The Slackers guide to a Successful Life Part 2:

OR Twenty seven requests for a Cookie does not an emergency make.
Once upon a time, I got a bunch of leadership training that I figured wouldn’t really apply to the slacker mommy life. Guess what? I was wrong. One of the most helpful, non-spiritual pieces of advice I’d ever recieved can be found in this commonly used chart from the book: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Basically, there are 4 quadrants

1) Important and Urgent                                   2) Important /Not Urgent
feeding everyone                                                     Relationship building

keeping the house warm                               planning/dreaming/organizing/creating

sitting at Jesus’ feet and encouraging my kids to do so

3) Urgent/Not important                                 4) Not Urgent/Not important

others minor crises                                                                   facebook

phone calls                                                                    TV, mindless activities

I’d modify it a bit to meet my needs, but it is no coincidence that the father of the family the book “Cheaper by the Dozen” was based on was, in fact, a real life Efficiency Expert. Sometimes the reason stuff doesn’t get done is because we spend all of our time oiling the squeakiest  wheels. Sometimes we waste time, but very often we find ourselves driven by  the urgent rather then our true priorities. Sometimes the dishes can wait while we color with our child. Sometimes an hour dreaming is a better use of time  then playing Candy Crush.

Basically, we want to spend the first fruits of our time in the Important boxes.  If nothing else gets done in a day, I want to accomplish my important and urgent things (everyone’s physical needs/spiritual needs are met), move on the the important not urgent things (other needs are met ) I may throw in some not so important things along the way, and that’s fine- but the important stuff gets priority

One lesson it has taken me a long time to learn as a parent is that entertainment is not a need. Boredom  can seem like a minor crisis to a child, but they are far better off learning to :read a book, collect rocks, color, ride a cardboard box down the stairs, chase chickens, catch slimy critters, and otherwise amuse themselves. I am not doing my children any favors by trying to keep them happy.  In fact, the greatest precursor to happiness in adults is a high level of contentment.  I am not saying that as a homeschooler that I should not be intentional about helping my children get their social needs met. I am not saying that parents shouldn’t take time to do stuff with children, relationship building is VERY important. I am saying that  “I’m bored” isn’t a problem that I, as a parent, need to concern myself with.  My children know where to find the art supplies.

Relationship building could involve working together on common goals. Dreaming together. Talking. Creating. Exercising. Gardening. Chasing goats. Cleaning the kitchen. Folding wash. Serving someone. Anything we do together with open hearts is relationship building.

What about house cleaning? For me, aspects of it can fall in all four categories.  To a degree it goes with meeting kids physical needs-Important and urgent. Having a model showroom house-not all that important. Having clean dishes and clothes- Important.  Making my home as comfortable and useful as I am able–important/not urgent. Making my home impressive to outsiders- not so important to me in this season of life.

Lastly, we can never underestimate the true importance of dreaming.  We live in a society driven to distraction, but we were made for more. Dreaming trains our minds, and focuses our creativity towards it’s true purpose. It pulls us from despair as it seeks new ways through our problems. It empowers us. What is dreaming? It is making goals and coming up with ways to work towards them. it is looking for new solutions to old problems. Sometimes its figuring out how to make lemonade. Dreaming is part of our dominion work, it is the seeing of the garden beneath the thorns and thistles. It is making the vision plain so that we can work toward it.

Stay tuned for part 3 where we’ll learn how to worry , and why the 80/20 rule doesn’t apply to canning or anything involving chemicals


The Slackers Guide to a Succesful Life Part 1


I am a slacker. I am by nature a lazy person. I also get stuff done. I didn’t used to. Just in case there is anyone else who suffers from the same affliction of “just don’t wanna do JACK” that I do, I’d like to share I couple things that it has taken 30 + years to figure out.

1) Set Small goals and work in short increments

A 15 minute Bible study time is better then none at all. It is easier to write 1000 words a day then to set some empheral goal of finnishing a book in a year. Getting the dishes washed by 3pm is better then setting out to clean the kitchen at 9AM and giving up halfway through. I used to want to do great things. Now I do lots of little things that eventually add up.

2) Forget perfection.

I don’t like to clean, but I do it because I love my family. I used to be really stressed out because I felt like there was some really high bar for how the houses of “good mommies” looked and I never met it. I didn’t even know how. I’d get frusterated at the little messes that are just a part of life with kids, especailly on a farm. I realized that I wasn’t working to please my family or God, just trying to measure up to my idea of what other people did. Now I have my routine and do it. If the house looks good or bad at any given moment- that’s just life

3) Get a routine and stick to it.

Don’t let yourself be ruled by stress or drama or fear of others. Come up with a common sense routine and stick to it- no matter what is going on with the rest of the world.

Mine is something like this:

Devotions at 9

Kids school in morning.

Clean kitchen at 3 and after supper

put on 1-2 loads of wash a day.

Excersize with Em 4 days a week

Write 1000 words a day.

Some weeks I never get to mopping the floor. Some weeks a lot of extra stuff gets done. I know though, no matter what, the the dishes and laundry will be caught up, the kids will be physically and spiritually fed, and I will be workingon something that makes me happy. It’s enough.

Stay tuned on more tips how you too can be a successgul slacker…

Today in the Life

Had a slow morning. Right now I am listening to Emily read a Zoology lesson to the girls. We’ve done Bible time, and I’ve helped Emmy with her Shorter Catechism questions for confirmation class. Gracie may still be working on writing out a Bible verse from Isaiah that went with the “true God/true man” question from the Heidelberg. I’ll have to make sure she gets her math done.
I haven’t done spelling with the girls yet. Or had my own devotion time. I haven’t taken my vitamins or written my 1000 words for the day. A stack of dishes is calling me from the kitchen. I’m a little worried about the low temperatures (-20 with wind chill) called for tomorrow night and am trying to figure out how to help our chickens and goats stay warm. I’ve got a lot on the list and need to get moving.
For a moment though, I’ll savor my coffee and the warmth of the stove. I’ll listen to EM read. I’ll hold a child. The kids have eaten, the house is warm. What is important is being accomplished.


How I Met Your Father- A love Story

Today Shane and I celebrate 9 years of marriage.  We were married January 1, 2005

January, 15 years ago, we didn’t know each other. Shane had a house, the mailing business, and assorted room mates. He was able to use his home as a ministry to men who needed a place to stay. Sometimes he lived alone.  January, 15 years ago, I was getting ready to throw up my hands and declare my family situation hopeless. It was pretty messed up. I was working at Good Shepherd with some of Shane’s family members, but I didn’t really know it at them time. I’d never heard of Shane. He’d never heard of me.

13 years ago ,January, I moved to Texas. I never planned on coming back. Shane had stocked up on Y2K supplies the year before. He was still doing the mail business, he had some goats, and he had pretty much come to terms with the fact that he was a lifelong bachelor.

11 years ago, January. I came home. In November of that year, I was with a group of young adults ministering in New Orleans. I met several pagans and Wiccans, psychics, a worshiper of Dianna of Ephesus, and a boy who called himself Puck. Puck was a teenage runaway. His father had been a youth pastor. He dared me to convince him that Christianity was the only way. An epiphany dawned. I knew Jesus, and I knew the work of the Holy Spirit. So did Puck. I did not have to argue this boy into the faith. He belonged to Christ and no kicking against the goads was going to change that. It was just a matter of time. I looked at him and assured him that he was going to be ok. God had not let him go.  And suddenly,  I had to go home, because if God was big enough to straighten Puck out, he was probably big enough to straighten out my family.

I did go home. I left an environment where fiery young men and women were being trained for Christian ministry and went home. I still wanted to get married. There were (seemingly) far more fish in the Gulf of Mexico, where I was, then where I would be going. But I had to go home.

10 years ago, January.  I’d heard there were a couple of single Shank guys left, and that one of them was really into books. I was really into books. I’d come home, but family stuff was still crazy and it wasn’t in my power to change it. Shane’s parents started working part time at the school were I worked. I liked them. I enjoyed getting to know them.  I volunteered to work with his Mom. She asked if I’d marry her son. I said I’d be willing to meet him. I’d gotten an invite to come over for New Year’s Eve, but for some inexplicable reason, went to a prayer conference instead. (Which was ok- the conference was awesome) While I was there I had a dream about a tall thin man in a cowboy hat and blue Suburban. I’d not met Shane yet

I showed up at Shane’s parents church for sunrise service on Easter. Shane was reading and had a hard time getting through the passage in Isaiah without crying. I was intrigued. Over the spring, Shane and I had some really awkward “random” meetings at his parent’s house. Eventually, it got a little less awkward. (Not like the first time when I walked into the room where Shane was and everyone got up and left). We would meet and play card games most Sunday afternoons. We talked about books. We liked a lot of the same authors. We talked about Church History and theology. He seemed like a very polite man who put up with me well but just really wasn’t that interested. That summer, I went to South Africa on a misisons trip. I tried explaining to friends that I was in some weird “arranged courtship”. I decided Shane was just being polite. I would go back one last time to see if he showed any interest. My only excuse is that the Shanks are pretty cool people. Even if Shane hadn’t been there, I would have probably dropped in some Sunday afternoons to play games.

In July, just returning from a cold South African winter, I crashed his brothers wedding. Shane seemed glad to see me, so I kept showing up on Sunday afternoons. I kept moving my chair closer to Shane’s–just to see if this were going anywhere. He didn’t seem to mind. In the fall, he made some vague comments about a Reformation Day service. I showed up. He’d saved me a seat. A couple of weeks later, his grandmother died.  Shane invited me to the funeral. He called several of his relatives, to let them know he was bringing a girl for them to met to the funeral. Many of the people I met that day assumed a was Shane’s “something”.

Four days later, in the middle of November, Shane asked me to marry him. We were married 2 and a half months later, January 1 2005. Despite the short notice, we had over 200 people at our wedding.

Since being married, we’ve had 4 children, adopted one (after being told we probably wouldn’t have any). We’ve had most of my family living with us at one time or another. Seen a lot of the crazy situations straighten out. Done foster care.  We’ve kept eachother warm every night for nine years, save the week Shane went to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina.  We’ve enjoyed some good books, played numerous rounds of Canasta. Renovated a house.  Had a phone bank in our laundry room.  Worked on mail jobs in the middle of the night.  I left work to be with the kids, Shane got a job at the Post office. Seen Shane sustained as a Presbyter, and seen him called to lay that down.  Wrestled goats, gotten to know neighbors, survived surgeries and illnesses.   I can’t wait to see what the next nine years bring.






Prayer Dare

I’ve started and stopped this post numerous times. I wanted to write something about the things I’ve learned this past year. My goals for the next one. I have goals. I do. They’re just not all that important.

“Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness”. I want to do 5K thing. Finish the first draft of my novel. Eat healthy, lose weight. Blog. Be a better Mommy. All groovy, but in comparison- not all that important.

Prayer is important. Prayer changes things. Prayer changes me. The most incredible adventures I’ve ever been on started with prayer. Miracles I’ve seen- prayer. I remember a sweet time of prayer right before an evangelistic event. The hundreds that responded to the alter call were only a shockwave, an aftermath. God had already met with us in prayer.

I remember meeting with a couple of friends in the wee hours of the morning at EMU. We prayed for revival. We found it, but not quite the way we envisioned. We were revived, in fact, seeds were planted in those days that would leave our hearts burning in years to come. I remember the Sunday nights that tarried into Monday mornings. I’ve grown older and wiser since then, but I don’t think I’ve ever been as fervent. I miss that.

I want to pray more this year. I want to really change. Inside change. Not just rearrange the furniture.

You want revival? You want God’s kingdom to come in your heart, your family, your communities or your nation?

Pray with me. I dare you.

Underhill Academy Spring Semester

We started the morning with frothy hot cocoa to celebrate the beginning of our spring semester of school!  Everyday we do Bible, Math, Spelling/Phonics, PE, and Literature/Grammar. Latin is weekly. Zoology and History are on alternate days.

Bible: Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Vos; Heidelberg Catechism
Math: continuing Saxon 8/7 for Em and Horizons for Gracie and Maggie
Spelling: all working through the Websters Speller
PE: One hour outside as weather permits, riding bikes at the chimneys, preparing soil for gardens, hunting wildflowers, or inside playing the wii if the weather is bad.
History: Em in Landmark History: Appomattox to Moon Landing. Little people doing Geography/Cultures unit study.
Science: Em reading an Elementary Zoology book (Apologia)to little people and helping plan projects and experiments
Phonics: Maggie reading the Speller to me daily and has Dolce sight word flashcards. Gracie reading 1 chapter in Bible to me daily. Millie and Annie watch a few minutes of you tube phonics videos and Millie has papers to do
Literature/Grammar: Gracie doing selected reading in book “What every 3rd grader should know” Em selecting own books to read from an approved list
Latin: one lesson a week from Latin Primer, translating Genesis from Latin to English

Family Project: I am busy printing out fact sheets about various flowering plants and vegetables. Kids are going to research what plants would grow best in various locations and each plan a garden plot (with my help). We will order seeds, start plants in the greenhouse, and work together to turn their gardens into a reality.

Coop: Kids will be in a musical and continuing with PE. Maggie will learn about sign language and community helpers. Gracie and Em will get some more Geography or Cultures

Margarita Religion

I’m sipping water and B vitamins this morning, trying to flush the slightly toxic feeling from my system. I don’t normally drink much at all, it upsets my tummy. This Christmas found myself handing out margarita’s with liberality and joy.

Though we try to dress it up with tinsel and lights, Christmas is a celebration of brokeness. Broken world. God who puts on broken flesh. “This is my body … broken”

So, what does that have to do with this slightly nauseated feeling? Everything.

I saw those pictures we all posted to facebook. The warm glowy perfection of the holiday season. Only, is it really like that? Or is Christmas the time when all the fault lines and hurt rise to the surface. The only time the whole family gets together to judge and fear judgement. Maybe I’m the only descendant of the first parents out there, but I doubt it.

I am a sinner, the child of sinners, the sibling of sinners, but I never learned to be a friend of sinners. I never learned of the one whose yoke was easy and burden is light. Perhaps I’d never forgiven and been forgiven.

We can’t change the past, but there is Someone who can redeem it. I can’t fix people of make them follow my plan for their lives, but there is One who promised the His sheep would hear His voice and follow Him.

So I’m with the guy from the wedding in Cana. The One who turned water to wine. The One who put on our flesh and ate with prostitutes and drank with the IRS. I’m the one in the corner mixing the drinks and saying Come! Come drink with me, come eat with me, come know me in all my foolish brokeness. We don’t have to talk religion. Or politics. Welcome to my life, there’s another guest at the feast, and He throws a much better party then I can.

His name is Jesus…

The people sitting in darkness have seen a great Light. He came, true God clothed in poor flesh. He was often moved to compassion. He was the son of David that healed blind Bartimeus. He was the Son of God who did not despise the Samaritan woman, but pointed her to the day when all would worship in Spirit and in truth. He told a rich young ruler that if he wanted to be perfect he should sell everything he had and give it to the poor. He healed on the Sabbath.

Long ago, a guy named Balaam was called upon to curse Israel, but each time he opened his mouth, blessing came out. The greatest and final blessing was that at some time in the future, a Star and Scepter would come. In fact, all of creation has born witness of his coming through all the ages. I though it was cool the other day when I read about an ancient Sumerian prophecy about a lamb whose blood would be that sacrifice for sin.

He came. God put on Flesh. His mission: seek and save that which was lost. His stated purpose: The Spirit of Lord Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.

Joy to the World!

Have yourself a Sexy Sol Invictus…and Lift up your eyes

Warning… this post is probably offensive. I don’t care.
If you are like most Americans, you’re getting ready to celebrate Christmas. Awesome. I am not going to rail a bunch of trivia at you about pagan holidays, because, in the end if a thing is pointing to the Incarnation of the Savior of the World, even a little bit, its GOOD. GOOD. It may not be sanctioned. It may not be best. But if it turns our world weary eyes just A LITTLE BIT to the throne of Grace, then YES and AMEN. Both Jesus and Paul seemed Ok with the whole “whoever isn’t against us is for us” take on it.

However, in the name of living an Incarnate life, I am going to add a few of my own Christmas traditions (in totally random order).
1) I shaved my legs. Above the knee. I am donating to a charity for hairless cats. And I am making an effort to push toward the things that are good and excellent an praiseworthy in my marriage bed. The whole “growing my own winter stockings thing” wasn’t humility, it was laziness.
2) Christmas morning, I am making a decadent breakfast.Then we will watch each person open their gifts. One by one. And we will take joy in each persons joy.
3) No elf on the shelf. We use this season to remind the kids that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Santa isn’t keeping a list of naughty or nice.  Sin is offense punishable by death, not a few lumps of coal. We are all sinners utterly dependent on God’s Great and MOST PRECIOUS gift.
4) I assign to Christmas the same importance I will assign to the day I get out the graph paper and help the children plan our garden and flower beds. It is part of the rhythm, the seasons on life that we trod deep groves and learn devotion in. I happen to like the liturgical calender. It’s a teaching tool, like phonics or flashcards or anything else we use to help imprint important things on young minds. It is not holy in itself, but can be used to holy ends.

So bring on the figgy pudding. Break out the Wassail. In the darkest days of the year, on those cold winter nights, we’ll sing you a song of the days of the Light.

Snapshots from this Advent Season

My camera isn’t working, so I’ll try to catch some of these memories with words. This year brings with it rousing chorus’ from well loved Christmas songs, especially since Gracie came home from caroling with all of the words. Vomit to be washed from hair after one child, who shall remain nameless, ate almost an entire peanut butter pie. Mimi at the dining room table with paints and ornaments. Hiding a bicycle (a present for Em) while she was away caroling with the youth group. Trying to hang said bicycle on the back of an outbuilding door 🙂

The kiddos were is a Christmas program at church yesterday. They belted out Away in a manger and Silent night, then got to dress up for a manger scene. Annie was with Shane, but got away right before the service started. She visited several of our neighbors before making her way up to the front.

Emily herded a group of sweet, mischievous little shepherd boys. They were well behaved, but my angel Millie must’ve gotten her halo on crooked. She had a hard time standing still during the readings.

Annie talking, coming up with new words and sayings daily. Millie loudly singing the words to her favorite carols. Always hungry Maggie, looking for one more Christmas cookie. Sweet Emily. Serious Gracie.

I look forward to this coming week of happy celebration. The rhythm of our lives remain. Chores. Reading in 1st and 2nd Samuel. The singing of Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Even a bit of schoolwork. For now, those little snapshots are bordered in tinsel, frosted in buttercream, and a constant reminder of an Incarnate God who ate and drank and wept and loved well. And told the lisping children “Come”.