“Courage, Dear Heart” Gift Bundle GIVEAWAY, featuring A Gilded Line

LauraAll Posts

This year, our 11-year old wore the cover off our copy of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe .  The book landed everywhere – on the kitchen counter, by the bathroom sink, in the car, on the couch – with a dozen scraps of paper sticking out, marking pages. Over a span of a few weeks, she transformed the novel into a stage play. She spent hours bent over her little notebook, writing page after page of dialogue and scene descriptions.

She held auditions and selected her cast, her sister as Lucy and her brother as Maugrim (with a growl so good it would make you want to flee your beaver dam). Of course, talented cousins fill in the other roles.

As you can imagine, Narnia has been everywhere and all the time for us. We’ve been listening to the audio books, watching the movies, reading through scenes and listening to the movie soundtrack on our drives into town.

When Valentine’s Day rolled around, we wanted to give our sweet tween a token of our love.

We selected a hand-stamped metal cuff from A Gilded Line. (I loved that we could choose the type of metal and the style of the font, personalizing the bracelet, making it just right for our girl.)

 

It is inscribed with, “Courage, Dear Heart”… that was Aslan’s whisper to Lucy when she needed it most.

“…but no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.”
C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

We hope that our girl will hear God’s whisper saying the same thing, cheering her on through her life, strengthening her when she is weak, showing her how to live.

It is perfect for a girl-sized wrist, but able to grow with her over time. It’s beautifully made and comfortable to wear, a true treasure.

GIVEAWAY!

Allison, the creator of A Gilded Line has created a C.S. Lewis Gift Bundle for us.

The bundle includes 3 of her C.S. Lewis creations:

  • A metal cuff that is hand-stamped with “Courage, Dear Heart”
  • A metal cuff that is hand-stamped with “Be just and merciful and brave”
  • A hand-stamped bookmark with the inscription, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind. – C.S. Lewis”. (Don’t you just love that?!)

To enter this giveaway, fill out the form below! Open to the U.S. only. This giveaway ends on March 22nd, 2017, at 11:59pm EDT.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You’ll just love Allison at A Gilded Line. Her family business motto is: “Wear Truth. Share Truth.” 

She writes, “There is something empowering about wearing life-building words on your wrist, a constant reminder and point of focus to center your mind on. They also provide opportunities to talk to others, breaking the ice of a superficial conversation when you share your purpose behind choosing the words you wear on your cuff! A Gilded Line is still a family-run business, and we hope to be able to stamp and spread truth as long as possible!”

Oh, and an outtake photo just for you:

Weak Wrists, Sick Babies, Poor Eyesight: The Mentors God Chooses

LauraAll Posts, Bible Study, Discipleship

There’s an older woman at our church who would like to meet with our 11-year-old sweet-pea. The two of these unlikely friends have been talking “knitting”. Viv wants to learn how to knit the sweaters that Lynn sends to children in third world countries. They’ve planned needle sizes and yarn type, but they haven’t gotten together yet.

This morning at church, Lynn grabbed my arm and said, “I want you to know that I keep thinking about Viv, but I’ve been sick for 3 weeks. My stomach has been terribly upset. I think it’s related to my vision. I was supposed to have Laser surgery last week to fix my blurry vision, but the appointment was postponed because of the snow. My appointment is rescheduled for the middle of April. I can’t knit until after that. But, I am really looking forward to getting together with her then.”

I said, “I understand completely. You are so dear!”

She is watching the calendar – counting down the days – until she can sit with a girl some-60 years younger than herself, and teach her how to knit sweaters to clothe the naked, in Jesus’ name.

To me, this is one of life’s most beautiful moments.

Lynn’s struggle to obey Christ in a weak, frail body reminds me of the many times I’ve had to reschedule discipleship meetings because my children were throwing up, or I hadn’t slept for 7 weeks, or I had forgotten about a doctor’s appointment.

It reminds me of the many times I’ve read half of the chapter that we were going to discuss, or prayed for my friend once in a week’s time, or failed to follow-up with a phone call… all because I was trying to get an infant to breastfeed, or potty-train a toddler, or listen to an 8 year-old’s story.

In the past, I’ve felt guilty, frustrated, and discouraged by these circumstances. This just mustn’t be the right season for me to disciple anyone, I’ve thought sadly. But now, I can see that these challenging circumstances simply are the nature of discipleship.

God calls us to disciple one another within the context of very limited bodies and relentless interruptions.

Consider Jesus who gathered his 12 disciples around him day after day. They had plenty of distractions and interruptions come their way. (In fact, when I read the gospels, I feel like they just moved from one interruption to another.)

Jesus doesn’t avoid or ignore the complex inconveniences of life, but instead uses those very circumstances to teach about love, compassion, and total reliance on God.

We can do the same, learning from – leaning on – Christ.

Our limitations, cancellations, and confessions will be the very things that point to Jesus the most. You and I are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Let’s not give up.

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” – from Hebrews 10

(Would you like to develop a mentoring relationship with another woman, but need something to fuel the friendship? Consider asking a few of these questions to get things going!)

Don’t Eat Raw Granola Bars! (I forgot an important detail…)

LauraAll Posts

Yikes! My sister just pointed out that the Girlfriends’ Granola Bar recipe in The Reluctant Meal Planner’s Meal Plan didn’t include the baking temp. and time! I’ll modify that in the PDF asap, but in the meantime, please add this to your download: “Bake at 350ºF for 20-25 minutes, or until the bars begin to turn golden at the edges.”

I’m so sorry if you’ve been chowing down on raw granola bars. I promise, they are much tastier when baked.

Oh, dear. I can learn from that.

3 Ways to Make it Through Winter’s Last Hoorah.

LauraAll Posts, Motherhood

I stopped by the library to pick up a stack of books that our local librarian was holding for me at the circulation desk. Our 11-year old had also asked me to snag The Princess Academy, so I headed into the quaint children’s section first.

I was so happy to see a friend of mine there. Her three beautiful children – all under 4 years old – were playing at the train table. They seemed so content.

But, that mama, well she looked at me with wide eyes and said, “I don’t think I’m going to make it. How do you get through the winter with little children?”

She went on to explain that they have a tiny living room and that she is at her whit’s end with the crankiness. She said that every other minute, one of them cries. And her daughter – oh, her 2 year old daughter – she’s just mean sometimes, she said. “I feel so unChristian that I have these difficult children! What should I do?”

 I assured her that it is much harder to have 3 children-under-4, than 5 children-under-11. (Big kids are hope-bringers and help-bringers. I love them.)

I wished she could see into our home just once as we struggle with the same things. We’re a little stir-crazy, too. We whine and argue and yell at each other. At least she could see that we’re in this together.

There is no doubt about it, winter is long and wearying on the mother of young children.

But we can make it to the other side.

3 simple things to make it through winter:

  1. Play background music. 

Beautiful background music is like a magic show around here. It transforms a cranky atmosphere into a peaceful one, instantly. I’ve noticed that my children play happily when music is wafting around. Try it: sit your children at the kitchen table with play-doh and turn on the Elizabeth Mitchell Pandora station.  You will be amazed at the peace that fills your home.

Of course, there is always a good reason to play some spunky dance music, too. Select something more upbeat when you want to lighten the mood and get your blood pumping.

2. G0 outside.

It is so hard to go outside with little ones, but it couldn’t be more important. The hard work you put into it will pay off in happier, healthier kids. I’m sure of it.

(Just a tip: Don’t ask them if they want to go outside. They will say, “no.”  Just say, “Let’s go play soccer! Do you want to put your shoes on or should I?” Be happy. Bundle up. It will be worth it if you stay out there for 5 whole minutes. Fill a bird feeder. Get the mail. Look for animal tracks or pinecones. Play tag.)

When my children were younger, I made a Winter Challenge Chart on a piece of yellow construction paper. The Challenge was… “Go outside for 3 minutes.” Yes, this was the equivalent of an xtream winter sport. We kept the chart by the door and we did that thing. Of course, it took 20 minutes to get everyone’s boots, coats, and mittens on. I considered that a worthwhile 30 minute activity.

By the way, guess who will be boosted the most with a little sunshine? You.

3. Listen to encouragement about motherhood as often as possible.

I listen to Sally Clarkson’s “At Home With Sally” podcast almost every day. (New to podcasts? Download the app “Podcast Republic” and search for “At Home With Sally.” Click “Subscribe” and download any podcasts that look interesting to you.)

I need to hear that my work is noble, that it matters, that I am running a marathon, doing Kingdom work, and raising adults who will do great things for God. I need real, audible voice from the “great cloud of witnesses” cheering me on from day to day.

Get yourself some cheerleaders, especially now when you feel like quitting.

I’ll be the first. “You can do this. You can love those little ones today. You are the perfect person to help them through their winter struggles and give them a vision of transformation. God is gently holding you as you gently hold them. Keep on! You are going to make it.

(Do you know a mother of young children who could benefit from this post? Send it along! And maybe offer to help her through one more winter’s day.)

Mom, Your Degree and Career Are Worth Every $.

LauraAll Posts, College, Homeschooling, Motherhood

Before I had children, I’d write the monthly check to pay my college loans and I’d wonder if I’d ever get my money’s worth out of my college education.

Then, as I was transitioning from my career as a teacher to a homeschooling mother, I worried that the skills I developed in my career would atrophy and my hard work would fade into meaninglessness.

It took me several years to adjust from a lifestyle of measurable, consistent achievement to a more amorphous existence. It took me just as long to bid farewell to my love of a paycheck, pats on the back, and public appreciation. But, those appetites faded over time as other ones grew. I came to love the ongoing pleasure of seeing my dearest humans grow centimeter by centimeter, discovery by discovery. I began to love the freedom of creating the rhythms of our days, of feeling satisfied with relationships instead of output.

I like how I’ve become more human, really.

And yet those questions about getting my money’s worth and keeping my skill-set still lingered in my mind.

Until things like this started happening…

When our firstborn was 2 years old, she said she wanted to be a nurse. Not “become a nurse someday“, but to be one, now. Pronto. She wanted to introduced herself with, “I’m a 2-year old nurse.” And she was. She’d notice the slightest cut on anyone’s hand and ask about it. She mastered the application of Dora Bandaids by the time she was 3 1/2 years old.

I could tell that God had given us a child who would love the sciences. This helped me to see two useful things: that our daughter would love – and need – scientific instruction asap. What a thrill to access all of the things I learned earning my B.S. in Biology. When she was 4, I taught her how to set up an experiment with a control and a variable. We looked at things from the inside-out, and when she had complex questions about cells, energy, or heart chambers, I knew where to begin.

Now that she’s 11 years old with countless other interests, and followed by siblings who are miniature mathematicians, readers, musicians, writers, administrators, athletes, you name it, I can confidently report that every dollar and all of the hard work I invested in my college degrees (a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in English Literature, as well as a M.A. in English Literature) has been worth it.

My higher education shaped me and my creative work as a mother. It provides the wealth of ideas, skills, and know-how that I give to my children every day. Because of what I learned in college, grad school, and my career, I introduce my children to literary themes from their earliest memory of conversation. I teach them how to speak from the heart, choose good books, read carefully, listen for details, and write persuasively and gracefully. I teach them how to work hard and ask good questions.

I never could have guessed that my education and career would be so valuable.

I certainly wouldn’t have guessed it would find its greatest value in my children, through motherhood.

Though I haven’t earned the dollars back literally, I confidently consider them well invested.

It is a great joy in my life.

Now I can see that we don’t go to college and build careers for money or promotion alone. If that’s the extent of our motivation, it will trap us. We go to college and build careers for insight and skills that we may use to love and serve people, as God allows.

Do you ever struggle to justify the financial and time investment of higher education and career with motherhood?

This may help: Today, take some time to jot down 10 ways in which your education and career have enriched you with content, perspectives, and skills that you could pass along to your child. What are your child’s dreams and ambitions? Look for ways that your unique education and skill set complements your child. As you begin to enrich the miniature scientists and artists around your kitchen table, you’ll get such a kick out of the way God has lavishly prepared you for motherhood.

It’ll be worth every dollar.

Reviving a Lifeless Bible Study

LauraAll Posts, Bible Study

Just one year ago I was joyfully teaching two women’s Bible studies—one in the morning, one in the evening. I was daily studying Scripture, loving every word. The Holy Spirit carried me from precept to precept, and I loved sharing what I was learning: the connections between the Old Testament and the New, the meanings of complicated words, the excellencies of theological truths, and the hopeful application to everyday life.

Until now.

Now, Bible study feels impossible . . .

…Read the rest at Revive Our Hearts True Woman blog today!

Tired of playing tug-of-war with your child? Try this.

LauraAll Posts, Babies, Motherhood, Toddlers

When you say, “no grabbing,” do you practice what you preach?

After watching this YouTube clip, you may make “no grabbing” your own personal mantra.

Respect your baby’s personhood…

When you choose not to grab an item from a children, she feels much less threatened. You’re demonstrating that you trust her and believe that she will be beneficent toward you. She’ll love that vote of confidence! Chances are, she’ll give you the item and won’t pull it back from you. Farewell, exhausting and humiliating Adult vs. Child Tug-of-War!

So like a ninja, rotate at the wrist, turning your hand from knuckles-up to palm-up, and simply ask, “May I have that, please?” (And play it cool. Even the youngest infant can smell insecurity.) 

Your good behavior will rub off on someone you love…

Here’s the beautiful part: your child will learn from your behavior. With some coaching, he’ll use the same strategy to ask for something, and you won’t see as much grabbing. He’ll learn to treat others respectfully.

I dusted off this ancient YouTube clip to encourage (and entertain) our kiddos as they adjust to life with a mobile baby who is now getting ahold of anything in a 20-foot diameter. From the start, I want them to hold their palm open and ask him, “May I have that, please?” instead of grabbing things from his hand (but, it’s so easy to grab from a baby!). I’ve learned that if we begin this pleasant exchange with babies, they are less likely to grow up into grabby, defensive, “mine, mine, miners”.  And that’s a win.

P.S. Don’t give up on this if it doesn’t work the first or second time you try it. Remain consistent and kind and I bet you’ll see big, wonderful changes.

The Big Family Book Party: March 2017

LauraAll Posts, Books

Our whole family got together and decided to share what we have been reading this month. From the youngest to the oldest, we’ve each chosen one book that we think you – or someone you know – would love. Even Ryan gets in on the fun. (He’s a good sport.)

We hope that you enjoy our suggestions. What have you been reading lately? Let us know in the comments!

For the babies…

Get your pointer finger ready for DK’s My First Words. We love having a small “first words” board book on hand to point out the bright, well-defined pictures of common items from grapes to telephones. You add the sound effects, questions, and counting. The possibilities are endless.

For the sweet toddlers…

Audrey recommends Brinton Turkle’s Rachel and ObediahShe especially loves acting this story out, running around the house as fast as she can and being rewarded two silver coins, one of which she gives to her good-sport-of-a-brother.

I love this story because it highlights a little girl who speaks up for herself, works hard, excels, and is gracious in her victory. What a wonderful example for my little girl. (It’s a sailor-be-warned story for big brothers, though!)

For the bird-lovers…

This five-year-old boy can do an incredible Mourning Dove call. He opens his window in the morning and literally has an exchange with a Mourning Dove that sits on the Catalpa Tree in the front yard. And he learned it all from The Little Book of Backyard Bird Songs book.

I am so glad that I purchased this a few months ago. I wanted our children to have a resource of reliable bird songs without splurging for those major multi-card systems (they are intense). This is just right for us with its realistic bird songs and beautiful illustrations and descriptions of each bird. We prop it on the window ledge for quick access when we spot a feathered friend.

For absolutely anyone…

Our voracious reader recommends Five Little Peppers and How They Grew. My mother read this delightful book to me when I was girl. It is one of my fondest childhood memories. I read it aloud to my children last year and we absolutely loved it together. Lia read it again this year and snatched it right off the shelf when I asked her for a recommendation. This one comes to you with a big smile.

For the tweens…

The Penderwicks is our 11-year-olds top recommendation when she’s talking “books” with someone. She just loves those make-you-laugh-aloud kids. The personalities, the mishaps, and the friendships are so much fun.  Jeanne Birdsall has written a series following this family through time. We all think that it’s this century’s Little Women. You’ll have to tell us if you agree.

For wives…

My friend, Mary, and I just finished working our way through Barbara Rainey’s “Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife” together. We both agreed that Rainey’s words of wisdom helped us think more realistically and more biblically about marriage. It spurred many wonderful conversations – not just about marriage – but also about our security in Christ and our growth as His redeemed daughters.

Here’s an idea: give this book (it’s a gorgeous hardcover work of art) to a newly wed and offer to read it together. Schedule 4 or 5 get-togethers in which you’ll talk about it along the way. The book itself is helpful, but with your added thoughts and friendship, nothing could be better!

For the history buff…

Ryan recently discovered the joy of audio books. This month, he recommends Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln. It reads like a thriller, but it’s jam-packed with historical answers to all of your “What happened to Abraham Lincoln?” questions. Every once in a while, I’d listen in and was fascinated by all of the interesting details that the textbooks forget. (And I must say, it caused me to ask myself, “Why do I expect everyone to like me if everyone didn’t even like Abe?” Big life lessons.)

Now, it’s your turn: This month, I recommend reading _________. Let us know in the comments! 🙂

The Reluctant Meal-Planner’s Meal Plan: My Gift to You

LauraAll Posts, Food, Healthy Living, Motherhood

(mmm… delicious gluten-free granola bars that we bake every week)

You need to know that food is not my forte.

For years, it has been an up-hill battle…on a mountain of Jello.

In our family of 7, it works logistically for me to take responsibility for menu planning, grocery shopping, and food preparation, but it isn’t my strength or my interest.

Everything about it – the budgeting, the coupons, the food allergies, the health ideals, the elusive photographed recipes in magazines, the time it takes… it all just exhausts me.

For years, week after week, I’d sit with a pile of recipe books and a few grocery store fliers and take 2 stressful hours to figure out what we were going to eat for the next few days. It was the worst part of my work at home. And I knew it needed to change.

So I looked for help and gradually, things improved. Now, many years later, I’m contentedly and consistently working with a peaceful meal plan and grocery list that has improved my attitude about food tremendously.

Do you struggle with budgeting, menu planning, grocery shopping, and food prep, too?

I have good news for you: there’s hope! You can improve. And you can find joy in food.

Here’s how to begin finding joy in food:

Ask God for it!

I had complained about food one too many times when my friend Steph generously asked, “Have you ever asked God to give you joy in food?”

No, of course I hadn’t. (Why do we so often overlook our most obvious needs in prayer?)

So I began to ask.

Every time I had to make lunch for our hungry kiddos, I’d take a deep breath and ask God, “please give me joy in food.” Every time I sat down to plan my grocery list, I’d gasp, “Please give me joy in food!”

Over time, God did grant my request. As I learned more about food, implemented realistic solutions, and made deliberate decisions to move forward, I gained increasingly more joy in food. In fact, I’m writing this post because I do have joy in food and I’m delighted to share what I’ve learned.

Read foodie books.

Did you know that this is a genre on the shelves at your local library? People who love food actually write entire books about how food intersects with their lives, how they’ve been formed by food. These books are much more than a compilation of recipes. They are stories like, “When my dad was in the hospital, I couldn’t sleep. So I stewed some left-over dates in a little pot. I drizzled some honey on top and sat in the dark kitchen eating them, one by one.”

Now that I can get into. A beautiful, memorable moment with just “dates and honey” on the grocery list? Yes, please. Spontaneous, rule-breaking, emotion-driven creativity in the kitchen? Yes, please.

A few years ago, I read Bread & Wine. This was my first foodie book. Shauna Niequist tricked me into reading a book about food by making me think it was about God. (That’s my genre.) But she wrote about God AND food and helped me see the connection.

After that, I cranked out 5 foodie books in a row. I just kept checking out the next book on the library shelf. What’s great about foodie books – and different from Food network – is that you see a person relating with food in real life. I remembering snuggling up with Molly Wizenburg’s Homemade Life, and Ruth Reichl’s Tender at the Bone.

Each author helped to change my mind about the value of food.

I began to see food’s noble place in the home and community. This was good for me: I discovered that I could gladly invest my time and energy into food because it built people, homes, and communities.

Now, I have a vision – a why – in order to love it and work hard at it.

Listen to the meal-planning experts.

Because I asked God to help me in food, I pursued understanding through research and trusted Him to help me find useful resources. In my journey, I learned a great deal from resources like Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America’s Cheapest Family.

The few things that I implemented from this and other helpful resources were:

    • Plan a biweekly menu: Do a big grocery order every 2 weeks.
    • Forget coupons for now. I just can’t juggle this ball.
    • Plan a seasonal menu plan, including snacks, breakfast, lunch, and dinner with simple meals that everyone likes. Type it out on one page, attach it to the fridge, and stick to the list.
    • Print a 1-page list of the ingredients and groceries we buy regularly. Also, attach to the fridge. Highlight or circle the items you need from week to week.

Now, when I sit down to plan our menu and write my shopping grocery list, I know what I’m making, I circle the groceries we need, and write a few extras in the margin. I’m finished in 15 minutes.

We’re enjoying nourishing food that is easy to prepare. I see my grateful family around the dinner table, and they see one happy momma.

If that’s not one big slice of “joy in food,” I don’t know what is.

And now, a gift for you and your kitchen…

You’ll love this 15-page printable with the best meal-planning tips that I learned along the way, a copy of my own meal plans, a copy of my weekly grocery list, and 5 of our family’s favorite recipes (including those scrumptious gluten-free granola bars!).

This plan is simple, do-able, and all for you.

Submit your name and email below to receive this gift!

 

The Reluctant Meal-Planner’s Meal Plan will begin your own journey to find “joy in food”.

Share this with a friend who needs a little joy in food!

Remember the Dream, Momma: A Whisper of Encouragement For When the Days Drag On

LauraAll Posts, Marriage, Motherhood

‘Remember when you were a little girl and daydreamed about holding your own little baby? With your dolly, you practiced washing her, dressing her, putting her in that little high chair, and feeding her? You didn’t realize it then, but you were dreaming of laying your life down for a child.

And now, you are living the dream.

‘Remember when you were a teenager and you daydreamed about marrying that handsome, strong guy? In your journal, you’d write out everything you liked about him, agonizing over his every move, and longing for him to be by your side. You didn’t realize it then, but you were dreaming of giving your whole self to a man.

And now, you are living the dream.

Maybe, probably, (definitely), the dream was dreamier back then. But now, it’s real.

Real has a beauty, complexity, and dignity all its own.

Never doubt the goodness of your God-given dreams now that you’re walking around in them, all grown up.

Never doubt it, even if they are more difficult than you imagined.

You were right to dream them, and you didn’t dream them alone.

Your Creator wove those compex desires in your heart to guide you and tether you to the home you are building today.

Remember that He has never left you alone in those dreams, but is right by your side, working with you to live out those dreams.

All those years ago, when you hugged your dolly tight, you may not have known to glance slightly around and see God Himself by your side.

But now you do.

 

{My prayer for you today is something like this… “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace…” Philippians 1: 3 -7}

Would you savor this in your heart and then share it with another mother or wife who needs some encouragement today?