I finished up this last school year with quite a bit of doubt and frustration. Between helping my tween work through an overwhelming amount of mood swings and emotions that made accomplishing any academics difficult for her, to having a exploring toddler who was effectively causing chaos in our Morning Time together, I was ready to throw in the towel. How in the world would we get anything done with this little boy who loves being free to explore the world? And yes, that means he has no fear at all!
I knew it was time to hit the refresh button. While reading, Pam Barnhill’s Plan Your Year, I realized I really needed to revamp and refocus on the mission of our homeschool. “Why are we doing this again?” Was the question I needed to re-evaluate and pray through. I know what God has called us to, He will supply the grace and help to accomplish. For “the real challenge is recognizing that homeschooling is a call from God and then fully embracing His call to do it,” as Jamie Erickson shares in her new book, Homeschool Bravely, which is a powerful little book full of encouragement and wisdom to help squash doubt, trust God, and teach your child with confidence.
God didn’t call you to homeschooling because you could handle it. He called you because He could handle it. - Jamie Erickson
Homeschooling is a powerful opportunity to trust God. It is a day by day call to trust not in our own strength and wisdom, but to daily bow the knee before the Greatest Teacher, and ask Him to gather and teach our young through our feeble efforts. For as Isaish 40:11 says, “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.”
Scared is just the mask that fear wears to lure a mom into defeat—and defeat never comes from God. Bravery, on the other hand, admits not only who you are, but also who God is. Brave shifts the confidence to God and fully embraces His ability to do it right. God chose you for this task, so don’t question His ability to choose wisely. - Jamie Erickson
Homeschooling is a powerful means of growing in sanctification for me! It’s part of the good work God has called for me to do and grow through. He uses it to prune and refine me as I learn right alongside my children to apply the fruits of the Spirit in my interactions with my children. I continually have to learn to repent when I stumble, believe the gospel, and get back up again by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Here’s a cold, hard reality: sometimes homeschooling is not about your children at all. Sometimes it is about you and what God seeks to do in your life. He wants to use everything about it, even your difficult child, to sand off your rugged edges. It’s easy to assume that home is where your children learn to be more patient, more kind, more mature, more righteous. But don’t forget, home is where you learn to become more too. - Jamie Erickson
So, it was time to remember why I was homeschooling:
I want my children to be surrounded by the truth of Scripture, the reality of God, and a love for His Word in everything we do. God and His Word is the center of our homeschool (Luke 10:27, Deut 6:7). Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”
I homeschool in order to focus on cultivating good character and habits in the hearts of my children.
I want my children to have strong sibling relationships by learning, playing, working, and exploring together.
I want my children to have freedom to explore things that interest them, cultivating a delight directed learning environment, and not limit them to a core standard that the public school system requires.
I want to raise young adults that are others centered, servant-hearted, and globally minded children (Matthew 23:11-12).
When I narrowed it down, God & His Word, Character, Relationships, and Service were the four key cores to why we are homeschooling. Reality struck: Why do I then get so caught up in stressing about the academics? Why do I believe the lie that my children are behind? Do they love Jesus and love to serve others? Yes! Then our homeschool is a success. Are they working hard and persevering through learning challenges? Yes! Then character is being cultivated.
If God has led you to homeschool then you are compelled to walk in faith, not fear. Faith recognizes God is bigger than any challenge life sends, including homeschooling.- Cindy Rollins
God doesn’t want—or expect—you to do homeschool like the elusive Jones family. He didn’t give you the same tools that He gave them, so He doesn’t expect you to build the same thing. You have unique gifts, time, and talents. You have unmatched children with one-of-a-kind interests. - Jamie Erickson
Ultimately, my homeschool is not supposed to look like yours, and yours is not supposed to look like mine. So let’s stop comparing and keep our focus on what Jesus is calling for our own unique families. He is fighting for you and your homeschool. If God is for your homeschool, who can be against it (Romans 8:31)? We are either listening to fear or listening to the Voice of Jesus, and His is the only Voice that really matters. God doesn’t make mistakes. You are called to this, and He always chooses wisely.
He will carry your kids from womb to tomb, and that includes all the parts that come after their education. Their stories belong to God and are covered by the blood of Christ. Homeschooling is not their savior, Christ is. So no matter what trials or temptations come their way someday, if they’ve put their faith in Him, the final line of their story will surely read, “Happily ever after.”
Fear will never lead you well because it speaks in falsehoods and cannot be trusted. Doubt is a bully that will always try to knock you down. But here’s the thing: if you feed your faith, your fears will starve to death. - Jamie Erickson
So be encouraged with me dear sisters. If God has called you to homeschool, read God’s Word, get this book, and cast your concerns at His feet. But do take the time to write out your own mission statement, for it is an excellent centerpiece to help refocus you each time you’re tempted to give up. Making this mission statement also has helped me begin my planning for this next school year, making sure I prioritize what is most important. This temptation will likely circle around again, but I now have truth to fight it with!
Bravery is the courage it takes to say with boldness, “Here is my homeschool, God. Here, too, are my fears, faults, and failures. They’re Yours now to face, fix, and forgive.” - Jamie Erickson
For your reference with our current chore chart: Karis is twelve, Titus is ten, Eden is almost eight, and Helen is four years old.
It’s summer and time for our family to update our chore chart (as seen above) and move some tasks around to allow for variety and increased responsibility. I keep a simple document in Pages that I can update each year. Easier chores move down to the next child in line as the older kids become more capable. As our numbers have increased, certain jobs need to be done more frequently, so that must be considered as well (i.e. Our living room now officially needs to be vacuumed daily! Bathrooms need to be cleaned twice a week. Deep cleaning the kitchen needs to be done weekly. Dishwasher must be unloaded each morning). I take the summer time to train each child in their new assignments. This way, we are all ready to go once school starts again.
I typically assign two tasks to each child and they are required to do them before breakfast. We set a 30 minute timer for this purpose to encourage them to stay focused and get their jobs done so they can eat. Obviously, dish clean up falls outside this requirement because it can’t be done until breakfast or lunch is completed.
We talk a lot in our home about the importance that everyone is a valuable asset to our home. We work together to maintain our home, to keep it clean and tidy for cleanliness and also for hospitality. We all work together to help our home run smoothly. We want to teach our kids to work hard and to learn basic life skills in order that they might become valuable contributors to our society in the future. We are called to “work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically,” which is our family mantra and goal in training our children (Romans 12:11-12).
We teach new chores through a 3-step process. First, I demonstrate the steps for completing the chore. Second, we do the chore together. Thirdly, they complete the chore on their own, while I supervise, encourage, and give reminders as needed. Each of these steps may take more than a day, but slowly but surely, they learn and can complete it eventually on their own.
It can be helpful to post a printed copy of the steps for the job in a visible place in the room (i.e. inside the bathroom cupboard for bathroom cleaning instructions) so it is easy for them to review. I laminate this list (see below), and then they can use a dry erase marker and check off each step as they complete it. My eldest daughter was a little overwhelmed at the thought of learning how to deep clean the kitchen this year, so she worked with daddy to score each job with a difficulty rating of 1-3, based on how many minutes she thought each task would take. Then she started with the #1 tasks and worked her way up, checking them off as she went. This was a great idea for those that may be overwhelmed at learning new jobs! She told Daddy later, “Thanks for helping make hard things fun!”
Here is our list of chore responsibilities based on appropriate ages that we use in our home:
Clean up shoe shelf/entryway: Put shoes neatly on shelves, hang up loose coats, etc. Learn how to put away shoes and coats when we come home.
Wipe down chairs and coffee tables: With the use of a simple gentle cleaner and a rag, a little one can learn how to spray and wipe down chairs and low tables.
Put dirty clothes in laundry hamper.
Help set the table.
Fold towels: We start around 4 years of age to teach the kids how to fold towels, washcloths, etc., and around 5 years old, they are folding their own laundry and putting it away.
Make their bed and pick up bedroom (my 4 year old, Helen, has just started this task and I’ve been amazed once again at what a great job she can do at such a young age!)
Empty dishwasher (Tip: Store your dishes and cups down on low shelves so littles can put them away at a young age. This is also a great time to teach them how to be careful while they carry fragile items to their storage shelves.)
Make PBJ or other basic sandwiches (at four years old, my littles learn how to make their own sandwiches, which frees up mommy’s time in the kitchen)
Vacuum (Chose a lightweight vacuum, so that the kids can learn to vacuum around 5-6 years old. We start by assigning them a small room to vacuum a couple times a week.)
Fold their own laundry: Around 5 years old, we have them begin folding all their own laundry. We wash all our clothes on Mondays and fold them in the evening while we read aloud or watch an educational show.
Help put away groceries.
Learn how to make basic breakfasts: One morning a week, they get to make breakfast as one of their chores. My 7 year old is currently learning how to make pancakes and French toast.
Basic bathroom clean-up: This includes teaching them how to wipe down counter, sink and toilet. Many times we allow them to use disinfecting wipes at this age to keep it easy and simple for them.
Sweeping & moping: We have a very simple and lightweight Sh-Mop system that makes it easy for little ones to do moping.
Vacuum stairs: You can use a handheld vacuum to easily vacuum stairs at this age.
Empty trashcans and take out trash cans to corner on trash collection day.
Become a “Dinner Helper”: Each child gets a turn to be the “Dinner Helper” each evening and learn how to do basic food preparation, from chopping, to making salads, to rolling out pizza dough, etc.
Bring down and sort the laundry for washing: This includes making piles of whites, darks, colors, and starting the first load in the washer.
Full bathroom clean-up: We call this “Full bathroom” and includes wiping down counter, sink, toilet, bathroom mirror, shower/bath, and sweep and moping floors.
Clean Windows: With a simple squeegee blade and washer brush, littles can learn how to clean windows. A basic step stool is helpful for this if they are not tall enough.
Vacuum out car and wash outside of car.
Wipe down kitchen cupboards and appliances.
Start helping with breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes.
Ages 11 and up:
Learn how to clean kitchen thoroughly: My goal is to teach my kids how to thoroughly clean kitchen by age 12.
Weeding & mowing lawn (Titus started mowing the lawn at 10 years old this year! Yahoo!)
Learn how to prepare basic dinners.
Make a weekly meal completely on their own (from planning, adding ingredients to grocery list, to preparing, to cleaning up).
Here is our dinner duty chart that is posted in the kitchen alongside our chore chart. This remains unchanged from last year.
Summer is here! I am so excited to enjoy the sun, read good books, have some fun family outings, and plan for the next school year! Summer is a great time to teach new skills, reinforce good habits that have slid over the school year, and establish new routines that will help the next school year run more smoothly.
This last week, we spent an evening with the kids coming up with our summer bucket list and writing it out on a big blackboard (Home Depot $10 deal!). The kids had a blast, as you can see from the photo.
I like to use summer to do some deep cleaning and decluttering around my house, tackling tasks that I can’t get too during the school year. I make a master list of various areas in the house that need my attention: closets, reorganizing kids clothes (storing away clothes that are too small or out of season that have just been accumulating on closet shelves), deep cleaning kitchen cupboards, and reorganizing our homeschool resources (tossing old workbooks, buying new supplies, and reorganizing our homeschool storage space), etc. I might wipe down doors, baseboards, and the like.
I also like to take summer to make a new chore chart for the upcoming school year. I will shift chores around as new helpers join the ranks and train the kids in new tasks. I’ll share more about this in my next post.
Helen (4) has her own summer list with drawings to help her remember each task. She’s very proud of herself!
To ensure we keep some good routines going during the summer, I like to make each child their own daily checklist. I want to maintain basic reading, writing, and math skills over the summer to prevent summer slide while keeping it fun and engaging, so we make our own summer reading challenge with fun outings as a reward (for every 5 books read by all), and utilize math facts wrap-ups or online math programs to keep up the skills (khan academy, math seeds & reading eggs). I want to keep helping the kids establish the habit of their own personal devotion time as well as memorizing some Scripture over the summer that is specifically chosen to address various character struggles they are experiencing, so that’s included on their list. We took this check list idea and the free printable from Jordan Page at Fun Cheap or Free.
We have the checklists hanging in our kitchen in a visible place they walk by every single day. Each day, they will take their list and check it off as completed. We will erase at the end of the day. The list must be completed before they have their 15 minutes of i-pad game time or play dates with neighbors and friends.
So their lists includes:
Bible - We use this Kid’s Bible Reading plan, and our non-reader uses Jesus Storybook Bible (Read and Hear version for i-Pad in Apple Books and then she listens to Psalms 23 read aloud through ESV Study bible app). Memory Verses Chores (they each have two chores to complete each morning) Writing (10 min) - We picked out some fun journals to encourage free-writing/journaling over the summer. They can write about their day, write a letter to a friend, or write about what they read in their current book. Math (15 min) - Wrap Up’s (math facts review), Math Seeds, or Khan Academy Reading (30 min) Typing (10 min) Act of service: Find one way to serve someone practically (in our family or neighborhood).
Eden (7) with her new writing journal. She is very excited about it!
This has been an incredible glimpse into the love story of the Elliots, witnessing their beautifully inspiring confidence in God’s plan for their lives, and their deep-seated eagerness to honor him every step of the way. Through a wealth of letting writing, when no other form of communication was possible, we see patient waiting on God’s timing. We see confident trust in God alone. We see an amazing passion to spread the gospel and make a difference with their lives. We see their eagerness to point each other back to Christ again and again. An inspiring story!
A favorite quote from Jim: I trust that you will let nothing deceive you in the details of your going out—not common sense, experience, advice, ambition for souls rather than adoration for Christ, or any other voice than that of the living God, who will not suffer His faithfulness to fail.
And a quote from Elisabeth: “Today I found severe temptation (and I yielded) to laxity in prayer and Bible study. Oh, I am conscious more than ever of my desperate need to know the Word—my only offensive weapon—but how very difficult it is for me to concentrate upon that only and wait upon God.”
Rachel doesn’t beat around the bush as she challenges women to see that their true purpose and identity can only be found in seeking the glory of God and walking in obedience to His Word. She stresses that what God calls us to be doing is very simple: obedience. Through obedience we have great purpose, clarity, and calling. It’s not about us…it’s all about Him! He has the best story for our lives…a story hand crafted by the Creator, and it’s through embracing His story that we become our true selves. Excellent and thought provoking!
“His fierce grip on me is the basis of all of my confidence. That is the basis of all my belonging. He knows who I am. He knows where I belong. Nothing more than that. No great confidence in my abilities or my ideas and strategies. No great achievement of self-actualization. No life flowchart that I am managing to get through in a timely and impressive manner. Nothing but God: He mine, and I His.”
“In other words, the more we try to build up an identity apart from God and apart from His Word, the less truly us we become. It doesn’t matter how long or thoughtful or detailed the story you are writing is. If it is written by a character in the story rather than the Author of the story, it can only ever be tiny; it will always be minuscule by comparison. You cannot, as a character, out-write the Author of you.”
”When we embrace the fact that obedience now is always the calling of a Christian, we find that we have more than enough to do. We are not to be the lost travelers hanging out at all the bus stations in life looking for our potential ticket to something that matters. Read the Word. Obey the Word. Obey it now. Obey it again.”
Easily a favorite book on the importance and beauty of practicing hospitality through your home and lifestyle in our day and age. Hospitality is the secret weapon for gospel advancement. We can be a part of God’s mission right from our living rooms. Practical and inspiring. Pull out the BBQ and cook in your front yard and invite the neighbors! It’s the perfect time of year!
“God’s plan to glorify Himself in the church never consisted of platformed mega-pastors, cutting-edge art, or expensive buildings. The real power in the church is found the Holy Spirit moving through ordinary people as they carry His presence into the streets.”
“If we are ever going to join all our lives to God’s mission to change the world, we need to reclaim all of our ordinary pieces as a part of that gospel mission. We will have to reject the notion that something has to be big or unusual to be significant. We will have to view the ordinariness of our lives as significant and allow God to use our homes as a seed to be planted and grown, not something to be discarded or devalued. If ordinary doesn’t equal insignificant, then even a walk to the mailbox or grilling burgers matters. Everything about your everyday, ordinary, small-feeling life matters. Your meals matter. Your hobbies matter. Your work matters. Your home … it matters.”
“Biblical hospitality is the polar opposite of cultural trends to separate and isolate. It rejects the notion that life is best spent fulfilling our own self-centered desires, cordoned off from others in the private fortresses we call homes. Biblical hospitality chooses to engage rather than unplug, open rather than close, initiate rather than sit idly.”
Add one or all of these to your summer book stack, and you won’t regret it!
This page has been rather quiet these last few weeks as race training and family events have filled up my Saturday morning writing time, not to mention being in a discouraged season in my life the last six or so weeks. It has been a challenging season of seeking contentment among work transitions as my husband prepares to close his business, homeschool challenges as we worked through some hard attitude/anxiety issues in the hearts of my children, and pushing myself physically more than ever as I trained for a quarter marathon. My oldest two kids and I ran a 5K race together to support our local Pregnancy Resource Center (First Image), which was fabulous, and last weekend I completed my goal of running in a Quarter Marathon, which was an amazing experience.
Amongst the fullness, the Lord has met me in some incredible ways. He has planted these thoughts in my mind lately…
The only way I can be a good mother is to point my children to a Good Father. God is fighting for us! Being a good mother is not about my efforts, it’s not about making the best plans for my kids, it’s not about having all the answers to their struggles, it’s about pointing them to Jesus. Jesus is enough. He is enough in the face of every difficulty.
The only true self-care my soul and spirit needs is more of God’s Word. I can’t slack or become lazy about reading his Word. This is the weapon my soul needs daily to fight the good fight of faith. I need Jesus.
I must be anchored in God’s Word, moment by moment, hour by hour, so I can rest confidently in God’s care, plan, and purposes when I am tempted to be overwhelmed by a flood of worldly lies.
Psalms 37 calls us to…
Delight Yourself in the Lord…. Commit Your way to the Lord… Trust in the Lord… Be still before the Lord…REST!
In a season of waiting, discouragement, and doubt…God is calling me to rest.
“If hunger brings us to our knees, it is more useful to us than feasting. If thirst drives us to the fountain, it is better than the deepest droughts of worldly joy. And if fainting leads to crying, it is better than the strength of the mighty.”
“We pray best when we are fallen on our faces in painful helplessness.”
Anything that makes me need God is a blessing. - Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth
That’s where I am right now. I am needy. I need more of Jesus. I need Jesus to support and love my husband well during his work transitions. I need Jesus to know how to address the difficult heart issues of my children. I need Jesus to make homeschooling decisions for the next year and not compare myself with others.
And being needy is a good place to be as I get more of Jesus as a result!
By the way, I’m doing the Same Page Summer Bible reading challenge this summer, reading through the entire New Testament starting June 3, and I’d love for you to join me in making God’s Word a priority this summer. More info, visit here.
Republished from the archives, because I needed this gospel reminder again this week!
I failed miserably in my mothering today. Everything from delays in getting coats and shoes on, to going potty in underwear, to getting out of bed before the proper time, to “can’t you get this math problem, yet!” Each situation was responded to with an outburst of anger and frustration.
I experience guilt on many levels in my motherhood. I feel guilty when my house isn’t clean, organized, or I don’t have the energy to design all these glorious organizing tools. I feel like a failure when I don’t spend enough quality time with my children or waste too much time on my phone or computer browsing. I feel guilty when we don’t do family devotions as if my children’s salvation was all dependent upon me. I feel like a terrible homemaker when I don’t get anything done on my to-do list. So in response to my guilt, I get frustrated and the cycle continues. It’s a dangerous pit of self-pity that destroys my joy.
The only means through which we can find deliverance out of this battlefield of guilt, condemnation, and anger is through the power and truth of the gospel. The only lasting freedom can come through acknowledging what Christ has done on my behalf.
We have to steep ourselves in the power of the gospel. We have to soak it in.
I have to remind myself that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Yes, you and I will surely fail. But we have a glorious Savior who bore our condemnation. He bore our guilt. It was nailed to the cross. So in our failure, we can have hope. Christ Jesus has replaced our sinful record with His perfect righteous record.
As Elyse Fitzpatrick, in her book, Because He Loves Me, says, “When you are tempted to slide down into a miry pit of self-condemnation, you can remember Jesus’ sinless life and the perfect record that is now yours. Yes, it’s true that you sin heinously and consistently, but you have a perfect record before God, the only one who opinion really matters.”
“Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins (Romans 3:24).”
You have a perfect record. So, repent! Confess your sin before the Almighty God, and before your children, and then rest in the finished work of Christ of your behalf.
Colossians 1:16-17 says, “The Father…has qualified you [past tense; it's finished] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us[past tense again; the deliverance is completed] from the domain of darkness and transferred us [past tense once more: the transferal is already concluded] to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have [present tense; this very moment we possess it] redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
My outbursts of anger were nailed to the cross before I even walked this earth. My fear of failure is a waste of my energy. I am now free to fail. He paid the greatest price. In order to experience true freedom from guilt, I must stop focusing on all that I need to do in order to become a better mother. I must first turn my gaze upon what He has already done for me.
The only way to become a better mom is to preach the gospel to myself every day. It’s not my behavior that makes me a better mom, it’s through believing the truth more deeply about what what He has already accomplished. Believe and rest, and not strive and stress. Repent, rejoice, repeat…that is the lifestyle that God calls us too. Cultivating a lifestyle of repentance before my children is a powerful witness of the gospel for them to see too! “Mommy’s not perfect. Mommy needs Jesus too.”
God doesn’t call me to be perfect. He calls me to embrace my standing before him, and to run in that freedom he has already granted to me! I am adored by Christ! I am redeemed! I am accepted!
Ultimately, when I enslave myself by guilt I am mocking what He did on the cross, I am denying the grace and mercy purchased for me through his sinless life. This guilt is witness to the fact that I am depending upon my own strength. I am believing that my children will only grow, flourish, and follow Christ if I do this certain set of practices.
So when you are tempted to put another brick of guilt on yourself, may I encourage you to stop, and declare with me:
“Because Jesus was strong for me, I am free to be weak; because Jesus won for me, I am free to lose; because Jesus was someone, I am free to be no one; because Jesus was extraordinary, I am free to be ordinary; because Jesus succeeded for me, I am free to fail.” -Tullian Tchividjian
Praise God for the full and abundant life I have in Christ!
Jesus loves me just as much today as He did yesterday!
Disclaimer: I recently shared on Instagram that I met my weight loss goal of loosing 35 pounds over the last 6 months. I received a number of requests to share how I did this, so here is a little more detail into my story for whomever might find it helpful. I am cautious sharing this, because I do not want to spread guilt for those who are struggling with weight. I know so many different factors can contribute to weight gain, so please take this all with a grain of salt. I struggled myself with putting my hope in weight loss over these past few months when I didn’t see progress for weeks at a time. God had to constantly remind me not to put my hope in that…but in Him alone. I share to simply offer some ideas and resources that were helpful to me. But make sure you are resting in Christ and keeping your hope in Him through it all. And let me also say…there is plenty of grace available for you. There will be seasons when weight loss is possible, and seasons when you have to put it on the back burner, and that’s okay! I was struggling with milk production after my 5th baby, and I knew it wasn’t wise to stress about weight loss when I needed to make sure my baby was growing healthy and strong. So after he was weaned, I began this journey…
I was introduced to Trim Healthy Mama shortly after my fourth child, Helen, was born in 2015. I had been able to lose pregnancy weight fairly easily for my first three pregnancies, but number four produced a more difficult challenge. I began looking into healthy weight loss options, and Trim Healthy Mama stood out among the many trending options. Why? THM authors, Serene and Pearl, are two lovely God-fearing sisters, who have sought to support the Christian community by offering a simple balanced healthy lifestyle, as opposed to a weight loss diet. I love THM because it is doable. It doesn’t eliminate any food groups, but teaches you how to enjoy all the food groups in their proper balance and proportions. I appreciate how they believe all the food groups are part of God’s creation, and therefore to be enjoyed. I followed their recommendations pretty faithfully, with a little grace and flexibility and was able to lose my pregnancy weight.
Two miscarriages and a fifth pregnancy later, I was having a hard time loosing extra weight. I was still 35 pounds over my healthy weight recommendation, even after one year postpartum. I knew it was time to take some more aggressive action. With the help and accountability of my husband (who also needed to lose 20 pounds), and a useful free app, Lose It! (I just used the free portion and did not pay for premium), for calorie tracking, I went back to a more strict THM lifestyle. What I found is that following THM without considering portion control, can be very difficult. Many healthy recipes can still be pretty high in calories, so if you aren’t taking that into consideration, you can easily over eat! All things in moderation is the key.
My favorite cookbook from THM is the Trim Healthy Table cookbook, as it has so many easy family friendly recipes. If you want to get started with THM, the Trim Healthy Mama Plan book is the most useful in explaining the whole lifestyle. Their facebook group and free web-zine emails and podcasts are also very useful.
This time, I decided to exercise more consistently through walking and biking (using my bike on a trainer with Zwift app for indoor exercise), and tracking my calories. I exercised three times a week for at least 30 minutes, usually 45 minutes to an hour on Saturdays.
What I enjoyed about Lose It! was that I could set a weight goal for myself, based on the healthy weight recommendation reflecting my height and age, and then the app would set a finish line for me if I stayed within the recommended daily calorie count. So basically, it recommends you lose 1.5 pounds each week (which is the healthy weight loss recommendation), and then it will set a daily calorie budget for you. For me, I needed to get within 135-155 pounds, and I decided to shoot for 145 pounds, right in the middle of that range. My daily budget was around 1250 calories. It took a few weeks longer than initially projected, as I had some stalls in my weight loss, but ultimately it worked! Many THM recipes were already set up in the app, and I could easily scan products and make my own recipes by scanning individual ingredients within the app as well. This enabled me to track my food intake pretty easily.
My personal menu over the last few months has consisted of the following:
Breakfasts: Eggs with bacon or turkey sausage with my coffee and cream (limiting to 1 Tbsp half n half with liquid stevia drops for sweetener, my favorite being the English Toffee flavor), 1/2 cup or so of oatmeal with about 1/4 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt and THM sweet blend to sweeten, or THM pancakes or my own banana pancakes with monk-fruit maple syrup.
Lunches: Main dish salads (with any combination of lettuce, veggies, lunchmeat, pepperoni, cheese, hard boiled eggs, or roasted chicken on top for protein) or THM dinner leftovers for lunch. I’d stick with a non-fat salad dressing or just a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. I also enjoyed THM smoothies from the Trim Healthy Table cookbook a lot! They have a fabulous Cinnamon bun shake, pina colada shake, frisky, lemon-blueberry cheesecake shake, and triple-berry power shake that we all love! The shakes alone are worth the cost of this cookbook :).
Snacks: Larabars!! Yes, I am obsessed with them. They only have 5 ingredients and are THM approved. They are tasty too! I used the Amazon subscribe & save on these babies, and was able to get a great price. My favorites are the Coconut Cream & Key Lime Pie flavors. Alternatively, I’d eat 1/2 apple with 1 Tbsp peanut butter.
Dinners: THM dinners (see below). I stuck with high protein and veggie combinations for the most part, and avoided white breads/carbs, etc. I also eliminated alcohol and desserts for the most part. Calorie tracking has enabled me to sneak in a few treats along the way as well, as I could adjust my food intake based on the treat of choice. Yes, I did enjoy a few donuts along the way!
THM is family friendly as well, especially in their newest cookbook, Trim Healthy Table. Every recipe is super simple and has adaptations to make in slow cookers or instant pots as desired. Or tips on how to add more carbs for growing children to serve alongside the meal. For us, this usually meant, I served brown rice a lot with dinner for the kids.
Our Favorite THM recipes:
Easy Chicken Fajita Casserole (Joy Filled Eats) Easy Taco Casserole (Joy Filled Eats) Simply Crunchy Ranch Chicken Strips (Heavenly Homemakers) (I use THM baking blend instead of flour in this recipe to make it THM, but you can also easily use some ground up rolled oats for an alternative) Low Carb Zuppa Tuscana THM Cheeseburger Pie Pizza (I’d use whole wheat crust for the kids, and make mine on a Joseph’s Lavash bread) Spaghetti (Kids would have brown rice noodles, and I’d use the Miracle Noodle Shirataki Pasta) Omelettes (an easy breakfast for dinner option) Egg Roll in a Bowl (from Trim Healthy Table) Chicken Fried Double Rice (from Trim Healthy Table) Tuscan Cream Chicken (from Trim Healthy Table) BAM Waffles (from Trim Healthy Table) THM Pancakes THM Double Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies (Trim Healthy Table Cookbook) - These are incredibly delicious! My favorite find in the cookbook! I do use 1/2 cup each of xylitol & coconut sugar (coconut sugar is not THM approved, but I find its more delicious and a good healthy option in moderation), and just 1/2 cup chocolate chips.
THM plan products that I use:
THM Sweet Blend (I do use this product from THM and love it! Couldn’t find a cheaper alternative that was quite the same for all the shakes and such that we love!) THM Baking Blend (I used this very infrequently, mainly for our favorite cookies above, or to replace any bread crumbs called for in a recipe, like our favorite Ranch Chicken Strips or Meatloaf. It’s just too expensive to make a lot of THM friendly desserts with it.) Xylitol (blending in coffee grinder gives the powdery consistency of THM gentle sweet, but a cheaper alternative) Baobab Powder (I buy from Amazon subscribe & save) - this superfood is amazing! The highest source of vitamin C and so easy to add to smoothies! Whey Protein Powder (I typically used Tera’s Whey grass-fed, stevia sweetened whey, wherever I could find for the best price).
So thankfully, with my husband’s help and accountability, we both were able to meet our respective weight loss goals! I highly recommend getting an accountability partner if possible. Aaron lost 20 pounds over 3-4 months, and I lost 35 pounds over 6 months. We feel a lot better overall and are really enjoying continuing to exercise and stay in shape moving forward. My husband has gotten so excited about biking as a result…he’s now training for local bike races. A fun side benefit that I didn’t anticipate! I’m preparing to run a quarter marathon in the next month too. Running is the last thing I ever wanted to do…but with a friend, I think it’s going to be fun. Yahoo!
Ultimately, our goal is to stay healthy so we can be fit and ready to serve the Lord in whatever he calls us too. Also, if he calls us to have another baby, I didn’t want the excessive back pain and such that comes with extra weight and pregnancy combined (like I experienced with baby #5). I’m so thankful for God’s grace that made it possible to achieve this goal. It can be really quite fun to set a goal, find an accountability partner, and go for it!
“The Christian’s faith sometimes fails; however, God never forsakes His people. If it seems as if He is asleep while His people suffer, it should be remembered that the pillow beneath His head is His own Omniscience, and, as surely as He ruled those winds and waves on Galilee’s lake and reigned in the tempest with a word, so certainly does He manage all the affairs of His children and appoint or permit all that concerns them.” - Susannah Spurgeon
I am reading a phenomenal biography about the wife of one of my favorite theologians, Charles Spurgeon and his wife, Susie, called simply: Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon. What an incredible couple they were. Through some shocking trials and suffering, much of which included Susie being an invalid and remaining at home through the majority of her life and unable to travel with her husband throughout his extensive ministry, they remained anchored in the rock of our Lord Jesus Christ. They understood that the purpose of suffering was to bring men “near to Jesus” and to a “conscious dependence upon God.”
Looking at Psalms 31:15, “My times are in thy hand”, Susie declared: “Not one or two important epochs of my history only, but everything that concerns me; joys that I had not expected, sorrows that must have crushed me if they could have been anticipated, sufferings which might have terrified me by their grimness had I looked upon them, surprises which infinite love had prepared for me, services of which I could not have imagined myself capable; all these lay in that mighty hand as the purposes of God’s eternal will for me.”
Charles dealt with severe depression throughout most of his life, and may have been diagnosed with biopolar disorder in our day. But through it all, Susie faithfully ministered to him at his side. At the end of a long hard day, she would read to him from other puritan theologians, bringing calming peace to his mind and allowing him to rest. Many of these times, their reading together would bring conviction and tears, and Susie said: “He from the smitings of a very tender conscience toward God, and I, simply and only because I love him, and want to share his grief.” They possessed such tender affection and care for one another. It was a true spiritual partnership as God intended for marriage.
The biographer, Ray Rhodes, Jr, testified: “Their ministry to one another cemented their affections with a bond that no amount of suffering could erode.”
It has been so convicting to me as well, to remain steadfast at my husband’s side through the ebbs and flows of life. My husband also deals with his own set of struggles, and how might I also more faithfully minister to him through reading truth and purposefully praying over him to bring comfort to his soul in these low moments?
It was spoken of Susie: “Never would Mr. Spurgeon have gone through his unparalleled labors, if he had not found rest and reinforcement in his home, and in the society of a brave, noble, loving woman.”
How can we bring such rest and reinforcement into our homes? How can we become brave, noble, and loving women of God who stand boldly by our men and hold to God’s unshakeable truth? God has such beauty to display through a loving marriage. He displays His glory when you lovingly lay your life down for your husband and children.
It is drawing near to the anniversary of the anticipated arrival of my own precious baby (was due April 2017), that we bid farewell to at a mere 14 weeks conception. I look upon the blooming, beautifully fragrant Daphnia in my yard, that we planted over our little one’s grave, and remember and grieve. It was a precious little one, with perfect tiny fingers and toes. It was a very difficult season of my life, as my body clung to the leftover tissue and wouldn’t let it all go until eight long weeks, anemia, and multiple ultrasounds later. I had never experienced such pain and heartache, such unsatisfied longing, and my soul cried out to Jesus like it had never done before. We felt Jesus in that time in incredible comforting ways. He alone was enough. We could testify to that “conscious dependence upon God” that Charles and Susie testified too. I’m also thankful for the promises of God, a loving and tender husband, and a faithful church that poured out abundant love to us in practical ways; all of which helped carry us through this storm.
As I look back on my own suffering, I am reminded once again, that we serve a good, good Father. He gives us inspiring examples throughout history, like Charles and Susannah Spurgeon, a great cloud of witnesses to inspire and point us upward and onward.
Press on, dear friends. God is in control. “The pillow beneath his head is his own Omniscience.”
“Admist a thousand snares I stand Upheld and guarded by thy hand; That hand unseen shall hold me still, And lead me to thy holy hill.” - Isaac Watts (quoted as a favorite hymn of the Spurgeons)
“Though we may not at the time, see His purpose in the afflictions which He sends us, it will be plainly revealed when the light of eternity falls upon the road along which we have journeyed.” - Susannah Spurgeon
I am always trying to keep our family healthy as much as possible through the winter months, and thankfully, this has been a really good year for our family. Last fall, I decided I needed to get more vigilant on having a good whole foods based vitamin for each of us, to fill in any gaps we might have in our diet. As much as we try to eat a healthy, well balanced diet, there is always gaps. So after carefully choosing to the best of my abilities, adding them to my Amazon Subscribe & Save order (so I never have to run out or forget to buy, and I get a good discount at the same time), I began a routine of pulling them all out every morning, lining them up on the counter, and making sure every member of our family took their required dosage.
It has worked wonderfully! We are all taking vitamins and we have been healthy! Yah! I prefer choosing vitamins that are ideally made from mainly raw whole food ingredients as much as possible rather than synthetic components and also free from artificial sweeteners or loaded with sugar. These varieties tend to be more expensive, but the benefits outweigh that, as your body is able to digest them and receive much more benefit from whole food ingredients.
In addition, if our vitamin doesn’t already have Omega 3’s, we are taking some sort of Omega 3 supplement to get the valuable addition of fish oils in our diet, that help support skin, eye, joint health, and balancing hormones. Ideally, pick an option that is made from wild caught fish, and free of mercury and other harsh metals. I also take Vitamin D drops in my water each day, to help fight my natural tendencies towards depression, and this little bottle lasts forever!
I love that Amazon sends me a price update each month, so that I can decide which option is the best price and adjust accordingly for my order, if needed.
“An important practice for cultivating humility: Identify evidence of grace in others. This means actively looking for ways that God is at work in the lives of other people.” - C.J. Mahaney, Humility
The practice of note writing, sending personal notes in the mail, is unfortunately a dying practice in our busy day and age, but is especially meaningful as a result. A few years back, when I was prayerfully seeking opportunities to speak life and encouragement into our church body through my words and actions, the Lord laid the idea on my heart of cultivating a practice of sending one or two notes of encouragements out each week. I knew it had to be a manageable and maintainable practice amidst the busy routines of motherhood and homeschooling, and I discovered that this practice only takes a few moments of my time and yet can make a world of difference.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thess. 5:11)
I desire to be one that offers encouraging words to my brothers and sisters in Christ, and what better way than jotting down a few things I appreciate about them and sending it their way.
I keep a nice stash of blank note cards on hand for this purpose. I love the adorable designs available through Best Paper Greetings on Amazon. Each week, I pull out my notecards, open our church directory, and I begin praying…who can I encourage this week? Who needs a little note to let them know they are appreciated and not forgotten? The Lord faithfully prompts me each time. I also enjoy using the God’s Promises for Your Every Need book that lists Scripture verses related to different struggles and challenges. If I am aware of a particular trial that someone is going through, I love finding a relevant Scripture verse to include.
The response I receive is a constant reminder of how powerful a note of encouragement can be. I have frequently received responses from recipients that my note arrived at just the right moment, on just the right day, when a weary heart needed a little refreshment. One time, it brought tears to her eyes, when she thought no one cared about her. Another time, both husband and wife said thank you, as the wife had been deeply discouraged. Only God could control that…laying that person on my heart at just the right moment. Sometimes I have even written a note, forgotten about it, and a week later remembered, and despite the delay, it still arrived just on that dark day in their lives.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25)
This simple weekly habit, writing one or two short notes, praying over them, and sending them on their way, can make sure a difference in their heart and my own. My affections for others are deepened through this simple act. I’d encourage you to adopt the habit! Let’s build the body up in love and see what God can do!
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)