We Were Made for Communion

My family departed–only to be gone for a few hours; yet, my heart sank, already feeling the loss. My attachment is real. Our last two children still at home interact with us in a personal, intimate way. The four of us, Don, me and the kids, are tight-knit. Our bond is unique and strong. I am amazed that these teenagers desire to spend time with me–to share life with their parents. And I am grateful.

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My screensaver while Don, Kenneth & Melinda were in Houston for eight days.

We were made for communion.

I think that’s why I felt their loss–why I wanted to cry when they left and the house was quiet. Even though the noisiness of everyday life can grate on my nerves, I missed their presence. Even though we may not say three words to each other in an hour’s time, I missed their company. I missed their smiles and antics; I even missed their pouts and complaints.

Communion is defined as “the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level.” (Google) This describes my relationship with my husband and children. This should also describe my relationship with the Creator of the Universe.

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Never a dull moment with these two.

We were made for communion. Communion with those around us, but, more importantly, with the One within us. My bond with Jesus is also unique and strong. My heart should sink when I feel the separation between God and myself–when I allow our relationship to wither and weaken. I should invite His presence into my space, if only for whispering comments and calming effects as I go about my day. I should look forward to intimate times of prayer and conversation. I should miss Him when I’ve pushed Him away.

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We were made for communion. Find someone to interact with today. Open your Bible, get on your knees, and commune with the One who made us for communion.

A Way of Life

psalm 119

I stood on the porch and watched my eight-year-old son emerge from the house with his head hanging, mouth turned under and eyes focused on the ground. Moments earlier he had bounded into his dad’s (my ex’s) house to ask a question as I waited for the answer.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“I let the door slam and got in trouble,” was his reply.

“Well, you know what to do. Tell them you were wrong and seek forgiveness,” I stated.

“We don’t do that here, Mom,” my son informed me.

I remembered this scene a few months ago while teaching on reconciliation. The last point of the session was: make extending and seeking forgiveness a way of life.*

Many of us know what God requires and even practice His ways under certain circumstances (at home with our families, during Bible studies, and possibly with our Christian friends). However, outside a “Christian” setting (and sometimes within) asking for forgiveness, putting others first, or standing up for the undefended is awkward, uncomfortable, and frowned upon. It’s a sign of weakness, not strength. We fear ridicule and rejection so mumble through with a wimpy, “I’m sorry,” take a defensive stance or say nothing.

I don’t fault my son for living a dichotomized life; at his young age he knew no better. Yet we cannot be true followers of Christ by picking and choosing when Christian behaviors apply and when they don’t.

Let’s be people who proactively participate in God’s ways in the midst of life no matter where we are or how tough it may be. With the power of the Holy Spirit’s leading, let’s “do that here”—let’s make implementing Christian mandates a way of life.

*Victorious Christian Living Conference taught by Don and Barb Winters January 2014 – To download the teachings, go to the VCL Conference tab above the family photo

An Orphan Boy, A Pregnant Girl, and Teenage Rebellion: What’s the Connection?

Today my children and I finished a book about a boy who is orphaned twice, once as an infant and again when his family dies in the plague that hit London in 1665. As DCFS was non-existent at the time, this eleven-and-a-half-year-old boy is left to fend for himself. He is dejected and downtrodden, believing his life is worthless. The boy meets up with a man willing to help him out “temporarily.” This man is a wanderer who doesn’t necessarily care if he makes enough money today in order to eat tomorrow. And while he is a huge asset to the boy, the boy’s picture of himself remains one of bleakness.

Last week, I read a non-fiction book in which the author, a girl, fakes a pregnancy for her senior year project. This girl’s mom became pregnant at the age of fourteen, had seven children, and, later, birthed the book’s author out of wedlock. Most, if not all, of the author’s seven older siblings had children before their senior years in high school. The author’s project centered on the thoughts and feelings of teen moms as well as stereotypes and expectations. She believes a person’s image of him/herself and subsequent behavior is highly affected by others’ expectations and actions toward him/her. Even though the author had vowed to stay celibate through high school and was in the top 5% of her class, she heard comments like, “I knew it. It runs in the family,” when she announced her (fake) pregnancy.[1]

During Don’s sermon on Sunday, he held a Styrofoam cup in one hand and a crystal wine glass in the other.[2]  One is disposable, the other precious. Some people see themselves as the throw-away cup—useless, unnecessary. God sees them as the crystal wine glass—valuable, beneficial . . . priceless.

Yesterday I began reading a book called Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion against Low Expectations. The authors believe teenagers have underperformed for years because that is what society expects. They are calling for teens to rise above these expectations and excel—to push themselves beyond what comes easy, to take responsibility, come out of their comfort zones, and rise to their potential.[3]

How we see ourselves is paramount in determining the choices we make. Too many times we allow others’ beliefs about us to affect our choices. We tend to rise or sink to the level of expectations of those around us, forgetting that the truest things about us are what God says.[4]

And what about that eleven-and-a-half-year-old boy? He stumbles upon a mapmaker willing to teach him. In the process, the mapmaker sees in the boy the qualities and artistic skills necessary for making maps. At the end of the book this Master gives the boy a home and tells him, “To me you are of great consequence—an heir for my treasure. Not sacks of gold. I speak of the treasure in my head, my eye, my fingers. . . . You are the gift of God, an empty cup sent to me to pour my treasure into . . .”[5]

And so, you are of great consequence—you are the gift of God, an empty cup (crystal wine glass) sent for His treasure to be poured into. Do hard things—things that can only be done by the power of the Holy Spirit backed by the belief that you are valuable. Along the road, encourage others to rise above the status quo and display God’s wondrous power.

Ephesians 2.10


[1] The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez with Jenna Glatzer

[2] For a link to Don Winters’ sermon Physical & Spiritual Blindness, click here.

[3] Do Hard Things by Alex & Brett Harris

[4] See Ephesians 1

[5] Master Cornhill by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

10 Christmas Traditions

advent candles

In the same manner that the Israelites had their traditions to remember their heritage and what God had done for them, many families have holiday traditions. These practices help create family memories and solidify bonds.

Because of our family constitution (step-children and “other” parents), we have been creative in establishing traditions. We recognize the importance traditions hold, so we continue to instill them into our lives but follow them loosely. By that I mean that we aren’t bound by them or bothered if we have to change a few things around to fit our schedule. For example, a few years ago when Christmas fell on a Sunday we followed our “Christmas morning ritual” on Christmas Eve morning.

Our traditions include:

1 – Christmas Tree – We have our pattern. Don and the children build the tree (we go artificial here), and I put on the lights. Some church ladies taught me how to weave the lights in and out of the branches which makes for a more illuminated and prettier tree. The children then decorate with our unsophisticated store bought and homemade ornaments. A few peculiar ones remind us of stories and cause us to laugh. And we each have our “special” ornaments.

2 – Christmas Music – On this point I am a stickler: Christmas music may not be played until after Thanksgiving. After that I listen to it as often as possible, and we always play it while assembling the tree. We have our favorite CDs – the ones that generate a, “Remember this . . .” comment or story – and usually add to the collection each year.

3 – Advent Story – While we maintain a flexible schedule, we read part of an advent story and light advent candles each day during advent. When our older boys were in Kindergarten I stumbled on a story entitled Jotham’s Journey. The next two years I purchased the other two books in the series. Since that time, we have rotated through them, reading one each year. The stories aid us in focusing on the purpose of our celebration, Christ and His birth. They also remind us how to live and assist us in looking forward to His second coming.

4 – Anonymous Gift – Each year our family gives an anonymous monetary gift to a family or person in need. This tradition reflects what Christ has done for us and teaches our children the gift of giving.

5 – Foods & Crafts – Some foods smell like Christmas! During this season I bake more, and the children spend more time making crafts (remember those homemade ornaments mentioned in #1?).

6 – Christmas Eve Service – We have attended services at several different churches and enjoy the awe and wonder inspired by candlelight, quiet hymns, the reading of the Christmas story, worshiping with God’s people, and other blessings a Christmas Eve service includes.

7 – Christmas Breakfast – Don is a great cook and enjoys serving a big breakfast as part of our celebration. But I must admit we don’t always have this breakfast on Christmas morning. If we are traveling (which has been the case for the past few years), we adapt by having this meal on a different day.

8 – Quiet Exchange – Don and I prefer to exchange gifts without the children around, so we usually break ours out after the kids go to bed Christmas Eve.

9 – Exchange Gifts & Stockings – We do not purchase elaborate or expensive gifts, but we do participate in the giving of gifts and stocking stuffers. I think it’s fun and the kids enjoy selecting presents to fit each family member’s personality. More recently we have established a routine as to when and how we open gifts, but in the past we have been flexible on our plans as usually there was one or two family members missing on Christmas morning. Periodically we allow the children to open a gift or two Christmas Eve but usually open on Christmas morning (unless we are traveling).

10 – Extended Family – This is the time of year my heart aches for those I grew up with. Both Don’s family and mine are spread far and wide throughout the United States. Unfortunately we are unable to visit with most of them but, when possible, we drive to my mom’s.

I pray these traditions help my children connect Christmas with family and Christ’s birth.

I’d love to hear from you! In the midst of this holiday season, what traditions will you be including in your celebration?

Leave a Legacy of God’s Love to a Thousand Generations

B D L and Mom May 1992.1My mom blessed me with a box of old pictures. Some date all the way back to 1968 . . . the beginning.

In the span of 15 inches (of stacked pictures) I age 40+ years. My life literally flashes before my eyes (especially if I fan them quickly, like one of those old-time flipbooks in which the little character drawn on the bottom of each page looks like he’s walking or eating).

But it’s not the pictures of me that I am enamored with; it’s those of my family, some of whom have since passed on. I see a picture of my grandmother holding me as a baby and wish I could ask her what she was thinking.

Barb as little girl1

I see a picture of my three-year-old self kissing my little sister and want to reach through the 243-mile gap and plant one on her in the here and now. I see a picture of my nineteen year old son as a toddler and can hear the sounds he was making when I snapped the picture.

I laugh. I cry. I long.

I long for a simpler time. I long to stop the clock so my children won’t grow up. I also long to create an environment in which they look back and smile.

Barb Donna Dad Grandma Grandpap1

It’s the time of year when the value of family prevails. “Family” (children, parents, grandparents, in-laws, adopted families, church families, etc.) is found at the top of most Thanksgiving lists.

This leads me to ask: How do I preserve these precious moments, these delicate relationships? How do I capture and retain something that is ever-changing and contains so many dynamics?  How do I hold on and let go? How do I protect those who follow behind me?

I realize I cannot pause time and hold fast to my dear babies; however, I can (and will) influence the next generation and, probably, the one after that. The memories will impact their lives. So I want to be purposeful in my teachings and behaviors. I desire to model Godly wisdom . . . and Godly love. If I keep my eyes on the Creator, they will too.

Exodus 20

Homeschool Co-ops 101 by Karen Lange, Book Tour & $25 Amazon GC Giveaway

homeschool co-ops 101

Read to the end for Book Review and Giveaway Information 

Essential co-op tools, tips, and options for today’s homeschool families.

Thinking about joining or starting a homeschool co-op? Not sure if a co-op is a good fit? Homeschool Co-ops 101 weighs the pros, cons, and creative options available for today’s homeschool family.

  • Section 1 includes essential, digestible info on co-op ingredients such as planning and organization, schedules, teaching, finances, and addressing conflict and burnout.
  • Section 2 shares a sampling of co-op games and activities, and
  • Section 3 contains five hands-on unit studies. These ready to use studies include lessons on Leonardo da Vinci, Birds of Prey, Public Speaking, Tall Tales, and Creative Writing, and are suitable for co-op or home use. This section also includes unit study guidelines that are easily customized to suit any topic.
  • Section 4 offers suggested books, curriculum, and other resources.

Karen Lange has gathered insight from years of co-oping and now shares her own and others’ experiences in this valuable and encouraging handbook.

Homeschool Co-ops 101 is available at:

~~~Amazon~~~

~~~Barnes and Noble~~~

~~~Kobo~~~

karen langeAbout the Author

Karen Lange, her husband, and three children were active in co-ops during their sixteen-year homeschool journey. Her experience includes serving as a local homeschool support group coordinator and consultant for a state homeschool network in New Jersey. Karen’s children have since graduated, and she is now a freelance writer and online writing instructor for homeschooled teens.

You can connect with Karen at her Blog, on Twitter, and Facebook.

homeschool co-ops 101

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Review

I am a homeschool mom of fifteen years and have helped lead three different homeschool groups. Therefore I have a vested interest in this topic and am happy to offer this book review.

This short, straight-forward book contains practical advice and useful steps on organizing, teaching, and scheduling co-ops, along with other helpful hints and numerous resources. I particularly like that Karen considers different family goals in her suggestions. She also recommends that families be flexible while searching for the right co-op fit. Lange states:

It may take a while to find the right organizational setup for your co-op. This is to be expected when working with new situations, unexpected circumstances, and varied personalities. The co-op experience mirrors the homeschool journey; there are ups and downs, trial and error and resulting adjustments. Do not be discouraged; count it as a good and necessary part of the process.

I recommend this inexpensive book for anyone considering joining or starting a homeschool co-op.

The Giveaway

Open to US addresses only. One person will receive a $25 Amazon GC and a copy of Homeschool Co-ops 101. Please use the Rafflecopter below to be entered:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The winner will be chosen from those entries and announced December 5, 2013. Good luck!

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code. Winning entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter and announced here as well as e-mailed, and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Diane at That’s What I’m Here For… and sponsored by the author, Karen Lange. The author provided me with a free copy of Homeschool Co-ops 101 to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a giveaway in return for the free book.VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

10 Must-Haves for Travel

packed suitcase

When packing, I start with a master list printed from my computer. As I prepare for a specific outing, I take notes on the list, crossing out items I won’t need (like Christmas gifts) and adding items important for this particular trip (like binoculars).

The following must-haves are items above and beyond the essentials.

1 – Pre-packed Travel Case – My travel case is always ready to go. I use travel-sized containers and re-fill them as necessary. Since I am allergic to most scents, I travel with my own shampoo, conditioner, and soap.

2 – Map and Printed Directions – I am not against GPS, but I am a map girl. I want to know where we are in relation to our target and why I am turning on 136 West when my destination is to the south.

3 – Water Bottles – Whether you use your own or stock up at the local grocery store, a supply of these saves time and money. Here is another hint: If you are running low on water but still have bottles, stop at a gas station, purchase a gallon of water, and re-fill your bottles.

4 – Granola Bars – A quick, easy snack that travels well.

5 – Cash – This may seem like an odd item to include, but in this day and age of credit/debit cards many do not carry cash on a regular basis. Remember to grab some before taking off. You may need it for entrance fees, tipping, quick stops, outdoor vendors, etc.

6 – Scissors – I recently added this item. They come in handy to remove price tags, snip loose threads, and cut off wrist bands worn to indicate you’ve paid an entrance fee at places like track meets. A closely related item is a knife used to cut apples and oranges or make pb&j sandwiches.

7 – Wet Wipes – Another recently added item, I use these to clean spills or wipe my hands after eating. (Remember my allergy to scented items? I purchase unscented and sometimes use them in place of soap and water.)

8 – Ear Plugs – My husband uses these to block out noise when he sleeps. I use a different kind to plug my ears while swimming.

9 – Plastic Bags in Various Sizes – Snack-sized are convenient for small items and daily doses of vitamins. Quart-sized are suitable for icing an injury. The grocery-store size is handy for wet bathing suits, dirty clothes, trash, and the occasional puking occurrences.

10 – A Good Book – Closely related to this is a card game.

BONUS – A Surrendered Attitude – Inevitably something will not go as planned while you travel. Therefore, surrender your heart, attitude, and vacation plans to God. Be ready and willing to remain calm, loving, and kind even in difficult and unexpected circumstances.

What are your must-haves when traveling? Let us know in the comments below.