Two Free eBooks to Check Out

This past month, I’ve had the honor of writing articles for two different eBooks – both, as it turns out, purpose to bring you hope.

Hope Renewed: Real Stories of God’s Promises Fulfilled is a beautiful compilation of stories from the Sisters in Bloom writers. Click here for your free copy and let God’s promises fill you with hope.

Hope After Porn: 4 women share their stories of heartbreak . . . and how their marriages were saved is available through Covenant Eyes and offers hope for the marriage that has been affected by pornography. Click here for your free copy and, by all means, send it along to a friend who needs a dose of hope for her marriage.


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Ryan and I made the mutual decision to stay home for Valentine’s Day this year. The girls will enjoy an annual Valentine’s Day shebang with some friends in the afternoon. In the evening, I’m finally going to jump in and try my hand at a Valentine’s Day Dinner. To keep things fun and simple, I think we’ll try the Heart Shaped Pizzas that I read about here and bring out the fondu pot for a chocolate-covered strawberry dessert. I’m sure we’ll sit on the couch and read through the girls’ Valentine cards (a tradition my father started with us many, many years ago!) and then, we’ll tuck all of the kiddos into bed, make these Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes that I have been eying for a full year, snuggle up by the fire, and watch Courageous together.

What are your plans?

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Tune in To Marriage

Mark Driscoll has begun a wonderful sermon series on marriage to accompany the release of Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together. Ryan showed me how to use the Mars Hill app on my iPhone (it’s free!) so I can listen to the sermons while I walk on the treadmill in the morning. Look for it! And listen. I have a feeling you’ll love it!

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Pray and Plan

Recently, Ryan and I took a weekend to pray and plan for the upcoming year. Some friends of ours sent us a template of topics to work through – everything from finances to intellectual growth. Our friends have enjoyed their annual Pray-and-Plan Retreats and inspired us to begin our own. It was encouraging to our marriage and I think it will prove to be fruitful. The girls enjoyed an overnight stay at Grandmom and Grandpop’s while we talked about our family’s 2012 mission, our gardening plans, our homeschooling dreams, and lots of other things.

Here’s a free pdf of an example outline. Maybe you and yours would like to try it out? Just click right here to get started!

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Best Marriage Quote of 2011

Thanks to Joy Forney of Grace Full Mama, for quoting her husband:

“It’s my best friend I fell in love with and want to hang out with, not my maid!

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Not a Machine

I was buzzing about my day, accomplishing everything on my extensive to-do list, when one thought changed my life. It happened the day I pulled the car into the garage after grocery shopping – keeping within our budget, mind you – and using a handful of coupons. I had selected the finest fruits and vegetables, bought all-natural snacks, and befriended the glum cashier. I parked the car, pulled the baby out of the car seat, grabbed five bags of groceries, kindly helped my little girls inside while keeping the kitten outside, and crafted a brilliant paragraph for my upcoming eBook. Wow! I was doing everything at once. I was so tickled by my Type A-ness that I smiled and encouraged myself with the cheer: “I’m a machine!”

Something about that happy-yet-crazy statement stopped me in my tracks. For one moment, time froze. The grocery bags balanced precariously in my arms, the baby waited for the next bounce, the disappointed kitten condescended to the nudge of my foot, and I felt an epiphany fall into my heart:  I’m not a machine… I’m a human being.

That one thought was so heavy, I almost dropped the groceries.

(In fact, I’ve been staggering under its weight ever since.)

Time unfroze. The kitten scampered down the steps, I closed the door, and slowly unpacked the groceries as I mulled the news: I’m not a machine. I am not a machine! I set the girls up with an art project and nestled the baby in bed (you can’t expect a Type A to stop completely, ya know), and then I poured myself a cup of tea and read an article in WORLD magazine. And that’s all I did. I didn’t cook dinner, listen to the phone messages, and crochet a scarf at the same time. I just sat there and read. And drank. But that’s all. It felt very… human.

The days after that just got wilder and wilder. I read a fabulous book called Entre Nous: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl (I have a weak-spot for books about etiquette and fancy-things.) While it’s definitely not the next John Piper epistle, it was like a glass of lemonade on a summer day. It reminded this American go-getter about the Latin ethic of life over work… the importance of truly savoring and meaning the food I eat, the politics I preach, the clothing I wear, the children I raise, and (okay) the make-up I wear. I was in such a dry place, that I read it as a devotional book and actually felt the Holy Spirit sighing peacefully inside of me as I remembered what it means to be human. (Warning: If you read it as a devotional, you might be sorely disappointed. It is not biblical per se. But it sure helps a girl to breathe again.)

So, am I a machine? Non!

A “chicken”? Maybe.

A human? Decidedly so.

(I must admit that I related this story to my non-A-type friend and she sighed wistfully and said, “But you’re such a good machine! You’re like the best machine I know.” So, in case you can’t relate to this post, just know that you do have good company out there.)

Posted in Farm Life, Healthy Living, Laugh About, Marriage, Motherhood | 10 Comments

“My Life For Yours”

“My life for yours.” That’s what the pastor said in the homily. My new brother, Alan, and my sister, Erin, stood up on a platform, hand-in-hand and the pastor charged them with John 15:13 passion. He said “This is the gospel. This is marriage.”

And now, a week later, I still can’t get it out of my head… it keeps swirling up there… “My life for yours.”

The wedding was an exquisite party: the romance, the colors, the smiles, the family, my all-time favorite rendition of “That’s Amore”, skanking down the aisle to Flatfoot 56 (oh yes, I did!), taking photos in the city’s street, the hula-hoops, glow-sticks, confetti, favors made by Erin and Alan’s dear youngsters in the city, wine, good bread, and gourmet coffee, and an exiting arch made out of sparklers… and yet, the sweetest, most profound thing keeps lingering in my heart, ringing in my ears, and practicing itself on my lips: my life for yours.

My life for yours.

This is the essence of love.

Here are a couple of photos from the gorgeous December day. But I hope your most lasting impression is the title of this post, the theme of our existence.

(My sister and my parents. So beautiful.)

(My only shot of the handsome groom. We’ll have to order photos from the photographer. Our arms were full. And, as I said, we were busy celebrating!)

My delights.

Flower girls in Philly.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends…

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So, the other day, I was telling Ryan about The Chicken Principle and he added this brilliance:

When we are struggling with lust (for self-pity, food, s*x, attention, stuff, etc.), often our way out of the temptation is found in The Chicken Principle. It’s in making ourselves useful and producing something that we turn away from temptation. When we have time on our hands and we find ourselves thinking fondly of the very thing we don’t want to do, maybe we could instead embrace the work we were meant to do. There’s victory waiting for you in The Chicken Principle.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

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As you know, we have 17 chickens. They lay eggs every day. Their entire lives revolve around laying those eggs: they eat, sleep, and socialize so that they can lay eggs.

For the most part, they lay eggs in nesting boxes. We never had to teach or train them to do this. They just knew: “There is a plastic bucket attached to the wall. I will lay an egg in it.” Brilliance. Every once in a while, we’ll find an egg in the middle of the stall or under the roost, as if they just couldn’t hold that egg in one moment longer. It’s as if they were just going about their day, when it plopped out – the wrong time, and the wrong place – but an egg, nonetheless. They were created to produce eggs, and they do it!

Anyway, this got me thinking about how each of us is made to produce something unique. (My deepest apologies that I can’t come up with something more elevated than egg-laying, but it’s what I’ve got. And you’ll get the point as long as you work with me here.) “The Chicken Principle” is the thing we do so naturally that we almost can’t help but do it. It’s the thing that just plops out when we’re going about our daily tasks. It might be design, counsel, music, dreams, organization, html, or any other thing.   For me, it’s teaching. It just runs in my blood. I teach here, I teach there, I teach everywhere. I eat, sleep, and socialize so that I can teach. That’s why I homeschool, write, lead Bible studies, and say “yes” to speaking opportunities… because I love to teach. Of course, like those eggs, there is a proper time and place to do the deed, but it’s so natural to my personality that if I talk to you for more than 10 minutes, chances are that I’m going to start teaching, even if I didn’t mean to. Of course, teaching is still hard work for me (just like laying an egg is for a chicken, I imagine), but it’s natural to me and it fills me with vim and vigor. I love it.

Lately, I’ve noticed that most people have shut down their Chicken Principle because they don’t realize how great it is. Whatever-it-is that you produce is there for a reason. Don’t deny its productivity just because it comes naturally. That’s the whole point! It comes naturally so that you will do it! And learn how to do it well, and often. 

What’s your Chicken Principle?

“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” Psalm 90:17

Posted in Chickens, Homeschooling, Marriage, Motherhood | 12 Comments

The Most Important Thing

“Jesus is not coming for a church that’s gritting her teeth, struggling to stay free from sin, secretly wishing she could indulge in a little immorality No, Jesus is coming for a church utterly devoted to Him – one that is free on the inside. The greatest motivation for obedience comes as we encounter more revelation of who Jesus is.” – Passion for Jesus: Cultivating Extravagant Love for God by Mike Bickle

So let us “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God…” -from Hebrews 12

What is weighing you down so heavily that you cannot spend time in God’s presence today? What is entangling your time and your affection? Get rid of it and run to Jesus.

Posted in Blogging, Healthy Living, Homeschooling, Marriage, Motherhood | 3 Comments