Saturday, March 30, 2019


It has been a while since I've been able to participate with my Five minute Friday friends. It is good to be back!

five minute friday writing prompt, Christian life, looking at the heart

As soon as I saw Kate's note that this week's word was Measure, the song from 4Him began playing in my head... do you know that one? The Measure of a Man. It's really old, okay not that old, but like 25 years old, which in today's music world is ancient. LOL!

How do we measure what is inside a man or woman? The Bible tells us that only God can discern the thoughts of our hearts. Yet, I've often read the phrase to "take the measure of a man" in books, so there must be something that helps us discern.

I think this measuring is by focusing on the fruit of someone's life. Now, no one is perfect, least of all me, so let's start with some extra grace.

If someone were to look at the fruit of my life what might they find to measure me by? I try to always speak the truth. Sometime that requires me to be silent because I have nothing helpful to say. I know that my words can bring joy and healing, or pain and arguing. Which words are being measured today?

I've also heard the saying that our character is "measured by what we do when no one is watching." Hmm... how do I spend those few quiet times? Am I spending it in prayer, or reading God's Word, or writing an encouraging note to a friend? These actions, or my lack of them, might figure into that measuring.

Daily I am thankful for grace. I want to be a person who is known for a generous heart and a kind spirit. May I allow God to mold me to be more like Him, so my measure would reflect His glory.

Hebrews 6:19

Scripture Writing, hand lettering, Bible verses

Thursday, March 28, 2019

#parentingtruth No. 11 - relationships

parenting truths, childhood, family priorities

Today I feel the need to circle back around to the parenting versus everything else theme once again. Think of it as another look at #parentingtruth No. 2, but from the perspective of your children.

Your marriage relationship should be greater than your parenting relationships, but only because you have all of your relationships in the correct places. If you are a Christian, then your relationships should look something like this:

1- God
2- Spouse
3- Family (children)
4- Family (parents, siblings, and other family members)
5- Church/ Christian friends
6- Job/ vocation
7- Hobby groups/ neighbors, others

While some of you may rearrange numbers 4-7, the top three need to stay in this order if you want to live a life with any semblance of peace. If you’re not cultivating your relationship with God by reading your Bible (or a Bible app) and praying on a regular basis - like daily, then your marriage and family relationships will go sour. If you repeatedly put your children before your spouse, you may wake up one day to an empty bed. Your spouse is not more important than your children as a person, because they are all important to God, but your spousal relationship needs to come first, and your children need to learn to respect that.

We all as parents are going to have days, weeks even, when our childrens’ needs are going to come first - someone is sick, they need a week of potty training, etc. Where today’s #parentingtruth comes in is when your children learning that they may not be happy with you doing something with Dad (or Mom) before you answer their question or read them a book, but they understand that your spouse is important, and learn to wait patiently. After all, your children will likely move out after around 20 years or so, but I truly hope you’re not waiting for your spouse to move out!

When children learn that our main priorities do not change, it gives them a sense of security. Knowing that Mom will always find time to read her Bible every week, or kiss Dad every day lets them know that even when their world is uncertain, like during a move to a new house or when there is upheaval among their friends, life at home can stay mostly the same…even if it happens at a different location.

One important part of this #parentingtruth about marriage being greater than parenting is taking turns being the disciplinarian. If one of you is always the good parent and the other one always the bad parent, your children are going to get confused about your characters. Don’t play good cop/ bad cop with your kids. If they misbehave about something that Dad told them not to do, then let Dad set the ruling about their punishment. If he told them to put their toys away and it did not happen, then if Dad takes all their toys from the floor and puts them in the garage for a week, Mom had better not sneak them out and give them back. On the other side, if Mom is really frustrated about something the kids are doing (or not doing - like taking out the trash), then Dad needs to step aside and let Mom lay down the law on the newly acquired chores those kids will be doing in addition to the ones they neglected. The best part about this type of a parenting relationship is that your children learn that neither of you is a pushover, AND that neither of you is always mad at them. They learn that both parents are more fun, and let the kids have more fun, when they do their chores on time and behave well. Don’t you want your kids to remember the fun you had as a family and not all the times of arguments?

The final part of today’s lesson about parenting is to be realistic. Some days you will falter. Okay, a lot of times you will feel like a failure as a parent. But if you forgive yourself, your children are more likely to believe you when you tell them that you forgive them when they fail.

Love people, starting with your Heavenly Father, and ending with everyone. The world already has plenty of cranky people, what it needs is more smiling ones. :)

parenting truths, childhood, family priorities

Thursday, March 21, 2019

#parentingtruth No. 10 - Poverty

parenting truths, poverty in America, God as provider

Today’s #parentingtruth is a touchy subject: poverty. Why do we struggle to admit that there are many, many families living in poverty? And - what kind of poverty are they living in?

Let us begin with the first question, and work our way through to the second, and see how they both relate to parenting our children.

Poverty in America in 2019 will be defined as a family of four making less than $25,750, or a family of 8 making less than $43,430. These are the guidelines the US Government has established to use for judging whether or not a family might apply for various forms of assistance. How do these numbers translate? In 2017, the last year with numbers I could find, about 12% of Americans lived in households below the poverty line, while about 20% of children lived in a family at or below the poverty level.

Now, here is where real life experience kicks in: when the girls were little there were several years when we lived with an income below the (then current) poverty level. Yet, we never went hungry. Some people would say that this was because we had a good support network, which was true, but I contend it was because God was providing what we needed. 

What we call the poverty level in America is still pretty lush compared to most of the rest of the world lives in. So if you are focusing on how God is providing for all your needs, even if He doesn’t always supply all your wants, your outlook on life is much brighter.

Here is the second question:
There is a bad kind of poverty here in America, it is the kind where alcohol or drugs rule the family. This is not a poverty of the cash variety, but a poverty of the soul. This is the kind of poverty that we as Christians pray for Jesus to overcome. These are the households where someone’s addiction is causing chaos, either directly through abuse, or indirectly through neglect. This is the kind of poverty where children go to bed hungry, where basic needs are unmet, and where education and solid relationships are not valued.

If your family is dealing with a poverty caused by addiction or abuse - please, PLEASE get help! Call one of the national drug abuse hotlines, visit a local church or trustee’s office to locate help, or contact your local police station.

In our family we chose to be cash poor in order to be family rich. I resigned a good paying job in order to raise our girls. It was not always easy, but it was worth it! We spent a lot of time together, at home, at the park, playing in the yard, going to the library or free days at local museums. I would always rather have rich family relationships than have a bank account full of money.

If your family is living at or below the poverty line, or you know someone who is, please allow me to share some #parentingtruth tips we have learned over the years.

Rely on God, not money. Your provision should come from God, not your bank account. Think back to when Jesus was being tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Jesus shared the Scripture “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Jesus was not saying that we could live without eating, He was reminding Satan that what God says matters more than anything else. God has been a provider from the very beginning of time, trust Him to be able to provide for you today. Many, many times I would sit down at my desk to pay the bills and pray “Lord, please multiply what we have to be enough to pay all these bills this month.”

Learn the value of a dollar. Living in a cash poor family does not ruin childhood, in fact, I want to make the case that it can enhance it. When a family does not have a lot of money to spend on gadgets and toys, a child is encouraged to use their imagination. Creative play starts in a child’s mind, and leads then to explore and appreciate what they create. When we were little my brother was always making us little figures out of paper to play with…mostly ones from Star Wars. When our girls were little they would use whatever they could find to create forts, dress up as princesses or knights, or recreate a zoo with their stuffed animals or plastic figures. None of this cost extra money, and yet, it kept us (and them) entertained for hours! When our children learn what a dollar can and cannot purchase, they appreciate everything more.

Reuse, recycle, barter. Did you grow up wearing hand-me-downs? While the world will always be around telling you that you need to buy more stuff, smart parents recognize the value in reusing things. If your 4 year old daughter can wear what her 6 year old sister used to wear, I say go for it. It might be nice to purchase a new storage cabinet or bookshelf, but if you can find one at goodwill or a garage sale that you can use, or repaint and use, for $10 instead of $80, I call that bargain shopping, or smart recycling! Did you know that you can still barter for things? While traditional bartering for goods requires you to fill out tax paperwork, there is nothing wrong with trading with other parents for some free time. When the girls were little several of us from church would take turns watching each others’ kids so each couple could have an occasional date night. You didn’t need a lot of money to accomplish it, just some time, and some patience…and some PBJ’s and crackers.

Make it yourself. One of the main keys of spending your limited cash wisely is learning to make things yourself. For some families that means making your own laundry detergent, for others it means baking your own bread. For a lot of us the easiest thing is to make your own food at home and not eat fast food. This might extend to sewing your children’s clothes or knitting them a scarf. It might also lead to planting a garden and growing your own lettuce, tomatoes and green beans. Learning a skill so that you can make one or more things yourself saves your family money. 

A second part to this #parentintruth about poverty is realizing all the things you really don’t need. Do you want it or do you need it? I want to be able to read a new book, but I do not need a new book. I can choose from several options: borrow the new book from the library, or from a friend; look for the book at a bargain bookstore; read a book I already own; go outside on a hike and come home too tired to read. :)

All of this can be summed up like this: It is okay to be poor. The quality of our lives should not be determined by what we own, but rather by the experiences we have, the relationships we are a part of, and the people we serve in the communities around us. This is a life that is full, abundant, and impacts others for their good. This is a rich life!

parenting truths, poverty in America, God as provider

Thursday, March 14, 2019

#parentingtruth - Spring Break

This week I'm taking a Spring Break from the #parentingtruth series. Don't worry, I'll be back next week. This week our 20 year old has Spring Break from her college courses. While we will not be making a trip to Florida (bummer) this week, I think it is important to spend time this week with her and her younger sister, just having fun.

That in and of itself should give you a #parentingtruth to mull over this week. Life travels by quickly, and soon, those little kids will be adults, and you'll be wondering how many more times you can spend time with them before they move out. So today, this week, I'm choosing to hang out with my kids, instead of typing.

If you have the chance to spend time with your children this week - take it! Hug them now, and they'll still want to hang out with you when they're grown. :)

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Hebrews 5:14

Scripture Writing, hand lettering, Bible verses

Where I've been for two months... thoughts from Carol

This is a post you won't find pinned on my Pinterest page or shared on Facebook. Today I'm sharing a little about the life behind the writing you see here on Home Sweet Life. So this is just for you faithful readers, as a thank you for sticking around and reading what God gives me to say.

Life is a ever-changing journey

We see that change when babies are born, when our grandparents die, and every day in between - if we are looking.

Our lives here at home have been changing a lot here in the past few months. After almost 16 years, we ended our homeschool adventure when our youngest daughter graduated in December. That was a wonderful chapter - okay - book - in this story of our lives.

But with that change came all sorts of other opportunities and adjustments. 

I read a quote recently that said "We walk past 1000 stories every day, a writer sees at least 50 of them." I could have written you fifty stories every day about the things that were changing, if I had the time. :) Instead, I decided that it was more important to be involved in the stories than to tell them, so I have been writing less here on the blog for the past two months or so. Thanks for being patient with me.

In the past year, God has been impressing some important truths upon me. But before I share those, let me back up a little bit. For 2018 God told me my word for the year was going to be LOVE. Oh, some days that was easy, but other days it was really hard. When it came time to think and pray and see if there was a new word for this year, the answer was no, I still have much more to learn and experience with the word love, so the word of the year continues.

Many of you know that my Mother-in-law passed from this life into the next at the end of October. The end of last year was spent serving my family in a deeper and different way, as I tried to ease their grief in the only way I know how, by being the hands and feet of Jesus. This was yet another lesson in how to love others and accept love in return.

As last year rolled into this one, I knew there were things that God was telling me to write, but I was struggling to set aside the time to get them down on paper, or typed into the computer, and out of my head. So I stuck with my commitments to my newspaper column, a couple of guest posts and the weekly #parentingtruth post here on the blog.

I'm not trying to re-invent myself, as I know a lot of recently-retired-from-homeschooling moms do, because I have a fairly good idea of who God wants me to be right now - today, and when He is ready to change that, I know He will tell me. 

So, as I embrace this new season in my life, and in the lives of my family members, I have found a freedom to choose to put some of those thoughts about those particular truths God has been showing me aside for sharing at a later date. I have notes, oh so many notes, and ideas, and random thoughts that still need mulled over. They will mostly get shared here, I'm just not sure when. So I will underpromise and hopefully overdeliver and they will come as they come. I might even just decide to take a week off for a Spring break - if Spring ever arrives - LOL!

As I've been thinking about what truths to share with you, here is the one that keeps coming to the front, so I will share it with you today. If you think a friend needs to hear it, you can share, and if not, then you readers will be the only ones who read it.


Marriages need cultivation.

In the past year I have seen multiple marriages fail within my larger circle of acquaintances. These thoughts are not a judgement of those failings, just some personal observations I want to share, and hopefully some encouragement for you to think about your own marriages, and how you might choose to cultivate them this year.

This year Kurt and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary.

Just so you know, he hates it when I talk about him here on the blog, so I won't. :) I'll talk about me.

Marriage has been almost nothing at all like I thought it would be when I was a teenager. Parenting hasn't been anything like I thought it would be either - just in case you're wondering. That's why I started the #parentingtruth series.

Marriage is not about give and take, it is about giving, and growing, and sacrifice, and being strong when you need to and giving way to the other's wishes when needed. Marriage is not 50-50, it's about 125% from each person. Our marriage has never been perfect, no one's is. But it is always worth fighting for!

One thing marriage has taught me? God still has a lot of refining to do in me. When problems arise in our marriage it is never 100% my fault, but is never 0% my fault either. God has shown me that a quiet answer does turn away wrath, and that iron sharpens iron. There are other things He has shown me, but those what you need to hear today.

You might think you have a wonderful marriage, but you still need to cultivate it. Likewise, even if you have a terrible marriage, you still need to cultivate it. I think ours falls somewhere in the middle - like most of the marriages of our friends - and it needs cultivated, daily.

So for the past two months, I have been making extra efforts to cultivate our marriage. At this time of year that mostly means going birdwatching with Kurt. Something I usually enjoy, but can struggle with in the winter, because frankly, I do not like being cold.

Yesterday we went on a birdwatching expedition, and then we went grocery shopping. It was a short birdwatching trip, only about 3 hours, because the wind was cold and biting, and we were trying to beat the rain.

So what did we cultivate?




Agreeing to sometimes disagree

Do those sound like things you need to cultivate in your marriage?

We talked, about all sorts of things, some of them life changing, some of them mundane, but we talked. After 16 years of homeschooling, sometimes all I want is a quiet place with no words, no expectations, and no books. Shocking, right?

But because I know my marriage needs cultivated to grow, or to even survive, I went birdwatching instead of locking myself in a quiet room.

How were we rewarded for cultivating our marriage?

Maybe our marriage will survive, or even thrive the year. But more importantly, we can know that we were obedient to God's call for husbands and wives to love each other. Nothing is guaranteed in this life, so I am choosing to be thankful for all of the small things in our lives, instead of stressing out about the big things. 

And just in case you are wondering, we did talk about setting aside time each week so I can get back to this writing God has called me to. :)

For all of you other birders out there, here is just a short snippet about  our expedition today...

When we arrived at our destination, I asked Kurt if we could stop at the bathroom first, because I knew it was going to be brutal windy once I got out of the car. He finally acquiesced, and after four tries of bathrooms that were all still locked for the season, we found a just-cleaned port-a-pot. Kurt was a little dismayed because he wanted to go to the eagle's nest first, and the bathroom was in the opposite direction. 

After I was done, we turned around and headed back into the park, and almost immediately spied one of the resident eagles, not near their nest, but in the trees by one of the locked bathrooms. LOL! So you see, sometimes it pays to humor your wife. :)

After watching and photographing the eagle for a while, we got back in the car and set off to find some ducks. Now, I will admit I am not good at identifying ducks. That's okay, because Kurt has been working on ID-ing all of the ones he has seen already this year, and so he told me what they were. Since it is time for ducks to migrate through Indiana, we saw several kinds that were new to me, including Redheads, Lesser Scaup, Gadwell, Ring-necked duck, and some female Bufflehead.

Then, after I was way too cold, we headed back to the car to warm up and eat our provisions (snacks). Of course I ate the pudding first and my healthy snacks last - haha, must have been my frozen brain. 

Finally, Kurt drove us towards where the eagle's nest is, and along the way we saw a lovely blue heron, and lots more ducks. On the frozen surface of the lake near the nest, we got to watch on of the eagles eat a HUGE fish. 

After that we went grocery shopping. Maybe not the glamorous end you expected from our birdwatching date, but still fun, because it is something we rarely do together. On our way home it began to rain, but my spirit was not dampened. I had spent time cultivating my marriage to the man I love, and I saw some new birds too.

What might you discover if instead of ignoring your marriage today you cultivate it?

Love my friends, it needs to be our word for every day, not just a year.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

#parentingtruth No. 9 - Learning to Read

parenting truths, learning to read, read aloud time

Somewhere along the way an expert decided that all children should be able to learn to read well between the ages of five and seven. Today’s #parentingtruth is just me - dispelling that myth.

Most children in America learn to read between the ages of five and nine. The idea that a child is behind if they are not a proficient reader by age seven is a new one. Forty years ago when I went to Kindergarten, we were all learning our ABC’s together. Yes, there were a few kids who had gone to Preschool and already knew their letters, but I lived nearest the country elementary school, and not one of the city ones, so most of us had spent the previous year playing in our backyards and swinging at the park, not focusing on letters.

Sometime the summer before I started school, my parents, or at least my Mom, had gone to the school and our soon to be teacher suggested that they help us work on trying to learn our ABC’s before school started. You see, there is a HUGE world of difference between the 1970’s version of “try to learn” and the 2010’s version of “must know.” Did you know that there are school today where you cannot enter Kindergarten if you have not already mastered your letters, numbers and colors? Then what is the point of Kindergarten? Somebody stop that Merry-go-round now because it surely does not sound like a fun ride to be on!

So here I am today, telling all of you parents, that it is okay if your child has not become a fluent reader by age seven, or nine,… or even eleven. Each child is different, and it is up to you to decide if your child is meeting their potential. It is not up to a random standardized test to decide of their reading fluency is acceptable.

I think we all hope our children will learn to read at an early age, but that does not always happen. With our second daughter, it took a lot longer to learn to read, and then even more time for her to consider herself a good reader, than it did with her older sister. Reading is a subject where it is perfectly fine to be about average, but also okay tone slower than average. Your child will learn to read when they are ready. So stop pushing reading and get back to encouraging them to have fun as kids.

Here is the exception to the no pushing rule: if your child is being lazy or rebellious about reading, just to be a pain in the backside, then get to the heart of the matter with their attitude. Once that is dealt with, learning to read will be easier on both of you.

Now, about those encouraging activities. Read aloud to your children. Often! You can take them to the library and let them look at the covers of picture books and choose some to have you read to them. You can choose a few more books that look like they would be fun to read: silly stories like The Was an Old Lady, or stories about talking animals. You can choose some books that will challenge you as you read them aloud, like Dr Seuss. You can even choose a few books that you think might be a bit advanced for your children to listen to and appreciate, because you never know what subject might encourage them to listen well.

You can lead a child to a book, but you cannot make him read. So choose books about topics that interest him or her: dogs, spiders, cartoons, legos, unicorns, etc. Having a variety of books to use for read-alouds is the key to prevent yourself from getting stuck reading the same book every single day. :)

When your child does seem ready to learn to read, remember that there are a lot of different methods to choose from. Their school may focus on phonics, or they might focus on sight words. If what they try the first time isn’t working well for them, consider trying a different approach at home. If you are homeschooling, be willing to invest in more than one curriculum until you find what works.

Here are two last things to remember when your children are learning to read. 
1- English is the exception to the rule, so don’t expect them to become fluent readers overnight. Think about ch/ck, i/y, or s/c, these are complicated for almost all new readers, so be patient.
2- If your child just doesn’t get reading, even if they say they want to learn how to read, just take a short break. You can try again in six months.

One last thing: read-aloud time should not end just because your child can read. Keep reading to them, so they understand that you enjoy spending time with them, and that ultimately your relationship as parent/ child is more import ran than their reading proficiency.

Happy Reading!

parenting truths, childhood, learn to read