WFMW: Vaccinations

It’s been awhile since I did a Works For Me Wednesday post.  Now it’s nap time on a not-so-crazy day and I thought it would be fun to do one again.  Did your hackles go up when you read the title? Just smooth them back down again, take a deep breath, and b l o w it out.  There.  I’m not going into theory.  I’m not going to argue.  And you know what? I’d rather you wouldn’t either.  I’m a bit of a middle of the road person on this one and for all I know, my views could still be evolving.  Goodness knows I’ve changed gears a lot in these eleven years of being a mom.

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As you know, we’ve had a lot of food allergy issues in our family.  I don’t know the cause, but I’m on a mission to increase our health and decrease our toxicity level.  I have an aunt with six grown children.  The first four were vaccinated on schedule and had lots of digestive issues.  The last two she didn’t vaccinate until they were six and there were no digestive issues.  Is this proof of cause and effect? Not necessarily, but it did make me curious whether our family has a particular sensitivity?

There are so many things that can contribute to an unhealthy digestive system … even simple things like tylenol and ibuprofen or antibiotics.  It feels as though there is often a snowball effect.  I am only one mom with three kids and an opinion, not an expert studying scientifically reviewed studies.  But for our family, it felt as though minimizing antibiotics and tylenol, and insecticides and vaccinations and increasing healthy foods and probiotics could be a good start.  I still wanted to vaccinate, but on a slightly less intense schedule.  When Zara was born I looked around a bit and decided on this one.  I’m sharing in case you are looking for one, too.

Happy, healthy Wednesday!

It’s that Plexus Talk Again

If you’re one of those super healthy people with a stainless steel immune system who never suffers from high blood pressure, blood sugar issues, low energy, eczema, allergies, anxiety, depression, or autoimmune disorders, we’ll chat another day. :)  Because, yep, I’m going to talk about Plexus again.

I know that some of you have questions because some of you are brave enough to email me and I bet the rest of you want answers as much as they do. :) So I thought we’d just pretend we get to have coffee together and I’ll try to explain some of it the best I can. If I don’t get to your question, you can leave it in the comments section or email me personally. Seriously. I don’t mind.

I keep hearing about Plexus. How does it help?

Plexus Slim is a natural, plant-based product that helps to control your blood sugar. So many of us are suffering from dips and spikes that leave us feeling irritable at best and in pain at worst.  We’ve known sugar is a problem for a long time.  I’ve watched in denial for years, listening as a friend went off sugar and stopped having knee pain.  Listening again as my cousin put her daughter on a low glycemic index diet for absence seizures and watched her daughter go medicine AND seizure free. I mean, even Adam started talking to me about sugar when he started reading National Geographic.  So much for maintaining denial in this household.

The long answer: Plexus Slim is a drink mix that was originally designed to help people with diabetes regulate their blood sugar.  When it was being tested, they noticed that all the subjects also lost weight and had significant improvements in other areas of health.  Plexus Slim also supported lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and weight loss! Plexus Slim contains all natural plant extracts mixed with stevia for sweetness, pomegranate extract for flavor, and beet extract for color.  I love that happy pink color!

Here is a quick breakdown of the proprietary blend of ingredients:

Chlorogenic Acid is an antioxidant which inhibits glycogenisis (the way your body breaks down glycogen into glucose, or blood sugar). This encourages your body to get its energy from fat cells.

Garcinia Cambogia is a fruit extract.  It is thought to stop the creation of of an enzyme called citrate lyase.  Citrate lyase converts extra carbs to fats, something most of us don’t want happening in our bodies.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid is an antioxidant naturally produced in the body to turn glucose into energy.  In several studies, it appears to help lower blood sugar levels.  It’s ability to help kill free radicals may help people with diabetic peripheral neuropathy or those who have pain, burning, itching, tingling and numbness from nerve damage.

But how does that help someone with all these different illnesses?  

Great question.  Sugar acts like an inflammatory agent in our bodies.  It’s also important to know that insulin is like the master hormone in our bodies and other hormones respond in relation to insulin.  So when our blood sugar stays stable, our bodies can run much more smoothly.  This equates less inflammation (good news for those with pain and auto immune disorders).  And the stable sugar / insulin levels allow other hormones to fall into line.

Scientists are finding out that our gut does so much more than only digest our pizza.  In fact, they are discovering that 90-95% of our serotonin is created in our gut! Doesn’t this make so much sense for why people with Plexus are discovering they don’t need their antidepressants anymore?!!! Healthy gut = healthy brain!

Why would I want to take Plexus Slim?

: to help lower your blood pressure

: to help stabilize your blood sugar whether you are diabetic or prediabetic

: to help support your thyroid

: to help with adrenal fatigue

: to help you sleep better

: to help with anxiety

: to help you lose weight

: to help with depression

: to give you energy during the day

: to help lower your blood cholesterol

Recently a testimonial popped up about someone’s vision improving! Did you know your vision can fluctuate with your blood sugar? I didn’t either until I went for a laser evaluation and my vision was actually fine! I was having trouble because I no longer needed my glasses (thank you, pregnancy)! “Unless it’s just because of your blood sugar,” the doctor cautioned as I was ready to waltz out the door!

The BioCleanse is chock full of magnesium. Most of us are deficient in magnesium thanks to our modern diets.  Even with a diet rich in vegetables we’re probably deficient because our soil isn’t sustained the way it used to be.  Magnesium has been linked to helping with inflammation and especially with helping to reduce blood pressure. But did you also know it can help to stabilize blood sugars? Or help with asthma?

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The ProBio has five powerful probiotics, digestive enzymes, and grapeseed extract which work to reduce yeast in your body and help digestion.  Remember that healthy gut = healthy brain connection from above? Cha ching! This and the X factor have been the star players in Liam’s healing from food allergies! You can read more of our story here.

These three products are often known as the triplex because of the powerful way they work in tandem.  Slim maintains your blood sugar so the yeast can’t get so happy, happy, happy.  ProBio roots out yeast (did you know it actually roots into your gut lining? The nerve!) and BioCleanse flushes it out of your system.  I like the Fab Four which includes the X Factor.

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Does it work?

YES! Does it ever! The stories that keep coming in are flat out amazing!  Lyme patients, people with high blood pressure, diabetics, people with high cholesterol, children with attention / hyperactivity disorders, people with seasonal allergies, people with dietary allergies.  The list goes on and on.  My favorite stories are the ones linked with lab results and especially the ones where patients have their doctors calling them and saying, “I think I want to take this, too!”  Here is a recent story from Rachel Weaver, author of Be Your Own Doctor.  Honestly, this one just blew me out of the water! We saw end stage kidney failure patients in the CCU where I worked and it always felt like such a sad, hopeless story.

Rachel says, “After only 5 weeks on Tri-plex, block and x-factor, I am thrilled.

This is saying a lot because I drag my feet on MMM things and stuff like this. I like herbs and simple things but I was feeling rotten.

I am in end stage kidney failure, refusing dialysis and going natural, determined to heal my kidneys if it could be done. I have gained kidney function from 12% to 15% but was beginning to slide backwards.

Because of the toxicity of my body- kidneys not doing their job, I had begun to have serious yeast problems, brain fog, extreme weakness and well, lots of other problems. I was asking the Lord for answers – if there were any for me. Enter- PLEXUS.

For me the results have been astounding.

Immediate blood sugar stablization

Brain fog lifted

Smiling and singing again

Enough energy to get off the couch and walk- even a mile, when I could barely walk to the end of our short driveway before collapsing.

But to top it off- 4 weeks into it I took my monthly blood work and my kidney function had gone from 15% – 18.5%. Folks, this has not happened before and I can hardly wait to take my test this month and see if it has gone farther.

At any rate- I will be helping some of my children and friends with this product and hoping that they see the changes I am seeing.”

I couldn’t be happier for her!!

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What should I take?
This is best answered individually!  I’d love to talk with you about what might work best for you!

It’s called Plexus Slim. Will I lose weight?

Maybe.  Natural products are not allowed to make any claims for healing.  About the only thing they are allowed to market is weight loss, hence the name.  It was first designed for diabetics and when so many other good results started happening, they wanted to share it with more people because they wanted others to experience wellness.  Slim helps to reduce the vicious sugar craving so if it helps you to make healthier options, then yes, you will probably lose weight! And if underlying health issues are keeping you from losing weight (even the ones you don’t know about), you will probably lose weight as your body heals.  But it is also true that people who have been very underweight took the triplex and actually gained weight because their body was healthier!  Many people do lose weight, yes, but the bigger answer is, Plexus will help you toward health.  People often lose inches before they lose pounds and I’m living proof that cellulite shrinks, even at thirty-seven. ;)

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I also love the X Factor vitamin because it contains aloe.  I love aloe for digestive health! It’s thought to make your gut lining slippery for less leaky gut which in turn means fewer undigested food particles enter your blood stream for fewer allergic reactions.  According to the Mayo Clinic, aloe is helpful for psoriasis and there are very preliminary findings that it may help with lung cancer.   The chewable version is a nice children’s vitamin but doesn’t include aloe so I opened the capsules into yogurt for Liam until he started swallowing pills.

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The Body Cream is one of my new favorites.  I’ve used a few over the counter facial moisturizers as well as one from Mary Kay and Amway and liked them all for different reasons.  But I’m loving the Body Cream because I know I’m not putting any harmful chemicals on my skin and one of my biggest sun spots is starting to fade! We also used it after our first day at the lake when Liam and Zara came home from the lake with mild sunburns in spite of repeat applications of SPF 30 and 50 thanks to his doxycycline and her super fair skin.  The redness went away so quickly and they never peeled or even complained of it hurting! I also used it on Adam when he got into poison ivy. Two applications later he wasn’t even scratching! David and the boys are working on taking off our old decking.  Adam was trying to take off one of the top rails, missed, and hit himself in the forehead instead! He had a HUGE goose egg instantly.  I put body cream on it after a few minutes of ice.  That night it was half the size! I put another application on and it disappeared completely by morning!

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I want this for me, too! How do I get it?

It’s so easy! You can order a product retail if you just want to try it.  Or if you sign up as a preferred customer, you will get a small discount on the products and Plexus will automatically ship the products to you every month! You don’t even need to remember to order!

Better yet, you can sign up to be an ambassador and order at the wholesale price plus get a wonderful business opportunity! I’d love to coach you through this if you are interested!  Normally the cost to sign up is $34.95 but this weekend it is half price!!!  Now is your time!

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Want to talk? Email me at smilesbymiles[at]gmail[dot]com

Want to order? Right here!

Miracles Still Happen

We are absolutely thrilled.

Zara sailed through her MRI with no adverse results to the general anesthesia or the contrast dye.

But even better? Her MRI was completely clear!

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Some days I still can hardly believe it.  Her reflexes are completely symmetrical and aside from some low muscle tone issues, she’s checking out completely on target.

They really have no answers for what exactly was going on or why it happened.  In their minds it was simply stereotypies (pronounced “stare ee ot u peez”) which is a muscular movement that looks like a seizure but isn’t.  It sounds like one of those ambiguous syndrome type terms doctors use when they have no idea what is going on but they can’t find anything specific.  ;)  At any rate, kids usually grow out of them and they are completely benign.  They have no idea what causes them or what makes them eventually go away.

Maybe it’s true.

But I still wonder.  Would stereotypies have caused a child to stop rolling? And even more, would they have caused a child to start fisting with her left hand so much so that she would crawl into a room, plop that fisted hand in her lap and play with the other?  Would they have made her weak on her left side and caused increased reflexes on that side?  Would they have made her need to learn that her left side is there when she was learning to walk or playing with her hands when she previously had no issues?

We’ll never know.  But I think she had more than stereotypies going on and God healed her.  Then again, I’m just the mom with a boatload of faith; not the one with the neurology degree.

It really doesn’t matter.  Because either way, we get to stop worrying about what’s going on inside her little cranium!

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No matter what happened, I knew I would still know God is good.  We had a lot of dialogue going on, He and I, in the days leading up to Zara’s last checkup.  So many questions. So many emotions to give to Him.  Today I am overflowing with so much thankfulness for this miraculous gift of health He has given our baby girl!

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I would also like to give a huge shout out to the team at Johns Hopkins for the incredible treatment we received from the day I first called them to the day they said we could follow up with her pediatrician.  The hospital is absolutely eNORmous, but we were always treated with the utmost courtesy and respect from people who showed us which direction to go (and often took us part or all of the way there) to neurologists who called or emailed us directly.  I loved that at her follow ups the neurologist herself was the person to come out to the waiting room to get us.  It felt so personable to see doctors come out and greet their patients and chat with them for a minute.  I also loved that anesthesia let me go with Zara while they put her to sleep.  Zara was super stressed the day of her MRI (she has white coat syndrome all the way by now). Not only did anesthesia offer to premedicate her, she insisted the nurse let me administer the medication rather than make Zara even more upset.  And then they let me walk her back to the room and hold her while they put her to sleep.  A quick kiss and I was out the door so they could intubate her.  Only a few minutes and I’m sure Zara wouldn’t have remembered them forever but I know she would have been TERRIFIED to be taken from me and I would have cried my eyes out to watch it happen.  I love that modern medicine has made such enormous strides toward finding cures for so many things; and I am equally happy that medical practitioners have made such enormous strides in taking care of patients and family’s emotional needs.  Johns Hopkins, you are pretty amazing!

Moments of Perfection in the Middle of an Imperfect World

Do you ever have those moments where you just want to make the world stop rotating on it’s axis because everything feels so perfect?  Life is so short and moments like that are so fleeting you barely dare to blink so you don’t miss them.

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I’ve been trying to learn to savor without grasping.

To look forward to without becoming entitled.

But mostly, I’m still learning how to be more intentional.  To listen to the whippoorwill (why, oh why can’t they mate all summer so I can listen to them?). To watch the curtains blow in the breeze.  To see the light change from the glow of morning to bright noon and back to pink in the evening.  To smell stinky baby feet when I take off Zara’s shoes and socks and listen to her erupt in giggles, crinkle up her nose and beg for more.  To see beyond the noise and dirt and see the sheer happiness of boys creating enormous tunnels and hills and roads in the garden.

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It feels way too easy to get caught up in my own little rotation.  Laundry. Cook. Clean. Pack suitcases. Repeat.  Traveling pretty much every week for 2 and half months will do that to you. (I’m quite sure the next time someone asks if I’m a stay at home Mom I’m going to change that to Mobile Mom.)  But life doesn’t have to control us, even when a planned full of fun schedule gets overloaded thanks to a totaled van, insurance calls, car shopping, and doctor visits.  Sometimes we need to be a little less rigid and a little more like this.

We’ve had so many perfect moments this Spring.  So many, many things to be grateful for.

Things like friends who come hang out with us for a weekend.  Seriously, who gets to hang out with out of town friends on their birthday?

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These girls have been such a gift of friendship for so many years! No matter how long we’ve been apart, it feels like minutes because our hearts beat so much the same.  Fun, funny, and passionate about living life the way Jesus wants them to live …. oh, how I love them.

Things like clear answered prayers and renters for our house in Virginia after nearly two months of silence and an empty house and wondering if we were reading God wrong.  We feel so, so blessed that not only have we been given renters again, both times we’ve been given such amazing renters.  People with integrity and who care well for our home while we are away.  David and I had fun doing some work around the house to get it ready and the boys had a blast playing with cousins again.

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[Don’t you just want to squeeze them??]

There were three beautiful weddings to photograph, an evening at the river taking family pictures with David’s family, and a relaxing day with my Mom while David testified at a custody hearing.

There were hours and hours of planning, cooking, prayers and creating decor for staff retreat and the goosebump way specific prayers were answered that weekend.  I may or may not have been emotionally spent by the time the weekend was over.  We loved every minute of getting ready and felt strongly that God would work powerfully through that time.  Sometimes I think my faith is getting stronger until I am blown away by the way He answers and I realize I didn’t fully believe or I wouldn’t have been surprised.  I am learning more and more how incredibly powerful prayer is.

There were birthdays celebrated and milestones reached.

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AND there was the first regular cake for Liam in SIX YEARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Seriously, people.  Plexus works!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Liam has been on the Plexus probiotic and the X factor (a multivitamin with aloe which is so helpful for digestive issues) for three months and he is able to tolerate sooooooo many more foods.  We were gone for three days while David represented camp at a homeschool convention and I did not pack one single food item for Liam!!!!! (Do you have any idea how much easier it is to go away for a weekend when you don’t have to think through and pack food?)  While I wouldn’t want him eating large portions of gluten three meals a day every day for days on end, I rarely limit his intake on anything except for peanut because we’re not touching that until an allergist says it’s safe.  There are no more “my tummy hurts,” and no more emotional meltdowns because he doesn’t feel well.  And best of all, I love to see the look in his eyes when he says “May I eat this?” and I know I can say sure because he’s going to be fine!!!  I am so excited to see his gut getting so much stronger and healthier!! (You can read more of our Plexus story here or go here to buy products for yourself. Or if you want to talk more, I’d love to chat! You can email me at smilesbymiles[at]gmail[dot]com.)

There have been so many good moments, yes.  But it’s almost summer.  And somehow, I have a feeling the best is yet to come.  What happiness has been happening in your life recently? I’d love to hear some “sunshine thoughts” as my friend calls them. :)

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Zara’s Visit with Neurology

Zara’s appointments last week went well.  I warned the EEG tech that it likely wasn’t going to be pretty.  He sized her up and said with a smile, “We are not making history today.  I’ve been doing this for twenty-eight years and I’ve only had one person I couldn’t scan.  An adult-sized twelve year old who threw an absolute fit and it was the dad who gave up, not me.” :)  Zara cried, of course, but more in a resigned kind of wailing than angry screaming and flailing.  He let me hold her and sing to her which helped … maybe me more than her, who knows. And then we sat on the bed and tried very hard to keep her holding still for thirty minutes.  Have you ever done that with a thirteen month old? They move a lot.

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Her EEG was clear, thankfully.

But still we got no answers.  They can’t tell us she’s having seizures, but they also can’t tell us she isn’t.  Her neurologist felt like it was time to go ahead with the MRI and put the order in saying it often takes two weeks to get it rolling because of the general anesthesia required.

We walked out not knowing what to think.  It’s an odd feeling to have no definite answers.  Less than a week later radiology called to set up her appointment and took me off guard.  I thought we had another week to muddle, you know.

Her doctor is so incredibly patient with us and answered all my questions on the phone yet again.

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The short version is that Zara’s fisting has tipped the scales on the risk benefit ratio and it’s time to move forward.  She’s pulling her thumb inside her left fist more than she did even two months ago and while “there is probably no behavior that is absolutely never benign in certain cases, this type of fisting is typically associated with neurologic damage.” There are three possible causes.  Something similar to a stroke while she was in utero or at birth or shortly after. A small portion of her brain that didn’t develop completely.  In either of those cases, we wouldn’t necessarily need intervention, but we’d know causation and could take care of things as they arise.  The third possibility is a slow growing brain tumor.  They feel it’s unlikely since often tumors are associated with spikey baseline changes on EEG, but it is the cause they feel needs to be ruled out completely.

I’m relieved, knowing we’re about to get a definitive answer; and, of course, hoping desperately for a completely clear MRI.  I’m also carrying a knot in the bottom of my stomach at the thought of general anesthesia and contrast dye in our baby who already sports so many food allergies and pops hives every few days. But more than that, the niggling little what if desperately tries to make himself at home in my mind.

They say that worry only robs today of it’s joy and it’s true.  But I’m also discovering that a tiny bit of fear can heighten one’s awareness of joy.  We don’t know tomorrow, but the not knowing makes me so much more aware of the miracle of today.

Today there are baby feet pattering across the floor, noisy beggings for cookies, small arms wrapped tightly around my neck, eyelashes drifting shut.

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In reality, no one is guaranteed tomorrow; but we’ve all been given today.  And today? Today is perfect even in all it’s messy crumbs on the floor glory.  Today is perfect because God gave it.  I think He wants us to live freely and fully, not in spite of the questions or in denial of the questions, but in the very question itself.  So here’s to embracing life with all it’s question marks … to tears when it’s frightening, to spontaneous laughter, to deep love and fierce hugs …. here’s to the reality of life and the supernatural presence of God.

WFMW: Vanilla Crumb Pie

Ever find out last minute you’ve got guests coming for dinner and the store is too far away for you to conveniently get there in time and cook dinner?

Well, tada, here’s a dessert you’re almost guaranteed to have ingredients for already in stock.  Unless you’re a couple of steps healthier than I am and you’ve eliminated corn syrup from your diet completely. ;)  This is my aunt Katy’s fabulous recipe.  It always turns out, even if you aren’t experienced at making pies.  And, oh, is it ever fabulous with a cup of coffee.

For the filling:

1/2 c. brown sugar

1/4 c. dark Karo

1/4 c. light Karo

2 T. flour (heaping)

1 tsp. vanilla

1 egg

1 c. water

For the crumbs:

1/4 c. white sugar

1/4 c. brown sugar

1 c. flour

1/2 t. soda

1/4 c. butter

Cook until thick.  Let cool.  Pour into an unbaked pie crust.  Top with crumb mixture.  Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes.

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I didn’t realize this was such an old-fashioned recipe until recently when everyone started talking about how their grandma used to make it.  But it makes perfect sense because all the ingredients are things people would have kept in their pantry years ago.  It may be old-fashioned, but it’s still a crowd pleaser!

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Zara is scheduled to follow up with her neurologist tomorrow.  Because her spasms were lessening significantly in frequency we were hoping we might be able to cancel follow up.  Then in March she caught a virus, spiked a fever of 103.9 and had eight spasms in fewer than five minutes.  For the next few days she had a difficult time walking because she couldn’t keep her balance.  She’s also been fisting a lot more, something that had slowly been disappearing since she’s walking.  Unfortunately, she is now also sometimes doing it while sleeping.  After speaking with her doctor about these and a few other things, they would like to both see her and do another EEG.  Depending on the results of that and her physical exam they may proceed with an MRI.

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Will you pray with us?

For grace during the EEG.  Zara hates them, especially the process of being hooked up.

That it would show clear results of what is going on.

That our hearts would stay at peace and that her doctors would be anointed with divine wisdom about what is going on with her.

And most of all, we are still praying for miraculous healing.

The same God who created the world holds our hearts and our baby in His trustworthy hands.

Amazing Grace

I’ve been reading through Matthew the last while and loved that my reading serendipitously correlated with Easter.  Sometimes the stories we love best are so familiar it’s easy to just read over them, the familiar words a gentle cadence.

But this time when I got to verse 3 of Matthew 27 I was stopped short by how horrified Judas was when he realized Jesus was about to be condemned.  I can’t even imagine how stricken he must have felt.

It’s easy to think of Judas as the bad guy.  We don’t read a lot about him.  He’s not outspoken like Peter.  Not a super close friend like John.

But hardly was he some evil monster or he wouldn’t have been called to be one of the twelve.

Judas heard the the quiet call of an itinerant preacher and followed.

He was sent out with the other eleven to preach and heal and cast out devils.

Judas wasn’t evil, but he had a sin nature.  Just like you and I do.

He sinned. Once in particular.  His love for money grew bigger than his love for Jesus.

In a moment, he sold Jesus for thirty measly pieces of silver. The Jesus he loved (just not as much as money).  The Jesus he has followed and learned from.  He’s watched Jesus feed the five thousand and escape from angry mobs.

Maybe he thought he could have Jesus and money, too.  Maybe he thought he could be Jesus’ friend and simultaneously betray him behind his back without repercussions.  Could he really have watched Jesus talk to the woman at the well about her husbands and thought that Jesus would assume the chief priests plotted again on their own?

What went through his mind we don’t know.  But it’s so clear he didn’t think he was committing Jesus to die.

One sin.

One night of selling your soul.

Lord Jesus, have mercy on us all.

Because haven’t we all been Judas? Haven’t we all loved something more than we loved Jesus at some point?

How can we fathom this God of redemption who works through evil to bring forth good?

How can we fathom this God of mercy who still reaches down to people, takes their hand and lifts them up to make them whole?

How can we fathom a God who hears the dying words of a hardened criminal on the cross and whispers gentle words of complete forgiveness?

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We are completely undone, yet completely immersed in His glory.

We are broken beings turned into shimmering mosaics of His beauty.

We are wretchedly unworthy, made messengers of His grace.

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We are His.




All because of His amazing grace.

WFMW: Cinch Sack Tutorial

For our craft exchange at Allegany Boys Camp last Christmas, I made a backpack style cinch sack.  It reminded me of one of those easy sewing projects that would have been so much fun as a girl learning to sew.

I thought it would be fun to write a little tutorial with pictures.  If you’re an experienced seamstress, you can skim this article once and head off to your little sewing corner.  But I thought it would be fun to do a spelled out version in case there are any twelve year old girls out there just itching to sew a project on their own!

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You will need:

1/2 yard of fabric

1 – 7″x10″ piece of a coordinating fabric

2 – 2 1/4″ x 60″ strips of a coordinating fabric (I used the same for my pocket and strips but you could use three fabrics)

embellishments if you want them

ability to measure, cut, sew straight seams and buttonholes


To get started, cut 2 large rectangles 16″ x 18″ of the main fabric.

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Cut the pocket and the strings.  You can splice fabric if your fabric isn’t wide enough.  Mine was 45″ wide so I had to splice.  To make a splice, line the edges up and sew a seam.

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Fold it open and iron it flat.  Most times in a bigger piece you would want to make sure the pattern matches up evenly.  For something this small, I didn’t bother matching.  I figure most people aren’t going to be giving strings the eyeball to make sure all the polka dots look exactly the same. :)

To make the strings, iron the strips in half to create a crease down the center the long way.

Next, open it and iron one side into the middle to line up at the crease.

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Then fold the other side into the middle and iron it, too.  This was the hardest part of the project because I kept burning my fingers with steam from the iron! Watch your fingers. :)

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Sew close to the edge of the strip where the two folds come together. You can either move your needle alignment if your machine lets you do that or just feed the edge of the strip in as I did.  This will make a sturdy strap for your backpack.

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The strips should be about 60″ long.  Cut a 3 1/2″ piece off each long strip to use at the bottom of the pack.

Now take the 7″ x 10″ piece of fabric and fold it in half the long way with the right sides of the fabric facing in.

cinch sack tutorial (7 of 41)Sew along the raw edges at the sides, but not at the bottom.

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Flip the pocket right side out. Be sure to use something (you can even use the eraser side of a pencil) to push those corners out nice and tight. Press the edges lightly.

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cinch sack tutorial (11 of 41)Serge the remaining raw edges together. If you want to embellish the pocket, add whatever you choose now.  You could add lace, ribbon, buttons, or even a fabric flower depending on what fabrics you chose.

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I decided I liked this pink ribbon, but it seemed a little wide so I chose to sew it in half to narrow it before adding it to the pocket.

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It’s easy to play around with options by laying the pocket on the fabric and then embellishments on top so you can see what it would like.  It’s much harder to sew something on and decide you don’t like it so play all you like, then stitch. :)

Once you decide where you want something, mark where it should go with a fabric pen.  I put mine 1/2″ down from the top of the pocket.  Line the ribbon up (this is where a particular seamstress would pin in place, but I’m a bit of a wing it girl so I just make marks and line it up with my fingers as I go) and stitch it in place along the top and bottom of the ribbon. If you’ve been using white thread, you will want to change the thread color to match the ribbon.

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You can fold it in under the pocket so the edges are neatly finished.

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I considered adding a ribbon bow, but decided against it. I still think a button would have been cute, but I didn’t have one on hand that worked so I skipped it.  But the sky is the limit when it comes to personalizing your own project.

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After you’re satisfied with what the pocket will look like, draw a line 6″ up from the bottom of the main piece of fabric.  Find the middle of the fabric and the middle of the pocket. Place the serged edge of the pocket along the line you just drew, matching the middle markings, and pin it in place (or wing it if you’re like me). Then sew close to the edge of the pocket.  I tried to sew just below the serger stitching.

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Now flip the pocket up into position and press.  This time you really should pin it, even if you tend to wing it. :) You don’t want the pocket to shift sideways while you’re sewing.

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Top stitch the sides of the pocket to the fabric.  I prefer starting from the bottom of the pocket on both sides to keep the fabric from bunching as I sew.

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Since I was donating this bag to a fundraiser for camp, I left the pocket like this.  If I would have been making it for myself, I would have topstitched a line to divide the pocket so that one side would fit my cell phone.  I think this bag is perfect for a book, snack and water bottle for a day at the lake and I love to have my cell phone on the outside where it’s easy to get to.

When you’re happy with the pocket, pick up the little 3 1/2″ tabs you cut from the long strips earlier, fold them in half, and sew them onto the other rectangle.  Measure up  3″ from the bottom of the fabric and stitch them to the right side of the fabric.  Just a little tip for neatness.  If the top stitched edge of your tab is toward the bottom of the bag, be sure to do the other one the same way.  It might be kind of like splicing straps and no one will notice.  But it’s such an easy thing to do and it does look more professional when it’s finished.

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The two rectangles should now look like this. Front and back.

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Serge all around the edges of both rectangles.

Now place right sides together and PIN! See, I do pin sometimes. :)

Sew around the sides and the bottom of the bag, but not the top!

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Now we’re going to give the bag a flat bottom.  Lay the bag down and separate the front and back from each other at the corner to make a triangle.  Be sure the side seam and bottom seam are matching (you can feel it through the fabric) so that you have an even triangle.  Then mark a straight line across the corner.  I made mine 3 3/4″.

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Pin it in place (or hold it very, very carefully) and sew right along that line being careful that the little tabs you sewed on earlier are not caught in the triangle.  Do this on both sides.  The bag should look like it has bunny ears. :)

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cinch sack tutorial (33 of 41)Cut off the extra fabric and serge the edges.

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Turn the bag right side out.  Isn’t that cool? We’re almost done.

Now sew two button holes on the back piece of fabric as close to the side seam as you can reasonably do.  Make a 1″ button hole starting 1 3/4″ down from the top of the fabric. This will create the openings for the strings to go through the casing.

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Fold the top edge of the bag down 1 1/2″ and press.  Sew along the edge all the way around the bag.

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Now you’re ready to thread the strings through.  I used a safety pin, but some of you may have a better tool.  Feed the strap the entire way around the bag, bypassing the buttonhole on the other side and exiting out the button hole you entered.

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Now repeat the process with the other string using the other buttonhole.  You’ll have to push the first string to the side a bit as you wiggle past that first buttonhole with the second string.

Loop one strap on each side through the tabs at the bottom of the bag and tie a knot.

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If the strings are too long, you can trim off some excess first.  Just remember that it’s much easier to cut some off than it is to splice another piece back on (how would I know?) so make sure you’re happy with the measurement when the bag is open and cinched. :)

And you’re finished!

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You could use it for school books or a sleepover with friends.  Or maybe you just need something to carry your Bible and journal to the coffeeshop.

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If you try it I’d love to hear how it went. Even better, you could send me a picture of your finished bag. :)


Boy Quotes

In early fall, I’d been hearing dire predictions that 2014-15 will be one of the most harsh winters yet.  So I know it’s often a lot of hype, but everyone seemed to be saying it this year.  According to one article, we could see snowfall as early as the end of September and winter may well last until June of next year.  “Most kids haven’t seen blizzards but by the end of this winter they’ll be very knowledgeable about them.  People shouldn’t wait until the snow starts to buy bread. They should stock up and put it in their freezers.”  Wow. Just wow.  I was telling our winter-loving boys and they were all excited.  I ended with, “In which case, Daddy will probably need to buy me a ticket to Florida at some point.”  Adam promptly said, “Oh, then you’d just be like the prodigal son. You’d get to Florida and the money would just go tick, tick, tick.”

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Liam: A bunch of tomorrows have passed and a bunch of Fridays have passed but not tomorrow and not a week from tomorrow. I think I won’t be dead yet a week from tomorrow.

Me: I hope not!

Liam: I think I’ll be alive to become a grown up …. and then I’ll put away these childish things.

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While working on first grade Math, Liam struggled a little with 5-3=2 and 5-2=3.  I used manipulatives and also explained that this is just like our family.  We have five in our family, so if the parents go away (2) there are three kids still at home.  Or if they would go away, there would just be two (the parents) left at home.  The next day while doing flashcards we got to 5-2.  He squinted a little then said quietly to himself, “Ok, 5 take away the parents…..”

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When the hand soap ran low in the hallway bathroom Liam marched through our bedroom on his way to our bathroom to wash his hands.  “The soap in Zara’s bathroom quit giving birth,” he announced.


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Liam and Adam spent two days with our friends, Keith and Jeanne, while Zara was at Johns Hopkins.  On Sunday, my parents picked them up, brought them to the hospital to see us, and then took them along home to Virginia.  The boys attended their local church school. Fortunately, Liam is doing the same curriculum they are and even though he is ahead of where they are, he was able to do some of his work.  Liam LOVED school so very much.  When he got home he was telling me about it.  Then he got a funny little grin as he talked about his teacher.  “She had a certain voice (he meant accent).”  He stopped to giggle again.  “I can’t get it right.  Taaaaaaast,” (test) he said, in a southern Virginia drawl.


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Whenever we get to a bigger town it is immediately obvious that the boys have forgotten how to act outside of backwoods USA. We were in Winchester and I was constantly worrying they’d get hit because they just bounced out of the vehicle, dragged along behind or ran precariously in front of us.  They’re old enough not to have to stick close as a burr, but goodness, they’ve all but forgotten how to be aware of traffic.  At the next stop when Liam just disappeared behind the van before I was even out of it, I started the normal, “wait, where’s Liam? Tell him to come back here,” frantic kind of mumble jumble.

Adam: “Oh, just stop worrying.”

Me: “This is serious. Do you realize kids have been killed in parking lots?”

Adam quite nonchalantly: “Oh, don’t you hear his jolly voice?”

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The boys have switched career dreams at least once a year during their short lifetime.  Currently, they’re both set on the wild outdoors.  Adam is planning to be a professional fisherman, preferably somewhere way far North.

Liam is having a hard time deciding.  One day he’s going to be a jockey.  The next he’s planning to be a chef and open his own restaurant.  Recently when we had guests he proudly announced, “As soon as I’m thirteen or fourteen I’m going off to college to become a cowboy!

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We were in the card aisle looking for a birthday card for Grandpa. “How old is he?” asked Liam.


Liam: “Oh, so you’re older than he is?”

“Um, no.”

Liam: “oh, so you’re not in your seventies?”


Liam loooooves to read.  He’s delving into chapter books and his lips move as he sounds out the words. I love seeing him so intent on reading that he is willing to work hard to read an interesting story.  I didn’t realize how much effort it takes though until I would ask him to do something.  He’d put his finger on his book to keep his place and ask hopefully, “Can I wait for a period?”


Another day when I was grading a section of his book that required yes and no answers I mentioned that he had gotten one wrong. A yes that should have been a no.  “YES!” he said excitedly. “I always cheer for the no’s and now there are more of them.”


The highlight of the session at camp is a craft auction where boys and staff alike are making hand-crafted items to be sold.  Adam and Liam got in on the fun.  Liam sewed a pillow with some help from me and David helped Adam make a rather complicated wren house.  I got wind that kids might be introducing their crafts so I started coaching Adam since there will probably be well over a hundred attendees and I hoped to eliminate some stage fright in the event he did get a chance to talk.  You could say, “My dad helped me make this cool bird house …”

Adam interrupting: “Um, cool? That’s propaganda.  I’m not sure I want to use testimonial propaganda about my craft.”

Whatever.  I think he can probably come up with his own speech.