Beautiful Day

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Busy Homeschool Mom's Guide to Romance

At our state home education conference last weekend, I listened to Heidi St. John speak.  I have heard her recommended several times.  It appeared that I was as enthusiastic as just about every other woman at the conference to hear her speak particularly on, "The Busy Mom's Guide to Daylight, or How to Fit your Size 16 Day into a Size 10."  The room was jam-packed.  Must say something about how busy we are?  But that's another topic.  Sort of.  It's really rather related.

So I was visiting her booth at the conference before her workshop.  That is a strategy of mine.  Because you know a speaker's booth will be packed after said workshop.  I picked up this book, The Busy Homeschool Mom's Guide to Romance.

I bought both of her books, actually.  They looked easy to read, practical and even fun.  I think that's a perfect blend for a "busy homeschool mom."  I brought them home and I read this one in the course of two afternoons.  I really liked that easy-to-read part.  Does that mean everything she wrote was "easy?"  Easy topics, easy solutions, easy-to-do?  Definitely not!  Not without the Spirit of God at work in our hearts, anyway. 

I really like Heidi St. John's style of communicating.  Probably because it isn't just like mine, but I completely "get it."  I have a tendency to be quite serious and I rather need people to encourage me to look at things less intensely.  Heidi St. John touts her style as "being real."  And I think that's exactly right.  I very much relate!  I read this book and I laughed, I cried, I learned, and I probably said "Amen" a few times. 

Being that she is my age and has been married close to the same amount of time, she carries a good deal of credibility to me.  I'm going to go out on a bit of a limb here and suggest that one will MOST identify with this book and relate to its message if you have been homeschooling close to 10 years and have been married close to 15 years.  That does not mean you cannot or should not read it or learn from it now.  I really wish I had learned some things written here MUCH earlier!  But I am beginning to think that there are some things you learn with time and maturity that no one can tell you earlier in a way that you will truly understand.  Maybe that sounds confusing.  I write as one who spent most of my adult years thus far learning as much as possible about something before I "got there."  I am sure I carried quite a bit of pride in doing so.  But the last few years have humbled me greatly.  Tender Warrior and I have endured trials in our marriage, just like you have.  I believe it's where God wants me to be to make me truly teachable as well as truly influential.

This woman carries a deep passion for marriage and I so appreciate that!  She has been impacted by divorce all around her.  Many of us who have been married any length of time can relate to this too.  Heidi St. John shares some poignant stories of dear ones in her life and I cried as I read.  I also came away with a greater passion for my marriage and the marriages of my friends and those around me. 

I heard the same message shared in a little different manner from my sweet friend, Lisa, who also spoke at the conference.  (You too can be encouraged by her over at Club 31 Women).  Her exhortations to take care of my husband and keep him as my first love (next to my Lord) really move me to strive for something even more beautiful than I have right now.  And isn't that how it should be?  We should never be complacent!  We must always keep vigilant watch over the health of our union. 

I love how Heidi St. John uses humor mixed with truth.  She does not "sugar-coat" things even though she can make you laugh in the same sentence that you say "ouch" at a revelation in your own relationship.

The word "intentional" flies around home education and discipleship circles a lot.  That is really what is being communicated here.  We must remain intentional toward our husbands.  It is VERY easy to slowly fade into the busy routines of every day.  And it is VERY easy to find escapes and replacements for the first love in our home.  Every mom is busy, but it is true that parents who choose home education will have strains on their marriages that are unique.  We need to keep a pulse on the heartbeat of our home that is our marriage.

I was very grateful for Heidi St. John's reminders that the internet is a dark place and that it is often a dangerous place.  She described it in her workshops as a "magnet for unhappy people."  Be careful!  Guard your time wisely.  Put your energy into your own marriage and check your motives for why you want to be on Facebook connecting with friends from the past (I'm not saying that's all wrong--just that we can have subtle motives that include something like, "I want to feel liked and significant to somebody" or "it's easier to talk to so-and-so online than my own husband.")

Overall, if you've been home educating several years (or have just been very busy with children in this season of your life) and are starting to notice yourself being pulled into what she calls, "the homeschool vortex," this might be the perfect little read to inspire you to remember "That Girl" whom your husband married.  This book is definitely real and will help you love your man well!  I highly recommend it to busy homeschool moms everywhere.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

More of Faith, Less of Self

O Saviour of Sinners,

Thy name is excellent,
thy glory high,
thy compassions unfailing,
thy condescension wonderful,
thy mercy tender.

I bless thee for the discoveries, invitations, promises of the gospel
for in them is pardon for rebels,
liberty for captives,
health for the sick,
salvation for the lost.
I come to thee in thy beloved name of Jesus;
re-impress thy image upon my soul;
Raise me above the smiles and frowns of the world,
regarding it as a light thing to be judged by men;
May thy approbation be my only aim,
thy Word my one rule.
Make me to abhor that which grieves thy Holy Spirit,
to suspect consolations of a worldly nature,
to shun a careless way of life,
to reprove evil,
to instruct with meekness those who oppose me,
to be gentle and patient towards all men,
to be not only a professor but an example of the gospel,
displaying in every relation, office, and condition
its excellency, loveliness and advantages.
How little have I illustrated my principles
and improved my privileges!
How seldom I served my generation!
How often have I injured and not recommended my Redeemer!
How few are those blessed through me!
In many things I have offended,
in all come short of thy glory;
Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.

~"Living for Jesus,"  The Valley of Vision

This past week I have been amazed at how God has woven one theme throughout several avenues.  I love when He does that; even more, I love when I can see it!  I really think this happens when I have taken the time to really be in His Word and to listen.  I can't say enough how much I am enjoying studying 2 Timothy--and studying it with my whole family. 

We just returned home from our state home education conference (yes, we had the privilege of getting to go to two this year!  Both excellent, by the way).  What did I bring home?  The power of the Gospel!  That's really the essence of what I felt the Lord doing in my heart.  I want to live by faith more and by self less.  I want this life of home discipleship to be used as a tool for the Gospel of Jesus Christ--for our marriage, for our children, and for those whom we meet around us.  I heard several people speak this weekend who conveyed a passion for the Gospel and that is what really ministered to me.  I was both humbled and stirred.  I have so often been overwhelmed at points along the way because I rely too much on my own strength (which is always lacking) and not enough on His (which is never lacking).

Today I am thankful for some extra time to ponder these truths and to consider how to let them permeate my life.

"For this reason I also suffer these things;nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.  Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.  That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us."

~2 Timothy 1:12-14, NKJV

Monday, June 18, 2012

Summertime Grilled Pizza

We have a weekly tradition in our home of making homemade pizzas.  It is our Saturday family night.  Early in our marriage, Tender Warrior would tell me how his mother had certain nights of the week that were always the same dinner.  In his household he had "hamburger nights" among others.  At first my youthful and creative self thought that sounded kind of boring.  "You mean you eat hamburgers every week on that day?"

Now....well, perhaps I am a wiser mother.  Or at the very least, I became more practical.  Pizza night is our only regular mealtime rite, except for Pancake Saturday on Saturday mornings (but even then we are might be waffles, or puffed pancakes, or crepes among a few other choices).  My children enjoy anticipating it each week.  I like that I don't have to think about what's for dinner on Saturday.  And we usually try to make enough to have leftovers on Sundays, which keeps Sunday meals very simple, providing me a bit of sabbath respite from meal planning and preparations. 

In the wintertime, heating the oven to such a hot temperature also keeps our house extra warm on Saturday evenings.  But what about summer?  I sure don't want my house extra hot!  This is where the gas grill comes in quite handy.

Now that I make my No-Knead Pizza Dough, I love the extra simplicity!  Just throw the dough ingredients in a bowl, stir it up and let it sit for at least two hours.  It's wonderful!  When 5:00 rolls around, the dough is ready for the kitchen artists to go to work.

How to make grilled pizza?  Read on.  Here's what's handy to have:

A pizza screen (I got mine at Bob's Red Mill) for easy baking and moving of pizza doughs
A pizza peel to slide pizzas on and off of screens or grill racks
Enough dough for your family size
Some olive oil and a basting brush
Your favorite ingredients to top pizzas with

This week we had the always-expected Hawaiian style pizza for the children (sans Canadian Bacon....I really wish it were easier and cheaper to find some that doesn't have nitrates in it), and a spinach and feta on ranch dressing pizza.  Most weeks I have sausage, which I make myself, but we ran out at present and I need to make some more!

Preheat your grill to high to medium high heat.  You want it about 450 degrees.

Roll out your dough and move it to a pizza screen.  Prick the top with a fork all around, or else you might end up with a puffed pita bread!

Grill the crust for about 4-5 minutes.  Until you gain some experience, you may want to watch your crust more closely so it doesn't burn.  When it's lightly browned, remove from grill.  Flip your crust over so the browned side is now up and brush lightly with olive oil.  The bottom sides of cookie sheets are helpful places to put crusts for assembling pizzas.  Put the next crust on the grill and repeat.  When the first round of crust baking is done, you might want to turn off your grill to save gas while you assemble pizzas.  If you have a charcoal grill, obviously leave it alone (disclaimer:  I have never tried this with a charcoal grill).

Now "decorate" your pizzas to your heart's content.  I had a Little Princess helper and she enjoyed it very much! 

When we got to the last pizza, I decided to make it a half-and-half pizza because I ran out of enough ranch dressing for a full spinach-feta pizza for this one.  Upon noticing that this pizza had red sauce on half and green spinach on the other half, my little imaginative princess quickly declared that this was The Christmas Pizza!!  Oh, she was full of smiles and glee.  Here, she says it is "snowing" on the pizza..... (that would be the cheese).

When your pizzas are finished, turn your grill back on and bring it to temperature (450 degrees).  Cook for 4-5 minutes or until toppings are satisfactorily melted and crust is golden brown.

There are plenty of good pizza crust recipes out there.  Here's my favorite method:

No-Knead Pizza Dough (by inspiration of Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in 5 Minutes a Day)

4 cups unbleached white flour
3-1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1-1/2 TBSP RealSalt
1 TBSP yeast (I like SAF brand)
3-1/2 cups lukewarm water

In a large bowl whisk together all of the dry ingredients. Add the water and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly mixed and it starts to form a ball.  It will be sticky, but you don't want it extremely "gooey," nor do you want it too dry, so add extra flour or water as needed.  Cover lightly, but not airtight, and let rest for 2 hours.

Divide dough into 4 portions.  Roll out each to a large pizza size.  You will likely need flour on your hands and workspace.  This dough is very soft, but very fun to work with.  It should roll or pat out easily.  I usually need to flour my hands several times as I work, as well as flour the rolling pin.  Also watch the underside of your dough so that it doesn't stick.  You want to be able to lift it off the surface easily.

I hope you might make some fun memories with your loved ones by trying this out.  If you make enough pizzas, you can even count some exercise for all the walking back and forth between the grill and your workstation!  And though it might be predictable, if you have a  creative streak like me, you can find plenty to do with pizzas each and every week.  Buon appetito!   


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

It's That (Bible Bee) Time of Year Again!

Yes, it's officially the beginning of Bible Bee season!  Enthusiasm is high around here.  Last week the children eagerly watched for the UPS man to deliver the prized box and they took their sweet host's advice not to attack him as he climbed the steps to deliver our box.  Imagine our surprise to see Mr. UPS Man bringing with him not ONE, but TWO Bible Bee boxes!!  It seems there was a little mix-up at headquarters and several families were blessed with two boxes.  The extra box will head back to headquarters.

For the uninitiated, Bible Bee is a summer family discipleship program, now in its fourth year.  It was founded by the Shelby Kennedy Foundation as a tribute to its namesake, a young woman who was deeply devoted and known for her commitment to Scripture.  Over the course of the summer, registered families spend time studying a particular book of the Bible and memorize many Bible verses.  This year there are many changes and the amount of Scripture memory required for the local contest is SIGNIFICANTLY less than in the past.  Veteran Bible Bee-ers are rather delighted, I think.  Though those that qualify for nationals will still have a tremendous amount of study heaped on them after the local contest.

At the end of the summer, local contests are held nationwide on the same day.  They are a lot of fun, even if they are sometimes tense for the young people as they take written tests on their knowledge of the Sword Study (book of the Bible) and orally recite their verses word-perfect to judges they do not know.  At the end of the day, scores are compiled nationwide and the top 100 students in each age category (which makes a total of 300 contestants) are invited to the National Bible Bee in November.  Last year my Adventure Girl (also known as Country Girl 2) qualified for Nationals.  Tender Warrior and Country Girl accompanied.  I think they were even more "hooked" after such an experience.

This summer we are studying 2 Timothy and I just love it!  Such a timely book and one of my New Testament favorites.  Since the Scripture Memory requirement is now 25 passages (instead of hundreds), Tender Warrior and I are even endeavoring to commit these passages to memory and this is much more unifying as a family. 

Each week we have the opportunity to meet with other families in our area who are doing the same.  Our local hosts affectionately call this our "HIVE" and let me tell you, it is buzzing with excitment!  This year it is also at FULL capacity--not a surprise to me since our hosts have to be one of the most enthusiastic Bible Bee families you'll ever meet!  The children can practice reciting their verses and there are games to reinforce what they have learned in the Sword Study the previous week.  Our host family is fantastic!  This is their second year hosting and they set the bar high with enthusiasm and the activities they come up with.  My children can't wait to go each week!  Plus now they have built friends who have been on the same journey for these 3 years as well and so they are so eager to see them again.  The only difficulty is that this year our HIVE  is an hour away and that is more challenging in terms of time and gas money!  So we are aiming to get to as many as we can.

I am very much looking forward to what God will do this summer, both in our family and in those we meet with.  I greatly appreciate the accountability the Bible Bee provides me personally.  It is a season I look forward to to keep me on pace in my study of Scripture and in memorizing His Word.  These disciplines are much harder in a season of life with a busy household and it is easy to let diligent study of the Word slide to a bare minimum of survival.  I love how this gives me opportunity to grow and enables our family to reach toward these goals together.  It also gives us much to converse over.

Registration is closed for the 2012 Bible Bee season, but if you are interested to learn more visit to see what all of the "buzz" is about.

However you best learn and study God's Word, I encourage you to persevere in it today.  Set apart some moments to meditate on a verse.  Write it down and post it where you will see it.  Read the Proverbs chapter for today or a Psalm.  There are so many ways to engage with the Word of God.  You will be blessed.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tea with My Princess

My Princess Girl recently had a birthday.  One of the highlights of our children's birthdays is that they have a lunch date at Daddy's work.  I also carve out a special time with the birthday child.  For my girls, we have often gone out to tea.  Princess Girl was beyond delighted to anticipate that when I returned from my trip with Daddy, she would get to go out to tea with Mommy.

I took along my smaller point-and-shoot camera and she was eager to snap pictures as often as I would allow her.  There is this lovely tea shop downtown, which has a little store in the front part and a tea room in the back.  Princess Girl thought everything was so pretty, she wanted to take pictures of it all!

This lovely arrangement was on our little table.

We shared the Queen's Tea on the menu.  I would say the menu has improved from the former owner.   But I still think the portions are small for the price.  The nice thing about tea time though, is you're not expecting to fill up entirely on these little dainties (even though it's nice sometimes).  My favorite tea place ever is in Asheville, North Carolina!  Oh, I miss it!

This strawberry angel food cake dessert (which WAS topped with whipped cream and looked so lovely) was Princess Girl's favorite.

 And she doesn't quite appreciate the taste of most teas yet, so while Mama had her pot of huckleberry tea, Princess Girl was allowed her own little pot of hot cocoa.  She loved pouring it herself.

Isn't this little couch adorable?  If I had my own "girly room" to place it in and read, I would love it!  Though Tender Warrior appreciates flowers, I think this is a little much for him.

I think this little buffet table with all of these glass cake domes looks so attractive for displaying layer cakes and tea dainties (sorry, it's a little dark--this little camera was harder to set right for the lighting).

We will surely be enjoying more about tea as we study a bit about England amidst the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebration this week.  My Little Princesses, upon reading the American Girl Molly books, set in World War II, are quite enamored with learning about "the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose."  Last night, they wanted to see the pictures in the biography I am reading.  They wanted to know where Queen Elizabeth II was in every photo and who all of the Princes and Princesses were.  It was quite fun.

Making special memories together is so important.  Our sweet little time together is a reminder to keep at those things which speak beauty and love into the hearts of my family.

"It's not the tea, in other words, that makes teatime special, it's the spirit of the tea party. 
It's what happens when women or men or children make a place in their life for the rituals of sharing.  It's what happens when we bother with the little extras that feed the soul and nurture the senses and make a space for unhurried conversation.  And when that happens, it doesn't really matter what fills the cup or holds the liquid. 
It really isn't the tea.
It's the spirit of the tea party."

~Emilie Barnes, "If Teacups Could Talk"

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Glorious Little Getaway

With the coming of Grandma for a sweet Princess's birthday, this week, Tender Warrior and I were able to plan our annual anniversary trip away.  Our anniversary is not until later this summer, but we take the opportunity to plan a trip anytime between May and September when it works best with schedules.  This summer is particularly busy, it seems, so we wanted to make sure we planned this time before time was eaten up!  (As it has a tendency to do).

We have believed strongly in these times away ever since we were first married.  But can I tell you that it has definitely not been an easy thing to protect and preserve?  Furthermore, there was a recent time in our marriage where we let FIVE whole years pass by with not a single one!  I can scarce believe it.  It was a period where it just seemed difficult.  I think I wanted him to plan it and sometimes resented having to do it myself, thinking it didn't matter so much to him (miscommunication).  Then there was the flurry of babies, nursing, a deployment, and having young children without strong support networks to feel comfortable leaving them.  To be fair, we DO indeed have dear friends close by who are always generous to offer to watch our children--and our children have such wonderful times together!  I think it was more that we didn't want to burden them with extra work.  But was a matter of maturity, I think.  We slowly "talked" ourselves into thinking we would do fine without it (though we both missed it terribly) and that time would come later.  In retrospect, we both regret having done so.

Three years ago in advance of a second deployment, we renewed our commitment to time away.  And how precious it has been.  Can I let you in on a little secret?  It really is OKAY to take a little baby with you!!  I still remember several years ago how a dear friend and her husband would go away (to one of the places they referred us to, which is now one of our favorite places to go) and they would take their newest baby with them, because Mama cannot leave a nursing baby (or maybe even Mama is not ready to leave baby just yet).  Somehow there were years where I bought the cultural line that "thou must get away from all children!"  If you are a mother of several children, you come to find out that having just one wee baby with you feels like quite a vacation!!  I've found that it is far better to take baby with than to not do it at all because it's the year (or two) of baby nursing.  So take heed, I urge you!  Even if it isn't perfectly ideal and without interruption, it is far more wonderful than going without!

We had a most delightful time.  We so enjoyed staying in and relaxing.  We did not wish to go out to eat.  We had everything right where we were.  We made simple, but special meals.  One morning, Tender Warrior even made breakfast look just like we were at a B&B!  A fruit plate, Greek yogurt with granola in a bowl, and scrambled eggs topped with spinach and goat cheese with a side of buttered toast.  Our room was lovely--it looked right at the ocean from our dining room table, had candles, was quiet, and had ample room for baby to play on the floor and make noise without us worrying we would disturb other people.

Littlest Warrior was quite happy to take almost all of his naps on the front of Daddy as we walked the beach.  We didn't mind, as we could stay out there for hours.  Did I tell you that God blessed us with amazingly PERFECT weather?  Not a breath of wind in this usually windy place!  The last day we were happy in short sleeves and cropped pants and bare feet!  We took MANY wonderful walks.

 This tree stump, washed up, was just the right size for my Warriors to rest.

Sunsets were magnificent and glorious, as always.  How my love and admiration grows for my husband each day and year!  I am so amazingly blessed.

Littlest Warrior's first trip to the ocean meant taking lots and lots of pictures (as if I wouldn't have otherwise?  I don't think so!  But it's a good excuse!)

And what's vacation without a little indulgence?  This was our ice cream of choice on this trip.  Sweet times and sweet memories with some sweet dessert = just right!

I am so thankful for this precious time away.  I loved just being together without the pull of meals to plan, laundry to do, emails to answer, school to do, a house to manage.....very helpful to rejuvenate my spirit.  It rejuvenates both of us, especially since our beginnings together came at the ocean shores (how many times I have thanked God for such a gift!).  I appreciate how Sally Clarkson often offers reminders to mothers to do those things that help them persevere for the long haul in the things that matter most(marriage and family relationships).  This is one of those things for me.

Of course, it never seems long enough.  But I am wholeheartedly grateful to have it at all.

I sign off today with gratitude and praise to the Lord who gave us such a gift in so many ways!


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