• Personal

    Reading God’s Word: What do I do?

    Lately, I’ve been in a dry season. I don’t feel like reading God’s Word. The holidays blurred by in a whirlwind frenzy. In all the chaos, I’ve been missing my daily time with the Lord; I’m being honest here, I have no desire for it.

    But someone once told me that the more you do something, the more you’ll love it. I’m not sure if that goes for everything. I can’t imagine ever loving beets or oysters. But I have found it true when I read God’s Word. The more I read it, the more I want to read it. The hardest part is beginning.

    So I thought I’d share what my personal time with the Lord looks like. Maybe like me, you need to start spending time with God again. Or maybe you’ve never had a quiet time with God before, but you want to start. Either way, I hope this encourages you to spend time with the Lord everyday. But where do you begin? What tools do you use to spend time with the Lord? What does a quiet time with God look like?

    The Tools You Need

    These are the tools I use in my daily time with God: 1. A journal. 2. The Blue Letter Bible App 3. A commentary 4. The Bible. The Blue Letter Bible App and commentary are optional. You don’t have to have them to spend time with the Lord.

    The Process You Use

    To help me know what to do when I spend time with God, I use the acrostic SOAP. Each letter stands for a step you do in your time alone with the Lord.

    The S is for Scripture

    If you have never had a daily time with the Lord, there are a few books of the Bible I recommend. Any of the gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John are great places to begin. These books give you a description of Jesus and how he lived. Another book I recommend for the beginner is I John. It’s a short book that explains what a believer’s life looks like.

    Now that you’ve chosen what to read, it’s time to open up your journal. Write the Word SCRIPTURE near the top of your journal page. Pretty simple ;-). I suggest reading about 10-15 verses. As you read, look for ideas in scripture that grab your heart. Whether it’s encouraging or convicting, write the verse that speaks to your heart under the word SCRIPTURE in your journal.

    The O is for Observation

    The letter O is for Observation. Under the SCRIPTURE portion in your journal, you are now going to write OBSERVATION. This is the time you “observe.” Some questions to ask yourself in this step are: Who is the author of the book? Who is the book written to? When this scripture was written, what was going on in history? What is the scripture about? What do certain words mean?

    A commentary can be useful in answering these questions. A commentary is a book that explains the Bible. I use the Wiersbe Bible Commentary. But remember that commentaries are not the inspired Word of God. You don’t need a commentary to have quiet time with the Lord. Although I have found that it can be helpful to understand scripture.

    Another tool you can use to answer your questions during Observation is the The Blue Letter Bible App. I recommend you download the app to your phone, and explore the features. I use this app solely for defining words in scripture that I don’t understand.

    The A is for Application

    The letter A is for Application. Go ahead and write the word APPLICATION underneath the OBSERVATION portion in your journal. Now you apply what you’ve learned from Scripture to your own personal life. How do you need to change because of what you’ve read? What specific area of your life needs to change and why? Make sure to write it down.

    The P is for Prayer

    Finally, the letter P is for Prayer. Write the word PRAYER underneath the APPLICATION portion in your journal. Write what’s on your heart. But keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be a long prayer. Your heart’s motives are most important. Adore him for who he is. Confess to him your sin. Be genuine. Thank him for all he’s done. And ask for him for anything. Write it down.

    Encouragement for the Road

    Spending time with God doesn’t have to be elaborate or fancy. Jesus wants your heart. The real you. Go to him as you are, and he’ll change you into the person you are meant to be. Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Growing in Christ is a journey that doesn’t happen in a day.

  • Photography

    Cameras: Which One Should I Buy?

    Around Christmas time, people come to me wondering what camera they should buy? Before telling them what I recommend, I always ask them why they want a camera. Usually people will answer in a few different ways: “I want to take pictures of my kids.” “I want to take pictures of the places I travel to.” “I want to pursue professional photography.”

    Based on their answer, I give them my recommendation. The question I’m going to answer is, “What kind of camera should I buy if I want to take pictures of my kids?”


    The Camera Body

    My first camera was a Canon Rebel. It was nothing super fancy, but it was all I needed. Before getting into photography, my main goal was to take great pictures of my kids. I wanted to preserve our heritage through photography. I wanted to capture memories. My personal experience with the Canon Rebel won me over completely. I learned how the camera worked, and how to shoot in manual mode. I learned to love photography. Funny thing is that almost 10 years later, I still have it. I gave it to my daughter to learn photography. In all that time, it has never let me down. That’s why I’ll always recommend a Canon Rebel camera.  It’s easy to use and not too overwhelming to learn. But this is only the body.  I prefer to choose my own lens.

    The Lens

    Different lenses are used for different reasons.  That is an entirely different blog post for a different time. But since we’re talking about portraits of kids, my go-to lens is this fixed lens. It’s important to know what a fixed lens is. A fixed lens doesn’t have the ability to zoom.  You have to use your feet.  Some people aren’t interested in a lens that has no zoom.  It’s a preference.  But I think the inconvenience of having no zoom is worth it when you look at the image. Also, the more you practice using a fixed lens the more you get used to moving around instead using zoom.

    In closing, I’d encourage you to remember why you want to buy a camera. The one you choose has everything to do with what you want to photograph. Keep that in mind when you go shopping. And have fun!! Buying a new camera is so exciting! Let me know what you bought in the comments below! Also if you just bought a camera, go and check out this blog post about posing children.

  • Bathroom,  Fixer Upper

    Fixer Upper Bathroom

    The Temporary Shower

    The bathroom demo has begun. It’s only 3 days until Christmas. I hesitated starting the demo over the holidays. Since we only have one shower, we had to improvise and make a temporary shower in the basement. This shower is primitive. Some of you will wonder if I’ve gone completely crazy. But I’ve learned through this fixer upper journey to be flexible and willing to do things most people wouldn’t do.

    Temporary Shower

    This 1956 mid century bathroom was exactly the same as when it was built. The pink tiles, floral wall paper, and the pink fixtures reminded me of what it may be like to travel through time. And while I love some design elements of the 50’s, I’m glad to say goodbye to the pink toilet and bathtub.

    1956 mid century bathroom

    The Demolition

    In the bathroom, we had to take the walls and ceiling down to the studs. We removed the floor because of water damage. The toilet had been leaking through the bathroom floor to the garage ceiling below it. Yes, it was disgusting. EWW! We are replacing the floor in the bathroom, but because of the leak, we’ll also be replacing the basement ceiling in the future.

    Bathroom Demolition

    When we started this demo, we knew that the bathroom would be one of our biggest obstacles in our fixer upper journey. We decided to hire out a lot of the work because of time and our limited knowledge of plumbing. We hired out the demo, the installation of the fixtures, and all the tile work. I’m going to do the painting, and Josh is doing the electrical. As I sit here typing, someone is working in the bathroom. You can imagine the smile on my face. I’d rather be typing than in that bathroom. Ha!

    Shower Space Bathroom Demo
    Toilet Space Fixer Upper Bathroom
    Vanity Space Fixer Upper Bathroom

    The Design

    For the new design of the bathroom, my goal is to make sure it compliments the rest of the house. Throughout the house there is wood texture and color, a mixture of different metals, and white walls (I love white walls!). I’m aiming for mixture of mid century modern with a little bit of boho. I’m excited to see what it will look like! We are hoping to be finished with the entire bathroom in about a month and half. We’ll see how it goes.

  • Personal,  Watercolor

    That Road To Bitterness

    Bitterness Road inevitably comes our way at some point in life.  This week, I found the road right outside my door.  Have you ever been there?  That place where someone is trying to help, but in reality they’re hurting your heart.  And all the while you’re listening to them, you’re screaming inside, “Lord, why are they doing this?  I thought this person was my friend.” Gradually, I found myself looking ahead and seeing that road to bitterness. The invitation rang with clarity.

    Then for the rest of the week I re-played the scene over and over in my mind.  Ideas of what I should have said came to mind.  Why couldn’t I have thought of that when I was there in the moment?  Why did they judge me like this?  They don’t know my story.  They don’t really know me.  Over and over I rested my mind on the past. I lived there instead of moving on and resting my mind on Jesus.

    But this is what I found in God’s Word:

    My identity isn’t found in what others think about me; my identity is in Jesus Christ alone.
    I was not made to be a people-pleaser, I was made to please God.
    Some people won’t understand me.  It isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It just is.

    The more I thought on these truths, the less frustrated I felt.  The grudge I wanted to hold onto died.  The anger dwindled to nothing.  I stopped replaying the scene over and over in my mind.  You see, what other people think-it’s a small thing.  God’s truth is bigger. When I looked at my circumstances through the filter of Scripture, my heart changed. Bitterness Road disappeared.

    God’s Word really does set us free.



  • Photography,  Writing Challenge

    A Writing Challenge

    A Writing Challenge

    I love to write.  It makes me feel alive.  There’s a freedom in writing that I can’t explain.  It’s like abandon happens.  I throw everyone’s opinions to the way side.  My thoughts come barreling to my mind and I write non-stop.

    I’ve heard over and over that in order to be a great writer you need to do 2 things:  you need to read good books, and you need to write everyday. I love reading good books.  My favorite of all is by CS LEWIS, The Chronicles of Narnia.  If I could pick a hero author, it would be him, hands down.

    But writing. (sigh).  Well, I’m a homeschool mom who cleans the house and makes dinner, all while making sure my kids don’t die-that right there is like a full time job. Oh, and also we’re living in a fixer upper.  But being a mom is the best job in the world.  There’s no place I’d rather be. I say that because it didn’t used to be true.  In my “young mama” days, I was stupid and immature-wanting my own dreams more than anything. I think that’s why I didn’t write-because of my own selfishness.

    But now it’s time write.

    The Writing Challenge Book

    I purchased a book with 300 writing prompts.  I’m going to write as often as I can.

    So here it goes:

    Writing Prompt Number One: What is your favorite way to spend a lazy day?

    Lazy days.  They begin slowly.  The kids are still asleep, the house is just beginning to come alive with sunlight.  Streaks of it stretch along the floor; shadows vividly reveal themselves on the walls.  Stillness. Coffee.  Silent conversations with Jesus fill my head as I sip my coffee and let my gaze drift out the big picture window.  Gradually, the kids stir in their beds.  I hear them stretch, turning over every now and then.  And I wait, coffee in hand to see their sleepy faces and bed heads enter the room.  Gradually, they come.  Lots of cuddles.  A bit of morning chatter-but still quiet.  Bowls of cereal.  Lots of crunching at the long wooden kitchen table. The chatting starts to increase and the sleepy voices disappear.  They place their bowls in the sink-one drops his bowl in the sink crashing away the stillness. They slip on their flip flops and go romp in the dirt.  And I watch them all day, enjoying their happiness and God’s incredible goodness.  Lazy days are best spent at home with my family.  There is no other place I’d rather be.

  • Homeschool

    Homework Debate: To Assign or Not To Assign

    The Homework Debate Photography

    The Dreaded Debate:  To Assign Homework or Not to Assign Homework.

    If you’re like me, then you are familiar with spending hours doing homework after school while you grew up.  It was considered normal.  But I don’t think there is anything normal about it.  Many people say homework teaches responsibility and it reinforces class content.  While that may be true to an extent,I don’t think teachers need to assign homework to guarantee the success of the student.

    Why cut out homework?

    Homework is frustrating.  It’s not only frustrating for the student, it can also be frustrating for the parent.  I can’t count how many times I became a slave to a homeschool curriculum.  My mind was set- the homework would get done no matter the cost.  Even if it took my child an hour to do one assignment, I would make my daughter sit at the table until the work was finished. At the time, I believed I was being a good parent. But now, as I remember those battles, I cringe. I remember her tears of frustration. I cried lots of tears myself.  All of this taught me that learning should not be a drudgery; if it is, then why would my child want to learn at all?  Why give homework if it discourages them from learning?

    Homework also limits playtime for the child.  Children learn from the world around them.  While they climb trees, have picnics, dig in the mud, or search for roly polys, they are learning.  They are soaking in an education with their imagination.  Grown-ups are so stuck up when it comes to imagination.  Don’t you remember how you learned when you played?  You thought about the bark on the tree, right-it’s color and texture?  And while you had that picnic, you watched the clouds and noticed all the different kinds that God painted in the sky.  When you played in the mud you noticed that some of the bugs drowned while others didn’t.  The roly polys!  How incredible they are to protect themselves by rolling into tiny balls. Why can’t we grown ups see that children learn while they play?

    The Homework Debat Photograph

    But what should the teacher do if she doesn’t assign homework?

    Replace homework with narration.  Narration is the child saying out loud what he knows.  It’s a re-telling (it can also be written) of the reading from a living book. But it doesn’t have to be from a book.  Narration can be applied to everything a student learns. For example, your student can teach you step by step how to solve a math problem.  After reading a book, your student can tell the story from beginning to end.  After learning the anatomy of a cell, they can draw a picture and describe to you how the cell works. Not only does narration give them an opportunity to share what they have learned, it also gives them a chance to share what they think about it.  (Shocked!?) Why not let them share what they love or dislike about what they have learned!? Set them on fire with a hunger to learn by giving them the freedom to express their opinions (respectfully;-))!  And as they learn, point them to the wonder of their Savior. Narration gives them the chance to tell about what they have learned and what they loved about it.

    The benefits of narration are numerous. Narration teaches responsibility.  The student listens with urgency so they are able to tell back the lesson to the teacher. Narration also encourages the student to communicate his thoughts in an effective manner.  As the student recalls the lesson back to the teacher, the content becomes cemented in his mind.

    A few thoughts before you go…

    The child’s heart is the most important priority.  We can teach our children facts and give them knowledge, but teaching them how to follow after the heart of Christ is the ultimate goal.  A child following after God’s heart will grow in his desire to please Christ in the mundane tasks-even if those tasks happen to be homework.  So whether you agree or disagree with a no homework policy, don’t forget that our eyes ought always to be set on Jesus Christ. How does he want us to teach our children?  Are we chasing after the heart of Christ?  If we, as parents and educators, are not chasing his heart, why would our children want to?


  • Photography

    Which LightRoom Editing Software Should I Choose?

    Lightroom. I finally made the plunge.   I’ve been working with Photoshop for the last six years (Maybe longer?),  and I was hesitant to take on the challenge of learning a new program. Almost every photographer I talked to said, “You need to make the switch to Lightroom.  You’ll love it!” And I finally did.

    Lightroom Versions

    All of the Lightroom versions confused me at first.  Apparently, there are three different options.    Lightroom 6, on Amazon, is $149.00. Basically, it’s the original Lightroom.  The difference between Lightroom 6 and all the other versions is that Adobe is no longer offering updates for Lightroom 6.

    Another option is Lightroom CC. It’s offered on the Adobe website for a monthly subscription of about $120 per year. This is the version I bought.  I figured that at $10 a month, it may be worth the convenience. The subscription includes a limited amount of online storage, a Lightroom CC editing app on your IPhone, and a “cloud” based simpler version of the original Lightroom Classic CC editing software. It’s specifically for photographers who are “on-the-go” and consistently taking and editing photos on their phone.  But it can easily be used on your desktop as well.

    And finally, the last option is Lightroom Classic CC.  This is like Lightroom 6, but now you get all the updates.  There are more editing options in this version of lightroom than with Lightroom CC. Lightroom Classic CC is made more for the photographer who is editing photos from a desktop computer.

    First Impressions

    If I’m honest, I find it all bit overwhelming. I wish the versions of Lightroom weren’t all so similar! I ended up making my own personal chart to compare them all. Ha!  Just being real here. I’ve been researching all this information for a few hours now, and I’m wondering if I should just stick to the world of Photoshop. But I’m no quitter. (Grunt, Fight Face)

    In order to compare Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic CC, I bought the Lightroom CC subscription and downloaded the trial version of Lightroom Classic CC.  My initial reaction is to lean more toward using the Lightroom Classic because it seems more like Photoshop(which I’m more familiar with) than Lightroom CC does. I have a seven day trial period to decide which editing software I prefer.

    Here are some shots of the user interface.

    This is Lightroom CC.

    Lightroom CC Image

    This is Lightroom Classic CC.

    Lightroom Classic CC Image

    Final Thoughts

    Ok.  So I’ve played around with both Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic CC.  I think the choice you make between the two depends on the type of photographer you are.  If you want fast editing options on the go, I’d recommend the Lightroom CC.  But if you are the photographer who sits at a desktop and wants to have more in depth editing options, I’d recommend the Lightroom Classic CC.

    For me personally, I found myself wanting something in the middle. I’m not an on-the-go photographer. I like to sit at my desktop so I can see my photos at a larger scale. But on the other hand,  I have no need for the extra editing options. My editing style is usually very minimal. But the accessibility that Lightroom CC offers tipped the scale for me.  I love being able to access my photos from multiple devices.

    If you aren’t sure which one would work best for you, download the trial versions and test them out for yourself.



  • Fixer Upper

    Fixer Upper Update: A Basement Demo

    Basement demolition started last week full force. Everyone-including the four kiddos joined the hammering, ripping, bashing, and breaking.  All of us have enjoyed the adventure so far. We decided we would do the basement because the last 2 summers we’ve been without air conditioning.

    Basement Before Photos

    In these photos, you can see the asbestos tiles.  We had those removed before we moved into the home. The basement is actually sectioned off by that large orangey wood wall.  The man who built it took pride in how he put it together.  It was tough taking that wall down!  When we first moved into the house we found some treasures hidden in the cupboards of that wall. 

    Basement Demo Mid Century

    Basement Demo Mid Century

    Demolition Photos

    In this photo, the boys are standing where the wood wall was.  It’s gone now!  Most of it. We still have a few studs standing near the fireplace, but you can’t even tell it was there.

    Boy Demo Time

    In the photo below, the light cement on the ground shows you where the orangey wall was. Taking the wall out opened up the space. We gutted the closet space under the stairs, too.  Our plan is to move the washer and dryer into the space under the stairs.

    Here is a better look at the closet space underneath the stairs.  We still have to decide on whether we want to do a stackable washer and dryer or a side by side. I think I’d prefer a side by side washer and dryer.

    Basement Demo Mid Century Basement Demo Mid Century

    In order to get the air installed, we have to relocate our water heater and move some pipes around. I’m excited to see how much space we gain after the air conditioning is installed.  The unit we have now is huge and I know that once we replace it with a smaller more compact system, it will open up the space even more. You can see in the photos below where the original owners installed the venting for heat/air into the wall.  It covers part of the fireplace.  Since we have a fireplace upstairs, we plan on getting rid of this fireplace altogether.

    Basement Demo Mid Century

    Basement Demo Mid Century

    Basement Demo Mid Century

    And finally our pile in the garage-proof that we worked hard.  😉  I know a lot of people find this kind of thing crazy. Some people would never dream of living in a space like this while fixing it up.  But I love it.  It’s an adventure. My house is a wreck, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Both Josh and I, along with kids, have learned so much already.  And we’ve made so many great memories together. I keep telling Josh that after this house is finished, we’re going to get another fixer upper.  Ha!  I think he’s good with it.

    Basement Demo Mid Century

  • Homeschool

    Geography: Paddle to the Sea

    Geography in Elementary Years

    This is a our first year including Geography in our homeschool.  I had never enjoyed geography in school and thought of it as “extra”. In fact, I didn’t learn geography until the 9th grade. My teacher was Mr. Arnold. I vaguely remember reading the news for class. Overall, Geography was boring.  But when  I read what Charlotte Mason thought about Geography, I tried to keep an open mind.  She wrote, “But the mother, who knows better, will find a hundred opportunities to teach geography by the way…”

    Charlotte Mason loved geography. “To teach by the way” means that the mom teaches her children in everyday conversation. Walks around the neighborhood become opportunities to teach how to tell the time of day by noticing where the sun is in the sky. Drives through the town become teaching tools to learn which way is north and which direction you take to get home.

    Geography Map Paddle to the Sea

    Geography Should be Exciting

    Geography should captivate the child’s interest. Charlotte Mason wrote, “But let him be at home in any single region; let him see, with the mind’s eye, the people at their work and at their play, the flowers and fruits in their seasons, the beasts, each in its habitat; and let him see all sympathetically, that is let him follow the adventures of a traveler; and he knows more, is better furnished with ideas, than if he had learnt all the names on all the maps.  The ‘way’ of this kind of teaching is very simple and obvious; read to him, or read for him, that is read bit by bit, and tell as you read,…Here, as elsewhere, the question is, not how many things does he know, but how much does he know about each thing(Home Education, 275).”

    With Charlotte Mason’s words, I found myself pulled into the wonder of learning. I set out to make geography an adventure.  I wanted stories filled with “ideas”- ideas that spark a hunger to learn in my children.  While searching, I found the book, Paddle-to-the-Sea.  Paddle to the Sea is a story about a little Indian named Paddle.  A little boy carved Paddle, who sits in a canoe, from wood. The boy leaves Paddle on frozen Lake Nipigon just before Spring. When the ice begins cracking, he sets out on a journey to the sea (the Atlantic Ocean).  The story takes us along with Paddle through all five Great Lakes, the Niagara Falls, the St. Lawrence River and finally out to Atlantic.

    Traveling with Paddle, I saw the animals at Lake Nipigon.  I noticed all the steal mills in Michigan.  Then I learned that there’s a lake that is a continual whirlpool near Detroit.  Everywhere I went, I saw.  I couldn’t wait to see Paddle’s next adventure.  Then I noticed my children couldn’t wait either. My kids were eager to learn where Paddle would travel next.  With sweet interest, they would find the place on the map and imagine all that Paddle had seen.   Funny how it tugged at my heart strings.

    Paddle-to-the-Sea Reviews

    After reading Paddle-to-the-Sea, I asked my kids why they enjoyed it so much.  Here are their replies,

    “It was adventurous.”

    “Because of the maps.”

    “Because of the waterfall and the whirlpool.”

    Charlotte Mason was right.  Together we followed the adventures of Paddle-to-the-Sea; “and we know more” and are “better furnished with ideas”.  Instead of memorizing a list of facts, we’ve experienced a journey that we’ll stay with us forever. Now I’m thoroughly convinced Geography is exciting- not because Charlotte Mason said it was, but because I experienced the adventure for myself.


  • My Book

    The Illustrations Reveal

    Well, it’s finally the day.  Almost a year ago, I asked Sara over at Bryarton Farm to illustrate my book.  And now, for the first time, I held the paintings in my hands.  It seems surreal.  And so incredibly satisfying. There really are no words.  But I have to give credit where credit is due. Credit doesn’t belong to me; it belongs to the Savior.  He alone gives me the ability to weave words into pictures. It isn’t about me, it’s all Him.

    Enjoy the video.  Hope you are encouraged today.


    Posted by Rae Dawn on Tuesday, March 13, 2018