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Making Home

Updated: 2018-01-20T15:03:31.176-06:00


Hop Over to My New Site!


Did you know that I'm now writing at MakingHome still contains 7 years of articles on marriage, Bible study, sex, family, womanhood, and more, but since 2014, I've been writing on my own self-hosted website. Please come visit me there!

Here's a great place to start: my Top 25 Articles on

Grace & Peace,

Stay Connected & Get My FREE Book


I've heard from a number of you that you keep forgetting to visit my new site:, and add it to your feed. I'm writing there every Mon, Wed, and Fri, so take this as your friendly neighborhood reminder! :) 

Come see me; I want to hear from you!

ALSO: Go grab your free copy of the book I released last week! It's called One Thing: Top Tip (From a Mom of 6). Or, it is now available for purchase at

Please, let's not lose touch with one another! Subscribe to (if you don't read blogs via RSS feed, there's a link on the side of my site where you can sign up to receive an email every time a new article is published to help you remember to check in). 

Let's keep growing together!

Blogging Somewhere NEW


Here's my NEW news:

I'm blogging at now! 

Yes, after over seven years writing here, I've decided to move to a self-hosted website with just my name, so that all of my writing-- blogging, fiction, non-fiction, can all be in one spot:

You'll want to update your RSS feed & adjust your links. Be sure to check it out and pass it along to friends. I'm posting there, beginning today. 

I'll have one more major announcement later this week… so check back for more info at

Details: All posts and archives will remain here, at least for the time being. I am in process of moving over classic & favorite blogposts from the last seven years over to my new website. If you have favorite posts you'd like to see over there, please comment on the post or send me an email!

Thanks for continuing to read & grow alongside me. 

Blessings to you & I hope to see you over there, at!

"Now We Remember"


Merry Christmas to loved ones, far and near
Whether a great or a terrible year,
Lovely reasons exist to celebrate:
The One for Whom all the world did wait
Indeed, the whole of creation groaned
For the One who could rightly for sin atone.

Our good and glorious God above
Sent Jesus to offer the world His love
After birth, life, and death, He rose to the sky.
Gave the gift of the Spirit to guide us by.

Now we remember, rejoicing, elated
Each year His birth will be celebrated!
Whether a great or a terrible year,
It's a Merry Christmas: Emmanuel is here!

~Jess Connell, 12/25/2013

Visionary Living


I watched as some good friends of ours prepared to send their oldest daughter off to college.

This was no ordinary sending-off; you see, we lived overseas. Our friends knew that they wouldn't be able to easily or cheaply send an overnight care package full of fresh-baked cookies. They knew that their daughter couldn't drive home over a weekend for hugs and R&R.

(image) Their daughter was (and is) a very bright and well-rounded gal. I watched as my friend, the mom, cast a vision for her daughter. That vision, knowing her daughter well, included something like this: "What kind of academic goals have you set for yourself?" (She listened.) And then she said, "your dad and I want you to know what our academic vision is for you-- and that includes making the Dean's List every semester." (Now, remember, they knew their daughter.  This isn't a one-size-fits-all goal, but they knew that for her, this was a reasonable challenge.)

I think back to that sometimes, as a parent, and as a woman.

What kind of vision do I need to be casting for myself?

There is a huge difference, and we all see it, between an 80-year-old woman who has spent her life scowling and criticizing and grumping and an 80-year-old woman who has passed her days with humility and joy and gratitude.

Have you noticed it? Have you seen the wrinkles around the eyes of a woman who has spent her life smiling and laughing? They contrast sharply with the woman with deep furrows of despair from having grumbled and complained her way through the decades.

If I am like that daughter, being sent off into this next year of life, what vision am I taking on? Whose vision am I stretching to meet?

What kinds of qualities do you want to possess by the time you are 80?
What are you doing now to achieve those qualities in your life & heart?

Working On Something New


(image) ***No blogpost today, aside from this: ***

Making Home blogposts may slow down a tiny bit around the holidays… because there's something else coming 'round the bend.

I've got a project I'm working on, and I'm super excited about it. I can't wait to share it with all of you…

In the meantime, wander over to the sidebar and check out my December sponsor: doTERRA oils-- I've heard nothing but excellent things about these high-quality essential oils. You may want to grab a few oils for stocking stuffers or last-minute Christmas gifts!

While you're there, you can browse old posts & categories and poke around.

See you soon!

{This pic was from a day in November, when I had a lovely afternoon with my oldest son, writing during NaNoWriMo.}

Kindle for $49, Plus Infant/Toddler TOYS


(image) If you're in the market for a Kindle, or have been wanting to check it out-- this is the lowest price I've ever seen: $49 for a Kindle. (We REALLY love Kindle-- not only because of living abroad & the ease of packing these "books" without worrying about weight, but also for portability of a wide variety of books for me, as a mom. I can just slip my Kindle into my purse and have a wide selection of fiction, inspirational non-fiction, my Bible, and more, all right there in that one lightweight device.)

My 11-year-old LOVES his Kindle as well, and reads on it non-stop. *** SIDENOTE: Are any of y'all G. A. Henty fans? You can get almost all of his books for FREE on Amazon Kindle. That right there makes it worth it.***

Anyway- if you're interested in today's $49 Kindle deal, grab it up before Midnight- CHECK OUT TODAY'S DEALS(image) .

Also, select Infant & Toddler Toys are 50% OFF TODAY!

Check out those and more GREAT DEALS AT AMAZON TODAY(image) .

Me, Myself & I vs. Community


Months ago, I came across two posts from two different ladies examining the idea of Christian community:From Hearth (Be sure to read the comments; the discussion is thought-provoking.)From Elizabeth "Do you have community?"ON THE FRINGEEach pushed a button my mind and I found my thoughts centering around the idea that I've always been a gal on the fringe.I think back to middle & high school, always feeling on the fringe... not fully a part of the band crowd or the smart kids, neither the Valedictorian nor the full-on rebel. College brought more of the same. I counted the hippie poets, preppy sorority girls, expressive music majors, and ambitious political sorts among my friends.Adult life has brought more of the same.At no point in my life have I had a female "bestie" with whom every moment was shared. My husband truly is my best friend and I am blessed in that.But I am friends with the senior crowd (and by that I mean, the people with gray hair, not the ones getting Senior photos & prepping for graduation), with the 50-something nursery workers, with the 20-somethings following God while traversing the world, and yes, with some 30-somethings who have kids roughly my kids' ages.FRIENDSHIP, WHEREVER IT COMESFor my part, as a woman with so many "weird" things about me, I have long had the approach of taking friendship wherever it comes. There is no one for whom everything about life is going to line up. Even if I found another Jesus-following large family mom who attended public school but now homeschools who doesn't think homeschooling = salvation who has chickens and has lived a significant portion of her life abroad who has mostly boys who writes books and believes in firm discipline AND great affection with her children who is naturally messy and only occasionally musters the energy to care about aesthetics, you know what? Those are just externals. In some other way, that friend would disappoint me, and I, her.And ultimately, my hope can't be found in finding a set of friends whose externals (or internals) match mine. My hope can only be in Christ. Then I am free to find friendship (and be truly thankful for it!) in whatever form God gives it.One final thought:NEVER ALONEWaterdeep is one of my long-standing favorite bands. Years ago, they released a song that simply said this:Though I feel aloneI am never alone You are with meOh, my Lord(vs.1) In the nighttime while I'm on my bed,I will let every thought be of YouFor You are goodYou take all those who will come to You(vs.2) In the morning as I face the dayI will let every thought be of YouFor You are goodYou take all those who will come to You[...]

Teach Your Children How To Treat You


Sometimes when people long for the good old days, they're remembering something that didn't exist, fabricating entirely, or even just wistfully only recalling the good (but forgetting the accompanying bad).But when it comes to the way children behave toward their parents and toward adults nowadays, there really is a significant difference between what the average mom puts up with today, and what would have been allowed 30, 60, 100 years ago. Whether it is sassiness, rudeness about a meal you just made for them, barging in on you while you're going to the bathroom, or thoughtless comment about your post-partum belly, YOU, mama, are the one teaching them how to treat others.And yes- YOU are an "other" in their life. Which means this:Stay at home mom, YOU have to stick up for YOU.Being sassy is not OK. You are their mom.Being rude and ungrateful about a meal you've (or anyone else has) made is not OK. They are to be thankful for things done for them, and realize that having someone else cook for them is a gift. So yes, this means, you need to be the one to tell them they should say "thank you" for dinner, to you. It may seem counterintuitive, or like fishing for a compliment, but no-- those are lies. You are teaching gratitude, kindness, and the value of work to your child."Please don't ever walk in on someone going to the bathroom. Unless your hair is on fire, you can wait a moment while I finish going potty, and then ask me your question when I come out."A thoughtless comment about your post-partum belly is not intentionally hurtful, but it IS hurtful, and could be extremely hurtful if your child doesn't learn from you not to say that, and they go and say that to another woman. So tell them. Not in an ugly way, but tell them. Let them know, "I know you're just saying that, and you're right, mom's tummy is smushy right now, but you are never to say that to a woman who has just had a baby. It is hard work having a baby, and the woman's body goes through a lot of changes. It's much better to talk about how cute the baby is than to ever say something like that to a new mama, OK?" (Obviously, a 2 year old isn't going to understand this very well. But older kids can learn this.)Teach children how to treat YOU in the same way you would respond if they said or did those things to another human being. This is your job. Day in day out, you can teach your child what is normal, and acceptable, and appropriate for polite and pleasant interactions with other human beings. And the first place to start is often right under your nose… in the way they act toward you.NOT SURE WHAT'S RIGHT OR NOT?Perhaps you grew up in an unhealthy home, or you struggle to assess these things in daily life. If you're not sure, consider these questions: Would you let them treat a woman you greatly admire and respect (don't jump over that description-- picture her!) the way you just let them treat you?If you were a missionary and they sat down to eat at a poor neighbor's table and reacted to that food the way they just reacted to the homemade meal you made, what would you do?Would you let them talk to Bono, your pastor, the President, the bank manager, the Pope, your husband's boss, or Princess Kate the way they just spoke to you?If you're still not sure, hook up with other godly Christian families and watch. Observe norms about how they allow their children to interact with adults. Listen to how their children speak to them. Ask questions. Lean in and learn.I know it can feel weird, at first, to stick up for yourself. You can trick yourself into thinking that it is selfish or not right. But in actuality, by teaching them how to treat you, you are teaching them much more than simply that. You are teaching them basic concepts of respect of others, and how they are to respond to authorities in their lives (whic[...]

Amazon Deal: Rosetta Stone- TODAY 12/10/13


For homeschoolers, my overseas friends, or anyone else interested in language learning, check out today's sale at Amazon. It's their lowest price of the year on Rosetta Stone sets. 50% OFF!!

Many of the sets that I noticed are more than 50% off. If you've been thinking of adding Rosetta Stone in to your homeschool education, or waiting for a great deal, this is an excellent price. Check out the Rosetta Stone Mega-Sale!(image)

Sibling Jealousy is NOT Unavoidable


Even as a mom of six, every time I am pregnant, it happens at least once. A grocery store clerk, relative, older woman, a waiter-- someone-- says to my youngest child: "Are you going to be jealous of the new baby?"Here's what I want to say in response to that: "Be quiet!"Of course I don't say that.What I actually say is something like, "Oh no, (s)he is excited about the new baby, aren't you? (Excited head nod from my little one.) It will be so amazing to have a new little person in our family. We're all excited!"Each time we've added a baby to our family, we've seen that children are incredibly impressionable in regard to their attitude about a new baby.What I mean by that is this: you will (most likely) get the attitude you expect to get. If you expect that children will be bitter, jealous, and throw tantrums, they will probably lower themselves to your expectations. If you expect that children will be thrilled to have a new sibling, while setting real expectations, and preparing for real adjustments, then they will rise to the occasion.They may even surprise you and be more gentle and thoughtful and helpful than you imagined possible for one so young.Jealousy doesn't have to happen. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I haven't seen a jealous attitude even ONE time with a new baby in our home. That doesn't mean that there haven't been any difficulties or adjustments when we have a new baby... of course, there's (temporarily) a more tired mama, and of course, she's busy doing more than she did previously. BUT that is not a bad thing.A kid adjusting to a big change in life is not the same as jealousy.But every time we have a newborn, when we look in the eyes of our children (from the 11 year old on down to our little guys), we see awe. Straight up awe. There is also curiosity. And then (especially with the 2 and under crowd), it's back to normal life-- toys, snacks, wanting to snuggle with mommy, coloring, and making messes. :)Our attitude and approach directly correlates to what attitude the kids take on.No matter what others suggest, jealousy is not a given.A LIMITED AMOUNT OF LOVE?I think this idea of assumed jealousy tracks back to the notion that love in a family is like a pie: there is a limited amount, and each child we add will cut into the portion of love each child receives, thus leaving them with less and less of the "pie".But the truth is that love is like a multiplication problem:First you start with two people. And their love doesn't just add to one another... it multiplies.3x3=9So when you add another person, it looks like this:3x3x3=27and when you add another person, it looks like this:3x3x3x3=81And so on.LOVE MULTIPLIESThe relationships that go on in our home are so much fun. I wrestle and tickle with the 5 year old. He says "I'll get you" a million times in a row to the 9-month-old, inducing laughter every time. The 9-month old is pulled onto the chest of the 11-year-old while he watches a movie, and they cuddle. The 11-year-old sits patiently and reads to the 3-year-old. The 3-year-old asks the 7-year-old if he can play babies with her in her room. The 7-year-old asks her big 9-year-old brother to go ride bikes.And on and on.Relationships are built.Sibling rivalry is not unavoidable. There is no need for an 11-, 7-, 3-, 2-, or 1-year old to be "jealous" of a new baby.If you're expecting an addition to your family, whether it's your first, or your sixth, or your twenty-fifth (I think that should cover most everyone) purpose now that you will speak positively of that baby, EVERY time. Decide in advance that if a grocery store clerk or a grandparent or a friend or anyone suggests "jealousy" to your child, that you will stop it right then and there and choose to plant words and ideas of LOVE.Choose to have this attit[...]

6 Danger Zones of "Selfies"


IS IT WRONG TO TAKE A SELFIE?I have recently been schooled in the inanity of Justin Beiber's (or is it Bieber's? I'm glad I don't know the answer to this question.) ubiquitous collection of self-photography.When pressed by the people around them to tell the story of their lives from their own perspective, important people used to write autobiographies. Now we have the selfie as a means of sharing one's own perspective. It's an equal-opportunity form of self-promotion, often undertaken more by the unimportant than the important.Now of course, let me get it out of the way: it is not inherently "wrong" to take a selfie. I've taken a few. You probably have too.But I want to challenge us all to think about the things that we do. We have to be careful with any-- ANY-- activity that is self-focused, and self-promoting. We have to be willing to transparently investigate our own hearts--WHY are we doing this thing? What is the purpose of our self-focus in this particular moment? What is the point of taking so many photos of ourselves?Sometimes we want to have a close-up of ourself with another person. Sometimes we want a particular perspective. Sometimes you want to chronicle a moment and there's no one else around to take the picture. Sometimes we want to know how our newly-done hairstyle looks, haha. There can certainly be innocuous reasons for a selfie.However, in a few of the times I've taken "selfies," I can see other things happening in my heart. I feel the pull to care about externals and perception more than I do at other times of life. This picture makes me look like I have a double chin. Why do my eyes look weird in that one? Uh-oh-- my dirty laundry is in the background; try again!There are some potential pitfalls or "danger zones" when it comes selfies:We may glorify UNreality. - Am I choosing a picture that cuts out every 'negative' thing, thus glorifying something that most likely (in truth) does not exist? Am I, knowingly or not, buying into a culture that idolizes the airbrushed celebrity or starving model, and disdains things like everyday moments in a normal, imperfect family? Do I put more effort and intentionality into presenting an image, rather than BEING a Christ-follower in everyday life?We may glorify ourselves. - Who am I pointing to? Who is being made much of? Am I acting as if my own emotions, facial expressions, and experiences are the most significant thing in life? Am I sinfully focused on myself and my perspective, instead of seeing myself as God's creation-- part of His story, His world, His tapestry?We may glorify sensuality. - Am I revealing things that should not be revealed? Am I, through the positioning of a camera, the arching of my back, the pouting of my lips, or (some other factor) contributing to a pornographic culture? Would I want my dad, grandparents, pastor, and future grandchildren to look carefully at the picture I am taking?We may glorify the sardonic. - In my expression/demeanor, am I glorifying a self-loathing, cynical, ungrateful heart that highlights my despair and downplays the goodness of God in my life?We may delude ourselves. - Am I confusing myself about what actually exists, or about what is most important in life? We may deceive others. - Am I confusing others about what actually exists in my life? Am I discouraging others by how 'perfect' everything appears? In all of these, I used the word "may." Our intent might certainly NOT be to do these things, but Christ-followers have to live as sober-minded people, thinking carefully about the way that we live and the choices we make. Our actions say something about what we believe... we we value... what we want to glorify and hold up as "good" in our lives.Is taking a "se[...]

12 Things To Do When Your World Explodes


Sometimes life blindsides us. It could be any number of things. But sometimes in life, we feel like everything has exploded around us, and nothing is as it was before.(For us, some of them have been death of a parent while he was driving to our wedding, miscarriage x3, job loss, unexplained illness, hurting/sick relatives, an unexpected move, car accidents, the loss of community…)Here is what I have learned to do in moments when the world goes chaotic around me:Remember God's faithfulness. This is no trite slogan. He is dependable. He is the eternal God who provided manna in the desert and a way through the sea. Isaiah 63 says, "I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord, the praiseworthy acts of the Lord." Remind yourself, audibly (say it out loud) and/or visually (write it and keep it in front of your face), of what he has done for you before. Name every single thing He brings to mind. Times of sickness, need, sorrow, pain, will come to your mind. Remind yourself of every time He has been faithful to you or anyone you know in any way. He meets every need we have, and so many wants as well. He is always, incredibly, overwhelmingly, wonderfully faithful. Every time. Always.Be still. The tendency is to want to churn. Especially if something is hurtful or confusing. But stillness-- forcing my heart to be still before the LORD-- allows me to listen to what's most important and tune out all the chaos. Do not be anxious. Focus on Christ as the foundation of everything.Trust in God. Mindfully. Prayerfully. Fully. Intentionally. Truly, what this means for me practically is that in those moments when every single need is popping into mind, that I remember that God knows everything I need. That I express my need to Him, and keep on--moment by moment-- choosing to rest in Him.Hunker down and hug the people closest to you. Even if it's the kid who has done something foolish. Even if it's the husband you still feel frustrated with because he made a costly mistake. Even if you're not sure it means anything or changes anything. Even if it feels hollow in the moment. Keep hugging. Let the people closest to you "hug" you. It is so tempting, when we are in need, to tense up and keep people at arms' distance. But you have to choose to abandon your pride, abandon the illusion of self-dignity and independence, and let them in. This doesn't mean you expose your wounds to anyone at all, but let the people closest to you be close enough to hug you and hold you while you weep. Let them help you, bring dinner, do your dishes… let the Body of Christ BE the Body when you need them. Ask for forgiveness the minute you realize you need it. When you are in a tight spot, attitudes will come out. The ugly things that can at other times stay hidden below the surface-- your desire for peace and quiet, annoyance with mess, frustration with someone's tone of voice-- come out at times when stress is higher and patience is lower. Ugly things surface and make themselves known. So, rather than growing bitter, defensive, and divided, ask forgiveness. This is an opportunity to realize how much you need to grow, and an opportunity to grow, more like Jesus.Keep talking. This is huge for Doug and I. Even if it's speaking hard truths. Even if it's asking a question out loud that both of us know for certain we don't know the answer to. Just keeping on turning toward God and toward one another with our communication has been EXTREMELY important in the times of greatest stress in our lives. Take the long view. Put this "momentary affliction" in light of all the other things that have happened in life and all of the good. Eternity is a long time, and God's plans are bigger than we can see from our tiny perspective her[...]

Unforgiveness & How Soon You Wash the Dish


Dishes get dirty.Some meals (say, a ham sandwich with some Lays and an apple) leave almost no crumbs. But while we eat meals like that from time to time, we also all eat meals (say, spaghetti & meatballs with salad & dressing, or oatmeal with brown sugar and drizzled maple syrup) where our dish ends up dirty. Relationships, especially everyday relationships, are like that dish.Day in, day out, week in, week out, getting used.Sometimes that dish can be brushed right off. It was used, but if you look at it, you can hardly tell. But in any dish that's really being USED, the time comes that you're going to have to wash it. The mess is ugly, and everyone looking on knows it.Every dish gets that way from time to time.Every relationship gets that way too.FORGIVENESSForgiveness is when the dish is made clean. The old has gone, and the mess is no longer where the focus is.Dishes weren't made to be relics that show just how dirty they once got. Relationships aren't made to be relics that tell the story of just how sinful he was, just how sinful she was, just how sinful I was, just how sinful you were.Dishes are made to serve up meals that enable growth. Relationships are also made for growth... to fortify and strengthen us, to sharpen and shape us, to nourish and encourage us for the journey, and biblically, to propel us Godward.WASH THE DISHDishes are much easier to wash when the mess is freshly made.And I think forgiveness can be like that too.When Doug & I argue, there may be a short time where we need to breathe deeply and remind ourselves to let love carry the day, but we forgive before the night is out, and we keep accounts short. It's easier to wash the dish right away than to let it sit and harden.The mess is easier to clean up when it's not also hardened and stinky and germ-infested.UNFORGIVENESSUnforgiveness is like using your bowl for oatmeal and setting it on the counter. There's a mess in there and you know it. It's hardening by the minute.UNFORGIVENESS IN MARRIAGE/OTHER DAILY RELATIONSHIPSThe problem is that that relationship still exists and needs to be used. So you pick it back up but- "UGH! There's a mess in there. I hate this bowl. I hate this stench."- but you go on and pour your cornflakes because you need to eat. Pretty soon that same bowl is back in that same spot but now there's some bits of cornflake stuck on there too. Hardening.Before long it's time to eat some soup and so you- "gulp"- get over your grossed-out-ness and grab the bowl. Now you're sucking down mold and bits of whatever that was from a few breakfasts ago, everytime you eat.Unforgiveness does that to us.We keep choking on the thing that hurt us ages ago because we didn't deal with it rightly. We didn't work through it. We didn't choose love in action. We didn't choose to walk in health and peace and biblical reconciliation. And so we keep choking and hurting and being grossed out and angry by the thing that ultimately, we should have dealt with through forgiveness.WHAT ABOUT IF I HAVEN'T WASHED THE DISH RIGHT AWAY?Well, we all have done this (at least a little bit) in real life, haven't we? Dishes can get nasty dirty and the food seems utterly cemented on... while it appears impossible and we could kill ourselves trying to scrape that dadgum 3-day-old-spaghetti sauce OFF the plate, that's not ultimately the answer. No.What has to happen? The dish needs to soak and soften.We can be that way too-- we can scrape and work and weary ourselves trying to drum up some kind of human forgiveness, or we can stop. We can soak ourselves, washing ourselves in the water of the Word, ruminating around in the messages of our Lord-- "forgive us as we forgive those who have sinned against us[...]

Opt Out Of the Food Wars (Trail Blaze #11)


Confession time: I am tired of all the food wars.Tired, tired, tired.When I was growing up, everything was low-fat. Now, apparently, that makes you fat, no joke.This week, it's "eat no carbs", next thing I read says 'trade off only carbs or fats as the fuel for each meal (who the HECK wants to eat a burger with no cheese or mayo?-- don't answer that and make me feel guilty- ha!), next one it's "only eat like the cavemen did." Last year was "switch to whole-grain everything," this year they're saying, "whole-grains have too much gluten." (And probably, you can find current studies saying the opposite of everything I just wrote. Please don't. I don't care anymore.)I give up.I don't have the energy to follow the trends.I have OPTED OUT of the food wars.I'm a tired mom just trying to do the best I can to feed my family. I refuse to pile guilt on myself when JUST BUYING THE GROCERIES and KEEPING THEM SEMI-IN-STOCK in our home, and KEEPING MY KIDS FED takes about all the mental capacity I have to devote to food.Here's some things I'm thankful for: I'm thankful that I can buy real food for a family of eight when so many people are losing their jobs and struggling.I'm thankful that I'm able to be home with them so that my time can be leveraged and make our budget stretch farther by me cooking from scratch.I'm thankful I have learned how to cook a number of things from scratch. (I'm no gourmet, but I can get around in the kitchen all right.)I'm thankful for the easy-peasy convenience foods we use from time to time (to give me a freaking break without freaking breaking our wallet).I'm thankful that I came to this mothering gig before the "your baby needs to eat non-GMOed-fermented-organic-kale as his first food" mantra was in existence. (OK, I don't think that's a mantra. But it's not far off from being able to be a believable mantra, right?) I'm glad I was a mom before this food stuff reached a fever pitch, because now I recognize it as unnecessary and dispensable advice.I'm thankful for the mental space available, and the internet access available to write to all of you ladies about this.We mostly can't afford organic, and we don't eat the best. But we don't eat the worst either. I try to feed my family real, wholesome food, and limit the unpronounceable ingredients. I've watch the documentaries like Food Inc., Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, and King Corn. And I try to cut through the hype and learn little bits that will help me make livable, sustainable, budgetarily-reasonable choices for our family. I think my kids eat more veggies than I did growing up, and last year we switched out the boxed cereals for oatmeal. Now we're switching to steel-cut. And ya know, maybe someone will release a study this week indicating that that's terrible. If so, don't write me a comment about it.I'm just saying, we're making changes that we're pleased with.That's my point-- We do the best we can. And that's all we can do for now. I bet you do too. I'm not going to let the scary documentaries, bully dietitians on daytime TV, latest fad diets, and baby food diet "experts" (who maybe don't even have kids themselves) make me take on a heap of guilt over something like this. And I want to encourage you not to either. HERE IS MY MANTRA, and I offer it to you as well:Do the best you can. Live in grace. Drop-kick guilt to the curb every time it rears its ugly head. And be grateful. And I will too.The end.Blessings to you & your family,Jess ConnellP.S. If you or your child has a medical issue or allergies with certain foods/whatever, please don't think this is an attack on you or your family. The mantra goes for you too. H[...]

Top TEN Non-Screen Toys (That Actually Get Played With)


As we draw near to the frenzied toy-buying Christmas season, let me offer our recommendations for elementary-aged kids. We have six kids eleven and under, so I've got a little more than a decade, and many different personalities' worth of "experience," invested in this advice.(In fact, if you add up my kids' ages separately, this advice has 36 years' worth of day-in, day-out kid-play "cred" behind it. Which makes me sound WAY old-- I'm "only" 34, for the record.)Here are our TOP TEN Non-Screen Toys (that actually get played with):LEGOs- Hands down, the most-beloved toy set enjoyed by our 5-and-up crew.DUPLOs- Also MUCH played with in our home! This is a better choice for kids 5 and under, as Legos can be maddening for little hands that aren't quite, developmentally, ready for them. I always leave our big box of these out, and they are our go-to toy when we have another family over. Everyone can enjoy building with a huge tub of Duplos! (Make sure you have some boards to build on!)Nerf Swords and Shields- In case you don't know, I have five boys. So, yeah. These are perennial favorites around here. Thankfully, with Nerf, I don't have to worry about injuries. Win-win. :)Play Kitchen and Dishes- This is another classic set around here, that I continually add to and keep fresh. I prune busted old pieces and add new dishes, plastic and wooden foods, regularly. All of my kids, up to about 9-10 years old, LOVE to cook and bring me "meals" they've made. We have plenty of play food (especially wooden food) too!Matchbox cars and play roads (This construction-focused play rug looks so fun and I like the simple versatility of this one.)Large-style Wooden Blocks- I love this set of larger building blocks; it has enough blocks for them to really get architecturally creative!A good quality dollhouse like this (or one like this) with Loving Family people- These are great everyday-looking people who fit dollhouses and teach children to play in family settings.Playdoh and great cutting toolsMagnetic Dolls- We have several varieties of magnetic dolls for my daughter. It's a nice quiet activity. (We also recently purchased a Melissa and Doug magnetic cars set that works the same way, where you can redesign the car all different ways, but I couldn't find a link for it online. Our three year old son LOVES it.)Baby dolls (our daughter has a variety of dolls and clothing), baby doll cradle & stroller- the quintessential little girl toy. These get played with all the time here, even with "just" one little girl in our home.Runner up: Bath toys with plenty of cups for pouring and nets to scoop (This may not be a great "Christmas toy" but these are oft-used toys in our house that help to lengthen bath time & make it more enjoyable. These last YEARS and are worth the investment!)One final note: If you're looking at an item on this list and thinking, "I've got that, and he/she doesn't play with it.", I would bet that 90-95% of the time, it is not a toy problem but a toy quantity problem. Having a set of 40 small wooden blocks is not NEAR as creativity-inspiring as having a huge plastic tub of 250 of them. Having one set of four plates, bowls, cups, and forks is not the same as having a variety of foods, dishes, and a play kitchen or small table for them to work at and "cook." I'm not advocating that you go out, today, and purchase 4 new Lego sets. Buy a set or two, and then watch at garage sales, on eBay, and more, to add to the sets you have, expanding them in number and in options. Basically, don't "try" one Duplo s[...]

Worship & Suffering Go Hand in Hand


I love these three songs, and want to share them with you. They are songs that do not shame the sufferer, but rightly point us to Christ. Whether you are in a difficult spot or not, these songs contain beautiful, biblical truth, but I have found them particularly meaningful in times of discouragement:

My friend Michael Bleecker, worship leader at the Village Church, shares a great song: "Come To Me"
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"Who You Are" by JJ Heller
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And- Oh I love this song:
"Perfect Wisdom of Our God" by Keith & Kristyn Getty
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Keen Sandals on deep discount today- 11/13/13


(image) In case any of you are Keen fans, I wanted to share this deal with you. All Men & Women's Keen Sandals(image)  are 45% off at Amazon today!

I love the color of these: KEEN sandals for women(image) .

Keens are great outdoor shoes for summer- good for wet/dry, great support for the feet, and they keep you from stubbing your toes (especially handy if doing any hiking/biking/athletic activities in your sandals).

If you love Keens, today's a great day to get a pair at Amazon.

How Do We Walk in the Way of Wisdom?


I love Proverbs. Whenever I can, I like to read the Proverb for the day of the month, like I recently did with Proverbs 4 on the 4th.Again and again, Proverbs 4 reminds us of the importance of seeking wisdom & letting it inform not only our THINKING but our CHOICES-- the way we walk.Check out these things found in Proverbs 4:COMMANDS FOR US, CONCERNING WISDOM--Hear (v. 1, 10)Be attentive (v. 1, 20)Do not forsake (v. 2, 6)Let your heart hold fast (v. 4)Keep (v. 4)Get (v. 5, 7) Do not forget (v. 5)Do not turn away (v. 5)Love [wisdom] (v. 6)Prize [wisdom] (v. 8)Embrace [wisdom] (v. 8)Accept [wisdom] (v. 10)Keep hold (v. 13)Do not let go. (v. 13)Guard [wisdom] (v. 13)Incline your ear to it (v. 20)Let it not escape your notice (v. 21)Keep them within your heart (v. 21)COMMANDS FOR US, CONCERNING EVIL--Do not enter the path of the wicked (v. 14)Do not walk in the way of the evil. (v. 14)Avoid it. (v. 15)Do not go on it. (v. 15)Turn away from it and pass on (v. 15)Turn your foot away from evil. (v. 27)As I read through these list, and chapter 4 of Proverbs from which they are taken, I am struck by these things:It must be easy to forget about wisdom, or to turn away from it. Look at how many different times and how many different ways he tells his son to KEEP HOLD of it. Prize! Hold fast! Be attentive!We are to value wisdom, but that must not be our natural inclination. It is not just anything in life that we prize, embrace, love, hold onto. Wisdom is truly so valuable in our lives, and yet the writer tells us many times over to value it. Why would he say that if we were valuing what is valuable? But the truth is that we are often NOT inclined to prize wisdom as we should. The way of the flesh is to desire to be seen as wise, not to see others as wise & seek their insight. We have to reverse our natural inclinations and intentionally seek and prize wisdom.We have a choice whether or not to walk in the way of evil. There is a clear "path of the wicked." The Bible says God has written His law on our hearts-- we KNOW when we are entering a way we should turn away from. We are to pay attention to where we're headed. Read this passage (selected verses from Proverbs 4:11-27) and think about the analogy of life like a walk along a pathway:I have taught you the way of wisdom;I have led you in the paths of uprightness.When you walk, your step will not be hampered,and if you run, you will not stumble....Do not enter the path of the wicked,and do not walk in the way of evil.Avoid it; do not go on it;turn away from it and pass on....But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,which shines brighter and brighter until full day.The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;they do not know over what they stumble....Let your eyes look directly forward,and your gaze be straight before you.Ponder the path of your feet;then all your ways will be sure.Do not swerve to the right or to the left;turn your foot away from evil.LOOK IN FRONT OF YOUI think it's fascinating that he tells us to have our eyes look "directly forward." What happens when we do that, intently, is that we SEE what is in front of us. We take notice of where we're headed, and can make mid-course corrections as need be.I have that verse- Proverbs 4:26- up on a wall in our home to remind all of us to consider where the choices we're making now-- today-- will lead us. Here's a pic from when I painted it:What about you?Are you truly looking at what's in front of you? (Consider people who have walked the path you are walking. Where does it lead? Are you walking in the way[...]

21 Tips to Help Your Family Sleep Well


Sleep is an necessary (and let's be honest, lovely) part of life. And I believe it is a necessary part of a good attitude for us all as well.In our home, good rest for everyone is an essential ingredient in making for a peaceful home environment. When we moved abroad, multiple times over, with little ones in tow, getting everyone onto local time and getting good rest was pretty much my top priority in the first couple of weeks. Naps are non-negotiable for kids until around age 4, and then only negotiable if their pleasant attitude can consistently hold out until bedtime.With 6 kids in the house, all of whom share 2 bedrooms, sleeping is one of those issues (like making healthy meals) that I've chosen to invest time in, because consistency and effort in this area pays us all back multiple times over. We all sleep well, and mama is happier that way.MY BEST TIPS FOR GETTING KIDS TO SLEEP:Long-time Making Home readers know that for babies, I'm a big fan of Babywise. Giving your children good quality sleep is truly a gift for their little bodies, souls, and attitudes. (Psst: We now use swaddlers for the first 3-6 months. They didn't have these when I started having babies, but they're wonderful for taming the newborn "startle" reflex.)And I've laid out specifics before about how we work (yes, work!) to help our children continue to sleep well, long past infancy. I see this as a serious priority for our family.Get them in bed at a reasonable hour. This can vary from family to family, depending on parents' working hours, family norms, and kids' schooling. In our house, kids 6 & under are in bed by 8 (8:30 in the summer), and kids 11 & under are in bed by 9 (9:30 in the summer). The bedtime routine is quick. We don't play around; when it's time for bed, it's time for bed. They don't need endless stories, because we've been reading together throughout the day. A quick hug and kiss, a prayer, brush-your-teeth-get-a-last-drink-go-potty-and-get-in-bed. Phew! (This gives mommy and daddy much-needed time together too.)We put dark curtains in their rooms (when we lived in a place where it got brighter, earlier, we put blackout curtains like hotels use as an inside liner behind their normal room curtains). A nightlight is kept on in the bathroom, with the door almost completely shut so the light doesn't disturb sleep but they can find it if they need to go potty in the middle of the night. If they wake up too early, back to bed they go. Very few people in our society get enough sleep, but helping our children sleep well is a top priority for me, because it pays dividends in their attitudes, and in mine.BEST TIPS FOR MOM:Through twelve years of non-stop pregnancies, nursing babies, cross-world moves, migraines, insomnia, and restless legs syndrome, I want to share what works for me:I teach the kids to sleep well. Yes, I think the first step in me sleeping well is making sure that everyone else sleeps well, so there's no one else waking me up.I regularly take hot baths with Epsom Salt and Lavender, right before bed. It relaxes my body and keeps me from experiencing the insomnia of restless-leg-syndrome.My husband rubs my feet with body butter while we talk or watch movies on a fairly regular basis. This helps me calm down, and gives us a chance to connect.We are intimate, often. This lowers tension, keeps us emotionally connected, and yes- relaxes and helps us both to sleep better. (The endorphins and hormones released during in[...]

Heads Up, Homeschoolers!


Here's a history timeline book for children  that I just noticed is going to be at a super-low price (a lightning deal @ Amazon) this afternoon @ 12pm PST:


I've got my alarm set and will definitely be getting a copy, so I thought I'd share it with all of you. It has incredible reviews and I'm excited to add it to our homeschool book collection. Check it out here.

(And no, I don't know what price it will be, but the price that it is (17.99) is already really reasonable for such an excellent quality, information-rich book. Amazon runs amazing Lightning Deals, so even without knowing the price in advance, I know I'll be snagging it!)

GIVEAWAY for November: doTERRA


I'm excited to share this giveaway with Making Home readers. I've been hearing great things about doTERRA essential oils lately, and Jessica Little has a great giveaway for you. Here's a little info about doTERRA:Q: Hi Jessica! Tell me the basics.A: DoTERRA is a company that specializes in Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade essential oils. I'd heard about EOs before, but it wasn't until this past summer that I jumped in with both feet and started using them. My husband was hospitalized for 2 weeks with MRSA in his leg which quickly led to Necrotizing Fasciitis. His body wasn't responding to the very strong antibiotics but his kidneys were starting to malfunction. On day 7, the Infectious Disease doctors took him off those medicines. Within a span of 1 hour, I received two e-mails regarding alternative treatment for him using essential oils...doTERRA oils. After several hours of research, I signed up and ordered the Family Physician Kit. In the meantime, I borrowed my Pastor's wife's bottles of On Guard and Oregano, applying both to his feet 3-4 times daily as well as putting the On Guard directly on another infected spot on his knee. We also diffused Peppermint (for nausea) and Lavender (for his restlessness). Five days later, we were on our way home! (I want to say up front that I am NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL!!!  Using these is up to my own discretion and would be the same for anyone else. My results don't guarantee the same for others.) Q: I use lavender in my bath salts every time I take a bath, and Michael Hyatt talks about doTERRA's oils and how he's made them an every-night part of his bedtime ritual, because of how well they help him relax and sleep. Can you give a few examples of how you use the oils for specific purposes in your home?A: We also use Lavender in our children's baths. Lavender also works great on pillows for sleeping; just one or two drops right on the pillow works like a charm! We had the stomach bug invade last week. I applied two drops of the DigestZen blend with 1 drop of Wild Orange applied to my 6 year old's belly and rubbed in a clockwise motion. She was done with the whole thing in less than 3 hours! Melaleuca has also been a huge help...stopped an ear infection (applied to the outside of the ear), dried up facial blemishes, and helped clear up a cold! Lemon dries up our cold sores as well as runny noses when applied to either side of the nose. On Guard is invaluable to prevent and treat symptoms. We roll it on our feet at the beginning of the day. Peppermint to the temples and across the forehead curb headaches.Q: If someone is a newbie to essential oils, what would you say are your top 3 "must have" essential oils?A: These have changed for me a couple time since this summer! Today I'd say: Melaleuca, Lavender, and Peppermint.Awesome. Thanks for sharing about doTERRA! Now, tell us about this GIVEAWAY:The winner of this giveaway will receive a 15mL bottle (full-sized) of doTERRA Eucalyptus oil. We have LOVED using this in our home these last few weeks with the change of seasons! A drop on our pillow or wrist at night helps us breathe better from a congested head. A drop put in a steamy shower is a great vaporizer. Rub it on the chest and/or under the nose to open up the nasal passages. You can also make a type of 'inhaler' using your hand cupped around itself with a drop on the fleshy part of your thumb!Sign up through this toolbox (entries only "count" if entered through the too[...]

I Could Be "THAT" Woman... and So Could You


Recently, I was driving alone and looked over to the side where I noticed a flashing billboard offering $500 for a dance competition "this Friday" at such-and-such "Men's Club."My heart broke as I considered the women who would line up for that. While some may go out of a desire to be admired or to entice, the truth is that all women-- even those who are now desensitized to it-- are driven there (and to situations like it) by desperation for what they do not have.Fantine sums it up so well, in her solo in Les Miserables:There was a time when men were kindWhen their voices were softAnd their words invitingThere was a time when love was blindAnd the world was a songAnd the song was excitingThere was a timeThen it all went wrongI dreamed a dream in time gone byWhen hope was highAnd life worth livingI dreamed that love would never dieI dreamed that God would be forgivingThen I was young and unafraidAnd dreams were made and used and wastedThere was no ransom to be paidNo song unsung, no wine untastedBut the tigers come at nightWith their voices soft as thunderAs they tear your hope apartAs they turn your dream to shameHe slept a summer by my sideHe filled my days with endless wonderHe took my childhood in his strideBut he was gone when autumn cameAnd still I dream he'll come to meThat we will live the years togetherBut there are dreams that cannot beAnd there are storms we cannot weatherI had a dream my life would beSo different from this hell I'm livingSo different now from what it seemedNow life has killed the dream I dreamed.So many women live this reality. Still in their heart waiting for "him" to come, dull and deadened to life and its hardships in the meanwhile. This... THIS is the reality our boys need to understand when we talk to them about porn, sexting, strip clubs, and even the girlfriend who sexually offers herself, feeling she has to. No little girl dreams of being used and objectified.The truth is......I could be THAT woman. YOU could be THAT woman.Take away a few (maybe even just one) of God's mercies in my life:a good churcha man who is committed to be husband and father to our childrenknowledge of Scripture and God's grace that drives me to love it, and I could be lured by a quick $500.As I drove, I knew: it would not take much for me to be the woman who would see that billboard, drive into a seedy parking lot one evening, sit in the car and tell myself, "it's only this one time. It'll pay the utilities this month. I don't have to look these people in the eye ever again," and walk in there, even brazenly, to pursue the money.This is not rhetoric. I know my own heart. I praise God for what He's done in my life. But truly, if you knew my heart you would know that I am capable of even the worst sin... capable of far worse than getting $500 by standing on a stage with my soul walled up in a cage within me while I strip items of clothing off of my body. Even now, this many years into my Christian walk, this many years into my marriage, this many years as a mother, I have to be so vigilant to fight off the sin that would entrap me. I have to forgive others as God forgives me, as I desire to be forgiven by Him; I have to live with my hands open. Open to the grace He gives, open to others.Christian woman, let's today work to cut out any hint of superiority toward "those" who would do something like that (whatever "that" we're talking about), because the truth is, I could be "THAT" woman. And I think you could to[...]

Seek Wisdom (Trail Blaze #10)


SEEK WISDOMAnd wherever you find it, grab ahold of it, and prize it.The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.Proverbs 4:7NO ONE HAS IT ALLAside from Christ, there is no one human who has all wisdom. So decide in advance that you won't fault someone for not having all wisdom-- because no one ever will.But there are many, many people around you right now who have some portion, however big or small, of wisdom to offer you. Seek them out. BE A WISDOM-SEEKING MAGNETInvite people to dinner. Talk with people before or after church. Be receptive to them, and tune your ears to hear the lessons they've learned. Pay attention, and listen to how they interweave Scripture into their opinions, decisions, and lives. Seek to learn from them.Take time to really get to know people. When they share the difficult stories of their life, tune in. Ask questions, and then really listen."So how did you handle that news?""What have you learned about parenting sons?""I don't know if I could do that. How did you make that decision?""Has God ever given you any answers or closure about that?""Your teens seem really well-grounded. How have you raised them to have good heads on their shoulders?"CONSIDER HOW IT CAN APPLYDon't be a person who digs in your heels and refuses to learn from others. It really doesn't matter how much they are or aren't like you, or whether or not their life is anything like yours... everyone has lessons to teach if we are willing to hear and learn.Purpose now that you will learn and grow from the lives of others.  God is at work all around each of us. Stop. Listen. Look around, and find the wisdom He has put within your reach.Hear what the people around you share, and apply it to your life, even if not all of it fits. The principles of wisdom will apply to your life, even if precise methods or details don't always line up.God did not design us to be islands, self-sufficient, and floating through life without connection. We need one another, and we need to be humble enough to admit it, and to seek wisdom in the human packages God puts in front of us. (TWEET THAT.)Who has God put in your life that you can seek out this week? Share in the comments what you plan to do to seek God's wisdom in the human packages around you.image courtesy of ImageryMajestics/[...]

Working My Way Home


{This article was originally posted as a guest article for Megan @ A Blossoming Homestead.}Mine was the generation of girls who were told (and believed), "You can do anything a boy can do, only better."  I was born in the first decade after Roe v. Wade. Though born to Christian parents, the seductive lies of feminism invaded my belief system from an early age. I dreamed career-focused dreams, without for a moment considering that any biological functions or marital desire would -- or should -- affect those dreams. Convinced that we were smarter than boys ("girls rule, and boys drool"), we were more cutthroat ("hell hath no fury..."), we were also on the receiving end of affirmative action efforts.  Colleges and businesses wanted us, but (at least in the south) boys still had to hold the door open for us. In every area, we girls were the beneficiaries. Or so we believed.CAREER PLANSAfter serving in student government and working as an intern for then-Governor Mike Huckabee, I worked for the Arkansas Legislature and shortly after graduation got a job in D.C. as the Associate Director of the Texas Office of State-Federal Relations.I was well on my way to achieving my political dreams, gaining experience through assisting, which (in my mind, and validated in the lives of those I interacted with) I believed would lead to personally holding elected office. With strong political connections in Arkansas, Texas, and the White House, I had (though I was in my very early twenties) achieved the launching pad for the political career of my choosing....THEN CAME BABYWhen I became pregnant, we began weighing our options and the plan that made the most sense to us was for me to keep going great guns with my career, and for Doug to be a stay-home dad. We went through months of thinking that way, but images kept flooding back into my brain.I could see Angie, my friend and mentor, on the floor with her five young children... snuggling, playing,  nursing, laughing, and overseeing green army men and wooden block towers. I read breastfeeding books and pondered how in the world I would manage that from my office two blocks from the US Capitol, with my husband and baby in the suburbs during 10-hour workdays. Reading Iris Krasnow's book Surrendering to Motherhood: Losing Your Mind, Finding Your Soul gave me much to ponder. While not a Christian book, Krasnow digs into the intersection of the feminist message and the earth-shaking role of mother. She painted the picture for me of her messy dining table, with three kids three and under, and the unabated joy therein. Somewhere inside of me, these images and messages roiled and rumbled, until one day it all spilled out to Doug in one emotional, heart-felt, impassioned-in-the-same-way-I-had-previously-been-about-politics lump of words.And he listened.Praise God, my husband listened to the emotional jumble and heard inside of it the nugget of truth... the God-given desire of a mother to be home with her child, not missing a moment, pouring her heart and soul into this new person.EVERYTHING CHANGEDBecause my husband honored this desire of my heart, it changed everything about our lives. No longer would we be able to afford to live in Washington, D.C., and no longer would he pursue a graduate degree in Art.  We took a leap of faith, without a job, without insurance, and moved back to Texas.NOT A CAKEWALKBe[...]