A Fieldtrip for Medieval History: The Medieval Times Restaurant

LauraAll Posts, Homeschooling0 Comments

School’s Out!

This year, we studied a combo of Sonlight’s Core C and Core G, focusing on Medieval History. Our homeschool evaluator came this week, marking the end of our school year. I love paging through the kids’ portfolios and hearing them talk to the Evaluator about what they loved and learned this year. I usually just sit back and listen to them chat. It brings me so much joy!

Big, end-of-the-year celebration…

We concluded our Medieval History year by taking a special trip to The Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament in Maryland. What a fun adventure! If you can’t go back in time, this dinner-theater is a fun alternative. 😉 It enriches a child’s understanding of some Medieval vocabulary, dress, and entertainment.

(I don’t want to mislead you: it’s truly a show with a fog machine and everything, so don’t expect a truly authentic medieval tournament, but it’s a good show. It’s also expensive, so save up! And look for their special promotions.)

We checked in as soon as the doors opened, so our front-row seats were right near the King’s throne and the horses’ entrance. We felt the thrill of the horses rushing into the ring and the knights paying homage to the princess.

The horses do some of the same tricks that we read about in Marguerite Henry’s White Stallion of Lipizza. The girls were thrilled!

The knights enact a believable tournament with real horses, authentic medieval challenges, and real weapons, evoking scenes from The Story of King Arthur and His Knights. I’m sure that the next time we study Medieval History, the children will have a more vivid foundation for the literature.

I’m glad we told our kids that it was “just a show”…

We told our kids ahead of time that the knights would be acting and that no one would be injured.  And we didn’t bring our 3-year-old: she would’ve been too frightened by the fog, loud music, and fighting.  I read too many accounts of parents having to console their sobbing children who thought that the knights had been killed in battle.

I recommend that you bring your children when they are able to understand the difference between real fighting and play-acting. We discovered that our honesty about the acting didn’t dampen the wonder: instead, we were all impressed by the knights’ athletic jumps, rolls, and choreography. (We did bring our 1-year-old. He just sat there, munching Cheerios, as if he sees galloping horses and jousting men at every meal.)

“How’d they do it?”

Afterward, we were a little obsessed with watching “Behind the Scenes” videos about The Medieval Times. We wanted to know how a person becomes a knight, what is required of them, how they plan the performance, and how they care for the horses. This video about the process of becoming a knight at The Medieval Times is interesting:

 

The Secret to Reading-aloud, Playing more games, Tackling big projects, and Singing to babies.

LauraMotherhood2 Comments

The adrenaline-pumping command, “Just do it,” isn’t just for professional basketball players, you know.

Cindy Rollins, one of Homeschooling’s beloved matriarchs, says that when you want to change something about your daily life, you shouldn’t sit down at the computer to create an elaborate plan.

“Instead,” she says, “Just do it right then and there.”

Do you want to read aloud to your children? Grab a book and read aloud!

Do you want to play games as a family? Clear the kitchen table and set up that board game!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve wasted a lot of precious time and effort day-dreaming, scheming, and planning something without getting around to doing it.

 

This concept comes to my mind almost every day. It inspires some of my best decisions and helps me to make the most of my time.

So, you want to connect with your daughter? Why don’t you do that right now? Take her hand and walk down the lane. Paint her toe-nails. Sit down next to her and ask her a great question.

‘You want to sing to your baby more often? Sing the first song that pops into your head! 

You want to write an article, downsize the toys, or white-wash the deck? Pick one and get to work! Jump right in and do it.

Think about the difference between Bert’s pretty chalk drawings and Mary Poppin’s actual leap into the drawings.

Magical, right?

When it comes to daily life with friends and family, most of our ideals can be actualized if we just get down to business.

Live the beautiful picture in your mind by just doing the thing.

(The next time you feel a desire cross your heart like, I wish I smiled at my people more, just do it. Then, tell me about it? I need to know that I’m not the only one walking around with an odd mash-up of Michael Jordan, Cindy Rollins, and Mary Poppins on my shoulder.)

Don’t Miss May: How to Savor Your Life When It Feels Like a Blur

LauraFood, Marriage, Motherhood

I asked my friend to pray for me and my scattered thoughts.

I told her that everything – from food to end-of-the-year award ceremonies, from finances to flower gardens – seems out of control.

I’m eating my meals like a highly competitive garbage compactor.

I’m driving down the highway like a 3-year-old boy on a skateboard heading straight down a hill.

Everything is fast, fast, fast. Everything is whizzing right by me and I’m missing May.

She said, “I FEEL LIKE THAT, TOO!”

After all, this is the season of deadlines and finish lines. It’s the season of tying the bows and wrapping things up, which sounds blissful, but is extremely stressful for the mother who is tying all of the bows.

Do you feel like you are in a blur of recitals, concerts, portfolios, weddings, graduation parties, sporting events, and award ceremonies?

Do you feel like you are missing May, too?

Chin up.

We have half the month left!

We can do something to screech the breaks a little bit at least.

Let’s be present in May. Let’s feel it. Let’s taste it.

Let’s come up with a plan (a sustainable plan) to love and savor all of the good, celebratory stuff in May and June. What can we do so we don’t get lost in the blur of responsibility, quickly-inhaled meals, and check marks?

I’ll share my plan with you in hopes that you’ll share yours with me.

To make sure I don’t miss May, I will…

WRITE POST-IT NOTES.

I’m going to stick 3 of them in my life.

  1. At the kitchen table: “Sit down and Chew Your Food.”These two simple behaviors will help me to smell my food, taste my food, look at the faces around the table, share in conversation, and maybe – just maybe- remember and treasure the simple gifts that God gives me every day.
  2. In the front seat of the car: “Breathe 5 Times”.Even with this reminder, I can guarantee that I will breathe 3 times and forget all about it. My self-aware plan is to keep discovering that post-it note like a goldfish discovers its castle over-and-over again.

    The way I figure it, if I keep coming back to one deep breath after another – even if I stop at 3 – I’ll remember that I’m alive.

    I’ll look around me.

    I’ll pray.

    I’ll savor the changing world around me.

    And I might slow down.

  3. On my bathroom mirror: “Thank God for One Today-Thing”We remember things through experience, repetition, and personalization. That’s why I’m intentionally experiencing my meals, repeating my breathing, and now, personalizing the thing I want to remember about the day.

    Today I’d say, “God, thank you for the way my daughters were kind to the nurses and doctors at their appointments today. I was so pleased to see evidence that they’re becoming confident, well-spoken young women.”

    The next time I’d breeze by the mirror, I’d notice the post-it note and say, “Thank you for the pretty patio chair cushions that I found at BigLots. I’m so grateful that they were so inexpensive, and yet will add pleasant and comfortable  seating at our picnic table.”

    And the next time, maybe “Thank you for the International Student who drove out to the farm just to buy a $10 end table from me. I hope that she comes to know you and that I have another opportunity to connect with her.”

    Ah. Just in writing and praying that now, I slowed my whirring, calculating, what’s-next brain to thank God and notice what He has done. I noticed today in May.

I think I’ll keep it that simple: just 3 Post-it Notes. 

I was going to add some boldfaced points about taking a photo-of-the-day, of kissing each member of the family, of keeping a day journal, of creating a simple tradition for each celebration so that you don’t have to juggle so many details and plans (for example, instead of drumming up unique desserts after each-and-every end-of-the-year hooplah, why not go to the same neighborhood ice-cream shop every time? Be regulars! Or scoop out your own flat-bottom cones on the back porch? Or play a tournament of the same board game together? Why not give every graduate the same cool gift – like a Philips Head Screwdriver and a gift-card? You get the point…)

But I think that’s enough from me for today. I’m going to sign off and stop scheming about how you and I can savor May so we can just get down to business.

What will you do to slow and savor May?

How will you be present in all of the recitals, ceremonies, and celebrations that you are creating for everyone else?

Let me know your idea in the comments. You’ll be the wind beneath my wings. Honest, you will.

 

The Big Family Book Party: May, 2017

LauraAll Posts, Books

Although April showers are bringing May showers around here, we’re celebrating this month’s Book Party with flowers anyway.  Here’s what we loved in April and recommend for your May. 🙂

For the adventure-lover: The Green Ember series is sweeping the young adult and read-aloud communities by storm. Lia is the first person in our family to “hop” into the series and, boy is she in. She loved it. (She already started Ember Falls, the second book in the series… look for that recommendation in June.)

The synopsis from Amazon: “Heather and Picket are extraordinary rabbits with ordinary lives until calamitous events overtake them, spilling them into a cauldron of misadventures. They discover that their own story is bound up in the tumult threatening to overwhelm the wider world.

Kings fall and kingdoms totter. Tyrants ascend and terrors threaten. Betrayal beckons, and loyalty is a broken road with peril around every bend.”

 

For the school boy: The Usborne Living Long Ago is a homeschooling standard for little ones. Every day, our 6th grader reads a few pages of this book to our Kindergarten Superhero. Learn how people lived, dressed, ate, and traveled through history. His adjective for the book? “Awesome.” His favorite pages are those that explain “how people got around”.

 

For anyone learning how to be a true friend: Little Blue Truck features 2 trucks, plenty of animal noises, a heroic toad, and a celebration of friendliness. This one is a keeper. And, apparently, a real tear-jerker.

 

For a quick, happy read before nap time (or for your favorite chicken):

Laura’s Little House is our 3-year old’s recent go-to book. It’s a simple flap-book with sweet illustrations from the Little House on the Prairie Series. Audrey loves the page where Ma is cooking stewed pumpkin in her cast iron kettle.

For your preteen/ teen who loves humor, adventure, and fantasy: On the Edge of the Sea of Darkness is the first book in Andrew Peterson’s quirky and endearing Wingfeather Saga. This is another series that is taking the YA/ read-aloud community by storm.

The synopsis from Amazon:” Andrew Peterson spins a quirky and riveting tale of the Igibys’ extraordinary journey from Glipwood’s Dragon Day Festival and a secret hidden in the Books and Crannies Bookstore, past the terrifying Black Carriage, clutches of the horned hounds and loathsome toothy cows surrounding AnkleJelly Manor, through the Glipwood Forest and mysterious treehouse of Peet the Sock Man (known for a little softshoe and wearing tattered socks on his hands and arms), to the very edge of the Ice Prairies.” 

Viv loved this delightful story right away and is waiting for the second book through inter-library loan. It should arrive any day now… (We’re especially excited to “meet” Andrew Peterson through August’s Author Access event at The Read-Aloud Revival.)

 

For the C.S. Lewis and Tolkien fan: Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings is my five-star recommendation for anyone interested in the Inklings, writing, community, collaboration, or mentorship.

The author, Diane Pavlac Glyer, is a leading expert on The Inklings (the band of brilliant writers who collaborated on one another’s work) and shares insights on primary sources – letters, conversations, and notes.

When I read BandersnatchI felt like I was standing outside the window of an Inkling meeting – papers riffling, pipe smoke billowing, tea cups clinking – and I couldn’t stop staring. Time vanished! The Inklings inspire me to write, think, and build friendships with other people who write, think, and build friendships.

 

(Although Ryan would have posed for his picture with the book and some flowers – definitely, no question – he happened to have lent the book to a friend. True story. To make it up to you, I’ll post a few extra photos of the kiddos revealing how easy it is to create literary bliss around here… and explaining why I rarely do Instagram.)

For your baseball/ history lover: This month, Ryan recommends Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series. He loves stuff like this: the true story behind history-shaping events, revealing the fiber of man’s character and the impact of his decisions.

The Synopsis from Amazon: “The headlines proclaimed the 1919 fix of the World Series and attempted cover-up as “the most gigantic sporting swindle in the history of America!” First published in 1963, Eight Men Out has become a timeless classic. Eliot Asinof has reconstructed the entire scene-by-scene story of the fantastic scandal in which eight Chicago White Sox players arranged with the nation’s leading gamblers to throw the Series in Cincinnati.”

 

OUT-TAKES…

The Photobombing Chicken

 

The Photobombing Dog

 

There’s that chicken again.

 

Ah, yes… the photobombing watering can.

Love our book suggestions? Check these out, too:

The Big Family Book Party: April, 2017

The Big Family Book Party: March, 2017

4 Steps to Take When You Dislike Your Own Child: This One’s a Heart-Changer.

LauraAll Posts, Motherhood

What do you do when you don’t like your child?

How do you overcome annoyance with your own kid?

How do you choose love over dislike?

I wish I could say that I don’t relate to these questions, but I do. I have disliked each of our children at one time or another. For years, I have kept these occasional struggles to myself because I don’t like when I don’t like my own precious children.

My children are hurt by my broken affection: it permeates how I speak to them and how I treat them. I’ve worried about how it may affect them in the long-run.  Do you ever feel the same way?

God is leading me on a mission to understand and overcome this struggle. I’ll share the 4 things that are helping me to gain some perspective and victory. I hope they help you, too.

First, “liking my child” isn’t the objective of motherhood: raising him to know and love Jesus Christ, is.

Talking to her about God’s Word is.

Feeding, clothing, and protecting him is.

Sharing wisdom with her is.

Then, why do I feel so ashamed and distraught when I simply don’t like my child? I guess I feel so badly because my broken affection can hinder her from believing that God created her with infinite dignity, value, and worth.

I feel badly because it reveals my shallow, selfish love and I grieve my inability to extend constant, unconditional parental affection.

When we don’t like our children, we see our need for Jesus.

Four-hundred years before Jesus was born, the prophet Malachi wrote this about Jesus:

He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.

Without Christ, our hearts are turned away from the precious people we are called to nurture, train, protect, and lead to God.

God hates when parents don’t have affection for their children: it is one of the reasons He is coming to judge the world.

On one hand, I’m glad: I’m counting on God to straighten out the crooked road of parenting, to purify all of our imperfections and negligences.

On the other hand, I’m sobered: without Christ, I deserve God’s judgement. I do not love my children as a parent ought to love.

Before God unleashed His judgement on a world of selfish broken-hearted parents, He sent His own son to work a miracle within the walls of my little home, the walls of my hard heart.

More than that: He sent His son to absorb the judgement that all of us imperfect mothers deserve. When God looks at mothers who trust in Christ, He sees perfectly loving, constant, faithful moms. This is a dream-come-true. Truly.

Jesus came to turn my heart toward my children.

Yours, too.

In light of that, here are 4 steps to take when you dislike your own child. Through these, Jesus will change your heart. 

1. Confess your sin to a prayerful friend.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16

A few months ago, I decided to bare my guilty soul to one of my dearest friends. Without sharing my child’s name or my specific complaint, I said, “I’m really struggling to like one of my children right now. Do you ever struggle with this? What should I do? I feel terribly about it.

My friend – a wonderful mother with happy, thriving children – instantly said, “Of course I struggle with that! I can remember times when I didn’t like each one of my children.”

Her honesty and familiarity with the problem put me at ease. She offered some wisdom that moved me to the next step. She asked…

2. “Why do you dislike your child?”

‘Turns out, I’ve been caught in a tangled web of both valid and ridiculous reasons:

I’ve disliked my child because of a personality quirk, a character weakness, or an immaturity.

I’ve disliked them  because they are disobedient, disrespectful, or unloving toward me.

I’ve disliked them because of their never-ending neediness, because they are in my way, and because they are keeping me from achieving certain goals or experiencing certain pleasures.

I’ve disliked them because I didn’t get a good night’s sleep, because their hair look stringy, or because their outfit doesn’t match.

3. Consider the right response.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Often, we feel averse to our child because something is wrong that can be – should be – fixed.

Perhaps we don’t like a behavior or character quality that is sinful or immature?

Perhaps we don’t like a personality quirk or weakness that jeopardizes their future wellbeing or relationships?

Perhaps we don’t like our child when we are tired, stressed, or distracted?

These are all things that can be improved with wisdom, attention, and time.

None of these is a “quick fix”.  Each one will require us to prayerfully develop a plan and devotion to follow through. But as we work alongside our children, we’ll probably notice our hearts beginning to soften.

In time, maybe we’ll something like, “I thought my son would always be angry, but God has transformed him into a self-controlled, strong, and gracious young man. I truly like the person God has made him to be.”

Other times, we dislike our child’s unchangeable circumstances or character qualities.

Perhaps we don’t like that our child is a boisterous, extroverted, dogged leader? Or a reserved, soft-spoken, unimpressive servant?

Perhaps we don’t like our child’s weakness or disability?

Perhaps we don’t like that our child is, well, a child who naturally has many needs and requires our time and attention?

God will give us grace to accept these things.

It is not beyond God’s power to replace our aversion with surprising affection. This may take weeks, months, or years. Renewing the mind, being grateful in all circumstances, and growing in graciousness happens one moment after another until a solid foundation of truth is well-established in the soul.

In time, maybe we’ll say something like, “I used to be turned off by my child’s quirky little ways, but now I admire her for them. I can see that they are part of what makes her an amazing artist. As it turns out, I like her just the way she is.

 

4. Is it a big deal or a little deal?

I’ve come to realize that I’ve often interpreted my feelings incorrectly.  As it turns out, it wasn’t really my child that I didn’t like, it was something my child was doing or something difficult we were enduring. Do you see the difference? (It’s quite relieving to say to my guilt-laden soul, “Oh, I just didn’t like her outfit. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like her. Duh.”) You may realize the same thing about your own struggles. In these cases, breathe a sigh of relief and move along. Let freedom ring.

Other times, our dislike is a big deal.

Sometimes we dislike our children because they are downright difficult. Many mothers are called to love and nurture children who disrespect, hate, and reject them. This isn’t rare or shameful, nor is it beyond God’s care, but it does require serious attention. Don’t let time pass without seeking biblical counsel and help. Perhaps a wise friend or counselor could help you to see a possible solution that you hadn’t imagined? Perhaps God has wonders He wants to show you as you walk with Him through this wilderness?

In closing…

I hesitated to write this post because I don’t want my children to find it some day and wonder how often I struggled to like them. (Hi, kids! It wasn’t very often, I promise. Thankfully, you were all very like-able. Usually, I felt much better after you brushed your hair. Usually.)

But I decided to publish this anyway because I thought of you and how you might need to know that you’re not the only one who has disliked her own child.  I also decided to publish it because I thought about my children who will probably feel similarly about me from time to time, and similarly about their own children. I want us all to remember that Jesus will save us from our tangled web of mixed affections.

We need not wrangle our fickle hearts into perfect parental affection: Jesus turns the wildest heart toward home.

 

Are you Content to Be Small?

LauraBible Study, Healthy Living, Marriage, Ministry, Motherhood

“Then the prophecies of the old songs have turned out to be true, after a fashion!” said Bilbo.

“Of course!” said Gandalf.  “And why should not they prove true? Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!”

“Thank goodness!” said Bilbo laughing, and handed him the tobacco-jar (The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien).

I started off strong.

Or so I thought.

When I was born, my parents named me Laura, which means “Victory.” Appropriately, I was successful in just about anything I tried: swimming, running, reading, writing, math, science, acting, and leadership—you name it, I could do it, and do it well. As I grew up, our winner-loving culture accepted me with open arms and lured me along with incentives to keep striving toward strength and success.

I learned that a strong person earns her keep, competes fiercely, is never satisfied, denies failure, and guards herself from anyone who might tear her down. (Sounds like a Nike commercial, doesn’t it?)

Interestingly, my middle name means “Christian,” and from the time of my birth, Jesus Christ was also working in my life. He drew me to Himself when I was just a child. Though I only faintly grasped the truths of the gospel at that young age, Jesus saved me.

You’d think that this dynamic duo—Victory + Jesus—would result in an amazingly strong Christian. But as it turns out, something else happened entirely.

Striving to Be Weak

The work Jesus has been doing in my heart is diametrically opposed to strength and success. For as long as I can remember, He has been turning my attention toward the outcast, breaking my heart over cruelty, and tuning my ear to injustice. He has been teaching me the beauty of humility, the necessity of limitations, the peace of a quiet life, and the pleasure of nurturing children.

Admittedly, He has allowed some hard breaks to draw my attention to my own pride, self-reliance, and guardedness. On top of that, He keeps bringing me to vistas in Scripture that elevate God so high it takes my breath away and shows me how very small I am, indeed.

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Ps. 8:3–4).

It seems as if Jesus doesn’t want us to be “strong Christians”: He wants us to be “weak Christians,” people who acknowledge our finite humanity and wholly rely on Him. He wants us to be people who are not constantly pushing against our limitations but who receive our work from God with humility.

As for me, the “Victory” part of my name is entirely His own.
“For I am poor and needy, and my heart is stricken within me. I am gone like a shadow at evening; I am shaken off like a locust. My knees are weak through fasting; my body has become gaunt, with no fat. I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they wag their heads.” (Ps. 109:22–25).
A Wrestling Match
Today, I’m a thirty-something stay-at-home-mom homeschooling my children. Every day I live in the tension of being human in a culture that values those who strive to be superhuman. I wrestle between the desire to be strong in the world’s eyes and the calling to be poor and needy in God’s eyes.
I wonder if the hidden work that I’m doing here at home is worth my time, my education, and my skill set.I wonder if faithfulness in marriage is worth the moments of tension and sacrifice. I wonder if my humble prayer life and simple Bible study amount to anything at all. I wonder if I should just go for it and make my life a big success.
It’s hard not to wonder when the resounding message of our generation is, “Go pro! Actualize yourself! Be all that you can be!”I bet you wonder, too.I see my friends struggling to be successful and strong. I see the Christian culture lured by strength-finders, efficiency models, and self-help plans. We want to do it all and have it all; we want to ignite revolutions, revivals, and crusades, but as long as “human strength” is our strategy, we’ll fail. We’ll gossip, slander, whine, complain, and rot in jealousy of one another.
But God is the heavyweight in this wrestling match, and He lovingly pins us down under this truth: that we are only human, after all. Over and over again, He reminds us through Scripture that He created humans from the dust on purpose. He created us small, hungry, and fragile to make room for His great strength. We will play a part in bringing His kingdom to earth insomuch as we desperately need Him.
Our best work is in worshiping God, being gentle with the people He created, and submitting to His Word.
The secret is in acknowledging our weakness.
He made us that way.
I must say, it is always a relief to remember that I’m “only quite a little fellow.” With Bilbo Baggins I say, “Thank goodness.”
How do you feel about your God-ordained limitations and weaknesses? Would you rather be a superhero?Today, write a prayer of confession about any discontentment or pride in your heart. Then write a prayer of thanksgiving and worship to the God who made you small and, in that smallness, significant.
(I’m delighted that this post is also being published at Revive Our Hearts’ blog, TrueWoman.com.)

The Top Ten Resources that Have Made and Saved Our Marriage

LauraAll Posts, Marriage, Stillbirth

Ryan and I are coming up on our 15 year wedding anniversary: years packed with happy memories full of laughter, intimacy, service, growth, dreams, wackiness, and adventure.

I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that our journey has also included many dark valleys. We’ve struggled through infertility, the struggle against sin and heartache from the past, intense arguments, pre-term labor, our first baby’s premature birth, power-struggles, name-calling, a 40-day separation, the loss of our third daughter through stillbirth, the stresses of raising children, and unintentionally carrying 2 mortgages at once. To name a few.

Some of our trials were clearly “the two of us against the foe” while others appeared to be “the two of us against one another”. In retrospect, we can see that they were all trials that we faced together against the foe, but some battles are fought face-to-face in order to advance hand-in-hand. To this day, we wear our wedding bands and snuggle up in bed at night only because God is on our desperate, weak, and sinful side.

Today, we see marriage as the miraculous gift it is. We think God uses husbands and wives to change the world, to show people what He’s like. We love that He called us into our marriage and that He has been with us all along.

The blessings and the struggles alike have made us intensely passionate about marriage.

I share all of this to let you know that you are not alone.

If your marriage happens to be new or old, intimidating or boring, weak or broken, you are not beyond God’s ability to teach, heal, grow, and amaze.

Our Top Ten Most Helpful Marriage Resources

Because God is so generously creating beauty in our marriage, we want to share His wisdom, help, and resources with you.

#1. People. 

What would we do without the countless friends and family who have helped, encouraged, inspired, confronted, and taught us over the years? We’d be gonners.

From Ryan’s 5 friends who have met every Thursday morning for over 5 years to the Young Wives Club book study that I was a part of 4 years ago. From our own parents to our mentors. From pastors to play-date-friends… a community of caring people has held us together. Our worst seasons of marriage have been when we’ve separated ourselves from community for one reason or another. We’ve seen it time and time again: the first thing to cause a marriage to fall apart is a lack of an encouraging community.

If you don’t have people – people-people – who will listen to you yet miraculously bring you back to God’s Word, who will do your yard-work and watch your children, who will ask you to do their yard-work and watch their children – get them.

I can’t give you a quick link to people like this, but you can ask God to provide them for you. Find a wonderful church – full of humans who honor the Bible and help one another. (Here’s a great website to help you find a church in your area: 9 Marks Church Search).

#2. This book: 

The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexity of Commitment with the Wisdom of God – Tim Keller

We’ve read this insightful, thorough, not-like-any-other-marriage-book book 3 times: once on our own and twice with other couples. We’ve read so many marriage books, and this is at the top of our list.

It is biblical + thoughtful + relevant + practical + honest + humble = life-changing.

#3. A $ course: like Financial Peace University

Years ago, our church provided a 13-week FPU course that has benefited our marriage. It gave us a common ground regarding money, helping us to develop our budget, teaching us a language with which to discuss finances, and giving us the tools to take practical steps towards financial freedom and generosity. We highly recommend (wish we could require) this course to every engaged or married couple. Unlike “just reading the book,” investing your time and attention in a multi-week course like FPU is a game-changer that sets you up for the win.

#4. An online accountability program:

To protect your marriage from the ever-looming temptation of online pornography or countless, unhelpful distractions, consider installing an online accountability program that will send a report of your monthly Internet usage to a friend(s) of your choice.

We’ve used both Covenant Eyes and Accountable2U and have been so pleased by both programs. They are so much more than an online filter: the accountability aspect keeps us within the love and support of our most-trusted friends (see Resource #1).

So many people install a program like this after pornography or another online distraction has wreaked havoc on their lives. We want to see more people take the temptation seriously before that happens. We always recommend that every couple seriously consider installing one of these programs right away. It’s worth the investment.

(If you use this link to install Covenant Eyes, you’ll get the first month for free!)

#5. Regular slow-down, stop-everything resets.

Several times throughout our married life, we’ve discovered that our commitments, opportunities, and obligations were wreaking havoc on our family. We’ve had to back out of obligations, say “no” to opportunities, and hunker down at home. Sometimes, that can be quite humbling but we’ve never regretted it.

I recommend regular re-evaluations of how you are spending your time, energy, affection, attention, and money.

You can read more about our first reset here: How to Get Your Life Back from Distraction, Depression, and Distance

#6. A counseling/ mentoring relationship like Marriage Savers and Prepare-Enrich.

You may be surprised to discover that people in your church or community are trained in marriage counseling! Many churches in our area support these two ministries and provide training and support for marriages through them.

Marriage Savers trained us to use the PREPARE/ENRICH couple inventory and counseling materials to walk with premarital couples as well as married couples.

Over the years, we’ve had the blessing of walking with friends through pre-marital counseling. We’ve walked with other friends through marital restoration. We’ve even had the blessing of walking with friends whose marriages didn’t make it. We’ve loved and treasured each person, honoring their story and praying for them regardless of the outcome.

PREPARE/ENRICH will help you:

  • Identify strength and growth areas
  • Explore personality traits
  • Strengthen communication skills
  • Resolve conflicts and reduce stress
  • Compare family backgrounds
  • Comfortably discuss financial issues
  • Establish personal, couple, and family goals

Though these programs do not replace pastoral or professional counseling, they can make all the difference in the world for engaged, newly married, or struggling couples. You’ll learn a ton, have meaningful conversations, and develop friendships with other couples that will strengthen your marriage.

#7. This book: 

Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life – by Cloud and Townsend

Boundaries should be mandatory reading for the human race. Every marriage would benefit from reading and understanding where one person starts and another stops, recognizing the ways we wield power in our relationships, and taking responsibility for one’s own decisions.

When Ryan and I were on the brink of divorce 11 years ago, I didn’t even know that I had a problem with boundaries. I didn’t know that I misunderstood love, generosity, and responsibility. When someone plopped this book in my lap, everything changed. Boundaries will help you to situate yourself wisely in relationships according to Scripture.

So yes, mandatory.

#8. Something to heal the brokenhearted like On the Threshold of Hope – Diane Langberg

Marriages thrive when a spouse’s sin or heartbreak is addressed and healed. Too often, significant heartaches go unaddressed until they devastate a marriage. We highly recommend asking God to heal your marriage sooner than later. You’ll never regret it.

Unaddressed struggles like previous relationships, affairs, abortion, drug-abuse, alcoholism, and sexual abuse can wreak havoc on a marriage. God is powerful and good; nothing is beyond His ability to redeem.

Regarding sexual abuse, which affects at least 25% of women and men, I highly recommend Diane Langberg’s writing. “On the Threshold of Hope offers hope and healing to men and women who have been traumatized by sexual abuse. Dr. Langberg’s insights and the quotations from many survivors assure readers that they are not alone and that Christ, the Redeemer, can heal their deep wounds. Through stories, Scripture, questions, and encouragement, Dr. Langberg walks with survivors on the road to healing through Christ’s love and power.”

#9. Shaunti Feldhahn’s fun, interesting, and practical 3-book series:

For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men

For Men Only: A Straightforward Guide to the Inner Lives of Women

The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big Difference

#10. Something to share.

Lost Cities, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Music Team

Lost Cities is a fun, 2-person card game, The Chronicles of Narnia is a great read-aloud, and The Music Team is the way Ryan and I serve together at church. These are just a few examples of things that Ryan and I have enjoyed together and that have – in small but sweet ways – made our marriage better.

So I encourage you to find simple things that you and your spouse enjoy doing together – a game, a book, a show, a ministry. We’ve discovered that when we are sharing something, our marriage is strong. Come to think of it, we’re over-due to have a little fun around here. I wonder what will be our next adventure? Got any good recommendations?

What’s on your Top Ten List of Marriage Resources? We’d love to know!

We Can Change Our Husbands, After all! (What Happens When a Wife Believes the Gospel)

LauraAll Posts, Marriage, Ministry

An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.” Proverbs 12:4.

A friend asked me to tackle this question on my blog, “How can I be a “crown” to my husband?” She’s been thinking about Proverbs 12:4 and wants to figure this wife-thing out. (This is the essence of a faithful friend: even her questions spur me on to reflection, repentance, and genuine love.)

So here I sit with the hardest writing assignment of my life. Knowing my inconsistencies and selfishness, it’s difficult to imagine what it’s like to be an “excellent wife”. I love Ryan with all my heart and I’ve grown to love marriage, but I do not consider myself to be a natural.

How about you? Has marriage been an easy fit or has it been more of a steep uphill climb learning experience?

Marriage has not been as natural as motherhood for me.  When Ryan and I said, “I do” 15 years ago, God had his work cut out for Him. And work He has. We are amazed by the softness, sweetness, and surety that God has created out of two selfish kids all dressed up at the altar. But, that’s a story for another time.

For now, one thing is certain: as I write this post, I’ll be listening, learning, and slowly recovering from the spiritual gut-punch.

About the crown…

This is the easy part. A king wears a crown to signify his identity as the king, right? It transforms him from a mere mortal to a reigning national figure.

No matter what the king does or where he goes, the crown remains a symbol of his royal identity.

He may behave very badly: the crown still speaks of his royalty. He may save the day: the crown glitters as consistently on that day as any day.

The crown points the king and everyone else to the truth of the king’s identity.

It points the king and everyone else to the dignity of the king’s calling.

It sets the king apart from everyone else: he is distinct, chosen.

It invites the king to greatness, symbolizing the vast potential reach of his life.

How is an excellent wife like a crown?

This is harder to answer for the lump in my throat, but according to the metaphor, an excellent wife is a consistent sign of her husband’s dignity and worth as God’s creation and God’s son.

She points her husband and everyone else to the truth of her husband’s identity.

She points her husband and everyone to the the dignity of his calling.

She sets her husband apart from everyone else: he is distinct, chosen.

She invites her husband to greatness, reminding him constantly that he has vast potential in the Kingdom of God.

An excellent wife’s thoughts, words, and actions are unswervingly grounded in the gospel, where her husband has the right to be a son of God. 

“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1: 9-12

This is heavy and glorious, not to mention entirely supernatural.

I want to be a crown, but how? What does this look like for you and me, today?

Does the image of a crown on a king’s head help you to envision yourself as a faithful trustee, reminder, and evangelist of your husband’s value and calling? But like you, I want to know how to do this in real life.

Let me know your thoughts on the matter in the comments?  I’ll start the ball rolling by offering 2 big ideas about what “being a crown” may look like on a day by day basis.

I’ve boiled everything down to 2 actionable steps that will shape our every-decision, every-thought, and every-word in limitless significant ways. I have a hunch that when we do these 2 things, we will be like crowns on our husband’s heads. I think God will use us to spark profound eternal change in our men.

  1. We will steady ourselves in the gospel.

    If it’s not obvious already, no wife can truly be like that crown on a king’s head. We’re simply too stuck in our own flesh to promote and honor another human to that extent. Jesus alone can give us the grace to be that loving… that generous and wise.

    So every day – morning, noon, and night – we will deliberately return to the truths that God has forgiven our sin and made us righteous through Christ. This will change everything about us, helping us to think clearly about our identity as well as our husband’s.

    This mindset will determine our words and actions, which will not only honor our husbands literally, but will also honor them by association. Our kindness, joyfulness, and peace will speak volumes about our men. People will look at God’s grace in our lives and say, “He’s with her? Wow. He must be a king.

    Can you create intentional markers in your day that cause you to turn your thoughts toward the great relief and glorious calling of the gospel?

  2. We will speak the truth in love – about our husbands and to our husbands.

    Like us, men are only human.  Like us, they carry burdens and weaknesses. When men look in the mirror, they see mere mortals who are afraid of failure and acquainted with limitation. An excellent wife reminds her husband that in Christ, he is so much more than meets the eye.

    (As I write this, I am imagining men all over the world looking in the mirror: their shoulders are slumped and their faces downcast. They are entirely average and they know it.Then, I imagine wives all over the world coming up from behind them, placing crowns upon their heads.

    The men’s eyes fix strong, they breathe in deeply and hold their shoulders back as they remember: they are entirely significant in Christ and they are called to live as courageously as kings.)

    How can you daily remind your husband of the gospel, which is God’s great love and calling for him?

To wrap things up, remember that these verses from 2 Corinthians 5 apply to our husbands as much as they apply to us:

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5: 16 – 21

A crown never stops declaring a king’s dignity and calling.

May we never stop declaring our husbands’ dignity and calling in the gospel.

May God give us the grace to live in this light.

  • What comes to your mind when you think about this verse?
  • Share this with your married friends so that the next time you get together, you can talk about what this means for everyday life. (Then be sure to share everything you learn with me!)

Make the Same Meals Every Week: 5 Surprising Benefits

LauraAll Posts, Food, Healthy Living, Motherhood

Food used to be my biggest headache…

There was a time when I would spend several hours composing our menu each week, downloading new recipes, ripping recipes from shiny magazines, and paging through my pile of cookbooks for inspiration. My grocery list would be a mile long with new ingredients that I never bought before and may never use again. I’d spend 3 weary, bleary hours in the grocery store trying to find unfamiliar ingredients and make the best choice amongst unfamiliar brands.

Add to that the always-surprising-total at the checkout.

Then the process of cramming and piling the ingredients in the pantry, fridge, and freezer.

Then, of course, deciphering the recipe at 5 p.m. with a crying toddler clinging to my leg and three other children playing the piano at the same time.

The final straw was the unsolicited feedback at the table. An innocent “thumbs down” suddenly felt like a “$152 + 9 hours of work” weight on my shoulders.

Now, food is a source of joy and fellowship…

I made some big changes that have transformed the way I approach meal planning.

One of those Big Changes: Repeat the same meals every week.

Ever since I committed to making the same meals every week, my meal planning has been surprisingly and refreshingly better. I stick with a meal cycle for about 3 months at a time, and rework the menu from season to season.

I love it because it comes with 5 amazing benefits. If you need some stability and simplicity in the kitchen, these 5 benefits are for you.

(But first, let’s be honest about the losses: You’ll miss out on most of the tantalizing Pinterest and Food network recipes. You’ll miss out on some variety. You may feel like this plan is “less fun” and “more boring”. Maybe.)

5 benefits of making the same meals every week:

  1. You’ll know what to expect from your budget.

As you purchase the same ingredients from week to week, you’ll begin to spend the same amount of money from week to week, and month to month. This will help you to plan your budget with your eyes wide open, knowing what’s coming and not being surprised by some extravagant ingredient that snuck its way into your life via an alluring Pinterest recipe on Tuesday.

2. You’ll learn prices and identify sales.

Because your grocery list will be limited and established, you’ll become well-acquainted with the brands that you like and the price-range of each item. You’ll know when Sharp Shopper really is offering a great sale and when Weiss has the Oatmeal hiked up too high. This will help you to stock up wisely on food that you know you’ll be eating for the next three months at least.

3. You’ll naturally organize your pantry, fridge, and freezer.

Say “good bye” to that motley assortment of half-used bottles of rare oils, random jars of preservatives, and unfinished bags of freezer-burned vegetables. From now on, you’ll know your ingredients, find the perfect place for them on the shelf, and use the food in your freezer. There will be a place for everything, and everything will be in its place.

4. You’ll save time and energy at the grocery store.

As you work your way through the grocery store looking for the same items from week to week, you may shorten your shopping trip by hours. Know exactly what you’re looking for. Stop deliberating about prices and brands. Enjoy your extra 45 minutes by reading a book (or catching up at LauraBooz.com, of course).

5. You’ll become more comfortable with various cooking techniques.

Believe it or not, variety might not be the best teacher in the kitchen. Maybe, as with math facts, the best culinary teacher is repetition. For example, when my weekly menu was sporadic and ever-new, I had to reacquaint myself with every cooking technique every time I cooked. Now that I’ve been repeating the same meals for many weeks in a row, I don’t even have to pull out a recipe to make stir-fry, roast vegetables, or cook in the crockpot.

Try it!

So, what do you think?

Are you willing to give it a try for 3 months? If you make it a summer challenge, you’ll be so much stronger when life ramps up in the fall.

Before I sign off for the day, I want to make sure that you have a copy of The Reluctant Meal Planner’s Meal Plan. I wrote this for people who – like me – need some encouragement in the kitchen and want some joy in food. Enter your email address and I’ll send the 15-page printable – full of tips, tricks, and recipes – to your inbox.

Submit your name and email below to receive this gift!

 

I just read “You are Free: Be Who You Already Are” by Rebekah Lyons

LauraBooks

It’s no small thing for a woman to put her heart and story on paper. It’s no small thing for her to trust strangers with the intimate and personal struggles. In her 2016 release, You are Free: Be Who You Already Are, Rebekah Lyons worked through a lifetime of heartache and humanity in order to share one important message with you and me: Jesus came to set us free and that changes everything.

When you read this book, you’ll journey with her through all kinds of personal stories – back in time, forward in time – from one state to another, in airplanes, kitchens, and counseling offices. All along, she returns to Scripture for her plumb-line, and to Jesus for her True North.

If you are struggling to live free in Christ – free from comparison, shame, or anxiety – this book should be at the top of your pile. Plan to pray your way through it, taking each chapter’s application questions seriously. Who knows? You are Free could be the vessel that God uses to set you free.

My favorite snippet arrived toward the end…

God offered me joy and freedom as I lived into my various roles:

As a wife, to champion and follow.

As a mother, to nurture and raise up.

As a daughter, to honor and obey.

As a friend, to listen and encourage.

As a neighbor, to welcome and nourish.

As I listened to God, my heart began a gradual shift from wanting to accomplish big things for God to wanting to simply receive small things from God.” p. 206-207

Here’s to reading books that change our lives!