Saturday, September 26, 2015

I'm a Teacher Again!

I'm a Teacher Again!

So I only had two students, and I wanted more. They have this homeschool co-op that meets one day a week in a church annex in town, and my grandchildren were involved there (one is left, front row in the picture above). I hesitated to teach there, because I preferred to teach in my own home, and for compensation. But I decided, as they say, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." So I  offered a class that my two oldest grandsons could learn in: the Writing Road to Reading curriculum. It turned out to be the most popular class offered, with fifteen students and their mothers filling the room. 

I love teaching! The students are so eager and thriving under this highly-structured approach by Romalda Spalding.  The smiling boy in the front row told his mother it's his favorite class. How gratifying.

I am also teaching a speech class with four students, so I have my hands full. Again. And loving it.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Contentment: Common Myths

This article was previously published in November 2012.

Ultimately, our contentment does not derive from our circumstances, our behavior, or our friends and family. It derives from the Person of Jesus Christ. Is He your Source? 

Am I content at home? I can say, irrevocably, yes. How did I arrive there? It wasn't easy. But you may have a different notion of what I mean by the word content, so let me elucidate further. Here are some myths about what contentment looks and feels like.

Myth #1: Contentment means I feel like I've died and gone to heaven.

NO, sorry, that won't happen until, well, I've died and gone to heaven. It doesn't mean everything in my life is the way I want it. Contentment consists of knowing the parameters of real life in an imperfect world where I will live imperfectly, with circumstances likewise imperfect, and accepting them. Peace comes when you know you are doing the right thing, brightening the corner where you are, and pleasing your Lord and Savior.

Paul speaks here. Philippians 4:11-1(ESV)

11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Myth #2: Contentment at home means no conflicts.

My daughter recently said to me, "Sometimes it feels like our home is a battle ground." We had had an especially tough period with conflict and relational difficulties. I rubbed her back and said, "Well, hopefully most of the time it is a refuge. But there will be battles to be fought, and if we don't fight them, then problems can fester and get worse."

Myth #3: Contentment means I'm just waiting through this temporary season of my life until I can leave.

If you have little children in your home and you are salving yourself with the comforting thought that your present situation is only temporary, then you haven't really given you heart to your children. You are still looking for an escape plan. With true contentment comes an abiding joy, a desire to be home indefinitely, even after the children are grown and you have grandchildren to visit you. It doesn't mean you can't someday take a job or volunteer outside your home. But that shouldn't be a pie-in-the-sky vision for you as if then--and only then--you will get to fulfill your true potential and be happy. The grass is always greener on the other side. But, like the Three Billy Goats Gruff, you may find a menacing troll lurking under the bridge, or poisonous weeds mingled in that luscious grass you so coveted. In other words, don't expect the greener grass to make you happy.

Myth #4: Contentment means I'll settle for this season at home until I can finally follow MY real calling, to pursue MY gifts.

I think there is too much emphasis among some Christians about the need to identify one's spiritual gifts in order to pursue them. It can quickly become a poorly-veiled attempt at self-actualization. God doesn't give you gifts in order to feel more fulfilled. He gives them to you to serve others. 

Your calling IS to serve your family. Put your family first, serve them well, and your gifts will automatically be employed. You will also find out what weaknesses you need to improve on. Family life is intended to be a sanctifying experience. It's not easy. Do hard things.

This may be hard teaching for you. There are times when we need to hear some hard teaching. I pray that the Holy Spirit will use it in your life to mould you into His likeness.

Ultimately, our contentment does not derive from our circumstances, our behavior, or our friends and family. It derives from the Person of Jesus Christ. Is He your Source?

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. -Titus 2 ESV

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Almost an Empty Nester

May 23, 2015: Granddaughter Cedar, Husband John, Son Caleb, and me.

Last month my youngest son graduated from high school home school.

It was a milestone, a cause for pause.

Caleb gave an amusing four-minute speech, well-constructed, with famous quotes, scripture, and personal anecdotes. Being former speech club founders, we parents had reason to be proud. On the podium, he gave me flowers and hug. His father gave a blessing. It was good.

Thus ended, officially, my homeschool years with my five children. Yet I had little to do with Caleb's schooling during the last two years as he became an independent learner. I had worked my way out of a job, which was my intention. Still, on those occasions when he asked me to do school with him just to help him focus on the work, my heart was warmed. "I'm still needed!"

Last year I went through Empty Nest Syndrome, of a sort, as I tried to redefine my role and function. What would I do with myself now? I offered my tutoring services to my grown children who now are parents, but they were well-equipped to go it on their own, or had joined a co-op. They didn't need me. I advertised to the larger community online and on facebook, but rarely got a response. "No one needs me anymore," and I fell into self-pity, a frequent temptation for me as I continue to struggle with health issues that limit my options.

I'm so over that now. I have plenty to do, as you can see by my bio on my About Me page. I have grandchildren to visit, two writing students to teach, and a house and garden to offer in ministry to others. I have a women's Bible study in my home, which has been a great blessing. And I have a side income with Young Living.

When I told a friend I was an empty-nester now, she corrected me by saying, "Well, he hasn't moved out yet, right? So you still have some parenting to do." And that's true. I still end up nagging him when I'm not careful.

God is not finished with me yet.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Hash Green Fritters

I used an amazing recipe I found in my Facebook feed called Zucchini Crust Pizza last week when my garden was exploding (again) with zukes. My family raved about it.

The secret was in salting and squeezing out the moisture in the zukes. Brilliant! Why didn't I think of that before! The hot oven-stone idea was also very helpful, though I used a 13-inch ceramic tile left over from our kitchen remodel and turned it upside down. My pizza was square. Tasted great anyway.

Well, I had some uncooked dough left over, and the next morning my daughter fried pancakes out of it. Also brilliant! It was delicious! The only drawback was, the high oregano content required that it be smothered in more tomato-y salsa to even out the flavors. Not my idea of breakfast, but hey, I'm eating greens three meals a day, and that isn't your typical breakfast food either, so I could live with it. Once.

Today I made what I have dubbed Hash Green Fritters. I took out the oregano and basil from the aforementioned recipe and increased the protein content by adding chia seeds along with a bit of water. Worked like a charm! Here's a single-dish meal for your family that is low-carb and higher protein than potato hash browns, and just as yummy.   


  • 8 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or pepper jack cheese
  • 2/3 cup flour of choice
  • 2T chia or flax seed
  • 1T water
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 T coconut oil
  • optional: extra shredded cheese to sprinkle on top 
  1. In a large bowl, toss the zucchini with 1 teaspoon coarse salt and set aside for 15 minutes. Squeeze the excess moisture out of the squash by wrapping it up in a clean tea towel or piece of cheese cloth and wringing it out, discarding the water. (You may wish to do step one the night before and refrigerate. I did.)
  2. Once all of the excess moisture has been wrung out and discarded, place the shredded zucchini back into the bowl and add the cheese, flour, garlic, seeds, water, eggs, and salt.
  3. With your hands, incorporate all of the ingredients together.
  4. Place coconut oil into a frying pan on high and heat until just beginning to smoke. Very important that it be HOT, or the mixture will not sear, may stick to pan and give you a big headache!
  5. Spread mixture in hot pan thinly, about a quarter of an inch. After 3 minutes, flip with a spatula (yes, it will break apart) and press down flat. After 2 minutes, flip and press down again. Continue flipping as outer crust browns and inside dries and cooks until no moisture oozes up. Keep pan hot, but not too hot. Don't walk away and burn your precious meal :).
  6. You may offer a bowl of extra shredded cheese for hand-sprinkling on top of the hot cakes. Enjoy!

Prep time: 15 minutes   Cooking time: 15 minutes  Servings: 6

See my new Facebook page at Arden's Garden

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Response to Thomas Sumstattd Article on Courtship

Lately a lot of talk has been circulating among my Christian friends about an article entitled, "Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed."  Doug Wilson has posted his always-poignant response, "Why Courtship is Fundamentally Awed." Read them both before you read my response.

SO MUCH of this article is based on the author's personal experience. My experience is the opposite. My husband and I were raised in public school and are products of the cultural failings of the dating system of the 70s and 80s. We were burned; yet God in His grace brought us together and we have been married 30 years. We now have five children, and the biblical courtship model has been very helpful to us in raising them.

We also started a Christian ministry offering families opportunities to mix and mingle with other like-minded families so our young people would be exposed to a healthy community of prospective future marriage partners.  We did not isolate our children from their peers, but we did set up an atmosphere of selectivity which allowed for a good-quality peer environment with a parental presence. This article woefully ignores the social environment that should be provided for by families in their home.

I'm sorry to hear of so many fathers being rude to those suitors. That should not be. Fathers should allow these potential-suitor young men to come hang out with the family in low-pressure situations (dinner, coffee, music-making, games, etc.) where siblings of all ages are allowed into the circle of fellowship. These young men ought to be allowed the same polite company as anyone else. They are younger brothers and disciples for the fathers in the long haul, regardless of their future marriage potential with their daughters. But alas, this again has not been our practice, nor have we observed others acting in this way. (Except perhaps in one case :P.)

Any system has its flaws because mankind is flawed. We have married off our three eldest children and our fourth is now in a courtship. We have made mistakes with each courtship, learned from our mistakes, and honed our skills with each one. We have acted on a case-by-case basis, keeping in mind the age of the children. An 18yo daughter is treated slightly differently from a 21yo daughter. An 18yo suitor likewise would be treated differently than a 24yo. We take them where they are and go from there, allowing various levels of autonomy based on their readiness and spiritual condition. I still think this is a more biblical model than dating, however way you define it.

My parents dated in the 40s and married in 1950. They did not have this no-exclusivity rule imposed on them, so it was not universal in those days, at this article seems to suggest.  My mother did not listen to her mother's warnings, and her father said nothing in criticism until after the marriage, which by then was too late. My parents' marriage was dysfunctional from the beginning until my father's death two years ago.

If you build your case and doctrine on personal experience alone, you won't be able to stand very long on such a sandy foundation. Courtship is not fundamentally flawed, it is biblical. The devil is in the details. Yes, some folks can go overboard with the principles and be unbalanced. That does not mean one should throw out the baby with the bathwater. I'm glad the suitors who came to ask permission to court our daughters did not take offense at the father's involvement. The key is the attitude and behavior of the father, who in every case is human. Cut the father some slack. He's still trying to figure this out too.

This article is disrespectful and presumptuous regarding the father's motives--an attitude you will NOT find supported by scripture!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Kicking the New Age Out of Old Age Healing

New Agecropped
This article is written by guest Stacy McDonald, The Common Scents Mom. Stacy has been my mentor via her book, Raising Young Ladies of Virtue, and her articles in Homeschooling Today magazine. She is a pastor's wife and well-versed in scriptural principles and doctrine. I am privileged to be on her team.  Heere's Stacy!
Just in case you wondered, you are not God. If you don’t believe me, ask your husband. Neither are there little pieces of God scattered throughout the universe.
Splendor. Beauty. Expanse.  As amazing as that rock formation is, God created it; He doesn’t reside in it.
Magical. Breathtaking. Spectacular. As rightly awed as you may be by the beauty of the night sky, remember, God spoke the stars and planets into existence; and when He did so, He didn’t leave a part of Himself behind. God isn’t there. Though, if you watch carefully, you may find His glory being proclaimed (Psalm 19:1).
Healing. Amazing. Soothing. Yes. But, regardless of what the latest health guru tells you, the God of the Universe does not mystically linger in your little bottle of essential oil or supplement. I don’t care what the catchy name on the label says.
God spoke herbs and essential oils into existence at Creation when He formed the plants, trees, flowers, and shrubs and gave them to man (Genesis 1:29), but they are gifts given for our service (Psalm 104:14) and healing (Ezekiel 47:12). Good gifts. Just, don’t look for God there. Instead, open your Bible.
And know your heresies.
Pantheism: “God is everything”
Panentheism: “God is in everything”
You alone are the Lord; You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and everything on it, the seas and all that is in them, and You preserve them all… (Nehemiah 9:6)
Christians have inadvertently relinquished their rights to God’s good gift of natural health and healing, a gift that encourages the body to do what it was intended to do, which is to heal. Many false religions embrace the gift, but reject the Gift-Giver. Or, they try to turn the gift into the Gift-Giver. Christians, on the other hand, rightly embrace the Gift-Giver; but, ironically, they too often devalue His gifts by placing them below man’s wisdom in worth and authority. In other words, they snub the Gift-Giver’s gifts. Both are wrong.
Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord. (Jeremiah 17:5)
Arrogant. Futile. Anemic. The gift of natural foods and medicine was given to us by God for an ultimate purpose, therefore they are good and useful, and will serve us well when used properly and with thanksgiving. But, if we don’t reclaim this territory for Jesus—if we continue to eat empty, toxic foods and blindly trust in physicians to be our “miracle makers,” we will become weaker and sicker and find ourselves utterly unable to fulfill our calling.
Asa became diseased in his feet, and his malady was severe; yet in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians. So Asa rested with his fathers; he died in the forty-first year of his reign. (2 Chronicles 16:12–13)
Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in your time of distress.” (Judges 10:14)
We must remember that all healing comes from the Great Physician, so that is where we should first turn. This is one reason that, when we apply our essential oils, we pray and ask God to use them to heal our bodies. Anointing the sick and downcast with oil is found throughout Scripture. Unfortunately, it is the tendency of our sinful and idolatrous hearts to put our trust in anything but God. We often trust in doctors, pharmaceuticals, chemo, and even created things—gifts intended for our healing (Ezekiel 47:12), but used in a sinful way.
So it came to pass, through her casual harlotry, that she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees. (Jeremiah 3:9)
God is our ultimate provider. In Genesis 22:14, He is called Jehovah Jireh, which is Hebrew for “the Lord will provide.” He is also called Jehovah Rapha, which means God is our healer. When we sing the doxology, we “praise God from whom all blessings flow.” In James 1:17 we’re reminded that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights.”
We need to stop living like we believe that New Agers, Eastern Mystics, and other false religions “own” the Creator’s gifts. Praise God for what He has given us; live like you believe in God’s graciousness; study and learn how to make His gifts useful for yourself and your family; and glorify Him by using them with thanksgiving, in an effort to strengthen and heal His people, and to further the Gospel.
If Christians would do this, the world would stop associating God’s natural gifts with mysticism, and they would begin to see the power and graciousness of a loving and creative God.
I’m here to help.
If you are interested in using essential oils to care for your own family, I would recommend buying them wholesale. Why pay retail when you don’t have to? It’s kind of like being a Costco member, but without the yearly fee. In fact, there isn’t a fee to becoming a wholesale customer at all. The only requirement is the purchase of a starter kit. Find out more HERE or sign up HERE.
caleb and mommyTo get started using therapeutic grade essential oils with your family, I recommend purchasing our Premium Starter Kit! This way, you’ll enjoy wholesale prices all the time! It includes eleven of Young Living’s most popular essential oil singles and blends, an ultrasonic diffuser (worth $100.00!), essential oil samples for sharing, and 2 NingXia Red immune boosting drinks! In addition, I’ll send you a free essential oil reference book to help you learn how to start using your essential oils! Get started now!referenceguidesmall
By the way, I am not a doctor – just a mom who uses essential oils in her own family. Please know that any information provided on The Common Scents Mom is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to prescribe, diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. It is your responsibility to educate yourself and address any health or medical needs you may have with your physician. Please seek professional help. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I Still Thank God for Doug Phillips; The Messenger Fell, but the Message Stands

Several years ago my husband John made the statement, "I thank God for Doug Phillips." He had impacted us in so many positive ways. This was before the scandal. Today I can still say I thank God for Doug Phillips. He has a long road ahead of him to repair the ruins. For the sake of his reputation, his precious children and wife, and the cause of Christ, I wish him success. May the good that he has done for the kingdom not be lost. 

We were just heading out for a family jaunt on November 1, 2013 when John sadly relayed to us the news that left us all stunned: Douglas Phillips had announced his resignation from Vision Forum, Inc. and Vision Forum Ministries. He had confessed to an inappropriately affectionate relationship with another woman, not his wife. 
The announcement caused us much sorrow. My daughter Alexa felt physically ill. (She had befriended the Phillips family at an economics conference a year before.) My immediate comment was, "How could he do that to Beall? How could he do that to his children?" My husband said, "I'm not surprised by these things anymore. I only wonder who's next?" (The "next" one turned out to be Bill Gothard.)
I can only imagine the tears and agony that the whole Phillips family has gone through as the knowledge of Doug's dalliance has sunk in.
I have searched the internet for updates on the situation, only to find articles by those who have personal vendettas and harsh criticisms, circling like vultures, feasting on the opportunity to further malign the man and his ministry.
I am not here to defend what Mr. Phillips did. It is in violation to his own Biblical beliefs that he acted against God's will, law and word by involving himself with another woman (to what extent, I know not, nor pretend to know). He has threatened to destroy the future destiny and heritage of his entire family, inexorably and immeasurably. He has in my opinion lost all legitimate right to future positions of leadership in any Christian church or ministry. He has stated that his intention is to remain "a foot soldier" in future endeavors and lead a quiet life. I hope he keeps to that path.
Yet in a sense his fall is very much in line with the doctrine of man's sinfulness, a tenet he also held. If anything, his life illustrates the plight and vulnerability of men in every station and state of faith, as also illustrated in many Bible stories of leaders gone wrong. It could happen to any of us. We should take heed lest we fall.
I also do not overlook the untold pain and emotional damage felt by the unnamed woman he has been involved with. I do not know the circumstances of the involvement, though rumors abound that it was with an underaged nanny in the Phillips' home. If this is true, Mr. Phillips is all the more culpable. Every effort should be made to minister to and restore the young woman, and if applicable to prosecute to the full extent of the law. Justice must be done--after all, it's Doug's second son's name. He has publicly espoused justice, and taught it to his children; now he must live it.
However, I am here to say that much of the ministry and products provided through the years by Vision Forum have been very helpful to our family and to others in our community of homeschool Christian families.
Mr. Phillips' intellectual acuity, historical research, team-building ability, and strong communication skills produced a voluminous repetoire of top-notched resources. They were well-researched, thorough, and visually appealing for all ages. I purchased a large segment of Vision Forum's materials through the years, including books and toys for my children and audiovisual lectures from several conferences. My husband and I incorporated much of his parenting approach and philosophy into our home life, and it has served us well. The materials on courtship, manhood/womanhood, family life and parenting were very helpful to us. Today our children all profess a Christian faith, are generally happy, productive members of society and are raising our grandchildren to be likewise. We haven't done everything right, and would tweak a lot of things if we had it to do over again, but with God's grace we have been blessed with good results.
We started a local family ministry several years ago, which led to starting a family-integrated church, and we sold or gave away much of Vision Forum's materials. We are not sorry we did that. We are only sorry that the picture of Doug Phillip's face on the packaging and his voice in the audio now makes it awkward to continue using and sharing them. Perhaps with time he will live down his current reputation, people will forgive and forget, and the materials will remain useful for future generations. 
Many of the books do not bear his authorship or picture, and remain treasures in our library. I especially like the R. M. Ballantyne fiction series which VF reprinted. They are beautifully bound and very engaging reading for young people, employing history from an overtly Christian worldview. Another favorite is Verses of Virtue, compiled by Beall Phillips. I could go on. I love good books, and so do the Phillips. 
One of the common attacks made on Mr. Phillips' ministry has been that he was legalistic--that is to say, he raised man's laws (which he had created himself) to the same level or higher than God's laws. I would have to argue that he was not legalistic. His core teaching was the sufficiency of scripture--that all the guidance we need for making moral decisions regarding personal, family and church life can be found in the Bible. He taught (if I understood him correctly) that the Bible transcends culture, and that when culture leads us away from Biblical principles, we should not follow the culture blindly, but choose the Bible's standards. This would apply to decisions regarding dress, diet, education, science, family, finances, business, marriage, medical choices, government, authority structures, and--is there anything else? Cultural trends may come and go, but the Word of God will stand forever. The nature of man never changes, and God's guidebook for man will always apply. Mr. Phillips and his fellow associates stood by this concept, as do I. It is not a popular stand to take, even among professing Christians.
Mr. Phillips is an advocate of theonomy and patriarchy--two other hot-button concepts that cause feminists and liberals to foam at the mouth. They also bring out the worst in some Christians. I observe a new generation of homeschool advocates who are rising up in opposition to these concepts as they were embraced by those of us in the first generation. Some of the opposition is probably well-deserved. We may have given the impression that dressing like "retro prairie muffins" (to borrow a term from Douglas Wilson) was the only Christian way to dress and anything "contemporary" is less than Christian, and if so, we were wrong. But theonomy and its founder Rushdoony remains a viable interpretive framework of the Bible and history. Doug propounded this view evenhandedly and persuasively. 
It is also true that some modern patriarchs take their role too far and abuse their privilege of authority. As we all know, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Mankind is notorious for this in every position of church, state, and family. The concept of check-and-balance and accountability is inherent in God's law, including the realm of the family. A woman has the right of appeal to her family, church and government if her husband is overstepping his bounds of authority through abuse, threats, etc. No man has a right to absolute authority; only God does. It does not argue against the patriarchal authority structure itself to point out abusers of that authority, any more than does abusive government officials give cause for dissolving all government structures and having anarchy. The structure should remain intact, while the individual abusers removed from their place of authority and/or the victims vindicated.
One homeschool blogger claimed that Doug Phillips had been "telling us women how to dress". I beg to differ. He did sell materials written by others that addressed the issue of modesty, a Biblical concept and virtue, in a historical context. His little girls were pictured in lovely feminine dresses in their catalogues, and in this way certainly he was intending to model femininity. He also carried a book by the Botkin sisters called So Much More, and one by Stacy McDonald called Raising Daughters of Virtue, which advocated for wearing feminine, modest clothing: in particular, skirts versus pants. While I didn't conclude from reading them that the female members of our family had to wear skirts 24/7, I nevertheless appreciated the attempt made by these godly Christians to stand up against a culture that systematically demeans and exploits women and trains them to sell their bodies. The emphasis on femininity was a breath of fresh air at a time when it's no longer cool to be feminine, or distinguishable from men.
Several years ago my husband made the statement, "I thank God for Doug Phillips." He had impacted us in so many positive ways. This was before the scandal. Today I can still say I thank God for Doug Phillips. He has a long road ahead of him to repair the ruins. For the sake of his reputation, his precious children and wife, and the cause of Christ, I wish him success. May the good that he has done for the kingdom not be lost. 

In Adam's Fall, we sinned all;    

There but for the grace of God go I.