When Children and Big Families Become Idols In Our Lives

large family

Sitting around the picnic table at my in-laws’ cabin, my mother in law laughed and said, “Could we get any more people around this table?” I looked at the nine of us sitting there and said, “Well, we tried.” There was a little bit of uncomfortable laughter, because of course, we lost our last baby. Later, this conversation caused me to reflect on the idea of having lots of kids.

How we got to our number of kids is an entirely different post. However, I remember when we decided that our home was not complete after having the “perfect” one girl and one boy…I began to think about large families. I read the “large family” message boards on Baby Center. There was a lot of complaining on those boards about comments people made about numbers of children or how people would stare and count heads as a mama and her many ducklings walked by.

large family

I remember being slightly nervous when we announced baby number four. How would people react? Would we get the stares and weird comments? It turns out, we did. I was accosted by a grandmother in a grocery store who lectured me on being more responsible to the planet as my 6, 4, 2, year olds and newborns sat blinking wide eyed at her. This was the first of a long line of comments we received. I had joined the offended group of mothers of many.

There is another side of this club however. Once you have a “larger than most” family…you begin to meet large families. Homeschoolers often have large families (again, the reason for this could be another entire post). When you are surrounded by people who don’t judge you for having children…another problem sometimes occurs. You are judged because you don’t have enough of them.

I’ve talked to SO MANY women who feel the number of children they have is inadequate. They feel sorrow for having ended their fertility because their family just didn’t fit the mold. Some women feel they have to explain repeatedly that they longed for another child(ren) but their biology or their spouse or some other reason stood in the way. Other women have felt left out of conversations or belittled because they possibly had one less child than the other women in the room. Believe me when I say, I’ve been on both sides of this equation.

When we lost our last baby, I was sorrowful for the loss. I was also sad because I wanted to have another baby so much. As some time went by and I was processing my feelings, my good friend asked me a question, “Are you idolizing the idea of having another child?” The question shocked me. Was this possible? Children are a blessing! I quickly realized however, that many blessings in life can become an idol. I stopped and took stock.

Had I ever thought I was “better than” someone else because of the number of children I have been given? Ouch, that hurt. I was guilty.
Was I trusting that God had a plan or was I trying to force my plan on Him? Uh-oh, guilty again.
The reality is that, while large families can often be insulted by others…there are also many comments made to us that puff us up. I can’t tell you how often I’m lauded and praised simply because of the number of children I’ve given birth to. I’m sure I’m not the only mom who has let a few of these comments go to her head.
Having brought a certain number of children in the world doesn’t make you an amazing mom. Raising them well, caring for them diligently, and giving them every opportunity to know Jesus Christ…that’s much more impressive.

One day my kids were watching the Bate’s family reality show and one of the adult children was asked the question, “How many kids do you want to have?” This young mom of three had had difficulty conceiving and suffered several miscarriages and answered the question like this, “Well, that’s kind of a silly question isn’t it? It’s not really about the number of children I want, but what God wants.” If you really have a heart submitted to God’s plan, than you can be satisfied with fewer children if that is what God provides as well, right?

I remember standing in the kitchen hearing this woman answer with faith about her number of babies, and I realized that I may have had a subtle picture of children not simply as blessings from God, but as trophies to show off. I felt a familiar feeling of conviction. Pride.

I thanked God for rebuking my heart and I completely surrendered my family size into His hands. You see, surrendering to Him doesn’t always mean having 19 kids. It can also mean, you will have five (or whatever number He has blessed you with). Jesus knew in His wisdom that this time of adding babies into our family had come to a close and I thanked Jesus for the beautiful blessings He has given our family.

I am not “more” than a woman who has zero, one, two, three, or four children. I am not “less” than a woman who has six or more children. My “quiver” size has absolutely nothing to do with anyone else’s. The amount of “blessing” that children are, aren’t in the number of them we receive. They are in living out God’s beautiful plan for each of our families. You are not defined by the size of your family. If you are in Christ, you are defined by who God says you are, and that alone.

Dear moms of many…I encourage you to untangle yourself from any subtle lies that you may be believing. Your children are a sweet blessing, but they don’t define you. Be free from numbers, competition and letting your family size go to your head. Enjoy each blessing He gives you but do so with humility as you interact with other moms around you.

Dear mama friends…especially homeschool mama friends who feel the burden of being left out of the “moms of many club,” please be free. Delight in the gifts He’s given you…not the number, but the individuals in your home. Let go of the pressures around you that say you aren’t good enough because of your family size. Embrace the unique, beautiful plan God has laid before you.

What to Do When the Kids Keep Tattling and It’s Driving You Crazy


If you have a couple kids around the house, there is going to be tattling. What do you do? Here are some common responses:

*Become the referee and find out which kid is more deserving of punishment and punish or talk the offender myself and ask them to stop their behavior.
*Inform the tattler they should not be a “tattle tale.”
*Tell the tattler to “get over it.”
*Yell at both kids to get it together.

With five kids in my house, I’ve had my share of falling into all of the previously mentioned answers to tattling.


*When I referee, I’m communicating the following: taking sides and telling my kids they aren’t responsible for or capable of resolving their own relationship issues.
*When I tell my kids not to tattle, all this does is bring them shame and makes them less open to me in the future.
*Asking them to just “get over it” does the same thing.
*When I yell I have created a non-safe atmosphere suggesting the children are an inconvenience to me.

Here is my connected response to tattling.
Kid: “Mom!!! I was reading that book, you asked me to get up and do my chore and when I came back, she took it and now SHE is reading it!!!”
Me: “That sounds super frustrating. I’m sorry that happened.”

Often times, that is ALL my kid needs from me.

Sometimes, I might add: “How are going to tackle this?” Or “Need some help brainstorming some ways to talk to your sister?”

This approach makes known that I care about the situation. There is a clear message that I believe in my child to solve his own problems. Not only do I believe he is capable, but I’m communicating that HE is responsible for his relationships. I’m available to help if he gets stuck. He leaves our interaction feeling cared for and equipped to own his relationships and interactions. It’s rather simple.

Try it and let me know how it goes for you. Happy parenting!

Beauty from Pain and God’s Perfect Plan

Isaiah 61

Through an unfortunate turn of events, I was brought back to a painful time from my young adulthood. Thrust into a room full of people with whom I shared a mixed past, I wasn’t ready for the onslaught of emotion it carried. We were gathered together to say goodbye to a young life, tragically taken too soon. I wept for the dear friend who was experiencing the loss of his son. As time went on, I found myself weeping for other reasons as well.

Sixteen years ago, I left a job I enjoyed, to take a position at a new church. The beautiful time I spent working with people I loved in this new position, has been overshadowed by the devastating blow I experienced when that job came to a close. In one fell swoop, I lost my ministry, my title, my income, my community, my identity, and over the months and years that followed, some of my closest friends. The words used to expel me from my position stung to my very core…and as time spun out, I realized I had lost even more; my drive, ambition, passion, and self-image were challenged at a frightening level. It took me years to cultivate a new picture of who I was when my world fell apart.

Walking into the funeral, seeing faces from one of the most challenging times in my life, I felt nearly frozen inside. All the work I had done to forgive, seek repentance, find closure, release bitterness…it was like, it vanished. Insecurities rose up into my chest like a hormone charged hot flash. To top it off, I found myself sinking into a shame spiral for letting thoughts of self, mix into the grief I felt for my friend and his family.

However, as the day wore on…I began to see beauty once again, rising from ashes. Slowly, God began to work out a mantle of praise, to replace my spirit of fainting. Levity found a path to healing, when a friend who saw my suffering leaned over to tell an off color joke. The warmth of companionship and encouragement met me through a phone call from a sojourner who understood some of my suffering. That phone call brought the grace, and healing words I needed when my friend reminded me, “God’s grace is bigger than what you thought you needed from the past.” When I thanked this friend for not judging me in my selfishness on this day, he assured me that God was nudging me toward healing in deeper places than I had yet explored from these past events.

Isaiah 61

I felt myself rising up, like an “oak of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

The suffering that took place in my past was a deep wound. Tonight, I thanked God for those wounds inflicted on me. For some reason, He found it so good to take that pain and “rebuild the ancient ruins, raising up the former devastations.” In the midst of the turmoil, he spoke rivers of grace and has been “repairing the ruined cities” in my life. “Instead of shame, I have been given a double portion, instead of humiliation I am shouting joy over my portion. Everlasting joy is mine.”

I may have been removed out of ministry, and been robbed of relationships by the enemy of my soul. However, since that time, the Lord God has given me five children to minister over every day. He has given me the calling to homeschool. Jesus has given me a deep richness of friendships and community with some of the most amazing people He’s ever created. God has knit together my heart to my husband’s and given us a new ministry; encouraging parents to lead the way toward a gentle, biblical foundation of parenting children, in order to equip parents to disciple children in their homes.

“For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
And as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up,
So the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
To spring up before all the nations.”

Thank you Jesus for restoring to me the years that the locust has eaten and given me more than I had before. You are good. Even in the pain, I praise you.

Curriculum for 2017-2018 School Year

Time for the ultimate Homeschool mom blog post. How geeky are we? But I know I love reading other mom’s plans for curricula, so I decided to share mine.

After much prayer and contemplation, we’ve decided to move away from Heart of Dakota this year. HOD has been an amazing blessing, giving us structure during Cupcake’s first few years of life. I feel it has made us even better equipped to structure our school days on our own. I’m so grateful for our four years with this program!

We have done several “test-run” days of school this summer and we are LOVING our new set up. We are finding enough rigor to keep our synapses connecting, and enough time to do the other things we love. I present to you our carefully crafted school plans for the 2017-2018 school year:

Swannie Mom: 
H.S. Planner: A Simple Plan, by Mardel
Life Planner: The Happy Planner (until January where I am switching to, “Mom On the Go”)

Jules, Grade 8:
Math: Algebra Teaching Textbooks
History: Modern History with Mystery of History , Volume IV
What In the World
Geography: MapTrek and various games
Science: A variety of books on Human Anatomy and Chemistry
simple home labs
Language Arts: Analytical Grammar
Beyond the Book Report
Vocab, home-made mom program
The Missions to Modern Marvels book list
Bible/Faith studies: Faith at Work from Explorer’s Quest
Apologia Worldview
Hero Tale’s
Scripture Memory, Charlotte Mason style
Art: See the Light
Music Theory
Spanish 2: with Dad
Typing: Typing Club

Peebs, Grade 6:
Math: Math 7 Teaching Textbooks
History: The Renaissance and Reformation, with
Mystery of History
What In the World
Geography: MapTrek and various games
Science: Apologia, Astronomy
Language Arts: Grammar Basics, home-made mom program
Vocab, home-made mom program

Reading assignments and Book reports, home-made mom program
The Resurrection to Reformation book list 
Bible: Hidden Treasures in Philippians
Hero Tales
Scripture memory: Philippians chapter 1
Art: See the Light
Music Theory
Typing: Typing Club

Odes, Grade 4:
Math: Math 5 Teaching Textbooks
History: Beautiful Feet, Early American History
Geography: Little Passports, USA
Science: Apologia; Zoology, Birds of the Air
Language Arts: A Reason for Handwriting (level D)
Phonetic Zoo (spelling)
Reading leveled readers and various book report assignments
Read alouds include:
Trumpet of the Swan
Betsy, Tacy, Tib
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh
Caddie Woodlawn
Prince Caspian
The Green Ember
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Bible: Jesus, My Shepherd, Explorer Quest
Art: See the Light
Music Theory

Catty, Grade 2:
Math: Math 4 Teaching Textbooks
History: Beautiful Feet, Early American History
Geography: Little Passports, USA
Science: Apologia, Zoology, Birds of the Air
Language Arts: A Reason for Handwriting (level T)
All About Spelling (level 3)
Reading leveled readers and various book report assignments
Read alouds include:
Trumpet of the Swan
Betsy, Tacy, Tib
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh
Caddie Woodlawn
Prince Caspian
The Green Ember
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Bible: Jesus, My Shepherd, Explorer Quest
Art: See the Light
Music Theory

Cupcake, pre-school:
Math: Counting and Subtracting M&M’s/Counting Bears, etc.
Language: Before Five in A Row
All About Reading, level pre-reading
Variety of learning tools: sensory bins and light table, special dramatic play area (school only toys), magic sand and play dough, puzzles, coloring and painting, washi tape, etc.

Phy-Ed and health: We will continue to train for different events and keep active. Jules and I will be doing some special stretching and resistance band training. I’m also covering various health topics at age appropriate levels this year. We won’t be using any formal curricula for these subjects, but they will be covered.

Odes, Catty, and Cupcake, will still be doing Calendar Time with Mommy. We will learn the date and weather, hymns and prayer time, read devotions and have a sweet time of connection together.

I will explain in a future post how I’m implementing all our plans and planning out an eclectic school day such as this. I will also share how I hold the kid’s accountable and different ways I will connect with them over their school work.

That’s all for now!

p.s. one more thing: do you realize how many books I will be reading aloud this year? It is always stunning to me when I see it all written down! So. Fun.

My Three Year Old Lied to Me…And I Taught Her a Lesson

Lego lies

We sat reading books, when I looked over at Cupcake’s shelf and saw a Lego sitting by her clay doll figures. It was a cute teddy bear looking Lego I had never seen before. Curious, I asked, “Is that a Lego?”

Her face scrunched up with guilt, she broke eye contact and said, “No. It’s just a cute thing I found.” I knew she was lying. “Connected family” thoughts immediately raced through my head. I knew her lying was creativity gone awry. I knew I didn’t want any further interactions to continue to lead her down a path of dishonesty. But I also suspected there was another purpose for this interaction.

I simply said, “I’ve never seen that little Lego before.”

three year old lied


Her face was racked with guilt as she quickly replied, “I saw it in Ode’s room when he was sick. His eyes were closed, so it was OK I took it. I’ll give it back.”

It was at that moment the Holy Spirit brought to mind several small conversations little Cupcake and I have had over the past 15 months. When Cupcake was two, we brought her to a vividly descriptive Good Friday service. Ever since, the cross, Jesus, and sin have often been on her mind. Last week at bed time, she articulated that she loved Jesus because he died on the cross for her sin. I asked her what sin.

“Lots of sins. Hitting, scratching, pinching. Plus, He rose from the grass.” Laughingly she asked,  “Is it funny I said, rose from the grass? Wanna hear me toot?” Despite the jokes and the flatulence, I knew God was at work. Recently, while shopping, she picked out a cross wall-hanging from a store and said, “Let’s buy this Mommy, because Jesus died on the cross for my sin and yours.”

I glanced back at the little teddy bear Lego. There were some choices to make. I could let this go. She’s little after all. And she had already mentioned she should give the bear back. On the other hand, maybe I should make a big deal out of how she lied to me. She needs to learn lying is awful!

A still, small, quiet voice was telling me there was something more for her.

I gently held Cupcake’s sweet face in my hands and: “Sweetie, when I asked you if that bear was a Lego and you said no, do you know what you were doing?” She shook her head no. “It’s called lying. Lying is a sin baby. When you told me you took that Lego from your brother’s room without him knowing, do you know what you did?”

Smilingly she answered, “Yeah. I just played with it.”

I gently responded, “No sweetie. You stole it. Stealing is sin. What does the Bible say about sin?”

She grinned and in a sing-song voice replied, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

“That’s right,” I agreed. So you lied and you stole and that was sin. Her laughing eyes sobered. “The Bible also tells us, “The wages of sin is death. Did you know that? Do you understand when you tell me that Jesus died for your sins, He died for sins like stealing and lying about little Lego bears?” Her eyes were serious and sad. I went on…

“We also know that God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. This means that even though you’ve sinned against Him, God loved you enough to give you His son. Jesus never sinned. He was total perfection. And His death means that when you believe in Him, trust Him and not your own goodness, you will be forgiven.”

Then I asked her the golden question, “If you stop lying and stealing, will that make God love you more?” Grinning and smiling she said, “YES!”

I quickly and quietly said, “No. It doesn’t. God doesn’t love you based on what you’ve done. His love for you is based on what Jesus did for you on the cross. You can’t ever be good enough to earn God’s love.”

You can’t ever be good enough to earn God’s love.

At this point she snuggled in and said, “Let’s read a Little People book.” I hugged her and we picked out a great big one with lots of lift the flaps. As we counted monkeys in the Little People Zoo and laughed at the purple hippopotamus with a red bird on his teeth, I silently prayed. I thanked God for the opportunity to share the truth of the gospel with this child of mine, and that we don’t have to clean up before Him to gain his approval. I thanked Him for the cross and prayed Cupcake would submit to His final work on it, and soon.

There are gospel opportunities at every point in our days moms and dads. Don’t miss them. I don’t want “good kids.” I want kids who know they aren’t good on their own. I want surrendered kids. Kids whose hearts are fully submitted to the cross are kids with changed hearts. Don’t for a minute think the gospel isn’t for little ones. Let your little ones come onto Him and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.


Leveled Readers for Homeschoolers

Leveled Readers for Homeschoolers

leveled readers

My first born reads books as if her life depended on it. Introverted in nature, she happily retreats to her room with anything from Shakespeare to Family Circus. The idea of leveled readers was not on my radar as she was going through her elementary school years.

My middle kids are great readers. They are also however, energetic and highly extroverted. They like to read, but it’s not something they choose without encouragement.

Making sure my kids were reading books that were challenging and progressing them became a priority.

Finding the books was an easy task. Some of my kids do Heart of Dakota as the core of their homeschool curriculum. Part of HOD includes a program called Drawn Into the Heart of Reading. We don’t follow DITHOR as a curriculum, but the book lists are priceless. I have purchased the various levels of books and put them on shelves by level.

level readersThe first level of books are beginning readers and not a part of DITHOR. I use these books when the kids are learning to read. They read them to themselves several times. Each book must be read aloud to me as well. Once they are ready to move on to more independence, I let them move up to the next shelf. (Beginning readers for us are USBorne books, the readers from Sing, Spell, Read and Write, and various beginning readers I’ve picked up along the way.

The next shelf up contains the readers from All About Reading. After those are completed, the kids begin reading the first level of DITHOR books. 

We have a “homeschool library” check out system. Each shelf has a clipboard with the title of each book. When they “check out” a book, they write their names on the blank. It may take a few days to read a book, so they keep their checked out books in their desks. After finishing the book, they return it to the shelf and check off the box indicating they’ve read it. leveled readers

Each level has been assigned a washi tape. The shelf it sits on, is lined with the tape. The spines of the books have the washi tape, as well as the clipboard. It’s very easy to return a book to the correct spot.

leveled readersAs they move up each shelf, they have different assignments upon finishing their books. In the early levels, I simply ask for an oral narration of the book they have read. Or, I may ask them to read a section of the book to me as well. As they progress, I ask them to write a one paragraph summary. And finally, by the middle of the second to last shelf they are writing full book reports on each book. Occasionally I assign an illustration as well.

Leveled readers for homeschool has been so helpful for both student and teacher. I don’t need to chase down my kids to make sure they are reading. They have no question as to what it is they are asked to do and books are easily found and put away. I have peace of mind that they are progressing in their reading. Let me know if you have any questions! leveled readers


Sibling Peace


Typically, my kids are masters at making peace among themselves. After years of practice they are able to work out most of their problems on their own. Sometimes, however, when big blow outs spring up, they come to me for help.

This time, Jules and Catty came to me first. The boys were unfair, mean, speaking rudely. We talked about how the girls were feeling and I asked if they were in a place to respectfully explain these feelings to the boys. When they tried, the results were not what they were hoping for. I asked the boys to join us. The girls seemed to be ruining the game by not following the rules. We did our usual routine of hearing each other and speaking back what each other felt. When that was complete everyone was still angry and hearts were still hard. I asked each of the kids to look at the situation and think of one thing they could have done differently. Everyone had an answer. But no one seemed to care about anything but their own perspective. We weren’t anywhere near peace.

I paused for a moment, pondering what to do. It seemed like Jules and Peebs were at odds and Odes and Catty could hardly look at one another. I made a decision. “OK guys. It seems like we all did a good job of sharing how we felt, listening to each other, and even understanding. But that didn’t seem to soften hearts. Jules and Peebs, pick out a board game to play together. Odes and Catty, you get a board game to play too.” I pulled out Candy Land and played with Cupcake. We all sat in the same room, in our pairings playing games. Slowly Peebs and Jules began to soften, laugh, and smile. Odes and Catty were not quite as responsive. At one point, I saw the board for “Guess Who” go flying across the couch.

swanniehouse peace

I asked Catty and Odes to put the game away and go to Catty’s room and pick out their favorite lotions and bring them back. Then I set a timer. “Odes, you get to use the lotion Catty picked and rub her feet for ten minutes. Catty, when he’s done, you get to rub his feet with his lotion choice. Odes, she will rub your feet as nicely as you rub hers.”

Odes reluctantly rubbed the lotion on his sisters feet, passionately asking me, “Is this your method of torture?” I smiled and went back to the princess game of “Memory,” Cupcake and I had moved on to. After a few minutes, the foot massaging kids were laughing and talking.

When the 20 minutes of foot rubbing had ended and all the board games were put away, Jules and Peebs asked, “Do you think we could re-try our original game with each other now?”

Four smiling faces found themselves in a joy filled do-over. They needed to step away from the problem and remember they love one another. Sometimes, we can work out our problems with words. Sometimes we find peace in a little lotion and a foot rub.

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