Easy Water Game You Can Make for Your Kids

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Year’s ago I made these sponge balls for the kids and they have been a family favorite ever since! We’ve had hours of fun throwing soaked sponge balls at each other on a hot summer’s day. We think it’s really fun to pelt each other with “water bombs”. We have played dodgeball with them, war, and then just see who you can get the wettest!

We are in the middle of planning a “messy birthday party” for one of the kids and it was no surprise that this game was on the list. While getting ready for this party I dug up some of our old ones and quickly declared them unusable. They were nasty-gross from years of play. Time for new ones!

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You will need: small sponges, ties, buckets, scissors

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What you do: Cut each sponge into 4 strips.

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Put 8 strips together to make a cube of sorts.

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Take a tie and cinch it very tightly around the cube’s middle and then twist some of the “arms” to create the sponge-ball.

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When you are ready to play, put them in buckets of water and let the kids have fun with soaking wet sponges.

Always lots of fun.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

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Our CSA has been sending zucchini after zucchini after zucchini to us. Unfortunately, my kids don’t like it – not even sautéed. So, I needed to find ways to use this up and get it in them. I found that adding chocolate and sugar to it worked!

So, here is a recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Bread that we are using every week right now. I even took some down to the new neighbors. I hope they liked it!

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Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Ingredients:

3 cups flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups white sugar
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

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Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans.

In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt, mix well. In separate bowl, combine sugar and eggs, beat until well blended. Add oil and vanilla; beat until combined. Stir in zucchini. Add flour mixture; stir just until moistened. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips. Spoon evenly into loaf pans.

Bake in preheated oven for 55 to 60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove bread from pans and cool.

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This is the kind of treat you want to sit down and share with a friend on the porch.
Let’s all give it a try this week.

Garden Update

This is the first summer I have attempted a vegetable garden. I have envied many, many gardens over the years and thought I didn’t have the space for one. Then I heard about square foot gardening and realized I could have a garden in as little as 4 square feet. I may not be able to feed my family on it, but we could learn a little and eat a little.

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You may remember this picture taken right after I planted the cucumbers and green peppers in May.

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And this is what it looks like today.

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We are harvesting cucumbers everyday now and I think we will get about 15-20 out of it by the end of the season. They are crisp, juicy and sweet!

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The green peppers are on their way. We have 3 that should be ready soon and it’s hard to tell how many more we will end up with since their season is just starting.

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For years I have been growing basil in a little pot. This year it isn’t doing as well as it has in the past. I just moved it to a sunnier spot to see if that will help. But there is plenty for my tomato basil mozzarella sandwiches. And the other day I made basic boxed tortellini, drizzled it with olive oil and threw chopped tomatoes and fresh basil strips on top. Oh, yummy!

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Finally, the mint is doing nicely. Again, not as well as in past years, so I moved it as well, but plenty for us. I love mint on green beans (oddly enough it is a very tasty combo). I throw some salt and lime juice with minced mint onto blanched green beans for a quick snack or dinner side.

But the one thing that is new this year is mint tea. I actually had to look up a recipe for this because I just wasn’t sure. But yes, it is just this easy: pick 7-10 leaves, put them with 2 cups of water in the microwave for 5-7 minutes. Then stir for 3 minutes and strain the leaves out. I add a touch of raw sugar and love it. Honestly, it isn’t any better than the tea bags you buy in the store, but the fact that I grew it and just plucked it from my garden puts it over the edge.

I hope you are enjoying your garden this summer! Share some of your favorite quick recipes with us!

Why it’s a big deal we went to camp the second time

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I LOVED camp when I was a kid. It was the highlight of my year – every year. From the time I was 9-years-old I paid my own way to Sandy Creek Bible Camp. And as soon as I was old enough I went to work there. My camp years ended only after I graduated from college.

So, let me say it again, I LOVE CAMP. And when I say that, I mean: I have a deep, deep feeling of affection for this place called camp not just a “yeah, camp is a lot of fun, woo hoo!” kind of thing. It’s much deeper than that.

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When I think back to where this deep feeling for camp came from, it is two fold. First, I loved the quiet time in nature with God. I really enjoyed the beautiful surroundings while I read my Bible and prayed. Years later when I was going through the hardest years of my life emotionally I would go to parks near where I lived and sit and journal. It mimicked the place I felt the most secure and peaceful as a child – camp. It was beautiful, serene and it felt safe.

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The second reason I have a deep affection for camp is the people. There, I was surrounded with kids that were following Jesus in the same way I was. For me it was refreshing having Jesus be a word that, when spoken, didn’t make people cringe, walk away, or ignore you for days. It was a place where I could be me and not be “persecuted” for it. I didn’t have to hide my relationship with God there. It was not only OK to believe in Jesus but it was cool. Imagine that! Having come from a home where we were not able to freely and openly discuss our belief in God, camp was a haven, a second family for me. It was a warm, welcoming, comfortable and embracing space with people who loved me for all that I was.

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I know camp isn’t that for most people. Take my husband, he respects my love for camp, but he doesn’t share the same affection for it I do. When I approached him for the first time with going to camp two years ago he agreed to go. I knew he was doing it for me and I appreciated it very much. He even got into some of the pre-camp activities like building the family boat for the wacky boat race. He was fully on board and I was really excited to share this experience with my family.

Our week at camp was very, very hot and uncomfortable, but went well for the most part until the last night.

That’s when the good times ended.

During the canoe races my husband volunteered to be in the “man of war” canoe race. All the brave men were doing it. And we don’t run from friendly competition in this family – we run TO it. It’s how we were made. There weren’t many rules for this race, just get your boat out and back with all your oars and men first. There were 4 men per team and 3 or 4 teams, I can’t remember. It was a real manly-mans race. And it got crazy.

I can’t remember if they won or not, it was all a bit of a blur. As the teams wrestled to get their boat to shore the top of my husband’s pinky finger was pinched off between an oar and a rung on their boat. It was a mad rush to find the piece of finger and get him to the hospital. A lot of blood, a lot of running.

I was scared, and I was crushed. After I got over the fear that he was never going to have the tip of his finger again I resolved myself to a life without camp. Right there in the emergency room I was devastated that I was never going to go to family camp again. How selfish of me.

I just assumed he was NEVER going to go back there. And who could blame him.

After the two surgeries that it took to re-build his finger we were finely able to joke about it between ourselves and good friends. But every time we joked there was a part of me that was so very sad that we weren’t going to go back.

I waited a year and a half and then mustered the nerve to just ask if he would be willing to go to camp again by chance.

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He said yes! Without much reservation he said YES.

Before he had the chance to really think about what he had just agreed to I ran to the computer and registered us.

I know he did it for me. And I love him for it. What a gift. My husband is very thoughtful in general. He buys little things for me that he knows I like. He brings chocolate chip cookies home for me when there are some left over from a meeting he attended, he runs across airports to get my favorite Chicago popcorn on his layover, he reminds me to take my vitamins, he brings desert home for me when he has a work dinner at a nice restaurant and I sat home eating mac and cheese with the kids, he turns my shower on for me so it can heat up, he puts the toothpaste on my side when he is done with it and I haven’t used it yet, he starts the teapot for me to make tea. He is always doing thoughtful things.

Me, I sit in hospital sulking that I won’t be going back to camp while he lays there with his finger ripped off wondering if he will ever have a fingertip again.

And only a year and a half later he quickly agrees to go back again, for me.

Thank you, dear, I love you! Thank you for doing this for me because you know I love it. You are very good to me.

So we went again this summer. It was a blast, and thankfully, we returned with all our fingers and toes intact!

We went to camp and we…

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dressed up in costume, dug for treasure,

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made crafts, played, sang, danced,

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swam, built a boat, lost the boat, enjoyed treats at the snack shack,

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worshiped, learned, tried new things, saw old friends, made new friends,

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played games, rock climbed, paddle boated, swung,

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competed, won, lost, laughed, ate s’mores,

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went on a treasure hunt, watched a magic show,

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got dirty, canoed, zip lined, played tag on the beach, smiled,

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went on a hay ride, HAD A BLAST.

Craft Closet Clean-Up

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One of the first projects I did in our new house was the craft closet. It started out as a bare closet with wooden shelves on the right side. I purchased a shelving system from Lowes and installed it in a few hours. I did this entire thing myself ladies, it was that easy! Then I labeled some tubs that I already had and organized away.

Once every few months I have to go through and re-organize, throw away, and straighten up but now that I have a system that is all labeled – it is much easier. This weekend I tackled the clean up in here and as part of my house purge, I got a rid of a lot of junk that had accumulated. Here is what it looked like when I was done:

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My favorite part of the closet is this over-the-door shoe hanger that I turned into a wrapping station. Now I can always find the tape, scissors, wrap and ribbon! Ahhh. If you like this you can find a million great ideas on Pinterest.

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Now for a few before-the-clean-up pictures…

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A Praying Mother

I do my best to educate myself on mommy things. I read, I research, I talk to other moms, I have mentors, I even attend seminars. But sometimes a situation arrises with a child that I have no idea what to do about and no book or friend or mentor or seminar has the answer I need. In these times all I can do is pray.

I had the opportunity to join a prayer group for our school this past year. This was my first time in a group like this and it was so encouraging to me. It was nice to get together with other mothers who believe in the power of prayer and have the same desires for our school and children that I do. Coming together to kneel before our King and ask for his guidance and protection together felt so much more powerful than me doing it alone.

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Being a part of this group also opened my eyes to what I can pray for for my kids too. That sounds funny, but for me sometimes, I’m not sure what exactly to pray for my kids. It’s usually, “Lord, please help me. I have no idea what I am doing. Give me guidance and patience. Amen.”  But I found some scriptures that gave me some much better ideas on how to pray for my kids.

You can pray that your kids will:

Know Christ as Savior early in life. (Psalm 63:1, 2 Timothy 3:15)

Have a hatred for sin. (Psalm 97:10)

Be caught when guilty. (Psalm 119:71)

Be protected from the evil one in each area of their lives: spiritual, emotional, and physical (John 17:15)

Have a responsible attitude in all their interpersonal relationships. (Daniel 6:3)

Respect those in authority over them. (Romans 13:1)

Desire the right kind of friends and be protected from the wrong friends. (Proverbs 1:10-11)

Be kept from the wrong mate and saved for the right one. (2 Corinthians 6:14-17)

Be kept pure until marriage (as well as the one they marry). (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)

Learn to totally submit to God and actively resist Satan in all things. (James 4:7)

Be single-hearted, willing to be sold out to Jesus Christ. (Romans 12:1-2)

Be hedged in so they cannot find their way to wrong people or wrong places and that the wrong people cannot find their way to them. (Hosea 2:6)

Oh, some really good stuff in there, right?! I created a little card out of these to keep in my Bible and by my bed.

Here are some printable versions for you:

Kids Prayer Card

Kids Pray Card with Scriptures

I have been thinking about it for a while, but I am finally going to start a prayer group for mothers. I am hoping it will be a place where we can share our needs, and pray for each other’s families while we watch the power of God work in our lives. If you have a burden for this too, I encourage you to do the same thing. Invite some friends over for an hour, mingle, pray, and then chat a little more. Wouldn’t it be exciting to see our families and communities transform just from us asking – together.  

“Where two or three people meet together in my name, I am there with them.” Matthew 18:20 [NIRV]

 

What if heaven really is for real?

Would it change the way you live? Would it change the way you think?

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I read the book Heaven is For Real a few years ago. The book is about a 4-year-old boy who had a near death experience and went to Heaven for a short time. The book recounts the stories he told after the fact leading his parents to believe he had really been there. He knew things about them he wouldn’t have know and he told them about things he saw while he was there. His family wrote the book to share their story.

Last weekend some people on our street got together to watch the movie “Heaven is For Real”. Something in the movie struck me differently than when I read the book. The father of the boy is a preacher and is really wrestling with his faith in God but his disbelieve that his boy could have really been in Heaven for a time. In the movie he asks his congregation, “What if heaven is for real? Would you live differently?”

I believe in God and Jesus and heaven, but this question made me think. If I believed that Heaven was really for real. Every day. I think I would live differently than I do. Pondering this question myself made me realize how thin my faith really is.

If I believed heaven was really for real I would:

Feel safer
Revelation 21:27 “But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
Matthew 18:10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.

Have more joy on a day to day basis knowing where I was headed
Be more excited to get there
I Corinthians 2:9 “But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him””

Realize I have no idea what real beauty looks like
Revelations 21:21 “And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass.”
Revelations 21:19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald,

Be more thankful
Revelations 21:1-5 “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.””

Be less stressed

Be more humble and reverent toward God

Worry less about the stuff in my life.

Be more proactive in telling others about Jesus

So if I profess to believe in God and Heaven, why don’t I live like I do? No matter what you think about stories like this – if you do believe in God this is a good question to ponder for yourself. Do you really believe Heaven is real? And if so, do you live like it?

Trust Without Borders

I love the song Oceans by Hillsong right now. Below is a link to a video from a conference in Sydney where they performed it last year. The venue is amazing and the number of people worshipping together is moving.

Please click on the link below and take a few minutes to listen to the song while you read this today. The link will open in a new window so you can come back while it is playing and read. Please note there is an ad at the beginning of the video that you can skip after five seconds and then the song will begin playing.

Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) Hillsong UNITED

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever you would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my savior

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.
Oh to have trust in God that has no borders. To fully put my life in His hands and trust that He will make good of all things that happen. To trust that even the painful parts of life are meant for my good. The things that happen to us that hurt beyond imagination are meant for good.  The Bible says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28. Lord help me to trust deeply in that promise and live life trusting you without borders. Help me to not run when things don’t go as I want them to go but to trust that you are in control even when it looks like no one is.

Let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me.
Lord, take my life and use it for your good. Speak to me and tell me where you want me, where you need me. May I be willing to go wherever that is. Lord use me in great ways to glorify you and spread your love so that the pain of my life will have purpose and not be in vain. Lord, may I be willing to let my story be used to tell of your amazing faithfulness and love. May I not run and hide because the pain to too much to relive but may I follow where you lead and may you give me the strength to do what you ask of me.

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.
Pursue me and draw me deeper in a relationship with you where I will experience you in great ways. Where I will see your work and your faithfulness. Where I will feel your love and your grace. And Lord help me to seek you as much as I am humanly able. My feet wander, my mind wanders and I am easily distracted by earthly things. Take me deeper with you into the life you have for me. Lord may my feet follow as you guide me. Lord give me the strength to follow when it is hard.

And my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my savior.
Let it be so, that as I deepen my relationship with you my faith with be stronger. Lord I confess that my faith is so weak. When life hurts, I take my life in my own hands fully trusting only myself. Myself that only sees things in the present not as you see them with the perspective of eternity. May I learn to trust deeply. May I encounter the joy you have for me when I learn to trust fully. And Lord forgive me, for I will fail. But thank you for knowing that and offering me your peace, love, joy, security, forgiveness anyway…for I deserve none of it.

Lord help me, for I want to trust you without borders. I want to go where you call me, I want to go deeper with you so my faith can be made stronger. Lord I want my life to have purpose, I want the pain of my life to not be in vain. Lord give me courage, strength and purpose. I am willing.