Just Keep Walking

5 tree trail trailhead sign

There is a trail in Vermont called the 5 Trees Trail that I enjoy. It is really hard to find, and rarely is it on trail maps of the area. When you do find it, it appears to be nothing special: you drive through a neighborhood, park in someone’s hay field, and you question if you are in the right place. It is a basic trail through the woods and a first time hiker might think… what is so special about this trail? It’s nothing much, a few boardwalks over boggy parts, some steeper climbs, some twists and turns, but not too many people on it and nothing outstanding in the hiking of it. I always say, keep on walking, just wait…

I have been deep in prayer for a family we knowwho has been walking through the valley of the shadow of death for several weeks now. The time is near when their small daughter will meet Jesus face to face, and when all that they have been living for during the last 5 ½ years is ending. She has been a very sick child many times in her short life. Many times have they walked through this valley, but this time it seems different, death is closer, Heaven seems near.

The path they are on is not easy. Each day, they hold their breaths and wait. Will it be today? Is this the last? Maybe tomorrow. But it will come. Some days it seems like the worst has passed and she will keep plugging, others they wonder will she make it to tomorrow. The fear and uncertainty that accompanies this time is hard to imagine, even for myself who has spent my own time in the valley of the shadow of death.

And the psalmist’s prayer in Psalm 23 is where I find my heart for them.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Death…

I will fear no evil, for God is with me.


The thought I am struck with is that we are all in the valley somewhere. Something is bringing us down. We are bogged in busy, bogged in work, stuck in a trauma of some kind. We are head down, pushing forward. Some days its okay and the path is smooth and simple. Some days, the stress of the climb is nearly too much to bear.

But my encouragement to them, and to those of you in the valley, is just what I say to my fellow hikers on the 5 Trees Trail. Keep walking. Just wait. It gets better. It will be worth the climb.


On this trail, there are a few miles of walking a narrow path of gentle & not so gentle inclines, including some steep sections that are rocky and rooted. Climb up for awhile and down again, only to go up some more. Kind of like the path of life in times of trouble.


If we go back one verse from the valley of the shadow of Death we see that…

He (the LORD) guides me in the paths of righteousness

For His name’s sake…

GOD is leading us on this path, on HIS path. We are led on the path through the valleys as well as the one near the green pastures, and the one beside quiet waters… for His sake, for HIS glory! We are not alone in the valleys of life. He is still leading us, guiding us, restoring us, giving us rest.

For my friends, the path they are choosing is the path of Faith. Faith in the goodness of God. Faith in the truth of the Scriptures. Faith in the place called Heaven. Faith in a Savior who will hold them up when all they want to do is fall down. Faith in a leading, guiding, loving Father who will show them the way when they can hardly take another step. Faith that His way is the right way, and that the time spent in the shadowy valley is not a place to be afraid, but rather a place to fully put our trust in Him.

On the 5 Trees Trail, after an hour or so of ups and downs in the dark and quiet woods, suddenly you come out of the woods into what looks like someone’s backyard. You question, did we miss a turn? Are we in the right place? Do we walk through their yard? The signs point you on, so the brave continue.

After walking through their yard on a neatly clipped path… You see a bench, and then you see the view that goes for miles. Overlooking the whole of Burlington, Lake Champlain and the upper Champlain Valley area. On a clear day, you can see the Adirondacks of New York, and up into the Champlain Islands. It really is breathtaking. It was worth the ups and downs, the questions, the doubts. The bigger picture is amazing.


While we are in the valleys of our lives, or in the darkness of the woods, stumbling along day to day, we just can’t see the bigger picture God is painting in our times of trouble. We are so stuck in the valley, in the pit, in the act of choosing where to place each simple little step, that the end, the peak, is not something we often stop to contemplate.

But the END is what matters. The bigger picture IS what matters. The little steps we take in faith, one by one by one, get us to the mountaintop, and to that gorgeous picture He creates with each of our small steps of faith.


Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord

And to the house of the God of Jacob,

That He may teach us about His ways,

And that we may walk in His paths.

Micah 4:2


At any point on the hike, we are free to turn around. But if we turn around or go off track we don’t get to see the glorious view from the top. All we see is more of the rocky path, or we get caught on the brambles hiding in the shadows of the valley. If you are in a valley, the valley of the shadow of death, or the valley of fear, or the valley of anxiety over what’s next, do not be afraid. Christ is with you. He tells us that again and again in His Word. His Words is comfort to us, a light to our path, if we only allow him to lead.


Questions of “are we on the right path?” come up frequently when hiking and in life. But just keep walking through the woods, through the fields, through someone’s backyard, and the payoff will be well worth the effort. In the times of unknowing, just trust that something greater than we can imagine is yet to come.

The glorious picture is painted from on high, where He will take us after our time in the valley is done. Only from the mountain top we can see the view, and we can only get to the top by walking the ways of God.






It’s been 10 years….

Cuddling in BedIt’s been 10 long years of mornings since I discovered Cayden, our firstborn son, dead in his bed at 4 ½ years old. 10 years of tears. 10 years of missing him daily. 10 birthdays, 10 Christmases, 10 Easters, 10 Halloweens, 10 years of life he was not able to live. 10 years I was not able to be his mom. And I loved being Cayden’s mom.

IMG_1238He would be 14 ½ now. That is hard to fathom. I wonder so often what he would be like, what our lives would be like. And interesting enough, it is never very different than what it was then. That is how it works with holoprosencephaly. The kids don’t really have a chance to grow up. Their broken brains and broken bodies betray them, not allowing them a chance to do the things most other kids get to do.

Cayden was a bit different though, on the mild side of the HPE spectrum, and he was making excellent progress. He was getting better at using his speech-to-talk device. He was beginning to add weight from better chewing and swallowing, so he could eat more real, calorie-full food. He was starting to figure out how to race around in his power chair. Cayden was getting stronger in mind and body, and we were excited and encouraged at his almost daily improvements.

I perhaps have been quieter on the blog lately, and in general about Cayden, as people might suppose, as his memory fades. But that is not the case. Actually, I probably talk about him more than ever, as his siblings inquire more and are able to hear more and more of his story. I have an outlet for my broken heart and it is into my other kids. Which is just who needs to hear about him most, I think.

Cayden Power Chair 8:6:07

We all still miss him daily and often discuss what and how our lives would be impacted by his 14 year-old boy self still being here. Would we be able to have the other kids in activities like they are now? Or would our days circle around Cayden’s therapies and programming? Would we still be homeschooling? Would we still be able to be active in the things they like? Maybe, maybe not. But we would have other things we like and enjoy that C could do: a bike ride/power chair ride on the greenway instead of a mountain bike trail, running a 5K with Cayden in a running chair, riding the elevator instead of taking the stairs as we go on our homeschool field trips.

Happy Cayden

Things would certainly be different, but I think that at the core, our family dynamic would still be the same, if Cayden was still alive with us, rather than only here in memory. We often comment that he is with us, in his ever-present butterflies, that follow us around. We make efforts to remember him, and think of what he would like about an outing, or event, or just the chatter at the dinner table, to share him and his glow, and his special wing flap, with his siblings.


I want to get real a minute, for the grieving moms out there, for the HPE moms out there who are so, so scared of the aftermath of death. We miss him, certainly, but the horrible, gut wrenching, never-ending pain can and does fade over time, as it has for us, when faith takes over.


But the guilt, and the what-ifs are always there, if you allow them to be, and if you allow the devil to find a crack in your faith. It is a struggle. It is a HARD struggle. He finds your guilt, your what-ifs and makes it seem as if you could have changed the past, just by one simple act. Just doing XYZ, would make things oh-so-different. Just getting a trach. Just having a night nurse. Just dealing with the beeping of the apnea monitors constantly going off.


I have to force myself to remember that those what-ifs, those choices made, were made in great prayer and great consideration at the time. They were the right choice at the time, and no devil on my shoulder whispering in my ear for years, makes them the wrong choice. Perhaps things would have had a different outcome, but we don’t know that the different outcome would not lead to the same finality of death. It’s in God’s time to call us home, after all.


The thing I think about the most, as time has passed and the most soft spot, the most guilty spot, I have is, “Why did I not even THINK to perform CPR on him?”


I have beaten and battered myself up on this. The devil has laughed and laughed and laughed as I struggle with this. He keeps me down as I think about this, replay that day in my head. He brings it up when I miss him the most, when I’m at peace about Cayden’s passing, or when I’m just sitting around.


But my answer, then and now, was this. “WHY?”

What was there to gain?

In my heart, in that instant of discovery, I knew Cayden was gone.

In my heart, in that instant of discovery, I knew Cayden was better off.

In my heart, in that instant of discovery, I knew it was not what I needed to do.


But the years slowly go by, and I still question myself on this.


My response, then and now, is “WHY NOT?”

The why not lies in Faith.

The why not lies in truth, knowing Cayden is in Heaven.

The why not lies in knowing that Cayden was perfectly healed.

The why not lies in knowing that this was to be his destiny from before he was born. it was just a matter of when.

The why not lies in finally knowing the answer to when.


Cayden had a very broken body. His brain was malformed, in my womb, at the earliest stages of pregnancy, due to a genetic translocation. It was not my fault, nor Joey’s, but a design of his Creator. Not only was his brain malformed, but so were his eyes, his ears, his arms, his toes, his digestive system, and what proved fatal, his airway. In other posts, I share all his specific issues, but we knew Cayden was the owner of a perfectly normal soul in a broken, mixed-up body. We knew Cayden was most likely destined to die young, the doctors said he wouldn’t even make it hours past birth if he made it that far, and we were blessed to parent him for 4 1/2 years.

DSCF1307Cayden was the sweetest, most gentle, most happy kid, for having such a non-responsive body. He loved his mama (for food), loved his daddy (for sleep), loved his sister (for giggles), loved his pets (for soft fur), loved his church (for music). He tried so hard to improve and grow and make progress. He wanted to walk, he wanted to eat, he wanted to talk. And he was working his way towards that. Big, big strides were made in January 2007. We were happy. We were so excited for the future, for better days for Cayden.


So when, in that instant of discovery, I found him lifeless, I knew it was the wrong thing to do, to revive him.


To revive anyone after being without oxygen for a period of time, can cause life-long struggles with brain damage. To revive Cayden, who already had a malfunctioning, partial brain… what would that mean for him?

Regression of all the things he was learning, more frustration, more anger?

Regression of his spirit, trapped even more, in an even more broken body?

Any damage to his fragile brain could have taken away even the most basic skills he was learning, and perhaps truly make him the vegetable the doctors said he would be.


I couldn’t do that to Cayden.

In my mama’s heart, in that instant of discovery, I knew.

I knew Cayden my lame child, was dancing with Jesus.

I knew Cayden my mute child, was praising the Lord.

I knew Cayden my wheelchair bound child, had run right up that path to Heaven.

I knew Cayden my broken child, had been fully healed.

I knew God had answered Cayden’s prayer, and our prayers, and the prayers of many faithful prayer warriors.


God called his name, and Cayden ran.




One more thing…. God has an angel that whispers on my shoulder too. At times of grief, it tells me where to find hope. One such verse I have been given is Psalm 21, for 2/1, the date of Cayden being called home. I’m not sure if I have shared it or not before, but it brings me great comfort from Cayden in times of pain. Sunday, I found it again, and again, it brings me peace. I simply replace the references and pronouns to “the King,” to Cayden.

Psalm 21: 1-6

O Lord, in Your strength Cayden will be glad,

And in Your salvation how greatly Cayden will rejoice!

You have given Cayden his heart’s desire,

And You have not withheld the request of Cayden’s lips. 

For You meet Cayden with the blessings of good things;

You set a crown of fine gold on Cayden’s head. 

Cayden asked life of You,

You gave it to him, 

Length of days forever and ever. 

Cayden’s glory is great through Your salvation,

Splendor and majesty You place upon Cayden. 

For You make Cayden most blessed forever;

You make Cayden joyful with gladness in Your presence. 



And Sunday at worship, we sang Glorious Day by Passion . In moments like this, I hear Cayden reminding me that he is ok, and he is in the presence of God.

I was buried beneath my shame
Who could carry that kind of weight
It was my tomb
Till I met You
I was breathing, but not alive
All my failures I tried to hide
It was my tomb
Till I met You
You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day
You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day
Now Your mercy has saved my soul
Now Your freedom is all I know
The old made new
Jesus, when I met You
You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day
You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day
I needed rescue
My sin was heavy
But chains break at the weight of Your glory
I needed shelter
I was an orphan
But You call me a citizen of heaven
When I was broken
You were my healing
Your love is the air that I’m breathing
I have a future
My eyes are open
You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day
You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day
Songwriters: Sean Curran / Jason Ingram / Jonathan Smith / Kristian Stanfill
Glorious Day (Radio Version) lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Capitol Christian Music Group

I’m Afraid of Repeating History

Reading Galatians with my kids this morning I was struck at how little our world has changed, or learned, or progressed since the time of Jesus and Paul. All our various subjects seemed to align today with a message that I just feel pushed to share.

Paul writes that we must not allow ourselves to become “enslaved to so-called gods that have nothing of the divine about them….For that is exactly what you do when you are intimidated into scrupulously observing all the traditions, taboos and superstitions associated with special days and seasons and years.”  (Gal. 4:8,10 The Message)

A wide range of religions practiced in the past and today have these “scrupulous observance of traditions” do they not? Many government systems, many cultures, now and in the past have tied their people’s hands with tradition, so much so that they cannot see beyond them to the Christ-based truth.

Paul warns the Galatians that “These heretical teachers go to great lengths to flatter you, but their motives are rotten. They want to shut you out of the free world of God’s grace so that you will always depend on them for approval and direction, making them feel important.”

We discussed Communist Russia this week. Through our literature reading and culture studies, we again can see the fear mongering that becomes rampant in a society where suspicion is everywhere and one fears to speak against the political flow for fear they too will be arrested, persecuted or killed. We see a leader’s need for a dependent population, making the public feel that what is being done to them is in their own best interests, when clearly it is not.

Today, we often fear standing firm in our beliefs,  standing up for our right to disagree. We allow ourselves to be intimidated, stifled, silenced, shut down for fear of retaliation or retribution of some sort. I rarely post my political thoughts on social media, for fear of being attacked, laughed at, or beginning a heated debate between my liberal and conservative friends.

How is this living in the freedom Christ promises again and again? How is it living in faith that He protects His people?

I am not an overly political person, nor do I typically follow a  lot of current events. But this week has me scared. Scared for the future for my kids. Scared for the future for our country and our freedom. We cannot blind ourselves and think it is just a war across the ocean anymore; it is changing our lives, bit by bit, as fear creeps into our daily activities and actions, and into the actions of our political leaders.

We are afraid. Afraid to let our guards down and share our true thoughts. Afraid of being compassionate and helping a stranger on the street, or a refugee into the country.  Afraid of letting our kids walk to the bus stop without us. Afraid of leaving the house without a phone in case of emergency. Fear rules our daily choices, it governs our lives. They are winning. Like it or not, we are their slaves.

Paul tells the Galatians (Gal 5:1, 2, 4), Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery (or fear) on you. The moment any one of you submits to… any rule-keeping systems, at that same moment Christ’s hard-won gift of freedom is squandered. I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace.”

Time has not changed this eternal, internal battle. Paul reminds us this by repeating the story of Abraham. One small act by a man tired of waiting for his personal promise from God to come true, still has consequences for my children today, as it has for all the generations from then until now.

The question is, while living in this modern age, an age of repeating history, and age of terrorism and fear, are we able to wait patiently in faith for the promises God has given to each of us? To not get impatient and force his hand by making rash choices and quick decisions? To stand firm in the faith that God has promised good to us, and that He will bring that promise to fruition?

Can our leaders, and all the leaders of the world, take time to think, to study, to learn, (to pray?) on what will be the right move? Can they allow themselves to not be harassed by the media into giving a quick sound bite answer, that they then feel bound to, for fear of looking dishonest? Can they make a choice today, and then confidently decide to change it tomorrow without being raked across the media’s coals? This is serious stuff!

We need to support the leaders, and pray for them, not do our best to tear them down. God sets rulers on the throne (or in the Oval Office). Our job is to support, uphold and pray fervently that they make wise decisions for us– both for right now and for future generations.

Fear gets us nowhere. Hate makes us bitter. The evil ones may have success for a time, but remember folks, we know the ending. It’s right there for all to read in Revelation (& Psalms & Isaiah & really, all over the Bible). 

In case you haven’t read it yet…God wins in the end. 

Can you live in faith, not fear, knowing the outcome? Can I? I believe He has promised good to me, but remembering that in the day-to-day decisions and moments of fear is tough. I work daily at living in faith and in the knowledge of His grace.

I encourage you to read Galatians 4 & 5 as a whole. There is much other to be gleaned from Paul’s words, that I cannot put into words. History repeats itself again and again. This is why we study it, or should. But when we are ignorant to the truth, miss the parallels, and refuse to see the comparisons, we only have ourselves to blame for the outcome.



repeating History




Our History/Lit for 2015-16

I’ve been meaning to share my curriculum choices (and the reasons for choosing them) for this year for a while, but alas, I have been too busy starting school. Or finishing school. Or doing summer school. Not sure what we’ve been doing, but it’s been school this summer for us.

I chose months ago to work with Skylar (5th Grade) on Sonlight’s Core F, Eastern Continents and Cultures, and to add age-appropriate readers and work for Devin (1st Grade). We do the read-alouds together, I add in fun picture books from the library for Devin, and we do some non-fiction reading as a family as well. Skylar does age-appropriate readers on her own, and notebooking pages that come from Sonlight to add some writing and research in the mix.

6 weeks in and (I think) we are all enjoying it. It is challenging to get it all in, especially in our shortened days, and we are only doing a bit of the curriculum so far. I plan to take the next few weeks in slow-mo to get her caught up on her Bible Psalms study and finish up the reading. We have done a few fun projects and have a few more to do before I would call it finished, but for the most part, we are all up-to-speed on Ancient China, with a little bit of modern China life thrown in for good measure.


I chose Sonlight this year because I have this curriculum challenge: We have bounced around so much between curriculums that I couldn’t find one that would hit us where we were in history at the proper grade levels for my kids. My biggest innocent/newbie mistake in homeschool so far is that I haven’t really had a long-range plan. I’ve been trying to find a program within the curriculum spectrum that works for us, but still feel a little bit lost on that regard. I see Core F is a good break. It stops the sequential history cycle by focusing more on cultures than history. After a couple years of in-depth history, my kids were eager to take a break and to try something new. It’s written for a 5th-8th grade student, so we are definitely on the young end, but I’m lightening the reading load and pre-reading all the book choices to be sure I find them appropriate for Skylar to read alone, or for Devin to listen to with us.

I’m loving Sonlight’s Core F book selections for the most part. Some are a bit on the dry side and I’ve tried to cut a few of those out for her.  Some books are a bit on the violent side, but I’m tempering those with discussion on how blessed we are to not be living in a war zone. Some are just WAY too long to even consider me reading them aloud. (Young Fu, ALOUD? Really Sonlight? It’s an excellent book and great for historic China lifestyle but long even to read myself for this speed reading mama.) I have been able to find a few of the read-alouds on e-audio or books on CD so that I can save my sanity.

I have also added regularly scheduled readings from Usborne Book of Peoples of the World, Children Just Like Me, and Children Like Me: Our Favorite Stories, Usborne Stories from Around the World, Around the World Art & Activities & WeeSing Around the World. A few hands-on note booking activities from A Trip Around the World 1 & 2, and Around the World Coloring pages for each country.

Core F add-ons

I’m adding in some FIAR book selections for Devin to read with me, some used book finds to be done FIAR-ish, and a hefty use of library resources, at least one movie per country unit & our year is quite full!

I’ve planned to do about 4-6 weeks per country or region, to shorten the year a little, and to prevent boredom. I find with my kids (and myself) that we really can’t go over the 6 week mark on any given topic before we really start to become stir crazy and bored, so I’ve edited Sonlight’s calendar to fit our families needs. I’m trying to get into the mindset that I rule the curriculum and it doesn’t rule me! I think I do okay with that for the most part. But once I plan it out, it drives me nuts to miss and skip things and I want to get it all in! Letting things planned go is still difficult for me so we’ll see how we do this year, long term.

I’m pleased with how it’s going so far, the kids seem to be enjoying the change from ancient history, and we’re all excited for our trip around the world!





Look Straight Ahead

It’s been a bit of a rough week. We finished our second back to school week (after a long week & even some Saturday school), with more complaints and lectures than I would like for week 2. We haven’t settled into our schedule for this year yet, and its a rough transition from playing all day at the lake to sitting around doing spelling and math!

View East from Camp Skyland

Our Summertime Lakeside view

Week one went ok, but week two, ugh! Let’s just say I have high hopes for weeks 3 & 4! I’m looking forward to trying again, getting in the rhythm, and resetting after the bumpy week we just finished.

I am working hard at placing God in the forefront of our school. Beginning our day with Bible study time and stories has helped. We all start with some God time (and Mom gets a little mom time), and we just seem to start with a better frame of mind.

Honestly, we/I missed Bible time on Thursday because we decided to do a homeschool day at the local heritage museum somewhat last minute. Our day began a bit earlier than usual, and since we were in a rush, I didn’t take time to sit with God. Then I didn’t on Friday, or Saturday.

It makes a difference, y’all! 

I have felt a bit out of sorts. A bit lost. A bit unsure of where I was headed & why.

Now, to be fair it’s been a bit of a rough week emotionally. Friends of ours are watching their son fight through the last phase of an aggressive cancer. As a mom who has lost and grieves a child, my heart hurts. Hurts for them, for their other son, for their friends, for their son’s many many online followers. I hurt for their future, short term and long.

And this week, I’ve been led to read through Job, of all books. (Revisiting the themes of: Our days and months are determined, All life is in His hands, How do we even begin to ask for healing, and How does He destroy someone He has created?)  I’ve been a bit of an emotional mess, trying to maintain normalcy. That might have something to do with our rocky school week, I suppose. I guess maybe I need to have some grace days for mommy’s moods. Add in a few ‘Give myself a break and just feel’ days.

Cayden & Mom, Mother's Day 2005I just so miss my child, and hate for any other family to have to endure that burden. It weighs on my soul. This child is about the same age that Cayden would be if he were still with us. But this child was happy, healthy, normal… until the rare form of cancer attached itself to his neck. His parents have been fighting hard to keep his life more or less normal, to fight the good fight, but sometimes, God has other plans. Not that the end has been written for us to see yet, but it unfortunately seems that the cancer is winning.

From my perspective, I see that they have been blessed with time to share with their son. Time to say a long goodbye. Time to make and do a bucket list. Time to enjoy him one more day. Time that we were not given. It’s a two-sided sword, sudden vs. drawn-out ends.

At C's Balloon release, Miss Jackie shares the meaning of the Heaven Pillow

At C’s Balloon release, Miss Jackie shares the meaning of the Heaven Pillow

We were saved the choices, the mess, the seeing our child get sicker; we were given instead a sudden and unexpected end. No chance to say goodbye. No chance for a bucket list. No holding his hand at the end. Just an end.

Yes, read the bitterness in my voice. It plain out sucks. No one wants to outlive their child. To miss them day-to-day, everyday. I feel for them and their journey. It won’t be easy or smooth, that I know.

Still, I have chosen, in these past 8 years, in the day-to-day of missing my son, to make a  perspective change, and to look straight ahead. To look ahead to our Heavenly reunion, one that will last for an eternity. I hope to have a few more years before I get to that golden city, but that short wait will be nothing compared to the blessing of an eternity to spend with Cayden and our other children who are waiting there for us.

Straight Path in the woodsLooking straight ahead means keeping God’s words in the midst of my heart, for they are life to those who find them and health to all their body. (Prov. 4: 21-22).

Life and health I need, because grief can overwhelm. I know I still have a job to do here. I’m in the process of figuring it out what exactly it is, but the one thing I know is that I need to keep His Word in the forefront of my days, and in the midst of my heart.

Proverbs 4: 25 – 27 says,

Let your eyes look directly ahead

And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. 

Watch the path of your feet

And all your ways will be established;

Do not turn to the right nor to the left; 

Turn your foot from evil. 

Following the path

Looking straight ahead keeps us on the path God has established for us. To watch the path, to follow His ways, we can’t make a wrong turn.

He tells us in Proverbs 3:21-23 that if we

Keep sound wisdom & discretion, 

They will be life to your soul

And adornment to your neck. 

Then you will walk in your way securely

And your foot will not stumble. 

When you lie down, you will not be afraid;

When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. 

I’m writing this at 1:20 in the morning. I was not able to have sweet sleep tonight, and felt a pull to come and open my Bible, since I hadn’t this morning. This post is the result. When I’m walking in the way, my feet stay on the path of their own, His own, I should say, and I have a serenity I can’t explain. When I step off the path, I have rocky days, I stumble, I fall, I can’t sleep.

Keep the path. Look ahead, straight ahead. Eternity is not that far away. Make each day count, because you never know when will be the last day you have with someone you love. Make each day count for eternity’s sake.

Keep your eyes lifted to Him, straight ahead, to His heart.




As I wrote this post, my iTunes  was playing in the background. Somehow it was left on from when the kids were watching apple tv this afternoon. I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off, so I just left it playing. As I was typing Proverbs 4:25-27, this song began to play… Amy Grant, Straight Ahead

Straight ahead, I can see your light

Straight ahead, through the dark

Straight ahead, there’s no left or right

Straight ahead, to Your heart. 

Straight ahead. 

I think this is something God wants me to say!



(Sort-Of) Back-to-School

It’s (sort-of) Back to School Time! What does that mean? you ask. Well, it’s fall, so its full on Back-to-School sales (yay!). It’s back to fall sports (really? Soccer already?!!) It’s time to really be sure I have planned all our fall schoolwork. I’m mostly ready, but have a few things to finish and to account for what schoolwork we’ve done over the summer.

Wait a minute! Summer school? you ask. Yep! We had a super busy April-May and none of us felt like doing school any more. The kids had really mostly finished their math and spelling books, reading and writing were coming along and… well, everything else is in elementary school is just gravy, really, isn’t it?

Sky SwimSo I decided to try a summer school experiment this year, (with the kids’ fully on board). A bit of school here & there, (mostly in June & July). In between quite a few field trips and summer camps. Oh, and don’t forget our daily swim team practices.

Mainly we focused on beginning our history reading, keeping up with Devin’s Hooked on Phonics, working on fun math & some games.  It was light & mostly fluffy as we spent the month doing our unit on China. But, as usual for us, it dragged on beyond it’s scheduled 5-6 weeks, and we are still plodding along with one last reader, a few stories and folk tales, and half a read-aloud to go. Deadlines are hard to manage and stick to at God’s Path School, summer, fall OR winter!

I went with the summer school thing for a couple reasons. First, I just wanted to try it. To see if we could manage a year-round school experience. I found that the kids didn’t seem to mind too bad, as long as I didn’t ask too much of them. My goals were to at least do the first 6 weeks of history, so that during our regular school year we would be a bit less pressured to ‘fit it all in!’ (I’m sure none of you ever feel that pressure!)

(I call it the ‘Git-er-done’ need. The check-the-box need. The must-complete-the-book compulsion. I’m trying to break myself of this feeling, but it is so HARD! I like that box checked, that list ticked off and getting smaller. It makes me feel so HAPPY and so accomplished! )

I digress. The kids didn’t really seem to mind school this summer, but man, this MOM did! I hated having to keep reminding them to do school work before play. To have to sit with them and work while I would much rather have been getting my I’ll-do-it-in-the-summer list accomplished. (Yep! there’s another list again!) I would have much rather been sitting at the pool relaxing while they played, than trying to motivate the kids to read, spell or do math.

It became the school year that never ended. NOT a good thing in my mind, and I’m not sure it was not healthy for Skylar and her distractible tendancy as well. She really struggled with choosing to do school, rather than wiling the days away with her dolls and legos. & I struggled with forcing them to work because it was distracting for me as well! (She doesn’t get the distractibility from a stranger, folks!).

The current state of our schoolroom. Of course the kids wanted to re-arrange again this year, and I'm still trying to finalize choices for curriculum, reorganize and clean!

The state of our schoolroom. Of course the kids wanted to re-arrange again this year, and I’m still trying to finalize choices for curriculum, clean and reorganize!

The main problem for me in trying to school this summer, is that in my changing over from last year’s curriculum, to this year’s stuff, my schoolroom and half my house became a DISASTER. Book piles everywhere, trying to get sorted and organized, to be put in the garage so I know what I have and where to find it for the next time around. Deciding what to sell knowing I won’t use it again, and sorting through all the awesome deals I found at the end of year curriculum sales, that won’t be used for a year or two.

Sorting books in the foyer... at least they are not in the school room, but not where they need to be either!

Sorting books in the foyer… at least they are not in the school room, but not where they need to be either!

My schoolroom is still a mess, but gaining. My foyer is still a book repository, my garage is insane. But we got some of a headstart on history. (hear the load of sarcasm there). I’m pretty sure it wasn’t worth it, but by next spring I may feel differently.

Koala at the zoo

Snoozing Koala at the zoo

But, summer school does have it’s advantages. I like the unstructured learning fun of trips and camps, the learning while doing, the family togetherness. We’ve had a lot of fun adventures even if my to-do list hasn’t gotten shorter. And really, what is life as a parent if you aren’t having adventures, enjoying time with your kids, and being silly?! Learning takes place all over, and though I know our school is not meant to be in the unschooling style all year, I do enjoy the unstructured learning we get in summer.

Holding up the Balancing Rock

Holding up the Balancing Rock

Along with a few books, God’s Path Summer School also consisted of Nature Camp, AHG Camp & Bible Camp, VBS, Trips to the Zoo and Science Centers, Hiking and Camping, and Swim Team. I think we had our fill of extracurriculars!

A few Swim Team Ribbons

A few Swim Team Ribbons

Now we’re taking a break, a mini-vacation of sorts, before the reality of our fall schedule kicks back in, in early September. I realize that keeping a set, more regimented schedule each day works better for my kids. They know what to expect, what comes next, can sit and work in a better mode if we are not trying to “squeeze in” some school. Distractions aside, school works better for us.

Muddy Day at Nature Camp

Muddy Day at Nature Camp

Summer school experiment: I rate it a 5 for getting ahead, a 10 for fun extra stuff. Not sure I like it, not sure I hate it. What do you think? Have you tried Summer School? How does it work for your family?


Creating Critters at Camp Wannacombac

Creating Critters at Camp Wannacombac

Singing at VBS

Singing at VBS

Trip to the Strawberry Farm

Trip to the Strawberry Farm

Back to Nature, Back to God

My kids have been at nature camps all week. When I was planning this week in April I thought it would be a great time to get SO. MUCH. STUFF. DONE! A week of a quiet house with no kids! However, I didn’t take into account the travel time, the short day for my little one & how if I left & went home, that left me only 2 chunks of 2 hours each day. Really not much time to accomplish much of anything besides an empty gas tank.

Cowan's FordAs a result, I decided to have my own nature camp! I stay at the park, walk a while, sit in a quiet spot with my Bible & enjoy studying with the sounds of nature as my background music. Right now I’m hearing birds, wind in the trees, crickets (& some distant traffic & airplane noise to round it out). My to-do list really isn’t getting any shorter, but this time spent in nature has been a much needed repite from the hustle of my never-ending list of daily household and homeschool chores.

My mini nature camp has given me some much needed time to reassess my priorities & remember what I’m trying to do and why. To remember for whom I run ragged & what needs to be done to rebalance my life, renew my heart & refresh my reasons for being.

I’ve been spending some quality time in my Bible, wading through some things as I’ve been studying. I’ll eventually share what I’ve been learning with you, after I process it and focus it a bit more. But the main thing I’ve learned, or perhaps re-discovered, or maybe been reminded of, is simply to put God first. Not just first in my life… no idols, no one above Him… but more importantly to NOT make excuses, to NOT just give Him the leftovers at the end of the day by a quick sleepy nighttime prayer, or a short pre-packaged devotion.

Just as we are robbing God if we choose not to bring the tithe to the storehouse, we are robbing God when we place Him after everything else on our schedule. We are robbing Him of our time, and robbing ourselves of time spent with the Creator! What a waste!

We need to give Him the morning glory, the first fruits of our days, then do our chores or schooling or whatever else comes next.

Psalm 119:97-104 reminds us:

O how I love Your law!

It is my meditation all the day.

Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies,

For they are ever mine.

I have more insight than all my teachers,

For Your testimonies are my meditation.

I understand more than the aged,

Because I have observed Your precepts.

I have restrained my feet from every evil way,

That I may keep Your word

I have not turned aside from Your ordinances,

For You Yourself have taught me.

How sweet are Your words to my taste!

Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

From Your precepts I get understanding;

Therefore I hate every false way.


By giving God the morning time, the open Bible at breakfast, we are actually giving ourselves a gift. It puts His word, His law, His commandments in our hearts where we can ponder it all day. How can we meditate on His word all day if we only open our Bibles in the evening? How can we truly understand it if we only think of it for a few minutes before we fall asleep?

If we only pray before a meal, we aren’t praying continuously. If we only read when we have a few spare quiet moments, we aren’t meditating, we aren’t gaining wisdom or insight or understanding that comes from thinking the Word throughout the day.

I have been motivated, inspired, and filled with a new hope and a new joy these days as I have fed myself God’s honey each morning. I’ve found a new direction that I truly believe is His plan for my future. I am full of anticipation and excitement as I start along this path, knowing it is where He wants me to go.


I hope you will join me as I eagerly take the next step,





A new vision of the son who went ahead…


As the years pass slowly by from the time of Cayden’s passing, my grief has begun to take on a different form. Well, perhaps not my grief, but my imaginings of my son.

Instead of imagining him as he was… wheelchair bound, deaf, and communicating with a computer, I now have lost that image in my mind somewhat.

Now, I see a healthy, tall, handsome, almost 12 year old boy, standing at the top of the stair steps that are my living children. Sometimes I feel his presence as we stand at church, and wish oh-so-much that I had a third hand to hold, a third blond head to pat (now almost as tall as me!) I understand now that the image of Cayden as he was… is slowly becoming Cayden as he is.

In Heaven we are promised perfect bodies. Not bodies that don’t work well. Not arms that twist funny because of mis-shapen elbows. Not ears that can’t hear with out cochlear implants, or a mouth that cannot speak because of muscular weakness.

In Heaven, we are promised perfect bodies. Strong healthy bodies. Bodies we cannot even imagine in their perfection. And if Cayden is in Heaven NOW, then NOW he has that perfect body. He IS that tall, handsome almost 12 year old boy. He IS that loving, gracious son I desperately miss. He IS singing praises to our creator, and hearing the angelic voices rise with his, at the actual foot of HIS throne.

Easter 2007So it makes perfect sense that my image of Cayden has changed. Morphed through time. I don’t imagine him at 12, curled in a wheelchair, with back and hip issues, eating through a tube, and possibly breathing through a trach, like so many of his 12 year old HPE friends. I cannot. That is not MY reality, nor is it Cayden’s reality.

I do remember him as he was… a bright, vivacious loving smiling four year old boy, just as I remember my daughter as she was… an adorable totally cute 2 year old girl, signing to her big brother. That is a lovely memory, but it is just that. A memory. A remembrance of how things were… not a reality of what they have become.

Instead, I have a complex daughter, who misses her big brother at times, and desperately wants him back. A daughter who was a sibling to a special needs child, (a tough job for sure), and has a vague recollection of that, but now she gets to see her mother grieve at strange and unexpected times, and feels it is her place to comfort me. I have a middle child, who was thrust into being the oldest against her will & her personality.

I also have a son, who is mad at the world that he didn’t get to meet his big brother. Who understands the story without a context, without really knowing what life was like back then. Who desperately wants to meet his big brother, but can’t begin to imagine what his life would be like if Cayden were still here.

Last Pics of CAnd I have a memory of a broken boy, who wanted so desperately to walk, to talk, and to run with his sister. Who is now running those fields of grace & streets of gold with the his miscarried siblings he alone gets to enjoy for now.

I look forward to our reunion. To hugging my first born son who is as tall and as strong as sons should be. A young man who is taller than his mom, and who looks after his siblings. God willing, that day will be here someday soon. Until then, I love on the kids I have with me, with so much love it hurts my heart at times.

My burden is sometimes hard to see, yet the image of Cayden is always there. The promise of a better place, a healing we cannot understand, and a future eternal with Christ and those we love.

2 Corinthians 5 :6-10, 17  teaches us that

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord,  for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

My imaginings are Biblical and they are real. They are the new reality I live within. That of missing my son daily, while each year changes the grief. It ebbs and fades, only to come crashing back at times like these. Tonight marks 7 years since I kissed him goodnight for the last time.



Super Fast & Easy Salads!

I love a nice fresh overloaded salad. And I don’t have a fully stocked salad bar in my home. So what’s a Trim Healthy Mom to do?! I found a way to always have fresh salad, without daily chopping, cutting & that time consuming preparation. It’s super fast, super easy & fairly inexpensive (it does not involve opening a pre-cut bag of salad either!)salad supplies for quick & easy salad

I shop at Aldi’s most of the time, so I will use them as an example. Buy a variety of packaged greens. I start with a  large container of Spring Mix, Baby Kale, Baby Arugula, Baby Spinach & 3 hearts of Romaine lettuce. Get whichever of these greens that you enjoy & can easily access. In a large re-sealable container, put a couple handfuls of each type of green in the bowl. Toss gently by hand.

chopped romaine makes a fast salad when mixed with spring mixNext, cut up one romaine heart (Cut it in about 3/4″ strips, then cut about 3x lengthwise to make nice bite-sized pieces.) Add more of each type of greens until your container is full without being packed. With the smaller containers shown, I used all the spring mix, about 1/3 of each of the other greens, and one chopped heart of romaine.

Cut up as much red or white onion as you like, several radishes & maybe some peppers. Add to the blend & mix gently again. Add other vegies if you like, (celery, carrots, green onions, shaved brussel sprouts), but don’t add things that spoil easily when cut like tomatoes, cucumbers, sprouts or mushrooms. This is your salad base. It’s great as is, and will stay fresh & crisp for several days.

Keep the remainder of the greens in their original containers. When the first bin is getting low, add a few more handfuls of each, and add another chopped up heart of romaine. Add a few more onion slices & some more radishes & you’re all set for several more days.

Chef salad: THM SBefore serving, I typically add several slices of cucumbers, some cherry tomatoes or tomato wedges, and possibly some mushrooms. For an S salad, I always add shredded cheese. For a dinner or lunch salad I might add some hard-boiled eggs (pre-boil 6-8 eggs when you have a few minutes one day) along with my lean protein (baked or grilled chicken leftovers, salmon, or deli meats like ham, turkey, roast beef.). I also will add left over steak, barbecue or any other meat that is cooked & in my fridge for a super fast dinner.

Another great satisfying meal is taco meat over salad. Then I’ll add avocado & tomatoes, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream. Chipotle Ranch dressing makes it YUM! Wonderfully satisfying S meal! When I do this, I often make the tacos for the kids, & giant salads for myself & my husband. We all eat basically the same thing & everyone is happy!

IMG_6601Here’s my other big tip for an AWESOME salad. Keep a container full of plan approved salad toppings in a small tote. We have sunflower seeds, walnuts, chia seeds, hemp hearts, bacon bits, craisins and  croutons in a bin. Then on salad days, we just put that bin on the table & everybody tops as their little heart desires. We added lots of yummy goodness by this one simple tip, as we would always forget some of these goodies, or spend half the meal getting up and down chasing after sunflower seeds, or hemp hearts.

IMG_6604Another thing you MUST do! Learn which dressings go with which meal type. I urge you to not spend precious time wondering which salad dressing you can use. Find a few you like & stick to them! If you need to, get a sharpie and put a big E or S or FP on the front of the dressing or the cap so you don’t have to think about it! Then, stock up! I usually use Ranch (chipotle or regular) for S meals & and Olive Garden Light Italian for E meals. My husband likes blue cheese or thousand island for S. If I’m really feeling risky, I’ll use my Ken’s Honey Mustard (but that has sugar so I only occasionally splurge.) Oil & vinegar, or homemade balsamic are great too, but watch the oil, or just call them an S. I have the Walden Farms Ranch, but I find it so thin & tangy that I only use it for FP salad days.

Fast & easy Salad baseThese are my salad making tips. Aren’t they easy?!  The kids like the salads too, especially now that they can quickly throw on the bacon and croutons! Devin actually just likes the toppings (no lettuce yet) particularly cucumbers, carrots, cheese, croutons & sunflower seeds.

I hope this helps you find success in eating more fresh greens & delicious toppings! This really takes the drudgery out of making a salad & I I find that since I have begun this easy process, my salad consumption has gone way up. I eat salad several days for lunch, just grab a few handfuls of the base, add my meat of choice, toppings & dressing & it’s ready in a few minutes. We regularly have side salads for dinner & now I don’t have to spend 30 minutes every night chopping and mixing & prepping! Yay!

Taste & See that the Lord is Good! 


Baked Spaghetti – THM Style

Who doesn’t love spaghetti. Or baked ziti? Or lasagna? I think it is a universally loved taste. Everybody likes that gooey, cheesy, meaty, tomato-ey goodness, in any shape or form.

I bet you think you can’t have it now that you are eating the THM way! You are wrong! You can have that yummy lasagna or baked spaghetti… with absolutely no guilt & even less blood sugar spiking! How? Let me tell you….

Spaghetti SquashSpaghetti squash is the key. You maybe have looked at it many times in the store & never known what it is. It looks a bit like a yellow football. Long, oval, light-lemon-y yellow. You want to pick a large one, especially if you have a large family. If you’re a family of only one or two, you may still want a large one, this dish is THAT good. (This is so good, the last time I made it, my 9yo daughter ate it for breakfast instead of her typical creamcicle smoothie. She loves it that much!).

Sauce IngredientsCreate your meat sauce as you typically would. I use a large can of crushed tomatoes, 2-3 medium sized cans of tomato sauce, a can of tomato paste & equal part water. Sometimes I will add some marsala wine in there for flavor. (Be certain that your canned tomatoes do NOT have added sugar. I buy the organic kind from ALDI, or just check ingredients before you commit. This is key to keeping this meal on plan).

doTerra Basil

If you do use Basil essential oil, even one drop can be too much! Dip a toothpick into the oil & swirl it into the sauce for a great, bright basil flavor.

I simmer my sauce with some typical italian seasonings… salt, pepper, garlic powder, basil, oregano, thyme (lately I use my basil, oregano & thyme doTerra oils).  You could skip this step & just use jar sauce if you are short on time, get 2 jars of pre-made spaghetti sauce, flavor of choice. Just be sure it has no added sugar! Read those labels!

Browned SausageAfter your sauce has simmered for a bit, add your browned meat of choice. I typically use grass-fed lean ground beef, or for a bit of a different flavor, one of those sausage rolls crumbled. Add a pound or two of meat, depending on your preference for meat-i-ness, the size of your family & your hunger!

Spaghetti Squash microwaved

This Squash was much wetter than my normal variety, & it cooked a little too long. It shouldn’t deflate like this!

While your sauce is simmering, cook your spaghetti squash. HOW? you ask. I stick mine whole in the microwave & cook on high in 5 minute increments until it is soft. Flip it over each time you add another 5 minutes. The skin will darken & possibly crack when its good and soft. CAREFULLY take this out of the microwave (use a towel or oven mitt please! It will be very hot!). Allow to cool for several minutes.

When the squash is cool enough to touch, cut it lengthwise in half. Scoop out the seeds & any of the slimy strings with a spoon. Then get a fork and scrape the insides out into a large lasagna sized or casserole sized dish (something around 9×13). The strings will be about 6-8″ long which is a nice size for spaghetti. Break them up as much as you can without breaking the strands.

Spag. squash with meat & ricottaMix in the meat and ricotta cheese if you are using that. (Today I didn’t put the sausage in the sauce because my sauce pan was too full!) Mix in the sauce mixture, a little at a time. Be gentle here, folks, the squash is somewhat delicate. Mix until your spaghetti is well coated with sauce. Not enough sauce? Add some more!

Now is the fun. For the simplest version, sprinkle some low fat mozzarella cheese on top, throw in the oven for 20-30 minutes to melt the cheese & heat the sauce up to bubbling, & serve.

For a bit more OOMPH, add a cup or two of ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, steamed spinach, and/or more mozzarella into the mix. Maybe your family likes diced peppers.. add some in! or mushrooms, or onions. Make it your own! Add your favorites, mix them in gently, then sprinkle your cheese on top & warm in the oven. If you’re really in a hurry, the additional baking is not necessary if everything is hot & ready. Just serve it like spaghetti & plop it on the plate! 

You can make this ahead, just like a lasagna, & just reheat when you want to eat it. I have not frozen it, and probably wouldn’t recommend that, because I think the wetness of the squash would create a bit of a mess when frozen. But make it in the morning for dinner, or for the next day would work fine.

Baked spaghetti SquashMy family devours this main dish. I make a huge salad to go along side (choose your dressings carefully!). It actually can range from a FP to an S, depending on what add-ins you use, how lean your meat is, & how much you eat! My diabetic husband eats a plate or two full of it an has no noticeable blood sugar spike. That is amazing for him!

It’s easy, delicious & a super replacement for everybody’s go-to meal. Even the picky eating kids don’t mind the texture, LOVE the taste & beg for me to make it more often. Get that funny yellow football squash off your counter & into your bellies! You will thank me for this one!

Taste & see that the Lord is Good! 



Depending on your meat & how much cheese you add, this meal can be either an S (with sausage, and lots of cheese) or a FP (with lean drained beef and a light hand of low fat mozzarella.) Just don’t eat too much or your FP will spill over into the E category from the carbs in the tomato sauce.

Tomorrow, I’ll share my super quick way to always have fresh salad on hand… without chopping lettuce for every meal!