen every day:  Wake time, devotions or quiet time, exercise, bath/shower time, school time divided by specific classes, daily chores weekly activities such as church activities, sports, music lessons and dance lessons--including travel time, nap time, family worship, bed time.  Don’t forget to include time to accomplish your 2011 goals.

There are several ways to make a schedule:

Weekly schedule by the hour or half-hour:  This schedule is best for families who have many activities scheduled on different days.

Daily schedule by the hour or half-hour:  For those who have days that look exactly the same, this schedule is for you.  For the past 10 years or so, I’ve used this type of schedule for our family.  Each girl had her own column reflecting her schedule fr that day.  I usually posted the schedule on the frig.  As the girls grew, I copied their schedule so each could post the schedule in their room.  The template has remained the same, but the schedule has been created and recreated, adjusted and readjusted based on our growing family and their changing needs.

Daily Schedule by blocks:  This schedule works best for those who prefer a little more flexibility.  Divide your day into one, two or three hour blocks such as early morning, late morning, lunch, early afternoon, late afternoon, dinner, etc.  Then fill the blocks with activities such as school, nap time, family time, lunch, chores, etc.  I don’t have a form for this one, but you could print the above form and use a highlighter or marker to draw around the boxes of time you want to make into a block.  If you make a template using a dark colored marker, you could photo copy your template for future use.

A schedule should not be set in stone; it is most effective when adjusted based on changing needs.  Don’t be afraid to add or take away activities or to adjust the time allotted to an activity.

Week #3:  Make a Monthly/Yearly Schedule

Divider #3-“Calendar” or dividers for each month

One of the most important tools to stay organized is a yearly calendar.  A calendar allows us to intentionally choose how to spend our time.  With a month-at-a-glance calendar I’m able to see what activities are already planned so that I don’t double-book.  I can also monitor how many nights of the week we ’re together as a family before I commit to dinner at a friend’s home.  Without a calendar, I’m sure I would be running from one thing to another without any time to think or reflect.

Buy or print a calendar.

The size of the calendar doesn’t matter, but the more events you have on a given day, the larger the block you’ll need.  I have kept a DayPlanner system for years, so I buy calendar refills each year.  If you don't have one, you can print a calendar for free.

Record all birthdays or anniversaries of family members and close friends.

There is a separate form for birthdays, but I find myself forgetful and I don’t look at the separate calendar.  I choose to transfer the birthdays each year.  I record the person’s name in all caps at the top of the date square just beside the number.

Here’s how to record the following items:

A morning event goes at the top of the square, an evening event at the bottom.  Be sure to include the time and address or other necessary notes.  For an event with lots of notes, write the notes in the side margin or back of the calendar.  Keep the invitation in the inside pocket of your notebook/planner.

Record any doctor, dentist, or orthodontist appointments.

I always schedule mine on Tuesdays around lunch time.  I know that the day is free since we have no other activities planned on that day

Record any family events, vacation, birthday parties, or other events.

At our house, nothing goes on the schedule until I confirm it with my husband.

Record any church events.

Again, nothing goes on the schedule until I confirm it with my husband.

Week #4:  Make a Weekly or Daily To-Do List, Add Blank Pages

Divider #4 “To Do”

There are several form options for your to-do list.  You may want a “master to-do list” and prioritize the entries with numbers or by the date they need to be accomplished.  You could even write immediate needs on the top and tasks to be completed later at the bottom.

You could also use the "Daily Planner" page.  The page is divided into four sections:  to do, to go, to call, to buy.  This is my favorite because I generally organize what I have to do by those categories.  I can make several calls at once or I might run errands on one afternoon.  Personally, I would use it as a weekly to-do list, since I try not to put more than 5 things on my list—outside of the normal requirements of cooking, cleaning, and homeschooling.

Lastly, you could try “Weekly Planner” pages that have various lines for each day.  There are two options:  a one-page spread with all seven days and no lines, and a two-page spread that divides half the week on each page with lines in each box.

If you haven’t used any of these systems, you may want to experiment to see which one works best for you.  Chances are, you’ll have to adjust one of them to make it perfectly meet your needs.

Divider #5-Notes

Add some notebook paper in this section.  Whenever you need to make a note of something from a phone conversation or plan a birthday celebration or remember directions somewhere, write the date in the left margin and write your notes beside it.  This is not a to-do list, but a place to keep information you will need to recall at a later date.  It will save hours of searching for the ripped corner of the bulletin that holds priceless information.

You’re well on your way to putting systems in place to order your world.  Next month we’ll tackle recipes, menu planning, grocery lists and the kitchen.

Wisdom for a New Year

This year I want to make a difference.  I want this year to count more than all the others that I’ve lived thus far.  I don’t want to leave a word unsaid, a deed undone.  Life is short.  Yes, it sounds cliché, but the statement is true nonetheless.   I realize more than ever before that every day is a gift and it is our choice what we do with it. My Auntie Eleanor put my thoughts into words.  Though she was confined to her home and sometimes even bedridden, she regularly sent friends and family words of encouragement.  Titled “Love More in ’94”, this poem was sent to a friend just months before she passed away.

Mend a quarrel

Seek out a forgotten friend

Write a love letter

Share some treasure

Give a soft answer

Encourage youth

Keep a promise

Find the time

Forgive an enemy

Listen

Apologize if you are wrong

Think first of someone else

Be kind and gentle

Laugh a little

Laugh a little more

Express your gratitude

Be honest in pain

Grieve without embarrassment

Gladden the heart of a child

Take pleasure in the beauty

And wonder of the earth

Speak your love

Speak it again

Speak it still once again

By:  Eleanor Ginder

Quick and Easy Christmas Brunch Recipes

I enjoy cooking but I don’t want to spend Christmas morning in the kitchen! Because we save these recipes for Christmas morning or overnight guests, everyone looks forward to this special meal. Not only are these recipes family favorites and Christmas standards for our celebration, but each recipe is simple, can be made in advance, and tastes yummy! Menu

Easy Oven Omelet

Overnight Coffee Cake

Quick Fruit Salad

White Grape Peach Juice (our juice of choice for family celebrations)

Easy Oven Omelet

Ingredients:

16 oz. shredded Cheddar cheese

3 T. all-purpose flour

4oz. can of chopped green chilies, drained

½ t. salt

16 oz. shredded Monterey Jack cheese

8 eggs

1 ¼ c. milk

8 oz. tomato sauce or salsa

Preparation:

THE NIGHT BEFORE:

Grease 9x13 baking dish.

Layer Cheddar cheese, chilies, and Monterey Jack cheese.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

IN THE MORNING:

Beat milk, flour, salt and eggs.

Pour over cheese mixture.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees until set in center and top is golden brown, about 40 mins.

(Note: If baking Overnight Coffeecake simultaneously, add 10-15 mins. baking time.)

Let stand 10 mins. before cutting.

Heat tomato sauce until hot; serve with omelet.

Serves 8-10.

Overnight Coffeecake

Ingredients for cake:

2/3 c. butter or margarine

1 c. granulated sugar

½ c. brown sugar, packed

2 eggs

1 t. baking powder

1 T. cinnamon

1/2 t. salt

2 c. flour

1 c. buttermilk

Ingredients for topping:

½ c. chopped nuts

3 T. flour

¾ c. brown sugar, packed

3 T. melted margarine

THE NIGHT BEFORE:

For cake, in large bowl, cream butter and sugars.

Add eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition.

Mix dry ingredients.

Add alternately with buttermilk to creamed mixture.

Pour ½ of batter in greased 9x13.

Mix all topping ingredients.

Sprinkle batter with ½ of topping.

Pour remaining batter. Top with remaining topping.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

IN THE MORNING:

In the morning, bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.

Serve warm.

To serve as a dessert, garnish with whipped cream.

Serves 12-15.

Fruit Salad

Previous fruit recipes I tried were limited by the types of fresh fruit available during the winter. The ingredients in this recipe are always readily available, even in the winter. I sometimes add strawberries or kiwi for color, if I can find them.

Ingredients:

1 large bunch of grapes, cut in halves

14 oz. can mandarin oranges, undrained

20 oz. can of pineapple chunks, undrained

2 bananas, sliced

Mini marshmallows, optional

THE NIGHT BEFORE:

In serving bowl, combine grapes, oranges, and pineapple. Cover and refrigerate.

IN THE MORNING:

Add bananas and mini marshmallows just before serving.

Serves 8-10.

Time to Soar

Twenty years ago this month I discovered I was carrying our first child.  Though seasoned parents repeatedly mentioned how quickly the years would pass, I still found it difficult to comprehend.  Now I completely understand.  It seems like just yesterday our Victoria was born and yet today she is preparing to graduate from the community college, searching for a job, and planning her next steps.  Our second daughter is not far behind, having begun her college education nearly three months ago.  It would be easy to let fear overwhelm me, but God has given me tremendous peace during these transitions.  He even spoke a special word during one of my quiet times. It is my hope that these words encourage those of you walking the same road of transition. “It’s time for her to grow and to soar.  You have kept her protected and nourished her well.  She has lived in a palace, knowing her place and her destiny.  Now it’s time for her to leave the safety of the palace.  This will open her eyes, grow her compassion and strengthen her faith.

Everyone is right when they say it will never be the same, but I say it will only be better.  She is a bird who was made to fly.  It would not be good if she were only allowed to sit in your nest and sing.  A captured bird becomes unhappy and unfulfilled.  As she fulfills her call, joy will overflow, both in her life and in yours.

There will be some who think birds should stay in cages.  They may not understand, but I created birds to fly.  As she flies from one location to another, she will bring songs, and life, and laughter to so many.

Some fear the birds will fly away never return, but I created many migratory birds to return to the same location, a safe place where they can spend the winter.  She will return to her safe place in my perfect time.”

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?                          Matthew 6:25-27

 

Homeschool Time Management

If you’re a homeschooling pro you probably have your own system for planning.  (A good system is anything that works well for you and your family.)  When I work with moms in my area, I find many who are homeschooling newbies who wonder how to make a schedule or others who label themselves as “organizationally challenged” who are looking for some ideas.  I’m not an expert, but over the past 14 years I’ve learned a lot about how to plan a homeschool schedule I can live with.  I don’t expect that the Moore family schedule will work perfectly for any other family, but I do hope that some of these ideas will help you better plan for the needs of your homeschool and your family.

PLANNING A CALENDAR FOR THE YEAR

Before I make a plan, I spend some time contemplating our current needs and our future needs.  After I’ve collected the information I can better put it onto a calendar and into a useable form.    When I am planning, I use 2 year-long calendar I’ve printed from the internet so I can see the whole year at a glance. (One calendar year from Sept. to Christmas and the next calendar year from Jan. to the end of school.)  When I’m recording the information and marking on the calendar, I find it easiest to plan using a block-style calendar so I have enough space to write.  Block-style calendar are available at discount dollar stores or you can print individual calendar pages from the internet.  Remember you’ll need a calendar page for every month of the school year which means 2 calendar years.  I make all my marks in pencil, since I often need to make adjustments or changes during the planning process.  Take a deep breath, grab a pencil and here we go…

Choosing Days Off

We seem to be able to focus best when we have regular breaks, short or long.  However, I find that I personally must have a regularly scheduled long break to do some deep cleaning and put the house back together.  (One week off every six weeks is ideal.)  We also take days off around holidays or when my children have scheduled breaks from activities such as piano lessons, dance or sports.  With that in mind, here are some questions to help you plan which days you plan not to do school.  As you make decisions about each area below, put an x over the date (on the block-style calendar) you’ve decided not to have school.

  1. Holidays—Which holidays will we take off?  How much time will I need for preparation (including cleaning, meal prep, laundry, shopping, etc.)  Our standard:  Labor Day, Wednesday before and Friday after Thanksgiving, 2 ½ to 3 weeks off at Christmas, New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Memorial Day
  2. Vacation—What time of the year is best for our family to take a vacation?  How much time will I need to prepare for the vacation (including shopping, laundry, packing, planning, etc.)  For years we vacationed during the first week of October—cooler weather, fewer tourists, and a more convenient time for our family and my husband’s work situation.  Since we started school in August, a vacation in October was a welcomed break.  Our standard:  One day off before we leave, one day off after we return (This is critical!  After many trips, I realize that I need a day to recover, unpack, and gear up for “normal” life.)
  3. Spring Break—Are my children involved in activities that are affected by the public school spring break schedule?  I found that when I scheduled a different week for our spring break and still had to take the children to activities, it didn’t feel like a break.  There is no right or wrong.  Choose whatever works best for your family.  Our standard:  Spring break based on activity schedules or children enrolled at the community college
  4. Field Trips—Field trip days count as school days in our school.  They aren’t days off, but they are certainly days that are a welcomed break in our normal routine.  I look at the curriculum and try to find activities that coordinate with what we’re learning, but our excursions don’t always line up with our curriculum.  A trip to Williamsburg or the science museum is always educational, no matter what we’re studying.  I generally schedule field trips between our longer breaks.  Our standard:  Between 5 and 10 field trip days a year
  5. Other breaks—When am I or my children less motivated to do school?  I find that January is almost always a tough school month for us—we’ve just had a long break, we’re inside, we’re halfway through school, but still can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I increased our productivity by adding a winter break week or long weekend around President’s Day.  It gives us something to look forward to when we’re in the January doldrums.  You may also want to take days off when family comes to visit or if you have a special event for your family.  Our standard:  Winter break the week of President’s Day, spring break usually the week before or after Easter

Planning the First Semester and Determining the First Day of School

I begin with the end in mind.  Here’s my plan.  It may seem a little confusing, but stay with me.

  1. If you haven’t already, put an x on all the days you are not doing school, including the day you want to begin Christmas break.
  2. Determine how many weeks of school you want to finish before Christmas.
  3. Begin with the last day before Christmas break and count backwards, labeling each day you plan have school (ex. 5,4,3,2,1 Week 16; 5,4,3,2,1 Week 15, etc.) until you arrive at Week 1.  The first block of the school week will be labeled with both the week number and the day number.  Week 1 Day 1 is your first day of school.

Planning the Second Semester

Christmas is a real high point in our family so January seems like a bit of a downer, especially since we have to get back to school after a nice long break.  I find that my children are motivated to work when they know there’s a vacation day in the near future.  We finally found a rhythm that works best for our second semester—6 weeks on, one week off, 6 weeks on, one week off, 6 weeks on.  School’s finished!  Sometimes we have to flex a little based on Easter or spring break, but overall this plan works best.

  1. Determine the first day you’ll do school after Christmas break.  Label that day “Week (whatever you stopped at before break.) Day 1.
  2. Label each day you plan to have school with one number in each block (ex. Week __ 1,2,3,4,5; Week__ 1,2,3,4,5; etc.) until you have completed the number of weeks in your school year.  The last day you label is your last day of school.  We usually have 34 weeks of book work and 2 weeks (10 school days) of field trips.  I schedule 34 weeks of school and record the dates of the field trips to equal 36 weeks or 180 instructional days.

Schedule At-A-Glance

Now that my schedule is planned, I take all the information and transfer it into a form that shows me the plan at-a-glance.  Here is a sample of our school calendar.

PLANNING A DAILY SCHEDULE

When homeschooling several children who can read, it is helpful to have a list or schedule to follow and to record what work has been completed.  June is traditionally my planning month when I make weekly sheets with daily assignment grids for each child.  Sounds like a lot of work?  Not really when you consider that once my school year starts, it is turn-key since both they and I are aware of the daily expectations, my students stay on task much better, and I can reuse the schedule with the younger girls.

Daily Schedule for Elementary

Since I am a list person, I naturally love the grid system of planning and scheduling assignments.  When the girls were old enough to work independently, I made each of them an assignment book—a 3-prong folder with weekly grid pages that detailed their assignments.  Sometimes grids are left empty the student isn't able to do the assignment alone.  When each assignment is completed, the block is checked off, providing an easy way to keep track of completed work.   Here is a sample elementary school schedule.

Daily Schedule for Middle and High School

I continued the grid system for my oldest, but then realized that my second daughter was working at a different pace in some subjects.  With some changes and adjustments, I created a syllabus for each subject that included expectations and a grid of daily assignments and assignment due dates.  This way I can mix and match subject levels based on the student’s ability.  Here is a sample of a schedule for an upper level class.

Making Adjustments

When our oldest entered the community college as a dually-enrolled junior *(earning high school and college credit simultaneously), our schedule drastically changed.  Up until that point, my schedule was my own to plan and control.  About four weeks into the first semester I was planning our regular October vacation.  Victoria innocently looked at me and said, “I have class.  I guess I won’t be able to come with you.”  Needless to say, we rescheduled the vacation and I adjusted my schedule to mirror her breaks so that we could be together as a family.  I have no control over the college schedule, but I still have the flexibility to make a schedule that maximizes our family time.

The goal of any daily or yearly schedule is to make the best plan that best suits the needs of your family.  Over the years, that plan will change (after all, how many high school students still have nap time?!).  Our job as parents is to make adjustments and adaptations in the midst of a dynamic situation.

Maybe this is more organization that your world can handle.  That’s ok.  You don’t need to do it our way.  This is only one way to have a plan and keep your students accountable.  The truth is there are many days I could talk us all out of doing any school!  With a schedule, we are much more productive and I know that we’re staying on track and that we won’t be doing school in July.  May God bless you and direct you as you make a schedule for your family.

*Please note that I am not encouraging that every high school student be enrolled at the community college.  Each family must make decisions based on God’s plan for their family and its members.

Back-to-School Memories

Planning for school is quite a task—choosing curriculum, ordering books, purchasing supplies.  It takes a lot of time and thought.  My mother never homeschooled her five children, but her job to prepare us for school was just as challenging.  She had an incredibly organized system to accomplish that goal, but the process never took precedence over making each of us children feel special.
 
A TRADITION IS BORN

In early August we took inventory of our clothing.  Mom sat on the edge of my bed with notepad in hand, recording my needs with the most beautiful cursive writing.  Ours was an extremely frugal family and often my list was short since I had an older sister whose hand-me-downs supplied most of my wardrobe.  My sister was much taller than I and the clothes never fit perfectly, but Mom altered them often by ripping out the seams and remaking the garment using the worn material.  There was one exception and that was the outfit for the first day of school.  Mom always made sure that we had something new to wear.

Our first stop was the upstairs sewing room where we’d pour over boxes of patterns and stacks of fabric my mother had bought inexpensively at a local warehouse.  I’d choose a pattern and fabric for my new shirt, skirt, gauchos, or pants.  If the fabric inventory was low or mom didn’t have a pattern in my size, we went to the fabric store, sat side-by-side paging through pattern books, and searched the remnant table for the perfect piece of fabric.

A few weeks later, with list in hand, Mom and I went school shopping for the things she could not sew.  This was a highlight of my year!  With four siblings, I recognized the treasure of having Mom all to myself for a few hours.  We generally started at Kmart (before the Wal-Mart years) and purchased the “foundational garments” mom couldn’t make.  Sometimes we bought shoes but our family most often went to a friend’s store to purchase everyone’s shoes at the same time.  We bought new notebooks, folders, notebook paper, a new box of 64 Crayola crayons complete with sharpener (I still love the smell of those crayons!), and whatever else we needed that year—a lock for a locker, an assignment book, or a book bag (pre-backpack years).  When every item on the list had been crossed off, Mom let us pick out something special that we wanted.  Once I chose a set of watercolors.  Another time we got a treat from the Kmart food counter—cherry red Icees with pictures of polar bears on the cup.  When I came home with my bags of treasures, I presented them to my siblings and later to my dad when he got home from work.

Our shopping days changed a bit over the years.  When I was in eighth grade, we went to the outlets in Redding, PA.  The following year when I was in high school, there were only three children at home and money wasn’t quite as tight.  We began to buy jeans and a few other things at the mall, but Mom still sewed whatever she could.  I’m sure it wasn’t easy, but she managed to make stylish clothes by combining several patterns for one garment or allowing us to help design our own pattern.  On our last school shopping trip, for college, she helped me find a rug remnant and coordinating comforters for my dorm room.  I remember little of the items we purchased over the years, but I still feel the warmth of uninterrupted time with Mom.

EMBRACING THE TRADITION

Now I am making precious back-to-school memories with our four daughters.  The first year I began to homeschool, I had a five-year-old, a two-year-old, and a six-week-old.  I wasn’t really thinking about shopping.  I was just glad to have my curriculum!  School days were short and we had many opportunities to shop for new clothes or school supplies we needed.  As the girls got older, I recognized the need to spend one-on-one time with them and my heart remembered those special shopping days with Mom.

We adopted the tradition of back-to-school shopping days, but with a Moore family twist.  We still take inventory of clothing, pass along the hand-me-downs (a rare thing since all the girls are now nearly the same size!) and I make a list of what each one needs.  We also take inventory of what school supplies each daughter has and will need in the coming school year.  I schedule a day for each daughter and together we “conquer the list.”  There is no sewing room or fabric or patterns.  I high-tail it to Wal-Mart!  We collect our school supplies first, and then we pick up any “foundational garments” and hit the sales racks.  Depending on what’s on the list, we may end up at our favorite thrift shop.  In our area of Virginia, it’s not always easy to find winter clothes in August, so we often finish our shopping later in the season.

Like my mom, I let the girls choose something they’d like—something that isn’t a necessity.  Over the years, Abigail chose a bendable pink ruler, Anna chose a collapsible ruler, Elisabeth chose a paint-by-number picture of a horse, and Victoria chose a beautifully decorated journal notebook.  If it fits in the budget, we may get some ice cream or even have lunch at a fast food restaurant.  Most of all I make opportunity laugh and to listen.  I don’t want it to be a totally serious time, but if it seems appropriate I’ll ask what they liked or disliked about the school year before, what they’re looking forward to, and what they’re thinking about for the future.  And like days gone by, when we return home one sister joyfully shares her newly-purchased treasures with the other sisters.

This year I thought we’d try something different.  Since time was limited because of our Guatemala missions trip, I thought we’d do a joint shopping day at an outlet center sometime in the fall.  It seemed like a good idea at the time since two are at the community college and didn’t really need much in the way of supplies or clothing.  But here I am, three weeks into school, feeling the loss of those special moments with my girls.  I don’t miss the shopping, but it’s not really about shopping.  I miss the one-on-one time with my daughters, one way I can communicate to them how precious and valuable they are to me.  It doesn't matter that we’ve already started school.  I’ll squeeze in some time with my girls between Chemistry and Algebra 2, and thank my mom for taking time to make back-to-school memories with me.

Our Guatemala Missions Trip Update

The memories of eight years ago are still clear to me today.  While visiting my husband’s parents, their church hosted a joint Sunday morning service with a Hispanic congregation.  My 8-year-old Elisabeth fell in love with a little Spanish girl and together they shared their native languages with each other, pointing to objects and repeating words for the other to learn.  That experience made quite an impact in Elisabeth’s life.  Several years later, we talked about what God might have for her future before He sends her future husband.  (From that conversation, the book Becoming a Daughter of Destiny, was born.)  After a time of prayer she said that she wanted to work with Hispanic children and maybe even start her own orphanage. Over the years, Elisabeth’s love for the Hispanic people grew.  She studied Spanish, listened to Spanish Christian radio via the internet, and dreamed of the day she could travel to South or Central America.  Last year she heard about a team who was going to Guatemala to teach orphans about worship.  She was interested, but it was too late to join since the team was leaving in only two weeks.  She prayed that another team would go the following year and put her name on the waiting list.  Throughout the year, Harold and I prayed and sensed that this trip was God’s plan for Elisabeth.  In early April Elisabeth and I were accepted to be part of a return trip scheduled for July, 2010.

Before we left for Guatemala, God put in my heart to print a Spanish translation of Lady Day that could be used in orphanages.  God provided a friend to translate the book and the finances to print a colorful cover designed especially for the girls of Guatemala.  We brought 100 copies and prayed for God to open doors.

Our ten days were packed with ministry to orphaned, abused or under-privileged children and to orphanage directors, house parents, and Guatemalan believers.  We held a Worship Festival at three different orphanages.  The first day the team played with the kids (ages 4-18) for a few hours to build relationships.  We brought balls, bubbles, jump ropes, kites, and balloon animals, and a giant parachute.  We had a time of singing songs in Spanish and English like, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.” And “I am Free to Run.”  We also shared a meal with them.  The next day or several days later, we returned to teach them about worship.  We began with a time of singing.  Then we broke up into small groups and rotated

through several “stations” about how to worship God through music, dance/movement, crafts and soaking. In music, we taught the kids a little about reading music and matching pitches.  Elisabeth and her friend Kara were in charge of the dance/movement.  They taught the kids how you can worship with dance and planned movements (a lot of jumping!) to the Spanish version of “You Have Turned My Mourning into Dancing.”

I was in charge of crafts.  Through a translator, I talked about how God gives us artistic abilities and how we can use our gifts to worship Him.  Then the kids made a musical “tooter” with wide craft sticks and a prayer journal with blank pages to keep a record of what God says to them.  Sometimes they used their journals in “soaking,” a time of being quiet and still before God and soaking in His presence.  Before we left, we gathered the children back together and presented a mime about how God the Father loves us and gives us gifts,  but Satan tries to steal them and keep us from the Father.  We concluded with a call to salvation and a time of individual ministry, including a time of praying for physical healing.

During our stay in Guatemala, we visited four orphanages where I was able to present Siendo Una Senorita, our Spanish translation of Lady Day. One worker remarked how beautiful the books were and that it was a great translation.  She was thrilled.  A director at another orphanage commented that just that morning she had had a discussion with the girls of the orphanage and realized she needed a tool to teach them about such things.  She cried at the thought that God had cared enough to provide for the girls.  Another director said that just yesterday the leaders of the orphanage had discussed how important it was to have discussions about growing up and how they were going to approach the subject.  In each case, God had prepared the way.  I feel privileged to be part of God’s plan for the girls of Guatemala.  Praise God for His faithfulness to His beloved daughters!

While we were there, God opened up other opportunities that weren’t on our original schedule.  One day we drove nearly two hours to a small village near the volcano that had erupted in May.  About 100 underprivileged children from the area came to a small community center where we sang songs and played games.  After about half and hour, our team leader asked Elisabeth to tell the children a story that would make them ask Jesus into their hearts.  Through an interpreter, she told the story of the Prodigal Son.  Nearly all of the children raised their hand to accept Christ and Elisabeth led them in the sinner’s prayer.  I was so proud of her.  It was a sweet moment for a mother’s heart.

Another day, we spent about an hour at an orphanage with HIV positive children.  In that short amount of time, we sang with the children, told them how much the Father loved them using the story of the Prodigal Son.  Many prayed to accept Jesus.  As we gave the girls balloon crowns and the boys balloon swords, we spoke words of blessing over the children (Ex.  You are a warrior of peace.  You are a princess of faith.).  We were encouraged to hear testimonies of how God had healed three of the HIV-positive children and we prayed for more children to be healed.   Still another day we went to the Red Zone, a dangerous area of the city for natives and foreigners.  With a guide, we were given entry to a gang-infested neighborhood where we gathered in a small courtyard surrounded by corrugated metal walls.  Again we sang songs, presented a mime drama about the Father’s love, and crowned them as princes as princesses—this time with paper crowns donated by the Burger King where we had eaten breakfast.

While the majority of our time was spent with children, God also gave us opportunities to pray with people from all walks of life:  a family of Guatemalan believers who are involved in government, another family of Guatemalan believers whom God has prospered through business, and several American couples who serve as directors at the Christian orphanages we visited.  On the Sunday we were there, we attended a Guatemalan church where our team led worship and our team leader preached.  Many responded and came forward to receive prayer.  Several were healed.

A few of my favorite moments, in no particular order:

Seeing Elisabeth’s reaction to how God answered her prayers for a balcony at our hotel

Worshipping as a team at our hotel--the presence of God was so sweet

Listening to Elisabeth use her Spanish with the children

Watching Elisabeth ask the children if they want to accept Jesus and watching all the little hands go up

Praying for a young woman, knowing that God was calling her and changing her destiny in that moment

Presenting the Siendo Una Senorita books to the orphanage worker/directors

It was a privilege to travel with my daughter to Guatemala to love the people and serve my Father.  Neither of us will be the same--and I don’t believe that Guatemala will be the same, either!  Elisabeth is continuing her Spanish studies with renewed vigor and is praying about her next steps.  Spanish is definitely part of the equation.  In Guatemala, there are many children who now know of a Heavenly Father who loves them and who has given them gifts.  They have a new perspective of who God is and of their value as sons and daughters of the Most High God.  These children will become spouses, parents, businessmen, lawyers, inventors, government leaders, pastors, or worshipers who will shape the heart and soul of Guatemala…for the praise of His glorious grace.  All praise to our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

A Commitment to Purity

Over the past several years, the concept of purity rings has grown increasingly popular in the Christian community.  While the article is about jewelry for daughters, I believe that it is equally important for sons to have a symbol of their commitment to purity.  So much emphasis is placed on the ring, but it is a only a symbol of a more important commitment made. The Commitment Harold and I made individual commitments to purity before we met, but they were commitments from our hearts and not with written or spoken words.  Our desire was to be more intentional with our daughters, calling them to a commitment of purity in body, mind, and spirit—not just before marriage but for all of their days on this earth.  We chose to discuss this topic during what we call “Purity Weekend”—a mother/daughter overnight get-a-way when we first discussed intimacy in marriage as well as courtship and the biblical standard of purity.  (The Gift of Purity includes a schedule as well as all information necessary to conduct a purity weekend for your daughter.)  At the conclusion of our weekend together, Harold surprised our daughter and joined us for dinner.  After dinner, we returned back to the hotel where we were staying and Harold talked with them, recounting our weekend discussions about the biblical command for purity, calling them to a point of verbal response.  He then presented his princess with a lovely purity ring, symbolizing her commitment to purity.  He explained what the ring meant and placed it on her finger.  It was a significant and emotional moment for all of us.

Purity Rings vs. Promise Rings Lately I’ve heard the words “purity ring” and “promise ring” used interchangeably.  I understand that a promise ring could reflect a commitment to keep one’s promise to remain pure until marriage; however a pre-engagement ring symbolizing a commitment to a future together is also called a promise ring.  In order to most clearly communicate, we have chosen to use the term “purity ring” to describe the ring our girls wear on the ring finger of their left hand as a symbol of their commitment to purity in body, mind, and spirit both before and after they are married.

Our Choices At the writing of this article, our oldest three daughters wear purity rings given to them by their father at the conclusion of their individual purity weekend.  (The youngest is anxiously awaiting her purity weekend.)  Each ring is unique and suits the wearer perfectly, though none of the rings was labeled as a “purity ring.”  We purchased all three rings on sale from local jewelers.  Our oldest daughter wears a gold ring with a red stone in a heart-like shape; the second daughter has a gold heart and white gold heart intertwined; the third daughter treasures her white gold band with three tiny stones. When we were purchasing rings, we took into account the following requirements:  We looked for a simple, yet beautiful design that was symbolic and meaningful.  Not knowing when she will marry, we wanted a ring she would be proud to wear even as a grown woman.  We wanted the ring to be long-lasting and reflect both her value and the value of her purity.  While some parents may be concerned about giving a young person something so valuable, I’ve found that their ring is so precious to them that they care for it and guard it carefully.

Your Choices Since purity rings have become much more acceptable in our culture, you can find purity rings for sale at several local and chain jewelry stores as well as numerous online outlets.  Two popular styles available to order online are The Gift Wrapped Heart Purity Ring and The Unblossomed Rose Purity Ring.  (I’m not providing a link since these are available from many online retailers.)  I’ve also found reasonably priced quality rings at www.overstock.com and www.amazon.com. If you think your daughter would rather not wear a ring, you may want to consider a “purity necklace.”    There are several choices available through Pumpkin Seed Press, here.

Make a Choice There is no right or wrong when it comes to purity rings or purity jewelry.  There is no perfect symbol—only the perfect symbol for your daughter.  Your daughter is a unique individual designed by the Master Creator.  As you make your choice, think about who she is, her interests, what she values, her favorite color, and all the other characteristics that make her so special.  Ask God to help you choose something you think she’ll love, but remember the ring is only a symbol of a personal commitment to purity.  May God lead you as you bless your children and lead them to walk in purity all the days of their lives.

Be Intentional

Some may call me crazy, but I thrive on organization and planning.  I used some sort of “day planner” since I was a young girl.  In middle school my homework planner had Snoopy on the front, in high school it was a notebook of sorts, and in college a calendar held the due dates of my assignments.  After I graduated from college, I needed only a calendar and a wedding planner since most of my free time was spent with my husband-to-be.  I worked as a teacher after our marriage and found that my lesson plan book suited my need for organization.  But when the children came… Victoria arrived the day after the last the day of school.  No transition time between teacher and mother.  I was blessed to be able to stay home with her, but our days were like the wind—wherever, whenever, and if.  I found myself turning on the TV for news in the morning and leaving it on for hours in my day while I went about my business.  I dreaded meal time because I generally had no idea what we would be eating.  I was sporadic about cleaning, using the “if there’s a ring in the toilet, then it must need to be cleaned” philosophy.  I did laundry when someone was about to run out of something.  There was no order in my home.

Proverbs 29:18  Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

At a trip to the local Christian bookstore, I discovered a Christian woman’s planner—not for the business minded, but for homemakers.  (I am sad to say that this particular planner is out of print, but you can make your own planner with printable pages at www.organizedhome.com.)  The book literally saved my life.  It helped me to make a reasonable list each day (when the block was filled, I couldn’t add another thing!) and to plan my meals and a coordinating grocery list.  The best part was a section on the side with a list of priorities and space to record how I would bless my family that week.  As I began to use this tool, I found more time than I knew I had!  (I still maintain that I get more done with four children than I ever did with only one!)  I found I could focus on what needed to be done today, knowing that I could wait until tomorrow or next week to do other things.  Meal time was a joy since I wasn’t frantically trying to come up with a recipe to suit my meager stash of ingredients.  I discovered I actually liked to cook!  Our home became much more peaceful and I personally was more at peace, as well.

Proverbs 14:15 A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.

Years later, I still have a planner on my kitchen counter.  It has my list of to-do’s, my meals for the coming week, a list of books I’ve loaned out, and a running list of Christmas gifts I think of throughout the year.  I find that having this system of organization helps me have a plan.  I become intentional.  Since I know what we’re eating, I know what groceries to buy.  Therefore, I’m not wandering in the store searching for what looks good.  I save time and money.  I also group my errands together on the same day and by location, saving time and gas money.  I set goals and accomplish them—well, most of them.  Making a plan gives me a sense of purpose, keeps me focused and helps me accomplish the things I value.

Proverbs 16:9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

My intent is not to sell you on the usefulness of using a daily planner, but I find that this same principle of intentionality works with raising children.  As parents, it is our responsibility to seek God for His plans for our young children and later to partner with our young adult children to discover God’s will.  (Isn’t that taking control of your life?  No, God is always in control and may override our plans and readjust our goals at any time He chooses.)  If my husband and I have no goals for our daughters and they have no goals for themselves, it is easy to aimlessly wander and fill up time with activities of little value.  But if we set clear goals for our daughters’ spiritual lives and for their character, we can make wise decisions about how to use our time, money, and energies (and which homeschool curriculum to use!) to meet those goals.

Action Steps I’m probably preaching to the choir, but it is my heart’s desire that parents seek God and hear His goals and His heart for their family and for each of their children.  Here are some suggestions for a process of establishing goals.  If you are married, whether your spouse is a believer or not, please work together in this process.  You each bring a different perspective and it will help you understand each other better. (Since marriage is the foundation of family relationships, you may want to use this process for your marriage first.)  Pray for God’s wisdom as you set goals for your family.

  • Ask God for His vision for your family (Ex.  This is what God wants our family to look like.)  Write your family’s vision statement.
  • Record what needs to happen in order to meet those goals.
  • Make a list of the personal character traits that you desire your children to have.  (The list may be the different for each child or the same for all of them.)
  • Of the listed character traits, choose one or two to focus on each month.  It doesn’t have to be formal (with a curriculum), just intentional (reminders, scriptures, prayer, and heart-to-heart talks).
  • For each child, write down future goals for them based on their gifts and calling.
  • Evaluate all of your family activities in light of the goals for your family and children.  Are your extra activities helping you achieve those goals?  If not, you may need to make some changes.  Which activities need to go?  What activities can you add to support your goals?
  • With children’s goals in mind, what activities would encourage their gifts and callings?

This is certainly not a comprehensive list of steps in your planning process, but I hope it will inspire you as you begin or refine the process of being intentional as you raise sons and daughters who will know Him and make Him known.

Under Construction: Our New Online Store

Some of you may have noticed that our online store is temporarily under construction while we make some adjustments.  When our new store opens, you’ll find some changes.  After much prayer, Harold and I believe that God is leading us to make some adjustments to our ministry. First, we are discontinuing all products that aren’t exclusive to Daughters 4 God.  We will continue to carry our self-published titles such as Lady Day, The Gift of Purity, the audio products, and our sterling silver jewelry.  It is impossible for us to offer the other products at prices to compete with Amazon or CBD.  At this point, I’m planning to review new products for raising daughters, but we will not be offering them for sale.  Fewer products mean less time managing inventory and more time for writing and for ministry at our local church.

Second, we anticipate that our new store will have audio and pdf downloads priced less than a hard-copy product.  Some of you have asked for a “Cleaning Game” download so you don’t have to pay shipping.  We think that’s a great idea and we’re working to make that a reality.  We’re also hoping to add more audio teachings as well as some other books that are in development.

Third, we will not be traveling to homeschool conventions as we have in the past.  (We still haven’t decided about MACHE for 2011…)  It has become more difficult for us to travel together.  Harold took on a new role as Associate Pastor last October which means he can miss fewer Sundays, and the oldest two will be in college in the fall but still living at home.  Yes, we could leave Harold and our two college students behind, but that’s not what the Moore family does.  We’re a team and we minister together.

We believe that this is God’s plan for this season.  We will still look for opportunities to share our heart and our experiences, but just a little closer to home.  That’s a tough one, since we’ve made so many friends over the years.  Thank you for all of your encouragement and support.

Ruth Bell Graham once saw a sign along the road and asked that it be epitaph.  Her tombstone reads:  “End of Construction.  Thank you for your patience.”  I suppose I feel the same way, like I’m always under construction.  There’s another flaw, another weakness, another insecurity that my Creator lovingly reveals to me.  But I’m so grateful that He also shows me His complete sufficiency for every area of my lack.  "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)  “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  (Phil. 1:6)  His construction process is not always easy or pleasant, but always necessary and beneficial.   Our construction, both personally and for D4G, continues but thank you for your patience.

The Deadly Trap of Comparison

I have lived a life of comparison.  From a young age I measured myself by the others around me.  My older sister always had cooler clothes and pristine toys.  My younger sister was quieter and didn’t get in trouble for talking too much like I did.  In high school I compared myself to my friends:  Sheri got better grades, Heather was more beautiful and popular, Lori was more athletic, and Rhonda had a better singing voice, and nearly everyone else was taller than I was.  When I entered college as a music major, the culture of auditions and recitals only added fuel to the already burning fire of comparison.  After graduation, I married Harold and we started a family.  In my desperation to be the best wife and mom I could be, I compared my efforts to those of my friends.  And then came homeschooling!  No matter whom I compared myself to, I always came up lacking. God has certainly done a great work in my heart, but the recovering perfectionist in me still fights to stay out of the deadly trap of comparison.  I know that I’m a daughter of the Most High God and that He takes delight in me, but I sometimes I fall prey to the enemy’s scheme of using others around me as the standard to measure my life.  I don’t think I’m alone in that.  I’m taking a chance and being pretty transparent, but here is a recent entry from my journal about God’s perspective of comparison:

Comparing is a form of dishonor--one is the loser and the other is the winner.  People compare because they feel a sense of lack.  They make excuses or justifications why someone has more than they do.  They define themselves by comparing themselves with others.  When you compare yourself with others, you are saying only one is good or valuable and that everyone should fit in the mould.  That’s not my way.  Look at the world I created.  There is great diversity, even in one species.  Is a maple tree more important than a pecan tree?  Is a tree more important than a flower?  I have created them all for a special purpose.  I am a unique God and I have created unique creations for unique purposes.

My limited study of art has taught me that the more rare a work of art, the more valuable.  Leonardo DaVinci’s one-of-a-kind painting of the Mona Lisa is a thousand times more valuable than a mass-produced painting from Walmart.  I’m not an art historian, but I do know that one element of the Mona Lisa that gives it value is its unique perspective for the time it was created.  It was unlike any other.

You are a unique work of art, fashioned by the Creator of the universe.  There is no one quite like you.  No one brings Him pleasure the way you do.  There are things that God purposed for you and only you to accomplish.  If you ask, He will give you wisdom to be the best wife to your husband and the best mom for your children.  Don’t let the deadly trap of comparison hold you captive.  Follow the leading of your Savior and walk confidently with your head held high.

“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves.  When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.  (2 Cor. 10:12)

Looking Into His Face

You may think it funny, but I still read aloud to our girls.  They’ve all been able to read on their own for quite some time but they all still enjoy listening to a good story.  This past month we’ve been reading Mary Jones and Her Bible by Mary E. Roper, a true story of a girl who saves money for seven years so she can purchase a Bible in her own language. In one section, Mary’s father comes home with some good news for Mary.  “Mary, whose observant eye was sure to note the slightest change in her father’s face and manner, sprang up and stood before him, regarding his bright face searchingly.”  This sentence caught my attention and made me think.  Am I so observant of my Heavenly Father?  Do I spend enough time in His presence, gazing at His face that I would notice the slightest change of expression?  Am I so in tune with my Lord that I would see even a tiny hint of disappointment when I choose to go my own way? I want to know my Father so well, that I recognize even the slightest change of His face.

Mary knew her father’s face because she spent nearly every waking moment in the same room with him, opening her heart to him.  Knowing our Heavenly Father takes comes in much the same way-- spending time in His presence and pouring out our hearts to the Father who loves us.  My heart longs to know my Father in a deeper way.  I want to know His face as I know my own.  I agree with the words of Paul:  “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil. 3:10)

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.

Satisfied

I like to know what’s going on in our world, but my information doesn’t come from our local paper.  There were too many photographs depicting blatant sin posted on the front page.  I realize that this is news, but I don’t appreciate the images being recorded in the minds of my family. Recently, I was online checking news and ran across an article about the death of Eunice Shriver.  I knew her name well as the founder of the Special Olympics and an advocate for those with disabilities.  (I worked with hearing-impaired children before my daughters were born and among my colleagues she was an example of how to affect change.)  The article told about how Eunice Shriver had founded the Special Olympics and opened the eyes of the public to the needs of the mentally disabled by openly disclosing the needs of her own mentally retarded sister.  She received many honors including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the French Legion of Honor, the Lasker Award for public service, and the Theodore Roosevelt Award of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.  Some have said that she should’ve been president.

Deep into the third page near to the end of the article, it mentioned that she was the mother of four sons and a daughters, saying that she “thoroughly believed ‘in motherhood as the nourishment of life,’ once writing that ‘it is the most wonderful, satisfying thing we can do.’”  It is a rare thing in our culture for an accomplished woman, by the world’s standards, to recognize the value of motherhood.

Motherhood has always held a place of high esteem in my world.  The example of my own mother gave me a strong desire to follow in her footsteps.  It was only when I found myself a high school graduate without a sweetheart that I began searching for an alternative career path.  I chose to study music education, hoping to use it with the hearing-impaired community.

When I was first married, I was hired to teach music at the only elementary school in the city that had hearing-impaired children.  I began to write my own curriculum and work with others across the US who were writing the first nationally-recognized music curriculum for hearing-impaired.  My job made for great conversation at my husband’s business functions.  Then I had Victoria and quit my job.  When someone asked what I did, they backed away so fast you would’ve thought I said, “I’m a carrier of the plague.”  It was the first of many times that someone would communicate that motherhood was not valuable and that because I was a mother, I was not valuable.  A discontent set in.

I have to admit that there have been moments when I didn’t feel satisfied in my “mommy world.”  I wondered how it would feel to do something important—not instead of, but in addition to being a mom.  I now recognize that those thoughts come from one who has taken her eyes off of her Savior and His plan, one who is trying to earn her value.  God has been faithful to teach me that my value is in who He says I am, not in what I do, what I look like, how my house looks, how my children behave, or how much they know.  When I keep my eyes and heart focused on the Lover of My Soul, I recognize that my value is in being His—His creation, His friend, His servant, and His choice to be the wife of my husband and the mother of our precious children.  That is a satisfying place to be.

You can read the full article reporting the death of Eunice Shriver here.  (NOTE:  I do not support nor recommend this publication as a source of information.  I am merely providing the source of my quoted material.)