Friday, May 31, 2013

Summer Schedule begins Now

This. The dairy free, gluten free, corn, soy, tomato, sugar free venture continues. We've had a couple of big wins like black bean chocolate cake, cabbage salad, date-nut bars and "Beanitos" with Empanade. Other than that flax seed, kale and coconut oil figure heavily on each week's shopping list.

Speaking of which, this week's lit love.
Cub: The Lord of the Rings 1-3, right after he blew through "Narnia" again.
Flower: Lilly Lapp (review to follow- love these books!)
Me: The Divine Conspiracy. Hands down the best book on Christianity and a  life of faith, outside of the Bible I've ever read. Challenging, deep, beautiful and expansive.
All Together we finished Victory at the Walls- the story of O.T. figure Nehemiah, Cup bearer to King Artaxerxes. A beautifully rendered account of the ancient world and the love of the Jewish people for their homeland.
The Midwife's Apprentice. Another oldie but goodie. I love how Beetle's sense of self unfolds and how she enables others to grow and develop along the way.

School: Rosetta Stone, 1/4 mile Math, Horatius at the Bridge, reading.
Next week is Drama Camp- a whole lotta fun in the morning followed by picnics. My kids love it.
We are on summer schedule....

'Cause we are back to projectville: re-seeded and re-seeded and again re-seeded areas of the lawn that died last year. Started scraping the house, sorting the attic and thinning the toys. The doors and closets are trimmed out on the 2nd floor and now it's down to cutting the small pieces of trim and affixing the floorboards. Made of list of projects left, like staining doors and small areas of drywalling.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

See the Light -TOS Review

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We recently had the opportunity to review a product from See the Light. Our selection came from the Art Projects series but they also have available Art Class and a host of other products, including free lessons.

We had the privilege of viewing the Dreams of Joseph (10+), featuring the artwork of Marc Chagall. I loved how master artist, Pat Knepley, interwove the details of Chagall's style into the actual lesson, imparting a clear understanding of a particular artist and their work, along with painting techniques. Pat also interweaves the story of Joseph and lessons from his life as she is teaching painting. The dream like quality of Chagall's work and Joseph the Dreamer are perfectly compatible as Pat explains as she teaches.

This program is terrific. You play the DVD, follow the simple instructions and create a beautiful piece of artwork, learning valuable art technique and information about the featured artist along the way. The art supplies are easily obtainable and inexpensive- in other words, you won't spend a fortune learning, or creating, and they are supplies that you can continue to use once the project is over. In fact, we didn't have to purchase anything to do the project, we had everything already.
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The quality of the DVD is fantastic with, clear sound and great visuals. The lessons are detailed and done with enthusiasm, slow enough to absorb the material but at a fast enough pace that it doesn't drag.

 My only critique of the presentation was that it seemed as if it was more geared toward younger kids, as the some of the verbiage seemed a bit immature for Jr. and Sr. High school students, which the project could certainly be used for. We loved this project and are already planning on doing several more.

Art projects are available for $12.95 each or $99 for the complete set.

Content -excellent
Presentation -excellent
Organization -excellent
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Monday, May 27, 2013

Uncle Screwtape on Obedience

“You must have wondered why the enemy (God) does not make more use of his power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree he chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the irresistible and the indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of his scheme forbids him to use. Merely to over-ride a human will (as his felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For his ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve….Sooner or later he withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs- to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish…He cannot “tempt” to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away his hand…Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of him seems to have vanished, and asks why has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

Uncle Screwtape
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Spring is HEEERE....

The big news of the week is that tomorrow Feeche is D.O.N.E. with high school, yessireebob.
He hates this pictue, but I think he looks like Tom Burlinson on The Man from Snowy River.
He sneered in disgust and said, "You mean the pouty one?!"
Um, no, I meant the cute one... gender differences, right there, baby.
Photo: What do you think Episcopal Church Memes?
Apostasy served up and gut wrenching.
First we remove the vibrancy of the Apostle Paul from the N.T. and move on from there to state that demon possession is a spiritual gift. Oy vey.

This is so me! Which is why I love reading Sayers and L'Engle (vocab lists in the back of the books, yeah baby -and listening to Dr. Dh. Always new words to learn and love.

School? Um yeah. Rosetta Stone every day and Flower is revealing in her ability to make relevant and complete sentences. Math- almost done for the year. The Graphic Bible is being devoured once again and Feeche has hooked the kids on Dune. Really? Won't it just die already? Flower and I had a great discussion in the car about plot, theme and Sci Fi. Immediately following she wanted to know if trains could go UP steep hills and DOWN steep hills. Love the 10 year old mind. Life is still new enough to be full of wonder and old enough to get stuff.  Cub finished Fallacy Detective and evaluates every discussion in light of it. This has done little to nothing for his relationship with the 10 year old, concrete operations girl in the house, but I love that he so totally gets it.

Spring cleaning on the acreage. Feeche burned downed wood from the ice storm for most of the day yesterday, we got the mower out and promptly took it to the mower repair place cause, you know, it hasn't worked like an actual mower should since the moment we bought it, spring cleaned the cars, raked in more grass seed, moved plants, assessed dead trees and flower beds due to drought. Kinda depressing, actually.
The Top 10 Reasons We're Losing Our Youth. This is a provoking list, starting with "The Church is Relevant." Preach it, baby.
Victory at the Walls the story of Nehemiah. A fantastic living book about the life of O.T. hero Nehemiah.
You do know about Bethlehem books, right? If not, head over there and get their catalog. is a winner.
And take a look at my recent reviews:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Simplified Pantry- TOS Review

Mystie  Winckler, owner of Simplified Pantry has 3 new ebooks out that I recently had the opportunity to review:

Simplified Dinners
Simplified Dinners Gluten Free/Dairy Free
Paperless Home Organization

Mystie and I met on-line last year during a lengthy discussion of the Getting Things Done system by David Allen. He is a bottom up org man, as opposed to top down, like my long time friend, Stephen Covey. Anyway, GTD expanded my way of thinking about living a clutter free, organized and balanced life. Mystie was able to take Allen's concepts and distill them into the "do-able" for homeschooling Moms (check out her blog series on GTD here). I was thrilled to have the opportunity to check out the products Mystie put together to make getting things done do-able for regular folks like you and me.

Paperless Home Organization uses three free on-line products (Evernote, Remember the Milk and Google - calendar and email) to create a simple, effective, paper-less, home binder.  In this ebook, Mystie walks you through the set-up and use of each of these tools to create a system that is effective. GTD uses a bottom up method of organization, meaning they start with the minutia, create a system to deal with it and go from there. If you aren't a naturally detailed person, this system will help you remember what you would probably forget. If you are, this system will allow you to hone and refine your life. The bottom line is that Mystie's system can assist you in creating effectiveness and efficiency in your life so that you can get on to enjoying the good things.

The benefits:
1) Accessibility
2) Lack of clutter (I am so all about that!) - no more paper!
3) Affordable (the tools are free. Mystie's ebook practically is)
4) Ease- once you learn the system it's a snap to update.

The downside:  it's all on-line. Back up your stuff! Secondly, it does take a while to learn the new apps if you are not familiar with them. I liked some of the features and will fore-go others. Again, that's part of the beauty of the system- you create something that works for you. For just $3.99 it just makes sense!  

Simplified Dinners is a simple ebook that will assist you in setting up a pantry that works for you, creating a stream-lined approach to shopping and give you awesome meal ideas. If you struggle in the area of creating healthy meals, shopping within a budget and eating out because you can't get on top of cooking at home,  this is the tool for you! This would also be a terrific component to a practical living skills unit for Jr. or Sr. High school students. $12.99
Simplified Dinners Gluten Free/Dairy Free. As you may know, we've gone gluten and dairy free, along with no soy, corn or tomatoes and as a result eating and cooking has taken on a life of it's own. This book was timely in that it helped me to think outside of the black bean, couscous, salad box get our shopping list back under control and believe that we could eat in a way that was healthy and delicious,and affordable. Even if you are not eating gluten and dairy free, this is a great resource!

DISCOUNT: Mystie is offering 30% off of her e-books as part of the this review from May 20th to June 3rd. Just use the code TOS 2013! Enjoy!


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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


For the past 3 1/2 years God has asked us to give up stuff and relationships- our house, the contents of our house, my sister, my father, and with the death of both of them, my family of origin for all intents and purposes, dreams for this acreage, and now, even more. I am heartbroken. I thought surviving the death of my father and the lost dreams, hopes and unanswered prayers might push me to the edge of faithlessness.Why? Because I had prayed faithfully and fervently for almost 3 decades and I took seriously the promise that "the prayers of a righteous man availeth much." The fact that my prayers availed little to nothing caused a paradox for me: either I was not righteous or God's promises aren't what they seem to be.
I am not a girl of this generation that believes "God loves me and so do I." I am a girl of a generation that believes that God loves me and reached out His hand of mercy to lift me from the miry clay. Because I am a grateful survivor of pagan madness, understand what I was saved from and have a vague understanding of what it cost Him, I can't give up on God. While I fail at so very many things, I am a pit bull when it comes to something I am convinced of -I hang on and don't let go. And so, because God's promises have to be true, I have spent the past 2 1/2 years taking a searching and painful moral inventory with the intent of discovering areas of unrighteousness in my own life. I am ever in need of the Savior's Grace and Mercy- daily. I am just that much of a scr*w up.
I can own that (further proving I am not a girl of this generation). I really have no big ego investment in proving that I am more or less righteous than anyone else, or get it right or know more. I am too busy working out my own faith with prayer and trembling. And I get that other people scr*w ups too. In my economy it's the human condition.
Because we are all scr*w ups we can be mean. I get that people can be mean without meaning to be. I've been so myself. Like I said before, I believe it's part of the human condition (fallen and in need of salvation). But there is another kind of mean. That which is intentional, on-purpose and designed to wound. And frankly, right now,  I feel like I am hemorrhaging from the heart.
I don't understand the point of this particular meanness. I am having a hard time understanding just how God wants me to respond. How I want to respond is with a commitment to put these people, and everyone condoning their actions, away. Away from my heart and my life- forever. But I can't and be honest. My 10 year old and I were having this same discussion last week as we cleared a field. She told me that she was going to consider these people dead. She is too hurt, too aggrieved and too confused to make sense of it all and I have no answers for her other than to let her cry more. And we talked about Wrinkle in Time and exthroi and unnaming. And I told her that as followers of the Living Christ, we are called to Name. Only followers of the evil one un-name. My own conviction holds me fast.
But this morning I came un-done- why, why, why?! My 13 year old bear hugged me with every ounce of his gangly, scrawny self and reminded me that God loves me. That He loves me. That He loves me. And if I am going to respond to His love, I have to respond to His love in every area of my life. That is a hard word. And one I don't know if I am strong enough to live out. I wonder if God has forgotten that I am a jar of clay. 2 Cor. 4:7-12 has been my mantra and my song for over 2 years. I don't feel like life is at work in me. I feel like I am wasting away and with it my stuff, family, dreams, hopes, vision. I am afraid that those people and voices that have mocked and ridiculed us religiously for the past couple of decades might have been right all along. And frankly, that terrifies me because it means that God's will for my life cannot be truly known. And I need it to be. I need it to be.
I don't know what else to do right now but cling. I cling to the word that says we do not lose heart. It's not a suggestion, it's a declaration.I am perplexed but not driven to despair. It's a declaration. And I am clinging to that. Because He is True and His Word bears witness to His Truth. 2 Corinthians 4:7-12; 16-18 (NIV)
    But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Feeding One's Soul

Spent the Day resting and listening to this, soaking in the smell of the lilacs that have finally bloomed and watching Les Miserables.

Les Misérables
 We like this version better:
Les Misérables (1998) Poster
For one, we fast forwarded through several scenes in the newer version. The innkeeper is a cretin, already, we get that. And Prostitution is bad. Get that too. We seriously don't need it in living color in our living room. That said, Javert was far more approachable in the newer version. He makes more sense. And I loved how Jean Val Jean's faith was so up close and personal in the newer version. "Who am I." The priest named the man. The man remained true to the name. Claimed by God's redeeming grace. The True Story.

That being said, Cub still voted Focus on the Family Radio Theater as the big rendition winner. He has declared opera and musicals verboten and stated that subjecting him to 3 hours of operatic singing was even worse than sitting through Gone with the Wind. I have been officially declared a mean Momma. I am so over it already.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Share It Saturday

Teach Beside Me and The Sugar Aunts and I all team up to bring you Share It Saturdays- check out there blogs they are full of inspiration!

And now, here's the HOP:

  • Have a link back to this post if you are participating (on your blog or in your post)
  • If you link up, click on at least one other link for each one that you share.
  • You don't have to comment or follow, but I really do love both of those things! (A Lot!)
  • HAVE FUN! On to this week's link. Bring it on.....


    Wednesday, May 15, 2013

    High School Prep Genius -TOS Review

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    College Prep Genius has come out with High School Prep Genius. It has everything you need to plan for high school and beyond. There are 4 sections and several appendixes:

    I: Introduction- this includes forms. I love forms.  Forms to use during high school, the summer, as you plan for post- high school, etc.
    II:Foundation for Personal Success
    III: Foundation for Academic Success
    IV: Foundation for Future Success
    Appendix A: How to Build a Transcript
    Appendix B: Talent Searches
    Appendix C: Great books to get you started
    Appendix D: How to reduce Test Anxiety
    Appendix E: Admissions Terminology

    If you homeschool or alternative school through high school, you'll want to get a hold of this one. It tells you, in clear, step-by-step detail what to do when to successfully navigate high school and college acceptance.

    Ds 13 and I read several sections and discussed them. He wasn't very interested in filling out detailed accounts about his personal development or areas of interest but then he's not a mull-er, he's a get-er doner.

    He also was very frustrated by some of the rhetoric in Chapter 3: "Own Your Personal Beliefs." I. too, found this section to be troublesome in the way that it handled issues of worldview, values and "Truth." If you are reading this as a person of faith, you'll want to read it with your student, or amend it to reflect your and your families belief system.

    This book advocates creating a notebook for each high school student. We already had a file system in place, but I did appreciate and include some of the forms found in the introduction.
    If you have a student from 6th grade up, are unclear about how to navigate the high school years, add this to your list of must buys. It is an affordable, inclusive way of approaching high school and college admission!
    College Prep Genius offers other products and services. Sign up for their free newsletter here.

    High School Prep Genius an Academic Guide to Excellence is available for $29.95.

    Content -excellent
    Presentation -excellent
    Organization -excellent


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    Monday, May 13, 2013

    Spanish for You- TOS Review

    Spanish for You! is a unique, fuss free curriculum designed to teach Spanish. It is based on "themed units" that build your language acquisition through vocabulary, pronunciation, syntax, conjugation and grammar. This is done through a combination of speaking, reading, and writing.  Each unit can be used as a stand-alone, or for quicker acquisition, done more than one at a time.
    To date there are 2 units, Fiestas  (which we used) and Estaciones.
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    Fiestas teaches Spanish by gaining an understanding of the language used during certain celebrations. The festivals listed in this book include The Day of the Dead, Carnival, Holy Week in Spain, The April Fair. One of the aspects I really appreciate about this program is that it teaches within a context that makes sense to the student. Everyone loves a party, right, and the elements; food, theme, activities, purpose, etc. contextualize well vocabulary and grammar. Love that.
    Debi Arnett, the creator of Spanish for You! designed the program to be fun, affordable and effective.  Which is exactly what we found it to be. And simple. Have I mentioned a time or two that I am all about simple? It's as simple as listening to the download, follow along as you listen to the audio and doing the worksheets as needed. It's straightforward enough that if you have older/responsible kids, they can do on their own, which is how we used it.

    Each unit comes with the following products: 
    • -paperback book or e-book
    • -24-30 week lesson guide PDF download (24 weeks for Grades 5-6 and 7-8, and 30 weeks for Grades 3-4)
    • -Self-checking PDF download worksheets
    • -mp3 audio file downloads Flashcard/activity pictures PDF download
    Spanish For You! is affordable.
    Grades 3-8 - $64.95
    Grades 3-4 - $39.95
    Grades 5-6 - $39.95
    Grades 7-8 - $39.95
    Extra books - $12.95

    One of the aspects of this program that I absolutely LOVE is that you can use it with multiple students and they can jump in whenever without finding themselves behind. In addition, while Debi recommends doing 3-4 classes a day, you can certainly go at a speed that works for you without losing what you've learned, Feeche cruised right through while Cub and Flower went at a more reasonable pace.  And it's always a thrill (for me, anyway) when you catch a student responding in Spanish, just for the sheer fun of it.

    You know I'm all about memory work, and there is plenty of opportunity to create flashcards. The kids make their own, further reinforcing vocabulary learning. There are also ideas for games and activities, included within the lessons.

    Want to check it out? Click the links for free samples:
    Spanish For You! Fiestas
    lesson guide
    sample worksheets
    mini lessons
    Content - excellent
    Presentation - good. We found the original downloads confusing but the author amended them even as we reviewed the program. This is one that is just going to get better and better.
    Organization - Each area of the program was well organized and the ability to make sense of the pieces became better organized even while we used the program.

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    Saturday, May 11, 2013

    On Having and Being a Mother

    I have had the privilege of having a Mother, and being a Mother. My own Mom was motherless for many years. This colored her life in ways big and small and so, perhaps, I have a unique understanding of just how important a Momma is. In addition I've had 2 amazing Grandma's whose input into my life has been profound. My Gram, age 96, is still alive and lives in her own home, 1/2 of which was hand-built by my Grandpa. My niece lives with her now, and it is so good for both of them. Gram has someone to baby and Miss. E has someone to fuss over her. Love that. I don't even have a picture of me and my Grandma Audrey but she loved us all well, in her quiet, Plymouth Brethren way. You can read more about my amazing Grandparents here and here.

    My Mom's been gone for 14 years- too soon and I feel cheated by her early death. I miss her most at holidays and birthdays because she was Grandma extraordinaire, loved gift giving, loved a party and loved her grand babies (that's her oldest gc and my oldest dd in the photo above). And I miss her during cheesy hallmark holidays like Mother's Day.

    My Mother-in-law, has greatly influenced my  life (most obviously by being the Momma of my Husband) and she and my father in law continue to amaze me with their good health, joi de vive and willingness to serve.

    And, while I have vowed B.C. to never have kids, I'm so very grateful for each of the beautiful children, over 1/2 of whom are adults, that I've had the privilege raise. We have had close (as in near death) experiences with 4 of them, cried our eyes out over and with them, been proud to bursting because of them, laughed at thier crazy antics, prayed diligently for them, and love each and every one of them so very, very much.

    Miss. R.

    (have I mentioned that I love living with competent men, even if they do HATE having their pics taken
     -see my hand around his neck?!)

    My Man- Cub

    My sweet baby, Flower, who still buries her head against me and whispers,
     "I love you, Momma."
    Love, love, love that.
    If anyone tells you you're too old to have a child, I'd like to witness to the fact that having kids old,
    while totally different than having kids young, is its own kinda beautiful.
    Not only have I had the blessings of being loved by Grandmas and Moms, and the blessing of being called Momma,  I have been blessed with amazing friends around the country, who have nurtured and offered me a Mommas touch, perspective and wisdom when I've needed one, often when I didn't even know that I did:
    Shari, MaryAnn, Jeanette, Zigrid, Steph, Jannell, Ruth
    my sweet sil Laura,
    and before her untimely death, my bossy big sis Sue, who Momma bossed me more than anybody.
    As anyone who has mothered knows,
    "Motherhood is...difficult and...rewarding"  (Gloria Estafan).
    and for my own children I hope that they
    "Remember their mother's prayers and they would always follow them. That they would cling to them all of their lives"
    (Abe Lincoln).

    Share It Saturday!

    Moms Have Questions To shares a great memory system. If you want to do more memory work but aren't sure how, check it out!

    Second Chance to Dream share 15 GREAT teacher appreciation gifts! Simple and adorable!


    Art Club Blog has some great ideas for what to do with your lonely socks !

    Teach Beside Me and The Sugar Aunts and I all team up to bring you Share It Saturdays- check out there blogs they are full of inspiration!

    And now, here's the HOP:
  • Have a link back to this post if you are participating (on your blog or in your post)
  • If you link up, click on at least one other link for each one that you share.
  • You don't have to comment or follow, but I really do love both of those things! (A Lot!)
  • HAVE FUN! On to this week's link. Bring it on.....

  • Thursday, May 9, 2013

    History Lessons from Brutal Rome

    So much for a blog a day in May! Day 9, here we come- "A Moment in Your Life."
    History Lessons: Wednesday we listened to the vignette of the Roman Consul, Brutus, who sat in judgement of his two sons, Titus and Tiberius, found them guilty of conspiracy to bring back the banished former King Tarquin, and watched, seemingly unmoved, as his boys were stripped, scourged and beheaded. Afterwards, he seemed to go a little nuts.

    Flower looked up at me at the end of the story and said, "Did Brutus do the right thing?" Watching your kids get scourged, Roman-style (think cat-o-nines- 9 thin strips of leather, tied to a handle with sharp rocks tied to the ends- they basically  skinned a man) and then beheaded, knowing you passed judgement on them and condemned them to such a fate, would be, simply put, a hard thing.
    So yesterday morning, over breakfast, it was brought it up again. We had a great discussion about conflict of interest, proving ones loyalty, patriotism, nationalism, and the duty of family members. The whole concept of dishonor and family legacy seems to have dissolved in our current day and age and it's every man (or woman) for themselves.  The concept of "differentiation" is bandied about, as if people truly knew what the word meant, while familial ties, loyalty and honor aren't even up for discussion. Patriotism- pah- given the news of the day, what does that even mean other than the CEO will play media games, all the while sending good men and women in to face certain death."One Nation Under God" has given way to what will assure re-election. Not that that's so different but the "Under God" part is a thing of the past in a post-modern culture that defines god as whomever will serve you best.

    Dr. Dh's take on the trial was that the Romans were forcing Brutus to prove his loyalty to the state, in light of the flagrant betrayal of his 2 sons.  Condemn his own flesh and blood, or go down with them. In a system based on injustice (as the Romans's were) there was no win-win. Nationalism means little if it's based on man, or gods. It's only "under God" that anyone has a prayer.
    It's these moments in our days that I love. Tying in bigger picture concepts with specifics, wrestling with faith, apologetics, justice, mercy, and the religion du jour. Our kids know enough history, Bible, theology and news to really make the discussions challenging and interesting. These, my friends, are the sweet moments, in the midst of the bitter, of homeschooling, and child-rearing. Having time for and watching the kids wrestling and struggle with hard issues, challenging me with their questions, and then asking more, really trying to get to heart of what a Living God might expect and understand. I don't have the answers but I know the One who is Truth and I love it when my kids go after Him.
    No-wins? You cut your losses and move on. Sometimes folks are committed to their prejudice, make a show of caring, when it's their own agenda they pursue, are committed to their narrative, would sell out truth for perceived real. You see that all of the time in the Old Testament, you see that every day in the news, in families, in discussions, in history. Life is full of tragedy. But I love how a story of hopeless despair can cause my kids to thirst for some fresh, soul quenching Water.