Friday, May 20, 2011

Emerging from the Fog (Friday Favorites)

Dear friends,

When I stepped out the door this morning to go on my walk with my old friend and fellow blogger Tonya, I was mystified because of the mist -- the fog -- that enveloped my neighborhood.  Fog in Florida?  Pretty rare!  I lived near San Francisco for many years and visited Scotland for a summer, so I've seen plenty fog before -- but not much here in sunny Orlando!  It was actually a bit refreshing, even lovely, and I snapped a few pictures with my iPod camera.  It's funny that I thought the sun was the moon, because its light was so obscured by the fog.  Tonya assured me that it was, indeed, the sun!

As Tonya and I walked, we were musing about the fog, and I told her that I've often shared with other moms how my years of mothering babies and toddlers was like a two decade long fog for me.  I got pregnant with my first baby in September 1986 and weaned my tenth baby in the spring of 2006, so I pretty much was pregnant or nursing for 20 years with only a dozen scattered months "off" during the whole time.  With the constant physical demands and the lack of sleep, it just does something to the brain cells.  I felt like I was in a fog of just getting through the daily stuff.  It's only been in the last five years that I've really started to emerge from that and "come into my own."  

I'm not saying I was mentally dead for all those years.  In fact, as I said to Tonya, it is the fact that I was actively reading and writing (2 books and a global e-magazine!) and talking to other moms that kept me going until that season of life was over for me.  I am so grateful for that.  It's actually still what keeps me sane, since I still have so many demands with a full house and the noise and mess that entails. The years do pass. Children do grow up. Of my ten children, five daughters are now adults or almost adults: my oldest is married and has a son of her own, my second is planning her wedding for this fall, the next two are preparing to return to college after a few months in Italy, and the fifth daughter is excelling as a sophomore in her first year of public high school after 10 years of being home schooled. But I do still have five very active younger kids, including a daughter in kindergarten who will graduate from high school when I am almost 60! Oy!

Back to the reading... I get my daily dose of encouragement on my iPod from several blogs that I subscribe to via Google Reader. Now I'm going to share my weekly culling of the best of these blog posts with you for Friday Favorites in hopes that they might be a source of manna to you who are still in the years of mothering young children (and older ones, too)! 

These posts are mostly about grace in parenting, which fits this post since part of the fog of motherhood was that of trying to meet up to everyone else's expectations and live by their rules instead of walking in the grace of what God had for our family.

The Lifted-Veil Life  by Karen Campbell at -- As moms, are we living in our liberty in Christ -- or behind the veil of legalism?  “But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” ~ 2 Corinthians 3:15-18

Desperate Mothers from Practical Theology for Women by Wendy Alsup "I have a lot of techniques and strategies. For the wrong job. I know how to manage a day. But I do not know how to transform a heart. I am learning that it's quite reasonable that I don't know how to change my boys' hearts, because it's not my job anyway.

Wife-style more dated than the 1950s... Part 2 by Ginny Jacobson at  Making the Most of Every Opportunity  "I’m praying that regardless of how I may be labeled (1950's wife, legalist, crazy, etc.), God will continue to give me a desire to know Him more and live in light of Him. And I’m praying others will desire to know Him more and lay down their lives daily in these little (and big) ways to show His love. Imagine if we all stopped comparing/labeling and instead lived for Him and not ourselves…"  Note: Ginny's family attends the church we left last year.  Her husband Andy is on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ.  I have never met her, but she apparently looks a lot like me and has been mistaken for me at times.  Her blog is an encouragement to me, too!

Sanctifying Motherhood from The MOB Society (Mothers of Boys) You see, as I parent, I am training my children to know what is right and wrong, yes. I want them to love what is good and hate what is evil, I want to guide them in the path of righteousness. But more and more I find that I am the often the object of sanctification in this relationship – often they are not being sinful, they are being children. am the one who is in the wrong. I am the one seeking forgiveness. I am the one who has failed to rein in my tongue and temper and frustration."

Heart Rules from The MOB Society So one day we discard the house rules that have been taped to my wall for awhile~ rip them up and throw them in the trash. He thinks it’s funny, and I explain to him that I’ve been focused on all the wrong things. Instead of house rules, we are now going to have heart rules."

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday Favorites #6 ~ and ~ A Curiosity Journal

Dear friends,

Welcome to Friday Favorites #6, along with a new feature called "The Curiosity Journal."  This is a popular feature on many blogs; I heard about it from Ann Kroeker at

Friday Favorites #6

Our God is out of the box… by Sally Clarkson - a snippet: “But, our God is out of the box–we can’t even contain Him–he made chile peppers to spice up Mexican food, puppies for cuddling and laughing at, chocolate to melt in your mouth, stars to camp under and shiver in the cold mountain air together, Celtic music to dance to, you know; feasting and talking around our table–sharing great stories by firelight—all the things that make us happy and give scope to our lives. Those things that give us hope in the hard times.”

Free Kitchen Planning forms from Sheri Graham at -- very pretty with a spring theme!

Free Kindle Book: Don’t Make Me Come Up There! by Kristen Welch

Thanks Sheri Graham at

Pictures of my wacky kids for Mother's Day

Rachel's blog post about when she and Joanna visited Rome in March -- lots of great photos!

Curiosity Journal

A typical Curiosity Journal includes sections for what you are reading, playing, learning, reacting, and writing.  I've combined the reading & writing sections and the playing & learning sections this time since they are so closely related!

Reading & Writing:  I've been working slowly through a variety of books lately, but the one I actually polished off this week in less than a day is When Sparrows Fall by Meg Moseley (  It's a novel about a young widow, home schooling her six children, trying to break free from a spiritually abusive church.  I really enjoyed the book (a gift from my sister) and plan to write a review for it soon in my Hope Chest e-magazine, since I had already been planning an issue on liberty & legalism in the home school movement, especially relating to gender and authority.  Other than that, I've been writing a few blog posts here and there, generally short ones!

Reacting:  It seems like widows have been on my mind lately, not only because of When Sparrows Fall, but because we keep hearing about and meeting widows.  A sweet older lady a few blocks away from me is having a yard sale today and tomorrow.  She is about to have back surgery, so I helped her bring some of the heavy items out and arrange many of the others. I knew she was going to need assistance, so I already had it planned in to my day to stop there on my way back from my morning walk.  She was nearly in tears expressing her gratitude.  I had talked with her once a couple of years ago, but now I think I have a friend for life!  We're going to try to help her get proficient on her computer, too.  My husband, who is the president of the Home Owners' Association, told me last night after the HOA meeting that there are actually 10-15 widows in our neighborhood who can't handle their yard work, and may need reduced price or free yard service from some able-bodied young people.  It just makes me remember the vital, but often forgotten ministry of James 1:27: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

Playing & Learning:   While I love to play Solitaire on my iPod touch, it can be quite addicting, so I try to keep it for a rare treat and uninstall it after I've played a while.  Last night I played a lot of Pente with two of my kids, which, of course, has more socially redeeming value since it is quality time with the fam!  We never bought a real copy of the game.  We just make do with checker pieces and an old Scrabble Jr. board.  The players take turns putting down pieces, trying to get five in a row.  See my winning blue diagonal row above? You can capture an opponent's pieces if you trap two of them between two of yours.  If you capture five pairs, that's another way to win.  I started out playing against 10 year old Naomi, and easily won the first two games.  Pride goeth before a fall.  She trounced me soundly in the next four!  Then I played against 11 year old Micah, and he did well, too.  Good times!  Click here to find out how to play the game!  

I'm learning from my kids all the time, and much of it seems like play to me!  Andrew showed me this Kaleidocycle this morning.  It's also called a Flexahedron.  It's really fun to fiddle with since you can turn it inside out over and over again.  Best of all you can print one out and put it together yourself.  Click here:  Another thing Andrew showed me is how to suck up water into a drinking glass using heat.  He poured some water into a bowl, then set up a small torch made from a potato slice base, a stick of wood, and a paper napkin.  He lit the napkin on fire, and placed a drinking glass over it.  All of the water in the bowl was sucked up into the glass like a vacuum.  Fascinating!  See the video clip below! (If you are not reading this on the actual blog, visit the blog and scroll to the bottom of the post to see it!)

Until next time, 
Virginia Knowles

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Motherhood (A Smorgasbord of Inspiration and Humor)

by Jeanne Merrihew Lofgren

My Aunt Nancy sent this newspaper clipping to me several years ago, and it has always been a humorous encouragement. I presume that it was written in the 1950s, and I sure would love to meet the lady who wrote it!

MOTHERHOOD by Jeanne Merrihew Lofgren

“A Mother is a maker, a mender, a moderator, and a teacher.

She makes boxer pants and chocolate pudding, law and sometimes order, castles, threats, promises and rabbit suits. She makes horses’ heads from paper bags, little suits from big ones, new dresses from old ones, sunsuits from kitchen curtains, small balloons from popped ones, stew from nothing whatever. She makes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and peace when possible.

A Mother is a maker and a mender.

A Mother mends broken dishes and broken hearts, trouser knees, hurt noses and hurt feelings, trouser knees, torn jackets and torn fingers, and trouser knees. She mends old sheets, old rosebushes, old baby dolls and brand new trouser knees.

A Mother is a maker, a mender and a moderator.

She is a moderator in times of war --- civil war, verbal war, insurrection, minor skirmishes, attacks from the enemy; in times of strife, in times of injustice, in times of temper, in times of hairpulling.

A Mother is a maker, a mender, a moderator and teacher.

She teaches how to button buttons and how to say a prayer. She teaches how to hold a knife and fork, how to hang up clothes so they sometimes stay hung, how to sit still in church. She can teach a love of books and of music --- she can even turn child hearts to God. But almost never can she teach how to close a door without a bang or how to come in without bringing in mud.

A Mother can count. She counts calories and blessings, pennies and children’s heads in the car. But she never counts sheep!

A Mother is immune to surprise --- whether it is a glass of water in her desk drawer, a cat sleeping on fresh sheets in the linen cupboard, worms in trouser pockets, good report cards, bad report cards, split foreheads, split infinitives. Nothing ever really surprises her.

But sometimes a Mother reaches despair. The dryer won’t dry when all the clothes are washed and wet. The baby bites the cat’s tail and is scratched for it. Three-year-old dumps the tinker toys by the front door when you expect the minister to call. The baby screams for attention - soothing medications must be halted while Mother sprints to a relentless doorbell. There stand two neighborhood children to report, “Your baby is crying.” Six-year-old after forty-five minutes cannot spell “what”.

Eight-year-old dashes in to say he forgot, but it is his turn to take cookies to his meeting today. Fingerprints all over the house loomsuddenly vivid. The ragged edge of the rug seems suddenly dreadful. Three-year-old won’t go outside. The cat won’t come in. The gelatin won’t jell. The sun won’t shine. The stew sticks and the pudding boils over while the phone rings on and on and on. And with it and above it and through it all comes, “Mommy, come and see --- Mommy, come and see”, incessently, monotonously, unendingly from three-year-old.

Mother leans chin on broomhandle and mutters, “Next time I’ll raise chickens, Lord. Children are just too much.”

Then ten-year-old crashes in --- rough and ready, all boy --- to confide, “Mommy, at Cub Scout meeting we had to list the five things most precious to us, and I did: One, God; two, love; three, America; four, babies; and five, sunsets.”

Suddenly the baby’s eyes seem very blue, six-year-old recites from memory the entire 23rd Psalm, which is better than spelling “what”, fingerprints retreat again. Daddy walks in. Really life could not be richer. It is a glory never to be bartered.

Dear Lord, keep the chickens. I’ll carry on for now. And thank you --- from the bottom of my heart.”

G.K. Chesterton on Mothers

“To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labours and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes and books; to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.” ~~ G.K. Chesterton

Great Blog Posts for Moms

Mothers–Divinely created to cultivate and preserve civility throughout history   by Sally Clarkson

3 Guideposts that Can Radically Change Parenting by Ann Voskamp

Tha Muthahood by Anita Renfroe

Virginia Knowles

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Favorites #5: A Beautiful Birthday Morning in May

Dear friends,

photo.JPGIt's a beautiful morning in May, as well as my son Andrew's 14th birthday!  Happy birthday, Andrew!

This morning I walked with my friend Tonya for about 45 minutes.  We're trying to get out there several times a week so we can get healthy and lose some weight, especially since a whole bunch of my relatives are having a fun little weight loss competition. See here: On Weight Loss: Water, Walking, and Watching

photo.JPGWhile on my way to meet Tonya midway between our houses (we live about six blocks away from each other), I snapped a few pictures of the fresh morning sky.  I had my iPod music on, but all of the sudden I heard a telltale rat-a-tat-tat and realized a woodpecker was looking for his breakfast in the tree above me.  I tried to snap a picture of him, too, but he was too far up.  


I decided to take off the earphones and just listen to the birds.  I heard another woodpecker, some mourning doves, a mockingbird, and several other chirruping choruses.  I also heard a car beep -- and saw my husband Thad waving as he passed me on the street!

My kids were watching a movie when I got back, and I let them continue since it wasn't time to start school yet and it's Andrew's birthday.  We usually sit down as a family to eat waffles on birthday mornings, but most of his sisters and my husband are already gone for the day, and the rest of them are just now ambling into the kitchen and popping them into the toaster.  Excuse me for a moment while I go join in the fun...   Oh goodness!  Somehow my five year old managed to eat four waffles when I told her she could only have two! That was not part of the plan this morning!

I'm not worried about the lack of birthday ceremony this morning, since I let the kids pick out their favorite foods for all three birthday meals, which means pizza for lunch and then Orange Sesame Chicken for dinner when big sister Mary is over with her little boy.  For dessert, there is cheesecake (from Walmart brand boxed mix, which turns out quite well) and orange sherbet.

In other news, my daughters Rachel and Joanna returned home on Monday after three months in Chiavari, Italy.  It's so good to have them home!  Joanna went on an interview yesterday and landed a job as a Disney World photographer at the Magic Kingdom.  She starts on June 7, just after her high school graduation.  In the fall she will continue at Valencia State College, where she has dual enrolled for a year and a half.  Rachel starts nursing school at UCF in the fall since she earned got her AA from Valencia in December. She is in the midst of looking for a summer job.  This morning, she's off picking strawberries and blueberries with a friend, and she just called to let me know how much they are per pound since she's buying some for me, too!  Rachel and Joanna blogged about their Italy adventure at Abbondanza di Vita.  There are already a lot of gorgeous photos there, but when they have time, they will post even more.  In between teaching English as an outreach, they traveled a lot to various cities: Florence, Venice, Rome, Paris, Nice, Genova, and even Monaco.  I envy them, but I'm sure glad they got to go!

Oh, did I say that this is a Friday Favorites post?  Yes, I am continuing my series of sharing web links that I found encouraging this week!
  • Food on Fridays: Kitchen Pantry -- by Ann Kroeker -- I link up to her Food on Fridays series most of the time, including this morning!  Linked posts don't have to be a recipe, just something about food; as in this case, how we celebrate birthdays with food.  Ann's post is in her kitchen pantry.  We're blessed that we've had a decent sized pantry cupboard for the past 18 years we've been in this house, but like Ann, I find the need to clean and organize it once in a while.  She might have a surplus of evaporated milk (hence for links for recipes to use it up) but we often overstock on black beans and cream of chicken soup.  We also have a random can of sauerkraut back in there somewhere.  Now what am I going to use that for -- and why did I buy it in the first place? 

  • Titus 2 Moms / Older Women Younger Women Older Women? / Elisabeth Elliot by Tonya Travelstead.  Tonya and I often chat about blogging while we walk.  We get lots of ideas from each other, and help refine our thinking as we go. Tonya found links for a whole bunch of audio messages by Elisabeth Elliot, who has been one of my favorite Christian authors since I was in college.  I started out listening to one on the Lord's Prayer, which is timely since our church just started a five week sermon series on that.
  • Speaking of prayer, you can still download Paul Miller's book The Praying Life in Kindle e-book format free here:  The Praying Life on Kindle.  You don't need a Kindle -- you can download it to your computer, iPhone, iPad, or other mobile device.  I highly recommend this book!  It is not an intimidating book that beats you up because you don't pray enough.  It's more like a gentle encouragement to start where you are.  As Miller says, 

"Jesus does not say, "Come to me, all you who have learned how to concentrate in prayer, whose minds no longer wander, and I will give you rest."  No, Jesus opens his arms to his needy children and says, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28, NASB).  The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness.  Come overwhelmed with life.  Come with your wandering mind.  Come messy.  What does it feel like to be weary?  You have trouble concentrating.  The problems of the day are like claws in your brain.  You feel pummeled by life.  What does heavy-laden feel like?  Same thing.  You have so many problems you don't even know where to start.  You can't do life on your own anymore.  Jesus wants you to come to him that way!  Your weariness drives you to him.  Don't try to get the prayer right; just tell God where you are and what's on your mind."
  • Changes, Changes All Around Me by Mardy Freeman -- a mom transitions into a new season of life after home schooling her seven children.  Mardy has been such an encouragement and personal support to me for so many years!
"Women can be so prone to worry and fuss and be uptight, as least this woman can be. I wish at a much earlier age I had just learned to chill more, to dance more, to stop and smell the flowers. Each of us has been given a different puzzle–different circumstances, differing gifts, personalities, children, husband or lack there of, family. I wish I had not been such a people pleaser, trying to live up to the expectations of others–my family, my critics, my peers. My family  puzzle just did not fit into the pattern of other’s expectations and so trying to live up to these impossible standards was impossible. I wish I had accepted that at the very first instead of fretting about things I could not change."
One last note this morning...  In the checkout line at Walmart the other day, I started talking to the cashier. After exchanging a few pleasantries, she mentioned that her day was going well; at least she wasn't having a meltdown.  I smiled and replied, "Yeah, I had one of those just last night!  I was so stressed out that I stomped around yelling about wanting to break things!  My husband just kept hugging me and telling me it would be all right.  But I'm doing fine today."  Then she shared that she had been going through a personal crisis for a few months and had done a lot of sobbing her heart out.  On top of this, she had to leave the church she had loved for so many years.  I could relate to that, since we too had to transition to a new church last year.  My heart went out to her.  We all go through struggles, but some are going through extreme turmoil.  Dear sisters, I ask you to be sensitive and aware of what challenges others (even strangers!) are facing so you can reach out to them with compassion and a word of encouragement. I gave her a card from our church, which offers free counseling. I assured her that it is a mellow little church which has been such a refuge for me.  She smiled warmly and said, "Maybe I can ask for a Sunday off so I can come!" I hope I see her there, but even if I don't, I pray she will receive the healing for her heart that she needs!

Come, weary moms!  Let us receive our strength from God, and then go to strengthen one another!

Virginia Knowles