How to Make a Man Cry—Memorize

BibleI’ve always taught my children to memorize the Bible. I think it is good for their spirits, good for their souls, and even good for their bodies, if they heed it.

People seldom made me memorize anything until I was fourteen, but I remember much of it, today. I want my grown children to have lots and lots of the Word hiding in their hearts, and they do. It was worth all the work, just for that benefit.

Several times, though, we realized a different benefit.

I always had my children recite their memory work during our homeschool closing programs. It always was a large Scripture portion, such as The Book of James or The Letters to the Seven Churches. One night, when they recited Hebrews 11, “The Faith Chapter”, one preacher in attendance asked if we could recite it again, at his church, during the normal worship time.

After that presentation, a man remarked to me that it was such a great essay and wondered if I had written it, or where he could get a copy of it. Hmm.

I assured him I am not that great a writer, that it had been a selection from Scripture. He was astonished, said he’d never read anything that good in the Bible before. I gave him the reference. He marveled and promised he would go home and read it again, with the children’s voices still sounding in his ears, and seek for more meaning. Hmm.

But another time tops this. One night my children recited “The Sermon on the Mount”. Our youngest bravely wanted to help recite and assured me he could, although he was only seven at the time. I wondered at the wisdom of it, but knew the audience would forgive a flawed recitation from one so young. I knew this, especially since he desired to recite solo the entire parable of “The Wise and Foolish Builders”.

As the presentation progressed, I felt good about it. My children were totally prepared for this and giving, truly, one of their best recitals. However, as they neared the end, and my young son’s solo, he began to waver. After several bobbles, though, he collected himself and made it through to the end.

Bravo, Darling.

Later, I asked him what was wrong, what made him fearful. He replied, “When I saw that man in the audience crying, I thought I was doing a bad job.”

Further checking revealed this man in a rumpled suit, slumped down in his pew and openly mopping tears from a crumpled face, was the back-slidden relative of one of our group.

Oh, the power in the voice of a young child reciting Scripture! A grown man weeping to hear it, a churched man desiring to read it, what more could a mother want for reward?

Only this: that they would remember it, walk in it, and turn and teach it to their own.

Another story in this series here!

Nothing scarier than a fire set by an inventive child. Near your garage. On a windy day. How did we survive?

Did a Scary Angel Visit? Or a Savior Tramp?

Burning pine straw

One of our little boys was inventive and fearless.

And one day, a stranger came knocking at our back door.

It had been a mild-weather day and the main back door was open to let breezes in and to allow my supervision of our little boy’s outdoor play, while I tended to some laundry. The only separation between me and this huge visitor was the screen door of the back porch.

Over the expanse of his body he wore a grayed t-shirt, overalls with one strap fastened, and grubby boots untied.  Some of his teeth were missing. He badly needed a shave and his oily hair flattened in several directions. Something about the urgency of his loud knock startled me. That was before I turned and spied his unkempt estate.

I admit I was beyond distressed. Wild images of countryside kidnappings captured my mind, uninvited.

Timidly, I approached the main door, breaking all my rules about talking to strangers.

When you don't know if your are safe or not, when fire is the enemy, when friends are weird...“Yes?”

“Ma’am, it may be none o’ my business, but did you know y’ur little boy has got hisself a fire a-goin’ in the pine straw out here?”

“Oh, no! Oh, no! Please, PLEASE, stay and help me!”

Funny how outward appearances don’t matter much, sometimes.

I followed that kind and insightful messenger of mercy to the scene, and found that, sure enough, as he’d seen his daddy do countless times, our little son had raked up a pile of pine straw and set fire to it. He never guessed his tiny blaze was only feet away from oceans of pine straw, some of it drifted against our garage, downwind on a breezy day. The fire had already broken out of bounds.

We two adults raked and sprayed water until it was out.

I told the man he had probably saved our son’s life, and surely saved us great property loss. I thanked him until he was embarrassed and left.

I forgot to ask his name.

I guess he was an angel in disguise. Sometimes we need help, and God knows it. Yeh, maybe an angel. I can imagine my asking him his name, and him saying, “Folks jis calls me Gabe.”

On investigation, I learned my husband’s matches were stored high on a wall in the garage, good, but under them was the mower, rolled there by our son in less than five minutes, and topped with a milk crate, making him tall enough to reach. So young, but so brave and inventive.

And so perfectly protected.

Another story in this series here!

Mary and Martha and humble pie

Mary and Martha and Me

When I Was a Turkey

Several years ago our family tried a Thanksgiving experiment.

Instead of buying our Thanksgiving dinner, we only priced it and sent the amount to a mission.

We then asked God to give us a meal from His own hand that we could see was especially from Him. In our minds, it had to be cost-free, although this wasn’t a demand—we simply decided to see what He would do about our commitment. We were willing to take whatever He gave….

I know, I know, God gives us the strength, intellect, and grace to be able to earn the money, drive to the store, and so forth.

But we learned something from letting go of it like this: He can also sovereignly give us the actual food itself, just because we are waiting upon Him. This caused us to be thankful toward God as Jehovah Jireh (our provider), rather than wondering what in the world He has to do with our celebration.

The experiment became a kind of tradition for a few years. Each year was different; it was not always turkey and stuffing. We had chicken, duck, venison, and my favorite, the smoked turkey that appeared one day while we were gone.

Meat was always the test for me because I did not consider the free things from our garden as “too hard” for God.

See what I mean?

I needed this.

Everything about cooking Thanksgiving dinner this way was a big adventure. We had to improvise, learning as we went. We felt, indeed we were, exactly like pioneers.

We pretended Good-Old-Days, but they were, in reality, very good days.

We certainly were excited about all sorts of food and I think we ate better. The meat often was not processed. We had honey instead of sugar. And we were so thankful. We couldn’t help it—it just flowed from all that was happening.

Another unexpected result came of the experiment.

We questioned the entire “Thanksgiving Tradition”.

  • Sweet potatoes did not have to be candied, did they?
  • Whipped topping didn’t have to be fatty.
  • Crab applesauce was as good as cranberry.
  • The chestnuts off of our tree were excellent in stuffing.
  • Squash pie tasted just like pumpkin.

We learned to take our local blessings, instead of exotic imported foods, and spread them out into a feast that gave glory to the God Who provides for His own.

And more blessings! 

In our excitement, we also forgot to be harried. I, at least, emerged on the other side of the wall that separates us from gently rejoicing in God. He seemed so near. (Philippians 4:4-7)

Most of the United States was celebrating a day that, when it was established, in purpose and practice, was truly Christian. Thanksgiving has no questionable past. It has traditionally had no worldly festivities attached to it. It is simply a day set aside for our Christian nation, by its Christian leaders, to give thanks to God for all His blessings.

go-your-way-eat-the-fat-and-drink-the-sweet-and-send-portions-unto-them-for-whom-nothing-is-prepared-for-this-day-is-holy-unto-our-lord-nehemiah-8-10-1Into that quiet beauty, I had often inserted the bustle of a worldly attitude.

Suddenly, His delightful indulgence was leading me away from my prideful ideas about meal preparation. How humbling it was to be learning at His feet, and yet, how glorious.

It doesn’t matter if you use the recipes you will find, on this site, for “your dinner”, or even if you go to someone else’s house for it. It doesn’t matter if you buy or raise the ingredients. But do learn to spend time before God. And truly thank Him. Every day.


Katharine is a retired home educating mom who writes about all things “woman”, from a Godly viewpoint, here on this site, and at The Conquering Mom.  Her writing appeared in several magazines for 15 years, and she is currently working on several books. She loves to write, speak, teach, cook, garden, spoil her hennies, and watch old movies with popcorn.


Momentum – Ten Ways to Find It!

Glass marbles

Glass marbles*

I remember studying momentum in 7th grade. Who knew I’d need it someday?

That science teacher was great about showing fun examples to his bored students. For instance, when he wanted to illustrate some principle about sound waves, he picked up a yardstick and invited a student to come up to the front of the class and lean over.

Of course, it looked lots like he was about to get a good whacking.

Instead, our teacher merely whacked the table directly next to his volunteer. We all laughed. Then he explained the principle, which I do not remember. The example, yes; the purpose? Not so much. Sorry.

However, the momentum lesson, I remember.

The teacher showed a small cloth bag and asked us to guess what was in it. Of course, that was fun in itself, but then he dumped out the contents to let us see what we never expected: about 40 marble spilled out all over his desk and across the floor to all points in the room.

Lovely diversion.

Marbles ricochet, fit into small places, and are hard to see.

Hard to catch.

So we had our fun time chasing the things down and then came the lesson, which I also, for some reason, remember:

Once you get something moving, it wants to keep on moving, and if you add gravity, it just goes faster. That’s why it’s easier to go to bed after a hard day.

And it’s harder to get up before a hard day.

Today will be hard for me. Lots and lots to do. Mostly laundry awaits me, but there’s that meeting tonight, to which I must take some sort of soup and grated cheese, plus an inspirational talk. Added to that is a perfectly soggy outdoors, making wet firewood, wet trip to the chickens, and wet cat food with which to deal. (Oh, we’re happy as can be about having some rain, but it makes a wet world before it runs off.)

Sometimes, I just need some way to dump out the marble bag of my life and get it going. So this is what I do.

  1. Make a list. This only helps if you use it, but just as gravity pulling downward can add momentum, so will moving down that list.
  2. Start with a favorite task. One I love is sweeping the front porch. For you it might be cooking or wiping a mirror, but doing a fun thing first is just like dumping out that marble bag. You get things rolling with a smile.
  3. Add something “for show”.  There is nothing like making the bed or exchanging jammies for real clothes to make your eyes tell you “you are  on a roll, Girl!” whether it’s exactly true or not.
  4. Schedule a down time. Promise yourself a cup of tea or something, at 10:00, and make it stick. This will make you work harder as the hour nears, and also make you happier when it arrives. Besides, everyone on earth but you gets a break at ten, right?
  5. Change scenarios. Work indoors awhile. Work outdoors awhile. Do only one bathroom, then switch to something different before doing the next.
  6. Brainstorm ways to save labor. You own labor-saving devices, right? Think! Drop the burner bowls from your stove into that load in the dishwasher before you hit them with the steel wool. Try fluffing bed pillows in the dryer for a moment or two. Grate the cheese with the salad maker. Clean debris from a drawer or the oven or the sliding door track while you have the vacuum out for the carpet.
  7. Turn your housework time into spa time. Why not apply a mud treatment to your face and then attack some chore using the timer for both purposes? Why not do plunge moves while vacuuming? Try moving vigorously through your housework routines, thinking of extra ways to move, such as on tip-toe, or balancing on one leg. Ironing or phone time is great for adding leg exercises. Wear ankle or wrist weights while you work.
  8. Speed it up. Race the clock. Play fast music. Do two things at once. Or three. Go fast. Get that cardio rate moving right along.
  9. Avoid distractions. In our science demonstration, some of the marbles stopped cold when they slipped under tight places. I’m not sure we ever found all of them. You know Internet, TV, texting, phoning, reading the mail, etc., are what can stop us cold, sometimes. Delay gratification! You are older than two years, after all. Don’t lose your marbles over these things.
  10. Do it again, tomorrow. You will gradually get better and better at this momentum thing. You will eventually learn to time baking a pie with taking a shower or to make fewer trips to each room by planning ahead. You will one day have so much done you won’t believe it.

And the momentum that comes from THAT will take you places you never dreamed.

You go, Gal! And if you know any more such hints, SHARE!


* (Photo credit: asirap)


Brush Your Teeth With Chocolate!

Okay, I know this is not dentist-approved, but let’s think about it a while. Has anyone out there ever tested it?

Thought not.

Well, I have. If I’ve just eaten, or if my mouth is less than satisfactory to me in any way, I love using chocolate for an emergency remedy. My teeth will feel cleaner, my breath will be far better than garlic, and I won’t get such a slump after eating.

Also, it is more pure, FAR less doctored with chemicals than most chewing gum.

Now, I don’t mean all the cruddy little desserts that claim to have a bit of chocolate in them. Most confections are pure sugar, another thing altogether from pure chocolate! I’ve been brought up in the United States, where it is possible actually to grow weary of sugar.

Chocolate is not sweet. You can find chocolate that has very few grams of sugar in it, like those pictured above. Mostly it is out of kid reach in the stores — it is adult chocolate, after all. To apply it, just break off or open one square, usually about 10 grams.  Chew it. Enjoy it to its fullest.

Most serious chocolate has lecithin and cocoa butter, which make the teeth slick. Germs do not cling for quite a while. Also, chocolate, itself, contains the following wonderful benefits: caffeine (which helps you be lively), theobromine (which lowers blood pressure, lessens edema, lowers rate of birth defects, and is patented for research in cancer prevention), and quite a few antioxidants. The germs don’t stand a chance.

The trick is in stopping at just one piece.

It’s worth a try, I say.

But use regular toothpaste, etc., just before bed, if at all possible.

3 Things Home-Educating Moms Don’t Know about Retirement

Woman resting

We began home educating our kiddos in the early ’80’s, when things were just beginning to fire up a bit and there was almost no homeschool support to be had, anywhere. No advice. And for SURE, no advice about retiring.

Because we spaced out our children*, mostly at roughly four-year intervals, it took me 25 years to finish the job. Then I retired.

I’d like to give you a short list of shocking things I found out about myself and the whole retirement thing. I hope to save you some grief:

1. You do NOT necessarily get more done with all the children gone.

Nope. Sorry.

I know; it was a shock to me, too. I was so sure. I had to think about it a long time before I got it.

But it’s true.

You may have thought: There will be less laundry to do and fewer mouths to feed. There will be NO mud tracked in the door. There will be no more events to chase. I’ll be FREE!!!!

Think again.

You only get more done when they are gone if you keep on doing things.

Don’t feel bad; it took me ages to get this.

I remember my thoughts that first child-free morning:

Ahh—listen to it: NOTHING! The beautiful sound of no clamor, no to-do guilt—nothing in the world stopping me from that third cup of coffee.


Hours later, I was still basking in it, although I had somehow extricated myself from the recliner. I roamed around the house thinking I’d just take inventory and spend a day marveling at how simple life would become, now. Mentally, I gave myself a couple of months to coast and figure out what direction my life should take. I thought longingly about several projects I could now finish.

My stomach growled.

Wow. It was past noon. Hmm.

Ah well, only one sandwich and a cup of tea would take care of all my lunchtime duties. Cleaning only one knife, one small plate, and a cup would get me up and out of the kitchen and on with life. I could even eat in the sunroom, where the recliner beckoned.

And so it went, for days. Many days.

I thought I must have been really tired, to collapse like this.

2. The needs, schedules, and opinions of your children are what get you through it all.

I began to see this when I had my own desires for something outside the four walls. Most of the world works on a schedule and you cannot go to the library to chat with the librarian if the building is locked and she’s gone home. I acquired a young child to tutor. I ran out of stockpiled food (not feeding eight anymore made bulk-buying a bit silly.) I had to organize my life, somehow! Why was I always late?

The answers lay in the fact that, in the past, I did my level best at every task I took on, kept up with the outside world, and kept a brave, cheery face about it because:

  • My children had long heard lectures from me about doing our best at all times,
  • My children needed to be places without the embarrassment of arriving late and needed to see a good example set for timeliness,
  • My children got into serious trouble if they griped or grumbled.


It was about the children? They were watching?


And now, no one was.

And the truest self-test of character is to see what you do when no one is watching.

3. Your children work hard.

Unless you’ve already died of overwork, you make your children do a few things around the house.

Mine folded half the laundry, loaded and unloaded the dishwasher, kept their own bedrooms clean, dusted and vacuumed the living areas whenever I asked, mowed, tended trash, fed pets—I know I’m forgetting something. Oh, I paid them to do windows.

If you’ve taught your children to help around the house, guess what: Your children graduate and get new jobs. They help around a different house, eventually .

Now days, I fold all the laundry and load and unload the dishwasher. Dust still falls into their bedrooms and the whole house, grass still grows, trash still piles up, and strays still adopt us.

And I still love sparkling windows.

When we first began homeschooling, I remember the serious lecture I gave my family:

“I will be like any mom who works outside the home. I will have many hours when I cannot do housework. I will need help from the whole family, the same as if we were not able to live on only my husband’s income and I was forced to supplement it by going out of the home.”

That truth remains. Just remove the many hours when I cannot do housework, and insert: me.

Me doing housework.

How can you do better?

  • Spend your last year or two seeking God about what He wants you to do in your retirement.
    Get ready for those tasks.Begin walking in them before the last child leaves, so it will be less of a transition and you’ll have your new schedule nearly in place.
  • Keep a to-do list as you always did.
    Make yourself obey it for your OWN good, to please the Lord, to do your best.
  • Work, work, work!
    As we age, we lose muscle mass. Plan on a quick burn, maybe 30 minutes of hard work, every day—the kind that makes you perspire.
    Think of mowing in summer as a lovely multi-task that keeps you out of the weight room, the tanning bed, and the sauna.
    Wrap crime-zone tape around the recliner!

Any more discoveries? Ideas? Solutions? Share! Thanks!

*Those who know me know: When I say “children” I mean anyone under age 18, and several who are 18 or above. Mostly, I just mean “my own kids, grown or not, still living under my roof”. No offense meant to any kids who think they are grownups although still dependent, nor to any 32-year-olds who act like two-year-olds! 😉

Can I Teach You to Love Ironing?

learn to love ironing

Maybe I can; I surely hope I can . . . .

A lot depends upon where your heart is.

Ironing is an art.

I mean, we take the raw material and turn it into a sort of sculpture, don’t we? And it is most beautiful when the shirt is made right, in the first place, so the ironing chore is a joy for the one who irons: The plaids fall naturally into the pleats, the seams fold in the right direction, and the button placket is flat and cooperative.

In that way, ironing is like two artists who’ve worked together to send someone out into the world looking finely sculpted.

I’ll tell you, there is something about a man with a fresh haircut, who has groomed his face, and possesses the wealth of freshly ironed shirts to choose from in his closet, that makes him stand out, not only to his employer, but also to me.

I love giving that to my man. And that is the basis of my love for ironing.

The entire foundation for this love lies in the finished product.

  • I love looking at the shirts all lined up in the closet, ready to indulge in.
  • I love slipping into a smooth and lovely fresh-ironed shirt.
  • I love the way I look in the clothing that must be ironed.
  • I love feeling rich, as I do wearing an ironed shirt.
  • I love that my husband goes to work looking totally sharp every day.
  • I love knowing how to iron, and knowing not everyone does know how.

Ironing is probably very much an elitist, self-gratifying thing with me.

After all, I also love when building a tall lasagna that tastes magnificent because we grew the tomatoes, the onions, and even the eggs for making the pasta.

It’s a sort of self-satisfaction with the doing of it, I suppose. However, it also is totally a self-indulgence, quite a bit like rushing to be the first one to dig into the whipped cream carton…

Does that help?

How did I become so nutty?

It all began with my mother. I can remember watching her iron for hours on end, to make some spare cash for our family. It was something she could do and still be available for her children.

I remember she ironed for a woman who explained in an embarrassed way that she could not do ironing herself, due to arthritis in her hands, which were all gnarly with the devastation. This woman’s husband played an instrument in a dance band in the early 60’s. His white shirts had to be starched and ironed to a specific degree of perfection.

Watching that project taught me a lot about the right and wrong ways to perform with iron in hand.

I remember she also ironed for a woman who worked outside the home as a nurse. Think white uniform dresses, again totally starched and totally in need of perfection in ironing skills.

My mom was exceptionally skilled at the job, and loved knowing how, teaching me how, and devising new ways to improve.

(She tried re-inventing distilled water for her steam iron, by melting down frost from the refrigerator. Didn’t turn out too well, since the clothing then smelled like fish and bell peppers.)

Oh, it helps to know how.

One factor that adds to the pleasure is adding a bit of cooked starch to the last rinse water, and then hanging the shirts to dry.

After that, spritzing with water to iron makes the fabric stay glossy and in place, and makes the work last until you are ready to waste it on yourself.

As I said it is a self-indulgence thing.

And here is the boiled starch recipe: 1/2 cup corn starch stirred into 2 cups of water, then that mixture stirred into 2 quarts of boiling water. It thickens, some, as you stir, and becomes semi-transparent. Add this hot little mess to a half-washer-load of rinse water and then add all the clothing you want to starch, up to about six shirts or so. Agitate and spin on the gentle spin cycle, which leaves a bit more of the liquid in the fabric.

Hang this clothing indoors to dry.

That is the secret, and it is worth it, to me. This method keeps spray starch off the walls, floor, ironing board, iron, and everything else. It’s how we who really iron get that really good-looking shirt.

More about hanging clothing to dry, here.

Starching also adds to the longevity of any article of clothing, adding durability and protecting from body oils. It is truly worth every moment of the time it takes.

One small note before you reject every bit of this post: Try starching and ironing your favorite piece made of rayon.

You will be forever hooked.