Posted in Around The Church, From The Altar, Under Our Roof

Personal Advent Devotion

In addition to the Family Devotion this Advent, I have included a personal devotion aspect, as well. This is for Mom and Dad or older kids to do on their own through the week following the Family Devotion. You can also do the Family Devotion alone and incorporate the Personal Devotion aspect into your own days if you choose, as well. This is intended to compliment the weekly devotional. You can do this all at once, stagger it through the week, or just do some of it. Really, make it your own. The goal is to center our hearts and minds on the season at hand and the truths God has to reveal to us this Advent.

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So, you’ll need a Bible, notebook, and pen. You may want more, that is up to you. You may want washi tape, stickers, colored pencils, markers, watercolors, etc. You don’t need them, but if you are more of an art or craft style journal person, those might be what you need.

Now, I just grabbed one of my handy little mini notebooks from Casemate. (They come in 2 packs at Wal-Mart for $1.88.) You might choose a composition notebook, sketchbook, Moleskin, or some other form of notebook. I went with what I had. I may fill it up completely and have to bust out the second one before Advent is over, which will be fine for me.

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What you’ll be doing is very simple. Each week, there will be several Bible passages that go along with the devotion. You’ll look them up and read them as part of that devotion time. Some other time during the week, you’ll take each passage and write it down in your journal. On the right hand page of your notebook, you’ll copy the Scriptures word for word. You can use any translation you like. You can read the Hebrew or Greek and translate it yourself. I numbered my verses to match my Bible, but you can omit the verse number if you’d like. Just copy the Scripture on the right side of the page. Now, one passage may take several pages, and that is fine. Just write the Scriptures only on the right hand pages. On the left hand pages, you’ll go back and write thoughts, questions, song lyrics, other verses, or doodles that come to mind. The left hand pages are for your journaling. The right hand pages are for Scripture. Easy enough, right?

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Why write the verses and not just read them and write what you think? Well, writing will activate different parts of your brain and memory than just reading them. Remember in school when you would write out notes and make note cards? The more various ways you interact with a specific text, the better ingrained in your memory it becomes and the better you really “see” it.

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There are several passages each week. You have all week to write and journal about the passages. Take your time. If you miss a passage, no worries. This is for your benefit, not to make you feel bad. I encourage you to put forth the effort to get as much out of this as you can. But if life happens, don’t beat yourself up. Just get back on track as soon as you can.

My prayer for you is that you immerse yourself in the Word this Advent. That as we draw close to our remembrance of the Word being made flesh, we fill our hearts and minds with the Word and find Jesus there.

Posted in From The Altar, Under Our Roof, With The Kids

Advent Family Devotion Tips and Tricks

Celebrating Advent is big in our house. Some people think that because we choose to skip the Santa and Elf on the Shelf bits of Christmas, we somehow miss the magic. Let me tell you, we do not. Part of what makes Advent the special, magic time for our family is my intentionality in how we go through this time of year. As Mama Bear, I set the tone of my household and I set the rhythm of our lives. (Not that The Pastor isn’t an important part of this balance, but let’s be honest, Mama’s. We know that we are the ones that make the magic happen.) It doesn’t always unfold like I planned. I remember plenty of years when I really wasn’t feeling the magic myself. (Specifically, I recall being pregnant with Topher during Advent. End of the first trimester. I puked an average of 12 times a day with that child. B vitamins and Benadryl helped me sleep through most of my first trimester. I definitely was not feeling magical. I was sleeping and puking my days away.) But I have decided that regardless of how I feel, I am going to try to set the rhythm and tone of our household in the best direction for those in it. (Even that pukey Advent, I managed to keep the magic on track.) It does take work on my part, but what aspect of parenting isn’t work? So, yes, Dad’s get on board. And in your house, it may be Dad that keeps the rhythm flowing. For us, the atmosphere and rhythm is set by me. So here are my tips for you. (Please note, I also have general tips for surviving the holiday season. These are specific to this devotion, but you can read and apply the others, as well.)

·        You do not have to give up the fat man. We simply choose to do without the Santa aspects of Christmas. I just only have so much time and energy. You may be far more energetic than I am. You can fit it in. You can make it beneficial to a Christian Christmas. Just be aware of where the focus is. Shift the focus to the manger as much as you can. Let the Christmas extras compliment the baby in the manger.

·        You cannot do it all. Accept it now. All activities listed are OPTIONAL. Very, very optional. Everything you do or do not do is up to you. Intentionally choose what fits your family and best points them to Jesus. Leave the rest with no guilt.

·        For this devotional, we’ll be using Advent candles. You’ll need 5 candles. 1 for each week and then one for Christmas.  The candles add so much of the magic to Advent. Just that holy glow and atmosphere is so calming and centering. You can buy an Advent wreath with the candle holders made into it. You can buy a box set of Advent candles. Traditionally, there are 3 purple candles, 1 pink candle, and 1 white candle. (The order is week one- purple, week two- purple, week three- pink, week four- purple, Christmas- white.) Now, any 5 candles will work. If you want all white candles, all gold candles, all neon yellow candles, whatever. Just choose five candles. (The candle color is mentioned in the devotions, but that doesn’t mean you have to use them.) Last year, I bought scented candles in jars. (3 purpley gray, 1 pink, 1 white) I’ll likely do the same this year because I am not a taper candle person. You’ll be burning the candles quite a bit, so you probably don’t want tea lights or something super small unless you plan to replace them. You’ll light these candles during the devotion each week. (Week one, you light week one’s candle. Week two, you like week one and week two’s candles. And so on.) You can light them at other times during the week. (Though, for me, I will only burn the appropriate candles for the week. So week one, I won’t light more than the week one candle.) You can light them while you sing carols or do other family devotions or during dinner or during reading time. It is up to you how much you light and burn your candles. Usually, they are arranged with the colored candles circling the white candle. I lined mine up. With two purple on one side, then the white candle in the middle, then the pink candle and the remaining purple candle.

·        There are several verses each week to look up and read together. I would usually include those in the devotional, but I have been working with my kids on looking up Scripture. If your kids aren’t old enough to read, you may want to just look them up and mark them in advance. I have each of my kids look up and read a different passage.

·        I encourage you to do the personal devotional journal aspect of this, as well. It is optional. It is just a chance for you to go a little deeper while the whole family is still on the same page. If your kids are older, you can encourage them to do the personal devotion aspect, as well.

·        This Advent, remember, that busy isn’t always better. Your family needs time to breathe, center themselves, and enjoy the season. Don’t let them get overbooked. Carve out the time for family and personal devotion time.

·        Play Christmas songs, burn scented candles, make hot cocoa! Do the things that trigger those warm, fuzzy holiday feelings. Set the atmosphere of the house in a way that directs everyone’s thoughts and moods toward Jesus. Get the fire going. Break out the cozy blankets for the living room. Make your home atmosphere reflect the season so that the hearts and minds of your family go toward the manger.

·        Choose your devotional location to be somewhere that sets the right tone. You’ll need to be near the candles. You may find that best at your dining room table. Maybe your living room is more inviting. Maybe your parlor is less distracting. (I don’t have a parlor, but you might.) Keep your location consistent each week.

·        There is only one devotion per week. These should be done at the beginning of the week. On Sunday or Monday. Remind your family of the topic through the week. Add in the optional activities on the other days of the week. Do your personal devotions through the week. Your family will be moving through this together. Each week brings about a new idea and aspect as we look toward the coming baby in the manger. Write the time into your calendar. Make sure you prioritize it.

To give credit where it is due, this entire family devotional is adapted from a devotional written by The Pastor for our church for Advent. I did tweak it just a little, but the guts of it remain his. You can find his blog here. You can find our church website here. You can e-mail him at adam@faithmethodistchurch.org .

Posted in From The Altar, Under Our Roof, With The Kids

The Benefits of Advent

Most people haven’t heard of Advent, or if they have, it isn’t something Protestants do. I’m here to tell you, if you aren’t taking advantage of the Advent season, you are missing out. Advent is the beginning of our church year. This is our new beginning. Advent isn’t Christmas. In Christmas we celebrate a Savior born. In Advent, we wait in hope for a Savior to come.

“My mercy and justice are coming soon. My salvation is on the way. My strong arm will bring justice to the nations. All distant lands will look to me and wait in hope for my powerful arm.” – Isaiah 51:5

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          Most of our celebration of Christmas is really about Advent. The preparation, the expectation, the hope- the things that lead to Immanuel. Most of our Christmas songs are Advent songs. Songs about the waiting. The hope that comes before. That is what we are celebrating in Advent. And not just the hope of that first coming of Jesus, but also looking forward and preparing for that second coming.

          The color of the season is purple. It reflects both royalty and mourning. Wait, why mourning? No, I’m not bringing the Easter message into the Advent one. But when you are faced with the coming Messiah, there is preparation that must take place, preparation of the heart. It is a hopeful, but reflective time. Am I ready for that second coming? Am I living in this light or do I need my light refreshed this season?

          Hopefully, you’re beginning to see the importance and how deeply meaningful celebrating Advent can be. I’m going to push that thinking even further, still.

          Culturally, we bemoan the Christmas trees popping up after Halloween. We yell, “Wait! You’re missing something! It isn’t time yet!” We lament that our culture has taken our holiday and turned it into something else. We tell them, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” And indeed He is. But when we look at our lives, our homes, and our rhythms, our December’s look an awful lot like the rest of the culture. The culture we want to shame, we imitate. Advent keeps us from that habit. It gives us a time for the festivities to begin. It gives us landmarks for the season. It focuses our minds on what we are celebrating and remembering. Instead of getting swept up in whether the kids should get 4 gifts, 3 gifts, or unlimited gifts- our focus is that Jesus is coming! Instead of getting sucked into the busy of the season, we have set aside this as a holy season for reflection and focus, not just for getting through before the big day. (And Christmas is more than one day people. December 25th is the 1st day of Christmas.

          It gives a rhythm to our lives. We begin our Christian year in expectant hope, in searching our own hearts and lives, and in preparing the way for the Savior. This is an excellent way to start the year. It is a much needed reminder. Some say tradition is dead. It is only dead if we are going through motions out of obligations. We are forgetful people. We have to write things down. We have to repeat them. We have to keep reminding ourselves of the truth and beauty in this world or we forget it is there. We get busy. We forget. Celebrating Advent will help you slow down and not forget.

          How do you go about celebrating Advent? Well, I have a few things for you to consider doing. I say consider because we all adapt what we need for our situation and lifestyle. What works for me as a homeschooling mom of a large family may not work for you, even if you are a homeschooling mom of a large family. Things are funny that way. My real hope for you would be that you think through the Advent season and develop a plan to go through it intentionally with your family, whoever that might include. (I’ll also have an Advent Family Devotional to help you along if you desire as well as The Pastor’s personal reading plan for yourself through Advent.) My hope is that you’ll give Advent a good try and see if you can develop a closer relationship with Christ this Advent season.

       Advent is the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Each week has a theme to focus on. There are numerous ways to divide the weeks. We divide them this way: Week One- Expectation, Week Two- Preparation, Week Three- Celebration, Week Four- Incarnation. I’ll be using these, but if you want to use others, feel free. In Advent, you’ll often see an Advent wreath. And you can certainly find them for your home. (Last year, I just bought 3 purple, 1 pink, and 1 white candle in a jar instead of using a wreath. It just fit our home better. Weeks 1, 2, and 4 use a purple candle. Week 3 uses a pink candle. Christmas gets the white candle. The candles are lit each week, including the candles from previous weeks. So the anticipation really grows. In our house, we light the candles every time we sit for Advent family devotion. In church, we light them once a week on Sunday morning. Evergreens are another Advent decoration with significant meaning. (Representative of eternal life.)

          To celebrate Advent, set aside time as a family to focus on the themes of Advent. (Expectation, preparation, celebration, and incarnation) I’d encourage you to read the Bible, use a devotional, sing carols, etc. that have to do with the theme. It is a great time to start some new traditions from your family that reflect Christ, not the culture. Even if it is only once a week, make it a priority. Show your kids what is the most important in your life. (As a side note, you can check out my Advent family devotional if you are needing something, or use one of the recommendations at the end of this post.)

          For you personally, commit to reading through a reading plan or devotional yourself this Advent. (I just so happen to have both that you can take advantage of for free!) Take the time to reflect personally and intentionally set your mind and heart on the season at hand. This only comes once a year. Fully experience expectation in week one. Fully experience preparation in week two. We don’t put up our Christmas decorations until week two of Advent. It falls under preparation, so that is the week we prepare. It keeps us all focused on one thing at a time. Don’t neglect your our spiritual walk in trying to be everyone’s everything this season. Cookies can wait. You don’t have to see every family member seventeen times. They’ll deal. Do something that makes you stop and focus. If you can commit to this daily, fabulous. If you can only commit a few days a week, do that. Just commit and stick to it. Grab a cup of hot cocoa or hot tea and sit by the fire or tree and focus on Jesus this Advent.

          Another thing we do in our family for Advent is the automatic no. I’ve talked about that here before, but I’ll explain again. To avoid overcommitting ourselves during the most busy season of the year, we say no to almost everything. Our default answer becomes no. That doesn’t mean we don’t do anything, but we don’t feel obligated to do anything. Our biggest priority is our family and focusing them on the coming Messiah. We say no to plenty of good things. But a good thing that comes in the way of the most important thing becomes a not good thing. We carefully choose what we will do or not do during Advent. It is a holy time, so we are careful not to waste it. We don’t travel all over to see family. We don’t attend more than one Christmas party. Don’t get me wrong, we do a lot. But what we do is intentional and adds to our celebration.

          Don’t rush it. We have a tendency to rush things. It is part of that not being good at waiting bit. Don’t rush through the weeks. Don’t rush through your devotional time. I know we are busy. But we have to learn to slow down and take the time for the things that matter. This matters.

          Go to church. I wish this didn’t need to be said. But it does. Commit to being at church every Sunday during Advent. 4 weeks. You can do it. Going to church will add to your Advent experience, especially if your church is on board with Advent celebration. But even if they are not, go. God has something for you there. You are part of the body. And as the big toe, you cannot stay home! (Just kidding about the big toe bit. You might be an ear. I don’t know. I think I am the trachea of the church. Sometimes irritated, but very loud.) Go to church. Share with your small group or Sunday school class what you are experiencing through the week by embracing Advent. Sing the hymns, carols, and songs with all your heart. I think you’ll find yourself more open and more reflective during this time.

          Make it a point to not get swept away by the current of materialism. It is so easy this time of year to try to keep up with the Joneses. To obsesses over what you want to buy, buy, buy. Though not specifically Advent related, you’ll spare up a lot of time for God if you can let go of this particular burden. You can obsess in how much you buy or in how little you buy. My point is, don’t become obsessed. Buy your kids gifts, don’t buy your kids gifts, and move on. This is easier said than done. Focus on what you want your children to see this season. Focus on the WHY of gift giving. And then let the rest go. No guilt here. Don’t give this holiday to the mall.

“Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we cant take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.”

          I hope you’ll take the time to embrace this Advent season. I think you will find that you will grow so much more than you imagined when you do. I think you’ll also find your family greatly benefitted.

If you want my tips on thriving during the Holidays, click here.

A list of resources for you this Advent:

Advent Wreaths (or make your own)

Advent Devotionals:

          Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp

          Waiting Here for You by Louie Giglio

          God Is in the Manger by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

          Watch for the Light by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

          From Heaven by A.W. Tozer

          And/Or Use Mine for Free!

Advent Reading:

          Keep Herod in Christmas by Stan Key

Advent Extras for Kids:

          The Nativity Movie

          Jesus Storybook Bible

          Fisher Price Little People Nativity Set

          Melissa and Doug Nativity Set

**This post contains affiliate links. These links do benefit my family when you use them.**

Posted in Under Our Roof

New Bed

This may seem funny to you, but we spent the first 12 years of marriage sleeping on a full size bed. When I got married, the idea of a huge bed was ridiculous to me. Why would I need that much room?

Then I had six kids fairly close in age. That means we always have a toddler and a baby. And I co-sleep. And kids come pile in at night. Suddenly my full size bed was seeming a little too cramped and full.

We thought we wanted to go all the way to king size, but weren’t sure. It might be overkill. A friend of mine had a queen mattress and box springs that she gave to us. We gladly welcomed the bigger mattress, but figured we’d try it out for a bit before we got a bed for it, in case we decided the queen wasn’t big enough.

I’m not sure how it is possible, but I think my husband and the toddler are the only ones who got more room on the queen bed. I was still pushed to the edge by the numerous people always in my bed! We figured we’d make the move to a king size, but wanted to do some shopping around. Then another friend gave us a king size mattress!

The Pastor wanted to make a bed for it. We wanted a low platform bed. And we had specific needs for the color. (We have dark wood bookshelves in our room and light wood drawers, so we wanted the bed to combine both light and dark finishes to help tie our mismatched furniture together a little better.) Now, The Pastor isn’t really into woodworking. He helped my Dad build triple bunks for our boys. He has helped people do random house and wood working projects. But this isn’t a hobby for him or something he does with any regularity. We searched Pinterest and found a couple ideas that he ran with.

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This is the finished product without the mattress. We found this pin with a few ideas. We liked the spaced wood boards, but since we rent, we didn’t want to just nail them to the wall. The pastor came us with this headboard based on the pictures of a few we saw.

Looking through a million pins on Pinterest, we decided we wanted the platform style. We liked being closer to the floor, since kids sleep in our bed, it makes falls and getting up and down for them easier. We used this blog post for the measurements for the wood for the bed. We went to Home Depot and had them cut the wood for us. (They tell you they charge $0.50 a cut, but if you’re a nice patient person, they might wave that for you like they did for us.) With the stain, lumber, and screws, this project cost us about $150. Add the new linens, and the grand total was $230.

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It took one evening to stain all the wood and make the headboard. Then it took another 3 hours the next day to put the platform bed together and get the mattress on it and such.

I am super happy with how this tuned out. Like, really happy with it.

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This was the hardest part of the project, unless you count wrangling 6 kids in Home Depot while your husband gets wood cut. We managed, but it was looking almost impossible there for a second.

Now I just need throw pillows and to finish that giant crocheted blanket for it.

Posted in Under Our Roof

Ask LJ: Carpet Questions

I get a lot of questions related to my Carpet Cleaning with OxiClean method and my Carpet Cleaning with Young Living Thieves Cleaner method. I figured I would answer them all in one spot for you today.

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Dear LJ,

When I am cleaning my carpet, do I stop when the water is clear?

Cleaning For Hours

 

Dear Cleaning For Hours,

No! Oh my goodness, I don’t think I could ever get completely clear water in a home carpet cleaner. Stop when the floor looks clean. If you want it clean until the water comes back clear, you’ll need to hire someone. I suggest Master Cleaners.

LJ

 

Dear LJ,

What does it mean when you say “rinse the carpet”?

Confused on Details

 

Dear Confused on Details,

Rinse simply means you are using your carpet cleaner with water only, no soap. Just don’t add anything to the cleaning tank. Just water. I use tea tree oil in my rinse because it makes the carpet smell nice and disinfects.

LJ

 

Dear LJ,

Can I use OxiClean in a rented carpet shampooer?

Rebel of Carpet Cleaners

 

Dear Rebel,

Your rental agreement likely says you cannot. I am not going to tell you to do it because I never have. The rental machines state you can only use their product. I have used them before with their product. Buy the pet version, it is better. And follow my same steps or washing, scrubbing, and rinsing. If you want to use OxiClean, buy your own machine. It will still void the warranty, but you won’t be potentially messing up a rental.

As for the long term effects on OxiClean on my machine. It creates more residue than the cleaners suggested by the manufacturers. The rinse cycle does help clean some of that out. But you’ll notice white powder residue in several places on my machine. So far, in the years I have been using OxiClean in my machine, it hasn’t killed it. But I’m not sure I’d risk it on someone else’s machine without their permission.

LJ

Dear LJ,

Can I use Thieves Cleaner in a carpet shampooer?

Natural Cleaner

 

Dear Natural Cleaner,

Yes, you can! I wrote about that here. It doesn’t clean as deeply, but it leaves the carpet pretty darn clean and soft! Try it. But yeah, it is still going to void the warranty on your machine, so make sure you are okay with that.

LJ

 

Dear LJ,

Can I use bleach in my carpet cleaner?

Giant Mess

 

Dear Giant Mess,

No. I have tried. Don’t do it. And I’ll just go ahead and address the next question. Don’t use peroxide either. I’ve tried that, too. Bleach will unevenly bleach your carpet. It looks bad. Peroxide will turn it orange in spots. It looks bad. So don’t do either of those things. Seriously.

Other things I have put in a carpet cleaner:

Dawn dish detergent: way too foamy. You can barely keep the machine going with all the foam. It takes forever to rinse all the suds out. Definitely not the trick I was hoping for.

Laundry Detergent: It cleans clothes, carpet seemed logical. While it smelled amazing, it was too sudsy and too slippery and just didn’t deep clean all that well. It took a few tries to get the amount right, and then it just didn’t clean any better than straight water.

Fabric Softener: I know. I was going for a good smelling carpet. It wasn’t the best. You have to use very little to not end up with a blue hue and then it doesn’t do much. Carpets shouldn’t be that soft. It is more creepy than cozy.

Lysol: I was attempting to disinfect my carpets post tummy bug. It did nothing. Skip this and use cinnamon oil or tea tree oil or Thieves Cleaner instead.

Febreeze: Again, I wanted the carpets to smell good. Just spray it on your carpet. It was way overkill and didn’t clean or do much of anything. Tea Tree Oil works so much better on fixing carpet stink.

Essential Oils: These are great. They work. They help with smell. They don’t stain, someone asked me that. They could potentially break down the plastic of the carpet cleaner, but I haven’t had issues. I also put them on my vacuum bag. I’ve tried many, but tea tree oil and cinnamon bark are my favorites for carpet cleaning. You can try others. I’ve done orange, lemon, fir, frankincense, lavender, and a few others. I still prefer tea tree or cinnamon.

LJ

 

Dear LJ,

Will you come clean my carpets?

Needs Help

 

Dear Needs Help,

No. I am not a professional cleaning service. See my recommendation above for Master Cleaners.

LJ

 

Did I miss your question? Feel free to ask in the comments. This post contains some affiliate links.

Posted in In The Kitchen, Under Our Roof, With The Kids

Large Family Grocery Shopping

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We barely have a large family. We are like a small, large family. But most people cannot fathom having a few more kids than they have. And they are curious! Boy are people curious about my family. And that is really fine. We don’t mind curiosity. It is interesting. We know. I’d be curious. I’m sometimes curious about families larger than mine. One question we get a lot is about groceries. Most people see six kids all they can think is, “How on earth do you feed them all?” I feel like Costco was built for me! And when you are buying multiple Costco sized packages of things, well, you are aware that you are an anomaly. Most people see a Costco sized butter pack (4 lbs.) and think, how long will it take me to use that? It isn’t Christmas right now! I see it and think, I sure hope 2 packs lasts me through the month!

Here are our usual food purchases for a month. A couple notes before I list all this. (1) I have no teenagers yet! The six lovely children range from 8 months to 9 years. I imagine I will have to double this in a few years and then triple it a few years after that. (2) This isn’t everything. These are just our base staples. I meal plan and we buy what is needed for those meals. I usually go with whatever meat is on sale. And we eat vegetarian half the time, so I buy a lot of bulk beans and use my Bean by Bean Cookbook. This also doesn’t include any canned goods. (3) This is just an average month. Some months my kids will get on a yogurt kick and we’ll go through more yogurts and less bananas. It happens. This is just an average month when they are spreading their likes around. (4) These are per month totals. And some are a combination of bulk and regular grocery store purchasing. (5) I also buy household items each month like toilet paper and paper towels, those things aren’t included. This is just food.

Bananas  –  4 dozen

Apples  –  6 lbs.

Gogurt  –  72 pouches

String Cheese  –  96

Mozarella Snack Cheese  –  36

Granola Bars  –  96

Popcorn  –  2 lbs. unpopped kernels

Lemons  –  3 lbs.

Onions  –  10 lbs.

Garlic  –  2 lbs.

Sweet Tea  –  45 gallons

Bread  –  12 loaves

Tortillas  –  88

Applesauce  –  48 pouches

Oatmeal  –  2 lbs.

Peanut Butter  –  80 oz.

Raisins  –  24 snack size boxes

Milk  – 8 gallons

Almond Milk  –  8 gallons

Eggs  –  4 dozen

Butter  –  8 lbs.

Sour Cream  –  4 lbs.

Cottage Cheese  –  3 lbs.

Heavy Cream  –  3 quarts

Shredded Mexican Cheese  –  3 lbs.

Pretzels  –  3.5 lbs.

 

**This post contains an affiliate link to support this grocery habit of ours. **

 

Posted in Under Our Roof, With The Kids

O Christmas Tree

My Christmas tree is lovely. Yes, I did buy it out of the back of a truck at Costco. His name is Bob, according to my kids. He might have started as some ordinary tree, but not he’s special. Super special.

christmas tree 1I know what you are thinking. That tree looks nothing like a magazine picture. It has needles falling all over my floor. The lights are haphazardly tossed on. The garland isn’t evenly spaced. The ornaments don’t match. It has no theme. I hear you. And I will still tell you that my tree is absolutely beautiful and I would take it over any other tree.

christmas tree 2I took so many pictures of this tree. I know years from now, my tree will evolve. It always evolves. It is always a little snapshot of my family. A peek into that particular time. It has some heart warming memories of Christmas past, but each year, each tree is different. It is a picture of where we are as a family. A picture of where we have been. A snapshot of the journey so far.

christmas tree 3One day we may forego the whimsical colored lights and replace them with more sophisticated and somber white lights. The old ornaments may not make it. The kids may decide that they are too old for the handmade ornaments. We may replace the live tree with a more sensible and less messy fake version. Our tree will reflect our changing family. It’ll reflect the journey. And where we’ll be isn’t where we are. And I know I will miss this. I know I will. Despite my complaints about paint on the table all the time and never ending diaper changes, I know all of this is temporary. The family we’re building, that is eternal. But these stages, these don’t last. They come and they go. The kids grow.

jesus and some fishes at ChristmasOne day the kids will realize that Jesus feeding the five thousand isn’t a Christmas miracle. They’ll decide to skip putting him on the tree. One day, the little bells won’t be as much fun to untangle (and retangle). One day they may not want to sit and make little button Christmas tree ornaments to hang on my tree.

ornament ornamentIn fact, one day all too soon, they’ll have trees of their own. And I’ll wrap up what is left of their handmade ornaments, if I can bear to part with them, and pass them on. And they may or may not put them on their own tree. That part doesn’t concern me much. But the journey will go on.

you're a star charlie brown.jpgThe journey will not only go on, it will go in six different directions! My one tree will grow into six different trees. It’ll change. And I’ll miss these little days. star ornamentAnd I know that I will love my tree then. It’ll tell the story of where we’ve been. A story that isn’t without twists and turns, but a story of our family. But right now, this is the absolute best tree I could hope for. You can see my children in the ornaments. Colored lights picked for their enjoyment. A real tree because it makes them happy, and makes The Pastor happy. Beaded garland because that is the most beautiful thing they have ever seen. Handmade ornaments proudly hung by little hands (mostly along the bottom of the tree).

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Instead of hoping for the day when I get a “good” tree, I choose to embrace the beauty of this one. I choose to find happiness and beauty in these little years. It will be gone before I am ready.

ransom does the star

One day they won’t need Dad’s help to put the star on the tree. One day being the one chosen to put the star on the tree won’t make their entire Christmas. (And one day the others won’t cry about NOT being chosen.)

bird ornament.jpgBut this year, right now, I have the most beautiful tree.

tree star victory.jpg

Posted in Under Our Roof, With The Kids

Danu Enigma Beaufort- A Review

danu tag

I recently had the opportunity to test out the Danu Enigma Beaufort wrap. I’ve been wearing my babies, well, since the one that is 9 was born, so I’ve used quite a variety of carriers over the years, but have only recently gotten into using woven wraps. I was very excited to be chosen as a tester and even more excited when the cozy Enigma came into our home for a couple weeks.

danu enigma

The Enigma Beaufort is 62% Irish Linen and 38% cotton. It came to me after being well broken in. It was floppy and so easy to wrap with. This is a workhorse wrap. It is a great beginners wrap because it wraps so easily and securely without any work or wiggle. Soft, but strong. I sound like a toilet paper commercial, here.

danu lindsey back carry

I wasn’t sure Topher, who is 2 now, would let me send the wrap off to the next tester. He was constantly asking to be in “pig backs” (see picture) with this wrap. It looks like a big dish towel, and honestly, that is how it feels. And while that might sound like a slight against the wrap, it is actually amazing. The thickness was perfect. It tied easily without any bulk. I tried a dozen different carries and each was so simple and easy with this wrap.

danu adam back wrap 2

This red and white wrap was so comfortable and so supportive. In the above picture, The Pastor is getting ready to begin a wedding rehearsal. Topher was quite upset and not being able to go jump in the lake with an alligator (yes, there was an alligator watching the entire wedding rehearsal). The Pastor wrapped him up on his back, and there he stayed for THE ENTIRE REHEARSAL. You know how long those are.

danu adam back wrap

And while he was initially upset about not being able to go pet the alligator, he quickly got over it and remained Daddy’s side-kick for the rest of the evening.

And no, The Pastor usually doesn’t dress so casually for weddings. Upon arriving into town for this one, he realized he forgot all his hanging clothes, so he had to just go to the rehearsal as he was and then we hit up Target the next day for appropriate wedding attire. It happens.

danu lindsey back carry 2

The Linen/Cotton blend was perfect for the weather. Not too hot at all. (September in Georgia can be pretty warm, if you aren’t familiar with the weather down here.) It really is a lovely, unintimidating wrap. It was a size 6, which concerned me a little since I consider a 7 my base size, but found this just as easy to do any and all wraps I use my 7 for. It tied so securely. The fabric is just the right amount of grip. I did wrap Pip in it, too, when Topher would let me. At 5 months old, he was a breeze to wrap in this, too.

danu cello

If you haven’t checked out Danu Slings, you totally should. They even have some Narnia inspired wraps to check out!

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Posted in From The Altar, Out Of My Head, Under Our Roof, With The Kids

40 Holy People: Week Three

40 holy people

Day 11: Fanny Crosby — Using What I Have for God

Fanny_Crosby

Fanny Crosby was born is 1820. Either she was blind from birth or she lost her sight shortly after.

At the age of eight, Fanny wrote her first poem. She was raised in a Christian home and by the age of fifteen had memorized the four Gospels, the Pentateuch, the book of Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, and many of the Psalms. She also learned to play the piano, organ, harp, and guitar.

In 1843, Fanny became the first woman to formally address the United States Senate. She advocated for the education of the blind.

Her first poem was published is 1841, and her first hymn was published in 1844. She continued to write hymns about her faith and country and poems about her convictions.

By the time she died in 1915, Fanny had written almost 9,000 hymns. Her goal was to win people to Christ through her songs. During the time of her hymn-writing, She lived in areas where she could help the poor and immigrants and was said to give away most of her money as soon as she got it. She kept only the money to pay for her basic necessities and gave away the rest to the poor around her.  Though she was blind, she used everything she had to point others to Jesus, whether in giving her money or time to help the poor or using her talents to write songs.

What do you do for God with what you have?

What could you do for others with what you have?

Activity: Listen to or sing one of Fanny’s hymns. (e.g., “All the Way My Savior Leads Me”, “Blessed Assurance”, “I Am Thine, O Lord”, “Jesus Is Tenderly Calling You Home”, “Near the Cross”, “Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It!”, “Rescue the Perishing”, “Take the World, but Give Me Jesus”, etc.)

“Blessed Assurance” sheet music — You can print this out for your kids to see what a hymn looks like in a hymnal. (Not all churches still have hymnals.)

Day 12: John Wesley — Taking Jesus to the People

John_Wesley_by_George_Romney

Born in 1703, John Wesley was the fifteenth child (of nineteen). His mother, Susanna, taught the children to read, speak Latin and Greek, and memorize much of the New Testament. His mother was very devoted to helping her children develop a relationship with God.

In 1735, John and his brother Charles made the trip from their home in England to Savannah, Georgia. He spent a few years in Georgia as Savannah’s parish priest, gathered together many holy men and women, and grew the congregation.

Upon returning to England, Wesley began “taking church” to the people. He would preach in streets and where people were instead of waiting for them to come to church. He felt the need to go out and meet those who didn’t know God and introduce them. He travelled on horseback, preaching two or three times a day. (To preach means to proclaim the Gospel, to tell people about Jesus.) Like Fanny, Wesley gave most of his money to the poor, keeping only what was necessary to meet his basic needs. He wrote books, peached sermons, met people where they were, and taught them about God and how to live a holy life.

Wesley died in 1791. His final words were, “Farewell, farewell. The best of all is, God with us.” He left 135,00 members and 541 preachers in the newly named “Methodist” churches.

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”

-John Wesley

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Day 13: Helen Roseveare — Do Something for God

helen-roseveare

Helen Roseveare was born in England in 1925. As a child in Sunday School, she first felt she might be called to live on a foreign mission field. Her father thought highly of education, and Helen became a doctor. She still felt called to missions while in school and said, “I’ll go anywhere God wants me to, whatever the cost.”

After six and half years of medical school, six months in a missionary training center, and six months in Belgium studying French and tropical medicine, she went on a five-week trip to the Congo before she finally found herself where God was calling her. She was the only doctor for 2.5 million people. She began her work in a mud and thatch hospital while she built the building she needed and learned to speak Swahili. In eleven years, she had a 100-bed hospital and maternity complex and saved thousands of lives.

In 1964, Helen was taken as a prisoner of rebel forces in the area and endured beatings and torture. Once released, she returned to England to tell the people there that God’s grace had been sufficient during her time as a prisoner. She returned to the Congo in 1966 and continued her work helping the sick and injured until 1973. Helen is still alive today, writing books and encouraging people to be the hands of Jesus and do something for God.

“If I truly believe in Him, I’ll trust Him to desire for me that which is for my highest good and to have planned for its fulfillment.”

-Helen Roseveare

“It would seem that God had merely asked me to give Him my mind, my training, the ability that He has given me; to serve Him unquestioningly; and to leave with Him the consequences….How wonderful God is, and how foolish we are to argue with Him and not to trust Him wholly in every situation as we seek to serve Him!”

-Helen Roseveare

What do you think you could do for God now?

Use this map to color and find the Congo on the map.

Day 14: Teresa of Avila — Visions of Castles

teresa of avila painting

Teresa of Avila lived during the 1500s. (1515-1582, to be exact.) She lived in Spain and grew up in a family who converted to Christianity from Judaism. Teresa became a Carmelite nun early in adulthood. These nuns were devoted to prayer, though they were pretty lax about it when Teresa joined. Teresa worked to reform and strengthen her Cloister. (A cloister is a group of people living in a place of seclusion, much like a monastery.)

Teresa sought a deeper relationship with God through prayer and encouraged those around her to do the same. She had many visions during her quiet time with God. One of her visions was that of a castle. She described the spiritual life as walking through a castle, getting closer and closer to Christ who awaits us at the center.

“Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing make you afraid.
All things are passing.
God alone never changes.
Patience gains all things.
If you have God you will want for nothing.
God alone suffices.”

-Teresa of Avila

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes– you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

-Teresa of Avila

Teresa of Avila is considered a Saint by many Christian Traditions. She devoted herself to prayer and to others finding a closer walk with God. Do you think you are devoted to prayer? Do you think you help others in their walk with God?

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Day 15: Samuel Kaboo Morris — A Prince with a Mission

samuel morris

Samuel Kaboo was born in Liberia in 1873 as a prince among his tribe. When he was fourteen, he became a Christian; during that same year, he was captured by a neighboring tribe. He was beaten daily and was used as ransom to get his tribe to bring riches to his captors. One night, Kaboo saw a flash, and a voice told him to flee. His ropes fell off, he felt strong, and he ran off into the jungle, where he wandered for several days. He finally found a plantation and stayed there to work.

Samuel later felt called to America to learn more about God. He met a missionary who told him all she knew. He asked the missionary who taught her, and she gave him the name Stephen Merritt. Samuel walked to the shore and prayed that God would send a ship to take him to America. He eventually saw a trade ship and asked the captain to take him to America. The captain said, “No.” However, several of the workers on the ship ran away, so the captain asked Samuel to come on board to work. When he first boarded the ship, the other sailors abused him and made fun of Samuel, but by the time they reached America, they were all praying and singing hymns together.

In America, he found Stephen Merritt, who then asked Samuel to wait for him at his mission. When Mr. Merritt returned, he found that Samuel had begun a prayer meeting and had lead almost twenty men to Christ. He met many people and showed love and passion for Christ.

Samuel was used by God to draw many people to the Lord. While he attended school, many students came to pray with him. People from around the world would come to hear him speak. He inspired people to simply do something for God.

Samuel wanted to go back to Liberia and tell the people there about Jesus, but when he was twenty, he developed pneumonia. He prayed for God to heal him, but God told him that his work was done and that it was time to come home. Though other students encouraged him to pray and said that he needed to get better so that he could go back to Liberia and spread the Gospel, Samuel replied, “It is not my work… It is His. I have finished my job. He will send others better than I to do the work in Africa.”

After his death, many of his fellow students felt God calling them to go to Africa to be missionaries. Today, 85.6% of Liberians are Christian.

Do you pray for your neighbors? Your city? Your country?

Do you think God is calling you to share Him with your neighbors?

Use this map of Africa to color and find Liberia.

Day 16: Perpetua — I Am a Christian!

Perpetua

In 202 AD, Christianity was illegal. Perpetua was a Christian. Perpetua was arrested as she was preparing for Baptism. Her father, a nobleman, asked her to say she was not a Christian so she would not be put to death. She replied, “Could this vase of water be called any name other than what it is?” Her father said it could not. She replied, “Well, so too I cannot be called anything other than what I am– a Christian.”

At first, Perpetua was held under house-arrest. She was baptized in the house while under arrest. She and her fellow Christians were then moved to a prison and locked in a dungeon. She was eventually moved to a better part of the prison where she could receive visitors. Perpetua was sentenced to death in an amphitheater. She told those with her, “You must all stand fast in the faith and love of one another, and do not be weakened by what we have gone through.”

Before her death, Perpetua asked God for a vision, showing if she would be condemned or freed. Perpetua received this vision from God: She saw a narrow ladder reaching to heaven, but only one person could climb up at a time. She saw a garden with a man dressed as a shepherd at the top of the ladder. Around the shepherd were thousands of people dressed in white. When the shepherd looked up and saw her, he said, “I am glad you have come my child.”

Perpetua and another young woman who was martyred with her, Felicitas, are recognized as Saints by many Christian traditions.

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Posted in From The Altar, Out Of My Head, Under Our Roof, With The Kids

40 Holy People: Week Two

40 holy people

Day 5: Polycarp — And the Fire Will Not Touch Him

polycarp

Polycarp was a disciple of John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. He lived in the second century. So, Polycarp was among the first Christians. Polycarp was one of the three Apostolic Fathers. The Apostolic Fathers lived during the New Testament times and were the bridge between the Apostles, who wrote the New Testament, and those who came after. During Polycarp’s life, there was much being said about Christ, but not all of it was true. Polycarp’s role was to keep the message of the Gospel true and not let others change it.

In his old age, it is said that Polycarp was burned at the stake for refusing to burn incense for the Roman Emperor. Polycarp said, “How then can I blaspheme my King and Saviour? Bring forth what thou wilt.” When the fire did not consume and kill Polycarp, he was stabbed. He is now regarded as a Saint in many Christian traditions. (A saint is a person who is recognized by the Church as someone who lived a very holy life. We also call those who die having faith in Jesus saints.) And we can thank Polycarp for keeping the story of the Gospel true and unchanged.

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Day 6: Athanasius — Defender of the Trinity

Athanasius

Athanasius was born around 296 AD. He was born into a Christian family in Egypt. As a child, Athanasius would baptize other children in the river outside of the church. When the Bishop of Alexandria saw, he declared that the baptisms done by Athanasius were genuine and invited the children to begin training for a clerical career.  In his young adulthood, he was a secretary for the Council of Nicaea, from which we get the Nicene Creed. (A creed is a basic statement of faith.) What we know today about the Trinity– that God is three Persons– well, you can thank Athanasius for defending that truth in the early Church. He wrote great truths and preached them, as well.

Nicene Creed

Athanasius was exiled five times, fleeing or being exiled by Emperors. After his fifth exile, he returned to Alexandria to resume writing and preaching, particularly about the Incarnation. (Incarnation is a big fancy word that means that Jesus was completely God and actually became a Man.) Quietly in his bed, Athanasius died in 373, surrounded by his clergy and faithful supporters. Athanasius is recognized by many Christian traditions as a saint, like Polycarp.

“Jesus, who I know as my Redeemer, cannot be less than God.”

-Athanasius at the Council of Nicaea (c. 325)

Map of Alexandria, Egypt

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Day 7: Jim Elliot — My Life for Yours

jimelliot

Jim Elliot was a Christian missionary to the Auca people in Ecuador. A missionary is someone who goes to another culture to spread the Gospel of Christ. As a child, Jim grew up in church and had a heart for people who died without ever hearing about Jesus. He knew from a young age that God was calling him to the mission field.

Jim first went to Shandia, Ecuador, to minister to the Quichas. After three years with the Quicha people, Jim felt God calling him to share Jesus with the Aucas, even though he knew the Aucas killed outsiders and had killed many Quichuas. To win the trust of the Aucas, Jim and fellow missionaries began dropping supplies to the Aucan people, using a bucket to lower the supplies down. After months of supply drops, the Aucas sent a gift back up in the bucket of the plane. Jim felt it was time to meet the people face to face.

Jim and four other missionaries were flown in and dropped off on the Auca beach. After waiting of four days on the beach, an Auca man and two women appeared on the beach. The missionaries tried to show them friendship and asked them to bring the others with them. For two days, the missionaries waited for the Aucas to return. On the sixth day, the Aucas returned but did not appear friendly. They came with spears raised. Though Jim carried a gun, he chose not to use it. He knew the Aucas did not know Jesus and did not want them to die without knowing Christ. Jim and his friends– Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Nate Saint, and Pete Flemming– were all killed by the Aucas.

When the men did not call, a plane was sent out looking for them. Eventually, the bodies of the missionaries were found. Though this sounds very sad, the story is not over.

In less than two years, Jim’s wife and daughter, Elisabeth and Valeria, were able to move with Rachel Saint (Nate Saint’s sister) into the Auca village. Many of the Aucas became Christians and they are now a friendly tribe with missionaries, including Nate Saint’s son and family still living there. Though Jim and the other four missionaries died, the Aucas were still able to hear about Jesus because of them.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

-Jim Elliot

Map of South America

Color and decorate this typography. Hang it somewhere to remind you of the boldness and heart that puts others before yourself.

Day 8: Anthony of Egypt — Running from Temptation

saintanthony3

Anthony of Egypt is known as the Father of All Monks. He was born around 251 AD. While not the first monk, he made it a habit of going out in the wilderness to be alone. Seeing the world full of snares and temptations, he ran to the wilderness to be closer to God. Most of what is known of Anthony was written in a biography by Athanasius. (Remember: we learned about him earlier this week.)

When Anthony was eighteen, his parents died. Shortly after this, Anthony decided to follow Jesus. He gave away and sold everything he had and donated the funds to help the poor. He followed the tradition of the hermit and went to live in the desert alone. (A hermit is a person who lives a simple life away from others for religious reasons.) The devil still fought to tempt Anthony through boredom, laziness, and phantoms of women, yet he overcame temptation through prayer. (There are many paintings depicting the temptation of Saint Anthony.)  It is said that, after this, Anthony went to live in a tomb, where local people would bring him food. In the tomb, the devil beat him till Anthony became unconscious, but his friends from the village found him and brought him to a local church.

Anthony then moved further into the desert, where again, Satan resumed his war on Anthony sending phantoms in the form of wild beasts, wolves, lions, snakes, and scorpions. As the beasts would attack Anthony, he would laugh at them and say, “If any of you have any authority over me, only one would have been sufficient to fight me.” And the phantoms would disappear like smoke.

the-temptation-of-st-anthony

In 311, Anthony traveled to Alexandria and visited those imprisoned for the sake of Christ and comforted them. The Governor told Anthony not to come back to the city, but Anthony did not listen and came anyway. When the Governor did not kill Anthony, he returned to the desert.

But this time, disciples followed him to the desert to be taught by him. A monastery developed around him deep in the desert and Anthony taught his disciples, now fellow monks, to pray and work. At his death, he was buried in an unmarked, secret grave.

Anthony of Egypt is recognized as a Saint in many Christian traditions.

Anthony ran to the desert to escape temptation (a strong urge or pressure to do wrong); how far would you go to escape temptation?

Anthony used prayer to overcome temptation; try praying for God to help you overcome temptations in your own life.

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Day 9: The Cappadocian Fathers — God in Three Persons

Cappadocian Fathers

First, where is Cappadocia? Well, it was just south of the Black Sea, near modern-day Turkey. (See the map.)

cappadocia map

The Cappadocian Fathers are three men. Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus. They were all born sometime around 330 AD.  Basil and Gregory of Nyssa were brothers. Gregory of Nazianzus was their close friend. They helped finalize the 381 version of the Nicene Creed. (We read about the first version, from 325, when we talked about Athanasius.) They, too, were defenders of the Trinity– God in Three Persons.

In the early days after Jesus died and after all his disciples died, there were many wrong things being taught about the Gospel. People were trying to make Christ fit into the ideas they already had about religion and thought. They wanted to change Jesus to fit into what they already thought instead of letting Jesus change their minds. These early Church fathers were those who fought for the truth. We might think of them as people just sitting around thinking and writing, but they were actually working hard to preserve the truth of Jesus so that we could really know Him.

Back then, many people tried to say that Jesus was not God– that, sure, he was like God, but of course, he wasn’t really God. Some even said the Jesus wasn’t God at all– just a created man who God used. The Cappadocian Fathers insisted that people know the truth–that Jesus is fully God, that there is one God who is actually three Persons– Father, Son, and Spirit. They knew the truth, and they fought for it so that it would be passed down to you and me. Even now, their work actually helps us really know God.

Basil cared for the poor, and after his death, the poorhouse, hospital, and hospice of Ceasarea became the the lasting monuments of his life. Basil is considered a Saint by many Christian traditions.

Gregory of Nyssa is considered a Saint by many Christian traditions, though the year and cause of his death is unknown.

Gregory of Nazianzus is also considered a Saint. Gregory died of old age in Arianzum, six years after retiring from his work in the church.

Constanopolitan Creed

Day 10: Irenaeus — Standing for Truth

200px-Saint_Irenaeus

Iranaeus lived in the early 2nd century and is an early Church Father and Apologist. (An apologist is someone who defends or supports something that is criticized or attacked by other people. In this case, he defended the Gospel and the Church.) Irenaeus was a hearer (someone that listened) to Polycarp, about whom we read earlier this week.

Irenaeus’ main apologetic topic was against Gnosticism. ‘Gnosis’ means knowledge. Some people back then (and some people now) think the way to salvation is through intellectual knowledge (by learning more information than others). Irenaeus knew that the only way to salvation was through trusting what God did in and through His Son, Jesus. While the Gnostics say knowledge just comes to them through some secret teachings, Irenaeus used Scripture to defend his position– that salvation is available in Christ.

Just like many other Church Fathers, we remember and celebrate Irenaeus for his boldness to stand for truth. Thankfully, the truth of the Gospel was then passed down to you and me.

Nothing is known of Irenaeus’ death. Some say he was a martyr, that he died because of his faith in Christ. He was buried under the Church of Saint John in Lyons, which was renamed St. Irenaeus in his honor.

Standing for truth isn’t always easy. Sometimes it is hard to tell the truth or defend it. Have you ever found it tough to tell the truth? Have you ever had to defend the truth?

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