The Strategic Homemaker

learning to follow the Father, care for the clan, and redeem the resources


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Teaching Truth to Toddlers

I never got around to posting my new year’s goals for 2014 or summarizing how we did on last year’s (answer: not too bad except on the television show limit–failed there), but one of them is the same–learn a verse a week. I’m sticking with the fighter verses that Bethlehem Baptist is doing for the year, and I bought PG these: the foundation verses.

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They cost me $8 including shipping, but you could easily make your own. I have just been trying to cut down on things I do myself, and I don’t mind spending a bit extra on tools to help us learn the Bible.

We practice our verses at lunch and switch to new ones on Mondays. PG loves her verse cards, and with the picture and first word prompt can say the first six. Still working on the seventh. Pretty good!

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Six Strategic Gift Ideas

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We spent the day with some good friends, and enjoyed celebrating and thanking God for our many, many undeserved blessings over the past year.

And now it is almost December! I mentioned last year, when talking about PG’s Christmas presents, that I don’t want our Christmases to be all about stuff. However, I do appreciate meaningful gifts, and I have 6 strategic gift ideas for you. I love all these things, and have been blessed by being gifted with two of them in the last 2 months.

  1. SEEDS CDs. I mentioned these before, but I really do love them, and my sister-in-law randomly sent us a first of October gift with all the ones we didn’t have. They’re in the car, so whenever PG and I go anywhere we listen to them, and I’ve basically had verses stuck in my head the past couple of months. Each is a pack of two, so you can give one away or split with someone, and if you buy the seven pack, the CDs are only $5 each.                                                                                                                                              
  2. Verse Wall art. I was wanting to make one of these signs like on the Between You and Me Etsy Shop for the last year, and a differently sister-in-law randomly decided it would be a good graduation/housewarming/birthday gift for us, which was awesome, especially because I had no idea when I would get around to it. ( I think she may have looked on my Pinterest Boards, because seriously this and the above were the perfect gifts for me, and I didn’t even request them!) We had to do some serious warp control after it arrived, because going from Georgia to Rhode Island was a crazy weather difference, but after some steaming and re-drying it is looking good. Plus the Etsy owner was willing to re-make it if we couldn’t fix the warp. Talk about great customer service!1-IMG_7608
  3. Gourmet foods. If you’re giving a gift to someone who avoids splurging on their groceries, this is a great gift. Summer sausages, fancy cheeses and crackers, chocolate, gourmet teas or coffees, nuts, etc. will really be considered a treat.
  4. Photo gifts. For the past few years, I’ve gotten us a package of family photos and a package of PG photos at Target, Sears, Olan Mills, etc. and distributed them to family members.  All the grandparents are happy, and it is really cheap. This year, my package of PG’s photos was $7.99 at Target. (Go online for coupons.) It had enough pictures for us, two sets of grandparents, two sets of great-grandparents, two great-great grandparents, and wallets for all the aunts and uncles. I am waiting until the new baby comes to get family pictures. TSH’s parents request a photo calendar every year with pictures of all their children and grandchildren, so those duties get rotated around. I do not recommend the blanket photo gifts however, as one year, TSH’s parents were given a giant blanket with a huge picture of them on it. It was kind of hilarious, especially because they were wearing the same clothes as in the picture, but I don’t think they figured out where to use it. TSH’s Dad, who has recently gotten into the Ebay business, says he will sell it to the highest bidder…
  5. The Light Has Come advent book. For something novel and fun for kids, this book is super cool. The author, who happens to be one of my friends, cut out elaborate paper snowflakes with symbols that tell the story of the gospel. Each page has a list of symbols to find, as well as corresponding Bible passages to read during the advent season. You can check it all out on his website.

6. A homemade quilt or other homemade blanket. I did actually make something by hand for one of my sis-in-laws this year, but I am getting to the point where I am ready to pay someone else to make stuff for me to give, and the winter is a great time to give a quilt as a gift! Katherine at the Rhymes with Smile etsy shop is the girl who taught me to quilt, I have seen and used her quilts in her house, and my daughter has a quilt made by her, so I can attest that her quilts are beautiful. And her prices cannot be beat. Honestly, it can be hard to make your own quilt for these prices, and the blogger Crazy Mom quilts recently listed some of hers for sale at 10 times the price. Crazy! Although, I admit, they are pretty fun.

Let me know if you have any other great gift ideas. I am almost done shopping this year—my nesting instinct was apparently to get everyone’s Christmas presents bought and wrapped before December—so I just need to pick up some stocking stuffers at the last minute.


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Nearly every time I get on Facebook, there are a couple posts in my Newsfeed with links to articles saying some kind of food to avoid, something I should be making from scratch, some political cause I need to take up, some thing I should be doing to save the earth or my family. Last week there was an article trying to get me to convert from paper to cloth toilet paper. I was like, “Cut me some slack, People!” [Besides, I’m not convinced cloth toilet paper actually helps the environment–especially if you have a large family and have to run extra loads of wash.]

I am bombarded with messages about how I should be using my time and concerns. While it is obvious I can’t do it all, some days I don’t make it past cleaning up toddler accidents and getting food on the table.

The message of which I need to remind myself is that Jesus said ONE thing was necessary.

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10, ESV)

The one thing that is necessary for me to spend time doing is listening to Jesus.

The other message of which I frequently need to remind myself is that Jesus said one thing was NECESSARY.

I can’t prioritize other things above time with God’s Word every day and expect to get a “Well done!” at the end. If I do prioritize other things, they may be done in vain anyway.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep. (Psalm 127, ESV)

We obviously have responsibilities to work hard and take care of our families, but if you put Jesus first, He will take care of the details, and you will get done what you need–what He wants you to get done. Also, it won’t necessarily be the same as what He has other people doing.

So next time I see a Facebook or Pinterest post telling me what I should be doing or concerning myself with, whether it’s good or not, I’m hoping I’ll remember what Jesus tells me is most important, and make sure to put first things first.

Am I the only one who needs this reminder, or is anyone out there with me?


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Guest Post: Letting God Use You Through Mentoring

After we move, one thing I am hoping to do is find an experienced godly mom to learn from, and some younger people to invest in. My friend Megan from Goodness Redefined has a lot of experience being mentored and mentoring others, and I asked her to share her wisdom so the rest of us could learn. I am so thankful to her for obliging. She serves with her husband, Adam, who is a youth pastor in Pennsylvania, and is mom to two young boys.

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Discipleship: n. the process of learning about the teachings of another, internalizing them, and then acting upon them

Growing up, I have many memories of my dad sitting at the dining room table with guys of all ages.  Bibles open.  Reading.  Talking.  Listening.  Praying.

I watched him work on cars with them and cheer on the sidelines of their football games.  I heard the phone ring when they had a crisis or just needed some encouragement.  I saw him hurt when they hurt and celebrate when they celebrated.  I listened to my dad point them to Jesus.

I didn’t have a name for it then.  I didn’t know it as a philosophy of ministry or a method of mentoring.  I hadn’t heard it tossed around as a buzz phrase in the church or a class in seminary.

But now, any time I hear the word discipleship, these are some of the images that come to mind.

When I was 16 years old I was preparing to be on a summer ministry team for which one of the requirements was to find someone to disciple or mentor me.  I asked a lady from my church if she would be up for the task.  I didn’t know her well.  I had never spent much time with her.  I didn’t pick her name from a list.  But I remembered one particularly difficult Sunday 3 years prior when she had put her arm around me and prayed with me.  And I never forgot it.

Lucy was intimidated by my request.  She had never formally mentored someone before.  She didn’t have a seminary degree or counseling training and had never helped with the youth group.  Neither one of us knew what to do or what our time together should look like, but she humbly accepted the task.  It didn’t take long for a relationship to form.

Once a week I would go to her house and sit at her kitchen table.  She always had a pot of hot water on the stove and a plethora of hot chocolate flavors waiting for me to choose from.  Her husband, who affectionately called me “the hot chocolate girl”, would visit for a few minutes and then slip away so Lucy and I could chat.

We read through a book together and talked about what we were learning in God’s Word.  She would consistently have her small 3 ring binder prayer journal open on the table turned to the page with my name gracing the top.  Over the years I watched her write down my requests and worries and struggles…then I’d watch her cross them off one by one and draw a smiley face when God provided.

I was a priority to her and she reminded me of it often.  There was something special about seeing her write my name on her kitchen calendar.  Not like I was just another thing to add to her “to-do” list, but an important part of her life.  I was valuable to her – even worth scheduling time for.

Eventually our time together became less “formal” and more conversational.  We met all through high school and even when I was home on breaks during college.  She became like a 2nd mom to me and listened intently to my heart.  She shared her struggles and weaknesses and allowed me to watch her life.  She prayed for me and I prayed from her.

And we learned from each other what following Jesus looked like.

She walked me through my dating relationship that turned into engagement that turned into marriage.  She read Scripture during my wedding ceremony, visited me in the hospital when my first child was born, and cried with me when I miscarried my second.

Almost fourteen years have passed since my initial request for her to mentor me and she still holds a special place in my heart.

In college I was part of a ministry called “Discipleship Council” where we were consistently challenged to follow Jesus’ example of focusing on a few and impacting them up close.

Sure, Jesus ministered to the masses, but a great deal of His time was spent walking alongside his 12 disciples and sharing an even more intimate relationship with 3 of them.

John 3:22 says that…

“…Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them…”  

The Greek word used here is diatribō, which means “to rub” or “to spend time”.  Jesus focused on His disciples to spend time with them and, literally, to rub off on them.  They listened to Him, learned from Him, watched Him, internalized Who He was and what He said, and then went out and did it.  The time He spent walking with them changed the way they would walk when He was no longer physically with them.

Likewise, Paul urges the church of Corinth in 1 Corinthians 11:1…

“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

Essentially he was saying, “You’ve watched my life.  You’ve seen how I walk, how I’m following Jesus.  Now take what you’ve seen and do the same.”

Howard Hendrix said,

“You can impress people from a distance, but you can only impact them up close.  

The general principal is this: the closer the personal relationship, the greater the potential for impact.”

This, I believe, is what discipleship is all about.

Following hard after Jesus.  Pursuing meaningful, purposeful relationships with others.  Allowing someone to get an up-close view to see how you walk.  Gaining a mutual fascination with God and His Word.  And simply sharing life together.

I’m certainly no expert on discipleship, but there are a few things my husband and I have learned over the years of mentoring teenagers, young adults, and young married couples.  Unfortunately, there’s no “discipleship formula”, as every relationship looks different.  However, these are a few things that have been helpful for us to keep in mind while we strive toward effective discipleship…

1. Effective discipleship may not always follow a particular formula, but it always involves following Christ.

Whether the relationship you seek to build is formal or casual, structured or fluid, organized or organic, Jesus must be the center.  Sometimes it involves sitting and studying through a Bible study other times it’s simply chatting over pizza or working on a car.  Regardless of the recipe, God’s Word must be the main ingredient.  It should come up in conversation, influence decision making, and characterize your actions and your prayers.

A mentor of mine consistently reminded us that the only two things that will last forever are people and God’s Word.  The challenge of discipleship should be to live your life investing in both.

2. Effective discipleship does not happen in a classroom but out in real life.  

Chuck Bomar calls it “non-mentor mentoring” because he believes we need to shift away from the tendency to view the relationship from centering on gaining information to placing the emphasis on actually living out the information we (and they) have been given.  It’s not that learning and studying isn’t important.  But wisely living it out together in real life is what true discipleship and following Jesus is all about.

This also means that your relationship should not be built on you doing all of the talking or trying to always “teach”.  Effective discipleship involves a great deal of listening and looking for teachable moments to impart wisdom, rather than constantly talking at them.

3. Effective discipleship involves vulnerability and sharing your life.  

I’ve heard that one of the truest test of an effective mentoring relationship is that they know where the dishes are in your kitchen.  I loved that!  As we’ve sought to disciple younger people, one of our main methods has been getting them into our home.  My husband says that one of our strategies in college-age ministry is feeding their bellies so that we can also feed their hearts.

They’re in our home enough that they know not to ring the doorbell after 7:30 because our kids will be sleeping.  They know where to find the dishes, the garbage bags, and how to make coffee.  They’ve watched our marriage and entertained our boys.  We’ve allowed them to peek in as we dealt with the grief of losing a child and shared the struggles we’ve faced in marriage and ministry.  We’ve had to confess sin when we’ve exhibited pride or let our tongues lead to gossip.  They’ve slept on our couches, laughed with us in our family room, and cried at our dining room table.  And hopefully, because of that, they’ve seen a clearer picture of Jesus, just as several other couples have done for us.

On the other hand, effective discipleship also involves sharing in their lives.  It means meeting them on their turf and entering into their worlds. Years ago while implementing a discipleship program at our church, we paired one man up with one of our teens that had seemingly nothing in common.  As time went on, however, the older man learned of the teen’s love of technology and knowledge of computers, so he asked if the boy would teach him some things.  Because of his willingness to enter into someone else’s world, an effective mentoring relationship began to form.

4. Effective discipleship doesn’t see the person as a project to be “fixed”, but a person to be loved. 

True discipleship points to Jesus as the only one who can rescue and transform.  In and of ourselves, we don’t have much to offer.  But we have been called to love and to serve and to pray.  Effective discipleship does require confrontation and speaking the truth in love.  It does require helping others in their weakness.  It does require setting up healthy boundaries.

Your role as a mentor is not to take the place of a parent or a spouse or of a personal relationship with God.  Our desire should be for your discipleship relationship to be a catalyst to make all of those other relationships stronger.  Kind of like John the Baptist, I see it as my role as a mentor to lovingly prepare the way for them to really see Jesus.  “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30).

5. Effective discipleship will only go as far as you allow it.

If you are not sharing what God is teaching you or actively living it out, it’s not likely your discipleship relationship will reach much depth.   It’s essential that they see you being challenged and learning and growing and working hard at your personal relationship with God.  After all, Jesus not only taught his disciples, but He modeled getting time alone to pray, forgiving his enemies, and submitting to His Father’s will.  He was such a sharp contrast to the other leaders of His day because He actually backed up His teaching with His life.  And people were drawn to that.

It’s crucial that you be connected to the true Vine so that you have anything at all to give.

Passion for Jesus is contagious.  If they see you running hard after Him, chances are they will want to try to catch up.


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2013 Resolutions Update

I revealed my new years goals/resolutions in this post, and I figured it was high time for an update.

1. Read one chapter of the Bible a day: doing well. haven’t been totally perfect, but I’m at least averaging a chapter/ day.

2. Memorize one verse per week: so-so. We’ve memorized a few verses, but I don’t have a good system for choosing what verse to do next or an easy way to review past verses. Maybe that will be a blog post when I figure out a good system. Right now I’m working on Romans 12:9-21, which I’ll talk about in a future post.

3. Switch to cloth napkins and paper towels: We have switched out the napkins; I don’t even think we’ve had any paper napkins in the house for a month, but I found a giant stock of paper towels that will last until we move, so I haven’t crafted any fancy huck towels to replace these yet.

4. Decorate the house: In progress. I finished my pillow shams, throw pillow covers, am working on a curtain. I want to do stuff for the walls, but am kind of waiting until we move, because I need to buy or paint a lot of frames.

5. Only watch one TV show per week: I haven’t exactly been successful here, but I have been watching about 2/week (which for the next stretch will be Psych and Duck Dynasty), which is less than last year (maybe 4?), so I am feeling pretty good about this. I have subbed them out for podcasts, (mostly Family Life) which are both entertaining and useful/uplifting.

How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions? Do you have any ideas for me on choosing verses to memorize or a good system to review them?


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Decorating with Pearls

Since we moved out of the basement, I’ve been gradually figuring out how to decorate our house, and especially our walls. one thing I want to have is useful Scripture in places where we see it frequently. Just like Deuteronomy 6:6-9 says:

    6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

The first place I decided on was opposite our bed. I scouted out some examples on Etsy (Here is one–the ones I looked at aren’t available any more), but I didn’t want to pay for them, so I set out to make my own.
I chose the verses in Matthew 13, where Jesus talks about the kingdom of Heaven being like the pearl of great price. 1. Jesus’ words have to be good. 2. It’s not too commonly used, and 3. I need a daily reminder that the kingdom of heaven is worth giving everything else up.

I had a 24″x 18″ canvas from a BOGO deal at Michaels once, and I bought 5 small bottles of acrylic paint at Michaels for 30 cents each.

I originally intended to put my letters in place as stickers, paint over them, and peel them off, leaving white letters (example:here), but I gave that idea up when I realized I’d have to buy more than one pack of letters if I wanted the whole verse in place at once, and I’d need to really plan ahead and figure out the exact right size of letter to fit this particular verse on this canvas. in short: too many words.

And then the materials sat in my closet for several months while I pondered what to do. Until finally, this week, I decided to just go for it, and paint the words myself.

so I smeared some red, orange, and yellow paint around the canvas with a foam brush I had on hand. I wanted the colors to add some interest, but I didn’t want them to have a pattern that took away from the words. Or that competed with our quilt. The paint didn’t really blend at the interface of the colors, and I ended up with kind of a weird, fiery football pattern. Whatever. TSH liked it, and the verses are the important part. I did go back and add a second coat to make it more opaque.

To get the words relatively straight and even without penciling them in (It is hard to erase off of the paint), I arranged them in a program like Ppt (Inkscape actually–TSH is into these opensource programs). I got the line breaks and centering where I wanted it on a background the same dimensions as my canvas, and then made graph lines (8 rows and 8 columns). I then taped thread to the outsides of my canvas, so it created the same graph on my canvas.

And I went at it with my paintbrush. The brush had a nice straight edge, so keeping it held at an angle created kind of a calligraphy effect. When I finished I removed the threads, touched up any letters that had been under the threads, and Voila! ready to hang. (Actually, TSH had to drill a hole in the wood on the back of the canvas, but the front was done.)

Here it is hanging in our room:

Eventually I have plans for curtains. And other things. All in good time, all in good time. For now, I will enjoy reading my verses when I wake up in the morning.
What do you think? Have you made any similar art? Do you have any ideas that could help me the next time?


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In the Word: Memory Method

…Or how anyone can memorize a whole chapter from the Bible in a couple months.

We are told to memorize God’s Word. (For two examples, see Colossians 3:16, and Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

Sometimes this seems hard for us busy people to do. I was reminded of the importance of having God’s Word at the forefront of my mind every time I listened to Revive our Hearts podcasts, and I finally put a plan in place.

This white board is in our kitchen, about 5 feet from our front door, and it used to have random grocery list items and phone numbers on it. Now all of those go in my personal planner, and this whiteboard just has one thing: our memory verses. Currently, it looks like this:

Yes, this would look much cuter if it was a chalkboard, but the point is, those are the last three verses from Psalm 103, because we have already memorized the rest of Psalm 103 in the past several weeks!
All we do is this: every morning while we’re making breakfast, we say our verses. In the evening, when we’re making supper, we say our verses. While we’re eating lunch, PG and I will say our verses. (Well, she at least knows to look at the board.) Then after a week or a little longer, when TSH and I can say them without looking, we erase those and put the next three up. Occasionally we review all the verses leading up to the current ones. What I like about this method, is that the verses are just staring you in the face when you walk into the house. No need to go get your Bible several times a day to look them up. Just standing in the kitchen: Hey, why don’t we say our verses!?

Give it a try in your house and let me know what you memorize. What do you think TSH and I should memorize next?

P.S. Next week we will be having our first giveaway, and I am really, really excited about it, so be sure to check back in.