Praying for Paris

We should continue to pray for Paris, not because we want Parisians to have ‘more religion’, but because humanity is at its best when people come together.

Let me give an example. Suppose you believe in a Great Green Dragon in the sky who is able to bring peace and joy to the world, if only he’s asked. Suppose I’m going through something really sucky, and I could use some peace and joy, so you offer to pray to your Great Green Dragon for peace and joy for me.

I have two options. I can go the hardcore atheist/fundie Christian route (yes, today they’re the same) and rebuke you for your faith in the GGD. I can tell you that, because I don’t believe in this funny story of yours, your prayers will either do no good (atheist side) or damage me because you’re praying to someone other that God (fundie side). Either way, your attempt to intercede for me is offensive, divisive, and disrespectful of my special, special belief system and/or intellect.

Or, I can say, ‘thank you’. Go ahead and pray if you’d like. If there is no Great Green Dragon in the sky, then I nothing will come of it, for good or evil. But there is strength in unity and compassion. I believe that when we lift up our voices and hearts on behalf of one another, our own hearts are changed. Empathy is powerful, action is even more so, and the act of praying for others makes us better people, and more likely to turn sentiment into action.

Besides, if you really believe that this Great Green Dragon has the power to help me, but you don’t or won’t pray for me, what must you think of me?

While there may be some who are praying for more religion in Paris, the majority of prayers being offered up are for healing, peace, wisdom for leadership, and strength for the weary. We’re praying for compassion. We’re praying for the needed resources to be in place. We’re praying for music, kisses and life. We’re praying for people, because people have value, no matter what they believe. Do we hope that more people will come to faith in Christ? Of course we do. But if they don’t, we will love them all the same.

So, to my atheist friends, I hope you aren’t offended, but I’m going to keep praying. I’m praying because the people of Paris, and around the world, need us to grab them by the hand and pull them up in whatever way we can. #prayerisaboutlife


P.S. Yes, I still believe in God and miracles and Jesus. I believe that prayer works. The above is also true.

Why We Celebrate Halloween

This post originally ran on October 24, 2013. Apparently, I am currently a one-post-per-quarter kind of blogger. I don’t mean it to be this way, but it happens. I have many, many ideas and thoughts I’d love to share with you, so if you’re the patient type, stick with me. And if you’re working on a mind-to-blog app, could you speed it up a little? 

Love, Brieana

Don’t mess with Halloween Jesus.

Around this time of year there are always questions about whether or not Christians should participate in Halloween activities, due to their pagan roots. It’s true that Halloween has a rather sordid past, with pagan-practicing communities performing rites to ward off evil spirits. Here’s a quote from

It is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs; the holiday, All Saints’ Day, incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a secular, community-based event characterized by child-friendly activities such as trick-or-treating.

Many Christians feel it’s not okay to participate in Halloween festivities because they were, originally, decidedly un-Christian. Before we start in on Halloween, let’s look around our culture at some other customs that have pagans roots.

Let’s clarify – I’m not saying we should now spend the weekend Googling to find the pagan roots of common things in our lives and then purge ourselves. My point is simply to give perspective. There are many things in modern American culture that were at one time part of pagan worship, but the spiritual aspect of those acts has long since died away.

I found a fantastic article from Grace Communion International outlining some Biblical perspective on dealing with paganism. A few excerpts:

In Deuteronomy 12, God, through Moses, tells us: “Be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, `How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.’ You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.”

Do these verses mean that we cannot do anything pagans did in worship? Of course not, for pagans prayed, sang hymns, played musical instruments, and some baptized by immersion. They also had priesthoods, special garments, temples, altars and sacrifices. They had annual festivals in conjunction with the agricultural seasons. None of these practices are wrong. Some are even part of Christianity.

Pagans also had many funeral customs, such as embalming, ceremonies and giving of flowers. Even though these common customs were shaped by non-Christian ideas about the afterlife, and these customs continue to be used by non-Christians, we may, and do, use them in Christian ceremonies without indicating any agreement with the originating beliefs.

In the United States, no one would think it odd for a Christian to have a small ornamental figurine of a bird or animal. In Moses’ day, however, such statues would have been inappropriate. Whether something has pagan connotations is often cultural. What is acceptable in one nation or century may be frowned upon in another. But we do not have to be restricted by erroneous concepts of the past.

We can make decisions about embalming, burial, caskets, crypts, cremation and flowers without having to investigate which of these customs originated in paganism. It is even possible to use these things in religious ceremonies without fear of contamination or compromise.

Of course, some people are uncomfortable with customs such as wedding rings and cremation. Others are not. Different people draw their “lines” in different places, but they need to respect each other’s beliefs. The advice of Romans 14:6-13 applies to such matters: “He who participates does so to the Lord. He who abstains does so to the Lord. So then, why do you judge your brother? Each of us has to give our own account to God. Therefore, do not pass judgment on one another, and do not put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.”

Honestly, I’m not a big fan of Halloween. I have a deep dislike for scary, gory stuff. Last year I offered to buy each of my kids a bag of candy and pay them $10 to skip it. Sadly, they passed.

For us, Halloween is a great chance to get to know our neighbors and build relationships in the community. Here’s the line our family has drawn – we let our kids dress up, but we don’t allow frightening costumes or those that appear evil (demons, witches, etc.) We usually carve pumpkins. I’m not worried that by dressing up and carving pumpkins we will be worshiping the devil because you can’t accidentally worship something. Carving pumpkins doesn’t make me a pagan any more than sitting in church makes me a Christian. Now if all our neighbors were carving pumpkins as an act of worship to something demonic, we wouldn’t do it. But in our culture the act is purely traditional.

If you live in relative solitude, on a farm or in the country, it’s easy enough to ignore Halloween altogether. But in a neighborhood like ours, it’s impossible. There are pumpkins on every doorstep and skeletons in some of the trees. I don’t know a single family that won’t be out trick or treating. We have a choice to make, and it comes down to that 90’s anthem: What Would Jesus Do? He told us to be in the world, but not of it. This is a very important line to draw. If we’re going to say we’re set apart by God we can’t rush in to do everything the world does. But remaining ‘not of’ the world doesn’t mean shunning the people around us. There are plenty of examples in scripture of Christians setting aside their objections in order to love their communities.  Would Jesus hide in His house with the lights off and ignore all the little children knocking for candy? Even if you don’t participate by following the usual customs, buy a bag of candy, turn on the porch light and meet your neighbors! If you are worried about exposing your little ones to demonic-looking costumes, put a sign in the drive way that says, “Small children at home, no scary costumes, please.” Will a few teenagers defy your sign? Maybe. But rather than being seen as the ‘odd family who goes to church’ you can be seen as the ‘really nice and friendly family that goes to church’.

Let’s be clear, if you feel strongly that your family shouldn’t celebrate Halloween – don’t. If your church community or family would be offended by your participating, don’t put a stumbling block in their way. In the end, none of this is about our personal feelings and desires – it’s about behaving toward others in a way that points them to Jesus.

Happy Halloween,


Some Reminders To Myself For Back To School

This is a bad title, I know. But I’m coming down from six weeks of cramming for the upcoming school year with five grade levels, home renovation projects that lead to more home renovation projects and a surprise visit from my mother in law. And it’s hot, what do you want from my life?


It’s September! Target is full of school supplies, streets are full of yellow school buses, and moms are, tearfully or gleefully, getting ready to send those kids off to their respective halls of learning for another nine months of academics, social awkwardness and cafeteria food. Hooray!

At this most wonderful time of the year, I like to pause and remind myself of a few things. Things I tend to forget in the whirlwind of planning and good intentions. Things I’ll need to remember come Thanksgiving, when I’m ready to throw it in. And since I have self-styled myself as a writer, it’s my moral obligation to share these things with you, my adoring public. (Love you, mom.)

Truth #1 – You cannot be all the things to all the people. You can’t be PTA president, coach soccer, write a cooking blog, and also direct the Christmas play. You can’t have a high-powered career and also stay home and do Waldorf preschool in your basement. You can’t be the crunchy, kale-eating, yoga-loving, all organic mama and also the laid-back, brownie baking mom. At least, you can’t do these things with out a schizophrenia diagnosis. Pick the thing you love and do it well.

Truth #2 – Life is a mess. When you’re doing that thing you love well? Other things slide sometimes. The mom with the gorgeous home probably orders pizza for dinner. The mom who cooks gourmet meals might have a messy car. Nobody’s kids, clothes, home and life look good all the time. Relax. We’re all busy. We’re all doing our best. We’re all living the same messy life, some of us are just better at Instagram.

Truth #3 – Messy can be glorious. Real life happens when you’re tickling your kids on the living room rug, or playing Uno for the eighty-third time, or building with Legos, or cooking together, not when everything comes together perfectly on the schedule you created. Embrace the moments. Also, realize that the moments are short. This makes them more precious, but it also is good to remember that there will be lots of moments that are not glorious and beautiful. Sometimes kids are cranky. Sometimes you have to do the dishes. These things are life, too. Don’t expect your whole life to be wrapped in a golden halo of awesomeness.

Truth #4 – This is the time of year when most moms are happily sending their kiddos off to spend 30 hours per week in the hands of someone else. Homeschool moms, on the other hand, are grabbing another cup of coffee and buckling down. When you see all those pictures of moms getting first day of school pedicures? You will be jealous. You will question your value system, your sanity, and the state of your heels. Stop it. Every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to lots of other things. Get off Facebook and be at peace with where you are.

Truth #4b – For those homeschool moms who don’t resonate with truth #4. If you’re the kind of homeschooler who would never dream of sending your snowflake to the evil, bad public school – stop it. Not all public schools are bad, not all public school teachers are bad and not all parents who send their kids to public school are bad. The vast majority of them are doing what we’re doing – their very best to raise their kids right. We’d do much better to band together than pull each other down. Get off Facebook and be at peace with where you are.

Truth #5 – Right now you’ve got everything ready. The schedules. The plans. Everything is perfect. You will get up at 5:00 to work out, pray and eat a healthy breakfast! The kids will love school! All the activities will be performed on time and with joy! Try to remember that a lot of this will change. Some of your goals will go unmet. When this happens, try to relax. Your value isn’t dependent on what you get done. On the other hand, don’t stop planning. Don’t stop setting goals and having big vision for the future. That vision is what keeps you moving forward, and forward is good. Just try not to get too wrapped up in the vision to enjoy actual life.

Here’s to a new year. May it be full of all the things you hope for; moments of wonder, days of peaceful reading, Instagram-worthy science experiments and a math book that the kids don’t cry over. And maybe a new crockpot.


We got a new fridge!

I know, my life is one thrill ride after another.

The fridge that came with the house was rather small. So small, in fact, that my monthly Costco trip had to be curtailed based on the volume of my freezer. Plus it kept freezing things. I mean, this thing might have been 16 years old but it was no sissy. I turned it all the way to ‘cool’ (which is the warmest setting in the fridge) and it still blasted anything on the top shelf with enough freon-laced air to turn it all to ice cubes. And let me tell you, lettuce and cream? Not the same once they’ve thawed out.

So last week I sent a text to my husband. “Grr. Tomato, cucumber, lettuce and two fruit cups frozen and destined for the garbage.”

His reply, “Ugh. We need to look at a new fridge.”

So I looked at a new fridge, and you know what? They are spendy. And I am not one to just spend money if I don’t have to. I got on Craigslist and found one for less than half the price of new. Less than half! We were going to SAVE MONEY.

Of course it wasn’t going to fit in the minivan, even if we did put the kids in the trunk, so the next day my dear husband went and rented a Uhaul with which to bring said fridge home. And an appliance dolly, and some furniture pads. And we had to pay gas and mileage. But even so, we were SAVING MONEY.

Once he got it home it was quickly apparent that the new fridge was not going to fit through the front door. We also realized that we don’t own a tape measure. I mean, we did own one but the kids used it for a jump rope or something and now we don’t have one anymore. I’m sure our neighbors enjoyed watching us measure the new fridge and our doorframe with a 12 inch ruler.

In the end we had to take the doors off. The fridge door, not the front door, although that might have been easier.

So! Doors off, now to get it up to the kitchen. We made it four feet into the entry and realized it wasn’t going to fit around the corner of the closet that I want to knock out. We measured. We pondered. We debated hauling it around the back and bringing it up the deck stairs. And then we said to heck with strained backs and scraped up walls and just muscled the thing. Up the stairs to the second floor where the kitchen is. Fun.

At this point I had to call the Uhaul people and ask for more time because two hours wasn’t nearly enough for moving an appliance.

Pulling out the old fridge was easier, although it did leak all over the place because it hadn’t occurred to us that if we were going to disconnect the water hose we should probably turn off the water. Mop up the water, pull out the old fridge, slide in the new one.. which didn’t fit. We had to remove the upper cabinet. Seriously, you’d think this house was built in 1966 rather than 1996. ..And put the doors back on. Funny thing is, once we put them back on they wouldn’t close. I’m pretty sure this is the point at which my husband started muttering something about the reasons we pay people to do things. Eventually we figured it out (hinges on backwards – whoops) and got it all set up. Now just to hook up the water line!

Wait. The old fridge had a weird, giant connector thingy and the new fridge has a normal plastic tube. And the house has copper plumbing. These things do not go together. Hmm..

The kids hauled the frozen food that was languishing on the counters down to the garage fridge and I ran out to McDonalds (because it was now almost 3:00 and we hadn’t had lunch) while Justyn went to Home Depot to get whatever you need to connect a fridge to copper plumbing.

We eat, we connect, we turn on the water and.. it leaks. Everywhere. So he unhooks it and tries again. No luck. I run to a different hardware store in town and explain to the guy there what we’re trying to do. He informs me that we’ve done it right, we just need to tighten it more. Problem is, I get home and attempt to do just that and find that my wimpy lady muscles are simply not up to the task. But you know what? It’s okay. Sure, we haven’t had running water for 12 hours but doesn’t most of the world’s population go without running water just fine? Besides, it’s totally worth it because Justyn will come home and fix it and we will have SAVED MONEY.

The next day my fearless husband braves yet another trip to the hardware store and comes home with the same advice and some new tools. At this point we’ve spent more on our three trips to the plumbing department than it would have cost to have someone come out and install the dang thing for us but that’s okay. Still cheaper than a new one and it’s almost fixed! Sadly, the new tools and parts give us the same result as the old ones. A leaky connection and a very frustrated husband. He breaks down and calls a handyman.

When the handyman gets here, he kindly informs us that the hardware store folks had got it wrong. We had installed the connector with an extra piece. A piece all three plumbing department employees had told us to use. It took him five minutes, which means he makes a killer hourly wage.

But it was DONE. Installed! Ready for use! Filtered water never tasted so good! And despite the rental truck, the new tools and paying the plumber, we had still SAVED MONEY! Kind of!

So the moral of the story is.. I don’t know. Listen to your husband? Don’t trust 17 year old Home Depot employees?

But I do love that fridge.

P.S. Want to know the kicker? The first time I turned off the water main I mistakenly turned off the GAS main, causing our hot water heater’s pilot light to go out. So we also went two days without hot water before we figured that out. I love home improvement.

Cell Phone Snark and Hooey

Ah, Facebook, bringer of all things controversial. It’s where I stumbled across this article, which, frankly, seemed so silly that I would normally have ignore it, except that apparently the APA isn’t ignoring it. And it was on You know Time Magazine, that bastion of factual information and intelligent writing… or maybe I’m dating myself.

Anyway, the premise of the article is that mom and dad spend too much time on their phones when they should be hanging out with junior, and that frequent cell usage makes you a worse parent. It’s hard to take parenting advice from a journalist whose opening sentence (for Time!) ends in a dangling preposition, but there is a valid point to be made here. According to the article, researchers from Boston University took to fast-food restaurants and observed the interactions of parents and children.

To study the effect of smartphones, Radesky and her colleagues sent in undercover investigators to surreptitiously observe any adult-child grouping with more than one youngster as they ate at a fast-food restaurant. The observers recorded the behavior of both the adults and the children in 55 such groupings, as well as how frequently the adults used their smartphones.”

So, basically, they snuck around on people, recorded their behavior without permission, and then published it in this study. I’m not sure what the ethics are on that, but I can tell you I’ll be nicer to my kids the next time we hit up McDonald’s. Also, the ‘undercover investigators’ bit makes me leery. Why weren’t Radesky and her colleagues doing the observing? The article continues:

“The data provided an unvarnished look at how absorbed many parents were by their devices. One child reached over in an attempt to lift his mother’s face while she looked down at a tablet, but to no avail. Another mother kicked her child under the table in response to the child’s various attempts to get her attention while she looked at her phone. A father responded in curt and irritated tones to his children’s escalating efforts to tear him away from his device.”

Here’s the thing – it takes a lot more than Candy Crush to get a woman to kick her child. This is one of those chicken and egg situations. Do cell phones make people ignore their children, or do people who ignore their children use cell phones? Just this evening I was sitting on my front step with, yes, my phone, reading an article. My four year old was building with bricks nearby. He would call me, and I would look up and interact with him, then go back to my phone. It’s easy to point to cell phones as the reason for bad parenting. It’s much harder to address the character flaws – laziness, selfishness, lack of self-control, a temper – that are the real issue. But of course, the ‘researchers’ weren’t finished.

“In light of the data, Radesky is working with the American Academy of Pediatrics to develop some guidelines for the smart smartphone use in front of the kids — just as the academy has advice for parents on TV viewing.”

Because of course the answer to every problem is intervention and rules set by professionals. One rather sneaky study, with a very small sample group, and no background information on the subjects, seems shaky ground to make these vast claims. I’m not saying parents should choose cell phones over their children! For heaven’s sake, I’m the first one to say that we should all go back to the analog age. I’m saying that we’ve got to stop grabbing at what’s easy if we want what’s best. It’s called “ignoratio elenchi” – the argument addresses the issue, but it still isn’t logically valid. It’s more frequently known as ‘missing the point’. My smart phone doesn’t make me a good or a bad parent. My smart phone isn’t the bad guy. As I’ve already mentioned, there is a valid point to be made here. I just think we’re missing it.

Joy and Laundry

Having a large family is a lot of things. It’s chaotic, yes, but also peaceful. It’s loud and sometimes quiet. It is very messy but.. okay, it’s very messy. I often find that people who ask me about raising six kids have a polarizing idea about what it is – it must be either ethereally joyful or insane. The answer is.. yes!

And since a picture is worth a thousand words, I thought I’d snap some and share with you what life in a family of 8 is like. All these pictures were taken between 4 and 5 on Thursday afternoon with no staging. I promise!


photo 1

Coffee. My best friend.

photo 2

photo 4

photo 5

photo 1

photo 2

Yes, it’s 4:30pm and lunch is still on the table.

photo 3

photo 4

photo 5

photo 1

photo 2

photo 5

I would be ashamed, but this is actually pretty good for us.

photo 1

photo 2

photo 3

photo 4

photo 4

photo 5

photo 1

photo 2

photo 3

photo 4

photo 3

Teenagers do not like their photos taken. Unless they are selfies.

 photo 3

And, in an effort at brutal honesty, one of me. Today was a no-makeup, no shower day. But it isn’t always like this!

Also, you people who take selfies and post them on the internet? I thought you were silly, but you are BRAVE. I think I took ten of these before I got one I was okay with.

I look so weird! And I like my face!

So go forth, mama, and know that your life and your house and your face are lovely. Even if there are dishes in the sink.

The Crazy Person’s Guide to Moving

This week marks a momentous occasion. We closed on our house last Friday and will spend the week packing and hauling and breaking things in our eleventh move in fourteen years. Yes, you heard that right. Eleven moves. Fourteen years. So I’m kinda like an expert on this.

Since I’m such a pro, I thought I’d endow upon you some tips I’ve learned on How to Make Your Move Go As Smoothly As Possible.

Tip #1 – Decide on Thursday afternoon to have a garage sale.. on Friday. Because the neighbor is having one and has already put up signs, and not having to put up signs is SUCH a time and work savings that it makes the crazy garage sale prep at the last minute totally worth it.

Tip #2 – Make sure that said Friday is also walk-through and closing day. Two birds, one stone. Something like that.

Tip #3 – Friday should also be grocery shopping day. Obviously you won’t have time to go grocery shopping, so you can just skip it. You managed to avoid grocery shopping! Well done. Dominos delivers, so you’ll be fine. Bonus: hire a truck for Saturday to take the non-essentials. This way you won’t have time to go grocery shopping Saturday, either. Your local McDonald’s will thank you. 

Tip #4 – To occupy the young children in the house while you’re packing, leave some Bingo dotters lying around. You know the ones that are full of runny, permanent ink with the huge spongy dotter on the end? The ones that splat satisfyingly when you slam them down onto cardboard? Yeah, those. Leave those out right next to a stack of new boxes. The children will be thrilled and will leave you alone for at least half an hour. You don’t really need those Bingo markers anyway (they’ll be pretty well ruined by the slamming). Or those boxes. Or that.. carpet.

Tip #5 – Pack up ALL the children’s books a week early, seal the boxes and drop them of at the new house on the first run. This way they’re as inaccessible as possible. The three year old will not understand why there are suddenly no books in the house. There will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. But it’s worth it because three more boxes will be at the new house.

Tip #6 – For homeschoolers only (sorry): Don’t schedule any time off of school during the move. Of course you can do a full six hours per day of academics, host the co-op and go on a field trip during the week of the move.

Tip #7 – Happily agree to a four-day business trip for your husband the week before the move AND do all of this while six months pregnant. It’s like the X Games, baby. The more extreme, the… more extreme.

So there you have it! Just a few tips to make your next move more.. exciting.

Off to pack!