Archived - My Reflection of Something
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Hello, Fall!

When I put this post in drafts, Fall was just beginning. Now, I would give quite a bit for those days of mild temperatures and t-shirts outdoors. It is downright COLD here this morning! Not to mention the fact that Aiden has lost another tooth or two since I took these photos, ha! I still wanted to share them, though. 

This was such a fun day with my boy. After I took a few photos of him, he got to take the camera and take some photos of his own. I love that he is so excited about nature and the changing seasons.

Sharing the beauty of creation with him tends to reignite my sense of wonder as well. This is one of the reasons nature study is such a big part of our homeschool... there is always something new to learn, and many things to appreciate each day!

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls. 
- Mother Teresa

Make it a Merry Mocha Morning!

This year I hosted Thanksgiving for 25 people, and if I learned (or rather RE-learned) one thing it was to always have plenty of baked goods on hand! I knew that some of our guests would be staying for a few days, so I had whipped up some tasty treats for breakfast for these guests. I admit I was a little surprised when everything was gone before the morning after our big feast even arrived! For Christmas, I will be baking up a cookie storm (as usual) but I also wanted to come up with a great breakfast to serve... preferably one that would store well and be ready to go first thing in the morning for our early birds.

Of course, when I think about breakfast I am all about the coffee. I tried this amazing Mocha Iced Coffee from Hiland Dairy, and knew I wanted to make a mocha treat for my visitors. I also wanted something fairly substantial with whole grains to keep my guests happy. Baked oatmeal sounded like the perfect solution! So, I am excited to share this new {quick & easy} recipe today.

Great recipes start with great ingredients, and I am particularly happy to be partnering with Hiland Dairy to bring you this recipe. We talk a lot about shopping local for gifts during the holidays, and with these quality dairy products from local farmers I can do that with my baking as well! Not only that, but Hiland Dairy is giving away a year's worth of products for the holidays! Just think of the extra goodies you could make! Be sure to enter to win HERE.

Mocha Baked Oatmeal with Cherries, Flax and Walnuts

3 cups oats
1/3 cup milled flax seed
2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking soda
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup Hiland Dairy butter, melted
1 cup Hiland Dairy Mocha Iced Coffee
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup dried cherries
2/3 cup walnuts

In large bowl combine oats, flax seed, sugar and baking soda. Stir in eggs, butter, vanilla and Hiland Dairy Mocha Iced Coffee. Add in dried cherries and walnuts, and stir until well mixed. Pour batter into a 9x13 pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Cool and cover until ready to serve.

Do you have a favorite breakfast for serving to overnight guests? I would love to hear about it! And don't forget to pop over and enter the GIVEAWAY from Hiland Dairy!

(Feel free to pin this recipe for later!)

Do Not Give the Devil a Foothold - Ephesians 4:27 Playground Lesson

Recently, we have been working a lot on anger management with Aiden. He is definitely a bit of an "intense" child, and sometimes that can be hard to deal with. I often remind myself that this intensity and depth of feeling will serve him well someday, allowing him to commit to things with passion and really serve God with vigor. Right now, though, it is our job too help him learn how to harness his intensity and learn to use it for good. That sounds kind of super-hero-ish somehow. It kind of fits in the way that God gives each of us gifts that, when combined with His supernatural power, can be used to further His kingdom in a powerful way. 

So, when trying to figure out how to help my little guy learn to manage his emotions I of course turn to scripture. I know that this is a lesson I am not really ready to teach him on my own... after all, I am no poster child for managing my emotions! A friend who has had her own experiences raising an intense child directed me to Ephesians 4. This whole chapter is a good one to red when it comes to raising children. The first section deals with unity and maturity in the body of Christ, and as parents that is really our main goal, right? Helping our children learn and grow in love for our Creator and Redeemer, and love for His people, is what it is all about. We want them to become mature and live in unity with their brothers and sisters in Christ. One of the hardest parts of dealing with intense anger in a child is that it threatens the unity of the family. I think that this is a passage that has food for thought in that area. 

When it comes to the actual emotion of anger, though, I focused on the next section of this chapter - specifically on verses 26-27: 

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

This is the verse that Aiden has been working on memorizing and then calling to mind when that bubble of anger starts to grow. We use the visual of a bubble that needs to be popped before it gets so big that it bursts. When that bubble starts to grow, we want to make sure to address it so that we don't "give the devil a foothold." He really grabbed on to verse 27 in particular. My little Christian soldier is definitely aware of the need to see the devil as a real opponent. So, I wanted to give him a way to really put an experience with that verse that would illustrated what it meant to have a foothold.

I immediately thought of the climbing wall at the park. So, one morning we headed over there for a little object lesson of sorts. I asked Aiden to stand at the base of the climbing wall, and had him recite his verse. I focused in on verse 27, and asked him what it thought it meant to have a foothold. I asked him to attempt to climb the wall without using his feet. He tried a couple of times, and of course was unable to make any progress. Then, I asked him to use the footholds to climb the wall. He scrambled right up the wall to the top without any problem. This, I explained, is what it means to have a foothold, and how easy it is for the devil to get to us when we let our anger control us.

Of course, as I sit here writing this post I think of how I could have expanded the lesson. He got the point, and we had a great talk about how we want to keep from giving the enemy opportunities to climb into our hearts the way that he was able to climb the wall. I wish now, however, that I had then asked him to climb one more time, thinking of examples of specific footholds with each step of the climb. We could have included things like angry words, slamming doors, growling, hitting, etc. as specific footholds.  Maybe we will do that soon to reinforce the lesson and address some specific behaviors.

I really want to emphasize here that we are very careful to explain to Aiden that feelings are not specifically bad. Being angry is not sinful God Himself is known to get angry. His is a righteous anger, but it is still anger. Feelings are indicators, and it is important to recognize them as valid and natural. It isn't the feeling that we focus on... it is how that feeling makes us behave. There are healthy ways to deal with even the most negative feelings. This is why we talk a lot about the beginning of verse 26: In your anger, do not sin. It doesn't say "don't get angry." It tells us that when we are angry we need to be careful not to let it cause us to respond in sinful ways.

We have also discussed with him that remaining line of this passage: "Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry." This line could lend itself to a whole different lesson, but one thing we have talked about is that while there is a good literal application of this line (making amends before the end of each day) there is also perhaps more to it. We have talked about how Jesus is the Light of the World, and how He lights our path. When we give in to anger to the point that we are driven to rage, we are falling into darkness instead of clinging to the light of Christ. When we let the sun go down and the darkness win, this is a dangerous place to be.

This topic is one that can certainly be heavy and serious. I liked that after we had a good talk we were still at the playground and he was able to run and play for a while. I love when object lessons are further enforced by being tied to an enjoyable experience. A park day is always a bonus!

Thoughts on the Changing of Life's Seasons

The older I get, the more I appreciate the more moderate seasons. This year, I am downright in love with Fall. Of course as a homeschooler, summer doesn't hold the excitement that it probably would if Aiden was in school all year. And winter? Winter is for the birds (or rather I wish I could migrate south like a bird when it arrives!). Give me Fall and Spring and I am a happy girl. 

I definitely feel like my season of life the past year or so has been anything but a moderate season. It feels like it has been an endless cycle of difficult times and challenging situations. Just over the past week, it seems as if things are finally starting to change a bit. Like the promise of falling leaves, I can see signs of a quieter time popping up around me. This Fall I see signs of change in places other than the trees, though. I see it in the changing smile of a little boy who is growing up. As he loses his baby teeth, he also seems to be losing some of his dependence on me. That can be hard on a mama. I have struggled with it over the first half of this year, and it has taken until now for me to start accepting the idea of having a boy who is not quite my baby anymore. 

My changing relationship with Aiden has challenged me as a mother, but it has also provided opportunities for me to look at who I am as a wife - and as a women beyond the walls of our home. When he was little, I was so consumed by the (often exhausting) need to be "on" 24/7 that I definitely lost focus a bit in other areas. Now, I am seeing glimpses of how someday I will find myself without a child needing daily attention, and it makes me think of how I invest my time in other areas. I don't regret for a moment devoting myself fully to the role of mother, but I do see how perhaps having that singular focus left other areas of life unattended. I am entering into a new season of life, and with the changing of seasons always comes some maintenance and preparation. 

I have definitely felt moved to spend a good part of that preparation time investing in my marriage, and concentrating on how I can grow as a wife moving into this new season. Parenting can crowd out some important things like intentional time together if we aren't careful. This week I started trying to make more of an effort to really connect with my husband by getting up super early to have coffee and pray with him before he leaves for work. Aiden is such a night owl that evenings have never been easy for me and Matt to have time together. I wish it hadn't taken me so long to realize that one possible answer was for me to just get up earlier. I am not super excited about being up so early, but it is certainly worth it to have that face time and prayer time each day. 

It may seem a bit premature to be thinking about what life will be like for me and Matt when Aiden is grown. After all, he is only six years old! Yet I know that taking better care of our marriage now is about more than preparing for the day when we (theoretically) become "empty nesters." It is also about having a unified vision for our family as we continue to move into the territory of raising a child who has his own ideas and emotions and (someday all too soon) hormones to deal with. Gone are the toddler days when discipline was mostly about distraction and redirection. Now we have this huge task of providing this little boy with deeper understanding of what it means to live life as a child of God. This is such an important time for us to be firmly united as husband and wife, and dedicated to promoting family unity. 

While life is by no means easy right now, I do feel like I am more at peace perhaps than I have been for a while now. It isn't anything I can put my finger on, but I know that having the peace of God is way past my understanding most of the time. I find myself very conscious of how precious each day is lately, and how I want to really focus on living instead of just getting through each day. Whether that means an extra game of chess, a trip to the park, or just silly snuggles and stories, I know that these precious days with a little boy counting on me will not last forever. Like the vibrant orange leaves on my favorite autumn tree, I need to appreciate them now. And all the better if I do so with my amazing husband right beside me. Families are such an incredible blessing, no matter the season! (But I could still live without winter coming anytime soon... ha!)

When Truth and Fiction Collide - The Story People

If there is one thing I love about a good Christian fiction novel, it is when reading about the life of a fictional character brings much-needed truth into my own life. That definitely happened while reading The Story People. If you want to read my review of this novel, you can do so here. Here on the blog, however, I would just like to share some of what my reading of this particular title got me thinking about the ideas of vocation, purpose and making tough choices. 

"How do you know you are where you're supposed to be?"

This is most definitely a question I have struggled with many times. Even now, as we consider where we will live next year, I find myself in that place of anxiety again. No matter how often I remind myself to lay decisions like this at the feet of my Heavenly Father and trust He will direct my path, I still find myself trying to pick those worries back up over and over. For years, we have felt like we are torn between two homes. Both places have so much to offer, and so off and on we have tried to figure out where we are supposed to be. The hard part is that there is no clear choice. We see the opportunity to grow and serve in both locations, but we can't see where God wants us for sure. This is the dilemma that immediately came to mind when I read page 187 of this novel where one of the main characters was given this advice: 

It's not about finding the perfect set of circumstances - there is no such thing in this fallen world. It's about being faithful in the circumstances you're in. God simply calls us to be faithful, but even in faithfulness, peace can elude us if we're not fully trusting God. If we spend our time worrying over a perceived lack of peace and direction, we are missing the point and skipping over the whole trust part. The point is to be faithful and to set our minds on Christ, and to trust in Him alone. It may sound simplistic, but oftentimes we complicate and muddy things through human reasoning. (emphasis mine)

To say that I am an overthinker would be a huge understatement. This is something I feel like I need to be working on right now. Just the other night (shortly before I read this page of this book) I lay in bed thinking that some people think that the idea of salvation through Christ is too easy. I, on the other hand, struggle with the simplicity more than I would a list of rules to follow. I like rules. I like direction. I like goals. I just want to be told exactly what to do most of the time. (Not that I am great at following through with it when I am, but that is beside the point.) My brain is constantly running on overdrive, and it would be so much easier if I could just quiet it down. I remember a sermon by one of our pastors that included something along the line of "beware of the buts," which was memorable not only because it was giggle-worthy (come on... it is) but because it was so very me. I am that person who wants to insert the "but" at the end of my profession of faith: I am saved through grace... but...

I know there is no "but" at the end of that statement. Yet I still have a hard time letting go of it. It all feels too easy... which makes it really hard. I loved that the author used the passage in 1 Corinthians 1:27 that tells us that "God chooses the simple things to confound the wise."  It is only when I start trying to rely on my own understanding that I begin trying to add limitations or requirements to God's free gift of salvation. If I rely on His wisdom... if I cling to the peace of God that surpasses all understanding and let it guard my heart and mind... I realize that it truly is just that simple. As the book goes on to state:

"Just look at the cross - there can be nothing more simple and powerful than that, and yet we humans love to tamper and play with the clarity God has given!"

When I apply this to my own decision-making, I realize that the truth of the matter is that there is no perfect place for us to live. We have been given the freedom to make choices like the one we are facing, and in the end what we need to do is look at where we can serve and how we will seek God in the place we end up in. God is not limited by our weakness, and we can be confident that even if we make choices that are less than ideal, there will always be grace waiting for us and opportunities for growth. And often, like they did for the characters in this work of fiction, the choices we make will yield results that we never could have considered with our limited view of God's eternal plan.

I really enjoyed this book, and am so thankful I was given the opportunity to be on the release team for it! You can pick up your copy here.

Photo Flashback - Missouri Creek Visit

You know when you sit down to edit photos and realize that the ones you are working on are from when your best friend is still pregnant... with the child who is now 6 months old? Oh, maybe that is just me. Actually, I have some from even earlier in her pregnancy too, but let's not even talk about that. Anyhow, I so loved going back through these photos. This day was just perfect... lunch at one of our favorite finds from a random drive together (oh hey... you know I have photos from THAT time that I don't think I ever finish editing, and that was like 2 years ago, ha! I really hate editing...) and then a trip to a state park. Erin had her darling little girl in a little dress and pretty sandals... and then Aunt Branson let her wade in a creek, ha! I am always the one letting kids make messes, and this was no exception. 

I absolutely cannot wait to be back in Missouri where this can be a normal occurrence instead of a once a year thing. And maybe with Erin around to remind me in person to edit some photos it will actually get done! But then she will also be able to scold me in person for posting photos of her all pregnant after I made her walk so much she thought it would induce labor. Not that it will stop me... she looks gorgeous pregnant! 

Homeschooling... at home

I have shared before how choosing to homeschool came as a bit of a surprise to us. However, choosing to homeschool is just the first of many choices to be made when it comes to home education. I think it has to be near impossible for a parent to go into something like this with complete confidence. After all, our society places a huge emphasis on education. It is easy to feel like you are holding a child's entire future in your hands when you consider how to approach their education.

One of the greatest pressures I felt early on in our homeschool journey was that we should join a homeschool community of some sort. Of course the question of "socialization" is one that inevitably comes up over and over. For our family, having an only child only makes this something we probably think about even more. At first, this led to falling into the trap of comparison and over-analyzing.

Like with any decision I have had to make as a parent, it has taken time and experience to really help me grow in my confidence with my choices. There is always that initial period of doubt and questioning after any big decision. I often have to try every other option out first before I finally go with my gut. I am definitely someone who often learns through mistakes... lots and lots of mistakes.

For our family, choosing not to join a homeschool group has proven to be the best choice, at least during this season. This was not a decision we made lightly, and it has taken me a good year or so to stop questioning it. I find that many of the lessons I learn come in clusters. I have shared to some extent over on Instagram that this has been a time to really pulling back and kind of sinking into a place where I am kind of isolated. I feel like I am being challenged to peel back a lot of layers to expose some stuff that I need to work on, and I definitely worried at first that taking this time would have a negative impact on Aiden's social development. I struggled with obedience as I kept trying to find ways to still find a community of some sort that fit within our current situation. Over and over I found the same answer seeming clear though... God created families for a reason.

That "only child" thing was still the greatest obstacle for me. Families who homeschool only children are rare, and so often when I look for ideas and inspiration I see tables full of siblings and friends and that doubt starts creeping in. I see post after post online about great homeschool cooperatives and communities, and I start letting that familiar feeling creep in that maybe I am not trying hard enough. It is so easy to jump straight to the negatives of our situation instead of seeing the awesome benefits... like only having to keep up with one student! That is another topic entirely, though. The question at hand is that if I believe God created families and parents to be the safe place for children to grow and learn in their early years, don't I also need to believe that He has a plan for families who are blessed with only one child? My answer? I really do.

I still love the idea of joining a co-op and finding a community of families to take this journey with. I do hope that someday we will be in the place to do that. I do not, however, think that it is absolutely necessary to have a successful homeschool experience. Even with an only child. We definitely don't keep our child in a bubble. He has taekwondo 3 days a week, and during the fall and spring he has library programs twice a week. He has opportunities to interact with people of all ages, and learn to get along with and care for younger children through our home day care experiences. He plays often with the neighbor kids, and every trip to the park is an opportunity to make a new friend in his eyes. However, his deepest connections and most significant relationships are still with his parents and his Grandma. As a six-year-old, I think this is both healthy and normal.

It is hard enough to keep a 6-year-old boy focused on learning without adding in extra kids. I know he would adapt, and I know that having those opportunities to learn in a group setting are valuable. As he gets older, we will continue to consider what is best for our family. I am just happy to finally be in a place now where I can confidently say that I don't panic and question myself every time I read about a friend's awesome homeschool "tribe" or "co-op" or "community" or whatever you want to call it. I don't see a lot of homeschool parents talking about being confident just homeschooling at home, and so if I can provide even a little reassurance to another mama making a similar choice, I want to do that.

There is no one right way to raise a child. There is no one right way to educate a child.

Every child and every family is unique, and each of those families and children will go through different seasons over the course of 18 years!

All we can really do is support each other along the way, recognizing that if we love our kids and do our best it doesn't have to look the same in each home.