Understanding Sarah: Call Me to the Quiet Place

Recently, I discovered a treasure trove of great content for the blog in a journal I filled when Anna was 7-8 and Laura was on the way, and Susie was still a baby. I wrote up six interesting pages where I was trying to express who I am and what motivates me. This kind of journaling can be very therapeutic for us as moms. I thought it might bless others to be able to share in my thoughts from these early years…

Laura and Leah

We begin with a poem…because writing poetry is therapeutic for me.

Call me to the quiet place

Though all the world rages

Call me into your tender embrace

Draw me deep into your pages.

Let me “let go” of all the treasure

The trials, triumphs, pain…

Let me forsake my glory

Let me not see my own fame.

Let me disappear into your radiant light

Let me know the stillness of your sight

Let me be free from all the earthly care

Let me take a breath of heaven’s air.

I come with no beauty of my own

I come empty and I come alone

With trembling hands and trembling heart I bow

To the glory of your presence, I come now.

Undeserving, wicked, weak and poor

Broken, humbled, knocking at your door,

Lost in your eternal touch of grace

I have found such love in my Father’s face.

Open wide your gate and draw me in

Make me pure, purge me from my sin

Let me see the cross of Christ again

Let your holy work on me bring victory to win.

Triumph over sin and shame and grief

Blow away all vanity in me

Purge the dark and destitute places in my soul

Bring me through the fire until you see gold.

Mighty works-these my hands can’t bring

Holiness-Is it just a song I sing?

Beauty-Is it only surface deep?

Oh, let your holy will be born in me.

A living sacrifice I now become

Though I am not righteous, holy one

See me through the shed blood of your song

Through life and death, my victory is won.

Holiness and purity are mine

With your radiant beauty I now shine

I am light in the shadow of the cross

I find life in the shadow of the cross.

(December 18, 2007)

Tea Therapy

My kids used to do anything to get my attention–often naughty and annoying things. We have a big family and it takes a little extra effort to be noticed. The kids that get the most one-on-one are often the ones needing the most discipline and training. I often stop everything to focus on helping the children who are making trouble. But I’ve noticed that they often create drama and trouble just to be the center of attention.

I’ve stumbled upon a new and more positive outlet for my attention seekers.

I used to be really into tea, and had bought lots of different boxes of tea bags. You could read the box and know exactly what that blend was for. The pre-packaged teas were getting expensive, and I knew that the tea bags were not as fresh and strong as loose leaf.

At the end of last summer I harvested lots of herbs and began making delicious infusions from the garden. I began to get books about creating my own tea blends, and began to create teas far superior and more unique than anything in the stores.

How does this relate to the issue with my kids seeking negative attention?

Well, when I would make myself a cup of loose leaf tea I would offer every child within ear shot of s cup too. And I would ask them what kind of mood they are in.

Do you need a calming tea? Something to give you more energy? A brain booster? Something for your cough? Something for those teen girl hormones?

They would begin to open up to me. “I need something for stress and cramps!” Or “I stayed up too late last night…” or “Do you have anything to help with bad dreams?”

As I would make their special blend we would also start talking about their issues and struggles and how different plants can help our bodies feel their best.

Now when they want attention they just say “Mom, can you make me a cup of tea, I’m feeling kinda…” and as I make a fragrant blend, add local honey, and let it steep for at least 3 minutes, we talk, and then sometimes we sit down and have tea together.

The more tea they seek, the less behavior issues they throw at me… and I don’t think it’s just the chamomile, lemon balm and mint.

It’s the life that is poured out each time I give a child or teen a cup of tea.

Watch me create three different blends in this new video: Morning Spice Blend, an ImmuniTEA Blend, and a Woman’s Good Night & Good Moods Blend. All of these blends use fresh white pine needles that grow right on our acreage at Olive Branch Farm! Recipes in the comments at the link.

A House Built on the Rock

I’m so thankful for my husband. He is such an incredible father and loving husband. I’m just so blessed to share each day of our lives through everything. When we were 15 and 16 we choose our life verse, and in all the years that followed we lived out the truth of it…

I love being his wife. I love being a woman. I love being a mother. I am so thankful for my amazing body that carried ten children to term and nurtured them so beautifully.

I’m so thankful for how my husband and I have a completed each other and how we have experienced the true miracle of creating a family. I love his selflessness, and how he gives and gives and gives like it is no sacrifice because his heart and mind are set on eternity.

He is such a giver but as he longs to be more and more like Jesus. He always feels like there is so much more work God has to do in him. I love watching him love our family. I love how he can make wise and logical choices when I’m all emotional and reactive! I love how he trusts my intuition and my vision for our calling. I love how we are a team.

A lot of people feel incomplete, confused, like something is missing. I think it’s that feeling God noticed when he put Adam in the garden of Eden. In all of perfect creation Adam was incomplete. He needed a bride, because in himself he was lacking all the glory of the woman God was about to create. Adam was not complete in himself. Not even with God walking with him in the garden.

God didn’t say, “Oops! I made him incomplete–I’d better add female qualities to his nature so he will be finished.” No, God made a woman to be his perfect fit. He said it is not good for a man to be alone. How kind of God!! And what a beautiful creation God made in his work of art called woman.

As I wake up in my husband’s arms there is a feeling of being perfectly matched. A perfect fit. A completion. We are a work of art. We are not perfect, but we are perfectly designed by our wonderful creator to be one. And from our unity we build a family that has a strong foundation of love, and all the blessings that we both bring together. We are so different–we have different strengths and weaknesses–and I find that where I am weak he has strength and when he is lacking, I am gifted.

Sometimes I wonder how it’s even possible to have such a beautiful unity in this crazy world, yet we do. I think it has a lot to do with my husband’s dedication to praying with me and reading the Bible to me every night before we fall asleep. When we were teens he would always pray for me and read the Bible to me before saying goodbye. It was the sweetest day when we wore our wedding rings and didn’t have to say goodbye, and he began our marriage from the very first night by praying over me and speaking God’s words from the open Bible in his hands.

It will be 25 years in May 2023, and what a beautiful 25 years we have had! I’m so thankful that from our childhood we both pursued the heart of God and were willing to choose to live by faith, not giving in to the lies, confusion or voices of culture. We build this house on the ROCK. Unlike the culture this Rock never changes.

I pray my children know the same joy we know. Most of all I pray all my children surrender to the plans of God declared in His word. May they not be swayed by the voice of the culture, but alert to the voice of the Savior.

Jesus promises that He will bless those who trust and obey and build their lives in His Words.

I pray that they will live life in anticipation of eternity.

I pray that they will intimately know Him, who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think!

Oh the mighty power that is at work in us! Without His power we would never know this beautiful gift of unity, harmony and the grace of life together.

Jesus said everyone who hears His words and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Then He went on to say everyone who hears His words and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand (Matthew 7:24-26).

If you can’t figure out why your life is a mess, perhaps you are building your life of the sands of cultural confusion instead of the Rock of Jesus. Hear His Words. Put them to practice. It’s never too late to teach the next generation to build on the rock.

Intentional Motherhood: The Fulfillment

Children are the fulfillment of my dream because I have faith that we are raising them to be voices of hope in this crazy world. Sometimes we need courage to trust that we don’t have to give our children the same lifestyle our parents gave us. We can look at what our parents did wrong and be different. My husband grew up with a dad who overcame addictions and was married three times. My husband came from a broken home, and through his trauma he decided to fight for the opposite, by the grace of God. I know in my family the calling is very unique in these modern times. Very few will have what it takes to raise 15 kids, but if it’s your dream, it is possible! If God calls you to, have a big family!

Josh and I love raising children. We have built a really sweet life and joyful marriage. What we have is rare, and people like us should be raising kids, lots of them! And people like us should be the ones adopting! If you have a heart for children don’t be afraid to follow the calling and find ways to fill your life with children who need love, hope and healing. Children are the greatest investment we could ever make in this world. They have the potential to lead this world out of darkness and into the light! But not if the Christians raise their few children to shun the idea of nurturing the future generations, because it’s so stressful or whatever.

Mothers! Show your children what a treasure they are to you! Speak joy! Let them see your delight. My children know that I think they are gifts to planet Earth! Why are we kinda different?

Josh and I read the Bible together (through the Bible in a year) when we were teens. We met when we were 13 and 14. We had a calling on our lives to surrender everything for the high calling of the gospel! We saw over and over that children are called a gift, an honor, and joy. We saw the darkness of the world, growing darker. We felt like we were nearing the end times and had a call upon our marriage to raise up children who would be well prepared to go out into the darkness to be a light for the gospel. We wanted to raise them without fear of evil, but confidence in the power of God to rescue, love, heal, and bring forgiveness to the hurting.

We didn’t just want to raise up kids that would be missionaries and Sunday school teachers or worship leaders – like working in the church is the only Christian calling. We wanted to raise them to be leaders in the Arts, in science, in politics, in social media, in education, entertainment, music, business, and in the gifting of the Holy Spirit to shine like stars in the darkness and to show the way of love, kindness and peace where there is pain.

We considered each of the children to have a unique and precious calling, talent set, and unique individuality that would need to be respected. Each child would grow up to have something to bring into the world to show the glory of the Creator. This is not a common passion I see in very many couples planning their families. But we do know quite a few other families doing the same. And we are eager to teach others from what we have discovered. But unfortunately you just don’t hear it taught in church that it is a high calling and worthy sacrifice to raise up children intentionally for the Kingdom.

And as a teen I sought to choose a husband specifically for his heart for children, Jesus and the Arts. I had a wish list. I knew I wanted a big family, so I didn’t just fall in love with some random cutie–I chose my husband because I saw great qualities of a future father, and I saw his heart for Jesus and his unique pursuits in the Arts and science. I wasn’t lucky, I was intentional. I wasn’t lucky, I was blessed! I wasn’t lucky, I worked hard! I wasn’t lucky, I believed God’s words!

What vision are you passing along to the next generation? Your life is a testimony and witness to our youth. If they become like you, if they listen to you, if they catch your vision — will they bring light into this darkness?

Intentional Motherhood: The Vision

At church this evening my teen daughters were learning about the calling of Mary to bring Jesus into the world. In the discussion after the Bible Study my daughters learned that most of the other girls in their group think that motherhood is a poor choice, not worth the sacrifice to the woman’s body, and having a family is an unrealistic goal in this dark and miserable world.

My daughters tried to share a different perspective but informed about “the real world”. Nothing new here. When I was a teen who wanted to be a “stay at home mom” and an artist with a home-based business, my friends made fun of me, and said motherhood is a waste and it’s stupid to bring children into this horrible world. I longed to have children who would make this world more beautiful.

Having children was no sacrifice at all. It can be a lot of work at times; but from my perspective, giving life was the fulfillment of a beautiful dream. Having each child was like receiving a beautiful chest full of precious treasure every time. After our ten children were born (and for the first time ever our income was more than we needed to survive), we answered the call to adopt five more children. I was not an overwhelmed unhappy mother. I thought of the calling as the biggest privilege!

Adoption wasn’t easy, but after all the gifts God has given me, He was so generous to trust me with even more souls to care for. And though it was really hard, I see such beautiful fruit! These girls in our community have learned a lot in school and social media about life goals. From the outside you see the ideal, picture-perfect suburban life that their parents worked very hard to give them. Others come from broken homes, though they live in picture- perfect neighborhoods. They complain of the darkness and evil in the world, yet live in one of the most prosperous and safe places on this rocky earth! They have the best the world has to offer, and they are stressed and discouraged about the future. (Click here to continue reading.)

Fun-Schooling Pep Talk! (Part 2)

I ended my last blog post telling you that after 16 years of motherhood and trying lots of different homeschool methodologies, I quit.

What did I quit?

I quit dipping my toes in the shallow water while my children called to me from the deep end where they knew best what made them sink or float and I learned to trust.

I had tried a little bit of so many different things and nothing added up, it was all too hard, too much, too soon, and I tried. I thought I had failed and yet they thrived because everything I thought would never be enough added up to so much more that I could ever understand. And they were brave, and they were curious, and they were hungry to learn about this planet we call home, and I never thought I could ever give enough, but all I have is all God gave me… And it’s plenty.

But what about the mess, the stress, the fears, the changes that I struggled with in the dark, while my children were playing in the light? I was trying so hard to do it all, and so many voices from the outside spat out worries, saying I’m not enough. But I was enough.

These are the children entrusted to me, and this is the place we are in, and these are the tools, the ideas and the passions we share. And my children will not be like any others, they are not even a bit like each other, but they are the ones that I have been given to love.

So after 16 years of struggle, of reading mountains of books on dyslexia, Unschooling, Charlotte Mason, Classical Education, Autism, Delight-Directed learning, Montessori, Free Schools, conventional education, one room school house models, entrepreneur-based learning, passion driven learning, element, flow, talent and disability… I tried to put it all together, and glean the best of every world, and customize every child’s education based on their learning style, love language, career goals and special needs. And I wore myself out. Until I gave up trying to do it all, and created the first Do-it-Yourself Homeschooling Journal, just in time for the birth of my 10th baby.

I created the journal from a place of pain, discouragement, need, and hope. I had given up the idea that I could custom design each child’s curriculum and decided to find a way to set them free to “Do-it-Yourself” within the boundaries of all the wisdom I had embraced over the years. When I created the first DIY Fun-Schooling Journal I thought I was cheating my kids, because my whole plan was to make a curriculum that set ME FREE from having to homeschool! I was going to put my entire philosophy of how children learn into a journal that would keep them busy learning for 4 hours a day for 60 days… So I could take a break for 6 weeks with my new baby. It worked.

They used my system to study their passions and cover all the basics while I took care of my baby and enjoyed her to the fullest. The DIY system worked so well I was able to focus more and more on being mommy and less on stressing over Homeschooling. So when the 6 weeks were over, we didn’t stop Fun-Schooling. My children wanted more DIY Homeschooling Journals, but they wanted to help design them, and so we did.

And now we are overwhelming YOU, with so many options for homeschooling that maybe you are smiling through your tears cause you have no clue what to do, and you want to dive in deep but it’s still scary. So you wonder how to start, and you haven’t read the 200 books I read that inspired me to design this system of learning, and you wonder if you should trust, try it or keep experimenting. Something in you says go all the way, and other voices say it isn’t safe, so what are you gonna do?

Is there a way to homeschool without fear? No. I don’t think so. It’s the fear that motivates us to be brave. It’s not the kind of fear that hurts us and binds up and traps us. It’s a feeling of greatness, wonder, power and depth that makes each of us feel so small…

Let that kind of fear stir up courage to do what you need to do, to be who you need to be, to dive in completely, and trust. It’s more fun in the deep end anyway. Just ask your kids.

Want to take it to the next level? Start your own Fun-Schooling co-op! Here’s the perfect book for you!

Harvesting Joy!

I am so thankful for the trees that someone cared to plant 80 or 100 years ago. As fall comes into its glory, and the one who planted lies beneath the soil, I am grateful for the beauty they gave to our neighborhoods and lawns.

Do you care if your legacy outlives you on this earth?

Plant trees, invest in children, create art, build with stone.

Do you care if your legacy touches eternity?

Give life, spread hope, share truth, plant seeds that bring an eternal harvest. Live in the light of eternity, living like Jesus. Be His hands, His feet, His heart, His voice to a lost and broken world. Lay up your treasures in Heaven.

Here are some of the blessings we are harvesting at Olive Branch Farm this autumn!

Pollyanna, Anna and Fun-Schooling

“At nine o’clock every morning you will read aloud one half-hour to me. Before that you will use the time to put this room in order. Wednesday and Saturday forenoons, after half-past nine, you will spend with Nancy in the kitchen, learning to cook. Other mornings you will sew with me. That will leave the afternoons for your music. I shall, of course, procure a teacher at once for you,” she finished decisively, as she arose from her chair.

Pollyanna cried out in dismay.

“Oh, but Aunt Polly, Aunt Polly, you haven’t left me any time at all just to…to live.”

“To live, child! What do you mean? As if you weren’t living all the time!”

“Oh, of course I’d be breathing all the time I was doing those things, Aunt Polly, but I wouldn’t be living. You breathe all the time you’re asleep, but you aren’t living. I mean living doing the things you want to do: playing outdoors, reading (to myself, of course), climbing hills, talking to Mr. Tom in the garden, and Nancy, and finding out all about the houses and the people and everything everywhere all through the perfectly lovely streets I came through yesterday. That’s what I call living, Aunt Polly. Just breathing isn’t living!”
― Eleanor Porter, Pollyanna

What is the result, when our children are allowed “just to live”? Click here to read some thoughts written last week by my daughter, Anna Miriam Brown.

Fun-Schooling “Show & Tell”

Fun-Schooling is a very joyful way to homeschool. We engage in fun research and logic based learning quests that focuses on the individual child’s strengths, talents, career dreams, faith, family values and nature exploration. Kids learn through projects and journaling, with library books and educational videos! Much of the learning is focused on doing unit studies revolving around the child’s passion. There are Fun-Schooling Journals that focus of lots of different topics and subjects that kids love, like horses, travel, baking, gardening, survival, nature, art, writing and so much more.

Maybe I should show you instead of just telling. Some of us are more visual in our learning style. Want to see what Fun-Schooling looks like in our house? Here are some videos that can do just that!

We have over 50 videos on our YouTube channel, on all kinds of topics! Click here to go and browse them all! Here are some screen shots just to give you an idea of the information available:

All of this, and so much more! Come join us!

A Day Full of “Yes!”

You have heard of homeschooling, and maybe you have heard of Un-Schooling… Well this family enjoys FUN-Schooling (find out how to Flip to Fun-Schooling here)! Watch what happens when a mom practices saying “yes” to whatever the kids want to do…

“Can I build a fort?”

Yes.

“Can I make the dinner?”

Yes.

“Can I sew buttons?”

Yes.

“Can all my friends come over?”

Yes.

“Can I play with your coin collection?”

Yes.

“Can I sew a purse?”

Yes.

“Can I spend the whole day reading?”

Yes. Yes. Yes. (Note: This doesn’t happen everyday.)

This little video below is full of wistful memories and children who were much smaller…a decade ago! It shows what a day full of “Yes!” looks like!

And, while you’re at it…tell yourself “Yes!” about something you really want to do today!