An Autumn Celebration!

Strewn toys, sweet drawings on my refrigerator, empty treat trays, decorations (that aren’t placed just so anymore), and frosting bowls with finger trails in them. Signs of a day well spent.

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Micaiah wanted to celebrate this beautiful harvest season. “A fall party!!” he kept saying.

He planned games, made decorations and wrote his own invitations complete with a handprint turkey.

He was kind enough to let Adriel choose and make treat recipes (with help from Grandma of course).

We practiced welcoming guests, taking coats and offering beverages.

I am one proud mama. I set out one decoration and helped a few mothers understand what the mysterious turkey card meant that their child brought home. Grandmas helped with the cookies. Other than that, this was a kid-thrown fling. How cool is that?!

It was a time of enjoying friends and showing love.

Blessed, I feel. (How Yoda was that? Sorry)

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Reading Stack & Real Life: Double Update!

IMG_2007I often wonder what future me will look back and wish I had done differently, mostly when it comes to parenting. I wonder what my kids will wish I had done differently. None of us are perfect, and we can all look back and find fault. That’s why it’s so important that we rely on grace, not perfection. I guess I say this as sort of a disclaimer. I don’t claim to be better than the generations before me. I have much to learn.

Over the years of overanalyticalizationizing everything, (thank you Rachel W. in 9th grade for that description of my brain functions) I have noticed some of the effects of the world I grew up in. Today for example, I’m terrified to tell you that I have a dream, because what if I fail. I grew up feeling like perfection alone was acceptable, anything less was not worth my time.

I’m sure my parents never intended for me to feel this way. But I began to stop trying at anything. I only did things that I was pretty sure I would not only succeed in, but be on top. MVP. 4.0 1st place. I felt like I had failed in doing anything less. Because of this, I basically got out of the habit of practicing or studying. I only chose activities and classes that I knew I would do great at. Sometimes, if I had some kind of adversity, I would accept second best. Often, I would hope for an injury to fall back on, just in case.

Nic recognized this early in our marriage, probably around the time I wouldn’t give 100% rock climbing until I got hurt (or angry). Since we started figuring this out early, Nic has always encouraged me to practice different things. He encouraged me to do things that I enjoyed, even if I’m not very good at them. (Ahem, painting…)

So before I show you my newest stack of reading materials, I have to be a little vulnerable.

I think…I want to be…a flower farmer. I love the idea of rows and rows of beautiful flowers. I’m hoping to work towards growing for market. (Flowers for you, flowers for me, flowers for everyone!) I’m not looking for a full-time job, so this won’t be an enormously large-scale thing. But maybe it will help support our endeavors to grow our own food.

That was way harder to type than you will ever know! I’m not exceptional at growing things. I can grow things, but I’m always running into some hiccup and things only grow…so, so.

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So step one: Read The Flower Farmer

Step two: Successfully grow flowers. Lots of them. I’m going to try to grow more flowers than I ever have before! (Yaaaayyy!)

I’ll probably fill out an application to the market, just in case things go really well. Sellers have to notify them when you’ll be there (every week). So if things don’t pick up right away or I don’t have enough every week, I won’t worry about it.

Somewhere between steps one and two I should probably figure out whose property I’ll be using for this adventure of mine. (Since, the hubs and I are basically squatters renters in a parsonage situation.)

Also I am working my way through the other three books (more slowly since my favorite UPS guy brought my flower book). I’ve been feeling (and dragging Nic along too :) like we’re falling into habits we would condemn in others. We are not spending enough time making disciples who make disciples. We aren’t doing a very good job asking people to be a part of our everyday lives in order to set an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. So the other books are helping us to delve back into what the Word says about the physical & spiritual care of others.

So there you go, a reading stack and some real life Elicia for you.

Good day!

 

The Why: Time Edition

The it the second post since in which I’ve started writing out why we do things the way we do. People who know us are probably thinking, “You mean, the hard way?” …maaaaybeee…

Anyways, I’m mostly recording this for my own sake. It helps me to remember why Nic and I have structured our lives the way we have, and you dear friends (I accidentally originally typed fiends, which made me giggle) just happen to subscribe to the journal of alphabet soup that explodes out of my brain now and then.

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So first I talked about food, which was super easy. Even if people have an opinion, I think it would be difficult to find a good reason for expecting me to do something differently. It was low risk. I likey.

Buuuut, now on how we use our time. A wee bit more touchy when you live sub-level to a multi-lense cellular magnification device.

What does our life even look like? First the how:

Daily, our life looks a wee bit different from many families. First, Nic works when and where it suits him. This means, while he has a lot of work to do, he gets to remain involved in a lot of our daily lives. Most days he and I are up earlier than the kids (more on that later) so we can spend time with Jesus, spend time with each other and then discuss our day.

Sometime Nic eats breakfast with us (yay for us!). Either way, we usually get some things done around here and then he gets to “work”. He heads to the church office, the “office” (aka his standing desk in the garage) or sometimes a coffee shop depending on what needs done.

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While he works for a few hours, the kids and I get our day started. This usually looks like breakfast, clothes and the like, and then slave labor chores. While I finish  absolutely necessary household duties (such as the rolling hills of dirty dishes or the vast mountain of laundry) the kids are supposed to be playing.

Our kids don’t usually get out of bed until 8 or 9 or maybe later for Micaiah. So between the aforementioned tasks and whatever life throws at us, that usually brings us to much time.

The afternoon brings naps (praise Jesus) and “structured” (kind of, I mean structured for me) school with Micaiah. This usually looks like some reading and discussion before I get him started on whatever activities he might be doing on his own.

We eat dinner early, around 5.

Then, we get ready for our evening which may involve guests for dinner, Bible study or outreach night with some teenagers or other miscellaneous activities. Our “free” evenings are few and far-between.

In the late evening we do more chores, a little cleaning up, get ready for bed and the next day. Besides normal bedtime stuff (like teeth brushing) we read a Bible story and pray with our children. Lately Nic has been doing this with the older kids while I finish straightening some things and then put Eloise to bed.

My day goes much better Everyone’s day goes better if I can just wake up to a cleanish floor and orderly throw pillows and blankets on the couch. A clean counter is nice, but I mostly just do it to keep the pests away. I can get from my room to my spot on the couch without seeing the kitchen, so if it weren’t for the gross factor of having a dirty kitchen I wouldn’t worry about until breakfast time. Weird? Maybe. But orderly pillows make for a sane mother in this house.

Mop, girl, mop!

Mop, girl, mop!

Also, if there is more “stuff” on the floor then I feel like I can pick up before Eloise needs to be in bed, I sweep it into a pile and pretend I don’t see it in the morning. Then, I assign that chore ASAP to one of my beautiful children. I don’t even know how the stuff gets there, it’s insane what accumulates in one day. Someday I’ll take a picture for you, then you’ll know were really friends.

Now to the why:

Much of the way we disciple others happens in the evenings: Bible studies, meals, sports etc. So we’ve always put our kids to bed later than the average family. The result has been kind of cool. Our children all get the amount of sleep they need. They just start and end later than many other families. The flexibility of homeschooling means that we can continue this as long as it works for us, not worrying about kids who need to be up to catch a bus or drive to school.

I love that the Hebrew day traditionally began in the evening. The way I spend the end of my day, drastically effects the next one. So I to do my best to prepare for a good day.

I didn't even know a "felfie" was a thing. But here we are taking a farm animal selfie.

Because we like to “do things the hard way”. We do a lot of working at home. I prefer things handmade, done ourselves and of course, beautiful. I’ve encountered some questioning on this one. When we moved here, I explained to the nice people on the board and search committee and then the congregation that we want people in our home. We do ministry at home. This was different from both our communities tendencies and the previous youth pastor & family. (Please read as different, not better. I meant what I said and I said what I meant, an elephant’s…ok I’ve digressed :) So, I think they didn’t believe me.

Three years later, (yes three, gotta love slow moving change where the roads are dirt) it’s finally actually working like that. For a while, even I was wondering why I didn’t go to this or that. But remaining homeward oriented has paid off. Young mothers, unbelieving neighbors, employees from the business across the street, people who know people on the aforementioned list, and completely random people who know this is a parsonage are all among the many visitors we get in any given week.

A walk.

A talk.

A cup of coffee or tea.

It starts differently, but inevitably some need whether emotional, physical or spiritual, mine or theirs is always met.

It’s beautiful.

And it’s just one of the many dreams that have come true for me lately. See, fairy tales do happen: in the way of good and perfect gifts from God.

Again, working at home allows us to be available to people and gives us a unique opportunity to show people we care by setting our work down or involving them in it.

As a socially awkward (awkward is such a fittingly awkward looking word!) introvert, it would be a bad idea for me to be leading on up front situations. And as a creative person it doesn’t work out well if I take on administrative roles. By that I mean that I’m fine through the whole process and everyone else is panicking.

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We’re all gifted differently. Women are different from men and different from each other. We continue to try to evaluate things (read: I occasionally overanalyze things) to ensure that we’re honoring the Lord, our brothers and sisters in Christ and our community with our time. It’s a lot to balance.

Let’s just say I’m super-dee-duper thankful for grace.

Where were you?

There’s been a lot of talk about politics these days. I’ve been known to have a strong opinion or two, but this time I feel like a minority in the Christian world.

It could be anything at anytimew but this week it’s the Supreme Court ruling to legalize gay marriage. I was interested in the reaction of both churched and non-churched people alike as a few went to scripture but mostly some celebrated, some mourned, some lashed out, some feared, and others rushed to the defense of each side of the issue.

I had to wonder if my heart was unhealthy because I wasn’t freaking out. Yes, I had some thoughts rolling around in my head, but to be honest with you I didn’t feel much of anything. Ironically, I started feeling a little bit guilty for my lack of feeling. But then something clicked that God had been doing in my heart all week.

If you’re a Christian, I’m sure you’ve had those times when the same thing keeps popping up everywhere. I’ve always liked how Margaret Feinberg calls it a sacred echo. Not a coincidence, but a God who knows exactly how to speak to our hearts.

This week the book of Job came up in conversations, reading, and even the Sunday school lesson I was teaching (to preschoolers no less, talk about difficult). The final straw was a song that went straight to my heart. It’s the second amazing song I’ve come across based on this passage in Job.

I felt a deep peace in my heart. It’s okay that I wasn’t surprised or worried or a happy or any myriad of other reactions I could have had. If anything, I was baffled. Why were my fellow believers shocked that a mere kingdom of this world isn’t acting and looking like the eternal Kingdom? Why are they surprised that the world doesn’t look like the church?

For every possible reaction besides joy in the Lord and trust in His sovereignty, the Lord had an answer of peace for my heart. Fear? Anger? Happiness? Sadness? Bitterness? Passion?

Who am I? Where was I when He laid the foundations of the earth? He is almighty, eternal, all-knowing, merciful, loving and patient.

Should we stand on His word? Absolutely. Should we worry if the world look drastically different from what God asks of us? No. He told us it would happen and he told us not to fear.

No matter what is going on in your life and the world around you, I pray (really, actually pray for you) that you look to the God of the Bible for peace. Here is the song that the Counselor used to speak to my heart this week. I hope it encourages you, maybe today or maybe another day. I also highly encourage you to read the section of scripture. It goes from about Job 36-40

 

Tapestry of Grace vs Classical Conversations

When I came across the idea of classical schooling, I was sold. I immediately went on the hunt for curricula, long before I had school aged children. I had a friend who was going through the same process; She landed on Classical Conversations and I was impressed with Tapestry of Grace. Although we are happy with Tapestry, I recently attended an informational meeting regarding CC just to check it out. I walked out with a lot on my mind.

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This week I flipped through the catalogue and informational pages considering all that I had heard. All in a single moment it dawned on me, “I am not doing this.” “What?” My husband asked. “What we’re doing works wonderfully for us, why was I even thinking about switching?”

Here are some of the reasons that I don’t believe CC would work for our family. I don’t necessarily think that Tapestry is a better curriculum than CC, it’s just better for us.

  • The “majors”: At least in my first and second glances, some of the things that are huge deals for CC are things that I would not normally push quite so heavily. Just one example, I want my children to be very familiar with their world. I would want them to tell show me any country on a map. I also require them to understand the events of history geographically. But drawing from memory isn’t a major for me. It’s definitely not harmful to learn these things, but I have other things I want them to use their time and brain space for. Again, this is such a personal preference thing.
  • The yearly schedule: I currently homeschool year round. Maybe I’ll write more about why another day, but suffice it to say a traditional school year would drastically change things in our household.
  • The weekly meetings: Using a 32 week curriculum 50 weeks out of the year means great flexibility. When my son was enthralled with the culture and history of Egypt and the Israelites’ time there, we spent five weeks studying it instead of three. In fact, when I ask him to tell me about ancient cultures, he begs to tell me about Egypt whether I that’s what I”m looking for or not. Our flexible schedule allowed this. When you’re on a schedule with other families, there’s no staying behind to dig world war II style trenches in the back yard to spend an extra week living like a soldier. Everyone else is moving on.
    • On the flip-side, this could provide the kick to move on if a family had a tendency to get behind.
  • Latin: I know. I know. I know! All of those benefits of Latin, right?! Yes, but so far our family has decided to begin with Greek. It also aids in truly grasping the English language. Yes, it’s not as foundational as Latin, but if my children want to use English in the future they will have the tools they need. This is still up for discussion here and there between the very handsome head of our household and I. The thing that has us leaning toward Greek is that our children could pick up the original New Testament and read it for themselves. Done. Sold. From Alpha to Omega, I’m there.
  • Independence. This goes pretty much hand-in-hand with the flexibility issue. I have a super-independent spirit AND I’m an introvert. These two don’t exactly make me want to show up an pitch in with a bunch of other people to follow a program that doesn’t allow me to do my thing. You know, like this week is Super Science Week! It’s the end of our unit so amidst reviewing I planned five different areas of science for the kids to dig into this week. Yay for microscopes! I start to itch and squirm at the idea of squeezing our homeschool into someone else’s mold. I mean, isn’t that the beauty of homeschooling?!

Like I said, this is far from a list of things wrong with CC. Tapestry of Grace just so happens to be working perfectly for us…so far!

I would love some homeschool mama feedback! What works for you?

 

Some Moments

I’m a dreamer. I’ve made so many plans in my life! From music to medicine and far away places, I can romanticize anything. But in reality, my heart swells when I look around at the way I get use the gifts God has given me (and some things that I’m just plain terrible at) to serve my family and my community.

I find so much more joy in brewing a mean cup of coffee or a pot of tea for a neighbor than if I were working as a barista in the best coffee house in town.
…singing praises as my children all asleep…on any stage big or small.
…teaching my children all day every day…paid to teach other groups with vague hope that God’s Word would penetrate their hearts.
…making handmade things for my family and home…making an income with my craftiness.
…raising plants and animals to feed my family fresh ingredients…farming for an income.
…making fun fresh meals that my kids actually enjoy…on the Food Network ;)
…creating a peaceful environment by keeping an organized home…designing the best scandinavian cabins in the world.
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No matter what I could be doing with my time and energy, the opportunity to serve husband and children seems like the most beautiful thing in the world.

There is nothing else I would rather do.

To be honest, sometimes I forget. When a handful of people are all asking for something or there’s a whole roll of toilet paper in the toilet (again!) I forget how truly blessed I am. It’s so easy to forget about the vast realities of God’s faithfulness. Maybe telling all of you will be a good reminder for next time I have to break out the plunger.

The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.
Proverbs 14:1

 

Our big “thing”

I read. A lot.

I clearly remember my parents coming home from a parent-teacher conference with grim looks on their faces only to report that I was a book worm. Apparently my teacher (one of the best out there btw) had to tell them that I was even reading when I wasn’t supposed to be, zooming through books faster than I could get them from the library.

Today, I’ve moved on from Nancy Drew (most days!) and try to read things that will grow me as a believer, wife and mother. I often seek out books and blogs and articles to help me parent and homeschool “right.” It’s almost as if I feel like there’s a perfect combination that, if I could just narrow it down, equals a recipe for perfect children. Of course, to write that it seems ridiculous, but that’s the reality of my strivings.

11169793_10103099164671053_774557601831639369_nI’ve developed a sort of way I go about things (always being adjusted slightly) that seems good to me. In all of my likes and dislikes I’ve found resources that I turn to.

Montessori preschool, waldorf play, reggio amelia too, building independence, Bible-based discipline, classical homeschool, sustainable/whole foods. And there is a blog and book or ten about all of them! But as I look at families who seem to have any one of those “down,” I can’t help but wonder about something. If waldorf is our thing, or interest-lead learning or even classical schooling, where does Jesus fit? I mean really, should Jesus just “fit?”

I asked my husband about this about a year ago when I was expecting Eloise. None of those things equal Godly offspring. Only God’s grace can do that. 

So how do I make our “thing” Jesus. When people look at our blog, Facebook pages even our home and our family, I want them to see Jesus. Do they see wooden toys? Children studying Greek? Or do they see the love of Jesus? The peace of God?

Since I’ve started thinking about this a couple of things have changed:

I’ve loosened up on a few things. Learning to depend on God’s grace means I don’t have to strive for perfection AND I don’t have to worry about what other people think.

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I’m slowly learning to see things more through my children’s eyes. This means more fun, more yes answers and less teacher-voice (at which my son’s eyes automatically roll anyway). It also means more discipline. I’ve seen a look of contempt come from some of my friends’ older daughters toward their mothers. When two women live in the same house, some amount of conflict is inevitable. But one thing I think would prevent some of this is good discipline early on. God’s authority, God’s grace. If they get that, they’ll be just fine.

We’ve been more intentional in our Bible study. We had already done a Bible story before bed, but now we try to make it more enjoyable for our children all ages and in different ways. Family Bible study should be something they look forward to, right?

Also, I’ve been keeping my children with me in service. The baby is the only one I’ll occasionally pass off.IMG_1212 Not only do I want them to learn to sit in church (quietly obviously…one day. Sigh.) but I want them to learn to listen and participate. (Side-note: one of the biggest obstacles we see in Christian teens is that once they’re given their own youth pastor, they’re no longer taught to learn from the main pastor. They’re only required to sit still and keep quiet.)

I’m sure there are more ways, maybe even some I don’t notice. (I hope!) These are just some things I’ve been wrestling with, and this happens to be where I share them. I’d love to hear your take on Jesus being the center. Here’s a verse I’ll leave you with today, one my wise and wonderful husband brought excitedly to me a while back:

Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring
Malachi 2:15

 

I Need People

I remember the first time I came across the word hermit. I was about eight and came across it in a book. I’ll admit, the first thing that came to mind was Kermit the Frog. Secondly, the appropriately named crab. Not knowing how either of these applied to the man in the story, I asked someone. They described someone living alone, venturing out for necessities only when absolutely necessary. I think I heard angels sing as I pictured a cabin by a stream in a mossy wood where no one would find me unless I wanted them to. I could grow my own food and visit with the deer and hedgehogs. My life goal in third grade was to become a hermit.

Obviously, I am an introvert.

Today, I have an ever-growing family and my house is often full of teenagers, neighborhood kids and whoever else the hubby drags welcomes in. (He, obviously, is an extrovert.) I’m happy that my hermit dreams didn’t come true; not that I don’t day dream of my cabin in the woods on a regular basis. With the various people in and out of our days and weeks, I’ve noticed something about my self and it really set me to thinking.

It’s difficult to admit, but I noticed that I interact with my children differently when people are around: in both good ways and bad. The first thing I noticed is that I can encounter something incredibly frustrating, at home: my frustration will usually show at the very least but sometimes I’ll be impatient and snappy. The same thing can happen out and about and somehow I manage to scrape up the patience to remain calm and kind as I deal with the situation.

Unfortunately es, I was raised to care a little too much about what people think. But it’s more than that.

When we are alone, unwatched and unchecked it is easier to lose a battle against sin. On the other hand, it is easier to live in the freedom from our sin nature when we other believers around us who are on the same journey.

We were made for community. Christ didn’t leave us with a pep-talk about making it on our own and standing in our own strength. He left us the Holy Spirit and a body of believers, each member having different strengths and weaknesses. How well our Creator knows us and how gracious he is to us! We need the visual reminder of our accountability and the consequences of our actions.

The fact that my patience and mercy amidst their treachery points my children toward Christ should be enough to help me operate that way. But is it? Not always. Sometimes encouragement, understanding and even a swift kick from other Christian moms is just what it takes.

I see my parenting more clearly in the eyes of other gracious parents. Likewise, if I’m transparent about my marriage, I’m more likely to see areas in which I can care for it better. If I’m close enough to my believing neighbor, she’ll see ways in which I waste time and I’ll have to think twice before I do certain activities. The same goes for homeschooling, finances, homemaking. The more other believers are a part of my life, the more I’ll be forced to think about whether my actions are useful for furthering the Kingdom of God. I’ve even considered whether it would be worth the sanctification process for us to live in a multi-family situation, but that’s a conversation for another day.

I guess what I’m saying is that all of our fences and independence in this modern world we live in have done us no favors.  “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” If our eyes had as little contact with our ears and our legs as most Christians do with others, we wouldn’t get anywhere or accomplish much of anything. We’d be a train wreck! And so it with the body of Christ. We need each other.The difference is that with Christ as the head on our shoulders, the Victory belongs to Him despite our stumbling!

Our American Idols: 3 Ways You Can Do Your Children A Favor

What is most important to you?

I’m finding more and more that people say, “family.” If it wouldn’t hurt feelings, I would tell you specifically how I’ve seen the effects of this is the lives of people around me. My husband and I are passionate about pouring into the lives of young people in order to see them grow into Godly adults. As I look around at the twenties, teenagers and younger, I see devastating results of their parents lives revolving around them.

Sadly, parents are often unaware of how God designed their unique children because they have an ideal in their mind and they treat their young ones as if their children should be exactly what their parents imagine them to be. I struggle with this myself and battle daily to figure out what makes my children tick and encourage them in those directions. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes I fail.

I’ve been pregnant four times in the last 6 years. I have the privilege of raising three of those children and hopefully some more. Each one of them is so unique and by God’s grace they can do beautiful things to further His Kingdom. But that may not happen if I make them the center of my world. We do our children no favors when we live like this. Here are some things I’ve seen and steps I’d love for you to join me in taking to love our children better and to the glory of God.

When people make their children their number one priority, they often fail to discipline properly. I frequently see either a fear of making their children dislike them or a tendency to micromanage their children’s behavior for fear that they might appear to be bad children. Both of these model how to fear man, not God. I tend to struggle with the second, but I’m constantly reminded in my Bible reading that it is vital to help my children understand God as their authority, sin as their illness and grace as their cure. This is the goal of discipline. I must try my best to 1. Discipline consistently according to God’s standard of right and wrong (no more, no less) and do it in grace.

When a child is the most important thing in the world to you, they’ll copy you in one distinct way. If your Creator is not your number one priority, it won’t be theirs either. At least not at first. Your idols can easily become their idols. God is great and gracious. Many in my generation are slowly figuring out how to reprioritize now that we look back and see how things didn’t work out for our parents. I’m sure we’ll look back and see how we could have done better, but I pray regularly for God’s grace to get me through this adventure with children who serve him! Sports, friends, looking just right, family, work…the list of firsts goes on. But one thing I can tell you is that very few of the young people that we spend time with have any sort of understanding of a Christ-centered life. Reading, praying and serving are often simple inconveniences in their “Christian” life. I desire to 2. Model for my children what it looks like to live for Christ.

Finally, when we treat our kids like they’re the center of the universe, they grow up acting like they are. It sounds a little simple and a little crazy at the same time. I’m sure there aren’t many people who consciously think this, but a great many act like it. When parents do everything they can for their children out of “love” they rob their children of experience, work ethic and humility. Have you noticed it too? Every teacher, coach, boss, parent (everyone) should work to make their life “better.” I so badly want to 3. Help my children develop a Biblical, eternal worldview.

As someone who hears what tweens, teenagers and young adults are saying when you, their parents, are not around, please (I’m begging you and joining you) teach your child:

What God’s grace is all about,

God’s Word and

How to serve others.