Monday, January 15, 2018

What's For Lunch?

A new year means a fresh chance to get organized.

And no area pays back better, in my opinion, than meal organization. Whether it is planning grocery shopping or making menu plans before 5:00 - any time I spend streamlining food prep is time well spent.

In recent months I have gotten some bad habits. Far too often I ran to the store for one or two items that I forgot the day before or scratched my head in late afternoon trying to figure out what to eat with minimal time to prepare.

So it won't be hard to make an improvement at my house.

To start I made a list of ideas for breakfast and lunch. We tend to cycle through the same meals. A simple card on the fridge is helping me be more efficient in planning ahead so we don't fall into the rut. Just a little forethought this morning meant that I had tortillas and cheese out of the freezer so we could make breakfast burritos this morning.

Several months ago I wrote an article for a homeschool magazine on lunch. I'm sharing it here and hoping to put more of the ideas to practice myself.

What's For Lunch? Tips for the Homeschool Mom

The clock strikes noon. The children push aside their math books and dash for the kitchen. I open the fridge and wish for lunch to appear. Even half-dried leftovers will be accepted with gratitude. But I've learned that wishing doesn't fill plates or stomachs. I hear that lunchtime is a challenge for many of us homeschool moms. This is a list compiled from my own experience and the suggestions of other moms to help meet those hungry groans with a smile instead of panic.

Leftovers. Make extra food the night before and serve the leftovers for lunch. As my family has grown, this has become a challenge, but I often make a huge pot of soup or chili in the winter. Cook extra rice and make fried rice. Bake extra potatoes and make hash browns. Grill extra chicken to serve on a salad.

Shop. Plan for lunch when shopping. If I plan on having taco salad Tuesday, I can have the ingredients purchased and the meat thawed.

Rotate. Write a weekly plan. If I know that we will have macaroni and cheese every Thursday, the work feels half done.

Slow Cooker. If I think ahead, I can use my slow cooker. I like to cook dried pinto beans with garlic and onions and serve them in tortillas with cheese for bean burritos. Baked potatoes in the slow cooker can be served with leftover chili or taco meat.

Freeze. Spend a day making lunches to freeze. Options include hot pockets, calzones, and burritos. Freeze par-baked pizza crusts. They thaw quickly and can be topped and baked in minutes.

Pack. Even if you are eating at home, pretend you pack lunches. Make sandwiches in the morning, stock your fridge with baby carrots and your pantry with granola bars, cookies, or a salty snack. On nice days, my children love to pack a lunch and eat outside.

Breakfast. Waffles, baked oatmeal, eggs and toast, french toast, or one of the many make-ahead breakfast casseroles are great options for lunch as well as breakfast.

Emergencies. Sometimes I didn't plan for lunch and find the refrigerator bare. I like to stock at least one emergency lunch in the pantry that doesn't need thawed and can be prepared in less than fifteen minutes. Favorites at my house are canned tomato soup or salmon cakes from a can of salmon. Another winner is quesadillas which can be made with tortillas, refried beans, and shredded cheese.

Delegate lunch to a child who could use some kitchen experience. The year I graduated, my mom assigned me the job of making lunch each day for the family. She could focus on homeschooling while I gained valuable homemaking skills.


Take a poll to find your children's lunchtime favorites. Tape the list to the fridge. Stock your pantry with a few basics. Prep your lunch at breakfast (that's the tough one). Then you can smile when you hear “What's for lunch?”

What are your ideas to streamline meal planning?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Lead, Kindly LIght

This morning at 5:30, I laid in bed luxuriating that I didn't have to get up yet. I listened to Ed in the basement directly below our bedroom getting his router started before he left for work. (If you deduce from that sentence that Ed is feeling terrific, you are correct.)

I heard Ed singing snatches of Lead, Kindly Light. This meaningful prayer hymn written after the author had a lengthy illness. Corrie ten Boom's sister, Betsy, sang Lead, Kindly Light while being herded into a German concentration camp. Titanic survivors sang this hymn while in a lifeboat awaiting rescue.

This morning we got word that my newborn nephew had just been airlifted to a larger hospital because of his breathing difficulties. To begin the day praying/singing this song for my brother, his wife, and little baby was a reminder of the blessing of the Lord who is the Light for our journey. (You can follow my brother's Instagram at German Barn Builders for updates on their baby.)

"He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." John 8:12

Lead, Kindly Light
by J. H. Newman


  1. Lead, kindly Light, amid th’ encircling gloom,
    Lead Thou me on;
    The night is dark, and I am far from home,
    Lead Thou me on;
    Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
    The distant scene; one step enough for me.
  2. I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
    Shouldst lead me on;
    I loved to choose and see my path, but now
    Lead Thou me on;
    I loved the garish day, and spite of fears,
    Pride ruled my will; remember not past years.
  3. So long Thy pow’r has blest me, sure it still
    Wilt lead me on,
    O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
    The night is gone,
    And with the morn those angel faces smile,
    Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Off the Shelf: Middle-Grade Books

I know how hard it is to find good reading material for my children. Here is a collection of thhe favorite books that I have read aloud or pre-read for my children in the past months. The first five are nonfiction and the remaining books are historical or realistic fiction. All of these are at our public library and should be easy for you to find.

An Indian Winter by Russell Freedman, illustrated by Karl Bodmer
Learn history from one who was there. Taken from the travel journals of a German prince and illustrated by a Swiss painter, this book records their historic journey into Indian country in 1833.

See the Great Blizzard of 1888 through the eyes of the ones who were there to live through one of the worse natural disasters in the US.

Imagine traveling down and un-mapped river to explore the famous canyons of the west. This book allows you to travel down the terrifying rapids with the ten men who first explored the area.

From first-hand accounts from two young men, one fighting for the north and one for the south, learn about the Battle of Gettysburg and its impact on the Civil War. I also read Murphy's excellent book on the Battle of Antietam.

Sometimes a true story is as exciting as any made-up tale. Such is the story of Manjiro. Shipwreck was only the first of his adventures which took him from his Japanese homeland to America, from whaling ships to the Gold Rush, and finally back to Japan where he helped end the isolation laws.

Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus
Manjiro and his friends were shipwrecked on an island near their homeland of Japan. Rescued by a US whaling boat, visiting New England, becoming a gold digger, and finally returning to Japan, this historical fiction tells the same amazing story of an amazing man of the previous nonfiction title.

Angel on the Square by Gloria Whelan
In 1914, Katya is enjoying a comfortable life as a friend of the Tsar's daughter, but times are changing. As Katya becomes aware of the plight of the common people her life too begins to change. An excellent historical fiction depicting life in a crumbling Russia.

Black Radishes by Susan Lynn Meyer
Gustave is dismayed when his parents decide to leave their home in Paris. Couldn't the French army protect them from the Nazis? Inspired by true stories of Jewish children in France in 1940.

Tua and the Elephant by R.P. Harris
When Tua finds an elephant that needs help, she embarks on a journey through her city of Chiang Mai, Thailand. Travel with Tua through the night market, a Buddhist temple, the river, and finally, to the elephant refuge. While not exactly realistic, this book can give your child a fun introduction to life in Thailand.

Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
Paul and Maureen want a pony of their own and choose Phantom, a wild pony of Assateague Island. Join in the fun of pony penning day, pony races, and the special bond between the people of Chincoteague and the island ponies. This special book is a classic for a reason.  

Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan
Imagine you are thirteen and engaged to marry a boy you have never met. And then find that your new in-laws are dishonest and you are alone in a strange city. Follow Koly's story from India and be inspired by her courage. 

El Guero: A True Adventure Story by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino
His comfortable life as the judge's son ended when his family was sent to exile, El Guero's adventures were just beginning. A picture of life on the Baja peninsula of Mexico in the late-1800's that is a family favorite.

When the Sirens Wailed by Noel Streatfeild
Three children are sent out of London along with thousands of other children to escape the bombing during World War 2. They face uncertainties with pluck and creativity as they try to reunite their family. Realistic details stem from the author's own memories as a volunteer worker in war-time London.

Peddler's Summer by Jane Flory
Life with eight girls and no Pa has not been easy, but they survived the winter. Now Amanda has a chance to travel through western Pennsylvania for the summer with the peddler earning money and making new friends. A sweet story of a simpler era.

The Heart of a Chief by Joseph Bruchac
Chris dreads the first day of sixth grade. He is sure that the town kids won't like a boy from the reservation. But Chris soon finds that he can make a difference, in school and at home. A realistic portrayal of the challenges of modern Native Americans.

(This post contains affiliate links which means that by clicking through the Amazon links and making a purchase, you can give me a small commission with no extra cost to yourself.)

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Bible Reading with Children

While were are on the topic of Bible reading this week, I'd love to hear your tips for Bible reading with children.

Like anything else worth doing, we have found it challenging to read the Bible with our children. As they grow and mature, what worked needs to be adapted. When they were younger we read various Bible story books. Now we usually choose a passage and each person takes a turn reading a verse.

We've tried various plans. We've read through the Proverb of the month. Two years ago we used the Beginner's Bible reading plan which has short readings from every book of the Bible. Last year we started reading through the New Testament and we plan to finish up this year.

We have tried Bible reading before bedtime, but we miss too many nights when we are away from home. Also the younger girls are often cranky and disruptive at that time of day.

What works best is reading before breakfast. The two youngest are usually in bed which makes it less crazy, thought I don't like that they don't get to participate.

But the biggest challenge is making Bible reading meaningful. I know how easy it is to just pay attention to which verse to read when it is my turn and not really be thinking about the meaning of the passage.

Recently Ed has been telling the children to look for an unfamiliar word in the passage. If they say they can't find a word then he'll probably do an impromptu vocabulary quiz so they are motivated to find a word. This has been especially helpful while reading through the epistles where there are numerous terms and concepts that the children are unfamiliar with.

Ed reads the Bible on his phone using the free a Tecarta app. He bought the Strongs Concordance app so it is super easy for Ed to give us the definition of a word. If something is simple, we are much more likely to continue doing it.

I liked hearing in the comments the numerous ways that you all are using our modern technology to encourage your Bible reading. Do any of you have more tips for Bible reading with children?

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Mary Magdalene - Woman of Priority


(Continuing a series of studies from Proverbs 31. I wrote this article several years ago and it was published in Keepers at Home magazine in December 2017. It blends well with the topic this week.)

Mary Magdalene - A Woman of Priority

She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. Proverbs 31:15

Her head ached as she tried to pull her thoughts together. What would life be like without Jesus? She shuddered at the memory of his horrific death. What should she do now? Return to the home that contained memories of her bondage to evil spirits?

She wouldn't think about the future, not yet. Salome and the other Mary were preparing spices to place on Jesus' body. She'd join them. They could leave early, before it was light, and get back before they were missed.

We can only guess the details of Mary Magdalene's past and why she chose to serve Christ. She may have been from the town of Magdala and become known as Mary Magdalene to distinguish her from several other women in Scripture named Mary. Mark 16:9 says that Jesus healed her from seven demons. Mary Magdalene is listed with several other women who served Christ and his disciples and it is implied that they were women of wealth.

Mary Magdalene's name is mentioned in all four gospels as one of the women who visited Christ's grave before dawn and found it empty. These women planned one last act of service to Jesus, but the empty tomb caused confusion and fear. Mary Magdalene lingered alone in the garden of the tomb after the others left, seeking solitude in her deep grief. There she mistook Jesus for a gardener until he called her by name.

Mary Magdalene woke early that morning with no hope of hearing Jesus speak to her. Yet He did. I have the privilege of listening to Christ's words every morning. But often I choose to trade the opportunity for a few more minutes of sleep.

Of course I always have a good excuse. What mother doesn't? The demands of a busy household and many children mean that I'm nearly always tired and rarely have a quiet minute. I think God understands that a mother will not have a serene hour for prayer and Bible reading every morning.

But if I go days without any time spent reading God's Word, what does that say about my priorities? I find time to eat, but Jesus said “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) I find time to take a shower, but the Scripture says I need “the washing of water by the word.” (Ephesians 5:26) I put aside my tasks to answer the phone, but God says “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” (Jeremiah 33:3)

I want to teach my children the Scripture and be worthy of imitation. But if I am still feeding on milk instead of meat, how can I be a teacher and example to my children? (Hebrews 5:12-14) I can't give what I have not first received.

I never regret when I push myself out of bed to spend time in the Word. But sometimes it seems no matter how early I get up, one of the little ones demands my attention. Then I try to keep a New Testament next to the chair where I nurse the baby or tape a passage of Scripture next to the kitchen sink. Even reading a Bible story to my children, singing a hymn while rocking the baby, or reviewing a Bible memory verse with a child can be an opportunity to think on God's words.

It takes sacrifice. Choosing to jump out of bed instead of pull up the covers. Picking up the Bible instead of a book or magazine. Setting aside my projects and hobbies for what is truly important.



Mary Magdalene never regretted rising early to be the first to see her risen Savior. She was given good news that she in turn shared with others. Never will I regret placing God's Word as priority so I can serve my family true nourishment.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Bible or Email?

Should I say "Happy New Year"? But "happy" can sound as shallow as "merry" when you are facing suffering or an uncertain future.

Maybe I should wish you joy-filled or profitable or blessed new year. All those would certainly be good, but still the focus seems to be on what I will get. It is natural to want more. More happiness, more comfort, more pleasure, more of God's blessing - but it starts to sound self-centered.

What if I wished for more of God's grace this year? What if I desired to know God better? What if my greatest longing was to be more like Jesus?

Those things are possible. I might not get wealthier, or healthier, or wiser, and certainly not younger in 2018. But I can grow in the love of Christ and deepen my knowledge of His grace.

Looking back over past years of blogging I was thrilled to find that many times I beain the new year talking about Bible reading. How appropriate. I can't think of a better goal than to read more of God's Word. A new year is the perfect time to reevaluate and plan for the future.

I have struggled more in the last few years with Bible reading than ever in my life. This year was really hard. I began the year with a baby who slept poorly and woke me up often. And unlike when all my children were small, I don't have that quiet hour in the afternoon during naps anymore.

Then Ed got sick. I fought to concentrate on any reading. Like Laura Story wrote in When God Doesn't Fix It, I was so glad when a friend would give me a verse in a card or email. I could gulp down one verse like a vitamin during the time when chewing on verses in my own reading felt impossible. I started writing one verse a day in a journal - one on a page - so I could contrate on those few words.

After that journal filled I felt ready for some more thorough Bible study. I got a new journal and started reading through the Epistles writing down every verse that spoke of the character and work of God. Recording the verses by hand slowed me down enough to help me think on what I was reading. I'm enjoying this very much and plan to finish that study this winter.

But I still have the problem of waking up too late and jumping into the many tasks of the day without taking time for Bible reading.

So...deep breath...I'm making a goal...and telling you all to make myself accountable so I don't wimp out.

I always find time to check my email. Always. Every day. Usually soon after breakfast. Always before lunch.

So here is my goal: I'm committing to read my Bible before checking email.

I told a couple friends and Ed about this goal a few days ago so I've had some time to try it out.

Ouch. I knew this might be hard, but it is pitiful how many times already that I've looked from my laptop to my Bible and did an internal battle.

"I don't have time to read my Bible right now, so I'll just check my email quick."

"No. If I don't have time to read my Bible I don't have time to check email."

And I'm embarrassed to admit that I've totally forgotten and checked my email first.

But I know this will be good for me so I'm going to keep striving so that this becomes a habit.

I'm not writing this so you feel guilty. Or suggest that you need to make a similar goal. I just know that telling you all will make it easier for me to win the argument with my laptop each morning.

I'd love to hear how you help build good habits for Bible reading. One of my friends texts her friend each day with the Scripture reference she read. I love that they are using modern tech tools to help them put Scripture first. And I'm sure there are many more great ideas.

Thanks so much for your investment in my life this past year, especially those who have shared the truths of Scripture with me.

I wish for you a Christ-centered, Bible-filled, grace-saturated year.

Past blog posts on this topic...

One year ago: Are Bible reading plans legalistic?

Two years ago: Realistic Bible reading planning - Beginner's Bible Reading plan

Three years ago: One Year Bible

Five years ago: The One Needful Thing - A friend's Bible reading challenge

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Surrender and Praise

This week was Ed's MRI. Ever since Ed's last MRI, which showed a slight increase in the size of Ed's tumor, I've been dreading this scan.

One of Ed's doctors is an optimist that said, "The size increase might just be swelling from radiation. You don't have any symptoms of tumor growth. We'll wait to see what the next MRI shows."

Ed's other doctor takes a more pessimistic approach. He is probably realistic about the statistical progression of glioblastoma. Typically, even with surgery, radiation, and chemo, this cancer begins to regrow within 6 to 8 months of diagnosis. We are past seven months. This doctor encouraged us to begin researching our treatment options and making plans for when the tumor regrows.

We continue to pray that God will heal Ed, but we also saw the wisdom in looking into our medical options. When Ed was diagnosed in May, he felt too awful to help make medical decisions. In the last month we have done a lot of reading, talking to medical professionals, and discussing various options for recurrent GBM. We were able to start some of the molecule testing that will need done if Ed ever decides to try some of the new immunotherapy. 

These past weeks gave me an chance to evaluate my attitude again. I realize again that Ed is God's child and I need to surrender Ed and our future to God. As this week approached I felt a complete peace about the MRI. Whatever would happen wasn't going to surprise God.

Yesterday I played phone tag with the nurse. She called when I was out and then she busy when I called back. I could hardly believe that I was so calm. I know many of you were praying; we felt very supported. I also knew that God wasn't going to abandon us.

And the results? There has been no change in size or shape of Ed's tumor since his last scan. His tumor is considered "stable."

Praise the Lord! It feels as if we have been given a few more months (at least until Ed's next MRI) to enjoy normal life.

But I still want to wake every morning with the realization that we are in God's hands and surrender each moment to Him. I believe that only a life spent living for God is worth living.


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