Thursday, January 26, 2012

Self Portrait, Lemon Raspberry Cheesecake and Friday Favorites

Self Portrait by Virginia Knowles in January 2012

Dear friends,

The theme of the P52 photo project this week is Self-Portrait.  The picture above isn't exactly a photo, unless you count that the scanner is a camera of sorts.  But it is an original self-portrait, a quick sketch, plain pencil on plain paper, from a photo on my iPod. I had to twiddle with it a bit, because I wasn't measuring for proportions.  So I had to move the mouth up and the dimple over, shorten the eyes, try to make the glasses symmetrical, add in more hair. As a final touch, I used my finger to smudge and smooth the shading.  I had recently assigned a written comparison of two self-portraits by Reformation artist Albrecht Dürer for my home school co-op English class, so I figured I would give it a decent shot. (See The Art of Albrecht Dürer.)  My attempt wasn't perfect, but it was fun.

Self Portrait by Virginia Knowles in 1979
See more of My Artwork 
I haven't sketched (other than my constant doodling) in what seems like forever, and I drawn myself since high school art class around 1979, wearing a hat I had bought on a trip to Scotland with Teen Missions that summer.

Drawing a self-portrait forces you to think about how you see yourself and how you want to convey to others who you are.  Am I confident?  Friendly?  Pensive?  Enigmatic?

For many of us, self image is tied up in what we do and who our friends are.  It could be related to what church we attend, or how many children we have, or how we educate them.  That has certainly been true for me.  It has taken me a long time to shake that off and realize that while those things certainly affect my life and say something about what I value, they do not define me.  And the expectations should not crush me when they no longer apply to where I am in life.  

I think that especially rings true this week, since I just enrolled two more children (girls in 1st and 5th grade) in the neighborhood public school where their 3rd grade brother started in November. (Here they are on their first day of public school with our next door neighbor in the middle.)  Now I don't have any elementary age kids at home, and the four in public school outnumber the two (boys in middle school and high school) still at home. Since I have written (books, articles in international magazines, my own e-magazine, blogs) and spoken (conferences and support groups) so much about home schooling for the past 14 years, I gained a reputation as a home school guru.  I know many of my friends and cyber acquaintances will not understand our choices and even question my sanity and my morality.  This will not be the first time.  Oh well!  My husband and I are the ones responsible for making decisions about what is best for our family at each season of life.  Right now this is what we can do with what we have.  I think this will prove to be a good move, at least for the rest of this school year.  Then we will reevaluate for next year.  (See Do It Well, But Keep It Humble.)  Anyway, this week has been a flurry of filling out papers, taking kids for medical checkups, picking up immunization records, and buying school uniforms (solid red, navy blue or dark green t-shirts or polo shirts, and khaki or navy bottoms, no denim, no basketball shorts).

With some of my newfound extra time, one of my goals in the next few months is to get the house in order and keep it that way consistently. (No small task with 10 people living here!)  This morning I had to rewrite our family chore chart to accommodate the change in schedule.  I think I made it a bit more simple to follow.  Instead of switching chores every day (for variety), I have assigned chores to be done every day (for simplicity) -- at least for the five younger kids. Let's just see if this helps people remember what to do -- and then do it!

Also, I want to be a little more intentional in the kitchen, focusing on nutrition and variety.  I think we're all getting tired of the same old same old!  Sometimes we have to mix it up a bit, taking inspiration wherever we find it: friends, restaurants, blogs, on-line recipe sites...  This week I tried baked chicken thighs covered with bread crumbs seasoned with rotisserie chicken seasoning and garlic pepper.

Last Saturday, our church organized several Dinner with Friends parties.  Once you sign up, you are assigned to a group of eight. The point is to get to know other folks whom you might not know as well.  My husband and I had met everyone before, but had only had regular interactions with the host couple.  We had a great time chatting, especially when we pulled out some conversation starter questions that the dinner organizers had provided to each group. Oh the stories these peeps can tell!

Our hosts Cathy and Bill,
business people who lived in the Virgin Islands for a long time
and who have a real heart for serving the poor
(see her collection bear for the hungry here)

Mike and Vicki,
seminary professor and Christian school teacher
Candice and Ed,
on staff for nearly three decades with Campus Crusade (now known as CRU),
most of it in Poland and England

Each couple contributed to the meal.  One made delicious beef stroganoff (I'm going to try this out and blog about it later), another brought a lovely gourmet salad (complete with hearts of palm), and another brought grapes, cheese & crackers, and scrumptious hot roll appetizers with cheese, ham and onions baked in. I am making myself hungry just typing this.  We brought the dessert: lemon raspberry cheesecake and blueberry cheesecake.  Yes, I could have made it all from scratch with fresh cream cheese to prove myself as a capable homemaker, since I haven't yet attained the status of Kitchen Guru.  Instead, I chose to go semi-homemade,  starting with a boxed mix.  I'd enjoyed some lemon raspberry cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory (thanks to a gift card from my sister-in-law) and decided to try to replicate it.  I mixed a little lemon juice with enough powdered sugar to sweeten it, then added three tablespoons to the cheesecake mix that my daughter Naomi prepared.  Since this would increase the amount of liquid, we substituted a can of evaporated milk for some of the regular milk to make it thicker.  I'm not sure that helped any since it was still a bit softer than I would have liked. In hindsight, I realized I could have just reduced the amount of milk.  All told, I made two lemon cheescakes and two plain cheescakes, leaving one of each at home for the kids.  At serving time, we set out a tub of whipped topping, a bowl of blueberry pie filling, and a bowl of raspberry sauce (a bag of frozen berries, thawed and smushed to a thick sauce with a little sugar added).  Everyone enjoyed it, so score one for the Kitchen Wannabee!

I am thankful for the Dinner with Friends. Good fellowship, good fun, good food!  Have you ever done anything like this?  Why not try it?

I haven't written any other blog posts this week, but here are three links and short excerpts for Friday Favorites. You won't mind that I'm posting these on a Thursday, will you?  Just a little early!

by Sarah Clarkson at Thoroughly Alive 
"I have always known that beauty had the power to drive me to holiness. For me, the ache for what is transcendent, the hunger spurred in me by art, literature, music, nature, has always been a guide that turned me back from distraction, from hurry, even from sin, to the grace of my ever-present God." 
(Sarah's post reminds me of a quote from one of my own posts here: A Sacred Romance in the Deeper Places of Our Hearts. Sarah is cur at Oxford University in England for a special program.  It is interesting to find that my new friend Candice knows Sarah's mom Sally since they both worked for CCC in Poland a long time ago, though at different times -- small world!)

Last Week I Was Wide-Eyed Innocence 
by Tonia at

Some addictions sneak up on you sly.  Last week I was wide-eyed innocence:  I don't spend that much time on the computer.  I barely read blogs.  I hardly ever post on facebook.  I've been doing this for 7 years, I'm an old hat at this. Second day of changing the tally marks, bowing my head before a prayer bench and not a screen, I feel the itch.  10 AM and I'm jumpy, wondering who emailed, wondering what they said.  I fidget and pass the darkened computer once, twice, three times.  I snap the lid shut and carry it to my room, close the door.  At least I have the presence of mind to roll my eyes at myself... 
I smile broad when the answer comes, because it's so simple, so exactly, perfectly simple. Ora et labora: the motto of the Benedictines. Pray and work.  Pray and work.  Pray and work.  And that's exactly what I do.

by Karen Campbell at

"We woke up one day last week to the first snowfall of the season, gentle white flakes touching down, slowly covering the muddy front lawn. It continued all day, the wind picking up, forming small drifts here and there.  I was happy for the snow as it made it a little more bearable to take down my Christmas tree and tuck away the family traditions along with it for another year. White and pristine was my world, reminding me of the Lord’s promise that He will make our scarlet sins as white as snow. He is the great Purifier, the Cleanser of my Soul.  Such a comfort that is to me! I have been thinking so much about the concept of purity in the past couple weeks, first as I have enjoyed the sweet innocence of a house full of little ones. They look at everything in wonder, their bright little eyes reflect their own worlds, yet untouched by those things that threaten to darken all of us. How do we protect our precious girls from those things? How do we protect our dear boys, our sons and grandsons? But more accurately, how do each of us, men, women, boys and girls, keep our hearts and minds pure in a world that ignores and even devalues the concept of purity? And how do we do this when modern evangelicalism tells us that it has to do primarily with sexuality and then spends so much time talking about it? ... I believe this is truly at the core of the current discussion on sexuality in evangelicalism: in seeking to promote sexual purity, whether through endless discussions of modesty in dress or in defining their roles ad nauseum, women and girls are, in fact, sexualized and, in the process, demeaned. Under the guise of “purity” the messages are mixed and confusing. In reality, true moral purity comes from a life focused on Jesus Christ and serving others. Why don’t we hear this? Probably because it isn’t sexy enough."

You may also wish to read a related post from last summer:
On Mommy Blogging: Image, Identity, Authenticity and Freedom

You can find more food ideas here: Recipe Box

This blog post is linked to memes on other blogs:

Click here to see Ann Kroeker's Food on Fridays


Click here to see Project 52!

project 52 p52

I'd love to see your comments!  Please leave one!

Virginia Knowles

Friday, January 20, 2012

I Dreamed a Dream (P52), Breakfast Tray and Friday Favorites

"I Dreamed a Dream" is the theme this week at the P52 project and this is my photo submission.  Why?  Because when I dream at night, the misty fragments of thought whirl around in my sleeping brain, and then during the day, they peek out at odd moments and make me wonder.  What was it that I dreamed last night -- and why?   What is real and what is a figment of my subconscious imagination?   It is very disconcerting and makes me wistful.  Am I missing out on something vital? Some key to unlock life's mysteries? I'm not one for placing a huge amount of significance in them, but I do know that the fragments of my night dreams are somehow pieced together from the fragments of my daytime realities and conversations, mixed with a touch of fantasy from my secret hopes and fears.  Like these clouds, my dreams can be both fluid and disconnected, floating around, drifting on. I do love clouds (one of the most visible reminders of the reality of God for me) and I frequently photograph them, as you can see here:

Now here's a daytime reality that I like to see in the morning!  My daughter Naomi, who is almost 11, made a beautiful breakfast for me the other day.  The best part: those scrambled eggs (seasoned with rotisserie chicken seasoning and garlic pepper) and buttered toast hiding behind the dish of fruit salad left over from the previous night's dinner.  Add in a stack of chocolate chip pancakes (from Aldi) drizzled with syrup, a peeled clementine, a tall glass of milk, a thoughtfully organized tray, the gorgeous smile from a loving daughter -- and I was one satisfied mama that morning!  

My other blog posts this week:

"You’ve been there… you get up early to have quiet time, get your coffee ready, sit down and open your bible, savor the quiet for just a moment, and… the door opens and your child comes stumbling out, ready to start her day!  This scenario happens to me…a lot. It’s not that I don’t want to have a good quiet time. It’s not that I fail to plan for one. It’s simply that early risers and all nighters and high octane preschoolers all mean one thing: no solitary potty breaks, much less ten minutes of quiet."
"My wife and I watched the movie Tangled last night. For months now, we’d heard from other former ATI students that the movie was a great analogy for spiritual abuse and the journey out of a legalistic system of thought. It’s even been referenced a number of times here on Recovering Grace."

"And I catch my heart,
Of wanting to just be right,
To insist so hard
On the message of grace,
That I ignore
The One who gives it."

"My word for 2012 is be. One of my goals for this vacation week is to be with my grandsons. Papa Rich has left to drive Ayden home; we're keeping Cadence longer because he'll return to his home in Hawaii in just a few days. He and I are alone in the house. This beetle in my window? It's another chance to be with the child before his parents arrive to take him away, later today... I rummage in the pantry, return with an empty jar. A minute later we've gently swept two ladybugs from the window. We crimp a piece of foil over the mouth of the jar. I jab holes with a toothpick. "When Papa Rich comes home, he'll help you poke holes in the jar's lid."

This blog post is linked to memes on other blogs:

Click here to see Ann Kroeker's Food on Fridays


Click here to see Project 52!

project 52 p52

Organizing and Laundering Your Linens

Dear friends,

Laundry is a never ending responsibility in a home with 10 people, but at least taking care of kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom linens is actually pretty easy for me thanks to the techniques I have developed over the years.  

Here are some of them:

Linen closet
with labeled shelves
Decide where things will go in your linen closet and then label the shelves. I have spots for (from top to bottom) large towels, wash cloths in a basket and hand towels, folded pillow cases in basket and fitted sheets, flat sheets, and a large bin of table linens.  Some people organize bed linens by storing the sheet sets in the matching pillow cases.  We don't have enough matching anything to do this.  I'd love to have my sheet shelves all prim and tidy, but this is what they usually look like.  I keep master bedroom sheets and pillow cases in a dresser drawer so they don't get lost in with the twin bedding.
Wash cloth basket with labeled shelf
Don't fold wash cloths or cleaning rags.  Put them in baskets. They are going to come unfolded and fall out of their stacks any way, so why waste your time?  The basket keeps them in their place, and makes them easy to grab.  What's left to fold?  Dish towels and hand towels are easy for little kids to do, but I like to do the larger linens myself.  It's actually relaxing.  It's nice to have a job that doesn't take much brain power once in a while.

Keep things close to where you need them.

I keep a basket of several bath towels just outside the master bathroom, 
and there are wash cloths and hand towels in the drawer right above it 

Hot pads go in a bowl on top of the microwave.

A decorative dish towel hangs near the kitchen sink for wiping clean hands.
I store these separately so they don't get used for messy clean up.
You might like to read one of my favorite inspirational essays, My Glorious Dish Towel.
Regular dish towels go in drawer next to kitchen sink.
Sometimes our old ragged hand towels
get recycled in to dish towel use.

I just started putting a basket of a dozen folded dish rags on the ledge over the kitchen sink.
The smaller size makes them easier to handle than a dish towel.
The distinctive color (green to match the kitchen) and pattern reminds everyone to use them
only for washing dishes or wiping counters or table, 
not cleaning anything yucky.

A basket of white cleaning rags is tucked under a counter near the kitchen.
We use these for a lot of things, especially cruddy stuff 

like wiping up the floor and cleaning the bathroom.
We buy these in bulk at Sam's Club.

Have plenty of spots to put dirty linens.

A linen hamper is in the laundry room.
The yellow bucket, just outside the master bathroom, is for dirty linens.
The blue hamper (a wastebasket) is for clothes.
They fit nicely under the counter.  A regular hamper is too tall.

There is a bucket for wet linens near kitchen sink 
and another one by the laundry room door.

Wash linens every day.  They can really get stinky if you don't!  Because we have a large family, I usually do a load of wet cleaning rags and a load of bath linens each day. I wash bed linens as needed, which used to be every day when we had frequent bed wetters.  I buy huge containers of detergent to save money, but I don't like to lift them every time I do wash, so I save a smaller container and refill it part way.  If the load is cruddy, I also add OdoBan to eliminate germs and odors.  I only use bleach when something is badly stained.

Use bath towels several times before laundering. If you are clean from the shower, the towels should last a while.  They are really bulky and take a lot of room in the washer and dryer, so cutting down on washing these can save a lot of water and electricity.  Large, thick towels take even more, so go for smaller, thinner ones if you can, and use a bath robe if you need something around you. If you need to dry off a more sensitive area of the body or want something for your face, use a clean wash cloth or hand towel and then put it in the wash.  Encourage your family members to hang their own towels in their closets so you don't have them piled up in the bathroom. I have a hook, but my kids  hang them on a hanger or over their closet rod.  Another way to cut down on electricity is to hang large towels outside on a clothes line and then bring them in while still slightly damp to fluff and soften them in the dryer.

You really want to read more about doing laundry?

And two others one on general home organization:
I hope this has been helpful to you!  Was anything a new idea for you?  What are your best tips for laundering linens or anything else?  Leave a comment!

Virginia Knowles

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Busy, Dizzy and In a Tizzy: Christian Contemplation for Moms and Other Frazzled Folks

Busy, Dizzy, and In a Tizzy:
Christian Contemplation for Moms and Other Frazzled Folks

Dear friends,

 Are you “busy, dizzy, and in a tizzy”? Is your life whirling so fast that you don’t have a chance to sit and think, much less nurture your soul? I would like to offer some simple encouragement for tending your heart-life amidst the myriad demands of a busy household.

OK, I know what you are saying: “I don’t have time to sit around and think deep thoughts about God! I’ve got lessons to prepare and grade, diapers to change, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to make, bathrooms to clean…” I hear you. I have ten kids. Granted that some of them are now married, and I still have some helpful older children at home, but I remember having five little girls ages seven and under, with a husband working long hours. And we can find time for what is really important. It just takes some juggling and adjusting. You probably know by now that I’m on a lifelong quest to find the balance between being and doing. Remembering the story of devoted Mary and busy Martha in Luke 10:38-42, I want to “choose the good portion” while not neglecting my family.

As you read this article, keep in mind that the point is not to do something for the sake of saying we did it but to make a deeper connection with the God who made and redeemed us. The goal of this time is to come out more filled with the Spirit, to see more love, peace and joy in our daily lives as a result. Do you have more passion for the Kingdom of God? Are your delights and desires more in tune with his? If not, are you holding back anything in your heart from unreserved worship? O come, let us adore him! Here are more than a dozen ways I’ve found to make time for soul nourishment through the spiritual disciplines.

Remind yourself daily of the Good News of the cross. We always need to start with this foundation. If you don’t have a living relationship with Jesus Christ (which is not just about church attendance or mental assent), none of the rest of this will make any sense at all. I would be delighted to talk with you about this if you have any questions. We don’t deserve any of the blessings we have, least of all the immense treasure of fellowship with God. But because of his mercy, we can ask him to forgive our sins! “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). The Bible promises that those who have trusted in Christ's sacrifice for their salvation can confidently enter the Lord's Throne Room to find grace and mercy.

Be ready to focus quickly on the things of God during what little time you might have. Learn to lay aside “the cares of this world” and concentrate on what the Lord has for you. Yes, there will be a time to bring before him in prayer the issues that concern you, but your focus should be on his sufficiency, not on your troubles. He is so much bigger than our circumstances! We bring our problems, our confusion, and our weakness into the Throne Room of God. As we draw near to him, we will bring out his strength and wise answers so we will be equipped to deal with them.

Designate a quiet comfortable spot in your house. Set up a personal chapel where you can go sit every few hours to regroup and refuel spiritually. Mine is an easy chair in my bedroom next to a fully stocked bookcase. I slip in there several times a day for at least a few minutes and up to a half hour or so.  When my kids were babies, toddlers, or preschoolers, I might put them down for a nap in the same room or rock them on my lap.  My "quiet spot" is not completely quiet – I often have children wander in and out. And this is also not the only place I can have “devotional time” – I think about God throughout the day, whatever I am doing, whether it is washing dishes or stuffing laundry in the dryer. Taping up little cards with Scripture verses around the house can be a great inspiration, too.

Make a habit of daily Bible study. Keep a Bible handy at your “personal chapel” spot. Use book marks to keep the places you are currently studying so you can easily sit down and read a bit without fumbling around. Make a plan for what you are going to read so you don’t just flip open and see where you land. For example, if you read a chapter of the New Testament every morning, you’ll have read the whole thing within several months. You can also finish the Old Testament at the rate of two or three chapters a day, perhaps in the evening. Make a little chart to mark off your progress as you go. You can also go to Bible Gateway Reading Plans to select a plan for reading a daily portion in one of many different Bible versions or Bible Gateway Audio Bible to listen as you are washing the dishes or folding laundry. This web site also has a really good search function for doing topical studies.

Rather than just quickly reading the verses, take the time to meditate on them. What do they mean? How can you apply them at your house? It is good to sit quietly and think, but you can also meditate on Scripture as you go about the rest of your day, pondering these things in your heart. I read from Luke 16-17 this morning, and jotted down several application phrases onto a card to put in my pocket: “Faithful in little, faithful in much. Serve one Master: God! God knows what’s inside your heart. Forgive others repeatedly. Don’t expect praise for doing your job. Thank God for what he has done in your life. Lose your life to keep it.” Just feeling the crinkle of the card in my pocket as I’m sitting or walking reminds me of what I have read, and I do take it out once in a while to remember them. Occasionally, I will even write a poem based on what I have been meditating on in my times with the Lord. You can find these on my web site.

Try to read regularly from good solid Christian books to help you walk out your faith. A good devotional book with short selections can be just right for a busy mom. My daughter found Charles Spurgeon’s Morning by Morning, Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest and Thomas a Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ for me at our library’s used bookstore a while back – nicely bound hardbacks for $1.50 a piece! You can read (for free) countless Christian classics on-line at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.  I also installed the Kindle app on my iPod touch and my laptop, and download a lot of free and inexpensive Christian books.  This is really good for the times I am away from home and have a few minutes while I am waiting for an appointment or for one of my kids to finally get out to the van so we can leave.

Take time to pray, to ask God to lead you in your own life, and to intercede for others. It may be helpful to write out a prayer list of various requests for family members, your pastors, friends, missionaries, current events, etc. You can the list in the back of your Bible or your journal so it is handy. Prayers don’t have to be clever or even original. Christians throughout history have prayed The Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” This does not have to be a rote formula, as some have made it, but a way to acknowledge our humble dependence on him throughout the day. I often shorten it to “Sweet Jesus have mercy!” I also use prayers from Scripture, such as Colossians 1:9-14.  ("For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.")  Using Scripture helps me keep the focus on praying according to God’s will, rather than my petty desires. Sometimes I pray just sitting there quietly, other times while I am on my knees, and other times as I’m working around the house. “Pray continually…” He is always listening! Or, as Alfred Lord Tennyson notes, “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” Oh, please remember that prayer is not just talking – it is listening for God’s still small voice speaking into your heart.

Start a journal and use it!  I write my own observations and questions about life, some of my prayers, and plenty of Scripture verses and quotes from whatever books I am reading. This has been such a lifeline to me in the past year as I’ve been so acutely aware of my need for God’s mercy. I think of so many Christians through the ages who whose lives have been enriched by journaling. This may be a short paragraph, but I don’t want to underestimate the importance of this vital spiritual discipline.

Be appropriately aware of your emotions, especially as they can indicate your spiritual health. We are not robots! God made our emotions to help us respond to him and to life around us. You don’t have to be ruled by your feelings, but if you are anxious or irritable or depressed, find the spiritual remedy for that, rather than ignoring or suppressing these sensations. Ask God for wisdom in dealing with your emotions. It’s not a one shot deal, but continually offering up to him what is roiling around in our hearts. “Lord, I’m feeling so overwhelmed… Help me to see you as my strong tower, and please show me why this situation bothering me so much and what I can practically do about it.” God is not afraid of our emotions. With him at our side, we don’t need to be afraid either.

Play and sing worship music throughout the day. If you move from room to room a lot or spend a lot of time away from your house, load your digital device with your favorite songs or other audio downloads, such as your pastor’s Sunday sermon if your church posts those on-line. Set up specific playlists of music for worship or comfort or challenge.  Listening while you do other things is a great way to redeem the time. I listen to worship music with headphones while I work out on at the YMCA. Even if you don’t have music playing, you can always sing in your heart.

Establish a regular devotional time with your children. Read the Bible, sing, and pray with them sometime during the day, which is a fantastic extension of your own time with God. This will not just be an academic exercise, but an opportunity for you connect again with your Heavenly Father as you bring your children to him for a blessing. (See Mark 10:13-16.)

Use your daily duties as object lessons of God’s truth and grace. When you are making dinner, think of the feast he is preparing for us in heaven. When you are washing dishes, be thankful for the abundant food you ate off of them, and pray for those who are less fortunate. When you are cleaning up your kids’ muddy toes, think of how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. A yucky toilet, stubborn laundry stain, or dirty diaper can remind us of how he washes our foulest sins away: “white as snow.” This attitude not only inspires our souls with the holy character of God, but makes our work meaningful and less irksome. I find that, like Brother Lawrence, I can “practice the presence of God” no matter what I am doing, even if I am not kneeling in prayer or reading my Bible.

Think about God “in the watches of the night.” At times in my life, I have been a chronic insomniac, usually waking for an hour or more in the middle of the night. During these times, I would remind myself of the mercies of the Lord, pray for others, and think of Bible verses I had memorized. I also do this as I am falling asleep at night, and sometimes as I lie in bed trying to wake up in the morning. This is also a good practice for mommies who are night nursing their babies, as I did off and on for nearly two decades. “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.” Psalm 63:5-7

Enjoy your Sabbath! This is a time when I don’t have to feel guilty about laying aside many of my regular daily duties. I like to use Sunday afternoon as a time for leisurely reading and contemplation, as well as rest. What a precious gift from God! Summer is also somewhat of a Sabbath (or sabbatical) for home school moms since we aren’t so busy with lessons. Use some of this time for refueling your own heart for the year to come!

I hope these simple suggestions have been helpful to you. I don’t present them as a formula, but as a means to help our hearts be captivated by our Awesome God.

I close this post with a poem.  You can find more of my thoughts about this by clicking 
Invitation to Stillness to go to the original blog post...

Invitation to Stillness
Advent Poem 2010
by Virginia Knowles

Quiet your soul to ponder, wonder, 
   and worship the Amazing One.
In these still and focused moments, 
  embrace his everlasting love for you.
Savor his sacrifice: Heaven to Earth, 
  an infinite journey of grace
When he came to rescue, release, and renew you.

In sacred response, draw near with a whole heart, 
  a deepening communion.
Be still in his presence, be filled with his presence
Father, Son, Holy Spirit: God with us.
Day after day, time with him is your most precious treasure.

Be the fruitful branch abiding in the Vine.
Be the little lamb in the Good Shepherd’s tender care.
Be the beautiful Beloved in the Lover’s embrace.
Ask, and he will surely show you how.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Made with Love: Project 52 Week #2 and Friday Favorites

Dear friends,

I'm sort of combining two series in one on this blog: Project 52 and Friday Favorites!  I can't promise I'll do both each week, but we'll see what happens!  I've been doing Friday Favorites off and on for several months, but this is only my second week of Project 52.  Last week: Week 1 "Resolution"

This week the theme of the Project 52 photo challenge at is "Made with Love." It was a no brainer for me to figure out which picture to submit: a beautiful oil pastel drawing by my 17 year old daughter Lydia!

Cardinal by Lydia Knowles (Oil Pastel, January 2012)

Always a story to go with the picture, at least on my blog.  Our friend Donovan, who sits next to us at Lake Baldwin Church, wanted to bless our family so she invited us over to a dinner party just before Christmas and gave us presents!  She had asked Lydia ahead of time what she should get for the younger kids. For Lydia, an aspiring artist, she selected a variety of art supplies, such as a sketch pad, oil supplies and other creative goodies.

I also gave Donovan a small present, two porcelain bird ornaments in a gift box. When she saw the pictures on the box, Donovan told us how much she likes cardinals.  (I have to say they're my favorite bird.)  So... Lydia decided she would draw a cardinal for Donovan with the new oil pastels!  I am always amazed at her talent.  She blows me away.

You can see Donovan was pretty happy about her gift  when Lydia gave it to her on Sunday morning at church! 

I am thankful for thoughtful friends and thoughtful daughters.

Lydia is good with sculpture, too, like this Sculpey clay garden with corn, pumpkins, lettuce and teeny tiny carrots!  The entire garden is only several inches wide.  I think the white picket fence thingy originally came with a set of piggy salt and pepper shakers.  Amazing!  

Sculpey garden by Lydia Knowles
Lydia, hard at work on the little garden

 Now that we've had our art and nature appreciation moment, I'd like to share with you a few Friday Favorites links! The first two links are for blogs by local friends whom I especially admire for being so intentional about raising children for Christ.

  • Does Your Home Feel Organized? by Ginny Jacobson at Making the Most of Every Opportunity  "....set a mission and vision with your husband for your family, home, and then evaluate how each room fits that"
  • Home School Mom 4 Christ Blog a brand new blog by Teresa Bridges
    "My goal in home schooling is first and foremost to build godly character in my children, and to teach them to be hard workers.I spend my days teaching them to not to be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of the mind. I teach them to have the mind that was in Christ. The Bible tells us that as a man thinks in his heart so is he."  

    "There is so much to pray for that I really do pray all day. I am always finding something to pray for. So often we get caught up in the right time to pray and the right thing to say and the right this or that in prayer that we forget that it’s part of our walk with God."

Recent posts from my other blogs:

Click to see my other Project 52 photo challenge blog posts.  Or, if you want individual posts, here is what I have so far:

That's enough for this week!  

Virginia Knowles

project 52 p52

Join the Food on Fridays community at
(My post today doesn't have a recipe, but any post that mentions food can be linked.  Mine just happens to be clay corn, pumpkins, lettuce and carrots!)