When It All Gets Quiet…

Sometimes I get real quiet. The words stop coming and I stop writing. Usually it takes me by surprise, and I’m left to sort through the walls inside me that block the words.

I pray a lot when the words stop. I reconnect with God, make sure I’m spending time with Him, listening more and asking less. Just being with Him. When I refocus on Him I find my footing again, especially when life has become overwhelming.

I bring it back to basics, make a list of what’s on the plate, see what I can take off the plate right away, what will be leaving the plate soon, and what is on for the long haul.

It’s the long haul items that were getting to me. And they were pushing writing off the plate, and I never like to see that happen. Writing grounds me, helps me make sense of life, makes me feel alive when I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

I wanted to do the bulk of writing for 4 books this year. Then publish them over the next few years. The outlines for the books came to me on the March break this year, in the wee hours of the morning when sleep eluded me, sitting on the comfy couch in the cozy cottage of our friends. I loved it – the idea of 4 more books, and writing about so many of my passions. I set to work right away, forgetting to ask God about the timing.

He had just given me such fresh and clear vision about GOing in Northern Ontario. He had let me know that OBEYing would be a big part of GOing, and that I would need supernatural doses of faith and trust. Faith that He could use me to do what He was asking, and trust that He would keep me on track if I strayed from the path He was laying out before me.

Writing will always get my vote on how to spend my time, so I plowed ahead full steam with the writing of more books, trying to fit in the GOing around the writing.

I have since come to realize it is supposed to be the other way around. I can write the books, but it may take much longer, I should focus on one at a time, and there are other things I need to be doing that will come first most days. When I realized this I had a mess of emotions and my own will to sorth through. Underneath it all, I hadn’t the first clue about GOing.

And all this church planting business that keeps growing and developing around us? No, I was just helping Josh with that. That was his thing, his job, and I was just along for the ride. Or so I thought.

God took me back to the moment he called ME to ministry, and to the awareness that I’ve always had a missionary heart, and to all the events that have brought us clearly north. Then He reminded me of the exact moment He asked me to be Josh’s help-mate in life, before we even started dating, and the struggle I had with my own will 16 years ago.

You see, with my past and my failures I didn’t think I’d be much of a helper for Josh, a man called to full-time ministry in the local church. I had no plans for marriage and my mind was set on the international mission field. God was asking me to be a pastor’s wife, and a mother to any children that would come. This scared me more than I’ve ever cared to admit. Underneath it all, I know it was My Joshua that God was asking me to join with in this life, and boy did I like the sound of that. I had to put my trust in God for the rest.

The rest has looked nothing like I thought it would, and being a wife and mother has been the biggest blessing to me. Inernational mission was even part of Josh’s job description at our church in Northern Ontario, and for the last few years I’ve been able to join in on that. More dreams come true. And the opportunities to finish my B.A. and write and publish books are even more dreams come true.

I think I was starting to believe it was my turn in the spotlight. And to do somethingI loved as well – writing books. Once again God showed me I was struggling against His will and once again it was time to lay my wll at the foot of the cross and ask God what He wanted me to do. (Sidenote: my mum keeps reminding me that my 1st sentence was “My own self” – apparently I’m still working on that stubborn, independent streak!).

God showed me that writing was not the main focus, but in fact it was the GOing – the church planting, the volunteering with children, and possibly the mission trips.

I just want y’all to know that we are all called to GO. I’ts right there in Matthew 28:19. There’s no way around it and why would we want to miss out anyways? Really, honestly, such blessing awaits for us and for the kingdom of God. My GOing will look much different from yours, but the call is given to all of us. All of us have family, friends, coworkers, neighbours, and acquaintances to GO to. That part is universal. Then sometimes it can get more specific, like the invitation extended to Josh and I to plant churches in Northern Ontario. Like the invitation to lead a young adults group that became a university church plant. Like the invitation to be part of local summer children’s camps every year and volunteering at the boy’s school. Those are our specific circles – yours will most likely look much different, but huge blessing waits if you can recognize which circles God’s calling you to specifically. Jut ask Him – I can assure you He’s waiting to let you know!

My first thoughts when God showed me our “specifics”? I can’t do that!

And then I camped on that for quite a long time. I would inch out into it, fail at something, and draw back even further. All the while not being much of a help-mate to Josh. I have learned much about being a help-mate. I am not inferior, I do not have a lesser role, and I am , in fact, very needed and essential to this whole GOing business. We are equals, each with our own set of skills and passions we bring to the table. Josh makes the big decisions, but we are learning to make those together so that I can fully buy into all we’re doing. If we have a disagreement (which used to happen ALOT in the GOing) we are learning how to sort through all the emotions, fear, and confusion and get to the God stuff. What does God want? Sometimes it is clear, sometimes God leaves us to use the brains He gave us and grow up a little more.

Then we muddle through and often make mistakes, and regroup and keep going. Stopping is not an option. I think that is the greatest truth I’ve learned. GOing is the complete opposite of stopping. Not happening.

Just a couple of weeks ago I was at the SEND 2015 conference in Nashville – a gathering of more than 13,000 people interested in church planting. It was truly awesome to say the least. David Crowder, Casting Crowns, and Passion Band were there. Louie Giglio, David Platt, and Jennie Allen were there. Ya, so good. SO GOOD.

Louie spoke about how GO is the first 2 letters of the word GOSPEL. And this was the word on my rock, clear as a bell, a reminder to me.

A couple of speakers mentioned my life verse, and I was reminded that any other worries of finances, or balance in family/ministry life or health issues could be left with God to sort out how He sees fit. And one speaker talked of Risk – a similar message to the one spoken at Josh’s graduation ceremony at Wheaton a few years ago, when we were just staring the church planting journey.

All these key reminders helped me know that we are on the right track, that I can trust God is in all of it, that we need to keep going. Not me lagging behind, struggling to keep up, but running the race beside Josh, towards the prize that is Christ.

So the words return, with a different focus, a different timing, a renewed vision.

I can’t tell you when the next post will come, but over the years I’ve come to realize that the words never go away completely, I just can’t always control them as I’d like to.

Thanks for letting me share them with you as we GO.

Happy 12th Birthday Caleb


It’s early here.

The house is quiet, and I am the first one awake.

This is nothing new.

But this morning I woke up with fresh words in my mind.

Words to share with you.

So I brew a cup of ginger-peach tea, hope it will settle my anxious heart, hope there is peace waiting in the words I will type, and hope this day turns out to be OK somehow.

There have been no words this week. Actually, there hasn’t been much of anything in me this week.

The last couple of weeks have been about many things all at once – a weekend-long reunion visit from our first church-planting interns (they are doing so well, growing into amazing young men of God, it is so encouraging to see), throwing a 10th birthday party for Elijah (8 friends showed up for indoor fun because of the rain – we still managed to spill the candy from the piniata!), hosting a few wonderful ladies for a potluck lunch, letting go of my firstborn so much more as he ventured out with his youth group on his first weekend retreat, driving a few hours to see family for the long weekend, taking Elijah to Hockey Hall of Fame as a 10th birthday big treat (we do something extra-special when they gain that extra digit – it’s probably the only time in our lives that will happen!), and now we are back home and getting ready for this year’s round of summer interns (it will be the most we’ve ever had!) and the church planting conference we are hosting next weekend.

Yes, it’s alot. But it’s always alot.

I can look at all there is to do every day, or I can just get to doing it.

Because there are busy seasons and there are quiet seasons.

We have been in a busy season for a very long time, and it is not over yet.

Not by a long shot.

But there is rest in the busyness, there is balance in the season, and there is great blessing in this life.

And THAT has to be the focus.

Two days ago I was mowing the lawn for the first time this year. I’d suspected I should mow for about a week now. I could see the green getting more vibrant, I knew there had been alot of rain to speed up the growing pace, and I wondered if our weekend away would make the first mow that much more difficult when I got out the old mower and started it up.

I was right.

I’ve never mowed such long grass on our front yard.


An old photo of our double lot looking all spiffy

After many attempts to revive the mower after its winter hibernation, the engine roared to life.

I started out well, skirting around the edges of the lawn, cleaning up the landscaping spots, knowing that thick middle patch of green was waiting for me.

Like it is in life, it is easy to start a project, easy to “pretty it up” and linger around the edges of it. It’s a totally different scene in the thick of it, though.

That’s where endurance is tested, patience is developed, character is built, and hope is either found or lost.

I thought of my Caleb as I mowed the lawn. I thought of the title I gave to his book – Discovering Hope

I choose hope. I always have to choose hope. Or I will get lost in the thick of the grief that still comes, the emptiness that still remains, and the confusion that still grabs at me.

I talked about him with my family on the weekend. I talked about how I have to keep seeing the life Caleb brings to this world.

His life.

Just over a week ago, I was at church on a Sunday morning, and I saw Caleb just as clear as day.

He would be 12 this year, and what I saw looked nothing like a 12-year-old boy. When Josiah was 12 he caught up to me in height, I could look him in the eye, and when he hugged me he wrapped me up completely in his young arms.

Caleb is growing too, in the hope he brings to the lives of others. I have done what I can as his mother – to make sure he is given room to grow to where he will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with me, look deep into my eyes, and hold me in his love.

For 10 years after his birth I worked at growing him – with every word I wrote about him, every hurting heart I shared him with, every dream I let go of so I could grab hold of new dreams for him.

Now here he is – my boy.

It’s been 12 years.

And I am exhausted. No words left.

It’s time for him to outgrow me, to move beyond my limited and biased view of what he should be, and grow into something I most likely can’t see just yet.

I caught a glimpse on that Sunday morning. I had nothing left after a weekend of much socializing (I’m an introvert who loves people, but also empties out quickly when there’s no alone time for me).

I was sitting on the bench away from the crowd, preparing my heart for the morning church service, when Josh brings a lady over to me who is holding my book. She’s got tears in her eyes, and I know I don’t have what she needs right now.

So I pray, and I ask God to step in, to help me be a mother to Caleb and let him shine where it’s needed.

Instead of giving, I found myself receiving. So… much… encouragement.

I don’t think I spoke more than a few words to the woman that morning. She spoke so many words to me. I just listened, and filled up, and thanked her for the gift she gave to me. A gift from my boy.

You see, it was Mother’s Day. And that wasn’t Caleb’s only gift to me that day.

After church another woman came up to me – someone I know very well, someone I’ve been to Dominican with, someone I’ve done life with.

She was asking on behalf of a friend that wanted to reach out to a hurting heart. What was the best way? Did I have any advice? Yes, I certainly did. I spoke lots of words to her, words about the best ways to reach out to hurting hearts that have lost little ones, about what might be expected with grief, about how no two journeys are the same.

And Caleb gives me another gift – a chance to help a mother discover some hope on Mother’s Day.

I realize that as long as I am willing to keep going, to keep discovering the hope, I can help Caleb reach his potential. I can help him grow up into all God intended him to be.

Isn’t that what I pray for all my sons?

So when I was mowing that thickest of lawns two days ago, and I had to tilt the mower up a little so it wouldn’t stop on me AGAIN, and I had to drag it over to the driveway for about the 20th time (no joke people!) so I could restart it, and I had to mow the whole thing twice because the first time just wasn’t cutting it (literally), and my arms ached and my body screamed at me to stop and I just wanted to fall down in what was our dandelion meadow more than it was a front lawn – something inside me said Just… keep…. going.

There was no one else to cut the grass – Josh’s allergies would have made this a most miserable task for him, the boys were in school, and the day was turning miserable. The job simply had to get done.

This job was MINE. It had been given to me. And just because it was really hard to see it through didn’t mean I could stop. There was no option for leaving it undone, or leaving it for someone else to do.

Like mothering Caleb, like helping him grow into all God made him to be – like mothering my other two wonderful young men, like church planting in Northern Ontario, like writing the books I hope to write this year, like running my household in a way that blesses my family – these are MY jobs. And I have to find a way to get them done.

I was reminded of the word on my rock from the IF conference at my friend’s house – GO.

I was reminded of the three simple words that ring in my heart often – Just. Keep. Going.

I was reminded of our church’s vision statement – Know. Grow. Go.

And I know I just have to keep moving. Go is definitely an action word. Whether it’s physically like cutting a lawn of thickest grass (and dandelions), or emotionally like typing out this post to share with you, or spiritually like praying through the hard stuff and asking God to open doors in His time – it’s time to Go.

Dearest Caleb Joshua Freedom Sklar,

Today, as I celebrate 12 years of all that you are, as I sing Happy Birthday and launch balloons into the heavens, as I put one foot in front of the other and Go – know I love you, know I love watching you grow, know I will keep doing my best to be the mother you need, and Caleb – know I would trade it all in a second to have you here with me.

This is one thing that will just never change for me.

I love you angel boy,


Budgeting – Fixed and Variable Spending


Budget is not a comforting word for some families.  Some might feel trapped or stressed or even afraid of that word.  Maybe it’s been a while since you took a serious look at your finances. Maybe you have tried to create a budget and stick to it many times in the past, and maybe you failed many times too! Discouragement may have settled in a long time ago.

I’ve been there, I’m still there sometimes. Living in a budget can be challenging, but it is definitely worth it. The hard part is to keep trying – believe me, I get that. And unless frugality is a lifestyle for you, building a budget is key to the financial success of your family.

The first step to creating a budget is tracking and listing your spending. You will have fixed spending and variable spending items in your budget.

Fixed spending includes expenses don’t change much from month to month. These are things like mortgage, phone, insurance, etc.

Variable spending includes expenses that are never quite the same twice – thing like food, gas, clothing,  entertainment, etc.

When I was first becoming aware of the need for a budget in our household, I was over at a friend’s house and she was asking her husband if he had put all his receipts in “the bag”. I questioned her about the mystery bag, and discovered that they kept all their receipts whenever they purchased an item, and threw them into a plastic bag in the cupboard every few days. My friend would take all the receipts and reconcile her bank statements and credit card statements with the receipts.

Well, that sure sounded like a lot of work to me, but it stuck with me, and I remembered her method when it came time to track our spending habits. I actually came to appreciate how I could see exactly where our dollars where going, and over time it became less time consuming and more educating to Josh and I.

Only I used an envelope stuck with a heavy-duty magnet to the side of my fridge. It has been there for years now, collecting our receipts. Josh has adapted in amazing ways to this system through the years. When it’s time for me to look at our finances, I grab the envelope and away I go.

So… let’s start tracking fixed and variable spending, shall we?

Here is a handy-dandy Family Budget Planner that I will share with you during our time together, as we create a budget for your household. I’ll unveil a little bit at a time, until we have a master budget document at the end of a few weeks. For now, I’ve listed some of the more common fixed and variable spending items you might encounter as you track your expenses. Fill in the totals under the 1st of 15th of the month if you have pre-authorized transactions, if not list them wherever you like for now. We’re just trying to get an idea of what is coming out of your bank account and where it is going. You might learn a lot about your spending habits!

FBP - FV spending

Some of your receipts might need to be broken down into different totals because you’ve bought food items and presents and hygiene items all at the same store.  Tracking receipts gets easier with practice!

Next time we’ll chat about income – what’s COMING IN to the bank account. And then we’ll start to line it up with the expenses – what is going out. Once the dust settles from that whirlwind of tracking and listing, we’ll figure out what to do with any deficits or surpluses that we find!

For now, I’ll leave you with a challenge to help the budget…

Pick one of your fixed expenses (for example – car insurance) and see how much you can lower it by shopping around a little. Get a few quotes, and stand back in awe of what you find – the price difference from one insurance place to another can be really surprising!

Josh saved us $700 per year in one afternoon a few years ago. He took our car insurance contract to a few local insurance companies and gathered quotes.  We picked the one with the same coverage but lower payments – $700 per year lower!


Meeting Oliver

This is a repost, originally written in July 2013…

Was it really only two weeks ago that we returned from our trip to the Dominican Republic?

Wow. What a adventure we had, our small group of 5 people from our church.

We were on a scouting trip, visiting with different organizations, trying to figure out which one would be a good fit for long-term partnership.

We drove across the island and back, over mountains, through rainstorms – all 5 of us piled into one SUV.

It was crazy, and it was so good.

One of the biggest highlights for me was meeting Oliver.  The boy who has a picture on our fridge, and who sent us his handprint a few months ago.

Our World Vision sponsored child.

We actually got to see him, talk to him, see his smile, meet his family.

And the distance between our worlds was reduced to nothing for a short time in a small village in Miches, Dominican Republic.

I wonder what he would think of our house if he were to visit us here?  Wouldn’t that be something… having Oliver here.

Well, one dream at a time, I suppose…

We drove through the mountains to meet Oliver. Our team from All Nations Church in Sudbury, Ontario, following behind our guides from World Vision.









Our destination that day was Miches, in the Dominican Republic, on the north-east coast of the island.


Oliver’s village is tucked away in the countryside, and I’m so glad World Vision was able to find him, along with the 56 others that our church sponsored – all in one Sunday morning back in November 2012.

We are told there are about 3000 more to go.

The visit was planned beautifully.

Earlier that day we visited one of the Miches Area Development Project (ADP) offices and met with the area director, her competent staff, and a few of the local pastors.



Later on we visited a few of the ADP programs and saw how World Vision is partnering with local people to equip the Dominicans in realizing a positive future for the citizens of this country in the Caribbean.

We were introduced to many wonderful people who are working hard to ensure the cycles of poverty are broken. There is much hope and sustainability found in the efforts of these people in Miches.

They have a vision that reaches far beyond them and the years that they have to give to the programs. The pass along a bright future to the ones who will come after them.

We visited a preschool where a local woman runs programs to equip mothers in caring for their children, some of whom have special needs. The health of the children in attendance is monitored periodically to ensure they are developing as they should.


This is the same for all the sponsored children of World Vision. Medical professionals check in with the children at least quarterly to assess their health and their needs.

We also visited a vocational school that is sponsored by World Vision, in partnership with the military, where Dominicans are trained in profitable trades and skills. These include carpentry, cosmetology, crafting, and music.



A delicious lunch is served to us at a local restaurant, owned by one of the World Vision micro credit clients. Oochi was provided loans to build her business and provide for the seven children in her care. She is faithful to pay back her loans and has dreams of expanding the business and building a house of her own. The children have dreams of attending college and some want to be teachers. This is proof of the sustainability of the World Vision program and the positive futures that are coming for the people of Miches.


I’ll never forget Oochi’s smile and the quiet confidence she exudes. She is happy, successful, and one great cook! She showed me the hope that is possible for all people as we work together around the globe for a common goal. Each of us giving what we can, when we can, however we can. Down the street, in our province, stretching across Canada, and around the globe – wherever God leads us.

As we drive down the bumpy, muddy road to Oliver’s village, we stop to visit a bell pepper nursery. The peppers are grown in a greenhouse and we enjoy the delicious aroma of success and hope contained in the white fabric walls of the nursery. Peppers are sold to provide funding for programs in the community.


Behind the greenhouse we find pig pens and we are told that when the gift of a pig is given to a family through World Vision, this is where the pigs come from. There are a couple of dozen pigs running around and again we see the hope that is available for the people of Miches.


In Oliver’s village we drive by a school that was built for the children, in partnership with other organizations that are working in the area. 120 children are sponsored in the village and 120 children attend the school.  All of them go to school. More hope.


Oliver’s family lives in a rented house just outside the village, with his mother, step-father, and two younger sisters. They managed to buy some land and are now saving for the building materials needed for a house of their own. We hear the hope in their voices.

Oliver is shy and shakes our hands in greeting. We enjoy watching his face as he opens the gift we brought for him.




We talk to Oliver and his parents through an interpreter and discover a little more about our sponsored child.


His favourite subject is math, he likes to play sports that have a ball, he helps his step-father at the rice factory sometimes, he has a good friend he likes to hang out with, and he is a helpful son and a good big brother to his sisters.





After a few minutes we say goodbye. As we are leaving, Oliver runs into his house and brings out some coconuts.  He hands them to us – a gift from his family.


They give out of the little they have and we learn from their example. We thank them, we wave from the road, and our visit comes to an end.

The drive back through the mountains seems more peaceful than the drive in.



We’ve seen Oliver and we’ve seen the hope that is available for him. He is healthy, he is happy, he is loved, and there are many people who care for him and are working hard to provide a positive future for him. Oliver is in capable hands and we see with our own eyes how our sponsorship money is at work in the Miches community of Dominican Republic.


Thank you, World Vision, for helping Oliver and for giving us the opportunity to travel across the world to meet him. It was an honour.

Now… when can we go back?

Simple Life – Whole Grain Recipes

simple life

Last week I mentioned that whole grains were loaded with nutrients that a body needs to fuel the Simple Life. Multigrain, enriched, and organic do not mean the same thing as whole grain. Whole means all – you get all the nutrients of the grain in one place.

Simple. Done. Potential maximized.

I was on a quest to adapt my current go-to grain recipes into something at least on the way to whole grain. Instead of using all-purpose flour or white rice, I changed up a few of my recipes.

That’s what I’m sharing with you today – recipes that we use at our house. Some of these have been revised a few times during the years, for less sugar, less ingredients, better taste, etc.

Let’s start with a couple of breakfast recipes…

Muffins with Whole Wheat – Adapt to Your Taste!


1/2 cup white sugar, brown sugar, or honey

1/4 cup oil – vegetable, canola, or coconut
1 egg
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce or pureed pumpkin or squash
3/4 cup milk – regular, lactose-free, almond, rice, soya
1 cup white flour – unbleached or all-purpose
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
Flavouring (optional) – 1/2 cup chocolate chips or chopped/ground nuts, 1 cup fruit (blueberries, cranberries, chopped strawberries, peaches, banana, etc. – you can add 2 tsp grated lemon/orange peel with fruit)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Add paper cups to muffin container if necessary. (Silicone cups work great!)
  2. Beat together sweetener, oil, egg, puree, and milk (and grated peel if using) in a large bowl.
  3. Add flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and flavouring to wet mixture.
  4. Stir until blended, batter will still be lumpy.
  5. Spoon into 12 muffin cups.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies


1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1/3 cup brown sugar or honey
1/4 cup oil – vegetable, canola, or coconut
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup unbleached or all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup chocolate chips or raisins or chopped/ground nuts (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Beat together oats, milk egg, sweetener, oil, and vanilla in a large bowl.
  3. Add flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and chocolate chips/raisins/nuts if using.
  4. Mix together until well blended. Add more milk if still too dry.
  5. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  6. Bake for 11 minutes or until golden brown on top.
  7. Makes about 20-24 cookies.

 A new favourite lunch recipe of mine…

Simple Rice and Beans


2 cups cooked quinoa or rice (use brown or wild rice for whole grains)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion – red, white, shallots
1 clove minced garlic
1 cup diced vegetables – mushrooms, peppers, etc.
1 tbsp chili sauce
1 cup cooked black beans (1/2 of 19 oz. can, drained)
  1. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat frying pan.
  2. Add onion and garlic and vegetables to hot oil and sautee for about 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring often.
  3. Turn heat to low and add chili sauce and black beans to vegetable mixture.
  4. Add vegetable mixture to rice/quinoa once grains are cooked.
  5. Stir all together, refrigerate or freeze portions for later use if needed.
  6. Makes 3 meal-sized servings.
*Adapted from a recipe on Frugalwoods.com

And a favourite for movie night at our house…

Pizza Dough With Whole Wheat Flour


3 cups warm water
4 tsp dry yeast
2 tbsp sugar
4 cups unbleached or all-purpose flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
3 tsp salt
1/2 cup plus 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  1. Mix together warm water, yeast and sugar in large bowl. Let sit for 5-10 minutes or until foamy on top.
  2. Add flours, salt, and 1/2 cup olive oil. Mix and knead together until all ingredients are combined well and dough is elastic (you can move the dough onto a floured surface to complete this step if needed).
  3. Take dough out of bowl and lightly coat bowl with 1-2 tbsp olive oil. Place dough back in bowl and turn over once to coat with oil.
  4. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or tea towel and let dough rise in warm, draft-free area for 30-60 minutes or until dough is about double in size. 
  5. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  6. Roll out dough on floured surface. You can make 2-3 rectangle pizzas to fit on large baking sheets. OR you can freeze dough for later, thaw out overnight before using.
  7. Top pizza dough with sauce, cheese, and other toppings.
  8. Bake for about 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown on top.
  9. Slice pizza and enjoy!

I have also been trying my hand at homemade bread, and so far it’s going well, but I need to find some whole grain recipes for that.  And then on to buns for burgers and sandwiches and rolls for roasts and stews.

It’s s work in progress, but I am more eager to get into the kitchen than I have been for a while. It’s wonderful to have a new direction and focus and a simple, basic approach to what should be happening in the kitchen.

Do you have any whole grain recipes to share? I’d love to try them out!



When I shared with you our financial story to date, I mentioned that after one year of marriage (even with spending less than $4000 on our wedding/honeymoon) we realized we were $38,500 in debt. This was student loans, car loan, and credit card debt. We were 26, Josh was making $28,000 per year as a youth pastor, and I was working part-time for a mission in the city. Not long after gaining true perspective on our financial situation and consolidating all our bills into one place, we discovered we were pregnant with our first son.

Then came the whirlwind of moving to a new city for a new job, Josh becoming the sole provider after Josiah was born (he was now making $40,000, but we were living in a much more expensive neighbourhood and our dream of home ownership flew out the window!), finding out we were pregnant with our second son when Josiah was 12 months old, moving into a new place in town, Josh getting laid off due to budget constraints at the church, losing our Caleb to stillbirth, jobs not panning out for Josh even after at least 20 interviews all over North America, moving 4 times in the next year for whatever jobs we could find, and settling on living in our current Northern Ontario city. We were completely broke, Josh was working part-time at the hospital in food services, and I was a stay-at-home mom. We knew that even more changes were needed to give our growing family the future we hoped for.

It was time to make a budget.

I’ve always leaned towards frugality by nature, and Josh always leaned far away from it! Josh loves to tell the story of how one night, early in our marriage, he suggested we go out to dinner and a movie. I proceeded to quickly inform him that it was not cheap ticket Tuesday, so it was impossible to go to the movies that evening. He told me it was going to be OK. When I asked him where he wanted to go for dinner, he mentioned places like Montana’s or Casey’s or Milestones. I proceeded to tell him he was off his rocker, and that I really appreciated the Super-Value menu at Wendy’s. We comprised (as we’ve done many times since!) and settled on Wendy’s and a full-price movie. If it was Tuesday, we could have done this whole evening out for under $20 – that’s my kind of date! Instead we spent about $30 – I can live with that!

So here we were, with two different extremes in looking at finances, but knowing it was time to figure out our spending and create a budget.

I did some research, and learned so much about what our family should be spending on household expenses. I discovered so many ways to save money in the areas in which we were currently over-spending. Step by step we came up with a budget that was reasonable for us.

I’d love to walk you through those steps in hopes that somewhere along the way I can help you gain confidence in your household budget.

More to come next week – the first step is tracking your fixed and variable expenses – stay tuned…

Faith in the Family – A Good Time for Devotions?

faith family

It may just feel like there’s never a good time to talk with your kids about God.

It may feel like a big, overwhelming task to take on.

You may think you don’t have the knowledge, insight, patience, or creativity to teach your children about the Creator of the Universe.

Guess what?

It doesn’t take that long, it’s not too hard, and you don’t have to be perfect.

A few minutes a day is a great place to start.

When they are very young, read a Bible board book to your child, and sing some old favourites like Jesus Loves Me. 

When your kids are a little older make a habit of sitting at the breakfast table with them and either reading a Bible story or asking them to read a story to you. Ask a simple question or two about the story, and let the conversation take on its own direction (unless it REALLY drifts!). If breakfast happens on the way to school or daycare, grab an audio Bible for kids and listen together in the car. Bedtime is also a great time for devotions at this age. When life is settling down for the day, hearts are quiet, and the atmosphere can be so cozy. Pray together about concerns your child may have, or items of praise from the day that is now done, or what may be coming the next day.

And when your children are preteens or teens, encourage them to grow in their own faith by reading a verse or passage from the Bible in the morning or at night. If they like to journal, encourage them to journal about the scripture they read that day – they could apply it to their lives or process how the Bible stories fit together into one big God Story. If they have a social media device, encourage them to get an app that provides them with a Bible verse every day – there are a few choices out there!

The Shema encourages us to “talk about [God’s commands] when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” – Deuteronomy 6:7

Sometimes God conversations are structured into our daily lives – “when you lie down and when you get up.”, and sometimes they happen when you least expect them – “when you sit at home and when you walk along the road”. Just roll with it as best you can – God will use whatever words you can muster to work His purposes in your child’s life. Say a quick prayer before answering a question about faith. And remember to listen – children have amazing insight into the supernatural – they are not bound by social norms yet, or cultural or religious rules and regulations. I have learned so much by hearing my boys out over the years. They have said the most beautiful things about God, and given me glimpses into His mysterious ways. I have seen heaven through their eyes, and realized so much more about the amazing designs of God’s creations. What a blessing!

It really only takes a little effort and planning to start a new habit of learning about God every day with your child. Set aside time at the beginning of the day, or the end of the day, or both! Take a few minutes to read a Bible verse or story, and listen to what each other has to say about it. When your children are older, be sure to keep the habit going in your own life and encourage your growing child to instill the same ongoing habit in their lives. Modeling a behaviour is always the best way to leave a trail for someone to follow after you, especially your children.

And whenever a God conversation comes up, run into it instead of away from it. You don’t have to have all the answers, you just have to be willing to learn along with your child. Sometimes our best teachers are our children.

There’s no time like the present!

Simple Life – Whole Grains

simple life

I’ve got my naturally flavoured water steeping in the fridge – we are trying watermelon/rosemary and blackberry/sage this week. I bought mini packets of fresh herbs for $1 each at Walmart and small containers of pre-cut watermelon and fresh blackberries for about the same price as a normal-cost carton of juice. I mashed the fruit and herbs slightly with the metal attachment for an electric beater – in an effort to release some of the flavouring of the ingredients (I wanted to try the blackberry/sage right away – yum! I ran it through a small strainer into my glass, just in case).

We’ll also be trying mango/mint and strawberry/lime in the next few days as well. I bought frozen packages of the fruits, and I’ll thaw out a small bowl-full the night before I want to steep these creations.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

Now on to whole grains…

I’ve been working on this for quite a while already – trying to adapt recipes to include whole wheat flour, trying to incorporate other grains into my days, trying to make sure I buy items labelled as “whole” grain.

Enriched, organic, and even multi grain does not mean the same thing as whole grain.

Whole grains contain all the parts, all the nutrients of the grain. They include corn (popcorn is a whole grain!), quinoa, rice, oats, rye, wheat, and a few others. Digesting grains can be hard on the body, so it’s a good idea to go with the everything in moderation principle.

A diet with lots of variety is key, and it can still be simple. The trick is getting rid of the clutter in our lives, including our diets. Clutter would be things like processed foods, greasy foods, fast foods, foods high in white sugar or white flour, soft drinks, most juices, flavoured coffee, and so on! You get the picture.

What helped me most as I just recently started this process of decluttering my diet was finding healthier, simpler foods I enjoyed eating to replace the foods that were cluttering up my life. This is not an easy one, folks. Especially when you’re used to eating a certain way, and you’ve been walking that road for a long  time. It’s hard to even SEE a different path, let alone choose to walk on it. I love my chocolate (at least once a day), my occasional cans of Coke, my breakfast creations of all shapes and sizes (usually involving white flour and sugar in some form or another), and my fast-food french fries.

But decluttering is absolutely needed – my trip to the thrift store last night to buy a few summer items confirmed it. I am putting my foot down and refusing to go up another pant size – that’s it for me! I’ve already gone up 2 sizes since I’ve been married, and that’s just enough. Time to do some serious decluttering on my menu. Sometimes I might eat different things than Josh and the boys, sometimes I might make treats just for them, sometimes I might linger at the table and just chat instead of helping myself to more. And that’s all OK.

Back on topic – whole grains. I took a look at where we’ve already got them on the household menu. To be honest, they are a little scarce right now, so I’ll have to improve on that. We love to eat muffins, breakfast cookies, waffles or pancakes at breakfast. We enjoy sandwiches or nachos and hummus at lunch, then there’s buns or bread slices or pizza at dinner.

Areas of future improvement for me in the whole grain area include adapting my breakfast recipes to incorporate whole grains, putting more rice/quinoa on the menu, and finding recipes for homemade bread/buns/pizza dough that focus on whole grains.

Note: I like being in the kitchen most days and baking/cooking for my family. Hence all the homemade meals at our house. Not everyone enjoys this part of life, and I know there are some great options for those who want to spend a little less time in the kitchen. Options like a husband or children who like to cook :), prebaked whole grain bread products, packaged whole grain cereals for the mornings, instant oatmeal packets, bags of prewashed rice/quinoa, and many more options!

My hope is to sort through the mess of what I currently eat in a day, try to eat only at certain times to make things predictable for my digestive system, and to put in good, clean food that will actually fuel the machine. Back to basics, nice and simple, easy to do.

The hard part is the clutter – the emotional eating, the just-because-I’m-bored/lonely/procrastinating eating that creeps into my life every day. That’s where the challenge lies – in getting rid of all that eating “stuff” that I don’t need. Back to needs vs wants. For me, when it comes to food, it’s easily said but not easily done.

Next steps are a new menu plan (maybe just for me, instead of trying to change everyone’s eating habits – that would just be completely overwhelming, and then I’d never get started!), adapting recipes to include whole grains, eating only at certain times of the day, not caving in to fast food, and maybe even starting to track calories (eeks!).

I’ll keep you posted…

Two Years Later…


It had been two years.

Two years since Ascension, since my first international mission trip, since the changes started to happen.

It was now 2013.

Romans 12:2 had grabbed ahold of me in many areas of life:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

People had been asking, they were anxious to do more.

Another mission trip needed to happen – soon.

But we had to change it up, the trip had to look different than dropping into another country for a week, isolating ourselves from the culture, and completing a work project that could be done by local hands (and provide income for them).

It had to be a long-term partnership. It had to be sustainable. It had to be full of hope and a future for the local people. It had to be getting right in there with the people we wanted to serve.

Josh has been preaching this sort of thing for years. My husband ventured out on his first mission trip when he was 16 years old. He traveled to Haiti with his church, with a group of people who saw his missionary heart and his strong work ethic. They were going to build a school/church. When Josh asked if he could go on the trip, an older man from the team put his hand on young Josh’s shoulder, looked him in the eye, and said, “Son, I’d lay block in Haiti with you any day.” That was that. One sentence set Josh on a new path. It was the start of a life-long ministry in being trained up to lead mission teams around the world. To date Josh has been on 11 trips, and led 9 of those – here in North America, Columbia, Belize, and Dominican Republic. We look forward to many more to come.

The trips have changed for Josh through the years. Most have involved a work project, and a visit to an orphanage or medical centre to drop off supplies or gifts. He has also participated in feeding programs and caring for the most vulnerable. I can’t imagine all he has seen – so many different cultures, poverty and development issues, beautiful landscapes… and the bugs! He’s gotten sick more than once, and been in dangerous situations a few times as well. His collection of trip trinkets can be found all over our house.

I think there are a few things that Josh carries on the trips that can’t be stuffed into a suitcase. These are the changes that I mentioned. Mission trips will change you, no doubt. You can’t possibly come back the same person. And every time Josh steps onto a plane or gets into a car in hopes of helping others, he returns a changed man. This was the hardest part of watching him go when the boys were very young. Five times I said goodbye to the Josh I knew, realizing he would come back to me different than when he left. In 2011 I joined him on a plane to Dominican with a team of 10 others, and I finally started to understand the changes that happened on each trip.

During the next two years I searched for hope for those in the developing world, I took all the International Studies courses I could find as I finished up my university degree. I spoke about the issues with whoever would listen. I wrote about the experiences and tried to create awareness. I decluttered my house like crazy. I started focusing on needs vs wants. I tried to model service to others for my children.

And when we started to feel like it was time to take another team of people on a mission trip, we knew it had to be different. So we approached it from a different angle. We prayed that God would show us the country He wanted us to visit – Dominican Republic kept coming up again and again for us. We researched to find organizations that would have a broad range of opportunities for builders, medical professionals, teachers, and families to come and serve. We narrowed down the list of 30+ possibilities by making sure there was a christian focus to the organization – that the group was teaching people about God’s love for them. We lined up the remaining groups in proximity to the major airports, and looked into their accommodations for teams of about 12 to stay for about 7 days. After all the criteria had been plugged in, we were left with 6 possibilities for long-term partnerships in Dominican Republic.

We set out contacting all of them, lining up visits during the week we would be visiting the island. Everything worked out in amazing ways, and before I knew it I was on another plane with Josh and 3 others. We took a small team of trusted people who were highly passionate about international mission trips. We would evaluate each group together, and make our choice together after we’d processed all the information.

What a week it was! We stayed at the same resort we stayed at during our 2011 visit. Resorts are simply the cheaper, easier option for our teams. We can get return flights, all meals and accommodation for less than $1000 each. Then we pay a small amount for rental vehicles in country. This makes it affordable for anyone – from students to families to individuals – and this was one of the criteria on our list.

Every day our rental SUV was packed with the 5 of us and our backpacks. I was amazed by Josh’s driving skills on the crazy Dominican roads, and our navigator’s skills with reading maps! We would meet with a different organization each day and then chat about the experience back at the hotel. One night we crammed into the car with overnight bags and traveled across the country to meet with World Vision. I’ll share more about that next time… It was quite an adventure trying to get back to our hotel in the heaviest rainfall I’d experienced in my life! Cars were abandoned in near-lakes on the highways, hundreds of people packed in under gas station shelters on the sides of the roads – their motorcycles left in the rain. Somehow we made it back to meet with more organizations in the following days.

We came back from that trip encouraged by all we’d seen, cautious about who we’d partner with for the long-term, and hopeful for the future of the country. After a few weeks we met to make a final decision, and set a date for our next international mission trip. The trip would be in about 9 months, and we had lots of work to do before that. We had a new vision for mission to share, a partnership to develop, and a team to recruit.

For now, we were excited to put the ideas into practice in our local settings. We started looking for ways to reach out across the street, in our city, among the schools and clubs and teams and workplaces that surrounded us, and in the lives of those closest to us. The ideas of coming alongside to help, of equipping those who were capable, of educating those who would listen – and we have seen the benefits in many ways the last couple of years.

I believe most people genuinely want to help others, but they just don’t know where to start.

It has been a privilege to find starting places, and encourage others to cross their own starting lines – both at home and around the world.

Next time I’ll share more about the blessing of meeting Oliver, our World Vision child in Miches, Dominican Republic.

Becoming A Praying Family

faith family

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  – Philippians 4:6-7

These verses holds many great truths – we don’t have to be anxious about our kids, we are invited to pray about everything, we can petition God, we can thank Him, and make requests to Him about anything.

When we connect with God in prayer, we are promised that peace will be ours.  Even if the answers we seek are years in coming, or life is truly overwhelming – we are free to have peace now. All it takes is a good chat with God. That same peace is available to our children now and as they grow up.

Prayer really is just talking to God. And it’s never too early to start talking to God. We can talk to Him about whatever we want, whenever we want, wherever we want, and however we want.

From peaceful thank yous to frustrated screaming and ranting – He wants it all. And He wants the same thing from our children. Their prayers are just as powerful as ours, and all are music to the ears of the One who loves us most.

It’s all about relationship, and it’s not much of a relationship if you’re not on speaking terms, or if you’re not honest and real with one another.

The best way to encourage the prayer life of our kids is to model it for them. What about praying at different times throughout the day – instead of only at meals or before bed? How about on the way to school, before play dates, as an ambulance races by, as you drive by the mission, when a beautiful rainbow appears, when you see an answer to prayer, when you hear someone is sick, or when your children share a problem with you. The trick is to remember to pray out loud, so they can hear the example you’re trying to give them.

The more I put this concept of continuous praying into action, the more it takes root in me. The benefits go beyond my children, to my own relationship with God.

It’s wonderful how that works. My kids help me grow in God as I help them grow in God. And slowly but surely we become a praying family.

Family Prayer

Lord, thank You that we can come and talk to You anywhere, anytime, about anything.  Thank You for listening, thank You for answering.  Help us to become a family that prays together.  Help us to leave all our worries with you.  Grant us Your peace that passes all understanding.  Help us to bring all our praises to You.  Grant us hearts full of thanksgiving.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Here’s a list of some of the wonderful prayer resources by Stormie O’Martian.  I’ve been using her books in my own family for years:

The Power Of A Praying Woman Book Of Prayers

The Power of A Praying Parent

The Power Of A Praying Wife Book Of Prayers

The Power Of A Praying Husband Book Of Prayers

Prayers And Promises For My Little Girl

Prayers And Promises For My Little Boy

What Happens When I Talk To God?: The Power Of Prayer For Boys And Girls

The Prayer That Makes God Smile

The Power of a Praying® Kid

The Power of A Praying Teen

*This post contains affiliate links