Training my princess


Carl Larsson

Celebrating last weekend with over 300 moms was quite soul-filling for me. Vibrant conversations, beautiful singing, inspiring speakers–I was so very humbled and blessed to be a part.

Yet, one of the issues that came to mind over and over again as I talked to these women was the issue of training, I  want to pass on the picture of training and filling the souls and hearts of children with kingdom principles and truth so that they come alive. It is not a procedure but a relationship. Passing on spirituality is not so much getting the right curriculum, or being “holier” than thou, but it is passing on a life of love, passion for Christ, and goodness that overflows from your own heart.  I am reposting an older blog article that gets to the heart of training our “Princesses and Princes” for the role of ruling in their own world someday. Happy Monday.


Thursday morning was the first day, I think, in a whole year when I had Joy all to myself with everyone else out of the house for a whole day! (Sarah is in Kentucky with a dear friend of mine, Nathan in California, Joel and Clay at work!) We lit candles and sipped our own hot mug of brew in the quiet of my bedroom where no one could find us.

I then had the most wonderful time of reading to her and then teaching her about Abraham and Isaac. We spent almost an hour and half looking at different scripture about him–God calling him to leave his home to follow Him; the promise of a nation outnumbering the sand on the seashore coming from His line–becoming a Father of a nation; his waiting period for the promised son; the birth of Isaac; the sacrifice of Isaac; the passages in Hebrews of him and Sarah living by faith.

“Indeed, If they had been thinking of that country from which they went out (their home!), they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desired a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:15

We talked and talked about how we are here temporarily and will some day go to a heavenly country. We talked about Abraham giving up his treasure into God’s hands, knowing that He could trust God to hold and keep all that was important to Him–and how indeed God provided the lamb stuck in the bushes–he had already planned to provide for Abraham, but gave Abraham the chance to worship by yielding his treasure and showing God his heart of trust. We talked about how great a nation, throughout history, the Jews became–how God multiplies the work of faith and service we do to make it beyond what we can imagine–just like he did for Abraham. We ended on Romans 12:1-2–the need for us to yield ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice to God which is our spiritual service of worship–just like Abraham did and to be willing to go anywhere, do anything for the privilege of serving God and doing His work on the earth!

I could almost see her little heart swell to the greatness of His calling on her life–I wonder how God will use you? I wonder what it will look like for you to live by faith. Look at how God has blessed and led our family as we have served Him. She then said, “You know, Mom, I used to sometimes worry about the possibility of us moving somewhere for our ministry and wondering if I would be willing to give up my friends, but I gave that to Him last week, knowing that I would rather serve Him and watch Him do great things, than to hold on to my little world and fears.”

I realized again why I love homeschooling–I have the time to have access to my sweet princess’s brain and heart and time to discuss really important things and to love her and nurture her without the hurry and worry that the imposition of a regular schedule might bring. I cherish the times I can train her for the realm in which she will some day rule and bring His light. I love knowing that she and I are such close soul companions because of all the focused time spent without the competition of so many others that she would have if she was in the company of hundreds and hundreds of kids every day. I am preparing to send my children out, and probably away from me, but they will go with hearts and minds filled with stories of heroes who lived differently–boldly, bravely, intentionally for Christ’s purposes–to bring light and beauty and truth to their world.

Joy’s concluding thought was, “I hope I have 12 kids so I can really have a lot of leaders to send from my home. I can’t wait to have my own domain so I can make a place where greatness can live and be made every day as I teach my kids.”

It is all about loving God and passing on the baton of His love to our children. Enjoy your day of training your own royalty to rule over the kingdoms God will give to them. And be sure to enjoy the moment–it will pass more quickly than you know!

Grace and peace!


Filling Your Soul With Love and Grace Divine

Claude Monet, Woman in the Garden


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

I have received thousands of responses to my blogs on child discipline lately. I see how many sweet ones there are who truly want to do the best and be the best for their children. But before I do one more post on child discipline, I just felt I wanted to tell you how very precious you are and how much your own personal life matters.

I awakened this morning with you on my heart. I know there must be many precious moms out there who are reading these articles and are feeling inadequate or guilty or condemned–or just worn out!  I have been praying for you all morning.

Motherhood is very precious to the Lord. As a matter of fact, the more I mothered, the more I came to understand Him, His love, His sacrifice, His forgiveness, His patience. Motherhood is not an easy journey. I kept feeling that I needed to have more children so I could do it right at least once!

And yet motherhood is a long journey, a hard and challenging journey, that will require much endurance with grace, much forgiveness, much patience and just a whole lot of energy expended.

You are truly important to God in the midst of it all. He sees you and cares for your dreams and desires. And so I wanted to write a little post just for you.

When I had my first baby, I had never even changed a diaper. I did not know how to hold a baby. I was unprepared for the task. I also did not know how selfish and self-absorbed I was. And I have to admit that over the years, there were many times when I did not feel loving or feel like a good mother or even feel like I wanted to *be* a mother. I was always committed to my children and always committed to loving them, because I knew God wanted me to. But I did not always like them and sometimes that made me feel guilty.

I just put one foot in front of the other because I thought that is what God wanted me to do.

So if you feel that you are not a “natural” mother, or you enjoy doing things outside your home, or you have other ambitions, please do not condemn yourself. I felt all of those feelings and had to learn how to balance the different pulls on my life. But God has loved me and led me through it all.

I know that there are so many of you precious ones with deep scars. Perhaps you came from an angry family, where you were criticized or rejected. Or maybe you were ignored and you still wish someone would notice you and love you deep inside in those places that only you can feel.

Many of you made some bad choices morally that have deeply injured your own heart. Or you have a passive and indifferent or mean and abusive husband.

You are not defined by any of these things–not by what people have said to you, not by your flaws (we all have them), and not by your past failures or present difficulties. God loves you so very much. God is with you. God is your champion.

We read that when He looked out on the multitudes, He had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus sees our needs. He loves us. He cares for how each of you feel deep in your heart.

You are so very precious to God. He is on your side. He will be your warrior God in all the battles in your home. He will help you and defend you and pour out His unconditional love on you. He is the source of your strength and joy. Nothing can separate you from His love. Romans 8

There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

The only way we can truly make it in this life productively is to tend to the garden of our own souls. The only way you can be a loving mother or friend is to have your soul filled with the deep, unchanging, unconditional love of God.

I love the picture above. I picture my soul as a garden that must be tended and cultivated and watered. If my own soul is healthy, then all who draw from my soul, will receive true nurture and strength. However, I do not know of any great women who have not been very intentional about cultivating and building themselves into godly women. They invested purposefully to become who they are.

A wise woman builds her house, but it starts with a plan!

You may find criticism from the world. But in Christ, you will find love, deep, abiding, unconditional love and all that you need for your task. But you must choose to invest your time wisely.

So what are some ways to fill your own soul so that you may have strength and love to give?

1. Surround yourself with good and godly friends.

I once heard a speaker say that he will do anything to put himself in the company of people who make Him want to love God more, who make Him want to be a better person–who inspire Him. But that he would avoid all of those who spread poison or gossip or discouragement as much as possible.

I have a friend, Phyllis, who I know will always point me to God. Just being with her is like being in the presence of the Lord’s encouragement, because she walks with Him and points me to him. Gwen is such a friend, and Deb, Shelley, Lynn, Beth and Sarah and Joy, ……….I gather these friends over the years and invest in them because they invest in me.

Find those friends, challenge a friend to be a prayer partner, to study a book together, to meet with you on a regular basis.

2. Spend time every day with the Lord. Find books, resources, people who can help you with this. (Go though the Psalms and circle or underline every promise or character quality of God. Read one chapter of John or Matthew a day and write down one lesson you have learned. Read through Philippians and note all the ways Paul tells us to follow Jesus.)

3.  Clean out your soul on a regular basis–get rid of the rubbish that has kept you from experiencing God’s love. (If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us from our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.) Don’t hang on to bitterness or condemnation–it will poison you. I have a friend, Sarah Mae, who is dear to me as though she were a daughter. She has recently published an ebook called Core Lies, that she is offering for free. We must rid our hearts from lies that would keep us from experiencing the generous love of God.

4. Surround yourself with books, blogs, people who feed your mind on truth, who draw you to become a better self.  There are many, many women in my life who do that to me. But I wanted to point you to three of my favorites.

I love these women because they have chosen to have integrity in their lives when no one was looking. They have invested thousands of hours in the presence of God. They have chosen to love and serve Him, to always turn in the direction of faith. I know they are not perfect, but they hold fast to a Faithful God who carries them. They are also seasoned women who have chosen to faithfully love and serve their children, and husbands, even amidst challenging times. They have weathered life and from that weathering, have garnered stories of His faithfulness. Feed on their life-giving words. I do so love these women.

Brenda Nuland– a mother of two grown children, who cultivates life, beauty, goodness and faithfulness in her home.Brenda always encourages me, feeds my soul and gives me loyal friendship.

Elizabeth Foss–a sweet mother of 9 children, whose devotion to God, gentle mothering of her children, and great thoughts always challenge me. She is humble and loyal as a friend and has learned to persevere with grace.

Ann Voskamp-an artist with words and photography, who deeply cherishes her precious Lord and wants to sing his messages into the lives of those in her pathway. Her gentle, humble words are always filled with grace that she found from walking closely with Him.

5. Spend time in nature–his workshop. When I see the artistry of God, and rest in the glory of the canopy of His beauty, I find great peace. Creation was made for us. He designed the stars for us to understand His vastness–His strength and ability to be bigger than us, to show us His power. He designed color, flowers, mountains, waterfalls, snow, rain, to show us His design. When I invest time in His works of art, I am inspired to reflect His art and beauty in my home as a picture of His reality in an otherwise dark world. Creation nurtures my soul when I take time to observe it.

6. Restore, relax, recreate. Young moms need a break.(and old moms and moms of teens, and……..) They need sleep. Sometimes grumpiness or depression goes away with just a couple of good nights of sleep or time away with a friend. Moms need to have a friend who understands them and still loves them! They need to laugh and lighten up. Cultivate times of breaks in your life, times of just getting away. Don’t always be serious–it is exhausting.

Our bodies need a sabbath rest. I take my tea time every day with a candle, book or magazine. I collect videos and movies and series of stories that delight my soul. I surround myself with music everywhere–at home, in the car, at dinner, when I am in a plane. I love rhythms and movement. I make time for cherished friends. I make fun for myself with my children so that we can just laugh and play and store up humor–everyone needs a break. (Read my daughter, Sarah’s blog post from a couple of days ago–Christians need to learn how to lighten up and have fun.)

These precious ones are not just public figures to me, but in the privacy of friendship, offer such grace, humility, love and always make me want to love Him more.

This blog is way too long, but the point is, you are important. Your emotional, spiritual and physical health matters to God. If you cherish your soul and become a good steward of your needs, you will be stronger for your journey of life and more ready to meet its demands. But you are the one who must plan how to endure with grace and beauty. You must create a plan that best suits your puzzle of life. Grace and beauty and peace in the midst of it all.



Valuing Traditions

Last weekend, I had the privilege of having all  of my children with me in California. They are a blessing and I do want to say, they are mostly happy with each other and get along and are a blessing–your children will grow up and they are listening to you!

Many moms asked, “What did you do to cultivate your children into best friends? How did you help them learn to enjoy each other? I think one way is that I purposed time that we would all spend together, even as they got older. There were some non-negotiable times when everyone had to be home–sometimes it was a Saturday night pizza movie, most times we were always home on Sunday afternoon tea times, or Sunday morning feasts. Of course when they were little all time was family time and that is when you are really securing tight relationships.

I found this older post from 4 years ago. Joy is now almost 16, but I hope you might enjoy this post of yesteryear!
Every May about this time, I find myself wondering how we started so many birthday traditions so that the expectations of each birthday child is so high. I am a little worn out by this time and my mind ponders, “Now why am I doing this? Does it really make a difference?As I have pondered this the past couple of days, I have realized again, that traditions force us to take time to celebrate life.

Pausing, as a family, in the midst of the busyness of life, communicates that we are more important to each other as a family than all the activities that are swirling around in our lives that separate us from each other. In our case, twelve year old Joy doesn’t often have the full attention of her siblings, who are quite a bit older than her. They are always running here and there to a job, to classes or to meet friends. Yet, on this day, everyone takes a break from their other commitments—even Clay stays home the mornings of birthday breakfasts–and says to the birthday child, “You are beloved in this family and we are here to celebrate your life!”

Joy turned 12 today. I have to admit, that in spite of all the work, I think I can see that the traditions have deeply filled my children’s hearts with affirmation, validation, memories, confidence and blessings that they will draw from for years to come. Today was especially bittersweet, as I imagine that by next May’s birthday, probably only Clay, Joy and I will celebrate her birthday as a family! We will have to import new friends as family.

Each birthday morning, the person we are celebrating, has to wait expectantly in their bedroom. They are allowed something to sip–hot chocolate or tea—and then must wait patiently for the other siblings to come to deliver them to our breakfast table. Usually, I have made my whole-wheat cinnamon rolls–the expected favorites–and I make my own special scrambled eggs—with cheese, sour cream, ham or bacon bits. Strong Austrian coffee is dripping through the filter, while one child is setting the table with the ceramic tea set usually used for all birthdays. (The set was bought over several years at a second’s shop in Austria. By now, several of the dishes are chipped or cracked, but, as we cannot buy anymore here in the States, we are happy that the dishes aren’t broken.)

We are all a part of a team seeking to throw things together as quickly as possible, since often, presents are wrapped and cards are written at the last minute. One child throws the gifts into very familiar bags–many of which we have kept for years. As a matter of fact, the kids all discussed which bags were their favorites and warned me never to give them away to anyone else with a present in it, because it is family tradition! (Winnie the Pooh and a pre-Raphealite bag tied for the favorites!) We put every gift, however small, in it’s own bag. Even if something was purchased for a song at Good Will or at the dollar store, it gets fully wrapped. Consequently, each year, it looks as though the birthday child is getting a zillion presents, even though the ultimate value may not be much at all–it is all part of the sparkle and fun of the morning. (Once, a child received a pacakage of ball point pens–each in its own bag!)Life is a flurry as one sets the table, one lights the candle and puts coffee cream out, another is wrapping and putting on music to set the mood and Clay is always looking for the camera and batteries since he is the official photographer.

Finally, at least a couple of kids, go to the birthday child’s room to blind-fold their eyes, so that they have to stumble into the room with no peaking. What a funny sight this year as 6’5″ Joel and 6’3″ Nathan still willingly participated in leading Joy down the steps for her surprise day.

Seems the conversation never varies from year to year—I think your cinnamon rolls are the best, Mom. Yeah, we have never tasted any that even compared. (Of course this is so I will keep making them from year to year and yes, it does encourage me to keep up the work—even the 5th time this month!)

After breakfast is appropriately enjoyed, the birthday child begins opening gifts one at a time–to be marvelled, commented on and appreciated. Then come the cards—each child and parent usually creates a card and message for the birthday child to read and save in a special box.

Humor always adorns every meal we share, whether it is our somewhat retarded golden retriever who almost knocked down the table to get to the leftover eggs, or some extravagant comment. Today did not disappoint us. I was reading a Jane Austen quote outloud from a card Joy received, “It is much easier to kill realities than phantoms!” At which exact moment, the front door mysteriously blew open–and we all looked for the phantoms who must have entered at precisely on time for a great effect! (Maybe you had to be here–but the timing was perfect and made us all giggle!)

Finally, the pinnacle of the morning is when all of us at the table share with the birthday child what they have meant to us and how we appreciate them and how they have grown. I am still astounded that at 23, 20, 18 and 12, my children take this ritual so seriously. I thought when they were young, they would surely giggle and make sarcastic comments and find it difficult to finish the time. Yet, I am truly amazed that they have vested lots of love and thoughtfulness in these times and I can farely observe the heart of the birthday child being watered and refreshed enough to last for months.

Nathan started this year. “I have been amazed at how confidently and professioally you have been performing–through your Youth Performing Arts choir and through the musicals you were in. You have quite a voice and your are so poised and confident. At the last concert, I got my whole row of friends to yell your name at the teen concert. They all said they wish they had a sister like you. I prayed you into the world and I am very proud to have you as my sister!”

Followed by his generous comments, came Joel’s, Sarah’s, Clay’s and mine. “You have really grown in your commitment to the Lord this year and you have such intelligent things to say in our discussions.” “You have really developed in your personality this year. The way you decorate your room is amazing, your writing is very expressive, you’re learning to read music so well on the piano, and you are passing all of us up in your many abilities!” “You have been a real friend to me and you always have such interesting things to say in the car when I pick you up from classes. It is obvious that you are reading and learning a lot. You have also been a lot of fun for me.” And on it goes.

I see before me, these children who have learned to love each other in spite of the personality differences, the various immature and hormonal and argumentative stages of life. I am amazed and grateful. How did this happen—these children who threaten to undo me from time to time with their whining, silly fusses, immaturity and friction. Yet, here they are in their right minds, enjoying each other, laughing at each other’s jokes, discussing issues loudly, and participating in family bonding–willingly, generously. What a gift to me, Lord, to see this picture of watching Joy’s heart fill with emotioal health, before her brothers and sister venture to the far winds-Sarah and Joel to Cambridge, then to Seattle in the fall, Nathan to his classes in another state.

But when everyone goes their way, I see that there will be hundreds of memories shared, loved communicated, prayers offered at our table over the years of celebrations–because we took time to invest in tying our heartstring to each other. These foundations of emotional mental and spiritual health will serve to stabilize and give hope to each of us long after we are separated by miles. Now I see, all the effort and cooking and washing of dishes and wrapping of presents did matter because they provided the frame around which a life of love was painted on the souls of each of my precious children. Ok, move over—I will finish the dishes this morning!

The Gift You Can Give Every Day

Mary Cassatt, The Maternal Kiss

Mary Cassatt Maternal Kiss

The excitement of last minute shopping is underway! I always mean to have everything done ahead of time, but day leads on to day and minutes run out and….! Maybe excitement is not the right word for that adrenaline rush you get in the mall parking lot or seeing the “Sale” sign over something you wanted to give a special person. And it is so funny for me to watch my sweet husband. He loves surprising the kids and makes a grand effort after I think we have all in order.

This is the season of sacrifice ~ giving up time and money to give gifts. Christmas for me is not so much a materialistic issue as it is wanting to consider the delights of my precious ones and seeking to bless them with something they will cherish. We have cultivated such a precious family time because of a legacy of traditions over the years, that we indeed celebrate in the love we share and the love He shared and shares with our family. We learned the delighting in those we love by looking at God who enjoys delighting in His children. It is what we see in God’s creation–the color, the beauty, the tastes, the sounds, and touch, the sacrifice–all gifts He gave us to satisfy, because He is a God who is near and personal.

Gifts are a way of telling someone we care about them, we are considering their own unique personality and dreams and desires. We try to give the best possible gift, knowing their likes/dislikes and the current needs in their life. The gift of Christ over 2,000 years ago shows God’s delight in us. The God of relationships and kindness,  knew exactly what we needed. He gave us His most precious Gift and it cost Him everything!

As wives and mothers, we give gifts of our true selves to our families each day–or at least we should. When the milk is spilled, do we give the gift of acceptance and patience? When our husband comes home tired after an extremely long day, do we give the gift of listening and looking into his eyes,  so he knows we truly care? Do we give our children the gift of a quick hug as they walk by? Or a butterfly kiss? Or a backrub? Sometimes these are the same gifts we would like to receive!

We will never be in control of our lives, as the busy moments seems to suck our energy and bodies dry at times, but we know the One who is. He promises to provide for us, even when circumstances push us to our limit. He promises to be with us no matter what! But opening our eyes and our hearts to praise and worship Him as He gives to us His patience, love and attention each day, gives us a pattern for celebrating life. Here is a section from The Mom Walk:

“There will always be giants in our land. There will always be things that could potentially threaten to overwhelm us. We have to make a choice to believe in God’s ability to provide and so free us to celebrate. We must trust Him to take us into His generous provision or we will allow life to demoralize us and we will give our children instead a model and attitude of complaining and grumbling.

This story (Numbers 13-14) was personally convicting to me, as I do have a real dark side which can become easily focused on the difficulties. However, I have learned an important principle: It is natural to whine and complain or to be selfish and unloving — but it is supernatural to praise and be thankful and to choose to express love and faith — even when my feelings don’t agree.

When we choose to practice praise, joy, and love, when we cultivate celebration even as God did, we then find that we experience the love of God to a greater degree in our own lives. He is there, walking in the garden of our own lives, looking for us to see Him and to respond and walk with Him in His providing love. But in order to see Him, we must turn our eyes and hearts to Him seeking to listen to Him in our souls and thus validating for our children and ourselves the reality of His joy.

A mother who gives her children a heart to celebrate God’s life and beauty gives a gift that will help her children draw joy from their lives and memories that will bring them strength and pleasure all their days.

So today, look for joy. Seek out beauty and model to your children what it means to live in celebration of God’s marvelous life.”   ~ The Mom Walk  pp. 48-49

Psalm 19:8 says, “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.”

When you are struggling with your attitude, where can you turn? What passages of Scripture bring joy to your heart?

How can you live in celebration of God’s marvelous life today?

May the Lord bless you and keep you and make His face shine upon you!

Cooking, mentoring and celebrating each minute!

Oh, what 24 hours can hold! I am so grateful that the Lord is in each minute. I have lots of messages overflowing in my heart, but alas, I am so busy with my sweet ones that I have little time to write to you about all that I am learning.

I was up in the middle of the night with one of my sweet children and was reminded of all the ear-infected, asthma years that I wondered if I would live through. And yet, now I see that when I ministered His grace and love gently in these times, it went deeply into their hearts as they felt the hands and touch of someone who taught them the gentle love of the Lord. Sleepy today, but thankful for His strength and joy abiding.

I do know that Satan is alive and well and so much wants to discourage all of you brave-hearted women who want to spread light and cheer. I am remembering that God spoke into the darkness and said, “Let there be light!” And so each day, as I confront darkness of any kind–mood, thoughts, real temptation, catastrophes and sadnesses in the lives of my children, friends and family, in His name and in His honor this wonderful season, I am saying, “Let there be light in this place.” and seeking to work toward that every minutes.

And so, as I prepare for friends who will be here with me in the next couple of days, I am cooking away. Here are two wonderful recipes:

First, you must know this is a special, special recipe–who could eat this much sugar, cream, butter every day of the year? But, I love delicious recipes that say, “This is a time to celebrate life and document a moment!” So, these became a wonderful breakfast yesterday morning for our Sunday morning feast!

Christmas Muffins–

(as shared with me by my wonderful friend, mentor and inspiration–and genius in the kitchen, Phyllis Stanley)

Place in Bosch with beaters:
3 eggs, 1 cup soft butter, 2 cups sugar, 2 tsp. orange peel

Mix until fluffy, Then add:

3 cups freshly ground flour (or store bought–unbleached, and spelt is also great! )  and 1/2 tbsp baking powder
1 cup chopped pecans, 1 cup chopped cranberries (set aside a Tbsp or 2 for garnish)
1 cup whipping cream or half and half
Mix only until blended.  Place in well-sprayed muffin tins 2/3 filled.  Sprinkle with a little bit of chopped cranberries and pecans.  Bake for 20 minutes in preheated oven 400 degrees.  Makes 24 Christmas muffins.


And then I just love to share my friends who minister to me on many levels. I love going to Coffeeteabooksandme because I see visual art, find out about great books, love looking into the soul of a spiritually deep friend who provokes me to loving the Lord more and who has the best recipes. This one sounds wonderful for a cold, winter evening. I am making it this week and asked Brenda if she would please share it with us. THANKS A BUNCH, SWEET BRENDA!

Have a wonderful day and may His light and peace be with each of you.