Christians and Alcohol

This is one of those “hot topic” moments where I’m going to address something that you might not like or agree with. You may have very strong feelings regarding alcohol and your feelings are totally valid! (Seriously!) I am, however, going to ask that you read this with an open mind and use respectful language when replying in the comments – or emailing me privately. Thanks! 

From time to time, I’ll see a friend or Christian news site post something negative on the topic of Christianity and alcohol consumption. While I completely understand why so many claim that to be a “good” Christian you must remain sober all the time, I just don’t agree. Alcohol and Christianity can and do mix, in my opinion. In fact, I believe you can be a very lousy Christian and still be sober. Alcohol has little to do with it. I believe that what so many are focused on are heart issues.

There are many people who use alcohol as a means to control behaviors or situations, whether it be their own or someone else’s. Alcohol can be used as an escape from reality or as a celebratory beverage. It can be consumed in moderation or excess and it can be consumed in a Holy way or a sinful manner. Many would concur that a sip of wine during communion is perfectly acceptable for most folks. Is that sinful? I don’t believe it is. What about a hardworking Christian coming home  from work and having a beer while preparing dinner for their family? Is that sinful? It could be, but it depends on the intent.

There are people – like my husband and I – that enjoy a beer every few months. We usually will crack open a Corona while making tacos. I’ll take a few sips, crack a silly joke and then hand off the beer to my husband to finish because I’m a light weight. We’ll crack open another beer in about a month in a similar fashion, usually while making tacos or chili. Our kids may or may not be paying attention to what we’re drinking. If they ask, we’ll tell them honestly that it’s beer. Beer is an adult drink and we enjoy it occasionally because to us, it tastes good. We’ll go on to explain that it’s not good to drink too much because it’s not God honoring to get drunk, but it is okay to drink a little beer sometimes. If our kids question further, we’ll answer honestly, but they usually don’t. Someday we’ll have a full, open and honest discussion about the effects of alcohol, however, right now they’re not even ten years old yet and show such little interest in it. If they had shown interest, we’d have had the full talk.

Anthony and I drink very responsibly, don’t drive afterwards and don’t rely on alcohol to “make us feel better” or to fix anything in our lives. It’s more of a festive, celebratory deal for us. We have maybe five or six beers total a year. And maybe one or two bottles of wine. Part of this is due to cost, but mostly it’s because we don’t crave it, don’t feel it’s an important part of everyday life and understand that it can be over consumed, leading to a serious breakdown of self and family. We know we’re responsible for taking care of our greatest blessings – our kids, and we don’t want to do anything or drink anything that will inhibit us from fulfilling our roles as parents. Consequently, I don’t drink during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, so in the last year, we’ve had maybe one beer total and no wine or other forms of alcohol. (If you are breastfeeding, please know that alcohol remains in your system for up to four hours after consuming it, so you’ll need to pump and dump your milk and use alcohol-free pre-pumped milk to feed your baby during that time.)

Children are susceptible to outside influences, of course. They can be tempted to try alcohol at a friends’ house or even by media such as television, movies, books, magazines and even social media. This is why Anthony and I feel it’s important to have an open dialogue with our kids, on their level. Since we rarely have alcohol in the house, we use other outlets to introduce the topic to our children, such as passing a bar or restaurant that is known to serve alcohol. One day our eldest daughter wanted to go into a bar because she saw that they were having a pool tournament and it looked like fun to her. We explained that she could not go in and that we weren’t likely to either. This prompted the usual “why” response from her and we launched into a mutual, informative discussion on why not. This particular bar didn’t serve food and Anthony and I don’t see a point in entering an establishment that only serves alcohol, especially since we never finish even one drink ourselves. We don’t enjoy the physical effects of drinking too much alcohol and we certainly have no desire to hang out in a place where everyone else is enjoying an activity that we don’t. We’d prefer to spend our time doing things with people we love – like our kids. This satisfied her curiosity for now. I’m sure she or one of her siblings will ask again and we’ll answer truthfully, in much the same way.

 

I’m curious to hear what God’s said to you all regarding alcohol. And if you’re not “religious” what do you feel is acceptable for Christians? There are no wrong or stupid answers!

 

RV Life – Week One {Debt Free Journey}

Moving into an RV is hard to do in less than a month! But it’s worth it. I already know by the amount of difficulty we’ve had this far. Whenever our family is challenged greatly, we learn amazing lifetime lessons.

Whenever I’ve encountered a challenge in the last few days, I remind myself why we’re on this journey. I envision the outcome and then I find the strength to keep going.

We spent our last night at our rental home preparing the motorhome to live in full time. That was a challenge! Even though we’d sold, given away and donated about 90% of our stuff – we still have had to face the fact that we have too much! All these years, I’ve thought I needed a glass, fork, plate, knife for everything. Well, I don’t! A coffee cup works for tea, coffee, hot cocoa, cider, etc. It’s a multi-purpose cup! Who knew? 😉 And a steak knife cuts a whole lot more than just steak. Just saying.

We thought that because we didn’t shop excessively that we were being frugal and careful with our money. We thought that because we’d downsized about a year ago (donating over 70% of our stuff) that we’d already entered the  world of minimalism – you know, dipping our toes in, testing the waters. Well, we didn’t even have a full toe nail in the water! I seriously recommend a full two months or more to downsize to just the bare essentials. With a family, I’d increase that to three months because life happens and children are so much more important than stuff – incoming or outgoing stuff. We simply didn’t have a choice this time around. The rental market crashed, our rental home was put on the market and we were given 30 days to move out. We felt God calling us into RV life and we quickly answered “sure thing, God!”IMG_20151008_174432

I’m glad we didn’t think this fully through first. We might not have obeyed. We would be missing out on great blessings.

The amount of work this has required and is still requiring, is teaching our kids to move past their comfort zones.  It’s shaking them up in a good way. Suddenly, they can’t just sit in front of a television. They have to get up and explore the world around them. They can’t dump out all 300 wooden blocks because there is no room for that. They must get creative. And they must begin helping with chores.

A major disservice we’ve done to our kids is to relent when they fight us on chores. Because of that, the girls haven’t learned about the importance of a good work ethic. They’re learning now, out of necessity! Future bosses and co-workers of my children – you’re welcome. 😉 Seriously though, it’s been good for all of us. It’s team building and I see small fruits forming already.  In due season, they’ll ripen and be ready for the harvest.

We’ve encountered our fair share of challenges, but we have hope, faith and spirit. We have love. And we will conquer this mountain and be all the better for it.

And….baby makes 5 (or 6?)!

 

 

 

I’m PREGNANT! I’ve “known” for a couple of weeks, but I had several chemical pregnancies this summer and I’m dealing with endometriosis, so I waited past the point when I felt I should probably test. This afternoon I stopped at the Dollar Tree after church to purchase a couple tests to verify and it’s a BFP (Big Fat Positive)!

I’ve been having dreams that it’s twins, so we’ll see in a few weeks. I have to call an OB/GYN tomorrow to make an appointment for next month. I’m a person who cannot hold a secret, so you’ll be getting to see ultrasound pictures, too.

Positive pregnancy test

double lines!

I’ve had several miscarriages and my blood type is Rh negative, so I’ll need a rhogam shot or else my body will become allergic to baby and spit him/her out. Please be praying for a healthy and safe pregnancy for me. Our girls are really, really excited and I think I made my husband deaf when I read the results and started screaming.

Praise be to God from whom all blessings flow! 

If you’re not familiar with some of the terms used above, I’ve provided some helpful links below. Additionally, I’m including a few of my favorite pregnancy sites.

Chemical Pregnancy:  http://miscarriage.about.com/od/onetimemiscarriages/p/chemicalpreg.htm

Endometriosis:  http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endometriosis/basics/definition/con-20013968

Miscarriage: http://www.webmd.com/infertility-and-reproduction/guide/pregnancy-miscarriage

Rh Negative Blood Type: http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/rh-factor/

Rhogam Shot: http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/ask-heidi/rhogam-and-rh-negative.aspx

Baby Center: http://www.babycenter.com/

The Bump.Com: http://www.thebump.com/

 

Do you have any favorite pregnancy websites or Facebook pages you want to share? Let me know in the comments. Also, what’s your most memorable pregnancy moment? Share that in the comments, too!

 

 

 

Speaking Out Against Our Kids Practicing Yoga at School

Today, we found out that our daughters’ school is now teaching yoga for physical education. Tonight I had the difficult task of emailing our daughters’ teachers and principals and firmly request that our girls not be involved in any way with yoga on school grounds. I don’t know how this will pan out on their end. On mine, this is a non-negotiable issue.

I feel the need to speak out against the dangerous practice of yoga, as it is far from God honoring. While Yoga is indeed on the surface, a set of wonderful physical stretches and breathing techniques, we need to dig a lot deeper, back to the roots of Yoga, in India.

Yoga is an ancient Hindu spiritual practice that guides an individual to self-realization through meditation, breathing techniques and both physical and spiritual discipline. It’s a self-serving practice that opens the door to a spiritual realm that is not associated with Christianity, but to Satan himself.

One of the main beliefs in Yoga is that everything is god and in everything there is god. There is no distinction between God and man. While the practice of yoga appears to be a deeply spiritual practice, it is not. Yogis and their followers seek only to worship oneself, by opening the “third eye” and enlightening oneself to the point of “self-realization.”

We already are self-realized. Look in the mirror. There you are! 😉

Seriously though, even the Hatha practice of yoga, which is a physical form of yoga with a light smattering of spirituality, still opens the door for one to dig deeper into the “New Age” practice of yoga. With other ancient practices like Integral, Iyengar, Jivamukti, Kripalu, Kundalini, and several others delving deep into denial of God’s ultimate existence and refusal to acknowledge humanity’s sinfulness and Christ’s ultimate sacrifice, yoga is a practice that we simply cannot tolerate our children to participate in. It’s a slippery slope. Why take that darkened, slippery path to Hell when Christ has so brightly lit a better one for us, Brothers and Sisters? I’m not saying it’s a guarantee we’ll go to hell for practicing yoga, but rather that it’s one in a series of mortal sins that carries that risk that we’ll love serving ourselves so much, we’ll turn eternally from God. We need to turn eternally from Yoga.

Teach a child to choose the right path, and when he is older, he will remain upon it.

Proverbs 22:6 (TLB)

Current media has done a fabulous job of providing a smoke screen as to what yoga “really is” and how it can make your life “more fulfilling.” Everywhere we look, we see messages of peace and tolerance. You’re either for it, or against it, the mainstream claims.

I’m all for peace, but yoga is a practice I simply cannot tolerate, like rape, murder, dishonesty, coveting, theft…you get the idea.

We are God’s children and we are called to live in the Light! We are called to die to self and serve God! We are called to find ourselves in Christ. We are God’s beloved children, bought with a price and adopted into His family. Christ died for us so that we may eternally live with Him and our Father in Heaven. That is the ultimate sacrifice. Not veganism, self denial or poverty. Earth is not all we have. We are not god and we’re not called to be Him.

If you’re still wanting to know more about the dangers of Yoga and the Christian response to it, I’ve provided some lovely links for you. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, and I encourage you to seek out more if you’re still interested.

We would love your prayers as we navigate this tricky and touchy issue with our daughters’ school. Have a great day and God bless you, Brothers and Sisters!

In Christ,

Mandy T. 🙂

The following link is a beautiful and painful testimony as to how a woman fell far from God at a young age after being introduced to yoga by her mother at age 7, and many years later, found her way back to Him again. I hope you’ll take some time to read it before commenting on this post, either positively or negatively.  http://www.todayschristianwoman.com/articles/2005/march/truth-about-yoga.html?start=1

The Different Types of Yoga: http://www.matsmatsmats.com/yoga/yoga-disciplines.html

What is the Christian View of Yoga? http://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-yoga.html

The Great Toy Clean Out

Lately, I’ve heard from a lot of parents that their kids are having a hard time keeping their rooms in order. Oh, how I know that pain and torture! Can you relate to this common dilemma: You step into your kids’ room to deliver a load of laundry or kiss them goodnight, and you walk on a carpet of toys just to get two feet inside the room? Oh yeah, that was us, too!  I remember once calling a family member to help me “motivate” my two little girls to clean their room. Three hours later, the room was still a mess!

The problem wasn’t motivation, or even my girls’ own issues – the problem was mine. I was simply keeping too much stuff for them; too many toys, clothes, shoes, and too much bedding. Parenting was no longer a joy. It was a flat-out war! Stuff had taken over our lives, stolen our joy, and it was time for much of it to go. We set out on a journey to free ourselves of 90% of our possessions by the end of summer. So far, we’ve thrown away, donated and given away about 35%. We still have a long way to go.

We began in the kids’ room because honestly, that’s the first room we were able to get fully under control. (Ideally, I’d suggest working on your own bedroom first in order to set a positive example for your kids, however, at the time we began this journey, my husband was working graveyard shift and sleeping during the day.)

Please keep in mind that what has worked for us may not work for you. Realistically, you may not be able to pare down as much as we have. That’s okay. It’s your space and you are the one that needs to decide what to do in it and with it. I’m simply here to provide encouragement and inspiration! You can use the following tips in any room of the house, but I’ve especially written them based on what we did  in our girls’ room. This is the exact process we used.

 

Step One – Prepare for the big clean out!

Get your cleaning supplies in order, feed yourself and the kids, walk the dog, and turn your phone off. Resolve not to answer the phone, check e-mail or do any other chores during this time. Grab no-spill water bottles and keep them on hand in the room with you.

You’ll want to decide ahead of time how much stuff you’re willing to let them keep. In my daughter’s room, we chose to let them each fill up one large bin we already owned. That was the absolute limit. I went in their room ahead of time and emptied it out, so they could start fresh with it.

The supplies you’ll need are

  • Trash bag

  • Bag for recyclable materials

  • Sturdy boxes or bags to place “donate” and/or “give away” items in

  • Cleaning rags

  • Magic Erasers (if there’s crayon or stubborn stains on walls and furniture)

  • Non-toxic cleaner *

  • Vacuum or broom and mop**

  • Water bottle to stay hydrated

  • Bins for “keep” pile

 

The bins we use:

We found these at WalMart for about $6 each.

We found these at Wal*Mart for about $6 each.

*For everything except wood, I just use 1 part distilled white vinegar to 2 parts water in a spray bottle. For wood, I use a damp rag to remove dirt and dust and then polish with homemade lemon oil. I make this by placing lemon peels into an air-tight glass jar, filling with water and 2 tablespoons coarse salt, then closing the lid and setting it in a window for two weeks. Strain the oil into another glass jar for storage until you need to use it. (I recommend a dark-colored glass jar so you don’t break down the oils, however, you could simply store the jar in a dark cupboard or under the sink away from light.)

**I bought my girls this small vacuum in hot pink a couple of years ago and they love it for small messes.

kidvac

$16 at Wal*Mart. I bought this 4 years ago and it’s still going strong!

For large messes, this is my favorite budget-friendly vacuum.

$48 at Wal*Mart. I've had mine for 4 years and it's still going strong!

$48 at Wal*Mart. I’ve had mine for 4 years and it’s still going strong!

Shark Steam Mops are my absolute favorite. They’re so easy to use that my kids can operate them, too. All they need is water to operate and they’re very efficient. (I don’t allow them to take the pad off though. It gets really hot!)

$45 at Wal*Mart. I've had mine for almost 7 years and I absolutely love it! It's still going strong.

$45 at Wal*Mart. I’ve had mine for almost 7 years and I absolutely love it! It’s still going strong.

 

 

Step Two – Have “the Talk” with your kids

First, I began by apologizing to the girls for not finding a solution to the problem sooner. I apologized for blaming them for the messy room and took responsibility for my part in the mess. After all, they didn’t buy the toys. I did.  Then I explained that they just had too much stuff and we can’t keep everything. At first, they cried and wouldn’t let me finish the talk. It was hard, but it was important for me to sit quietly and hear them out. They expressed the same emotions I had been feeling before I made the resolution to begin this journey.

Once the girls calmed down, I told them all about the joys of a clean room – more space to play, finding what they’re looking for faster, and the ability to have friends over. They wondered how they’d achieve that. My girls are animal lovers, so I used that to their advantage. Our town has a wonderful Humane Society thrift store that uses its proceeds to help sick and injured animals. The more I laid out the blessings of giving, the more the girls became excited to give.

Remember:

  • Take responsibility for your part in the mess.

  • Space is limited. Decide what will function in the space you have, then create boundaries.

  • Giving can be a joy and a blessing, rather than a sad occasion.

  • Listen to what your kids have to say. They’re working through new and difficult emotions. Give them space to express their emotions in a healthy manner. (Name calling, blame games, and yelling/tantrums are not appropriate and should not be tolerated, though.)

  • Lay out the benefits of a clean room. Engage your kids in the discussion and encourage them to think of all the fun things they can do in that space.

 

Step Three – Remove the trash!

Children are precious treasures in the Lord’s sight, and certainly in ours, too! Since trash isn’t a reflection of that belief, I had the girls walk around their room, trash bags in hand, picking up everything that looked like trash. If a toy was broken, it automatically went into the trash. Bits of paper went into the trash, and so forth. We focused on what we could easily see. If you’re having a hard time getting started, suggest that kids start out picking up one piece of trash per year of life. (For example, a six-year-old would begin by picking up six pieces of trash, while a four-year old would pick up four pieces.) Set the trash bag in an easy to reach area, so more trash can be thrown away as it’s uncovered.

Remember:

  • You already have enough stuff. It’s okay to throw away broken items.

  • Your kids probably make a lot of artwork. It’s OK to throw away torn, stained and wrinkled artwork and save only the best.

  • Ripped books aren’t as fun as whole books. Go ahead and throw ripped ones away. You can always borrow lost or trashed books from the library for free.

 

Step Four – Fill the bins!

I set out the bins I’d emptied, and explained to the girls that they could keep only what fit into the bins, plus 2-4 stuffed animals on their beds. Everything that did not fit into the bins was promptly placed into the donate bags and boxes. We looked at and touched each toy. I was really surprised by some of their choices but it’s now a month later and they have expressed absolutely zero regret.

Thinning out possessions can be one of the hardest tasks because for some us (like my family and I) it’s tough to know just what is essential to keep. Whenever you find yourself or your kids stuck making a decision about an item, ask yourself or the kids the following questions:

  • Do I/you like it?

  • Do I/you need it?

  • When was the last time I/you used this?

Take a 2-5 minute wiggle break every 20 minutes and make sure to stay hydrated!

 

Step Five – Remove the trash and clean the room

As soon as the sorting is done, remove all the trash and donate bags and boxes. Put the donate bags in the car or by your purse and keys so you’ll remember to drop them off at the charity shop the next time you leave the house. Take the trash to the curb and be done with it.

Enlist your kids’ help with vacuuming (or sweeping and mopping) the floor, washing windows and cleaning the walls. Change the sheets on the beds and remove all the dirty clothes. If you have any clean clothes on the floor, now is the time to put those away.

When you’re all done, celebrate! This endeavor took us about 2 hours from start to finish and clean-up time now averages from 2-10 minutes a night, depending on how much the girls have played in their room. I love it, but most importantly, the girls love it!

The key, we’ve found, to a happy childhood is:

  • Keeping it simple

  • Setting boundaries early in life (to teach discipline)

  • Having more empty space than toys

Jesus

How about you? Have you ever had to do a great toy clean-out? Are you interested in down-sizing your home in order to create a simpler lifestyle for your family? Tell us all about it in the comments section below. 

 

 

 

 

 

Wedding

Eight Years Later

Yesterday was Anthony’s and my eight year wedding anniversary. It was a pretty quiet day until we attended a board meeting for the Little League in our area. We went to volunteer as board members and were voted in during the meeting! That was a really cool way to celebrate the anniversary of our marriage.

As we begin another year of marriage, I can’t help but reminisce over the last eight and count my blessings. I’m so glad my husband puts up with me. He’s a wonderful guy! So without further ado, here’s a very, very short list of things I’m grateful for in my marriage.

First Year

  • Spending our honeymoon in Bandon, Or. I’ll always treasure that first day as husband and wife, walking around the tiny little town, exploring the local fare.
  • Positive pregnancy test! Our little Theresa was on the way!

Second Year

  • Theresa was born not long into the second year of our marriage. I went into labor at the air port, picking Anthony up from deployment. It was a dramatic entry for our little “Tornado Tess” and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Anthony was so sweet, holding our precious little babe. He barely let go of her those first few months.
  • Positive pregnancy test a month and a half after he returned home from deployment! Our little Chelsea was on her way!

Third Year

  • Chelsea was born just 22 days into our third year as man and wife. True to form, Anthony was a perfect dad and husband at the birth. He never left our sides.
  • Living in base housing in Seattle and walking through Fort Lawton every night after dinner. (The base housing is no longer there. It’s been moved to Lake Stevens, WA and the land given back to the natives.)

Fourth Year

  • Travelling all over WA state on the weekends, exploring just because we were there and we could. Anthony is a wonderful navigator. I, on the other hand, get lost in the grocery store and require a map.
  • Anthony took both girls trick-or-treating, by himself. (This is huge because I absolutely despise Halloween and prefer to hide. He had no qualms about taking two kids under two trick or treating so I could have quiet time.)

Fifth Year

  • This was a tough year for me, but Anthony stuck by me the entire time and defended me when others spoke damaging lies about me. He even stuck up for me against his command’s wishes. Marriage first, mission second, which is not the Navy way, but it is Anthony’s way and I love him for it.
  • Going to the Seattle zoo almost every weekend. He always let me sit and watch the giraffes as long as I wanted. What a guy!

Sixth Year

  • This is the year we got out of the Navy. He denied his orders to stay in Everett and just got out when I asked him to. We had to work really hard to make post-Navy life work, but we did it together!
  • He went vegan with me to help me curb and correct some of the painful reproductive issues I’d been having.

Seventh Year

  • We moved back home to Oregon, at my request. He had a great job at Silgan Containers in Toppenish, WA for $60k/year and left it for a $38k/year job with the county jail back home. (Anthony has wanted to be a cop since he was 5 years old. I’m so blessed to see his dream come true!)
  • Having my husband HOME! This was the first year of our marriage that he was home every day and did not deploy. It was surreal. I kept waiting for the deployment to come, but of course it never did. (Thank God!)

Eighth Year

  • Struggling with our finances together and praying together. This brought us so close to each other, and to God. It’s stretched us further than we ever thought we could go, and made us so much stronger than we ever realized we were.
  • Watching our daughter’s first Tee-Ball together. I almost burst out in tears the first time she took the field. My mother’s heart was proud, and I was so glad for Anthony’s strong arms around me, praying for her success with me.

Hopes for Year Nine

  • We’re still trying for baby number three!
  • Coaching Tee-Ball next year and blooming as Little League board members
amish

Going Amish?

amish

 

One of my all-time favorite books is Almost Amish by Nancy Sleeth. I cannot read this book enough! Right now, I’m reading it for the fourth or fifth time and taking more intensive notes than I ever have before. God has been placing it upon our hearts to live more sustainable lives and to love and tend His creation. For the last couple of years, Anthony and I have been working really hard to live more with less. We got off track about a year ago when we moved back home to Oregon, but we’re slowly getting back to where we want to be. Eventually, we will switch from 100% electric lighting to 100% non-electric lighting, from owning a clothes dryer, to not owning one (and line drying all of our clothes), and we will cut down on our use of a car for any errand within five miles of our home (unless it’s on the way home from church or work, which are both more than 10 miles from home). We’re selling pretty much everything that is non-essential and that does not honor God. This includes home decor, clothing, and most small electrical kitchen appliances. This change began in the heart, and is moving outward, to our actions. It’s not so much that we want to be Amish, as that we want to honor God in all we do and say, and we want to be sure we’re considering long-term cost to our environment, neighbors, and our wallets, as opposed to short-term gain for ourselves.

The more we pare down, the freer we feel. We live in a small (by “normal” standards) two bedroom, one and a half bath apartment. It’s around 900 square feet and it’s ample room for the four of us. We park in a community car port and we live less than half a block from the schools, and less than one-quarter mile from a local grocer’s. Everything we need is within one mile of our home. Though we do not have a backyard, we do have a small patio, and we are using that to grow some food. We currently have cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, mint, rosemary, basil, oregano, broccoli, limes, lemons and oranges growing on our back patio. There is still room for our two girls to play out there as well. We plan to increase our crop by double next year, adding beans, cilantro, potatoes, radishes, cucumbers (for pickling), and tomatillos or some other type of peppers.

Our girls are expected to help water the plants, feed the pets (we have a small dog and a cat), and clean up after themselves, as well as set the table, prepare some simple foods (like cutting olives with a table knife, tear lettuce for salads, stir baking mixes, etc), fold laundry (towels, wash cloths, socks, underpants, cloth napkins, etc.), and sweep and mop tiled areas, to name a few. I also expect them to clean the bathtub every Monday evening. (They love that particular chore, since it means they’re the first to take a soak in a clean tub!) We do not pay our girls an allowance. We had been using a rewards system to bribe them to do chores, but we’re removing that from our home, since we don’t believe that it’s spiritually beneficial to bribe them to assist the family, or for any other reason. This can lead to a sense of entitlement, and that is not a spiritual blessing in any way, shape or form. Instead, we reward ourselves with time spent outside, such as a daily walk to the park to play on the playground. We live exactly a half mile from two different parks (one in each direction), both with playgrounds. Taking a walk to the park is a daily occurrence, provided it’s not pouring down rain outside. This is ample reason for the girls to complete their chores in a timely manner. They absolutely love going to the park with enough time to spend socializing with the neighbor kids.

We have significantly decreased screen time for our children, to a mere 20 minutes a day (for computer games on Sesame Street.org) and one movie a week, on Fridays, when we make popcorn and settle in on the couch as a family. This week, we watched Beauty and the Beast and all of us girls were delighted to discover that my husband knew all the words to every song in the movie! Anthony and I have cut down screen time for ourselves, as well. We’re working on cutting it down even further. It’s a tough habit to break! He is in online school, working towards a degree in forensics and criminology and I home school Theresa, using the internet as a frequent resource for her. (I have found very helpful videos on YouTube for my visual learner.) We have to be very mindful of how we are using the internet. It’s so easy to become distracted!

Our financial situation has always been bleak. We were love-sick kids who got married on borrowed time and borrowed money. We barely had two nickels to scrape together, and then we started having children. You can guess how that’s all turned out. 😉 We tried chasing after the “American dream” but found that for us, it’s more of an “American nightmare.” We have little interest in corporate America and even less interest in working far from home. We value our time together as a family, and our small home that allows us to be in close proximity to one another. Yes, we do occasionally (read: daily) drive each other nuts, but we also have some insanely funny moments. I would not trade this time with my family for anything, nor would I desire a larger house so that I could “escape” from my husband or my children. We make time for each other, and for ourselves. It all “comes out in the wash” as they say.

Behind our home is an empty property, full of grass, wild flowers, birds and often, deer. We love to stand on the patio, quietly talking to our friends, the deer. Right now there are five young bucks that make the trek to our “backyard”. It delights our girls to no end to see them out there, munching on the sweet grasses or laying lazily in the sun. I love listening to the hundreds of birds outside our window. There is a stream about 50 yards away, down a bit of a ravine, and I know the area is teeming with wild-life. I am in heaven here. There is always something new, something beautiful to enjoy, even in the middle of a small town.

Because we enjoy our friends the birds and deer so much, we want to preserve their land. Limiting our time in the driver’s seat, cutting down our carbon footprint, and reducing our use of non-renewable energies. We’re beginning to shop locally (which is an adjustment, I’ll admit! I love Fred Meyer!), frequenting farmer’s markets, purchasing locally made toiletries, using cloth napkins exclusively, cleaning with water and vinegar, and clearing our home of unnecessary clutter. (Clutter equals fire hazard, among other things.)

The reactions we’ve received about these changes have been, surprising to us, mostly negative. People ask why we’re striving to be so different, and ask why we’re trying to buy our way into heaven. It’s not about buying our way into heaven at all! It’s about ensuring there’s still a planet with fresh air, healthy (recognizable, non-genetically modified) foods, and room to run and play and explore nature, for future generations. Most of all, it’s about living in a way that allows us time to be free to do what we love best, and that is to love God by serving others. I cannot serve others very well when I am tied down to a large house, cleaning lots of things that I do not really need, and working at a job I hate just to be able to afford these things. That, to us, is the opposite of a dream.

God has deeply and richly blessed our family. I can count on one hand the amount of times we’ve discussed leaving this town to go somewhere else and make more money, and on one finger the number of places and situations I’d rather be in. God has planted us here, and we intend to bloom right where He’s planted us. This, above all things, is the Amish way. We will bloom where God has planted us until it is time to be with Him forever in Heaven.