Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Go Together Like...Mac & Cheese and Roasted Tomatoes

Some things just go well together...

Horses and carriages.

Love and marriage.

Peanut butter and chocolate.

Flip-flops and pedicures.

Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and corned bread pudding.

Biscuits and gravy.

And Macaroni & Cheese and Roasted Tomatoes.

Hear me out...the gooey, cheesy richness of the classic mac & cheese, pairs perfectly with the slightly acidic and tangy roasted tomatoes. The tomatoes cut the grease, and leave a fresh and healthy taste on the palate.


For this combo (dinner...lunch...breakfast), start the tomatoes first, and roast them while you are whipping up the Smokey Gouda Mac & Cheese.

The key to this Mac & Cheese recipe is the smoked gouda. Regular gouda doesn't have the same flavor. Smoked gouda is more mellow, with a light smokey taste. It makes delicious mac & cheese. So delicious, you might never want to go back to your tried and true recipe.

I love baking my mac & cheese in colorful bakeware. I have baked it in this rustic looking brown dish (pictured below). I also have baked it in my red Le Creuset skillet. Gorgeous!

Smokey Gouda Mac & Cheese
Prep time: 30 minutes, Cook time: 30 minutes, Total time: 1 hour
16 ounces (4 cups dry) macaroni
4 Tbsp of unsalted butter
1 small onion
4 Tbsp all purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups (1 pound) grated smoked Gouda cheese
1 pound bacon

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
-Cook elbow macaroni according to package directions.
-Meanwhile, cut the bacon into 1/2" pieces. In a large skillet over medium high heat, cook until crisp. Drain grease.
-Grate cheese if needed.
-Peel and chop onion.
-Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Sauté the onion until lightly browned and tender. Add the flour. Whisk to combine, and cook for a minute or so, stirring constantly.
-Add the milk and whisk to combine, continuing to heat until the milk comes to a simmer and is thickened.
-Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese, until all of the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
-Mix the cooked macaroni and 3/4 of the bacon with the sauce, and pour into a greased baking dish. Top with remaining bacon. 
-Bake for about 30 minutes until bubbling throughout, and browned on the edges. 

Slow Roasted Tomatoes
Prep time: 10 minutes, Cook time: 20 minutes, Total time: 30 minutes
3 (8 oz) containers of grape tomatoes
1-1/2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
3 large garlic cloves
12 fresh basil leaves

-Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with heavy foil.
-Slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Mince the garlic and sprinkle over the tomatoes. Stack the basil leaves in a pile and slice into thin ribbons. Sprinkle over the tomatoes. Drizzle the tomatoes with the oil and vinegar and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.
-Roast for 15-20 minutes. Can be served hot or at room temperature.

My mouth is watering...Happy Tuesday!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Thou Hast Covered Me In My Mother's Womb

People without retinoblastoma have a gene in their eye that stops a certain cell production. People with retinoblastoma don't have that gene. Because there is nothing to stop them, the cells effectively mutate and multiply, eventually forming into tumors known as the cancer, retinoblastoma.

Retinoblastoma is a tricky cancer. It is not an environmental cancer (like lung cancer than can result from smoking). The framework for retinoblastoma is laid in utero. And there is nothing that can be done to prevent it.

This week the kids and I have been learning Psalm 139:13-16. (I learned it years and years ago. It is a passage that is stuck in my head. Some things you memorize, you forget. This is one thing I've never forgotten.) I love this in the poetic KJV...

For thou hast possessed my inward parts: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously (intricately) wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfected (unformed); and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

These verses resonated with me as I thought about them this week.

We use this verse quite often in talking about abortion, and why it is wrong. But, this week my thoughts went much farther than that application.

The Psalmist had confidence that God knew everything about him, before he was even born. God designed him, and wrote the specifics of that design in a book. God created him according to those specifications. This all happened before birth, in utero, and even conception.

God formed him and covered him in the womb. The word covered, when used about God, makes me think of other Biblical word pictures, like the eagle covering her young with her wings. Or as Psalm 91 puts it...

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty...He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

What a picture of protection, nourishing, and safety!

Though I'd never volunteer Meres (or anyone else) to have retinoblastoma, it is still beautiful to me that God knew all about it, before she was even conceived. God planned her, and formed her, and brought her to birth.

Five years later, we were made aware of this cancer that had started way back in the womb. But, God was covering her from the womb. 

Even though she lacked the gene that would prevent retinoblastoma... 

I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well!

Meres certainly is a marvelous work-with or without retinoblastoma. She is fearfully and wonderfully made. This truth reverberates in my soul. There is no doubt about it in my mind.

Psalm 139 continues...(verses 17-18)

How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.

I love this too. God's thoughts about Meres are precious and vast and more numerous than the sand. 

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

Meres' retinoblastoma shocked us, and rocked our world. It didn't shock God. He knew, He formed, He covered. He has purposed this physical feature of Meres' to bring Him glory. His thoughts towards her are precious, multitudinous, and peaceful. God is with her, upholding her in His righteous right hand.

Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. 

Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.
Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation. (Psalm 91:5-16)

This journey has been gut wrenchingly hard, but God has been faithful through it all. He keeps His promises, He does not change. He has been with us in this trouble, He has delivered us, and shown His salvation.

This story of retinoblastoma has become our story. Our story is our testimony. God is good, and faithful, and gracious, and powerful, and merciful.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Hairy Situations

A hairdo from January. That her sister gave her. Before the great hair exodus.

Chances are, if I’ve seen or talked to you in the last month, if you are a friend, I’ve probably talked to you about Meres’ hair.

You guys…her poor head!

One of the possible side effects of her chemo was that her hair would thin, but that she probably wouldn’t go bald. Which technically happened. Every month towards week three of the cycle, she lost hair. After each of the last two chemo treatments she lost a ton of hair. By a ton of hair I mean, she has three tuffs of her original hair. Everything else has fallen out, and is beginning to regrow. Most of her head is currently covered with new growth, ranging from 1/4” to 1/2”.

Except for those ridiculous three clumps.

So, if you squint, from the front she looks pretty normal. A cute bob, with lots of super short new hair throughout.

The back though….it’s a disaster. It is a swath of short new hair (picture a baby’s head), with two Bozo the clown tuffs sticking out on the sides.

It looks awful.

Thankfully, she can’t see the back, and regardless, she doesn’t really care. She is very matter of fact about how chemo made her hair fall out.

But, it really bothers me.

Seeing her head makes me want to cry. It has been heavy on my heart. And so I’d talk to people about it. And the reaction I kept getting was that it will grow back.

And it is. And I know that.

Here’s the thing…Meres is beautiful-with or without hair. And her personality makes up for any ridiculous hair. It really does. She is beautiful and vivacious, inside and out. And I love her, with or without hair.

So why is this temporary, shallow thing bothering me?

It’s because it’s her HAIR.

And if you are a woman, you can imagine what that means. We spend so much of our lives fooling with our coifs. Curling, straightening, washing, perming, coloring, cutting, styling, nourishing. Maintaining our hair is a costly endeavor-of both time and money.

Meres lost her glorious, long, blonde, curly hair.

And I’m mourning that loss. (Literally. I’m sitting in Panera Bread writing this post and crying.)

That’s why I keep talking about it.


It wasn’t until this past Sunday that someone choked up with me about her hair. At that moment I felt like someone finally understood how hard this was for me as a mom to watch. I (maybe selfishly) had been looking for empathy, not a reminder of the obvious. I have two eyes. I can see the hair is growing back. The issue is already being fixed.

In the scheme of things, temporary hair loss is very minor. But it was just.another.thing. in all the awful things we’ve been through this past year.

And I’ve been mourning.

The loss of her beautiful hair. The loss of her beautiful eye. The pokes, and the poisons. The long days and the sense of helplessness.

I wish it was my hair that had fallen out. (though the ratio of salt to pepper has definitely increased on my head this year…)

I wish I could have had the cancer instead of her.

I wish I was the one with a glass eye.

I wish I could have went through the pokes and the chemo for her. The sedations and the surgeries.

Here we are at the almost end. Chemo done. Three clear MRIs. Port removed. Things look really good. Check ups every three months or so.

I feel at peace that everything is going to be alright.

We are moving on from just surviving and coping. I finally have time to breathe and that time is also allowing me room to think and to mourn and to process. Part of that process is acknowledging both the profound and simple layers of losses. Past, present and future losses.

Her hair will grow back. It might be the glorious blond mane of the past. Most likely it will be different. Hair is a temporary loss.

There are more permanent losses. We won’t ever get back this time, this year, this eye, these lives untouched by cancer. Permanent losses. Permanent changes.

That is why I need to mourn the hair. Because it’s not just the hair. 

Weep with those who weep. Then rejoice with those who rejoice.

Jesus wept with his friends when death touched their lives. He wept even though he knew that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead in just minutes. My friend empathized first, before rejoicing in the new hair.

I want my heart to be soft enough to weep with those who weep. I want to be known for empathy, not problem solving.

It’s what Jesus did. How can I do less?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Winter Reading Challenge

Every winter, for as long as I can remember (as long as I've been married), my local library has done a winter reading challenge. It starts December 1, and carries on through the last day of February.

I've earned way too many coffee mugs and tote bags by picking how many books I'm going to read through that three month period, and then getting 'er done.

For me, that's the easy track. I usually read close to two dozen books.

This year I decided to stretch myself, and my reading life, with the (always an option) 12 category challenge. It really was a challenge since I read about 98% fiction, and 2% nonfiction. And about half these categories seem tailored towards nonfiction (How crazy is that? And very biased. IMHO). But, I managed to work around that.

My reading always leans way heavily towards fiction, and that was certainly true of last summer and fall. With everything going on, I felt I didn't have two extra brain cells to rub together, so most everything I read was light and fluffy.

Fluff and stuff is quite formulaic and predictable and fun, but unfortunately, it was not included as a winter reading challenge category. Sigh...

So, when I was scoping out the categories for this challenge, I wondered if I was biting off more than I could chew. But, I made it through. I still have to finish one book, but I am well on my way, and I still have another week.

I would say that having to find books for each category made me intentional about what I was reading. Plus, I found some great new authors, which was exciting. I also read a ton. I'm betting I read an additional couple dozen titles over the past three months, that were in already completed categories. (mostly fiction categories, if I was to be completely honest)

Here are the 12 categories, and the books I read to fulfill them.

1. Michigan Read: The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man by W. Bruce Cameron. Totally light, and rather humorous. Not a life altering read, but an enjoyable one.

2. Start of a Series: Lady Cop by Amy Stewart. Anne Bogel has recommended this series on her podcast, What Should I Read Next. The series is based on historical figures, but it wasn't my favorite book ever.

3. Put on Your Thinking Cap: Under Our Skin by Benjamin Watson. This book was on a teenager must read list compiled by Tim Challies. Confession, we went and purchased the entire reading list, and our goal is to read through each of these books with our kids. We assign chapters that we read independently throughout the week, and then we discuss what we read on Monday night at dinner time. It has been working out well. Under Our Skin was the first book we tackled, and it is about current race issues. I thought it was a good book on a very important topic.

4. Recommended by a Friend: Truly, Madly, Guilty by Lianne Moriarty. My book recommending friend is Anne Bogel. Via her podcast. And it was a indirect recommendation. (But, I do call her a friend, because we were in the same mastermind group a couple years ago, and we actually met IRL.) So, this was a new mystery with an unexpected twist. I liked the format, though I didn't really like the characters. They were all a bit odious.

5. Pick a Classic: Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis. Is that a stretch? Well, if it's not a classic, it should be. That's all I have to say about that. I bought it right after Christmas, I was determined to reread it, so I made it fit a category.

6. Guilty Pleasure: Modern Lovers by Emma Straub. So, this is a new(er) release, which I wanted to read. And it is a fluff and stuff, which is another name for guilty pleasure. While Auntie Mame would fit in this category, Modern Lovers wouldn't fit in the "pick a classic" category. Categories are flexible. They can handle it...

7. Big Book (500+ pages): Coming Home by Rosemunde Pilcher. I would say this is probably the book I enjoyed reading the most. (besides Auntie Mame) It was epic in its scope, interweaving lives and years. I am looking forward to reading more of her works. But, since each of her novels is in the 700+ pages category, I had to wait until after I finished the reading challenge.

8. Revisit a Childhood Favorite: Paddington Bear by Michael Bond. I'm not sure if this was one of my childhood favorites. I know I read it as a teenager. Does that count? I made it count. So, I started reading this to Meres over Christmas break. She loved it. I loved it. Paddington is so funny. Predictable in his scrapes, but hilarious. (I love hilarious books...have I ever mentioned that?)

9. Translated Novel: The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson. This was not as good as The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of a Window and Disappeared (that one is going to be hard to top) but it was still a fun read. Jonas Jonasson's books are ridiculously absurd.

10. Create Your Own Challenge: Harry Potter and the Curse Child by JK Rowling. So, I've never read a book in a play format before. Not my favorite format. I just pretended the name: wasn't there. As for the contents of the book, well, personally, I think she should have quit while she was ahead. I felt like it introduced adult issues into the series. I know that the original seven books grew up with her audience getting more and more intense with each installment, but this was different. I didn't like the heroes as adults, and wish that I had kept my own imagined version of their adulting unspoiled by her version. Oh well.

11. Armchair Traveler: My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weis. This was a food memoir. The author has had an interesting life. I enjoyed it, but I've enjoyed other food memoirs more.

12. Improve Yourself: Peacemakers by Ken Sande. This is the one I still have to finish. (of course, its a nonfiction that I still have hanging over my head...) This book has been recommended to my husband and I by many people. Someone gave us a copy last fall, so we are finally digging in to it. It is very practical on the topic of pursuing peaceful relationships.

Ironically, as I read over this list, only three of the books ended up being nonfiction. I probably should/could have incorporated more nonfiction into the categories, especially numbers 1,4, and 10. But, I do currently have a nonfiction on my bedside table that I am working through. It would fit the recommended and armchair categories. It is called The Ballad of the Whisky Robber. It reads like a Jonas Jonasson title, but it really happened.

Anyway, the winter reading challenge did stretch both me and my reading life. What have you been reading recently?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Life Update

Well, January is almost through, and much has happened for our family this month.

-Meres finished chemo two weeks ago. That fact prompts a sigh of relief. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it is still off in the distance. The cumulative effects of chemo have definitely caught up with her the last two treatments. Her (blood) counts never really recovered, her hair is falling out (not all, but it is quite thin on the scalp), her nausea was out of control, she had a flu bug for 3 days, and she has been fighting a cough for 2-1/2 weeks. But, her vision was 20-20 in her good eye yesterday when we visited her retinal specialist. We are in a wait and see pattern now. Did the chemo do its job? Only time will tell.

-LC has been learning how to knit. And I'm rediscovering my love for knitting. It is such a fun activity for when you are listening to something. Currently we are jointly working on a wool scarf. It is almost done, and should be quite cozy for her.

-BMV is still growing. I bought him 29x32" jeans in October. This month I had to by him 29x34". He officially has a longer inseam than his dad. And when I'm folding laundry, I feel like his jeans are almost as long as I am tall.

-Freckles has been devouring our Ancient Rome studies this year. He has read a couple thick books on the topic that are not on his reading list. He loves the subject matter, and he also is really digging the author Adrian Goldsworthy. Even though Mr. Goldsworthy's books are quite thick, they are very readable-or so I've been told.

-Both girls got haircuts last Saturday. LC got 10-12" cut off. Her now shoulder length bob is much easier to deal with than her longer hair. Her hair is super thick. SUPER thick! And a gorgeous blonde streaked with light tan. So pretty. I wish my hair was like hers.... Meres' haircut lady did a fabulous job with her cut. Meres' hair right now is a disaster. She has hair falling out, plus breakage, plus new growth. The lady stacked the back, quite short, and then bobbed the front. It frames her face and head very nicely now, and the problems aren't as evident.

-We are halfway done with this school year. Actually, 2 weeks beyond the halfway point! That is very cool! I always am excited when we cross that marker. It seems like the number of weeks left quickly decreases after the halfway mark. 19 down, 16 to go!

-Mid December, my knee surgeon cleared me for running. But, I have to take it really slow and build up very gradually. I started at a 1/4 mile. Then ran a 1/4, walked a 1/4, ran another 1/4. Then I ran a continuous 1/2 mile. Each week I am allowed to up the per run distance but a tidge. I am up to 3/4 of a mile continuous running. Next week I will bump up to a mile, and then I will add a 1/4 mile per week from there on out for a while. After I get to a certain point, I may be able to add 1/2 a mile, and then eventually a whole mile. But, it is slow going. I'm somewhere between "it's hard to be patient" and "I'm going to die if I run any further." I've utilized my gym pass much more this year than in the past couple years. Part of that is because there is no way I am running outside on the ice and snow. And in the past I've been outside a lot. I am very thankful for these facilities. My goal is to run 3 times a week, swim twice, and get a good biking and weight lifting session in twice. These sessions are combined in various ways, but I am quite thrilled to be back in the triathlon training saddle again.

-Even though it is winter, Mr. Hippie's roofing work has not slowed down a bit! He is working full weeks, though sometimes he has to take days off because of snow. We are very thankful for work for him and his guys.

-I am well on my way to having our taxes done. Which is a big thing for me. Tax preparation has always been my dreaded task, but I've kept up with our expenses and income throughout this past year, so now it is a matter of assembling all that data. I probably have another couple hours work to do, and then I am ready for my early March appointment.

-Meres was granted a Make a Wish trip to Disney World (and Sea World, and Universal Studios, and the Give Kids the World resort). We are beyond grateful, and all of us are looking forward to heading to FL next week. Sunshine. Warmth. Relaxation. Fun. I can't wait! This trip is such a blessing. Make a Wish is a fantastic charitable organization. I can't say enough good about it. Everything is covered...flights, hotel, rental car, food, baggage, gas, parks. Everything. It is amazing, and a total act of grace to our family. I'm sure I will have photos from the trip!

-I've been reading my little heart out. Which is another post for another time. I've been participating in my local library's winter reading challenge, but I've also been reading a lot of books on top of those 12 categories. I've been averaging 3-4 books per week.

-Speaking of reading...we've decided to read and discuss all the books on the Teen Reading List that Tim Challies recently put out. Individually, we each read the assigned 2 chapters during the week, and then on Monday night at dinner, we discuss what we've read. Each of our kids are required to come with 2 comments and 2 questions concerning what we read that week. Our first book that we are tackling together is Under Our Skin by Benjamin Watson. It deals with the hot button topic of racism, from the perspective of a black man. It has been an eye opening read.

-Because of sickness and snow plowing (our friends), we haven't made it to our Wednesday night prayer group most of December or January. We all really miss it. I just keep reminding myself that this too is a season. Meres has been under house arrest the past two weeks, hardly going out at all. That puts me under house arrest too. But, like I said, it's a passing season.

-We've been dreaming of future trips. Maybe another trip to Spain. Maybe Ireland. Maybe Italy. Definitely TX to visit family. And possibly MO in July to work at a camp. I love traveling. We are just waiting on the Lord to see how He leads.

-Mr. Hippie performed his first wedding a couple weeks ago! I was so proud of him. He was very handsome in his suit. He made some mistakes, but nothing that would negate the official-ness of the wedding. And he has been asked to officiate at another wedding this summer. We'll have to hang out a different shingle. Along the same lines, we were asked to do premarital counseling with two different couples. This is a very humbling privilege. We are still learning how to glorify God in our marriage. But, we can point younger couples to the Scriptures, and share based on that. We aren't perfect, and we don't have a perfect marriage. We are two sinners that God has been very gracious to.

-Days are lighter, longer. Like last night, when I was serving dinner at 6:00, it was still light outside. I love that.

Anyway, that catches you up on the Barefoot Hippie Clan. How are you doing?

Thursday, December 22, 2016

What I've Learned: 2016 Edition

As 2016 wraps up, I've been reflecting on what this year has held. And what it has taught me.

In no particular order of importance or intensity...

1. My favorite books are funny books. Every time. Hands down.

I listen to the What Should I Read Next podcast. In each episode the guests tell the host three books they love and one book they hate. Most of the guests pick three books they've loved recently. Personally, I'd have to do two categories of loves...fiction and nonfiction. (oh, and maybe a third category...that of favorite series.)

My 3 favorite books of all time, are humorous books. They make me laugh out loud. Literally. Every single time.

Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade by Patrick Dennis. I actually read this one twice, having forgotten that I read it the first time. But, I read the summary flap in the library that second time, and thought, this sounds funny. So I checked it out, and made it into the second chapter or so, when I realized I'd already read it. But, it is hilarious, and was very worth a second reading.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Definitely more subtle, nuanced and snarky humor, but still very funny.

And my newest favorite, but sure to be a favorite forever...

The 100 Year Old Many Who Climbed out of a Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. Oh.my.word. When I was reading this last month, I kept laughing out loud. And then my husband wanted me to tell him what was so funny. And I had to summarize the back story to make the funny part make sense. The Bible part takes the cake. And now you have to read it to find out what I mean.

And, in case you were wondering about the book(s) I hate, (hate is a strong word...how about greatly dislike...) I have not enjoyed a single currently popular book that has the word GIRL(s) in the title. I don't know what it is, but I have had to quit all the girls...including Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, The Girls, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I'm sure there is a reason, but none of these have been my jam.

2. Priorities matter. I feel like I've always known the importance of priorities, but I've not lived the importance of priorities as much until this year. Frankly, my two words for the year could be blessed and priorities.

In a session with our marriage counselor this spring, he reminded us of what our priorities are.

Church, Employment, Ministry, Extended family

Knowing the order of priority in your life is very important. A proper priority paradigm is very clarifying. It has given us freedom from the weight of things we are going through. We evaluate activities and opportunities based on this filter. How does this activity or opportunity sift through the filter of our priorities? How are we able to glorify God today as we fit things into these priorities?

The crux about priorities is that they are intensely personal. Most people have a similar line up of priorities. But, my personal priorities, i.e. my husband and my kids, are not your priorities. And people don't like when your priorities come into conflict with their priorities for you, or simply their own personal priorities. It sometimes causes friction.

But, the freedom comes from (extending grace and) knowing that I am accountable to God (and my husband) not to man. I have to do my best in these circumstances, using the brains God has given me, and leave the rest to Him. 

I don't feel like we've done way less this year, but what we have done has been way less stressful or guilt motivated. Even things like my daughter's health over going to church (on occasion). It's a no brainer, though it used to be something I would really struggle with. Through the filter of priorities, it becomes crystal clear that God gave me my children to care for, and sometimes that looks like saying no to gatherings (in this cancer/immune compromised season of life) where germs are a-flowing.

3. Cancer sucks. I'll just put that out there. We've learned that first hand this year. It sucks in my 5 year old daughter's battle with retinoblastoma. It sucks as my BFF's mom's fight against breast cancer. It sucks in each of the lives it touches. There are lasting effects. I'm so very thankful that not all the effects are negative. We've met so many good people on this journey. We've been surrounded by our own tribe. Unbelievable.

4. Memories and relationships trump possessions. Every time.

This year we have put a priority on relationships. Relationships with our parents, and siblings, and friends. We've made memories. We've laughed and cried together. People are what has made 2016 a year to be remembered. The trials and their memory will gradually fade in intensity as we move past them. The relationships and memories will still be strong.

I've also been thinking about this possessions thing in another light.  Meres goes to the hospital, she comes home with "junk". Every.single.time. Toys, stuffed animals, crafts. You name it, she's probably brought it home from the hospital. For a minimalist, this is insanity inducing. Trust me. But, I'm learning to be gracious and to remember the thought behind the gift. Because the giver (and the relationship) trumps the gift, and how I feel about it.

(Which is not to say that we don't do major purging over here on a regular basis...but I can allow the gift, and enjoy it, and then we can eventually let things go as needed.)

5. Sometimes you just have to let go. And let God. (it may sound trite, but that makes it no less true)

About so many things. But even about relationships. And this has been a hard one to learn. I can't change hearts. I want peace and harmony. I can't control people. The only thing I can control is my own heart, my own actions, my own motives and attitudes. That I have the ability to change. The rest is God's wheel house. And sometimes, even though it feels like my heart is being ripped out, I just need to step back, and let something be. And allow God to do His greater work that maybe I can't see.

6. Prayer is the battlefield. 

Brian and I were convicted to start prayer walking this fall. Generally 3-4 times a week, we head out our door, walk, and pray. We pray for our family and friends and situations that are small and situations that have us baffled. 

It has been so good for us.

We've come to realize that a 2-3 mile walk that takes 30-50 minutes, is no where near long enough to cover the things that are weighing down our hearts. We barely cover the tip of the iceberg. 

It is evident that prayer changes things. My heart is changed. It is softened. Problems are worked out. Our year has been filled with answers to prayer.

But, also, prayer is not without opposition. Some things we've prayed about have not gotten better. If anything, they may have gotten worse. Why? Because God is working, and Satan is fighting back. He doesn't want his control over people to be broken. He is happiest when people are in bondage to sin, and bitterness, and guilt, and shame. When people are going to hell.

So, we keep praying. Sometimes we cry as we plead with God in desperation. We pray Scripture. We do battle for souls. And we trust that God is sovereign. That God loves people even more than we do. That Jesus died for people to live abundantly. We pray.

7. High school is scary. Or rather, homeschooling a high school student is scary. (moving on from a rather intense point #6...)

Wow! I was home schooled, as was my husband, and we turned out (relatively) okay. I've been home schooling my own kids for 10 years now. But, let me tell you, I was feeling rather intimidated, as we embarked on this school year with a freshman in high school. 

It all of a sudden became real. Like, I could really screw these poor kids up. 

But, we've settled in to a groove. And while high school is intense, it also isn't our first rodeo. Thankfully knowledge tends to be cumulative, and skills upon skills are piling up. I am proud of the progress I am seeing in all my kids this school year. Meres learning her letters, and then the sounds, and now some word families. We are moving right on our way towards reading. And LC becoming a better and better writer. Articulating her thoughts in a very good way. And Freckles branching out into creative writing, and learning about color and depth. And thriving in our studies of Ancient Rome. He is loving the reading list this year, and has breezed through extra books in addition to the assigned ones. I am so proud of how he is flourishing as he studies topics he is interested in.

And BMV. The high schooler. He is building on his foundation of knowledge. He is progressing in Biology, and Spanish, and Algebra, and writing. His writing has really improved this year. It was always good, but with the goal of getting better and better. And it has. His past two book reviews for his reading list books have been phenomenal! I am so proud of him too.

So, what I've learned is to continue in my goal of equipping with skills, and it does pay off. Which is quite affirming. I'm mean, I still have time to permanently mess them all up, but, the likelihood (at least scholastically) gets less and less, with each year that passes.

Big sigh...

8. I love ... and ( ) and -. They help me articulate without articulating.

9. There is much more to eye color than blue, green, or brown. Take it from someone whose daughter now has a glass eye.

The variation in eye color from person to person is unbelievable. There are hundreds of shades of blue and green. And even after the ocularist starts with the color match that is closest to the shade you have, they still add color striations and such to your prosthetic to match your unique coloring. It is amazing. Meres' blue eyes are actually very grey, with just a tinge of blue. She gets that from her dad. My eyes are a green blue. 

10. I've learned this year, that there is so much I still have to learn. Oh, to never stop learning! To cultivate my own growth mind set. To be better, and hopefully more Christ-like, with each day and year that passes.

Here's to 2017...

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Thinking About: Admonishing

This week my kids have been memorizing Colossians 3:16. Which means I'm (re)memorizing it too.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another; in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Let me tell you, people, it's all in the punctuation.

When I had previously memorized this verse it was...

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom

Full stop.


teaching and admonishing one another (no pause)

in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Well, that rather changes the meaning of the verse, now doesn't it?

We can read it as teaching and admonishing with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs or as teaching and admonishing with the word of Christ.

Depending where that semi colon falls. (or doesn't fall, as the case/translation may be)

Both are great applications.

But, both have unique nuances.

In our modern day culture, the clarion call for all occasions is judge not. Matthew 7:1 has supplanted John 3:16 as the most well known verse in the Bible.

We are conditioned to not speak forth any opinion that could be construed as judging. Because judging is the ultimate sin.

But, whether our culture likes it or not, there is an absolute standard of right and wrong. It is based on God's character, and it is found in the Bible.

The word of Christ is a legitimate alternate name for the Bible.

Christians are commanded to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly.

Richly would imply abundance. Not stingy. Very obvious and present. A lot of.

We should be immersing ourselves in the word of God. Reading it. Studying it. Thinking about it. Letting it fill our hearts and minds.

In all wisdom. Cicero said that wisdom is the application of knowledge. Letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom is not just gaining tons of head knowledge, it is letting that knowledge overflow into every aspect of our life. The application and living of that knowledge we've gained from the Bible would change our lives.

To dwell or live with someone or something, is to get to know the good, bad and ugly. God's word sinks into our hearts and reveals what is in the deepest recesses.

As the word of Christ richly dwells in our hearts and minds, changing our actions, we are called to teach and admonish each other.

Funnily enough, admonishing is very similar to what we'd call judging. Admonishing is to warn or reprimand someone firmly; advise or urge (someone) earnestly; to warn of something to be avoided.

Ouch. Yeah.

Admonishing is not a nice idea. It is not comfortable. It feels like the supreme offense of intolerance.

Yet admonishing is a scriptural idea. More than just an idea, it is our responsibility. It is our responsibility to be completely engaged with the teachings of the Bible, to allow them to sink into our hearts and change our lives. It is also our responsibility to then humbly use that resulting wisdom to teach and even admonish other believers.

Galatians 6:1-2 says, "Brothers, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ."

(Important side note: With unbelievers we focus on sharing the gospel, not correcting morality. The gospel radically changes lives-we don't have to. Admonishing is focused on fellow believers. Restoration is to return to the original condition-like a piece of furniture.)

Even Matthew 7 goes on to talk about being measured with the measurement we measured with. It talks about removing the beam in our eye before we remove the speck in someone else's.

We'd like abdicate our responsibility to do the uncomfortable work of admonishing. We even get our underwear in a bunch when a pastor or teacher is too specific in naming sins. But God doesn't let us off the hook. We are instructed to do this work humbly and meekly, with an end goal of restoration.

Not scorched earth, but thriving Christians. That's what we are working towards.

We don't do this work of admonishing haphazardly. We don't do it in a spirit of judgement and condemnation. It is not based on our agenda or our preferences.

We don't shy away from admonishing through fear of offending. That would be doing each other a disservice.

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15)
We admonish in love, because Christ loves people, and we follow Christ's example. We admonish in humility, extending grace, knowing that we are sinners too. We admonish firmly and unapologetically because the unchanging truths of Scripture are our basis.

We admonish only after we've put in the work of letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom.

Consider this an admonishment...=)

Edited to include: I read this passage in my devotions this morning (12-15-2016). This thought of admonishment is not just a one verse anomaly. We are not Paul or Titus, but this is the Bible. And the truths in it apply to us today.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. (Titus 2:11-15)