Too Much Stuff... for when your soul aches for less.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

It's the day after Christmas and we're in Toys R Us.  I feel my throat swelling inside of me.  It's the last place in the world I want to be after two days of massive, sickening consumption.  Our children received everything on their wish lists and yet, they want more.
And we're not alone.  The store is packed with children all marching through the isles, Christmas gift money in hands, dying to spend, spend, spend.  Never mind what's already lining their rooms - it's not enough.
My heart breaks inside of me as I whisper the truth to our children later:
Do you see it here, right here in front of us?  We have received everything we thought we wanted, and now, the very next day, we want more and more.  Because things can't make us happy.  Greed is never satisfied.
My heart has been troubled over Christmas this year for more reasons than one.  The consumption, the craziness, the busy, do-this-do-that nature of the season.  For the last week, I had literally no time to do anything but prepare for the 'celebrations'.  Yet the greatest irony is this - through all the preparation and stress, I found myself further from God, with less time to reflect, less time to pray, less time to focus on what matters to Him.
The focus shifts.  All of a sudden I find myself in a Mall.  I haven't been in a mall for over a year but oh, we have to celebrate Jesus - so a Mall-shopping we will go.  It just doesn't make any sense.  And my heart is heavily burdened, friends.
This morning we woke up to a house of mess.  Heaps of stuff lay everywhere.  Clothes spilling out of drawers, toys tossed in messy piles in corners of every room.  My head was aching and my soul crying out for relief from all this STUFF.

We've got new stuff.
We've got old stuff.
We've got toy stuff.
We've got clothing stuff.
We've got art stuff.
We've got building stuff.
We've got decorative stuff.
We even found stuff we never knew we had.
So, we cleansed.  For the millionth time, we took piles and piles of clothing and old toys and you name it away and tried to make space for fresh air.
These are the times my whole being laments.  I feel sorrow deep down, way down deep.  Sorrow for our very, very much and the millions with very, very little.  Sorrow that STUFF crowds out the Living God in our life until He's but a faint whisper.  I realize it wickedly deep this year:

At Christmas, I fear I'm teaching my children to consume until they are bursting at the seams.

Even though we do the Jesus-things, we focus on scripture, we have a little nativity set, we talk about grace and love coming down and all those Christmasy things.  But it feels misplaced.  We make hand-made gifts, we try and try to keep things simple, we bake, we cuddle, we enjoy family time and its beautiful.  But, somehow, everything shifts just enough to make room for sin.  The stuff crowds out the rest.  It's unsettling and I'm really starting to question.
Even though my heart wants desperately to live completely differently, the mess of this Christmas season seeps in and makes a home for greed and wanting.  Yes, no matter what I aspire to be, I'm not her and I'm a contributor to this earth's broken, unequal reality. 
Because we want and want and want, others have not, eat not, live not.
The truth is plain.  If we don't like it, it's because we don't want to accept that we are part of this broken planet's problem.  If there was no greed, there would be no one starving.  No child trapped in prostitution, no mother weeping over her dying child.
There's a popular Christmas message.
And because we fill with stuff - we empty of Christ.  And when we empty of Christ there is less of Him to pour out.  The more and more we pile up in our homes, the further and further from the Truth we travel.  The Christ-life was never about our earthly stuff - it was about caring nothing for the world and wanting Christ more than anything.
So, how can I claim to love God with all my heart, if I also love stuff?
I can't.  Something's gotta give.
And that's why my heart is bursting.  This whole world is broken and our hearts are broken and we try to mend them with all the wrong things.  Even when we say we don't need stuff or want stuff our actions tell a different story.  Even when we think we are living a simpler life, our life is richly abundant compared to most.  Even if none of our stuff runs on batteries - our child has 23 long sleeved shirts and a child in India walks naked.
Our daughter has over 25 stuff animals and all little girls dream of is snuggling only one special toy in their whole childhood.
People go hungry and I eat when I'm full.
We do love stuff.  Period.
Guilty as charged.  Of the sinners, I am the worst.
Oh friends, my soul is crying out for less stuff.  More of the Lord, less of everything else.  That is my passionate prayer for 2014.
Less stuff so there is more and more room for what really matters.
More of the One who cleans all slates and makes us new.  Because I need new beginnings this year.  I need a fresh start.  I need to be where Truth is found.
I desperately need to hold tight to the Peace He graciously embeds deep within.
In that place is where the things of this earth fade fast compared to the radiant glory of His mercy and grace.  What can compare to knowing and serving the Living God?  Yahweh - God unchanging?
Nothing.  Nothing compares.  No matter how many things we consume - stuff, entertainment, food, drink - whatever it is... it is empty.
He is the only true filler.
He alone can come and dwell in the empty places.  He alone can patch up the mess of our hearts.  He alone will realign the cosmos and set all this world right.
His justice will prevail.
Every once of anything earthly will be blasted away and nothing will remain.  I know this but do I live this?
Asking the hard questions tonight, friends... and praying we can all find wide open space for His love and His guiding today, this week, this year, and always.

Nurturing a Child's Soul...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

In his book Heartfelt Discipline, Clay Clarkson speaks about the importance of cultivating the soil of our child’s heart. He refers to the parable of the sower and the seed and compares it to how we, as parents prepare our children to live for God.
“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown…” Matthew 13: 3-8
As parents, so many of us are tempted to focus mainly on the seeds. We try to give our children as many gospel seeds as possible – Church, Sunday School, Christ-centered literature, devotion times, times of service, etc. The truth is though, it doesn’t matter what way we ‘package’ it, we cannot add to the awesome power of the gospel.

The seed, is always good, because it is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We can not change the seed – the seed remains. It isn’t the seed that decides whether or not the truth is revealed and received, it is the soil.

To read the rest, join me over at The Better Mom today! 


Power and Light.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Hot Cross Buns were half-way cooked when the power kicked off two days ago.  The past hours have been a crazy mess of ice, wind, storms, falling trees, and no electricity for 30 hours or so.  Yes, we're smack in the middle of the ice storm that hit all across the states and eastern Canada.  The ice was built up so thick on tree limbs they bent and snapped under the pressure.  In our old neighborhood branches smashed through homes, cars, and knocked down more hydro wires than we can count. 

We pile into Grandma's for Sunday dinner, and we heat casserole dishes on the Bar-B-Q and talk about the damage and God's power and isn't it crazy what can happen when things go awry?

Now, it's Christmas Eve, our power has been restored, and I'm staring out a sun-lit window thinking about everything we've been through in the days leading up to now.

Being in the country and having no power - it can be a vulnerable situation in our time.  I think about the Pioneers who survived winters on the plains with babes and husbands and nothing but a wagon and a lean-to to, well, lean on.   Well, we've got a lean-to (some call it a shed) but, there's no way we're camping out there.  No, we're far more blessed - we have a home.

But see, with no power to turn on the computer or the lamps or the dish washer, you are forced to sit and wait.  We can choose to wait impatiently for the power to come back or we can wait on the Lord who holds all power in the palm of His mighty hands.

Sure, life is messy and we stress about sump pumps failing, basement's flooding.  We boot up generators from friendly neighbors, we can't flush toilets or run water or cook or have a tea.  Oh, and we remember how blessed we are when the lights are on and everything goes as expected.  Because in most parts of the world they live like this daily - they live worse than this daily.  I shake my head at my spoiled nature.

We stay quiet at night, grasping on to the still life.  Embracing that which can't be manufactured and sold for 40% off.  The complete darkness but a few candles.  The blankets piled around a cold little country house.  The kids try to play with new toys at the kitchen table, we read in dim light, and we tuck in, praying.

But a part of me doesn't want the power to pop back on.  Because this quiet- this complete stillness will pass.  This curling up and singing carols together and relying completely on God to fill the darkness and uncertainty with His Forever Light - it passes too quickly when we think we can figure things out ourselves.

When everything flickers and hums and pops back to life - our focus on His Light tips upside down.  The world whirs.  People fill up Wal-Mart and I return to 'life as usual', even though I'm desperately trying to mold a new 'usual' in light of this crazy culture.

I read from Matthew 6 about how we fuss over ourselves and become consumed with worry.  But our God is bigger than ice storms.  He has conquered the world, after all.    I read it:  "What I'm trying to do here is get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving."

Because He gives sunshine and He gives the storm.  And it's when we are sitting in the storm spattered darkness we most realize how helpless we are.  Mere mortal humans on this massive green and blue sphere.  We cannot hold our own lives in our own hands - we are incapable.  No, there is a great set of hands who not only holds us but the whole universe.  He causes the rain (and ice) to fall on the wicked and the good.  He holds weather and trees and limbs in His palm.  We can wait for the earthly power to be restored but are we tuned into the eternal Power?  The One who is mighty to save?
The greatest Gift ever given, gives all good gifts and everything we receive is a gift, whether we perceive it as a mess or a miracle.  He decides.  God chooses.  God gives and He takes away and we respond.

How do we respond to Christ?

Jesus Christ - the child we are supposed to celebrate at Christmas. (But, do we really?)  The Holy One who came down and was Light and the Power of Heaven wrapped up in a swaddling bundle.

The country church is planning to have a candle light service in the, well - candlelight.  There probably won't be any lights, amps, words on screen, or heat.  The power still teeters in much of our area and people are getting stressed. 

After all, it's Christmas - where is the POWER, where is the LIGHT?

The Power? 

The Light?

Oh, that's the crazy irony - He's already here.

We stress about power while also proclaiming Him but the two are contradictory.  I'm deeply convicted and breathless with wonder at how He could love so boldly and completely and so lavishly.

He came down.  He humbled Himself to being born of a teenager in a smelly barn.  He dwelled among us - Immanuel, God with us.  He knew human struggle.  He knew fear, hunger, pain, sadness, joy, laughter - He knew these things and He knows us too.  In the darkness of life, we can know there is an eternal Light who never fails us.  Who never passes away.  Who never fades.  There is a Mighty Power who holds us and knows all and has all under His wing.  We never need to let fear grip us or let the darkness steal our joy.  He is our joy and He is complete.  In His love, there is fullness of joy, friends.  FULLNESS of joy!

Walk with The Light, and never find darkness again.

The wind and ice and the storms of life can take the earthly power down but our Heavenly Power stands forever.  No wind can move Him, no Power is above Him.

The lights might go out momentarily, but we have a Love-Light who's care for us can never be snuffed or stopped.  Christ, the Lord - The Light of the World.
Hold Light and Love close this season, friends. 

See you in the new year, Lord willing.


The Duchess Bakes a Cake (and a Medieval Times Unity Study)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What a fun time studying The Duchess Bakes a Cake!  I would say we really did far more with regards to Medieval Times than we actually did from the Five in a Row book.  Having said that, the kids LOVED this book by Virginia Kahl.  It was one of the FIAR books they requested over and over.  It is written in poetic prose, rhyming couplets - which is part of why they loved it.  They love every book written in this way!
The study of Medieval Times was something fun I wanted to do this year as well... so, here we are!
The Lapbook and Activities at the bottom of the post were found for free at!
I used:


Books and Literature

The Duchess Bakes a Cake!

A great collection of books!  Usborne books include, First Encyclopedia of History, Usborne Book of World History (Sonlight, Core B), Look Inside a Castle, Living Long Ago (Core A), Knights, Stories of Knights, See Inside Castles, Time Traveler Knights and Castles (comes with Core B).  Yes.  We love Usborne books.  Just a little bit.  *smile*

More Usborne - sticker books and art books for Medieval Times.

Have you ever seen the "Look Inside" series from Usborne?  It's amazing!  Here are some pages from Look Inside a Castle.  What a great living book!

Making a Medieval Castle and Village

We had so much fun making our Medieval Castles and Villages!  From the Kights and Castles Things to Make and Do book, we made really neat castles out of heavy cardstock/board and set up an entire Medieval Village.

Large pieces of Bristol Board - one big rectangle and two small rectangles that will fit around toilet paper rolls.  We printed the bricks using a white eraser as a stamp and grey/black paint.


We created the castle walls easily with folded long rectangular piece of Bristol Board.  We cut the tops to look like the edged castles.

Top Left: A Playmobil castle set we have, Top Right: A top view of our Medieval Villages, Bottom: Audrey sets up her village with various people and animals based on what she remembers from our stories and studies.

Let the battle begin!

A look inside Simon's castle - complete with working draw bridge!


Our "working" well for Audrey's village.


Art and Color

Complimentary Colors:

This is an activity from Five in a Row.  Because The Duchess is illustrated in green and red (complimentary colors), we studied how complimentary colors work and the color wheel.


Drawing Knights and Battle Scenes:


I absolutely adore Alex's Knights... 

Language Arts

Characters - how do characters make up a story?  Who are the characters in The Duchess?

Discussing vocabulary along with the elements of a story and plot.

Medieval Games - Chess!

Our boys love Chess.  What a perfect excuse to play a few rounds!

Food and Cake (or... Cinnamon Rolls!)

As part of our study of The Duchess, we baked Cinnamon Rolls to practice measuring dry and wet ingredients and also, to watch how yeast works to make the dough rise.  It was fun and DELICIOUS!

Also - eating PORRIDGE!  ;)


Why did Knights fight?


LINKS you might like:

Duchess Bakes a Cake Coloring Sheet 1

Armor of God -

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