Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tell Me the Old, Old Story

Our children love listening to stories read aloud, and it is delightful to hear them exclaim "read on, Mommy, read on!" when reading to them the stories God told through the lives of His people.

As far as story Bibles go--and we have many--our absolute favorite is The Child's Story Bible, by Catherine F. Vos. Published in 1935, this 700 page volume was recommended to us by Carole Joy Seid and has not disappointed. Vos accurately weaves the words of Scripture with historical descriptions of the sights, sounds, and smells surrounding the people of God. She goes beyond mere narration to explain the attitudes and emotions that come with both the circumstances and choices of these people of old. The Bible's "mature issues" are dealt with tactfully without lessening the impact of the subjects themselves. Reading a few of The Child's Story Bible's short chapters per week is a great way to take even the squirmiest of children through the Bible in a year.

Another delightful book is A Little Life of Jesus For Children Who Are Learning to Love Him, by Lois Rock. This chubby little book, perfect for toddler sized hands, had accompanied us to church for many years and is still kept lovingly by the bed of my five-year-old. The simple stories of the life of Christ taken from the Gospels are illustrated by eye-catching pictures on every page. Sadly, it seems to be out of print in the U.S. and I don't know of any American retailers who carry it. I've seen it on Ebay and Amazon used, and if you can get one, do so.

Finally, a worthwhile newcomer to the plethora of story books on the shelves of your local Christian retailer is The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones. Lloyd-Jones does a marvelous job of taking all the major stories of Scripture and shooting them like well-aimed arrows at the target of the Messiah. The redemption story is central on every page. And I especially like the illustrations--Abraham, Moses, and Jesus actually look Middle Eastern! While we don't own it yet, our pastor is reading it a chapter at a time to the children on Sunday mornings and it is quickly becoming a favorite.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Theology for Itty-Bitties

Did you know that the concept of "asking Jesus into your heart" is not found anywhere in the Bible? Neither is "giving your life to Christ." And yet we often use these less-than-biblical Christianise phrases to explain the glorious act of redemption to children. Our kids need to know the real deal about God for the same reason we do--because it is imperative to answering the questions of life. They need to know that there is a powerful God and that He speaks and acts.

Leading Little Ones to God, by Marian M. Schoolland, has been around for 45 years and is one of our favorite resources for explaining biblical doctrine to our kids. Divided into 14 sections and 86 chapters, it systematically teaches children biblical theology in bite-sized chunks without using weighty seminary words. Children will learn about the doctrines of sotieriology (salvation), harmartiology (sin), ecclesiology (the church), sanctification (spiritual growth), eschatology (future things), among others. We first used this book when our eldest child was in kindergarten and find it engaging for toddlers through about 3rd grade.
It is my experience that children understand a whole lot more than we give them credit for, that they can engage in much more intelligent conversation than we allow them to, and that they need to know the true God of the Bible in His majesty, fury, and amazing love not the one of the cartoon coloring page we give them in Sunday School. Working your way through Leading Little Ones to God is a wonderful way to introduce your children to this glorious God.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Simple is not Easy

In my continual quest to fill the bellies of my loved ones with real food versus that which has been processed beyond recognition, today I attempted a from scratch "authentication" of the Steak Stroganoff recipe in the Fix-it and Forget-It Cookbook. My resolve to do better in this area was not weakened, but I must tell you that making the mushroom sauce takes a whole lot longer than opening a can of mushroom soup and mixing in a packet of onion soup mix. However, seeing 5 empty plates with smiling full kid-os and husband behind them was worth the effort!

Saralyn's Take Longer to Fix-It and Be Less Concerned about Its Ingredients Stroganoff

3 Tbsp. butter
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. parsley
1 cup milk

Saute mushrooms and onion in butter for 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir to incorporate. Add salt, pepper and parsley. Cook for about 1 minute. Slowly add milk, stirring all the while to avoid lumps. Cook until thickens. Set aside.

1-3/4 lbs. round steak, cut into strips (Safeway often has this on sale for $1 per pound!)
2 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp . garlic powder
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. paprika

Mix the seasonings and flour in a bowl. Add steak and toss to coat.

Mix mushroom sauce and 1/2 cup water in crockpot. Add steak. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours.

Stir in:
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. parsley

Cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until hot. Serve over buttered egg noodles.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Commentaries for Kids?

Recently I was asked about the tools we use in our home to train our kids in the "discipline and instruction of the Lord." Over the next few weeks I intend to highlight some of the resources we've found helpful and the kids have enjoyed, for we've discovered that one without the other is often useless. Some of our absolute favorite resources are the Herein is Love Children's Commentaries by Nancy Ganz. The following is a book review of these texts that I wrote for another website in September 2006:

When my mother picked up the first three books in the Herein is Love series for us, I figured it was an easy answer to my quandary of what Bible curriculum to study with the children during this school year. Little did I know the blessing these books would bring and the wonder they would inspire not only in my kids' hearts, but in mine.

Nancy Ganz hasn't written another story Bible. She hasn't simply retold stories from long ago and far away. She's mined the depth of the Old Testament and extracted huge chunks of doctrinal gold that sparkle in the light of the Son by bringing to life the people and situations of the Pentateuch and artfully matching them to their fulfillment in the life of Christ and letters of the apostles.

We've spent these last few month bathing in Genesis. Our awe has been renewed in God's glorious acts of creation. Our hearts have been wrenched by the first Adam's fall and the Last Adam's stand. Our consciences have been quickened by Cain's refusal to return to the Lord, and our fear of the Lord heightened as he "went out from the presence of the Lord."

Currently Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers are available from Shepherd Press. Mrs. Ganz intends to continue the series through the book of Joshua. We highly recommend this series, not for simply learning the "stories" of the Old Testament, but for meeting your great and glorious God face to face.

Since then we've read from Genesis to Leviticus and are now devouring Numbers. We're hoping Deuteronomy becomes available soon, but if not, we intend to go back to the beginning and start again!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Avoiding the flu

February is usually a coughing, hacking, sniffling month in our house. I am terribly susceptible to bronchitis--It's a joke with my Internist that I have a standing yearly appointment with him in February--and would love for once to avoid it. Here are a few things we're doing that have (so far) helped us ward off the "weedie-beasties", as our son likes to call them.

1. Wash hands!
2. Change bathroom hand towels daily.
3. Change kitchen towels and dishcloth daily.
4. Run toothbrushes, brush holder, and bathroom cups through the dishwasher at least once a week.
5. Wash all towels in hot water.
6. Drink plenty of water and eat plenty of veggies.

One last one just for fun and definitely not advocated in our home, apparently Austrian lung specialist Dr. Friedrich Bischinger says that eating your boogies will do the trick! Yuk!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Breaking Fast

I'm trying to get into the habit of actually making my family a healthy breakfast instead of saying, "there's cereal and bread for toast in the cupboard." In order to accomplish this task it has to be fast to make, easy to clean up, and eagerly accepted by the taste buds of my tribe. I adapted this recipe from one I found on Spark People:

Make-ahead Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins
( this is the original recipe)

1 cup old fashioned oatmeal
1 cup 1% milk (any variety will do)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup Sucanat (brown sugar will work fine)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt (or regular salt)
1 tsp. cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together and put in the refrigerator over night. In the morning, heat the oven to 400 degrees while putting the batter into a greased muffin tin. Bake for 20 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


Maybe I'm the only one on the planet that didn't know you could do this, but tonight the kids and I made homemade microwave popcorn. I'm sorta-maybe-kinda trying to slim about 8 pounds off the old frame and popcorn makes a much healthier snack than the cookies I love to munch. So here's how we did it:

1 brown paper lunch bag
1/3 cup popcorn
1 piece of tape

Put the popcorn into the opened lunch bag. Fold over the top of the bag and secure with tape. Cook in microwave on the normal popcorn setting. Voila! You've got microwave popcorn with no additional icky stuff or mess, and you can even reuse the bag. It's fast, frugal, and fun!

Marching Orders

I was listening to the broadcast of Founder's Week last night on the radio and Sara Groves was talking about a trip to Rwanda and the testimony of a woman kidnapped and sold into prostitution that greatly changed her vision of Christianity. She said that these encounters made her realize that her Christianity was very much a self-help Christianity. Her relationship with God was one of personal growth rather than kingdom work. Then she sang this song that brought tears of vision to my own eyes:

When The Saints
by Sara Groves (go here to listen to it and be sure to read the About Sara Groves--it's white--further on down on the right side of the page)

Lord I have a heavy burden of all I've seen and know
It's more than I can handle
But your word is burning like a fire shut up in my bones
and I can’t let it go

And when I'm weary and overwrought
with so many battles left unfought

I think of Paul and Silas in the prison yard
I hear their song of freedom rising to the stars
And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them

Lord it's all that I can't carry and cannot leave behind
it all can overwhelm me
but I think of all who've gone before them and lived the faithful life
their courage compels me

And when I'm weary and overwrought
with so many battles left unfought

I think of Paul and Silas in the prison yard
I hear their song of freedom rising to the stars

I see the shepherd Moses in the Pharaohs court
I hear his call for freedom for the people of the Lord

And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them
And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them

I see the long quiet walk along the Underground Railroad
I see the slave awakening to the value of her soul

I see the young missionary at the angry spear
I see his family returning with no trace of fear

I see the long hard shadows of Calcutta nights
I see the sisters standing by the dying mans side

I see the young girl huddled on the brothel floor
I see the man with a passion come and kicking down that door

I see the man of sorrow and his long troubled road
I see the world on his shoulders and my easy load

And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them
And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them
I want to be one of them
I want to be one of them
I want to be one of them

Who am I, Lord? A housewife in America. I have not platform, no talent, no voice before men. But I have a voice before You, oh God. May I do unto my least of these, and may I be "one of them".

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Where is your boat?

As I said a few weeks ago, I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be in the world and not of it. It seems that many other people are on the same wavelength.

Via a link from Justin Taylor's blog Between two Worlds, I found a thoughtful and gracious perspective given by Tullian Tchividjian as he expounded here and here on D.L. Moody's exceptional response when questioned on the subject:

“The place for the ship is in the sea; but God help the ship if the sea gets into it.”

I love life on board the ship, but I like the ship safely upon the shore, far above the tide line. There is no chance of drowning or the need to bail because there is no water. I've found the peaceful sail in dry-dock delightful but this tranquility has somehow transformed the drowning world's cry for redemption into an obnoxious din to be shut out instead of answered. I am that person who's been too occupied with church busyness to "go into all the world and make disciples".

In my attempt to push the boat toward the shore I'm looking for some thoughtful lady-bloggers who take the great commission seriously. I believe God has given me my family and home as my primary occupation, but it can't end there. So how do we who spend most of our time making lunches and doing laundry preach the gospel as we go along the way? I need some help here.

Two theologically minded women I've recently discovered are Lydia Brownback at The Purple Cellar and Carolyn McCulley at Radical Womanhood. They both offer thoughtful insights into living before the face of God and a critically observant godless society. I believe that these two ladies are not yet employed in the business of housewifery and childrearing, and I'd be interested to hear some more salty tales of homes despots who are hearkening to the call of the sea. Any leads?

Saturday, February 2, 2008

She's Coming!

My favorite homeschool guru is coming to the midwest! No matter the age of your children, if you're homeschooling or considering homeschooling, and live within a few hours of Chicago, don't miss Carole Joy Seid's seminar Begin With The End In Mind. (If you live too far away, check out Carole's website for a seminar location near you.)

DATE: March 8th, 2008, 9:30 am-5:00 pm

LOCATION: West Suburban Community Church, Elmhurst, IL.

COST: $45 advance registration postmarked by February 22nd or $53 at the door.
Spouses are free!


I. Expanding Your Vision
What about socialization, apprenticeships, service, sports, travel and the arts?

II. A Truly Literature Based Approach
Let the classics be the core of your curriculum

III. Western Civilization and Christian World View
Developing a philosophical grid through which to view society

IV. Curriculum Options/College and or Trade Preparation
How to cover the bases and get into the school or career of your choice

Carole is a veteran home school mother, who has a B.A. in fine arts and a Masters degree in education. She has taught in both public and Christian schools, spoken at numerous conventions and presently does educational consulting for families across the country.

Carole has been speaking all over the country for over 15 years and has helped many homeschooling families get on the right track with her life-giving seminars. You will leave with motivation, understanding and the tools necessary to embrace a truly Christian worldview for your family. Attend and receive Carole’s unique booklists and curriculum handouts. Also, a selection of classical literature will be available for purchase at the seminar.

Make sure to pre-register to ensure an ample supply of books. As Carole brings a FANTASTIC supply of Classical education books to purchase!

For more information or a registration form, go to For other questions, call Patti (630) 834-7023 or Michelle (630) 513-5238.

Let me know if you're going and maybe we can do lunch!

Friday, February 1, 2008

I love it when that happens!

I've been eyeing a pair of wide legged corduroy pants at J. Jill since the fall catalog came out in August. They started out at some ghastly amount--somewhere around $80--and were reduced to about $30 when I went into the store to try them on. But $30 is a lot for me to spend on pants.

Today I went into the thrift store looking for jeans for the boys when what should apear but a pair of brown cords in my size! (Of course they need to be shortened, but that's nothing new.) Yeaaaa! And for $1.50.

I then wandered through the household area and happened upon a cake plate that matches one I already have--nothing like a matching set when serving deserts--and it also for $1.50.

But wait, there's more! When I got up to the register the cashier announced that ladies pants were half off today. Yippie! A pair of pants and a cake plate for $2.25. I love it when that happens! It reminds me that my Heavenly Father knows my inmost thoughts and even my petty desires. And sometimes, just like with me and my kids, it pleases Him to make me happy.