A Lesson from Christmas Carol Kauffman

I was about twelve when I read Mrs. Kauffman’s semi-biographical novel, Hidden Rainbow for the first time. My heart was moved by the story of young Anna and her sweet husband John, as they became believers and as they grew from the works based religion into a life filled with grace by faith.  I watched John and Anna endure painful persecution when they left the  Catholic church. Once John and Anna trusted Christ for their salvation.

The Kauffman’s Anabaptist history comes through beautifully in the Hidden Rainbow. Her understanding of grace by faith alone, pours out onto each page as she outlines the struggles of Anna and John Olesh in their attempt to separate from the Catholic faith in former Yugoslavia.

It is not strange that one book can have a deep impact on the soul of a person, but that is what Hidden Rainbow became to me. I have read Hidden Rainbow multiple times since then, but have found that it is a story that has enveloped my life in so many ways.

From the book Hidden Rainbow, my heart learned to beat fast, yearning for the salvation of those in countries closed to the light of Christ. Even today, I beg the Lord to set free captive hearts in such countries where the preaching of the gospel is not allowed.

Seeing the vigilance of a mother under persecution for her faith, I also pray for the strength of believers living in countries where they are not free to read Scripture and worship God. And for the hearts of the precious children of persecuted believers, seeing the forceful pull of government and worshipers of false gods, who sometimes even separate children from Christian parents.

Hidden Rainbow also gave me a perspective of how straight and narrow the path of grace alone is. The path of grace is unmeldable with any other course. No one can purchase a soul with money. No freedom from sin is found in baptism. No prayer, no birthright, no act of another can secure our souls in Christ.

In our American culture, the melding of grace and works is exceedingly prominent among many people who hold dearly to a prayer they said as a child or a life full of religious habits-including Bible reading, prayer, and church. Faithfulness to God does not save our souls.

People are constantly attempting to attach grace to works. It is a futile attempt as grace and works cannot be forced together in any method. The early church of Galatia attempted to blend works and faith and received a pointed letter from Paul.

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—” Gal 1:6

The only true gospel is dependence on God alone for the redemption of one’s soul and the journey of its sanctification. The false gospel is nothing more than a dependence on one’s self. Trust in grace alone cannot be combined and remain grace alone.

As I journey with Anna and John in their tear filled journey of persecution by the Catholic church, I see their dependency on God strengthened. I see the divide deepened as Anna and John are refused work and John must flee to America to help support his family.

As I see in this book the devotion and commitment of marriage spans oceans. There were no cell-phones or messenger apps to aid John and Anna in their connection. They did not even have a photograph to send with each other. They were committed to each other in a doubtless, unquestioning, and supportive way that few modern marriages understand.

Left with the children in Yogoalavia, Anna stands before a judge for refusing to baptize her infants. Anna is persecuted by her village as they refuse to let her purchase food out of fear of being associated with her. Anna and John’s family beg them to repent and turn back to Catholicism, grieving that  John and Anna no longer submit to the Catholic church and will be doomed to hell.

The gospel is not a uniting truth, but a dividing truth. As Anna struggles to keep her family together, the rift between her, and her extended family becomes deeper, until she is separated from her home by an ocean.

Hidden rainbow is certsinly a book that has stuck to my ribs throughout the years as I my life has encountered some of the challenges John and Anna faced. It gives the heart courage to face what has already been faced and persevered by others.

Motivating Children to Cook and Bake

Busy mother’s know how easy it is to do everything themselves and keep out the “help.” How many mother’s use their dinnertime prep to allow their children to sit in front of the television?

I think everyone should know how to cook. Cooking is a life skill that is essential to thriving. By learning to cook a healthy, balanced meal, a person can keep his or her body nourished. If one is prone to buy prepared food or restaurant food, cooking will save money as well. Many also find cooking to be a creative outlet and relieve the stresses of life.

Cooking is also an important for ministering tool. Food blesses people in a way little else can. When I was an undergrad taking a cooking an meal management class, a young man was in my class. He did not know a thing about cooking, but wanted to learn so he could help our his wife someday. I loved that sacrificial perspective. And think more people who find themselves uneasy in the kitchen, need to humble themselves and learn how to be more comfortable in the kitchen simply to enhance ministry opportunities.

I believe everyone is able to learn to cook. Cooking does not have to be of gourmet caliber. I am afraid the television has ruined our standards of what makes a fine meal. If one can learn to create a delicious plate of vegetables and meat, cooking has happened. In fact, simple meals are preferred by most of the population. People find such comfort it an unintimidating bowl of chicken and rice.

Baking is a little more complicated in my opinion because it involves a bit more chemistry than cooking, but baking is usually the preference of children’s kitchen activities. Children love to mix flours and powders. They love to sample the interesting ingredients. Children especially love to get messy, gooey, and sticky as they touch dough and powders.

So, as a busy mother, how am I inspiring my children to enjoy cooking and baking?

  1. Cultivate habits of keeping children close while working in the kitchen. Children need to know they have a place beside mother in the kitchen. They learn that as infants strapped to their mother’s chest while she works. Children learn to have a place in the kitchen while they hang on mother’s pant leg while she scurries to make supper. Children learn to have a place in the kitchen as they pull up a stool and stir ingredients into a bowl. The kitchen becomes connected to warmth, comfort, and home very quickly to a child who spends his or her time beside mother there, day after day.
  2. Allow time to include children in meal prep and baking. Kitchen work will move at a slower pace if children are involved. I confess it is not convenient to have children underfoot while I work in the kitchen, but the point in having children was not for convenience. If I allow a little extra time by starting dinner early or give myself grace to eat a little later, I can include the little dears into the cooking experience.
  3. Learn to cherish the messes made by little “helping” hands. If I embrace the blessing of flour on the floor, sticky fingers being licked, eggshells in the cookies, and splatters around the pot I find joy in my heart instead of frustration as I work alongside my little ones in the kitchen. It is all a matter of what I choose to see as beautiful in that moment.
  4. Let them enjoy have choices of what they bake and cook. All of my children have favorite foods. If I am making one of those particular things, I will often ask if they want to help me. For Thanksgiving, each child gets to make his or her favorite pie. For Christmas, I let the children choose a couple cookies to help me bake for our neighbors. As I am menu planning for the week or the month, I will often ask the children for meal ideas and they can help me cook the meals they choose.
  5. Be around to guide, but don’t micromanage. As my children get older, they are more and more independent in the kitchen. My older children can make lunch on days I have no time…scrambled eggs, noodles, sandwiches, and toast are a few easy lunch items they put together. I will never forget the blessing it was one morning a couple months ago to wake up to the smell of eggs toast, and hot coffee made independently, and unprompted by my three girls! Micromanaging my kitchen would make my children feel as though they have no place there. So, I am careful to say “yes” as often as possible to their kitchen endeavors. I wan them to feel that it is their kitchen too!
  6. Show cleanup is part of cooking. Cleanup is usually the least fun portion of cooking for both adults and children. I like to teach my children to clean as they go. It really helps not have a mountain of work after the food has been cooked. When they are very young, I help them out. I do not want the cleanup to discourage them from working in the kitchen. But as a child is more capable, I insist the cleanup be done by her. I so not want to cultivate habits of leaving messes for others, in the kitchen or anywhere else.
  7. Utilize, don’t stifle a child’s natural curiosity in the kitchen. Children have a natural interest in tastes, smells, and textures of what is found in the kitchen. I am not saying I want my children burying their hands in my container of flour, but I do my best to allow them to use their senses while they cook. To enjoy and learn, it is essential that they know the ingredients they are using, so yes, there is a lot of tasting, smelling, and touching going on as we cook!
  8. Create a kitchen environment for each child’s best experience. I enjoy listening to classical harp music while cooking, but I have a daughter who prefers stories, and a son who prefers toddler songs. I allow the child helping me to have his or her pick of listening material or conversation with mom while cooking or baking. I think it helps each child take ownership of the kitchen and have a sense of belonging while he or she works.
  9. Keep the cooking to one child at a time. I have mistakenly included too many children at once in my cooking work. Then I cannot remember if the baking powder was added in, or if both scoops of sugar were included… It messes things up a bit. Our kitchen is also a small one and there isn’t room for many people in it at once. We often take turns in our house, just to keep the food turning out alright. One child can help with vegetables for dinner and another prep meat for roasting. It can be divided up easily and in shifts. Oh the joy each child takes when “their” dish is enjoyed at dinner.
  10. Purpose to teach children to make age-appropriate dishes. When a child is at a certain maturity, he or she can be taught to use knives, turn on the stove, put cookies into the oven, and such. Only a mother will know when each of her children is ready to move on to the next step.

Gentle Mothering

blue jeans

Nat stood on the edge of the bridge as shouts of “chicken!” rung out by the boys in the water. Groundskeeper, Nick Riley also in the water, strongly encouraged Nat to jump, telling him “All you’s got to do is take a deep breath, plant your feet; fly.”

As shouts of “you can do it! And Come-On!” rose from the group in the water, encouraging Nat to get over his fear and jump, Jo Bear came across the bridge, noting the pressure being applied Nat.

“Nat, Nat, only jump if you want….you can try again another day.” Jo said.

After a moment of consideration, Nat pulled back from the edge of the bridge and back onto the safety behind the railing.

Bawls and negative comments filed the air from the boys splashing in the water below. As Nick expressed his frustration, Jo, quieted the taunting by saying,

“There is no need to pressure him, Nick, He will do it when he is ready.” (Little Men: Season 1 ep. 2, Brainstorm Media, 1999).

I completely resonate with Jo in her gentle methods of child training. By giving a child time to grow and learn, confidence in each area is peacefully obtained at a child’s own natural pace.

In our world, there is incredible pressure upon children to develop at a standardized pace. From the first time a child is measured and weighed at birth, the practice of the standardization of that child has begun.  

We see standardization in the types of food that everyone should eat, to the amounts of food. We see standardization of life-styles, vacations, birthday parties, clothing brands, vaccination timelines, and medical treatments. What is culturally normal often sets the precedence for what is right for each person.

As a culture, we do not even think it is okay to question the standards set by experts. According to Scripture, parents are given divine authority and a sacred position by God to raise their children. That sacred position was not given to any other family member, the state, or so called experts. A mother fails when she “does not think enough of her position; and has not sufficient confidence in her own authority.” (Charlotte Mason, Home Education p. 162)

Any mother would heartily agree that her child is anything but standard. A mother is the most important expert on her child.

She should freely choose to rely upon certain people to help guide her discover what is best for her child, and she should guiltlessly choose to press forward or pull back as she feels it is best for her child. Yet, she, often with reluctance, submits to boxing in the mental, social, and physical development of her child, despite her better judgment.

In my journey of child raising, I have been guilty of resting upon an expert or two despite my better judgement. In that, there is also no shame. Looking back I would choose differently now, but at the time, that is where I was, and God’s grace is completely capable of filing in all the gaps of my parenting failures.

How many tearful children have stood at the door of kindergarten grieving the change forced upon him or her before being ready? But parents and teachers pay no heed. The child survives and moves on, so the system must work.

How many parents rush to pediatricians and child psychologists because their child is not performing inside the box of behaviors and skills expected for his or her age? How many needless diagnosis are given to children who simply need time to mature in certain areas?

Mother after mother puts her trust in a medical system or an educational system before trusting her own instincts. Mother after mother fears her child will be “behind” if not pushed to physically and mentally meet a standardized norm.

Yes, I very much realize there are very valid needs to seek help for a child to excel within his or her own God given sphere of development. Many children do need support in various ways. But oh to embrace even such a child as absolutely normal in his or her God given capacity of growth and development is of extreme importance. No diagnosis should taint or set the precedence for how she believers her child will best thrive.

I have a sweet little girl who is on the autism spectrum. As a mother, it has taken me time to get beyond the diagnosis and see through my child. Having a diagnosis can be helpful to get needed support for a child to thrive, however, it should not be the glasses from which a mother sees her child. A diagnosis is merely a tool that she can utilize to give her child support in needed areas. My child is not Autistic. My child is, a complete person, and must be fully, and firstly perceived by me, in her perfect, God given image.

How many children are actually hindered by well meaning parents who cannot see their child past a diagnosis. As a result, there are children who are sheltered and hovered over, missing multiple opportunities for which they are beyond ready. And yet, other children are pushed to stressful limits to do things they will eventually be prepared to do if given enough time and support.

As I speak of gentle mothering, I am certainly not at all talking about lazy parenting, but HUMBLE and PURPOSEFUL methods of parenting that require mom and dad stepping back and giving a child space to grow at his or her own time.

A Note on Humbleness: Gentle parenting requires humble parenting. A mother who realizes her child’s purpose is not for the glory of the mother, but the glory of God. A mother with that biblical perspective does not seek to boast in her child’s accomplishments.

Children in our culture are put on stage from the moment mom or dad posts the newborn baby photo on Instagram. The internet is full of pictures, videos, and accomplishments of children posted for no deeper purpose than a parent’s pride. A humble mother will deeply consider the reason behind each posting of her child before ever putting it out there. Generally, she will find, a quick text to Grandma with the dear little snapshot is sufficient to bring the right person joy.

I have a friend who was so convicted of her pride of her children and family that she will not even send out a family photo Christmas card. Obviously, this is simply an area that must be dealt with on an individual basis, since every mother knows her own heart on the area.

Despite the motives of a parent, children want to make their parents proud. How sad for the child who’s parents take advantage of that innocent desire of pleasing Mom and Dad, and whose parents use their child as a mechanism of self-glorification.

A child who is easily accomplished will thrive on stage, but will never learn the virtue of a humble heart as his or her accomplishments are applauded by the world.

A child who lacks confidence and performs poorly will shrink back further from the limelight in fear of his or her mistakes.

Parents must be very careful not to allow their own prideful motivations to pressure their children into situations and skills.

A note on purposeful: A wise and discerning mother will know when her child is ready for the next step in his or her journey. She will know to provide adequate support for that next step and provided the needed support for her child.

Sometimes, like Jo Bear, a mother needs do set her child free from pressure to perform, but she must also know when it is time to stand back, be silent, and let her child jump. This is the picture of a mother who truly knows her child. She is present in her child’s life. She hears her child when he or she speaks. She observes her child’s behavior. She is dedicated to understanding her child’s feelings and intentions. A gentle mother works devotedly to become deeply aware of the characteristics of the little humans given by God to grow under her charge.

Before I conclude, I will note that gentle mothering is not at all a laziness in mothering, neither is it a child-centered method of parenting.

Such gentle mothering is hard, dedicated work takes enormous prayer, advice seeking, and a deep knowledge of one’s child.

The gentle mother does not let her children rule her home. Her children, obey and deeply respect her, despite her imperfections. Her children do not respect her because she has forced them by punishment and fear to do as she says. They honor her because she has proved herself to be a faithful, honest, consistent, and trustworthy person to whom respect is naturally given.

This grace-filled mother firmly grasps her God-given place as her child’s authority and instructor. The responsibility of motherhood weighs heavily upon her.

The key to this gentle mother’s rule, is how she perceives her children. She sees them as complete, sacred, beautiful souls who have been entrusted by God’s grace to her nurture and care, for a very brief season. It is with fear of God and respect of what has been given to her by Him, that this mother sees her children.

I strongly encourage the reading of an older post: Little Whos are People Too for those who desire to get a more thoughts concerning a child’s being. It is essential a mother sees her children as anything but inferiors, but as complete, human beings.

What troubles a child is no small thing, and should not be treated as trifle. The sweet conversations of children must be heard with all seriousness. The pains and sorrows of a child, though seemingly small to an adult, are not insignificant to that little one. An injury to a child is not only an outward pain, but for some children, a moment of insecurity, and a moment mother’s time and affection is greatly needed. A scribbled drawing or a build of blocks that a child wants mommy to see, may appear a waste of mother’s time, but to that child, it is important. Mommy needs to truly appreciates and takes a moment to observe the details of her child’s work. A child must be seen and treated as the whole image-bearing person he is.

A gentle mother is a grace-filled mother. She will see her little charge standing on the edge of the bridge, his little knees shaking as he is pressured to jump. He wants to jump, and someday he will jump.

But for today, that mother will know, how serious an issue this is to him on so many accounts. His trouble will be real to her.

She will set him free from any obligation to jump and quietly wait for the day he will jump, holding no doubts in her mind, that someday, he will overcome what holds him back and he will jump.

And she will be there, on that day, tears in her eyes, knowing what has been overcome in order for him to be able to jump.

If he did not wait, and he jumped out of desire to please others or desire to be included in the brave group of boys who had already jumped, his jump would be empty, and he would never be afforded the time to deal with his fears.

Yogurt Cheese: Whey too Easy NOT to Make


One 16 oz. container of Greek yogurt with live active cultures (homemade works well, as does any fat content)Thin cotton towel or cheesecloth, Cold plastic drink container with tight fitting lid

Directions: (This seriously takes about three minutes total)

  1. Open the container of Greek Yogurt and plop the yogurt onto the thin towel or cloth.

2. Gently twist the cloth a little around the yogurt and then pinch the edges of the cloth around the top of the container so the yogurt is swinging inside the cloth about halfway down.

3. Pinch the cloth into place with the lid.

4. Pop in the fridge for 24 hours.

5. When the cloth is removed, there will be whey liquid on the bottom of the container (whey) and cheese inside the cloth.

6. The whey can be eaten, or used in fermenting other foods, or simply put down the drain.

7. The cheese can be seasoned or put in a covered container to use at a later date.

I love yogurt cheese. It is thick and creamy like cream cheese, but tangy like yogurt.

I made a batch of yogurt cheese yesterday. It is a very simple process.

Various flavors can be added to it…everything bagel, capers, olives, garlic or onion are simple choices to add to the yogurt cheese. However I experiment often and am always coming up with new ideas.

Yogurt cheese can replace cream cheese in many instances.

I like to keep my yogurt cheese for fresh occasions rather than baked goods so none of the precious bacteria are killed during heating, but this is a personal choice. It often is a healthy spread for bagels or sandwiches, but can be a great snacking alternative to junk snacks as well.

Yogurt as we know is packed full of amazing friendly bacteria. Unless one is making his or her own yogurt, the friendly bacteria is killed along with the nasty bacteria in the American pasteurization process. Some yogurt companies are conscious of that fact, and introduce healthy bacteria into the yogurt after the pasteurization process. If bacteria is added back into the yogurt, it will be noted on the label as “live” and/or “active” cultures. Sometimes only two cultures are added back in. However a good brand of yogurt will add six or more back into the yogurt. Homemade yogurt, is still superior, sporting twelve or more strains of friendly bacteria. It is simple to pick up a container of yogurt at a store, but many people, including myself if time permits, opt to make their own yogurt simply so they can receive the optimum benefits of yogurt.

Morning Tea Booster

I love a good cup of coffee, but in an attempt to gentle my nervous system, I have been switching out my morning cup of coffee for a less caffeinated and nutrient rich tea blend.

Due to it’s protein content, on more busy mornings, this tea will carry me through the morning until lunch. It is also a great way to get in vitamins and minerals that could otherwise be neglected as well.

12 oz. Water
1-2 bags Oolong Tea
1 T. Matcha tea powder
1 t. baobab powder
1/8 t. stevia
2 t. vitamin C crystals
4-5 drops liquid vitamin D
3-4 drops liquid vitamin B
powdered magnesium
3 T. Whey protein powder
3 T. Collagen Powder
1 T. MCT oil
1/2 t. extract (almond, vanilla, coconut, pineapple, mango, banana, strawberry, or spices like cinnamon and nutmeg…whatever sounds good)

  1. Brew a cup of Oolong tea in a tall measuring cup with about 12oz. water
  2. Remove tea bag or leaves and add the remaining ingredients
  3. Blend all ingredients together with a stick blender. (My favorite kitchen gadget!)

Note: Most vitamins can be found in powder or liquid form and are easy to take in tea. Natural extract flavorings are also found online and in many stores.

I understand a lot of these ingredients are not what most folks keep on hand, but I have reasons for using them and find they are a huge boost to my immune system and aid in my body’s health. Obviously this recipe can be tailored to fit any budget and healthy requirement.

God, Nature, and Anna Comstock

On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. Ps. 145:5

Nature, second to the incredible truths of Scripture, has an ability to point our hearts to worship in awe of God Our Maker. Nothing points to God as incredibly as what He has made. Whether it is the human body He has made in HIs image, or the roaring sea rolling over crabs scurrying across the beach, the more awe we hold for nature, the more likely our hearts will be sent into childish and heartfelt awe of our Creator.

For those of us who believe in God as the creator of all things, nature is part of our theology. It is crucial we not the creational work of God mindlessly.

I am a busy person and understand it is easy to not walk this earth slowly enough to even savor the sunrise. But, as this created universe is a direct key to adoring my Father more, I have been convicted time and time again of my haste to live in it and not truly see with awe the world I am living in. But am deeply committed that my children also develop a deep appreciation for God’s creation. Every science we study is a direct finger pointing to God, saying “Wow!”

Scientists have been on earth studying what God has made for thousands of years, and as time has passed, science has only shown us how mush more there is to learn! We don’t know the half of the expanse of the universe. We don’t understand the workings of time. We cannot wrap our minds around eternity. There are animals and fish we have yet to discover. We have not even broached past the thin crust of our own planet!

As I teach my children about God, His creation gives great ease in pointing their little hearts to be amazement and awe of Him.

I love the emphasis placed upon nature through the Charlotte Mason Method of education that we use for home-schooling our children. We begun our nature education by spending time enjoying nature. Charlotte Mason recommends children play outdoors a minimum of two hours a day, regardless of weather. Although, whether does matter a bit to me, I do encourage my children to get outdoors at every given opportunity and never discourage them from going out to play.

We didn’t begin studying nature by going on nature walks and identifying birds and plants. We began learning to love nature by rolling in the grass, climbing trees, building mud pies, watching birds and squirrels at our feeder, following an ant to her tribe, and catching butterflies in nets.

Once an enjoyment of nature was established, we moved on slowly to drawing, photographing, and coloring nature. Honestly, with an enjoyment for creation established, the more detailed attention into what was already enjoyed is a natural step. My children started a nature sketchbook before they could write. Each term we focus on studying one aspect of nature. We have studied birds, agriculture, insects, reptiles, and this term we are working on freshwater fish.

That is where Comstock’s book: Handbook of Nature comes in. Anna Comstock, has been our guide as we learn about this amazing world and the creatures God has made. She is a renowned anthropologist from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Her studies on nature are not only well versed, but she doesn’t wax too eloquent for children. Her notes on each animal or plant are brief, but specific.

I am not certain she is a Christian, but Anna Comstock makes note of God in her writing as many authors in the early days of our country did. So, I am confident my children are getting a perspective on nature that acknowledges God as the Creator.

I love the entertaining and easy reading through Comstock’s Handbook of the Study of Nature. We read about the brook trout a few weeks ago and in her notes on his eating habits she writes: “Woe to the unfortunate insect that falls upon the surface of the water in his vicinity…”

At the end of each nature lesson, Anna Comstock directs us in specific observations, questions and thoughts that give us room to see the created item through with eyes of detail and thought, giving us sketching or essay starts. My children have absorbed so much about nature from simply processing what they have learned through drawing or oral essays-eventually written essays.

As we continue out journey of the study of God’s creation, I am find my own heart falling into worship as we learn about this amazing world, the incredible design in this fallen universe, that I can easily echo with my children and the Psalmist:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him? Ps. 8:3-4

O Lord, how manifold are your works!
    In wisdom have you made them all;
    the earth is full of your creatures. Ps. 104:24

Some Lessons From Grandma

I have been praying for my grandma a lot this past week as she has been wrestling with a bit of bronchitis. As a result, I have been reminded of so many ways she has impacted my life.

My Grandmother has a body that has lived ninety-six years. Her mind on the other hand is as young and energetic as a twenty-three-year-old.

She has lived through the Great Depression, World War I, and everything in-between now, and 1925. She is an incredible woman, with stamina that would take any woman to ninety-six!

My grandmother is a jack-of-all trades, and if she doesn’t know how to do something, she will find out how. She is a researcher, remember, thinker, and as curious as Albert Einstein.

The first impact that comes to mind would be music. Music is my grandmother’s great passion. I started taking piano lessons from her when I was five. She was a perfectionist. I was not. She felt all music should be played exactly as it was written. I liked to make up other parts in a piece (generally because I was too lazy to figure out the right notes in a cord). Grandma knew that though. She gave me finger drills and scales each lesson. She felt the fingering had to be spot on. I had no trouble crossing my ring finger over my index finger as needed. Grandma had her work cut out for her.

I wish I could say I came around to a more precise method of piano playing, but alas, to this day, my sight reading is week and my fingers want to play whatever my brain invents. And very sadly, I still have poor fingering and timing.

But Grandma’s efforts were not a loss. From her, I gained a deep appreciation for music and am determined to pass that on to my children as a life skill. In fact, music is deeply valued by all Grandma’s children and grandchildren as a result of her fervor and encouragement for it.

Education is something else my Grandmother deeply valued. Her father was the principle of the local public school. He held a Master’s Degree in the 1900’s. My grandmother also got a collage degree. For  woman in the 1940’s a college degree was a rare feat. All Grandma’s children and grandchildren also attended college, most of us with graduate degrees.

Education was priceless to Grandma and that value has been passed down from generation to generation. To this day, I am already preparing my children’s hearts to gain an education beyond high school. I truly believe in the value of having a tool or two in one’s belt. Education is a huge life asset even if one never uses the exact skill set he or she attended college to get. College acts like a springboard to greater opportunities. Much more is learned by receiving a college education than a paper degree too. It is rare anyone with a degree ever regrets getting one, but I have heard many regrets from those who did or could not take that path.

Just yesterday, my mother told me of little children in Africa walking miles to school. They sometimes encounter dangers on the way, and often go without food. In our culture of mostly free, easy schooling, it is inevitable that children grow up bemoaning their learning and not thinking of education as a privilege. The whole book of Proverbs speaks of the value of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Education is a great treasure and I know my Grandma sees it as that.

Grandma’s love for education does not stop with formal schooling, she has taught me to never be satisfied with what I know. To her, life is one big education. Grandma is incredibly curious. She wants to know everything about everything. Even at ninety-six she has an i-pad and likes to look up, this, and that. Her life is full of rabbit trails of knowledge.

As a child this made her a favorite person in my life. She was always interested in what I had to say, what I made, and anything that interested me. Everything is so interesting to her. I find my heart pricked if my mind is too occupied to soak in my children’s Lego builds or hear them tell of their dream from the night.

Just like my Grandma, I like to take learning detours with my children. At Grandma’s house we would see a bird at her feeder, even a familiar one like a cardinal, and she would go get her bird book and read us all about it. Later that week, she would drop by an article from the National Geographic. If we see something interesting, we stop and learn more about it. Learning was a constant in her world.

Grandma’s fascination with nature still brings my distracted heart back to earth. Nature is often far too neglected in our busy world. The Charlotte Mason method of education I have chosen focuses a lot on noticing nature in children’s younger years. From admiring little beetles under logs to taking long frolics in the meadow. Nature is truly a gift we have on earth to enjoy. All of my children have various fascinations with aspects of God’s creation. It is such a simple way to point each one to their Creator. Just look what an amazing animal God made! Look how the beautiful a tree is when it is dying! Our God has power over this thunder storm. We love nature, because it points our hearts to the creator.

My grandmother bought all of our children subscriptions to various National Geographic publications for years. She send my children articles on bugs, butterflies, and weather. She will give us old calendars with beautiful photographs of animals and birds. It is funny to see how her passion is being passed on to each generation.

Grandma savors everything and doesn’t hurry herself through life. I do not think I will ever have the skill of noticing details like my Grandmother does, but I think of her often in our world of glossing over generalizations. It is tempting to be fast, to skip over things, to see an image as a whole, and miss the whole point because the point of things is often seen in the details that we miss.

In our rush through life, there stands my Grandma, back by exhibit one, reading through all the information, gazing intently at the art and noticing every color. We rush through our meals and gobble up dessert. But there is Grandma, still sitting at the table, enjoying each morsel of her first helping. We hurry out on a walk, and loose Grandma. She is back at the first mile looking up in the trees with her binoculars.

We rush through life so quickly, I am afraid we will never get quite as much out of it as my grandmother who savors, notices, and is content to let the time pass without hurrying. Much could be learned by my soul if I  slow down taste the food I eat and listen to the people I am with.

Grandma knows how to be frugal. Living through the depression and a World War must have made a huge impact on my Grandmother. To this day she saves everything. She keeps the wax paper our of cereal boxes. Plastics bags are washed and reused. A paper napkin is used for more than just one meal. Handkerchiefs are still her preference to tissues. Grandma is careful not to be wasteful to the point her attics contain piles of brown paper bags, newspapers, empty milk boxes, and egg cartons. There may be a use for it someday.

Frugality is a lost art. This past year, some of us experienced the slight taste of valuing what we would normally waste, as paper products and some food items were scarce. It was short lived and we have returned back to our comforts, but for a time, we might have held a few things more carefully than we generally do. I admit to being a busy, rather wasteful person. Compared to my Grandmother, I ought to be ashamed. I am so busy, taking the time to wash a Ziploc bag crosses my mind, then leaves. I also do not like the clutter of various stored objects being set aside for later use. But as time goes on, I am seeing it as poor stewardship and a huge lack of gratitude. I need to find a good balance of frugality of time and resources and I know I could do better with both.

My grandmother is an incredible person the more I think about it. We all leave legacies to generations after us. The core life values my Grandma has instilled in her legacy are incredible, and have shaped our thinking, decisions, and paths for generations to come. I am grateful to still have a living Grandmother, and grateful for the valuable role she has played in my life!

The Ministry of Touch in the Home

Photo by Linnea Herner on Pexels.com

Touch connects us to our surroundings. Touch is what makes everything real. Thomas, a disciple of Jesus refused to believe that Jesus was truly alive until he saw and touched his Master. “So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe'” John 20:25. So many things we hear about are far less real to us until we see and touch them. Touch is how we experience reality. We humans are strongly connected to the physical world through our sense of touch.

Have you ever sat on your foot and realized you have cut off the circulation to it? Although you can see it, it is very difficult to orient where your foot is in the world. Yes, it is still attached to your leg, but it feels unfamiliar and awkward. It nearly impossible to even to take a step until the nerves in the foot have recovered. It is times like those that we realize how important our sense of touch is! Without feeling, we cannot even connect to the floor.

Some people struggle more than others with where they are in relation to the world. And some people struggle more at different times in their lives.

People who struggle with connection to the world are many and it is good for us who minister with our homes to be aware of people who might be in extra need of tenderness as they are in our home.

Older folk are weaker in body and have slower reflexes, balance, and a nervous system that is often concentrated on bodily pain. For many older folks, connecting to surroundings is crucial to keep from stumbling. They also live in a sense of feeling misunderstood, and disconnected with others as their mental and physical states slows down. It is needful for us to have things for older folks to grab onto..handrails on steps, a bar by the toilet and in the shower (especially if we have long term or frequent elderly folks staying in our home). For short term older visitors, such accommodations may not be necessary, but we should be conscious of placement during seating. I have found a chair with two arms is often easier for an older person to get out of, rather than a plush sofa. So, we could kindly direct our frail guests to the safer furniture in the room if they should prefer it. When my aging parents come to visit, my Daddy often prefers sitting on the floor to a sofa, it is less painful on his back and easier to get up from. Sometimes, elderly folk need a firm mattress because they cannot get out of a bed where they sink in too far. It is good just to be mindful of the things our weaker friends and family may find helpful to grab or rest.

Other people who may struggle with bodily awareness in this world is anyone who struggles with a physical or mental condition. Nerves can simply be wired inside the body in a way that causes weakness, numbness, discomfort, dizziness, uncoordinated, and mental strain. Various nerve re-wires can occur in multitudes of ways, sometimes before birth, from an injury, disease, hormonal imbalances, medications, or even high amounts of stress. We should be sensitive toward those in our home who might need a little extra physical connection, or a little less physical connection. This isn’t always easy to know with new friends, but it is something we should learn about others quickly so we can adequately minister to their souls in our home as best as we are able.

All children struggle exponentially more than most adults with their connection to the world because a child is not only continually growing, but still developing bodily awareness. No wonder a child will stumble and fall countless times a day. As a keeper of the home, showing grace over accidents is invaluable. Milk spills, bowls break, and ankles twist when a person’s height increases an inch over a month’s time. It is also crucial that I reach out to these little souls who are still developing a spiritual awareness and wrap my arms around them. They need snuggles, kisses, and hugs to thrive in their lives and to feel not only my love poured out on them, but learn to connect better to God as they experience the unconditional, sacrificial love of another real human being holding them tight.

As a wife, making a point to reach out to my husband in touch is crucial. As a married couple, we are sharing the most amazing connection a human can have with another. We are one person. It is hard for either of us to feel like one beating heart, if our hands never hold each others hand. We married folk need to be physically close…we pass each other in the hall and connect with a kiss.  I have incredible power to minister and bless the soul of my husband by simply stroking his hair. He can calm my troubles soul with a long, understanding hug. Physical touch has a powerful way of binding souls together, and love language or not, touch is absolutely essential in marriage.

The sense of touch is essential to all humans. I believe people who did not grow up in a nurturing home, truly struggle all their lives with relationships. Relationships and people are not real because through childhood a person had little to no hands on connection with a person who loves them…no snuggles, no hugs and kisses, no pats on the back or brushing away of tears. No wonder relationships seem unreal… disconnected. Those who live alone may go for weeks, even months without ever connecting with another human through touch. I was told by a dear friend who ministers in nursing homes, that the elderly are particularly left untouched, and a hug means more to them than life itself. Those of us mothers who are surrounded by young children in constant need of affection can easily take for granted the connection we have to other people.

As part of developing a nurturing environment in the home for soul to find rest and joy in God, I find touch is crucial. Contact with other humans is not the only aspect of touch that should be considered. I noted a few ways I like to consider the affects the sense of touch might have in our home as I continually seek to use the home as a tool to minister to the soul and bring souls into a place of worship and deeper understanding of their loving Father.

Human Touch is probably the most important form of touch in our home. Why does a child in distress run to his Mama? Yes, a verbal consolation may take place, but what is really needed is a spot on Mama’s lap and Mama’s arms wrapped around his sobbing body. He needs touch to help heal his sad heart feel better, and he knows it. We don’t really try hard to connect with our children with snuggles, hugs, and kisses. It has always come very naturally for both myself and my husband. Honestly, I can’t stop kissing those sweet chubby cheeks! But I do notice that if I am having a busy day, I am less prone to try to reach out to my children’s emotional needs through a cuddle. It is hard for any mother to jump into affection when her mind is busy checking lists. So, I am certainly working on being aware of my children’s needs even when stress is high in our home.

A hug, a pat on the shoulder does so much to bring comfort to souls. A touch says, “I acknowledge you are real and what you are going through is real.” A touch says, “I see you.” A touch says, “I am here, I am a human with you.” A touch says, “you are not alone.” The power of human contact has been studied extensively. It is incredible the affect it has on the development of a new-born. Touching people brings people together in a way that nothing else can do. People need to connect with each other through the physical world of touch. Touch allows us Christians to open gentle pathways with other humans from this real physical world of senses, to the real world of eternity that cannot even be imagined.

When we have guests over we make a point to connect with them, a handshake for the guys and a shoulder hug for us women is a typical greeting in our culture. It welcomes our friends and makes them felt “seen” as well as provides that connection to them in our home. Without it, they might feel a little lost. There have been times I have missed that moment in our greeting and felt a discomfort as our guests try to feel out where there place is in our home. When there are large groups or several families gathering, it is easy to let greetings slide as people come and go and I get caught up in the kitchen or another conversation. This is an area I am still working on, but certainly I am trying to purpose to greet each guest…even each child (Little Who’s Are People Too) as they come in the doors of our home.
Creature affections are probably the next best thing to human affection. We have a sweet outdoor cat. I know many folks find their spirits are greatly soothed by simply petting a cat. A puppy will probably be in our future. Part of the reason for a dog in our home would be for touch. A good dog will invite touch and acknowledges others by showing unbiased affection through the sense of touch. Animals are great at soothing our souls and providing companionship and someone to talk to for those who live alone. Yes, they can be maintenance, but very often, it is worth the time and expense for the way a creature can be a blessing in the home. I have couple friends who have had a serious head injury. As a result, their doctor prescribed a pet to help relieve stress and help them recover. The main reason a doctor prescribes a therapy animal is touch. By coming into contact with another living creature, stress is relived and nerves are soothed. Touch is very grounding.

Heat and Cold should be set comfortably. I find as I grow older, my body temperature changes. Babies and elderly folks tend to need the house a little warmer than the average individual. When we have guests with very young or of grey hair, I make sure to add extra blankets to the bed, or at least point our guests to where they can get one. Keeping the house comfortable, not too hot or cold is helpful as we converse with others, it is one less distraction we and those we converse with have as we fellowship.

Warmth can also be a very sweet feature in the cold of winter. The warmth of a fireplace or a soft robe or blanket. Helping our friends and family members snuggle and find rest in tje warmth of the home can bring some treasured chats over cups of warm cocoa.

Cold, of course is welcomed in the heat of summer. Iced lemonade, a soft breeze through an open window, or ice-cream in a cone…I find offsetting the season with colder treats somehow brings balance.

Earth and nature are very important to touch. I love to see my children run barefoot through the grass. It seems so natural…real. There are studies on the subject of connection to the earth with our bodies. One of my favorite author’s, Charlotte Mason, notes that it is important for children to run and play outdoors as much as possible. Besides blossoming their imagination and love for learning, being outdoors helps children to develop coordination, strong bones and muscles, and learn where they are in relation to the world, simply by placing their feet on the ground for hours a day. . . or up a tree… Grounding brings confidence, peace, and ease. We need to touch earth, plant something, walk in bare-feet, picnic on the grass… I find touch essential to my soul. I personally need to take the time to connect with the rest of the creation God made. I need to take time to feel the wind blow across my face, the warm sun hit my back, the wet morning grass lick my feet, and mud ooze between my toes. A homemaker can garden, plant things, play with children in bar feet, picnic, and make time for enjoying the feel of all God made and sharing that with others. We grownups need to rejoice in the earth God made, just as much as a child does. It makes my heart fill with awe as though God Himself is reaching out and touching me through His Creation. 

Touch is the gospel. Touch is humanity. Touch is God coming to us in a human form. Touch is God healing our souls.

The Ministry of Scents of the Home

I have always been rather sensitive about smells. When I was pregnant, those sensitivities would escalate to the point I wanted to crawl out of my skin to even take out the trash. Once when I was pregnant, we had dead possum under our porch. The horrible smell leached into our basement and then into the entire house. I found it unbearable to the point I packed up the children and left the house for the day. When my sweet husband came home and saw my distress, he removed the porch floorboards and shoveled out the rotting possum. Then he poured bleach over the entire area. Without the consuming horrid smell, my heart was again at peace.

Smell has a greater affect on our hearts than we realize. Potent, stifling smells can be very stressful and make us want to run as far away as we can. Warm, welcoming smells of stewing applesauce and fresh bread, vanilla and spices, or even a clean, crisp lemon scent can set a tone that makes our hearts be at peace and want to stay a while.

Within the home, creating inviting scents and working to keep unpleasant odors under control is therefore essential in preparing a platform for ministry to happen within our walls. The sense of smell, is therefore a wonderful tool I can use in my pursuit of creating a home environment the welcomes spiritual growth and joy in God.

Pay attention to the smells of the home. So often we become accustomed to smells within our walls, that other people might find foreign or uncomfortable. As much as I enjoy fish, I am careful to chose the nights I will cook it. If I am expecting company after dinner, fish will not be on the menu. Although it does not have an odor I find appalling, for many people, the smell of fish is extremely potent and unpleasant.

Animals that live in the home can also make a home smell. It is important to keep indoor dwelling creatures clean and the places they hang out washed and freshened regularly. We do not have an indoor cat, but have kept ours indoors during certain stages of his life so I know that if there is a cat in the house, the kitty littler should be in a room that is tucked away from the rest of the living space…a laundry room, sun-room, or closet where a door can be shut on the ever present odor.

There various are smells that are built into the walls of our home and therefore a constant that we must work to mask or continually re-eliminate. We lived in an old farmhouse for a few years and it always had a very musty smell. In the room above the wet basement, was a den with wood paneling on every wall. I found rubbing that wood paneling down with a mixture of cinnamon oil and coconut oil made the house smell fabulous for weeks.

Carpets and walls may hold in smell from ourselves or even previous dwellers. while fresh paint often takes care of the walls, carpets can be far more difficult to deodorize. Despite the wide market of products on the market, the smell will keep coming back. I recently invested in a carpet cleaner for our current home and it has made a big difference in freshening up the carpets on occasion. Baking soda sprinkled on the carpet and left overnight can be helpful. But powdered products are awfully hard on the vacuum cleaner, so they shouldn’t be used except in extreme cases. For me, just keeping a regular carpet cleaning is the best move. I have sprinkled peppermint or lavender oil on the car carpets and car-seats from time to time. That doesn’t eliminate bad orders, but can cover them up in a natural and pleasant way.

If at all possible use natural scents in the home. This is an area that is still in progress for me. I love to burn candles, but finding candles that are safe to breath hasn’t always been a priority because of the cost and accessibility. But after having a guest with sensitivities to a candle I burned, I will at least do my best to burn a naturally scented candle when we have visitors.

I already clean with natural products as I discussed in the post, Household Cleaning on the Cheap, Practical, and Natural. Cleaning products are certainly a vital area we homemakers need to watch. Many products we use daily and  weekly, are not only toxic to breathe, but can cause severe allergic reactions to some people. I want a home that has air as safe to breathe as I can am able to create.

Chemical scents are often loaded into laundry as well. Guests with allergies would be unable to stay with us if I wasn’t careful about the products I use in laundry. My husband is also one of those who is sensitive to laundry softeners. So, if I must include softener in my laundry, I am careful to get one that is natural and hypoallergenic…yes…and unscented. But laundry doesn’t have to be boring. A few drops of lavender oil on a rag can brighten up the smell of hot clean clothes tossing in the dryer. I also LOVE a laundry line. Read about that more in my Laundry on the Line post. Nothing has a more amazing scent than line dried sheets and clothing!

I am very opinionated on the subject of plug-ins and sprays that are made to make a room smell good. They can be incredibly overpowering and in fact even though they might not stink like a dead possum, they make many folks…like me…gag. I find the artificial smells overpowering and believe many others do as well. Instead a diffuser with a favorite blend of essential oils, a few spices in a pot of simmering water (or mini crock pot), a naturally scented vanilla candle, fresh flowers, potted plants, or even a batch of freshly baked bread can make a home smell incredible without concern of causing anyone discomfort.

Cleanliness is vital to maintaining a home without bad odors. One of the most effective ways to keep a home smelling pleasant is simply to keep it clean. Some of the most notorious bad smells in the home are poopy diapers, kitty litter, and un-emptied trash cans.

My children collect trash throughout every room in the house on a daily basis. I empty those baskets in the kitchen trash, and take it out to the trash bins outside. Baby diapers get wrapped tightly in a special bag to lock in the smells, or they get put in a diaper bin. Kitty litter should be changed daily to prevent it from any odor. I already discussed carpets, but carpets and wood can absorb smells.

Wood is like skin, when it is warm and humid it opens up and releases all those lovely or less lovely smells. Wood floors and paneling can be cleaned with a gentle soap and water (I favor Murphy’s oil). Then the wood can be nourished with a simple blend of a cheap oil like sunflower oil and a few drops of an essential oil. I like to rub oil into the wood just after it has been cleaned with warm water.

Dust has a smell. Have you ever turned on a heater the first brisk day of fall and smelled the dust getting hot? Well, imagine a layer of dust on blinds, furniture, or framework. Being faithful at wiping off the dust can be very helpful in keeping a room smelling fresh.

Appliances can hold odors as well…dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers, microwaves, vacuum cleaners, and washing machines need to be cleaned as well. Appliances should all work without producing any bad odors. For tips on how I clean, check out how I use baking soda and vinegar in my home in My Household Friend: Baking Soda and The Role of White Vinegar in My Home. And just a thought…if you have a vacuum cleaner that has a dusty smell even after it has been emptied, it is time to ditch it and get a new vacuum. A vacuum cleaner should function without any smell.

Fresh air is a wonderful way to keep a home smelling good. Open the windows in the spring and fall can really help air out the house and keep fresh air rotating. The smell of fresh air naturally soothes my mind and a the smells of flowers, soil, and trees give my heart thoughts of God’s goodness.

Prepare for bad smells. The bathroom is a place where bad smells occur. It is a great idea to keep a plan on hand to mask unpleasantries to noses. A bathroom spray or a match are very effective and should be kept available for guests as well as ourselves to use as needed. When we have guests, keeping a candle burning in the bathroom is an easy way to remove the potential of embarrassing smells. If possible one should also make sure there is a way for air to circulate within a bathroom by keeping a vent or window open a crack at all times.

Bad odors can also occur in the kitchen. Even kept clean, a fridge can breed odor. A box of baking soda is a helpful odor absorbing product to keep in freezers and refrigerators. I simply punch a few holes in the top of my baking soda box and put the whole box in the back of the refrigerator and freezer. The kitchen trash should be emptied daily. Our trash is emptied more like 2-3 times a day. Burnt foods should be disposed of outdoors as quickly as possible. If you are planning to do a project inside the house that will involve paints or chemicals, plan those projects on warmer days if possible so windows can be opened for ventilation.

The sense of smell enhances all of our other senses. Because of smell, food has taste, flowers have freshness, and a walk in the woods is so refreshing. Smell is like salt to our sense of sight, hearing, touch, and taste…perhaps it could be lived without, but life is far better with a sense of smell! As a homemaker, I certainly try to put smell to good use to enhance the overall flavor of my home into a place that nurtures our souls and opens pathways for our heart to rejoice in our Creator.

The Ministry of Sound in the Home

Sound is probably the most important human sense.

I took a special needs psychology course in college and was challenged to go out in public for several hours without the use of one of my senses. I choose to go without sight. I believed sight would be the most difficult sense to go without and wanted to experience what it would be like not to see.

So, I put band-aids and sunglasses over my eyes and had a friend drive me to the grocery store and then a restaurant for dinner. I thought not having sight would be far more challenging than it was. I was surprised that I could navigate my way through the store using my senses of sound and touch. I was able to pick out items I needed. I even dropped coins and pick them up. I managed to find my credit card in my purse to pay. I also enjoyed a splendid lunch with my friend.

After experiencing a sightless adventures, I became extra grateful for my other senses, especially my hearing.  I could engage in conversation with my friend, hear cars, conversation, enjoy music, and even sense the closeness of objects because of my reliance hearing. Had it not have been for my ears, I would have been at a terrible loss. I also would have felt completely alone and isolated. I learned that day that not being able to hear would be far more depressing than not being able to see.

Have you ever noticed while watching a movie how the music is truly what engages your emotions during the plot? Watching a movie in silence would not have near the affect as even listening to the soundtrack with closed eyes! The music gives away more of the plot in a movie than the visual affects. We can tell a scary event is occurring simply by the change in music. Romantic portions of a movie have certain notes, as well as the heart pounding rush of a man on the run. The music sets the tone for what we see and feel throughout a plot. Movies that are extremely successful are also known for their amazing soundtracks.

Stores also know the power of sound. The music played in Fresh Market sets a tone of elegance and leisure while a store like Best Buy monopolizes on the latest hits to emphasize the modern tone of their store. Restaurants often play music that will either speed people up on their eating experience, or cause them to relax and slow down a bit. What sounds we hear in various places are not put there haphazardly, but with careful thought to the impact those sound will have on our psychology. 

In the home, sound is also a crucial player in ministering to our souls. Just like the sights of our home must be thought out as discussed in The Ministry of Sight in the Home, so it is important for us homemakers to set the auditory atmosphere in our home. As a Christian, I strive to have sound in my home that allow the soul to be free and at ease to seek God, I also try to eliminate sounds that are disturbing. I find there is more chaos in obnoxious, incoherent, mixtures of sounds than in the chaos of what I see visually. Although sounds in the home, especially with lots of children, can be sometimes difficult to manage, my husband and I work on keeping excessive loudness down inside the home and maintaining peaceful and nurturing audio in conversation and entertainment.

There are a few basic steps I have taken to ensure control what is heard in our home. 

Maintain volume guidelines. This is crucial for every home, but extra difficult the more little people that live in a home. I do believe the volume does have to flex a bit according to the size of the home and the size of the family. We instruct our children to use quieter and keep their volume down while inside the house, but do allow a lot more vocal exuberance when they are outdoors. I have little tolerance for squabbling and whining and fits are simply not tolerated. I have often sent an incessantly fussy child to his or her room with instructions not to return until he or she is done fussing and pleasant to be around again. If that fails, the child in question has signed himself or herself up for an afternoon nap. Sometimes, extreme grumpiness is a result of a poor night sleep or overstimulates the day before, or even the first clue a child isn’t feeling well. A nap has altered many a bad emotional course in our home. Hey…it even works for me!

Build a quiet time into each day. I have built in an hour-two hour quiet time in every day. It is a moment of quiet for myself as well as for each of my children. Even little ones need a social break. Children under five spend the quiet time in their rooms, usually napping. If napping days are past, quiet play is permitted. Each child older than five plays alone and quietly for the one to two hours, usually after lunch I ask each child to pick a spot where he or she is going to be for quiet time. And they gather coloring, toys, or books, art supplies, and nestle in that spot for an hour or so, no TV or electronic devices are permitted. On occasion I will allow quiet group play, like play-doh at the kitchen table or even outdoor play, but the children are not allowed to bother me except for emergencies. They know this quiet time is important for them and to me as well. I can study Scripture, pray, write, take a nap if needed, make phone calls, or catch up on housework. This quiet moment in the day is gold to me. 

Don’t mix too many various sounds. I have a one thing at a time policy for many things in our home. The children play with one toy at a time and pick it up before moving on to another. If I allow nature to take its course, toy after toy would be pulled out, every room would be a disaster by the end of the day. By keeping a “one-toy-out-at-a-time” policy, this does not happen. Sounds are the same way. We do not practice piano while the stereo is on, one will be turned off before engaging in the next sound. 

Allow noise in designated times and places. Yelling and shouting is for outdoors in our home. I do not give the children volume regulations when they play outside, unless they are going out before 9 a.m. of course. There are also certain toys that are specifically outdoor toys…horns and whistles to name two. If those toys are played in the house, I take them away for a while. I am strict about this rule because the volume of noise from a whistle or horn would overwhelm our home. Most battery powered toys today are not as obnoxious as I remember as a child, however musical instruments can border on obnoxious if played with inexperienced hands. I feel it is important for children to explore musical instruments, so do not disband them in the house. We have bells, a recorder and a piano, but all three are not engaged simultaneously. And very often a time limit is imposed for the exceptionally loud “concerts.”

Listen to music and podcasts that draw our hearts into worship and growth in our walk with God, not pull us away from Him or distract us from finding our complete satisfaction and joy in God. I have my favorite podcasting friends I love to listen to on a regular basis. But, I also find worship music and classical music to be my “go-to’s” for daily listening. Those genres minister to my soul more than any other type of music. I admit that Mozart plays in our home the most. I love the intelligent calm my soul receives from listening to Mozart. I find myself able to think better than any other genre. Not everyone is wired the same, so certainly there is plenty of room  for various tastes and needs. My husband can stomach news and weather broadcasts and keeps up on them without too much aggravation. I find the bias and irrelevance too frustrating for my heart and do not keep up with listening to news or political events. This does not mean I am apathetic, but that I simply am very choosy about what I put in my brain. I prefer to read news from selected sources rather than listen to it. I also do not want my children to listen to the news until they are old enough to discern truth from fiction and recognize methods of propaganda. So, we don’t watch or listen to news in our home. Regardless of what we choose to listen to in our home, it should be something we spend time considering and don’t thoughtlessly let our ears hear voices that could impact our souls.

Don’t underestimate the power of silence. Silence is a very wonderful indulgence for our ears. How easy it is to have noise constantly pouring into our souls from our ears, it can be very difficult to “be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10 if we don’t embrace quiet in our lives. As a camp counselor one summer, part of my training was to go out into the woods at night. Woods in the middle of nowhere in the dark of night truly limits ones sense of sight, and I was taught to embrace the sounds of the night. How rarely we actually listen to the world around us! Crickets, bugs crawling on dry leaves, sticks falling from a tree, and the slight rustle of leaves in the breeze… all of what our ears hear points to our amazing Creator and can draw our hearts to worship. Sometimes, only in silence can a soul actually hear what it was made to hear.

Fighting and arguing should be moved from quickly. Scripture commands us in Romans 12:8 “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” We are a family of sinners, living in a sinful fallen world, so yes, there are times when the sounds in our home are not beautiful. My children do squabble. They do say hurtful things to each other. They can be very cranky and argumentative. My goal is to nip it quickly. It takes two to disagree, so I usually find the perpetrators and try to discern the reason for the quarrel. Very often, pointing them to Christ is all it takes to re-align their thoughts. “Does what you are doing and saying bring God glory?” Then a hug between the two offenders accompanied with an apology ensues. Giggles often follow as the two try to over-hug. But I do believe humor is a great mood adjuster…making my children partake in a tickle fight or game of making funny faces is very helpful in getting them to change mental directions. I do not want to ignore their squabbles no mater how trifle they seem to me. Disagreements are normal, but it is important to teach children how to handle those situations and how to move past that moment of pain and back into friendship. I do realize not every child is wired to adjust his or her attitude on a dime, but as parents who know our children, we can certainly find ways that work for each of our children, to help them respond in biblical ways to squabbles and hurts. This takes time…years in fact, but it is essential to cultivate in little hearts. Way too many adults have no idea how to handle conflict correctly, leading to broken relationships, divorce, and un-Christlike Christian testimonies. As the post His Grandma Shocked Me describes, it is essential for our grown-up hearts to learn and practice quick make-ups that finish with a dash of warmth. Bitterness, grudges, the silent treatment are immature and godless responses to disagreements and hurts in children just as much as in adults.

Yelling and shouting is for outdoor play and emergencies…that includes Mommy and Daddy. There are occasions for shouting and yelling like: “Stop running into the road!” But very often, I try to keep that sort of volume for emergencies. In our home, we have utilized technology to help keep yelling and shouting to a minimum. We have Amazon Echo in almost every room of our home and find that to be an excellent venue for announcements and intercom chats. I can call children to dinner from my kitchen, without raising my voice. My husband can drop in the children’s rooms and tell them to be quiet at bedtime. It has worked out quite well for us. If I must address a child, firmness is my mode of conversation over volume. I know there can be some very long frustrating days for parents, but to keep an atmosphere of peace and godliness, both my husband and I do our best use firm, serious voices instead of loud, angry voices in addressing those situations that must be dealt with sternly. I want my children to pay attention when I yell, and if I am always yelling, they will quickly learn that it doesn’t matter. so, if I do raise my voice, it is for a matter of upmost urgency and they all look right at me with wide eyes. 

Oh how crucial it is for a home-maker to have mastery over the sounds in her home! Chaos in the ears goes straight to the soul. We can cultivate such beautiful environments for spiritual growth, godly focus, and worship if we purpose what sounds echo throughout the walls of our home.