Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Bible. Time.

So I had read about a new website that was launching this year and thankfully I remembered to look it up again on New years Eve. It was readscripture.org (which is actually connected to a couple other website as well... one of them being The Bible Project which actually has the reading plan on it). After perusing the sites, I found that the plan looked very practical and I immediately knew that I wanted to implement it with the kids, whether it was a part of their school hours or as a family in the evening.

I shared it with the hubs and he was all for it, but asked, "what do we do if we miss a reading?" to which i replied, "we don't". :D

Of course I know that's very impractical to expect a flawlessly executed reading plan. I know it's difficult to maneuver around schedules and activities of SIX people. On the days when our evenings are filled with a commitment, the kids and I make sure to read and pray earlier in the afternoon.

All that to say, it's day 12 and I want to give an update on how it's going. So far we've missed one day. It was because without thinking, three kids were sleeping over at a friends house and I had neglected to think about it early enough since the first kid was gone by noon. We reviewed/skimmed the reading we missed and just picked up where we left off the next day.

Here's what I've learned/observed in the whopping 12 days we've been doing this... (i figured it'd be nice to record my thoughts early on, to compare with my thoughts a few months from now).

1. It takes time. and this is a good thing.
I think most reading plans and devotionals tend to promote that you can get it done in just a matter of minutes. you can get in, get out, and get on with your day. but this causes two problems (for me at least). One, it makes it a whole lot easier to allow the excuse to skip a day to come in with, "Oh it's just a few minutes, i can catch up tomorrow"... but then never do. and two, there's just something so great about actually taking time... i mean actually investing it in the word. I don't actually know how many minutes it takes us, its at least 30-45 (which sounds minuscule when I type it out)... but so far not a single person has complained that it's taken "too long".

2. the kids love it.
We take turns reading chapters (it's about 3 or 4 a night, plus discussing/praying through a psalm). We stop and make fun of silly or hard to pronounce names like "Oholibama" and we make wise cracks and inside jokes about war babies and share crazy thoughts about crazy things that were done back then. but the way i KNOW without a doubt the kids love it (besides a complete lack of moaning and groaning, which i fully expected to hear)... is that every time we pray, someone will say "thank you, Lord, that we got to be together tonight" or "thank you, Lord, that we got to spend time reading together".

3. it messes up our plans. and this is a good thing.
Because it's not just a quick, bible fix... because it's not something you can drive thru on the go, you have to lay aside other plans to make it happen. Too often we want to have our cake and eat it too without much effort. When we go through life kicking and screaming and doing everything possible to hold onto our "american dream" cake, it's really difficult to consider tossing it out for something else when our eyes are so fixed on what we want. but now, i find myself on the other side of the table... we have this veritable feast in our hands, no way do I want to toss it aside for a measly crumb of cake.
see, i dont think God was being a meanie pants when he said you can't serve two masters... he knows how we click, he knows that either we'll invest in ourselves, or we'll invest in the kingdom... there is no "balance" possible between the two. we have allowed our churches and its members to believe the lie that we can live in selfish pursuit and still call ourselves Christians. it doesn't work. all it does is wear you out, stress you out, and burn you out. and I'm afraid it leaves too many families wondering what the heck happened.

4. I really hope we stay consistent because I really am enjoying it as well. 
and if we do royally mess up and get way behind, it'll be ok because we'll demonstrate what it means to press on despite "failure". we'll pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and keep walking. keep learning. keep reading. keep praying. keep asking questions. keep investing. I'm not afraid of messing up this family reading plan, because i know that my God is faithful to multiply and bless the time we invest in His word.
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Personal Vision Statement

I have found that there is a very fine line in making a really long TO-DO list versus setting some goals for the coming year.


As I've been thinking and working through my goals for 2016, I realize how valuable it is to really understand the heart of each goal "area"... because as you set your goals and actions to achieve those goals, you are essentially deciding what you want your life to be about for a specific amount of time... and because life brings things we didn't plan for and don't expect, then I find my well thought out and planned to do list flies out the window. Or sometimes unexpected opportunities come along that look really good, but may not be beneficial. Other times there are opportunities that look too scary and risky, but are exactly what we ought to do... and too often we're left wondering what to do. I find that when I've determined what I want my life (or at least the coming year) to be about, then it becomes a lot easier to decide whether to take a new opportunity or let something go. I've approached our homeschooling that way, and it's worked out really well. I don't feel guilty when saying "no" to certain things, and I can fully and confidently embrace the things we say "yes" to.

So I came up with a sort of "Life Statement" for this coming year. I can use it as a standard to ask myself, "Will this [thing, activity, commitment, decision, etc...] help accomplish the goals set forth in my vision statement?" I can also start each day by asking, "what can I do today to take a step closer to living out this statement?"

Sooo, here it is...
Personal Vision Statement: I purpose to invest time, money, energy and other resources toward the following: meeting physical and spiritual needs around the world; meeting immediate and long-term needs in my own community and church body; studying the Word and practicing prayer; creating a healthy, functional and sustainable family home; training the children in character development, spiritual knowledge and academic achievement; nourishing interpersonal relationships with others; and developing my creative skills and expanding my intellectual knowledge.

What do you think? Does it make more sense to you to think about specific detailed goals? or to set up a statement of measure for whatever comes along? or both? or maybe to just fly by the seat of your pants, ha?!? :)

I think that just like a young child starts to ask "why?" when we tell them to do something, it's important to know the "reason" behind our chosen actions. It helps keep us motivated through the tough times, helps us refine our choices along the way, and helps prevent regret from wasted days.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Christmas of "Giving"

I decided to title my post the Christmas of "giving", not because our other Christmases aren't giving, but because of something Micah said this morning... She said, "Mom, I'm really excited this year! But not about getting presents, I'm excited about giving them!"

over the last couple of weeks, the kids have been secretly making gifts here and there and there really was a lot of excitement in the air tonight. It wasn't about hoping for a particular gift on a wish list... instead it was about finally letting the other person open what they had made or passed down.

Sam sent the girls on a secret code mission.

They were rewarded with some special chocolate. :)

Annabelle made little ornaments for everyone. :)

I crocheted headbands for the girls and a jumbo hacky sac for Sam :)

From Micah and Annabelle...

Micah crocheted gifts for annabelle and zosie...

A box-cat for Annabelle (it's a little character that Annabelle drew a while back).

and a special angel for zosie....

we all decided it needed to go on the tree!

Micah and annabelle asked daddy for some help with Sam's gift... They designed it and he cut it out of plywood for them and then they painted it!

Annabelle cleaned up her skates and passed them down to zosie. :)

oh and here's a photo of the cards i made for the kids! they were most excited about the family weekend of camping and the spa day!

Merry Christmas Everybody!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

My "Crazy" Christmas Idea (Part 2)

So almost a month went by... and i still hadn't clued the kids into my Crazy Christmas Idea.

Let's face it... I just didn't want to hear or see the disappointment in my kids eyes.

So the random conversations of "I know what I want for Christmas" kept coming up, so i knew it was time to rip off the bandaid and dash all the hopes and dreams of my children.

I hope you know I'm being sarcastic... but it still wasn't easy.

So I sat down with my girls (Sam was at a friends house for the day) and went into a short explanation about budgeting... or at least how we've had to tweak the budget for a few reasons. I explained how we didn't have the money to get things for Christmas and without me having to bring it up, Micah mentioned that we didn't really have the room either. I talked about how we still wanted to DO something, so we were going to give experiences or things to DO throughout the year.

here's what I walked away with from that conversation:

1. It was an excellent opportunity to correct or clarify a phrase I say quite often right now, "We don't have the money for it". In the kids eyes this meant we didnt have money for anything and that was causing a little bit of worry. so I clarified that we had plenty of money and we're able to take care of all the important and necessary things like our house and the other house and our vehicles and groceries and giving to missions in India and Ukraine, but that extra things had to wait and be planned out and saved for more than normal.

2. They weren't devastated. As a matter of fact over the next few days, the girls got busy making gifts. Just simple crafts and drawings for each other... but each wrapped with care and love and a heart of giving. Micah decided to crochet a couple gifts.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Annual Review (2015)

I noticed the other day, in talking with a friend, that I had forgotten a handful of "good" things that had happened this year... and of course I can't remember what they were at this particular moment. Either way it was then that i realized it was that time of year again... time to look back at the year, look at the goals and expectations I had for the year and evaluate and process it all.

There's a real value in setting achievable goals and there's even greater value in processing what did and did not pan out.

{If you're interested in seeing where i get this yearly motivation to review life, check out this blog for more info}

So as I look back through my spreadsheet I am quite certain I am ready for a new year. I wouldn't wish this year away by any means, but it's just been very ...unexpected.

What Went Well:
Our T-shirt and Tamale fundraisers for our India trip... and quite frankly just an amazing amount of the Lord's provision along the way! which of course resulted in our first family mission trip. There's no way to sum up in one sentence how impactful this was... we literally talk about India every. single. day. in some form or fashion. and I cannot even begin to explain how much it means to me that my children now understand and share this part of my heart.

I did manage to put together a 20 minute documentary/video journal of our trip and we've been able to share that with close friends and i think that'ss helped our debriefing process.

The kids and I volunteered/participated in an after school program that is held just down the street. We had been looking for a way to connect with people in our immediate community and this has been a good start to getting to know some of the kids.

I've grown more consistent with "whole foods" in our diet. Things that may have seemed more daunting at first, are now more familiar... like making bone broth on a regular basis and making more things from scratch, etc...

As far as the goals and things i had written down, this about covers it for the "well" part.

and of course looking back, i fully understand why other things didn't... things like my homeschooling goals weren't even set because i had determined to focus on the India trip january and february. then, when we got back in april and dealt with an onslaught of things, it pushed my goal setting back. ultimately though, the summer afforded the opportunity to really establish a decent routine... so the fall definitely had more consistency than any other year.

Same thing happened with things like a garden. once we realized i wouldn't be here for major planting season, i just had let that goal go, which was remarkably more difficult than i thought it would be.

Things that did not go well (or as expected)
I did expect a great many things following the return of our trip, but much of it flew out the window within a matter of weeks.

I did not expect to carry the load of worship team responsibilities for a span of 4 months. 4 months sound too short as I type it out because it felt like years. This brought an amazing amount of stress to my life, to the point that I was dealing with anxiety and panic attacks on a regular basis. I was not leading well. But the Lord was good and kind in His provision of a worship pastor for our church.

i did not get even remotely close to the amount of planning and work i wanted to accomplish with a certain event for next year. and looking back i'm sad that one of my goals was to send a team to India for the holidays, and that just didnt' even get to the planning stages.

The afterschool program, while a good learning experience for me in patience, respect, submission, staying calm in chaos, seeing past particulars and focusing on heart intentions, has been difficult for a few reasons and I'm still trying to determine how to resolve and respond to it all.

Finally, having to spend a significant amount on dental work, automotive problems, and loosing our renters has made it difficult to meet the needs of others the way I truly desire to do so. (and of course with that comes the thought that perhaps i still don't fully understand what sacrifice really means).

so I know I've said it already, but yeah... I'm ready for a new year. I've tried to have the perspective that every day is new, and that helps for sure... but i am really really really ready for the newness of the year to come.

I can definitely appreciate how this year will help next year to be even better, and I know there's nothing I can do to change what was, and I know that God was sovereign through it all... I just need to reconcile that in my heart and mind ...and move forward.

so. now I can begin the process of looking ahead... and I'll share that with you soon. Remember, if you want to conduct your own annual review, check out this link for more info.

blog ya later.

Annnual Review (2014)

I was about to start in on my review of 2015 post and found that I had never published my review from last year. 0.o oh well... here it is, and hopefully sometime this week i'll get through this year's review lol.


Well I've searched and I can't seem to locate my documents from the last two years. Thankfully I found the same article and an updated template to start work on this years review. (don't know what I'm talking about, Read This Article) Since I can't locate last years to actually review it, I just have to think through a general "what worked and what didn't" without reference to what I had hoped for. :P

What worked in 2014.
- starting the year off in India (priceless)
- implementing more nutrient dense foods in our diet
- buying a smaller house
- teaching at Artlife
- taking the fall semester off from ELO
- a simplified homeschool schedule/format.
- deciding to rent our previous house

What didn't "work". {I hesitate with this category, because i do think that ALL things work together for good... because i learn and grow from it. so i don't see these as failures or even as regrets, just areas that i need to continue to grow in}
- exercise, (but i did loose weight because of our healthier eating)
- didn't sell house, (but we were still able to maintain our normal giving and pay two mortgages for a time)
- waiting too long to apply for kids passports and visas
- too much money spent on vehicle repairs. (ok this is more of a "I didn't LIKE it" category, lol)
- became less consistent with commitments and was overbooked in the fall.

Overall last year was definitely ... um... crazy. crazy but wonderful, hard but spectacular, tight but full, ... it was... crazy.

now it's time to look forward. while i want to be completely surrendered and flexible and open to whatever the Lord has in store, i want to be proactive in pursuing the things He has commanded us too.

So my main focus categories for this year are...

*Global Missions   *Local Missions   *Church Family   *Personal Growth
*Home Life & Sustainability   *Homeschool   *Art Life & Creativity

Each category has a main goal behind why it's being prioritized and then there are smaller, specific goals and tasks needed to achieve those goals.

while I haven't usually consulted the review continually throughout the year like you're "supposed" to, I have found that it helps to get a good idea of where I wanna head for the year.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Because The World Needs More "Finger-Licking Good" Recipes!

Buuuuut I'm terrible at recipes, 'cause I MIGHT measure to start, but then I'll add more of whatever along the way according to the taste.

I mean, that's what the "real" Chefs do right?!? At least that's what I tell myself.

So try to approach this recipe with the idea that it's just a starting place, a point of origin, a foundation if you will... but the personal touches are up to you because we all have different tastes in... well, taste. :)

*Flavor disclaimer*: we don't use products with HFCS, MSG, nitrates, artificial flavors or colors, etc, etc... I am convinced these things are not only terrible for your body, but also affect taste in a really big way. If you eat these ingredients on a consistent basis your taste buds will be more used to a chemical based flavor spectrum. We grab unprocessed, organic, grass fed items as much as is possible and I think that improves the flavor significantly.

My Recipe for Chicken Mole

Mole (The Sauce; pronounced Moh-Leh)

  • Measure 1 1/2 Tbsp chili powder,  1 Tbsp ketchup, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp garlic powder (or 2 tsp minced fresh garlic), 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp black pepper into 2 cups of chicken broth. 
  • Heat a skillet and saute half a small minced onion in 1 Tbsp of butter (or red palm oil or coconut oil) until translucent.
  • Add about 3/4 to 1 cup of creamy peanut butter in the skillet to melt a bit. Then slowly add the "spiced" broth, stirring constantly with a whisk.
  • Cover and let sauce simmer on low until thick and bubbly. Stir often to prevent burning.
  • Add salt to Taste*. 
  • Stir in 1 or 2 Tbsp Sriracha hot sauce for some delightful heat. (or 1-2 tsp of cayenne pepper powder to the broth)
*Taste Disclaimer*: depending on how salty your chicken broth and peanut butter is and what kind of salt you use, will affect the amount you need to add if any, so you'll just have to taste along the way and add a 1/2 tsp at a time until it's to your liking.

and ya know, feel free to alter/increase spices according to your liking!!

Option 1. Chicken WINGS
  • Rinse and pat dry 4-5 lbs chicken wings. 
  • Spread chicken wings in a single layer over a wire rack in a roasting pan or on a baking sheet (so that it's not sitting on the bottom of the pan, you don't want them in the juices).
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, then 450 for five minutes (watch closely) to help the skin crisp up.
  • Toss wings in a large bowl with enough mole to coat evenly.  Serve with a small bowl of mole on the side, because basically you'll want to drink the sauce. {my kids do at least.}
  • Enough for 2 adults, 1 teenager and 3 kids.

Option 2. (Super Quick and Easy Version)
  • If you're in a bind for time, just grab a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store deli (but watch out for MSG and other artificial junk in some of the flavorings. I get the "Simple Truth" ones from Kroger. You'll want a mild flavor so that the flavor of the chicken doesn't fight with the flavor of the mole.)
  • OR raid your fridge and use left over roasted chicken, or just quickly cook some chicken breast or thighs however you like to cook them (skillet, oven, whatever).
  • Cut into bite size pieces or shred the meat.
  • Add meat to the simmering Mole for a few minutes to heat through and serve over rice or on buttered/grilled sourdough bread or bolillos (add some sliced avocado and cheese if you like) or eat like tacos in some corn tortillas, heck you can even put it in a lettuce wrap! :)

Go give it a try and let me know how it turns out! :)