Monday, March 28, 2016

From Slob to Hostess

I am not a neat person.

((I can hear my mom and sister burst into laughter))

My husband is even less so.

((I can see my MIL roll her eyes in agreement))

Put the two of us together and well, you just don't want to see it. And then add 4 miniatures of us and it's a miracle we ever see our floor or countertops!

But miraculously the floor is usually mostly visible, and the countertops don't stay covered for too long. It's an area in which God has been growing both of us.

I am learning that keeping up with the house, while sometimes it feels completely pointless, has major benefits like lowering my stress level.
Derek is learning that helping me with the housework as much as he hates it has major benefits like lowering my stress level.

But I'm not here to tell you how to overcome your inner slob. I am still quite the slob. I'm here to tell you how I hosted Easter yesterday without a single meltdown!

I'll start with an ugly truth: it was literally the very first time we had people over that I didn't lose it beforehand.

God is still in the miracle business, people!

Looking back on it, I can see a progression. I see us before kids. We lived in a tiny apartment without a dishwasher. If anyone ever came over (which was rare), I threw everything in our bedroom and told everyone to stay out of it.

I see us in our first house with one babe. It was an old house in desperate need of some updates that we couldn't afford. The fact that it was probably triple the size of our apartment only spread out the mess into more rooms and onto more countertops. We had people over more often, but still very rarely.

I see us in our rental here in Indiana with 2 babes. We didn't even unpack half our things. We lived among boxes. I was embarrassed just when someone came to the door for fear of them looking in. I think we had someone over for dinner once in the 6 months we lived there... one of Derek's homeless students.

I see us here, 5 years ago, sitting in the car outside of this beautiful home. We held hands and prayed with overwhelming thanksgiving for God's provision and excess of this house. We committed it to Him. Let me tell you, He held up His end of the deal!

My housekeeping skills have definitely improved. Derek's have too! But when I look back on all that, I see so much more than that:

1. Committing our house to the Lord has opened up opportunities for us to bless others (and be blessed!) in ways we never imagined. And that is what has made it home. We enjoy each other, and we get to work together as a family to welcome others in.

2. Recognizing that it doesn't have to be perfect has allowed me to say yes more often, invite more often, and stress less. I'm so far from arrived on this but, by God's grace, I'm getting there. I've learned over the years how much worse it is to miss out on sharing our lives with people than it is for them to accidentally see my off-limits room (when we have one, which isn't always, praise the Lord!). Am I really gonna close the door to the possibility of entertaining angels because my bathroom isn't clean, the dishes aren't done, the yogurt hasn't been scrubbed out of the carpet? No, I'm just not going to.

3. Creating the look in my home I've dreamed up on my pinterest boards takes time and money, neither of which I have much of. But opening our home shouldn't wait. Being Jesus to others doesn't require a beautifully decorated home, or even a perfectly clean one for that matter. It doesn't require you to serve a 3 course meal complete with fresh flowers making up the centerpiece. Loving people means loving people, not only where they are but also where you are! We should always be working toward improvement, but God is not waiting for your living situation to be up to par, He's waiting for YOU.

4. Finally, I see looking back all the joy that has come from inviting others in. We've been burned, taken advantage of. We've been embarrassed (ok just me. Derek couldn't care less about the cleanliness of our house!). But these things pale in knowing we are pleasing our Savior. You know the quickest way to destroy that joy? Comparison. If someone walks into your home and judges the imperfections, it's a reflection of their heart not your housekeeping. The joy is in pleasing Jesus, not in pleasing anyone else.

The tomb is empty! He is alive!
A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones. Proverbs 14:30
Now I see us yesterday, hosting our 5th annual Easter dinner. I don't know if we were able to bless others, but we were certainly blessed. My Aunt asked if we were sick of hosting it. Nope. Not for as long as God calls us to it.

Open up your home, imperfections and all. Take it from a recovering slob, it's worth it.
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. Colossians 3:23-24

Monday, March 21, 2016

USA RoadTrip - New Hampshire

There are lots of little interesting tidbits about New Hampshire (like the fact that they get 10x the amount of tourists as they have residents!) but I couldn't seem to get excited about a couple of big things. Well, I thought The Old Man on the Mountain was fascinating but Derek said the video I found was putting him to sleep. Maybe my brain just needs a spring break. Who knows. The bottom line is, New Hampshire is pretty but not super interesting! Nonetheless, we overall enjoyed studying it!

New Hampshire

1. Be sure to practice the states and capitols and review states you've already studied!

2. Old Man on the Mountain: we looked at pictures online and in books from the library. We also read a book on one of the legends behind the big stone face appropriately called The Legend of the Old Man of the Mountain. I'll warn you, it was a sad story!
We also colored a picture of the Man (found it on google) and talked about how the cold New Hampshire winters finally did him in.

3. Mount Washington is known for having horrible weather at the top. Just another interesting tidbit.  There are also races held on this mountain called Mount Washington Hill Climbs. There are foot races and bike races and car races. There have been races held on this mountain since the early 1900s! Below is a video we watched of a race car taking a trial run. The kids only watched the actual run but older kids interested in how it all works would enjoy watching the whole thing I think.

4. You can't talk about New Hampshire without mentioning Robert Frost. I found a recommendation to read Papa is a Poet but it wasn't in our library. It sounds interesting though! So I'm passing along the recommendation. We got Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening from the library which is an illustrated version of one of Robert Frost's poems about New Hampshire.
We also discussed a little about poetry and wrote our own poems about our favorite seasons.

5. My favorite blog to check out when figuring out what to study for each state is They have a whole series that covers most of the states, and free scrapbook page printables. We decided to start using those pages to document where we would like to visit in each state so if we ever have the opportunity to go to that state, we can refer to our notebooks! Marie wrote about seeing where The Old Man on the Mountain once stood vigil. Jack wrote about visiting Tuckerman's Ravine on Mount Washington and watching Daddy snowboard down it. They then drew pictures of these places.

Thanks for joining our travels!
Next up- New Jersey!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

USA Roadtrip- Massachusetts

Massachusetts is just stuffed full of history! My brain was getting overwhelmed by all of the information! Of course, that's not a super hard thing to do to my brain. Nonetheless, there's much to learn from this little state.


1. I tell the kids what state we are studying each week before watching this video so they can be watching for it. It has often put Jack in tears when he misses it, requiring rewinding or completely replaying, but he's getting better at paying attention.

2. This video helped give a very quick overview of all the history of Massachusetts along with other bits of info. The kids don't care that the guy in it is a little corny...

3. Because of the loads of history involved in the study of this state, we watched several videos and did lots of reading. This video is a quick overview of the Mayflower and what we call the first Thanksgiving:

4. Some of the books we read related to Massachusetts were:

-Massachusetts Facts and Symbols (great for quick reference and nice pictures!)
-Sisters of Scituate Light (true story of how two sisters save the day!)
-Make Way for Ducklings (super cute story that shows off parts of Boston!)

5. Massachusetts had the very first public park so we looked that up and found THIS website to have some beautiful pictures! The same website walks you through the Freedom Trail in Boston. I'm telling ya, I was tempted to pack us all up and take the day drive to soak it all in for ourselves! Someday we're gonna take a Swan Boat on the lagoon.

6. One of the state foods (that's easy to make) is Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies. So obviously we partook in some of those. Also, cranberries are a state food so we enjoyed some cranberry juice along with the cookies.

7. Finally, Theodore Geisel was born in Springfield, MA. That's right, my favorite Dr. Seuss! Just another excuse to enjoy reading the best children's books of all time!

There are all sorts of other things you could include in this study (We built a miniature Mayflower when I was homeschooled! And my sister had her kids dress up and act out the first Thanksgiving). What ideas have you come up with to learn more about Massachusetts? I'd love the ideas!

Next up- New Hampshire!

Friday, March 11, 2016

To the New Momma: Arrows

My sisters, mom, and I threw a shower for the littlest sister, Rebecca, and her sweet baby boy, Lincoln recently.

As Lincoln Charles Johnson is the 12th grandbaby/niece/nephew/cousin in the Johnson family, throwing showers has turned into a very creative endeavor! One shower a few years ago involved a 3 course meal. Another included a photo shoot. This one had a more typical feel but, like the others, everything was very intentional and had purpose.

We decided to focus this shower on the verse: Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one's youth.

A couple of ways we focused it on this was through the decor (arrows and the verse) and by having the guests write prayers to be attached to a jar full of arrows.

We also included a short devotional and prayer time. I had the honor of leading this part so I get to share it with you!

The devotional was adapted from an article on entitled, "Crafting God's Arrows."

This is what God laid on my heart to share with Rebecca:
Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. Psalm 127:3-5
We are familiar with verse 3 and tend to focus on it because it is heart-warming to remember our children are a gift and a reward. But then verse 4 comes along. Suddenly our children are arrows and we are warriors. What does this mean? First, it’s important to understand that children are meant to be a reward not only to us as parents, but also to the rest of the world. Shaping them as arrows will allow them to be the greatest gift they can be to the world.

Let’s look at the 4 parts of an arrow to better understand this:
  1. Shaft- the body
  2. Feathers- keeps the arrow flying straight
  3. Nock- the groove to fit on the bow
  4. Point- the purpose of the arrow

First, we have the shaft which represents Lincoln’s identity. Scripture tells us that Lincoln has been made in the image of God. God’s very breath has given him life. We know from Psalm 139 that God is forming Lincoln’s inward parts, weaving him together in your womb. Lincoln is fearfully and wonderfully made, and someday when he surrenders his life to Christ, he will be called a child of God. This is his identity. And as his mom, you have the privilege of teaching him these things.

The feathers represent Lincoln’s character. If the arrow does not have quality feathers, it will be unpredictable and dangerous. A child with poor character will always miss his mark. “Children embrace what they are modeled far more than what they are told,” so I challenge you, Rebecca, to do as Micah 6:8 says: The Lord has told you what is good and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Next, we have the nock which represents Lincoln’s relationships. All of the power of the arrow is worthless without the bow to transfer it. The best place for Lincoln to learn about loving God and loving others is at home. Love the Lord, love your husband, love Lincoln with unconditional abandon, then love others, even the unloveliest, that God brings into your lives. That love represented through his relationships will be the power behind the rest of his life.

Finally we come to the point of the arrow - the very purpose: Lincoln’s mission. Lincoln is an unique individual, gifted for God’s purpose. Lincoln is an original. He is God’s original. Allow him to be unique, encourage him to be different, to find his purpose in Christ all for God’s glory.

A well crafted arrow - 
who’s identity is found in Christ,
who’s character mirrors Christ’s,
who has a solid and intimate relationship with Christ,
and who finds his purpose in Christ -
will fly and hit the bullseye.

Remember: “Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do but someone you raise.”

Like an arrow in the hand of a warrior.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

USA Roadtrip - Maryland

This past week we continued our travels through the Northeast, specifically...


1. We usually begin our roadtrip study with this song:

2. We've found these videos recently and love them! Short, interesting, and to the point:

3. We had fun learning about the Blue Crab - the state crustacean of Maryland. We hung a picture of it on our classification wall. (We don't have a "crustacean" category up so we stuck it with amphibians. Whoops). The kids also colored, cut out, and glued together a blue crab found HERE.

On this day, Marie's shoulders were out of commission :/

4. We found some books at the library:

There's a version of this for every state!
B is for Blue Crab
Maryland Facts and Symbols

5. Learning about the Chincoteague ponies is a must! You can study this for your Maryland study or Virginia study. Here is a great video to see the entire event:

We also found some books at the library on the subject. My favorite is entitled My Chincoteague Pony by Susan Jeffers. Another popular book for slightly older ages is Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry.

6. Finally, we talked about the state wildflower: the black-eyed Susan. We did a simple craft using paper, pipe cleaner, and felt (pictured below) and talked about the legend of Susan and her Sweet William. (Read some about it HERE).

It's been overwhelming and stressful around these parts lately so I wasn't able to get Maine up last week. I do plan to make that happen but I can't make any promises!

Next up- Massachusetts!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Circle Maker - GIVEAWAY!

"History belongs to the intercessors." -Walter Wink

The original "circle maker" was a guy named Honi who drew a circle in the sand during a drought, fell on his knees inside of it, and told God that he wouldn't move until God moved; until God ended the drought.

And so God did.

"...the power of a single prayer to change the course of history."

If you are a believer, if you have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, you are called to be an intercessor - a prayer warrior - a circle maker.

I have only recently began obeying this call on my life over the past couple of years and this book - The Circle Maker - has been instrumental in my growth in and understanding of prayer! I have said this before on social media and I will say it again: every Christian needs to read this book.

I believe in God's call on your life and on mine to be prayer warriors, so much so that I'm giving away a copy of this book!

There is only ONE entry necessary - share with me in the comments an answered prayer! It could be from last night, or from 20 years ago. Take a minute to reminisce on the times God answered your prayers (either how you hoped He would or otherwise!) and share one!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

As I write this, we are anxiously waiting to hear back about Marie's blood test results. Derek, my steady, level-headed husband is even struggling with not being able to do anything for Marie's pain. But I was challenged and encouraged by Mark Batterson the other night -
One of the reasons we get frustrated in prayer is our ASAP approach. When our prayers aren't answered as quickly or easily as we would like, we get tired of circling. Maybe we need to change our prayer approach from as soon as possible to as long as it takes. Keep circling!
That's what we are choosing to do. What prayer do you need to keep circling? Or return to circling? Or start circling? Remember that - "100 percent of the prayers I don't pray won't get answered."

You are a Circle Maker.
So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:16

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