Presenting Our Kids Mature in Christ, Part III: Service

Presenting Our Kids Mature in Christ, Part III: Service

When we think of presenting our kids mature in Christ, we are striving to cover three areas: Knowing and obeying God; loving and worshipping God, and living a life of service unto God. In this third and final post in our series, we want to look at a few ways we can encourage spiritual maturity in our kids as they become Ambassadors for Christ.

Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” 

Service in the home: The best place to begin serving is in our homes. Swannie dad is servant hearted in every way and simply modeling that to our kids has affected them deeply. We want to encourage our kids to look out for the needs of others. As we honor our children above ourselves, they are catching the vision. We’ve noticed them making each others beds, picking up each others messes, volunteering for chores that need to get done. In fact, just today, Catty walked by and said, “Oh no! I forgot to do my consequence of bringing Ode’s dishes to the sink.”

Stretching in my memory, I couldn’t remember giving her any discipline, “Who gave you that consequence, Catty?”

She looked at me and replied, “I gave it to myself. Earlier I hurt Odes with my hands and I thought I should find a way to bless him with my hands.”

Our home is a place to welcome friends, family, and neighbors. Therefore, we make every effort to open our door in hospitality to those around us. The home gives us endless ways to mature in Christ through service.

mature in Christ: service

I Peter 4:10 “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 

Service in church: The beautiful picture of the body of Christ working in harmony is breathtaking. We have all been given talents and spiritual gifts in Christ. As a family we look for ways to serve the church together and on our own. David has taught Sunday School. I’ve led worship. The kids and I have led worship together. Our kids have sung, danced, and played musical instruments. We have joined with our church outreach, Big Serve together. As our kids continue to grow, their gifts will continue to unfold and God will mark out the ways He wants to use them in vocation, ministry, and families of their own. Growing in this area and seeing how God will use us in the life of the church is exciting. 

Romans 12:14 “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.”

Serving the people in our lives: Through the years, we have tried to keep our eyes open to serve the people around us in need. If we are looking, there is a multitude of ways to bless those around us. Families can serve together in any number of ways.

Are you good at cooking or baking? Bring someone a treat or meal.
Do you have a new or lonely neighbor? Shovel their driveway.
Do you know a family who is suffering, with little help? Watch their kids, clean their house, pay a bill or two if you can.
Send a card of encouragement.
Do you know families who foster? Find a way to bless them. (Diapers, formula, gift cards, new clothing, food, and prayers would bless the families we know who are fostering children.)
Dress up the kids and visit a nursing home.
Do you interact with the homeless? Give them something in the name of Jesus.
Bring a small gift to an old friend.
Drop off chocolates and a fun book or magazine at the home of a mom with young ones.
Give away your kids old toys and clothes to younger kids in the neighborhood.

The other day a little girl was sitting in our back yard watching the neighborhood kids play down the street. David said she looked lonely. My heart soared when Jules ran outside and asked if she wanted to play. One by one our kids descended upon her and the six of them played the rest of the evening. *Since writing this, I heard one of my kids share a praise report that they were able to proclaim Jesus to this little girl. Yes, they are getting the vision!

Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, this is your true and proper worship.

Service on vacation: Exposing our children to different parts of our country has been a privilege. When traveling, we look for different ways to serve. In Texas, we partnered with a church for a day. David was able to share God’s love with Latino families, while the middle kids and I packed food for them to bring home. Jules blessed children by doing crafts with them, as their parents picked up boxes of food and heard the message of God’s love.

mature in christ: servicemature in Christ: service

mature in Christ: service

In Arizona, we took on the challenge of the church we visited by organizing our own creative outreach. We stayed on a golf course and made fresh lemonade for the golfers as they passed. Additionally, the church offered materials for us to hand out in Jesus’ name. Looking for ways to serve on vacation, has played an important part in maturing ours and our children’s faith.

2 Corinthians 5:20-21 “We are therefore Christ’s Ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 

Vessels of Reconciliation: Ultimately, we hope for our children to become those who reconcile others to God. Our church is giving our kids a fantastic view of world missions. Before each of the kids leaves our home, I hope to complete the Apologia World View books. We look for real life examples to continue to share the truth of the gospel with our kids and through conversation are teaching them different ways to communicate the gospel to others.

Mark 10:45 “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

When we think of communicating a life of service and obedience to Christ, we always want to emphasize that we serve out of response to His work in our lives. It’s so important to guard against the subtle lies that make our children believe that the more they do, the more they matter to God. There is NOTHING we can do to earn the favor of God. Service to Him and others is because He loved us first.

We have been blessed to be a blessing. If our kids are going to grow to maturity in Christ, we need to model a heart of service. Proclaiming Christ in both words and service is an area I pray we will grow increasingly as a family. How are you building hearts for others in your homes?

Presenting Our Kids Mature in Christ, Part I: Scripture
Presenting Our Kids Mature in Christ, Part II: Prayer


Presenting Our Kids Mature in Christ, Part II: Prayer

Presenting Our Kids Mature in Christ, Part II: Prayer

Today, we are building on the idea from Colossians of presenting our kids mature in Christ. The first post in this series looked at diligently teaching scripture in the home. The focus of Part II will be prayer. Building an intimate prayer life with our kids has knit our hearts together in a beautiful way. We are beginning to see fruit of this discipline in the lives of our older kids as they are growing their own prayer lives, walking by faith.

mature in Christ: prayer

The following are some ways we have incorporated prayer into the life of our home:

Ephesians 6:18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep praying for the Lord’s people.” 

Common Prayers: We pray before meals, road trips, and bed times. When we hear a siren or see some kind of hardship on the road, we pray. After interacting with a person in need, we pray for them. If we get a message from family or friends in need, we pray right away. 

I John 5:14 “This is the confidence we have in approaching God, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”

Prayer Day: Swannie dad instituted “prayer day.” At bed time on that person’s prayer day, they get an extended time of prayer. Prayer requests are shared and each one is lifted up to God. This is a great time for those prayers we always mean to pray for our kids (salvation, future endeavors, spouses). 

Jeremiah 29:12 “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”

Prayer Groups: This year we invited three other homeschool families to join us in prayer twice a month. We follow the “Moms In Prayer” format. Moms and pre-schoolers meet in our play room. The little ones play and moms worship and express our thankfulness to God and confess our sins. We pray for our children, each other, our husbands, our homeschools, and other prayer requests. The girls from each family meet together and my oldest daughter leads them in a time of prayer. My oldest son leads the boy’s prayer time. Afterward we have a fun hour of learning together. 

James 5:16 “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. 

Confession Prayers: Recently, some of our kids engaged in an altercation of gigantic proportions. Angry words and hurt filled tears were whipped up in a frenzy. When David and I stepped in to help, I contributed to the discussion by angrily trying to put a kid in his place. After several minutes of heated discussion, I asked everyone if we could pray. I led a time of confession of my sin and asked for healing for our hearts and relationships. Hearts began to soften as we prayed for ourselves and each other. I would like to see this type of prayer increase in our home. 

James 5:13 “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.”

Prayer in Joy and Sorrow: Upon receiving the news from my doctor that we had lost our last baby, as a family, we immediately offered our sorrow up to God. By faith, we trusted that He understood our pain. By faith, we sent up prayers of trust that He knows best. As we face troubles and sorrows in our family, we are real about our strugggles, while continually walking the path of faith filled prayers. Our kids are now asking for God’s direction in their own lives and accepting His answers. When we receive good news or a blessing, we remember to praise Him for His goodness to us. I’ve noticed my children thank God for even the tiniest things that bring them joy.

I Timothy 2:1-2 “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving, be made for all people, for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 

Prayer for others: Years ago, we had a “prayer bowl.” We placed scraps of paper in the bowl which held prayer requests for others. At breakfast and lunch we would each take out a slip and pray for whatever was on it. The bowl is now since broken. Since then, I’ve made laminated cards and written prayer requests with wet erase markers and put them on our morning board. Letters and pictures from missionaries are posted on a board to remember to pray for them. Christmas letters are opened together during dinner and are prayed for before we hang them up on the wall as a prayer reminder throughout the season. We try to remember to pray often for our country and world leaders, missionaries, pastors, neighbors, family, friends, those fighting illnesses.

I Timothy 2:3-4 “This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 

Prayer for the Lost: I believe this is one of the most important kinds of prayers in which we can engage. The following verse is helpful as we lift up prayer for those who do not yet know Jesus: “We pray Jesus that you would open ______ eyes and turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”

Matthew 5:44 “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Prayer for our Enemies: Every single one of us at swanniehouse has endured the pain of broken relationships or deep hurt from outside of our home. We are choosing by faith, to love those who hurt us and pray for them. This is a very difficult kind of prayer, but it is also dramatically life-changing. 

Let us know if you decide to incorporate one or more of these ideas in your home ministry. We would love to hear what you are doing as a family to teach and model prayer in your home!

Presenting Our Kids Mature in Christ, Part I: Scripture

Presenting Our Kids Mature In Christ, Part I: Scripture

There is nothing more important to us at swanniehouse, than presenting our kids mature in Christ. We live in a country as well as a time in history, where opportunities are abundant. How do we make the best decisions with how to spend our days and years with the little ones entrusted to us by God? The best guide we have found is listening to what God says in His word and trying our best to follow His lead. We are dividing our posts on presenting our kids mature in Christ into a series. This enormous task has many facets to cover. The first we are going to tackle is keeping the teaching of scripture prominent in our homes.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9 tells us that parents are responsible for the spiritual teaching of our children. We are commissioned to take every opportunity, all through out the day, to impress the truths of scripture on our children. The following are some ways we are striving to diligently teach God’s commands to our kids.

Devotions: Nearly every day, after dinner, we read God’s word and discuss it. The most self-disciplined swannie in our home has kept us up to the task (thank you Swannie Dad, we appreciate you!). We have used several different devotional books or websites and have read directly from scripture. Ten to fifteen minutes a day set aside to read and discuss God’s word means 70-105 minutes of truth impressing a week! If a child is too young to sit, we let her color or play. We have provided notebooks for all of the kids to take notes or doodle if they like as well. 

Quiet Time: One of my favorite parts of the day is right after breakfast. We set the kitchen timer (usually around 20 minutes) and we are quiet. The big kids and I read from our Bibles and journal. Little ones scroll through Christian board books or paint or color. After finishing our quiet time, we often share what God taught us through His word. 

Scripture Memory: As a kid, I remember reading a portion of scripture out loud each week at church. We were given prizes when we memorized verses. In junior high we went through a serious study of scripture, memorizing large portions. Repetition of scripture has made a colossal difference in my life. We have put together a scripture memorization package for our family to cover. Doing this over the past three years has been a great encouragement. We set goals to complete different passages during different time frames. At the end, we celebrate with a fun prize.

Over the past six months, our kids have memorized; Matthew 7, Psalm 23, Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah 7:14, I Peter 2:19-25, Isaiah 53. They have earned fun gifts as a reward. We simply read the passage once every night during our devotion time. (When I had all pre-schoolers, I made a chart of small verses to memorize and the kids got candy when they said the verses to me each week. This time around, our 3 year old has heard the big kids reading this every night and she knows these huge chunks of scripture as well.)

In-depth study: Every week, we set aside one evening to cover a more in-depth study of God’s word. Over the past couple of years we have been working on, The Picture Smart Bible. Through this study we are giving our kids the “big picture” as to how scripture works together. It would be easy to let other activities take us away, so we strongly guard this time on our calendar.  

CSP (Coffee, Scripture, Prayer): My kids love coffee. They seriously, LOVE it. Some time ago, we decided to incorporate coffee with special family time. Every Saturday morning, we make a big pot and after breakfast dishes are done, we move into the family room with our Bibles and a big bin of toys for Cupcake. We take our time with our devotions, asking questions, laughing, praying, drinking coffee and enjoying one another and Jesus.  

Church attendance: We are thrilled to have found a church faithful to God’s word where we all learn from our pastor. All seven of us worship together every Sunday. We participate in corporate worship and our kids are part of the full life of the body of Christ. Our three youngest children have never gone to nursery and have sat next to me in the service. Helpful tip: When they were babies they would nurse and sleep all the way through the services. After that stage, I introduced dum-dums and ring pops. It doesn’t bother me in the least that every time Troy Dobbs gets up front, Cupcake looks at me and says, “Can I have a sucker now?” She can equate the teaching of God’s word with sweetness, as it is honey for our souls.

This pamphlet is not from our church (though I know from our pastor’s words that he welcomes children in our services). I love this sentiment and would love to see it true in every worship setting: 

presenting children mature in christ
Westminster Church

Seeds of Worship: One of the easiest ways to memorize scripture is through song. Seeds of worship are a wonderful tool for scripture memory. The songs are not the typical, “Is this CD almost over?” feeling for mom and dad. The melodies are catchy and fun. 

Handwriting: A Reason for Handwriting has been a beautiful tool to not only build a necessary life skill, but keeps scripture in front of our kids while learning it. 

We hope you are encouraged to take one area above and incorporate it into your home. Please let us know if you try something, or if you would like some help getting start. We would love to hear what other families are doing to be faithful in teaching your children scripture to present them fully mature in Christ.

He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. ~Colossians 1: 28

What to Do When Kids Tattle

What to Do When Kids Tattle

Wherever two or more children are gathered, a tattle-tail will be among them.

Kids will be playing and getting along like gold. Just as you are ready to kick up your feet and relax, one of them comes running saying, “Sara took my truck!” or, “Cameron hit me in the face!”

What is your reaction when the child comes with the news of devastation? Here are some typical responses: “What is going on? Get over here Cameron! Why did you hit your brother?”
“Sara, did you take her truck? That isn’t yours, give it back!” or “Sara, you need to share with your sister. Let her have a turn with the truck and then you will get a turn later.”

When a kid tattles, are you quick to jump in and fix the situation? Do you take a more hands-off approach? Do you feel equipped in those situations? The following are the tips we have at swanniehouse in tattling situations.

  1. Calm yourself. Whenever a kid comes running to me with an offense, I literally stop myself from feeling irritated. My internal dialogue changed from, “I can’t believe I have to deal with this again,” to “This is an opportunity to help my child become a vessel of reconciliation. Some day he or she will be an employer, employee, roommate, or spouse. They can build skills in our home when they face problems with others.”
  2. Resist the urge to fix the situation. Recently, Odes tattled on Cupcake for stealing a card away from him while he was playing a card game. He wanted me to chase her down and get the card back. That would have been an easy way for me to deal with the problem and move on. This however, was my response, “I am sorry you are having this problem with Cupcake. What have you done so far to work on this?” He replied, “Nothing, because I know she will just run away.” I replied with kindness, “I don’t have a problem with Cupcake right now. It’s not my responsibility to leave what I am doing to fix this. If this is going to be solved, you are going to have to work on it. What can you do to start?” Guess what? They figured it out on their own. There are times when kids will need help…but when a tattler comes your way, remember the problems are theirs, not ours.
  3. Ask questions. “Wow, you seem really upset about this situation. Did you just need to talk about it or are you looking for some help? Oh, you want help? OK, what have you done so far?” If you spend any time in our home you will hear these kinds of questions coming from swannie mom and dad’s mouths frequently. Here are some others, “Is there anything you are responsible for in this situation? How can you talk to your friend/sister/brother about this problem? What can you do to bring peace to this situation?”
  4. Don’t choose sides. I have been guilty of this and I see it all the time with families. One kid comes running in tears to mom, either emotionally or physically hurt by a sibling or friend. Mom listens to the situation, feels it is her responsibility to play judge and jury, and doles out a consequence. This is usually an unrealistic picture of relational difficulty. How many times have you had a conflict where the other person was 100% guilty and you had no part? When we choose one child over another we are helping create victims and turn the heart of the possible offender away from mom or dad. A better response: While caring for the hurt child, resist the mama-bear urge to attack. Give the hurt child language to express themselves to the offender. “I’m so sorry you were hurt. I never want you to feel unsafe/unloved in this home. Do you need some help talking to your sister? OK. Can you tell me how are you feeling?” My children usually say “angry” and at that point I try to help them find another emotion that may be underneath the anger. “Sometimes, disrespect feels like anger. Could you be feeling disrespected? Alright, let’s try this, “Sister, I felt disrespected when you took my dress from me and told me it looks better on you. It hurt my feelings.” Do you see the difference? Instead of jumping in and fixing the problem with punishments or angry words, you are helping the wounded communicate. It is helpful to assist the other party in this process as well by helping them listen humbly and express their feelings as well.

These tips aren’t a formula to reduce tattling in your home. Hopefully, they will equip you when looking at situations in your own home to use these situations as tools for development in your children. Try applying one tip until it starts feeling natural, then add another layer to your parenting. The initial change may be in your responses only. Over time, you will see your children benefitting from the changes in your own heart.

Our homes are a safe place for children to practice relational skills they will need in order to mature into capable adults that can live out healthy relationships. As parents, our responses to our kid’s problems are a huge deciding factor in how they will relate to others when they interact with the world outside our walls. Be thoughtful, prayerful, and intentional.

And here is some hope: As my perspective has changed in this area, the tattling actually has reduced. Five kids at home all the time, it’s only realistic to expect some fighting and drama. But my kids are masters at working through their problems with minimal help from mom and dad.



The Slow Work of God

One of my sons was practicing his piano lesson while I played Uno with some of the other kids. After some time had passed, the pianist was no longer practicing his lesson but was playing, “Another One Bites the Dust.” One of the Uno players looked at me and complained, “He’s counting that as lesson time you know!”

I smiled and looked thoughtfully at the justice seeking sibling. I asked my standard questions: “For whom are you responsible in this situation? Is your interference needed here?”

The child looked at me and said, “But did you even realize what he is doing?”

Kindly I replied, “I did. I notice more than you may realize.”

I quickly reflected on some of the ways that God has worked on my life. As a baby Christian, when He began cleaning up my tongue. When I grew in the Lord, He began moving me toward a heart of purity in different areas. Eventually, my relationships began to reflect those of one who followed Christ. He gave me a heart for those who were hurting or didn’t know Him. He has brought me through joy, pain, heartache, and loss. In each season of life has taught me more of His character, more of my need for Him.

Over the past 30 years of walking with God, He has been purifying areas of my life. Revealing hidden areas in my heart where I have not submitted fully to Him. He’s disciplined, pruned, and refined me. And I’m painfully aware that there is a lot of work left to do inside of me.

I looked at my sweet one seeking justice toward a brother who seemed to be squandering piano lesson time. “My love, I’m so thankful that God takes His time with me, not revealing all the areas in me that need to change at once. I sin often each day. If God scolded and disciplined me for every single thing, I would be completely overwhelmed. He knows what to work on at the right time. What you don’t understand, is your brother needs creative breaks between assignments. I know it seems “wrong” to you…but I’m asking you to trust me. And know that I want to give you the same kind of patience I’m offering your brother.”

Our kids need correction. We need wisdom to know when it is right to intervene. Sometimes it is OK to be aware of something and simply submit it to prayer or let it go. Sometimes our kids benefit from a window into our intentions as a parent. There is no end to the lessons we all need to learn.

“Be confident of this (with your children), that He who began a good work in you (them) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” ~Phil 1:6

Give Him time friends. Our little ones have much to learn when in our homes, under our nurturing care and guidance. But they won’t learn it all.

Valentine’s Day and Our Love for Our Kids

Over the years our family has celebrated Valentine’s Day in various ways. One year I hosted an “I love you breakfast” and we picnicked by the fireplace with yummy cinnamon rolls. Each child was given a heart shaped love note, with specific attributes I adored in each of them. When they were really little we used to get together with my friend Tammie and her crew we would hide hearts with loving words on them and they dashed off like an Easter Egg Hunt in search of the little messages. We’ve given little gifts. Papa Murphy’s heart shaped pizza made our menu once. Heart shaped chocolate chip cookie bars have been a favorite.

Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day 2017 was an impromptu affair. I searched for craft kits for the kids to do in pairs while the toddler napped. They got some chocolate. Homemade washi tape love notes from God met them at their breakfast spot. I remember loving when my mom gave me a sweet stuffed animal or little figurine with hearts on them when I was kid. I always want to do something special on this day.

Like all parents, I want the message of “I love you no matter what” to daily reach my kid’s hearts.

Are you loving your kids intentionally, each day of the year? 

Ask my kids how often they hear: “There is nothing you can do that will make me love you more. There is nothing you can do that will make me love you less.” When my kids do well in an activity, I often communicate, “I love seeing you succeed. Do you know though, that doing well doesn’t make me love you more than I already do?” The times when my kids face defeat, they hear the words, “I’m so sorry you are disappointed. I hope you know that even though you are feeling down about this, I don’t love you any less.” We always want our kids to know that it isn’t what they DO that makes us love them. We love them always, no matter what.

Kids feel deeply. Sometimes the way they process the world can make us as parents feel defensive or vulnerable. David and I have purposed to always encourage our children to express how they feel, even if it makes us feel rotten. Calmly providing a “safe place” where they can communicate and know that we always try to understand, is our goal. We close our mouths and hear their hearts. We ask questions like, “Did I do something to make you feel this way?” Even if it hurts to hear the answer.

So many times when kids fight or make less than positive choices, they simply need to know we are not giving up on them. As we walk through different valleys with each child, we are constantly (and literally) saying, “We are on your side. We won’t ever give up on you.” This might feel awkward at first. But they need to hear it!

In the tender years when children are in our homes (and I suspect far after as well), they need to know we believe in them. Say it! We often use the phrases, “I know you can do this! You are capable.” Or, “I’m excited to see you growing in this area. I believe in you!”

Gently looking into our children’s eyes with a soft smile, and a loving touch on the shoulder or hand has softened even the hardest hearts in our home. This isn’t always easy. When our children are hurt, angry, disappointed, sometimes they pull away. As parents, at times we want to pull away too. It is better to soften your face, ask if you can give a little hug, and show a sincere smile of warmth and tenderness.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have drawn you with kindness.”
Jeremiah 31:3-4

Over time, we hope to share specific stories of loving our kids. This Valentine’s Day we wanted to share practical phrases and tools to implement in your interactions with your kids today. I hope you who are reading will use this special day to communicate your fierce love to your children. May your homes be chocolate and flower filled! My heart is that each of you will be intentional in living out and expressing your love for your kids; in the mundane, in the hard, and in the victories. Jesus loves them. He calls them unto Himself. When we show tender, compassion, we are modeling the love He has for them. Let’s help each other keep our kid’s hearts. And let’s present our children before the Lord as one’s who have felt from early on that “God is love.” Happy Valentine’s Day!

6 Shortcuts to Simplify Life for the Homeschool Mom

Up early with babies and toddlers, up late with teens and husbands. We feed our families, clean our overly lived in homes, taxi kids to the doctor, lessons, and sports. They depend on us to keep the schedule, pay the bills, shop for groceries, manage the wardrobes and the laundry. Each day teach them math, language, typing, Spanish, literature, science, character, spelling, handwriting, history, Bible, apologetics, writing and more. We read aloud and color, kiss their boo-boos and bandage their scrapes, change diapers and put little ones down for naps. The task of growing them in wisdom and responsibility in their relationships is one we take seriously. There is no such thing as sick days, prep hours, or bathroom breaks. In fact, we don’t get to go to the bathroom alone, and if we do, someone is standing outside with a question or story. We are homeschool moms.

There is no doubt the homeschool mom is stretched all day long. I have a few shortcuts that simplify my life in the midst of the flurry:

Short-Cuts to Simply the Homeschool Life

1. Easy to make beds: Research shows that if you make your bed first thing, you’ll be more productive. Or something like that. My boys have bunk beds, one daughter has a little toddler bed, and one of my big girls has a day bed and trundle. None of these are easy to make. I have a regular bed, but I’ve never been a good bed maker. Enter Beddy Beds! These are a bit of an investment, but so worthwhile. (I sold a bunch of old bedding and stuff sitting around our house to be able to afford these and made sure I bought them with a coupon code.) If the bed is made, a room is on it’s way to clean. My kid’s beds look nice every single day. My bed is made every day, and not just made, but made like a picture-perfect catalog. I have one daughter still holding out on the beddy…however, since everyone else has their beds made beautifully every day, she has risen to the challenge and makes hers now too. (Yes! My three year old can make her bed! Beautifully!)

shortcuts bedsshortcuts bedsshortcuts bedsshortcuts beds

2. Pre make meals: breakfast, lunch, AND dinner! We’ve all heard of pre-making and freezing dinners. I do this. But I also make ahead kid’s lunches and breakfasts. I make a monthly meal plan. We do one big shopping trip a month. While David takes the kids shopping, I clean out my cupboards and fridge. When they return, I cook all the meat. The next day we assemble all the meals for the month. Then each night I take out the next day’s meal to defrost in the refrigerator. This means no standing with hands on hips in the kitchen thinking, “what should I make?” It means less clean up and less stress.

shortcuts meals

3. Have a quiet time WITH the kids: It is helpful to get up before the kids, but it is also hard. If I wanted to exercise, shower, get ready, and have time in prayer and reading God’s word, I would have to get up pretty early. Not being a morning person doesn’t help. I began having a quiet time with my children many years ago. When they were all small, I rounded up all of our Bible board books and they had baskets of books to look through. Often I gave them a special drink. We set the timer for 20 minutes (I worked up to this when starting out). During those 20 minutes there is no talking. No answering the phone or texts. During those 20 minutes I sit with my Bible and my journal and I have my quiet time with God. Serenity now! It IS possible.

shortcuts quiet time

4. Assign special drinking cups: One thing that drove us crazy in the early years was all of the cups that were used day in and day out. We could run the dishwasher on cups alone! My husband had the genius idea of making Shutterfly mugs for each person in our family. The kids never mistake their cup for someone else’s. The mugs are not only color coded, but also display their names AND pictures. This also means that our dishwasher runs less frequently. I can’t tell you what a game changer this has been. Plus, they are really cute. Turns out they can also be great wisdom building tools.

shortcuts mugs

5. The Laundry dump: Folding laundry one afternoon while watching Little House, my brilliant husband came up with a life-changing solution to this once time-consuming endeavor. We clean all the laundry in one afternoon each week. When it is finished, we bring it up and throw it in mountainous heaps on the floor outside of our bedrooms (hint: wrinkle free clothing–imperative!!!). Then the kids sit with the pile and fling clothing toward the appropriate bedroom door. Once there are seven piles of flung clothing, the wearer of the clothes hangs the items or puts them in a drawer. This takes about 10 minutes…or less. Score!

6. Norwex hair turban: If you own nothing else Norwex, the one item you need is the Norwex hair turban. (Don’t worry, I’m not peddling their goods.) There’s not a lot to explain here. Wash your hair, wrap it in this towel and it will cut down your hair drying time drastically. I used it when I had short hair that required styling with a dryer and it dries it just enough so that you still have enough wet to get the style in. I’ve used it with long hair and it is remarkable how much less time I spend with an electric appliance pointed toward my head. An added bonus is that it makes stepping out of the shower more pleasant when your hair is not dripping down your back.

shortcuts, hair turban

What are some of your short-cuts? I want to hear them!

Homeless Packs

Homeless Packs

Recently, my kids and I were driving away from Chik-fil-a with a bag full of chicken biscuit breakfast sandwiches. As we drove away we saw a man standing with a sign which simply said, “homeless.” I turned to the kids and asked, “What can we do kids? I don’t have any cash.” Each kid volunteered their breakfast.

When we approached the man I told him, “I only have a pocket full of change, which you can have, but we have a bag of chicken sandwiches, would you like them?” The man gratefully took the change and thanked me for the food but told me he had cancer and his stomach wouldn’t be able to digest the food. My heart went out and I asked him a few questions. I asked him if we could pray for him and we did. He told me that day after day, he sees cars with Christian fish on the back, but they never stop. (When a friend heard this story he thought it was a good reminder not to have a Christian fish on your vehicle, ha!) I told the man we were stopping in Jesus’ name and we would pray and see if we could find a way to help him further.

How can a mom and a car full of kids help a homeless man on the street?

We drove away and prayed for wisdom in how we might help this man. The name of a church near our home, with which we have no relationship, kept coming to mind. I called right away and a woman answered and listened to our story. Astonished, she told me that they had JUST gotten a flood of gift cards to give away for this very purpose. She said a house had recently been set up to help people get on their feet again. This man’s story sounded like it may qualify to stay in the home. She was going to go to him right away to see if they could get him off the street and give him some direction.

When I hung up, and realized this woman with a big heart sounded like she was going alone to pick up an unknown man and get him off the street, I panicked. I called back and said, “Please, don’t go alone.” She laughed and said, “The moment we got off the phone, our maintenance man came in and I told him about our conversation. He said he would come with me!” God had orchestrated this day, from beginning to end, so that He could show His love to a hurting man.

As I thought of this man being greeted with gift cards and the possibility of a warm bed for the night, I was reminded of a time back in my college days. I was walking downtown Denver with a friend. We saw various homeless people out on the sidewalk. My friend approached a man, gave him some money and talked about the love of God. As we walked away, I remember challenging this friend with, “How can you give him cash? What if he just drinks it away?” (I have many gifts, but mercy is not high on the list…I’m growing!) My friend just smiled and said, “I’m not responsible for what he does with that money! I am responsible for showing God’s love. How can I show God’s love if I can’t even help contribute to basic needs? Usually I like to have some kind of gift card for food or a granola bar. If I don’t have one with me, I’ll give cash.” I was floored. I’d never considered this perspective. Not kidding. But, obviously, this message of love from a brother in Christ stuck with me to this day.

My daughter and I decided to act. Twelve of her girlfriends came over and we spent a Saturday morning putting together “Homeless packs.” We gathered items we thought might be useful. The girls filled the bags and then they made cards with positive messages of God’s love and scripture to add to each pack.

Recently, on our way to a homeschool field trip, my daughter said, “Oh Mom, look! A homeless man! Pull over!” We pulled over and handed him a bag. The man took the bag and his eyes got teary when he said, “You even added hand warmers. Bless you!” I handed him some cash and said, “Maybe you can get a sandwich for lunch.” He smiled and said, “oh bless you, bless you.” And then, I noticed the car behind us pulled up to him as well and my heart swelled with joy.

I drove away thinking of all we have and how our gift to him was pitiful in light of our bounty. Yet, I had hope that hand warmers were an expression of God’s love in this man’s life today. God was glorified in a small exchange of some hand warmers and socks. And a mom and a van full of kids was able to serve a homeless man on the street.

Homeless pack ideas:
 mouth wash/toothpaste/toothbrushes
 protein bars
 bottled water (in warm climates)
 hand warmers (for colder places)
 lip balm
 cash or gift cards


Hospitality Ready Home in 15 Minutes

Hospitality Ready Home in 15 Minutes

Homeschoolers live in our homes…I mean we REALLY live in them. I serve twenty-one meals around my table each week and snacks in between with a minimum of 6 people at each of them. Kids are ALWAYS around. This means…toys, books, clothes, socks, diapers, dishes, crumbs, papers, pens, crafts, are around…all day long, every day.

We think of our home as a haven and want our doors open to family, friends, and neighbors as often as possible. My goal isn’t to impress our guests with an amazing home, but I do want people to feel comfortable and not worried about sitting on week old wet socks or a crumpled bag of Cheetos.

Here are some ways that we reign in the chaos so our home can be “hospitality ready” within 15 minutes.

Give Up Perfect: Let go of “Pottery Barn Catalog” perfect. Open the door with a smile and a “I’m so glad you’re here. Thank you so much for coming!” This first step is most important. If an unexpected visitor walks into my whirlwind, I smile, ignore the mess around me and invite her in with confidence, warmth, and grace. She didn’t come to see my cleaning skills. She came to see me and I am going to set aside thoughts of self and love her.

Clean up every meal, right away: It is our goal to keep our kitchen clear every day, after every meal. We accomplish this by assigning the following jobs: unload dishwasher, load dishwasher/clean dishes, clear and clean table and countertops, sweep floors. Each of my older kids is assigned one of these chores for an entire day. We rotate jobs daily so no one is stuck all week with the same thing. Mom supervises and helps in areas that need help. If the kitchen is always clean…half the battle is won.

Light a Candle: I know it’s not very granola of me to fill my house with flaming bowls of cancer…but I do love a Bath-n-Body works three-wick candle. The scent and the warmth makes for an inviting space. (And yes, I have an entire drawer dedicated to candles.)

5 minute round-up: Before beginning this step, turn on loud music. We have a special “friends are coming” playlist we blast as we work through these steps. Once the playlist is on and properly amped up, we take a laundry basket and go into every room where a guest might wander and we collect any superfluous items lying around. When everything is tidied up, the laundry basket items get distributed to assigned bins. Each family member has their own temporary storage area where displaced items are placed. The set up is right in the heart of our home, between the kitchen and family room. The containers are like white-washed tombs in that they look beautiful on the outside, but the beauty stops there; the insides are a disaster. In order for the system to work well, bins need to be emptied regularly.

Quick Vacuum: While one person is piling up the laundry basket with clutter, another family member can trail with a vacuum for a quick sweep. Nothing feels better than the carpets and floors having a face-lift before you open the door.

Lysol wipes: You may not have time for a heavy duty bathroom scrub, but if you do a quick wipe down you won’t feel mortified when your guest wants to use the loo and you remember the last time you walked in it looked like a crime scene.

My kids and I have this down to a science and we can entertain at the drop of a hat. Not only is it great for hospitality, but it’s fun to do before dad gets home, or before a school day begins to start the day with a clear head and space.