The Heart of a Homeschooler

We recently transitioned from a homeschooling family to putting our kids in school this year. (You can read more about it here).

It was a difficult transition for me, there was so much about homeschooling that I loved and I was sad to give it up. However, I was shocked to find that MANY of the concepts and principals and ideas at the HEART of homeschooling could still find expression even with the kids in school.

I would love to introduce and explore these concepts with you, I feel like they set the tone for any other resources, guides, etc that I may create in the future. My vision is to create seasonal guides, discussion prompts, activity packets and more for homeschoolers AND parents with kids in school to help parents connect with and take full advantage of these young years. Because, lets face it, sometimes it’s a struggle to connect with our kids in a meaningful way and it can be intimidating, but here is my encouragement to you: THESE ARE YOUR KIDS – you are the perfect parent FOR THEM. Most of the time, simply showing up and being present with them (not just physically but mentally and emotionally) is all they want. 

I can’t tell you how many times I have seen and heard my kids being CRAZY and all I have wanted to do was run away and hide, but when I realized that they were acting out because they NEEDED some direction and attention, I decided to PRESS IN and in those moments I found the most profound connection and amazing memories that I never would have built without the courage to be present, even through the hard. It feels so counterintuitive but the more I do it, the more natural it becomes and I have been able to transform difficult situations into an opportunity for me and my child to grow together.

So, yes, I am excited to, in the near future, bring you some great resources that will hopefully serve you, especially if you have never homeschooled or thought you could or even wanted to, but I really feel like these principals are super important to lay down as a base before we get into all of that.

The first concept I am bringing over from my homeschooling days is the belief that I am the primary educator of my children and I am capable of teaching them. 

This is a concept that every homeschooling parent has to believe and understand. They are personally taking the full weight of educating their child so they must believe they are capable of doing it. However, even if your children are in school and a teacher or administration is handling the curriculum and the implementation of it, doesn’t mean YOU aren’t also capable of educating your children. Don’t let ANYONE tell you that you can’t because you aren’t a “professional”. Don’t ever believe the lie that you are not able to teach your kids – you were their first teacher and will be a teacher for them for the rest of their life, not only with your words, but with your life.

Plus, YOU are the expert on your child AND education is something that is NATURAL to children and not something that HAS to be structured. 

Believing that you CAN teach your children (even if you choose to outsource it) and that you are the primary educator of your child is something that ALL parents, homeschooling or not, should believe. It’s SO empowering and having that mindset will allow you to see and seize teaching moments wherever and whenever they present themselves. 

Speaking of teaching moments, that brings me to my second principal: Children are ALWAYS learning, structured or unstructured.

Homeschoolers don’t think of education as ONLY happening during a certain set of hours or in a certain atmosphere. In school, for sheer necessity, learning must be structured and measured and planned ahead, but one of my FAVORITE things about homeschooling was how much learning took place organically. If you have the eyes and ears to see and hear it, you will be amazed at how often children are learning and how hungry they are for information. 

As parents, it is our job to notice when our children are hungry for information and provide as much of it for them as we can. As soon as you realize the WORLD is the classroom, the more enriched your moments with your kids can be (and not JUST for them, the world is a classroom for us as well!)

The third principal is that education is more fun and effective when done together.

There are many types of homeschooling, so this may not be true of all, but the method of homeschooling that I employed was not to replicate a classroom in my home (at desks, with a strict time table, very structured), instead, I chose to weave schooling in and out of “living”. Yes, we had time for memory work and that was structured, we did follow a curriculum, and  had time for reading and doing math, but it wasn’t always the same time every day, and sometimes memory work was done at a park or in the car. 

Sometimes, we’d take a full day to explore a natural wild reserve because the weather was beautiful. Because of that flexibility in education, and the way that we would weave education in and and out of our lives, I realized that teaching my kids is most fun when we are learning things and doing things that I’m interested in and curious about. This has to be the starting point for those of us wanting to engage with our children and teach them. 

Instead of starting with what you think you SHOULD be teaching your kids, or what other people are teaching THEIR kids – start with what YOU love and bring your kids along.

One of my favorite concepts when I was homeschooling, was to remember that I am the lead learner, not the expert. I don’t have to know it all, but if I am willing to learn and lead the way and expose my kids to the world, it will spark their curiosity and mine as well. 

This is actually a MUCH easier concept to employ with my children in school because I know the basics like reading, written and arithmetic are already being taken care of. I can simply take the time we are together and be learners together. If I am curious about gardening – we can go learn together about soil ph and pollination. If I want to learn an instrument, we can take lessons together. 

If I want my kids to think learning is fun – I have to SHOW them that learning is fun. If I want to connect with my kid, I need to be INTERESTED in the activity we are doing and invite them to join me. 

The last concept to consider is that children are people too.

This might seem basic, but the implications are profound. What this concept means to me is to treat my children the way I would want to be treated. Yes, I am the parent and I need to set structures and guidelines for my children, but I don’t need to DOMINATE or control them. I don’t need to underestimate them or dumb things down for them. 

I respect that they are a person with preferences and I can challenge them to try new things, but I don’t need to force it. If I am modeling the behavior I want to see in them and I am explaining to them WHY this is a good thing, I can trust that over time they will be open to it. I always want to treat them as I would want to be treated. I wouldn’t want someone to force me to do something I am not comfortable with. I would want someone to be patient with me to warm up to something new over time. So this is the attitude I adopt with my children.

Some of the activities that I have included in my guides will be new for you and your child. They might whine or say they don’t want to do it. They might complain and you might feel frustrated to even TRY these activities if all they are going to do is moan and cry. I have BEEN THERE and it can make you want to shut it down and go back to the comfort zone. BUT, as I said at the beginning, sometimes all we need to do in those moments is slow down, PRESS IN, ask questions, listen to our children. I love knowing WHY they don’t want to do something. Maybe their fears are unfounded and I can talk them through what the activity will involve. Maybe they are just tired or hungry and we can grab a snack before heading out to our activity. I also explain to them WHY we are going on a nature walk, or filling out a gratitude journal each night, I try to give them a vision for the purpose behind this activity. I treat them as a person. I respect their individuality. I speak to them as intelligent beings capable of understanding and reasoning with me. 

Parenting does not always come naturally. Parenting is one of the hardest (if not THE hardest) thing I have ever done. It takes a lot of dealing with MY insecurities, my weaknesses and my own shortcomings. To connect with my child requires humility and a willingness to sacrifice. I do think that these basic concepts will serve you as you move into some of the other guides and resources that I am planning to create. 

You CAN teach and connect with your child.
Teaching moments are EVERYWHERE.
Learn together and start with what sparks YOUR creativity.
Children are people and the more we respect them the deeper our relationship will go. 

To me…this is the heart of a homeschooler.

Finances and Freedom in the Gospel

Finances.
The simplest thing in the world.

When you earn money: add.
When you spend money: subtract.

Don’t spend more money than you earn.

Simple.

Finances.
The most complicated thing in the world.

The worth of a man to provide.
The way affection is expressed.
The security we crave.
The craving to always want more.
The measure of success.
The shame of debt and failure.
The pride of self-sufficiency.

How do we find our way?

It took my husband and I ten years of marriage before we finally got on the same page about finances. We THOUGHT we were on the same page. Every month we’d review and as we looked at the less than ideal numbers, feel the shame of our lack of discipline. We’d set the budget for the next month – DETERMINING to do better! Only to come to the end of that month in much the same place. All too quickly, our once a month reviews turned into once every three month reviews, and finally we stopped reviewing all together – only troubling to look when there was an overdraft notification or emergency.

Shame around this topic was thick. It kept both of us from being open, being present, being honest, being humble and finally God brought us to the point of desperation (what a mercy when He does that!).

Finding freedom in this area has been a slow journey (and I am still walking daily in it) but these gospel truths are what helped me to push through the darkness and come into the light.

My inability to manage my finances does not define me

I can’t tell you how many times I would tell myself, my husband, and anyone really: “I am just NOT good with money. I hate it, I hate thinking about it, I hate dealing with it, I’m just not good with money.” I said it so often that I started to believe it was true. I believed that I was who I was.

The gospel reminds me that I am a NEW CREATION. I have been given dominion over sin and darkness. It reminds me that what stays in the dark remains hidden and what is brought to light can be forgiven.

I was comfortable with defining myself as someone “not good with money” because it was easier to believe that, than to realize it was a sin issue that can be overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit. Once I stopped defining myself as someone “bad with money.” and instead as a daughter of God, I found the boldness to bring our mess out, share it with others and get a plan in place.

Submission brings freedom

Now that we had our plan, I only had to follow it. This however, proved to be more difficult that I anticipated. I was confronted with rebellion in my heart. I did not want to submit to the boundary lines God had placed around me.

If I wanted to bless my kiddos with ice cream, I would bless them with ice cream! If I wanted to redecorate our bedroom, I would do it! Submitting to a budget and restraints and never feeling like I had quite enough to do what I really wanted, made me feel stifled and constrained and I didn’t like it. I am ashamed as I recall the many little tantrums I would throw. My poor sister (who is so faithful and disciplined with her money and my role model in this area)  heard quite the earful every time I would huff and puff about how hard this is.

As I began saying no to the things I wanted to buy, I had to cry out to Christ to make me content when there was no ice cream, or I was staring at that old coffee table with marker stains on it. I had to lean on Him to fill the void when I wasn’t able to maintain my life to the standard I felt I deserved or was “acceptable”. I had to remind myself where my joy and purpose and value lie. There was no retail therapy and it was so painfully good.

Funny thing happened, as I sacrificed and submitted to Him, I felt greater freedom. I felt freedom from the gut wrenching feeling of getting the overdraft alert email. I felt freedom to give money to a needy friend whose son was very sick, because we hadn’t overspent it on a West Elm coffee table. That is the contradictory freedom of the gospel!!

Life comes through death. Freedom comes when we submit and lay down our demands.

He alone can be my hope

The last gospel truth that brought freedom through this season of growing in our finances came a few months after the initial struggle. We were budgeting regularly, we were sticking to the plan. I had gotten over that silly lie that I “wasn’t a money person”. I was submitting and saying no to what wasn’t in the boundary lines for us and finding such freedom! We were putting money away towards debt and it was exciting.

Until, our homeowners insurance dropped us and we had to find a new company. As the inspector came through our house we discovered that the electrician who had redone our electrical panel over six years ago, did a terrible job and the entire thing needed to be redone.

Nothing like a $1200 home repair to shake all the confidence and money saving momentum. All of a sudden I was looking at our A/C unit, wondering when it would fail us. I was imagining strange noises coming out of our van. Everything seemed like it could go at any time and I felt anxiety creeping up in my heart.

I realized that I had begun to subtly shift my confidence from the Lord, to my ability to be a good little girl and save her money and stick to a budget. Once again, I ran to the gospel and found freedom. He feeds the birds of the air, he clothes the grass of the field, do not let your heart be anxious.

If He did not spare His own son, how much MORE will He not also give us all things.

The last lesson I have been learning about finances is that they are simply a tool in God’s hands to make us more like Christ. The numbers almost don’t matter – it’s my heart He’s after.

Our inheritance is CHRIST – not a 401K or a dream retirement home. This world is ending – for a while I actually used this as an excuse NOT to manage my money or put it away – thinking that it doesn’t matter, because this is not our final home, but when I realized that the way I treat money is a revealer of where my heart is toward God, how I’m trusting Him, submitting to Him, believing His truth about me instead of my lies, I found such FREEDOM to use this tool for HIS glory and put it in it’s proper place.

Publishing this blog in THIS month is a huge deal for us, because this is the month we officially are completely debt free (minus our home) and this is also the month when we prayed and decided to invest our money in our family before doing the “right thing” and build up a 3-6 month savings first. It’s not the plan, it’s not the debt, it’s not any of that – it’s our hearts. Are we willing to submit to God in EVERY area, including our finances? Are we willing to seek Him and let His gospel freedom impact even the dollars and cents in our bank accounts and wallets?

I am still learning EVERY DAY, I still struggle with shame and self-control, but I am not my failures, I am redeemed and my inheritance was purchased for me – NEVER to be taken away.

 

Refining How I Let my Kids Fail

I love failure.

You would be hard pressed to find someone who loves failure as much as I do.

I mean… I hate it, just like everyone else, when I fall short and mess up, but I’ve learned to see it as a beautiful thing.

I read a fabulous book a few years ago called Failing Forward by John Maxwell and it was one of those books that made the world shift upside down. The thing I thought was unacceptable and to be avoided at all costs (I am a classic, overachiever, A+ ONLY kind of gal), turned out to be good – WHAT??. The moments I thought I was at my weakest were actually moments of great potential for rising and moving into greater things.
Fabulous book – HIGHLY recommend it.

I now SEEK OUT opportunities for failure. I now press IN when I’m met with failure. It’s a whole thing and it has made my life so much richer.

Naturally you would assume I would be 100% on board with the parenting rhetoric of the day, which is that as parents we should let our children fail.

If they forget their lunch, they’ll just have to go hungry and eat when they get home. That’ll teach them to never forget their lunch box again! If they forget to set their alarm, don’t wake them up! They’ll be late to school or work and have to deal with the consequences of their actions. It’s a mean world out there – better they learn NOW while it doesn’t matter as much, than later when the consequences are worse.

I certainly believe in preparing my children for the world by allowing them to experience natural consequences of their actions.
Absolutely – 100%.

I do however have a few thoughts and concerns to propose for those of us letting our kids fail.
I am uncomfortable with a few ways that this principal can be applied – mostly from the way I HAVE applied it and as I have considered and prayed through this concept, a few adjustments have been incredibly helpful to me in this area.

When I am confronted with ANY parenting idea…I have to start with one important question: Is this Biblical? Does this find roots in scripture? Should I apply this in my life?

The Bible says: “Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.” Meaning, children are evaluated and judged and should stand on their own actions. They are building a reputation even as a young person. I have often told my children that they are free to choose to tell lies, but the consequence of that choice is a reputation of someone who is not trustworthy. They will erode trust with me, they will erode trust with their friends and teachers and once trust is eroded it is difficult if not impossible to rebuild.

And this brings me to my first consideration for those of us letting our kids fail:
Are we taking the time to FIRST teach our children the consequences of their actions before throwing them into the ring?

Yes, I do think LIVING OUT the consequences of one’s actions is a great way to learn, but I think our kids can also learn from us TELLING them. And there have been many times when I have been lazy or just forgetful, to teach my children FIRST. (Disclaimer – my children are ages 8, 6, 5, 2 – so I still have relatively young children, and we are very much in the TRAINING phase…but even still…I know that as a pre-teen, I remember being kind of oblivious to the cause and effect of the world around me…I think even our older children can need to be reminded and verbally trained every now and again)

Here’s an example, I remember a few years ago (before I was as intentional with training my kids on nutrition and how food affects our bodies) my son ate a ton of candy for Halloween. He got a terrible stomach ache and actually threw up. My response to him was: “Well, that’s what happens when you eat too much candy!!!” Not compassionate. Too bad. Now you learned your lesson. Deal with it.

I cringe to think of it. Yes, he did learn his lesson. But – did I EVER have a conversation with him about what candy and sugar and food dyes do to our bodies and our stomach? Nope. How could I expect this child, who has only been marketed to by the candy companies as candy being good, and delicious, and colorful, and fun – know what would happen if he ate too much?

So often, I just assume my kids know better. When in fact, I have not taken the time to instruct them and I’m just upset that now I have to clean throw up off of a Spiderman costume and I’m actually probably more irritated with myself for not paying attention or not wanting to fight him and restrict the candy consumption.

Imagine how different the situation would have been if I would have said: “Hey sweetie, today is Halloween. You will be getting a LOT of candy. Here is what candy and sugar and food dyes do to your body <insert description of all the diseases and health problems caused by large amounts of sugar>. It is your body and your choice what you do with all this candy, but I want you to know the consequences if you choose to eat a lot. How much do you think you should have tonight? …… Ok, how can mommy help you stick to that amount? Do you want me to put the rest up high so you aren’t tempted to eat more? Great! Sounds like a good plan! I can’t wait to see what pieces you pick to enjoy tonight!”

SO DIFFERENT RIGHT?

Now, my son may still eat too much, he may throw up, and that’s fine – some kids DO need to experience it. But I don’t want that to be an excuse for me to not adequately train my children.

This can apply to so many areas:
Are we training our children how to manage their schedules?
Do they know how much time each activity takes?
Are we training our children how to handle money?
Are we teaching them how relationships work?
Do they know how much gas costs?
Are they aware that food and sleep affects their health?

These are just a few of the areas that I ASSUME my kids will just naturally know. And if they sign up for 5 different extra curricular activities – WELL, they better still get their homework done!! (but, if I never trained them on how to plan their time, how can I expect them to encounter ANYTHING BUT failure?)

Isn’t this how God deals with us? He GIVES US His law, He tells us the consequences, He reminds us of the blessings that follow obedience. I want to treat my kids like that.

How else does God treat us? Well, with compassion.

I think this is the default for most parents. As I polled several of you on social media on this topic I was so encouraged at the desire to let kids fail combined with unconditional love and I think that is so important and most would agree to that.

But as I pushed deeper into how God deals with me and what the Bible says about relationships and community I started to wonder – what does a “You’re on your own kid – if you forget too bad for you.” kind of attitude teach my children? Will it teach them not to ever trust or rely on others? Is that what I want to teach them? As I intentionally teach them independence, am I unintentionally teaching them that they don’t NEED community? Am I ok with that?

I want my children to take responsibility for their own actions and life, but also know that it’s ok to rely on a community or a family to have your back. I think about how my husband deals with me, I realized that there are absolutely times when I SHOULD have suffered the full consequence of my mistakes – I locked my keys in the apartment, I forgot to set my alarm in the morning, etc. and my husband has graciously helped me out. We are a family and we support each other and I am so THANKFUL for the grace and mercy shown to me.

Being in a relationship with others is wildly inconvenient. I am ashamed to say how many times I have used this “You forgot it, too bad, next time remember.” principal simply because I did not want to be inconvenienced. In our family we cary each others burdens and sometimes that means we turn back and get the long-lost, beloved toy left at a restaurant even though we are all tired, because we LOVE the person it belongs to and we sacrifice for his/her joy.

At the end of the day, God doesn’t always allow me to feel the full consequence of my mistakes or sins either – yes, He allows punishment and consequences to befall me but there are many times when He is gracious and I can do the same for my kids, even at great cost to myself.

My final thought on this issue is a question I am constantly coming back to: In my parenting efforts, is my goal to create moral, conforming, “good” little girls and boys, or to parent my children’s hearts towards the gospel? And what is the difference?

Morality tells me to at all times strive to be good and do good and live virtuously. It tells me that my identity and worth lie in how good, responsible and mistake-free I can live.

The gospel tells me that my sins and actions have weight and worth and are grievous to a Holy God. The gospel tells me that I cannot EVER be good enough to earn God’s favor or save myself. The gospel tells me when I fall short, there is grace because Jesus SACRIFICED and paid the PENALTY for my sins.

Jesus did the ultimate “bail out” by paying the FULL PRICE for my sins.

I do not always want to bail my children out of their messes, but sometimes – I do. Sometimes I’d rather preach the gospel to them. Sometimes I’m ok with letting them fail and struggle and find their own way and feel the weight of their consequences, but now with these considerations in place:

I will educate you before pushing you into the wild world.

It’s ok to still rely on community and family, we are not islands unto ourselves.

When you are not good enough – Christ is your Savior.

Now get out there little ones – and fail GRANDLY…I’ll always be here to remind you of grace, as you fight your own battles.

Bible Time with Kids

Growing up as a PK (pastor’s kid) was an experience (more on that another time) but one of my favorite things we did as a family, were daily family devotions around the breakfast table. My brother and two sisters and I, we would go through commentaries and memorize scripture, having lively debates on original sin and the present day implications of what it means to keep the Sabbath Holy. My dad had this giant white board he’d whip out to help us understand the original greek of the passage we were studying. We’d often end in worship, my sister on the piano and the rest of us taking different harmonies. I’m sure it wasn’t as perfect and holy as my memories are, I’m sure we all had our off mornings and I KNOW that many times the “devotion” for the morning was to discuss and bring attention to one of our conflicts or disrespectful responses to my parents. It was part theology and part discipleship/counseling. Even still, it is one of my favorite growing up memories.

Once I had four littles of my own, I couldn’t wait to carry on the tradition of breakfast and Bible. Only, my children are seven, six, four and one, much too young to debate theology or play musical instruments. Most mornings my attempts at devotions end in frustration. Everyone has to go to the bathroom or get a diaper change, or needs more water, or spills their water. I am herding cats, not teaching eager little beavers.

Some days I feel like they are bored, uninterested and itching to leave the table. Some days I wonder why I try.

And then, one morning, I had a shift.

They weren’t paying attention, my patience was running thin, and I just started reading the story for that morning and it was about how Jesus calms the storm. Something about the way it was written pierced my heart. I felt like the waves were crashing down on me, I felt like Jesus was asleep in the bottom of the boat and here I was frantically trying to keep us from drowning.

I started to cry as I read, I was having my own holy moment and the kids started to hush. I guess they aren’t used to seeing mommy in tears or hear such heartfelt, weak and needy prayers.

It was in that moment that I realized why I need to persist in morning devotions.
Instead of doing it for them, I need to do it for me.
I realized that I NEED the gospel every morning, not just my kids.

Our devotions started to change a bit after that.
I started diving into scripture that inspired ME and brought me to tears, instead of the cute stories from their children’s Bible.

I played worship songs that I could belt out and experience the Holy Spirit through, instead of This Little Light of Mine.

I needed to preach the gospel to myself, I needed to be real with my kids over MY struggles to trust that God keeps His promises when it looked like daddy might lose his job, or I was so tired with a list a mile long. Some days, my passion and my heart would break through to them, their little voices joining mine and their prayers heartfelt and tender. Some days I really was just preaching to myself – while they smeared yogurt all over the table.

Either way I am convinced that I am most effective as a mom when I stand before God and work as unto Him and Him alone. When I don’t allow the responses from my children dictate my faithfulness to live and articulate the gospel to them.

Maybe one day, we will dive into commentaries and I’ll get out the whiteboard, like my father used to do, and we will study together. But, if that is a gift granted to me, it is several years off at least. Until then, I will follow Him, I will pray my heart out, right there at the table full of crumbs, over the screeches of a one year old who is done with being confined to her high chair, and I will delight myself in the Lord, leaving the souls of my children in His capable hands.

——————————-

Here are a few resources I have found helpful for our morning devotion time, easy enough for my very young children to grasp, but substantial to feed my heart as well.

Wise Up by Marty Machowski
This devotional does a uniquely wonderful job of teaching wisdom without teaching rules. It shows children how to live according to God’s design but is CONSTANTLY reminding them that good works alone can NEVER save us, we are loved by God through Jesus sacrifice alone. This devotional also has a musical album to accompany it and the truths that it teaches. My kids love music and I loved being able to sing with them and reinforce what we were learning day by day.

Heaven for Children by Randy Alcorn
I am a huge fan of Randy Alcorn and both his fiction and non-fiction. His book Heaven was foundational to my understanding of and greater longing for Heaven and when I saw he had a version for children I was hopeful it would be just as good. It did not disappoint. This book made us ALL long for heaven and was a constant reminder to me what GLORIES await us, giving me a hope in the midst of trials and giving my children a much larger picture of what Heaven is like and what a miracle it is that we, who are far from perfect or deserving, get to go to this wonderful place. This book also CLEARLY preaches the gospel in several places.

The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
I would be remiss if I did not include this resource, although it is not new by any stretch, still, I am blown away, time and time again, when we take a break from reading this bible and come back to it, how deep, clear, compelling and beautiful the gospel is presented through this Children’s bible. The ONLY Children’s Bible I would read all by myself.

 

Spiced Banana Pumpkin Bread

This recipe is the result of a happy mistake! I had run out of a few ingredients after already starting this recipe and started substituting. The result was SO amazing I had to try this “accident” again to see if I could recreate it on purpose, and it turned out exactly the same.

The main changes were adding a ripe banana, because I didn’t have enough pumpkin and adding brown sugar because I ran out of white. The banana gives moisture, sweetness and complexity of flavors. The brown sugar makes the edges of the bread a little extra crispy and chewy. It’s SUCH a great recipe, I hope you try it!!

It will make a LOT – so if you want to half the recipe, feel free. And I included a modification if you want to make this into muffins instead of a loaf.

I hope you enjoy this bread as much as my family and I have.


Spiced Banana Pumpkin Bread

3 1/2 Cup Flour
2 tsp. Baking Soda
2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
1 tsp. All Spice
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Cloves
2 1/2 Cup White Sugar
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Cup Oil
4 Eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 Can Pumpkin Puree
1 Ripe Banana
2/3 Cup Water

Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder and spices. In a separate bowl, use a mixer to combine both sugars, oil, eggs and vanilla. Mix the pumpkin and ripe banana into the sugar and oil mixture. Add the flour mixture into the wet ingredients alternating with the water until everything is combined. Grease two 8×8 square pans and split the batter equally between the two. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes. (this batter can also work as muffins, you will have to keep any eye on the bake time, somewhere between 30-40 minutes should be ok)

Worthy Warriors

I work in an industry that prey’s on the insecurities of women.

“Lose 30lbs in thirty days…”
“Get those defined abs…”
“Build a bigger booty…”

It’s never said, but the whispers in our mind fills in the end: “And THEN you will be worthy.”

And that’s just the fitness side. Come over to the business side with me, we have a whole other list of things to offer to those searching for their worth:

“Earn six-figures from home..”
“Become a social media influencer with thousands of followers…”
“Climb the ranks in the company, we’ll put medals around your neck and your name up in lights…”
“Save your family from debt & poverty…”

And then, you’ll be worthy.

But it’s not just my industry.
In school it was “get the grades” or “have the friends” or “win the sports”.
In church it was “obey the rules” or “be on the service team or worship team.”
In marriage: “be the perfect wife.”
In motherhood: “play with your kids, only with wooden toys, in an all white, spotless nursery and have a pantry stocked with organic snacks.”

Do it all, do it perfectly, and look smoking hot while you do.

And we hustle and we buy and we search.
Maybe if I get this concealer or that curling iron? Maybe this diet will work – or that fancy organizer will help? I just need to read one more blog post about a minimalist wardrobe and it will all finally fall into place because the reason my life is crazy is because it takes too long for me to get dressed in the morning. Right??

We end up a discouraged, disenchanted mess. We crave self-care, but the truth is we are the generation with the most conveniences, free time and disposable income of all time, and yet we are constantly exhausted and anxious.

The more I dig into this in my own life and the more conversations I have with others – the more I realize – we are exhausted because we are constantly STRIVING for our worth (even if the exhaustion is simply the mental stress we cary around, and the never ending list of things we SHOULD be or be doing).

We are lonely because running around trying to PROVE our worth is more important to us that slowing down and simply being with people and giving them the opportunity of seeing us in our imperfections.

The Worthy Project (a virtual group I led where women from various backgrounds shared their stories of how they struggled to feel worthy and ways they are growing and healing from that) has confirmed for me what a systemic problem this is. But honestly I didn’t even need to host a group or hear from other’s to know that the temptation to put my worth in things like:

  • my weight
  • my skin
  • my gender
  • my ability to please others
  • my home
  • my bank account
  • my status at work
  • my kid’s success or behavior

…can’t continue.

The path to healing isn’t easy. I am only just a short way down this path, but here is what it has looked like for me so far:

  • realizing the problem
  • being wrecked by it and seeing it everywhere in my life
  • feeling overwhelmed and having no idea where to begin to heal
  • seeking out truth, reminding myself where my worth lies
  • having conversations with other women on a similar journey
  • go back to step one, repeat

This journey to worthiness is one of belief and mastering the mind. It is slow and deliberate, it is painful and powerful.

But it is important.

I have this glorious vision of who I want to be – and it isn’t a picture of the perfect mom with a thriving business who dresses in the latest fashion and always has something delicious cooking (I wish).

My vision is of a worthiness warrior. Who shows up for her life – unafraid of failure, unafraid of other’s opinions. Bold – yet compassionate.

A woman who can step on the scale, see a weight gain and look at her self square in the mirror and smile and say “beautiful.”

A woman who can sit with a child throwing a tantrum in a messy room and take a deep breath and remember: “I am doing the best I can.”

A woman who can work hard toward a business goal and in the end fall short, and hold her head up high and say: “I am enough.”

A woman who can make mistakes, not be approved of by everyone and still sing out: “worthy.”

That’s who I’m fighting to become. And I can still help women get healthy and love their bodies (ps- the most sustainable health changes come from a place of self-love rather than self-loathing) and I can still help women build incredible business from home – because the most successful coaches are broken women on a journey of healing.

It’s not the industry, church, culture or school that’s the problem, it’s us. When we place our worth where it never should have been – but here’s the great thing. Our wonderful heavenly Father – He makes beauty out of ashes – he takes hearts of stone and turns them into hearts of flesh. He gives us a new identity – He speaks life over us – He reminds us WHO we are. He picks us up, broken and damaged, with the words “Not ENOUGH” still ringing in our ears and He says “Mine.” “Beloved.” “Daughter.”

My confidence is not in my ability to heal myself, but His truth setting me free.

So, are you ready to dive into that truth and freedom with me and become a Worthiness Warrior?

Here’s my plan for the next three months:

Read Always Enough | Never Too Much devotional daily.
Send one message a day to another woman, reminding her of her worth.
Pray daily for the LIGHT and LOVE of Christ to break through the darkness.
Practice gratitude daily.

Will this cure me? Probably not overnight….but I’ve been doing this for the past two months already – and I have seen a huge difference in my thoughts and my emotions. I have seen the light piercing through the darkness. I have seen gratitude well up in the middle of bitter circumstances. I have seen other women brighten as I remind them of their worth. I have cried tears of a prisoner set free as I read the life giving words in my devotional.

I think I’m on the right path.

Setting Goals as a Mom

How to set goals as a mom when it seems nothing gets done.

Hi, I’m Vanessa, and I’m an overachiever.

I was always told that my overachiever-ness was a character flaw. That deep down I was trying to impress others and get approval from them instead of God.

But now I’m older and wiser and I know that’s not it at all.

I’m an overachiever because I just LOVE working. I love creating, I love getting ideas and obsessing over them and working on them and seeing them come to life. I get so much INNER pleasure from creating things that help others to make their lives better.

It’s who I was created to be.

Sure, there might be some selfishness in me (actually I know for a fact there is a lot!) – not denying, but that doesn’t mean my love for DOING THINGS is in and of itself wrong.

So…FREEDOM there for you sister, if you are right there next to me in your love of getting things DONE.

That AMAZING feeling you get from seeing that to-do list checked off.
The inability to sleep-in, even when you can, because there’s stuff to DO!!
Always needing to be working on something when you are watching TV because TV just isn’t productive enough.
I’m right there with you sister.

When I became a mother – and a mother of three – in three years, my entire world was turned UPSIDE DOWN. In many ways, but the one that was the most disorienting for me was not ever feeling like I was getting ANYTHING done. Ever.

I was working, all day long.
I was exhausted.
I was simultaneously bored to death with the mundane tasks of caring for small children and overwhelmed at the thought of adding anything else.

Setting goals seemed laughable for me. I can barely take a shower – please.

However, let me suggest that setting goals as a mother can actually work – the goals just need to be tweaked a little.

Here’s what I’ve done that has helped me feel like I’m moving toward SOMETHING even on the hardest, most “unproductive” days.

1.Start with the end in mind

What is my end goal for my children? Do I just want to keep them alive? Do I want to teach them a certain way of life, or to love a certain thing? Do I want them to know a certain body of information?

I had a general idea of what I wanted for my kids when I first started, but over time I’ve more clearly defined it and the more I do, the better I feel at the end of each day. Let me give an example.

One of my goals for my children is that they would work hard.

When I focus on this goal it transforms many of my daily tasks. Picking up toys all day long and including my kids in the clean up time – no matter how boring or tedious or painful it feels (ever tried to get a 3 year old, 5 year old and 7 year old to clean up? painful!) it is no longer just a thing I do as a mom…it is a tactic, an action item, I am implementing to reach my goal of producing hard working children.

The hard thing about motherhood is that it is SUCH a LONG game! We are talking about goals that may not show for 18 YEARS (or more)!! And it’s so easy to throw in the towel – to do what’s easy, to complain over the soul-sucking, menial, redundant tasks that take all our time and seem to accomplish NOTHING.

The only way I keep my sanity (and whether or not I have actually kept my sanity is up for debate) is by constantly reminding myself WHY I am doing the things I do – and what goal these tasks are walking me toward.

Don’t back away from setting goals mama! I know it seems useless – but instead of setting goals like: “Clean the cushions on the couch” Go BIGGER! Sometimes, teaching our kids hard work will involve cleaning the cushions, but sometimes, it’s just folding that laundry that is sitting ON the cushions and doing it with joy.

2. Celebrate EVERY tiny victory

And I mean EVERY single one. Setting goals and working toward them is hard, and discouraging, and the ONLY way we keep going is if we bring some joy to it – and for me joy = progress!!

I celebrate EVERY win – if my kid doesn’t throw a tantrum when I ask them to clean up their toys – I basically start dancing around the house. My kids love it, and it helps me to LOOK for what is going right instead of focusing on all the things that are going wrong. (why is it so easy to see the wrong?)

I celebrate this in any and every way I can. Sometimes I text my husband, my mom, my friends, post on Facebook, dance around, give stickers to everyone (including myself).

Do not underestimate the power of a pat on the back.

3. Know where your worth lies

I’ve had to fight so hard (and still do) to believe this, so when I write these words, I NEED to hear them as badly as anyone: “My worth is not in how much I achieve or how good of a mother I am.”

My worth and my value is MINE and it is SECURE because I am a daughter of God – made in His image. I am deeply loved and valued and I am precious. Nothing need be added to increase that. On the days I blow it, do nothing, snap at the kids, get in an argument with my husband – I am no less loved than on the days when I am Martha freaking Stewart and do all the things.

I have little notes all around my house telling me: “You are beautiful” “You are powerful” “Your smile lights up the room” “God’s favor rests with you”

I need to see them. I need to believe them. I need to be able to pick myself up after a long hard day and say: “I AM ENOUGH”

I need to because it’s my actions not my words that will transfer to my children and if I want their inner dialogue to be one of acceptance and worth – mine HAS TO BE.


These three concepts have revolutionized my goal setting as a mother. I have started with the end (and I mean, 18+ years down the road, end) in mind, I have placed long term value to short term, menial tasks. I have learned to look for and celebrate every single victory to keep me moving, energized and focused. And I am continuously placing and re-placing my worth and value in who God says I am.

We can set goals mamas!! We can run towards them!! We can run after those goals with FREEDOM not condemnation – because we are valued and loved by God and called by HIM to mold and nurture some amazing little humans.


Here is a worksheet I created for myself to write down three to four character traits I want to produce in my sweet babies and then a few actions that will move me toward in that long term goal. I keep it to just a few character traits (sometimes it’s just ONE) and I switch it out every three months. I can’t focus on EVERY area with my kids, ALL the time, but taking each quarter of the year and focusing on a few areas, helps me and the kids be focused and intentional.

I hope this serves you as we labor together in this task of motherhood.

Character Trait goals download

 

Creating a Life-giving Morning Ritual

Creating a life giving morning ritual

Why do we love mornings?

It’s a fresh new start.
There’s hope.
A sun rises.
The potential is exhilarating.
We have awoken to a brand new 24 hours in which we can do almost anything!!

Why do we hate mornings?

Not enough sleep.
All we can see are the troubles.
Nothing in the day ahead looks enjoyable.
We feel hopeless.
In a rut.
Overwhelmed.

It’s not the time of day that makes a difference, it’s how we view life on a whole that affects how we do EVERYTHING – yes, even wake up.

As a mom with four kids, I certainly know the pain of the alarm, or the baby, waking me up and my entire body is so tired it’s almost PAINFUL.

I know the depression that feels like an enormous weight, pushing me into the bed and making it near impossible to get up and face another day.

When each morning is full of dread, or stress, or rushing or thoughts of “not enough” it’s only natural that the rest of the day would follow suit.

We wonder why our days seem to pass in a haze of discouragement and disappointment and feeling like we are always running, always exhausted, but never getting anywhere.

Am I getting too deep for you? A little too dark?

This blog post is not about the darkness, it’s about the light.

If I’m honest, that’s what I love the most about mornings, the light. It’s different than evening light, it’s soft, and fresh, and comes straight at me. Not shining overhead, but piercing up over the horizon.

When I hit that pain point in my life, where I was constantly running and doing and tired and beat, and I knew something had to change, I picked ONE spot to focus on. (I could have picked many, MANY areas of chaos in my life, but I’m learning that it’s more effective when I only choose one) That spot was: “mornings”.

I figured, if I could get a little burst of energy in the morning, maybe I could run into my day with some speed and momentum. Maybe I’d rise and shine, instead of shuffle and caffeinate.

The first thing I did was pick the time I wanted to wake up at, and confidently set my alarm for that time.

“Perfect!” I thought, “this will be easy! 5am, here I come!”

Only, it wasn’t.

Apparently there are these things called sleep cycles that are pretty strong and ingrained in our minds ….so a little beeping that I could very easily turn off, wasn’t enough.

I determined not to give up and over time I found tools and tips and resources to help me the night before and the morning of.

But the biggest thing I started to do was gratitude. I practiced gratitude when I went to bed – writing down three things I was thankful for. Three SPECIFIC things.

Going to bed thinking, “Wow, what a great life I have!” started to change my brain!

The next morning when my alarm went off, I was more excited to LIVE.

Then I did my morning gratitude…thinking of three things each morning that I was thankful and writing them down, and once again, I was EXCITED and honored and grateful for my LIFE.

Did I still have problems? Yes.
Did I still struggle throughout the day? Yes.

But change doesn’t happen all at once, it happens in the tiny decisions we make every day and over time, these tiny decisions were changing me.

My morning routine grew to include:

  • Gratitude
  • Listening to inspriational content
  • Reading scripture
  • Making my bed
  • Looking over my day and setting my top goals
  • Working out

Now, the morning is my FAVORITE time.
It’s a time just for me.
It’s literally the ONLY quiet time I have.
It’s the time when I get to be PROACTIVE instead of REACTIVE.
It’s the time when I say: “This is who I am in Christ. This is who I want to be. This is what I am called to do. This is why I do it.”

It’s a space to hope, dream, learn, grown, worship, pray and cry.

I NEED my mornings. And now that I’ve found them, I am never letting them go!!

I have compiled a FREE resource with tips for adjusting and enriching your sleep cycle, getting up with the alarm, how to set yourself up for success the night before, tips for helping your children establish a healthy sleep cycle as well and set boundaries so your mornings are respected, a check list for the evening and morning and other fun tools that I use like specific oils, wake lights for the kids, alarms and features and all natural plant-based pre-workout formula that makes my morning workouts possible.

Click here to get access to it, and I truly hope it serves you to establish your own BEAUTIFUL morning routine.

Permission to Complain

 

My argument for why we should all complain more

One of my friends recently took a “no complaining” challenge. She laughed as she told us how many sentences she started with: “I’m not complaining, but….” during that time.

It’s so easy to complain.

But, what IS complaining?
It’s sharing frustration at something that is not right. In this fallen world, there is SO MUCH that is not right. So many things that poke us and hurt us and make like uncomfortable and something inside us screams: “THIS IS NOT RIGHT!”

And it’s true.
Things are not how God created them.

So…is complaining wrong? Aren’t we simply acknowledging that something is not right when we complain? Isn’t that TRUE?

Well, what we focus on DOES expand and fill our view. I do think it’s important to take the limited energy we have and pour it into BUILDING UP the good, instead of focusing on the bad.

Another thing that most complaining does, is … well … nothing. It’s just talk, there’s usually no course of action for making things better. It’s venting with no solution.

But, I think there is something to be said for complaining, and giving ourselves and others room to complain.

Here are my reasons why:

  1. Complaining allows me to verbalize that something is wrong. I don’t know about you, but it usually takes me a bit of time to go from feeling like something is wrong to being able to verbalize what it is. Until I can nail down what is wrong, I have a difficult time finding a solution. When I am “trying not to complain” sometimes I shut myself off from identifying and pinpointing what is going wrong and remain unable to make progress in improvement and growth.
  2. Complaining allows me to bring others into my suffering. I don’t open up to everyone about everything. It may seem that way with how much I share on social media, but there is a lot of suffering and struggle and battles that I fight privately. Those who I share with have EARNED the right to know me because I trust them. But if I am not allowed to complain, there is no way they can understand, empathize and bring comfort and counsel into my life. I have fallen into the trap of not wanting to complain and I isolated myself and my suffering, making it a burden much heavier than it should have been.
  3. Complaining is not always a bad thing in the Bible (but sometimes it is). David complained. Job complained. The people of Israel in the desert complained. Of these three most prominent complainers – only one of them complained incorrectly. As I look at the difference between the types of complaining, the Israelites complained from a place of: “God you aren’t good. God you won’t take care of us. God we don’t trust you.” Whereas David and Job complained from a place of “God you are good. God I don’t understand. God I will trust you.” Job and David still complained – BITTERLY and HONESTLY before the Lord. It’s ok to be honest with God. Do you think He doesn’t already know your heart? When I try to be “holier than I am” before God it is such a JOKE! It only hurts me and creates distance between us. It only prolongs my healing and growth. The moment I am brutally honest with God – and I have been BRUTALLY honest with God – is the moment when He takes all the broken pieces and starts to put them together. He cannot put it together if I don’t surrender my broken pieces to Him. Trying to hide my complaints from God is never helpful.

The Bible says: “Let your requests (complaints) be made known to God and the peace that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

I am seeking to pursue the type of complaining that helps me identify the true problem, draws friends and family closer, and brings healing and remove from my life complaining that is rooted in fear and bitterness.

We’ve all experienced the kind of complaining that we don’t want to participate in…but maybe it’s time we did a little more complaining – with the PURPOSE of taking positive action to change, being transparent with those close to us and allowing God to heal our brokenness.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have pace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Chia Seed Jam

IMG_8071

I’m always in that struggle between wanting to make healthier things for my kids and at the same time not having a ton of time to MAKE everything from scratch. Convenience always seems to come at a price nutritionally but this is real life. So, when I come across something that is healthy, easy to make (oh – SO easy), replaces a sugary staple and my kids love it – I mean…I HAVE to share!

PB&J’s are like my last resort – when all else fails, behold the PB&J!
I have improved our bread choices (Trader Joe’s Sprouted Multigrain Bread – so good!) and our Peanut Butter is all natural with a little honey for sweetener, or I make our own Almond Butter with Maple Syrup and Cinnamon – but JELLY. That sugary, syrupy, goopey JELLY!

So yesterday I decided to take our beautiful, ripe, sweet strawberries (That were like $1.19 a pint at Aldi this week) and turn it into a healthy Chia See Jam.

Here’s the recipe – took me less than 5 minutes to make – no cooking involved and the kids LOVED IT!

IMG_8069

————————-

Chia Seed Jam

2 Cups of chopped strawberries
4 Tbs. Chia seeds
1 packet of stevia (or maple syrup to taste)

Place all ingredients into a blender. Blend up and store in an airtight jar. You can replace the strawberries with other berries if you like.

See – wasn’t that stupid simple!?
I mean, that’s what I’m all about folks – get it done, make it healthy and delicious and be on with your day!

IMG_8068