Wednesday, January 30, 2013

*Homeschool~ How We Study Pilgrim's Progress

We homeschool using The Ambleside Online free resource schedule. Currently, Sir Bean is in Year 1 and Prince Ray is in Year 2. The concept is based on the writings and teachings of Charlotte Mason, a British educator from days gone by. I believe her method of teaching is beautiful and effective. It is difficult with many multiples of children but the spirit of her teaching can really be brought to any subject. It is a non-text book approach that uses many 'living books', books that are written by an expert in their field and bring the subject matter to life in a real and memorable way. It has taught us all so very much!

On to Pilgrim's Progress! I will admit when I saw Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress on the schedule for this year as part of our Literature Readings I was a bit daunted. I read the book years ago and only understood a smidgen of it. In fact, several years ago, while helping co-teach a teen group at church I thought that perhaps we could go through the book together as a book club style teaching. It was a big No-Go. It was too challenging for most teens to put their time into slowing down and reading such an old book.

So here I was trying to figure out how I was going to help my nine year old understand all the nuances and hidden meaning in Pilgrim's Progress. How will he understand any of it? Do we really need to try this?

I happened upon this quick and to-the-point referral for the reading of Pilgrim's Progress on Answers in Genesis and decided we would give it a go. They offer a free online version to read, broken into 10 sections with Biblical References.
John Bunyan was a man unafraid to proclaim the authority of God’s Word without compromise, even when it came at great personal risk. His refusal to conform his preaching led to multiple incarcerations. On one such occasion, he was asked to simply stop and be set free. He replied, “If you release me today, I will preach tomorrow.”
Those now famous words led to a nearly twelve year imprisonment. It was during this time that he began to pen his classic work. Published in 1678, it quickly became one of the most popular stories of all time. Over 100,000 copies were sold within his lifetime alone, and today it is believed to be the second-most widespread book in existence, surpassed only by the Bible in number of copies distributed. It has been translated into over 200 languages, and it has never been out of print.
The Pilgrim’s Progress is a spiritual allegory that follows the path of Christian, a man weighed down by his burden of sin. He leaves the City of Destruction and learns that nothing can remove his burden other than the cross of Christ. But that is only the beginning of his journey through life to the Celestial City.

I did some research and found a really good audio version of the book. It is done so well that the characters practically jump out of the speakers and stand in your kitchen with you. I found it here and here. The best surprise has been that not only does Prince Ray love listening to it he audibly sighs when the lesson is over because he wants to keep going. He also has been able to fully understand the whole thing! This version is unabridged, but amplified, and it is done seamlessly. Sir Bean is only 6 and he can hardly wait to listen in on his big brother's Pilgrim's Progress reading. That is how good it is. I know we will listen to this over and over again. It was worth every penny I spent.

Orion's Gate Audio

Ambleside Online gives the option of taking 2 years to cover this particular book. Or you can follow Christian's wife and children on their journey the next year. When I found Christian's journey I purchased Christiana's journey as well. We will listen to that one next year.

Orion's Gate Audio

I also found a free series of videos called Dangerous Journey, on the website Kids Answers in Genesis. Scroll all the way down to the bottom. There are 9 parts and each is about 15 minutes long. As we listen along to the Pilgrim's Progress audio book, I will insert a 'video time' every so often that coincides with how far we have gotten in the book. There are some differences and the video has left a few things out but all in all it is a great, if rather old and a bit grainy, free video resource for really cementing the story. 

Dangerous Journey

Video Time :)

Check out this Bunyan Ministries for beautiful coloring sheets in PDF form. My kids love to color so these are a nice way to keep hands busy while listening to the audio.

Coloring sheet!

If you like to Map stuff, here is a printable map of Christian's Journey to keep track of his travels. It is beautiful and would cost me a print cartridge but might be worth it. So far, I just look at it and think about whether or not I can afford to print it off. Grayscale would not do it justice. 

 “This hill, though high, I covet to ascend;
The difficulty will not me offend.
For I perceive the way to life lies here.
Come, pluck up, heart; let's neither faint nor fear.
Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe.”
John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress

Have you ever read Pilgrim's Progress? Have you ever taught it?

Always Blessed,
Gretchen :)

Possibly Linking With:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tuesday's Gifts~ Dust of Snow


 'Tis a challenge sometimes to find a gift in the cold and snow here in Minnesota. We are overly compensated most years and about the end of January all I want to think about is spring muddiness and lilacs blooming. Our LORD, though, asks us to be thankful everyday, for everything, because all things good are from Him. So I can choose to look at the beauty of a snowflake, or ten million zillion of them, and be blessed. What a gift.

Dust of Snow

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued. 


Frosty Bits

Fragile Lace 
 He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’    and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’ 
~ Job 37:6
Always Blessed,
Gretchen :)
All pictures are courtesy of my sister, Sara Rose Nissen.  
Check out her artwork over at  as seen through my eyes.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Ginger Lemon Squash *Recipe

Ginger Lemon Squash

Butternut and Acorn Winter Squash

We were blessed with so much squash this fall I have had to start getting creative with the squash side dishes in our world just to keep everyone from getting bored. :) So here begins recipe 1 of 4!

 Winter Squash Basic Baking Instructions
Scrub your squash clean.
Split it in half with a good, sharp knife. It can be difficult. Most winter squash has quite a hard rind. For Butternut Squash you will want to cut it lengthwise.
Hollow out the seeds and stringy stuff. 
You are left with a circular cavity.
Place the squash in a sided baking pan, I usually just use a cake pan, cut side up.
My mom always filled that cavity with a Tablespoon of butter and a sprinkle of brown sugar. (I still love squash this way!)
Now put some water in the bottom of that pan, say 1 cup or so. (It should not cover the squash, just come up a bit on the sides.)
Cover tightly with foil. You are essentially making a steam oven for your squash to bake in.
Bake 350 degrees for roughly 30 to 40 minutes. 
This can vary depending on your squash and your oven. The cooked squash will mash easily if it is done. We often serve it just like this but sometimes I mix it like mashed potatoes with a bit of milk.
There is your basic recipe!

Now for fun try the Ginger Lemon Squash.

Ginger Lemon Squash
Prepare squash as directed above.
Add to cavity:
1 teaspoon (or so) of peeled, grated ginger. ~I did not grate it, but you should. :)
1 teaspoon or so of grated lemon peel
1 Tablespoon of butter or coconut oil
sprinkle of dried thyme
sprinkle of dried rosemary
salt and pepper
Bake at 350 for approximately 30 min as per instructions above.


Always Blessed, 
Gretchen :)

Possibly Linking With:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I Was Featured!

Just because it makes me so happy I have to share that I have had the privilege of being a Featured Blogger! On not just one (!) but two different Blogs in the past couple weeks. I feel so honored. Seriously. Now because I want to share this milestone with all of you and save it for posterity please go check out these two lovely ladies and their Blogs!

Judith over at Wholehearted Home is so full of God's love and joy you can almost feel it through the computer screen. I would love to have her over for a cup of tea (or a pot), a piece of peach cobbler and a long discussion on everything I need to learn yet about mothering and running a house. I think she would have a fair enough amount of encouragement for the ever changing job of marriage as well. She makes me laugh and cry and think about the important things. Check out her writings, poetry, recipes and good friendship feeling of fellowship over at Wholehearted Home

Here is my Linked Up Post!

Link Up #23

Heather at The Welcoming House is so joyfully real I find her absolutely refreshing to read. Her bloggy life is a beautiful open book of all kinds of love, child rearing, wifery, and a passion for teaching others how to get back to the basics. If I need to know how to can something or how to make it myself she is one of the first places I look. I enjoy reading about her darling daughters, and I especially like that she has a soon to be teenager on her hands because I find comfort in those similarities we have! She lives up here in the cold north and I should like to stop by and have that piece of pie she advertises about! Thank you Heather for featuring me! I am humbled. Now everyone... Go learn how to make pumpkin flour for raviolis and homemade Crisco candles at The Welcoming House!

My Linked Up Post!

Link Up #4!

Always Blessed,
Gretchen :)

Letter to My Daughter

My Dearest Princess Peony,

As I sit with my fingers perched over the keyboard knowing what I want to write but not knowing how to put such emotion to words I feel stuck in a paused moment. Where to begin in my letter to you when I have been there since the beginning? How do I place into mere words the things I should want to impart on you?

You grew near my heart. Always kicking and flexing your muscles. Even then I knew you would be strong. I felt in my blood pumping within me that you would be steadfast like our heartbeats. I knew you were a girl. A smallish me. A tiny pink breath nestled under my ribs, heart beating like a hummingbird's wings.

How has time flown so fast from then? I can picture your round infant face and shiny blue eyes. I can see your grin and hear the chuckling laugh you reserved for play time and first steps. It seems just the other day you were crawling, then walking, and running. Running to catch up. Running to chase the ball. Running to do it first. To do it better. Always wanting to do it better.

I want you to know a few things as you enter this thing called life. You have been here for some time but I see the pressures you will have for rest of your time here, that pivotal moment between little girl and young woman, trying to overstep you. I can see you finding your way and you are doing one heck of a job, daughter.

Firstly, I am unspeakably proud to call you my daughter. You are so logical in your thinking. So artistically eyed. Your beauty comes from within and simply radiates onto those around you. It is such an immense joy to see you give of your talents, to see you bring joy to others. I see you respectful of your elders and gentle with those younger. You have stood up for wrongs and held firm to your moral ground when things were shifting like quicksand. Not many adults can say that. You are ahead of this game simply because you can speak your mind with conviction and respect. A rare trait.

Now, onto some glimmers of wisdom. This is not conclusive as I am still learning myself, but it is what I have to offer you. An open shoebox of some dust catching collectables. Sift through the old jewery and bookmarkers. Broken necklaces and precious earrings. Find the good stuff scrawled on old loose leaf, folded many times. The List if you will.

Always have a good book. Read the fun ones that are like cotton candy but delve into a meaty book now and then. A classic that covers life in all its facets. Read something that takes effort.

Make sure you buy good shoes for running. You don't want to end up with my horrible feet.

Wear your favorite color simply because you love it. Don't be afraid to change that favorite color over time. Opinions change.

Keep up with current events, even if takes time away from Facebook.

Don't play mind numbing games that have little or no value. At least jog your brain with thought games even if it is harder.

Volunteer because it helps others and feels awesome to give back.

Say thank you to God daily for something, even its as simple as the beauty of a raindrop on the window.

Don't doubt your ability to accomplish what He gives you as goals. If God gives you the nudge He will provide the way.

Travel somewhere and take pictures of all He has given you to enjoy.

Feast your ears with God-glorifying music. Listen to things you wouldn't normally pick because there are hidden treasures everywhere. Pay attention to lyrics, because your brain subconsciously is.

Pay attention to what you watch on TV and at the movie theater. Once those visuals are in your head they are there forever. It isn't worth it just because someone said the movie was good.

Read your Bible every day. It will get easier and eventually you will feel like a part of you is missing if haven't.

Write a careful list of the 100 things you want in a husband someday. Be specific. Pray on it daily. No, it isn't too early. When some young man comes along who fits the list you will know God has provided.

If no one fits the list, God still has a plan.

Remember that anyone that asks you to compromise your list for his benefit is probably someone else's future husband.

You are someones future wife and you deserve to be treated as such. You are worth far more respect than some men are willing to give.

Love waits. And then waits some more. Exponentially more husbands and wives have said 'I should've waited.' then have said 'glad I didn't.'

Pay your bills on time and you will not be a slave to the lender.

Buy virus protection and get the extra warranty!

Paint your toes, because it is pretty.

Learn to make bread, can foods, garden, sew, and make herbal remedies for yourself and your family. It is frugal, better for you, and you will feel closer to your Creator when you create things.

Don't ever give up your art. Draw, and sculpt, and paint, and do web design. We are created to be creative and you will thrive when you are using it.

Be polite always.


Pray. Everyday. Multiple times a day. Pray for others. Pray with thanks. Pray for you.

Listen. Listen with your mouth closed and your ears open. Listen to God and He will speak to you through His Word. Listen to your friends and you will hear the real problems behind the problem. Listen to your elders because they do have some experience. Listen to your husband someday and listen with all of you, even when it doesn't interest you. Listen to your children even when it is occasionally bothersome. This is called love.

Dress modestly because you are worth it. Your body is so precious and so beautiful and will not be treated with respectful dignity if it is overly uncovered. You deserve to be looked upon with dignity not leered at with inappropriateness.

Own one good sweater, a scarf with a splash of color, and a great pair of boots. You can work those three items in so many ways.

Always carry chapstick, kleenex, and a brush in your purse. Trust me.

White carpet is always a bad idea.

Find a way to fellowship with other Christians. It is so important.

Find a way to share with unbelievers. It is so important!

Worship, Dance, and Sing like no one can see you or hear you. God does and He does matter.

Memorize Phil 4:13, Romans 1:16, 2 Tim 3:16-17, and Jer 29:11.

Read through Hebrews once a year.

Auntie Sara can fill in for me if ever I can't do it or am unable. She is me-thinking and will never lead you wrong.

The Preacher Man loves you more than you know. He worries about you more than the others. Don't forget about him, he has helped to raise you.

Be respectful to your other set of parents, they love you or they wouldn't challenge you so much.

Be kind to your siblings, always. Be honest. Rebuke. Love. In the end they will always be your closest friends and confidants.

Know that no matter what you do, where you go, or whatever choices you make I will love you. I will support you. I will open my arms and feel you next to my heart and they will beat together.

I love you.

Happy Birthday.

Mother's Day 2012

Always Blessed,
Gretchen :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tuesday's Gifts~ from my parents

Tuesday's Gifts ~
My parents instilled in us a love for Our LORD, gratitude for our freedoms and a respect and love for the old ways of things. What a gift.




 14 It was at that time that the Lord commanded me to teach you his decrees and regulations so you would obey them in the land you are about to enter and occupy. ~Deuteronomy 4:14

Always Blessed,
Gretchen :)

All pictures are courtesy of my sister Sara Rose Nissen. 
Check out her artwork over at  as seen through my eyes

Possibly Linking With:
Cornerstone Confessions
Wisdom Wednesdays and Link Up
No Ordinary Blog Hop
Frontline Moms Friday Fun
The Welcoming House

Friday, January 18, 2013

Help Mommy Stop It Crying

Regret by Alfred Stevens

Today I had a homeschool mama meltdown. Oh it was a slobbery mess. It was one of those hide in the bathroom and cry into some toilet paper moments. What? You don't have those?!

Every parent of multiple children has that one kid that has to push the buttons. Some of you have an only child that likes to push your buttons. That one child that always knows just which trigger to click to send you careening over the edge of sanity. The kid that can simply look at you the wrong day when you haven't had your third cup of of coffee yet and it simply just ticks. you. off. For no reason. The child that says things that are rude. That acts inconsiderate. Stubborn. Willful. Ungrateful. This child will be bold in his discontent and make everyone know about it. Or perhaps he will cause discontent simply because he can. He will monitor the ebb and flow of your day and when the toddler has tried to clean the toilet (true story), the cat has escaped out the screen door (again), and you have burnt the second batch of cookies for the church potluck he will strike. Like a coiled garden snake. Just a nip. An off side comment about the lunch you prepared. Or a personal correction on how you could have done it better. This child never says I am sorry. He is the one that hurts you to the core and who you pray most earnestly for. He is the one you worry about.

Now for non-homeschool world this child is difficult. He is the one the school calls home about. The one who got sucked into a game of 'pick on the fat kid' or a child that wrote naughty notes because someone told him to. This child talks back to teachers and stares out windows instead at the board. He is a challenge. He gets several different teachers who will tiptoe around his ego and hold his hand through every problem. They will attempt to build his low self esteem because that must be why he acts out. As a parent at home, you can survive the time the tyrant is home and then breathe when he is shipped off to school to be in some else's hair for a bit.

The homeschool mom has no such luxury. She will be a target for his misguided actions. He will ignore her careful plans and strive to be busy being anything but productive at his work. He will need almost constant supervision. When you are cleaning up the toddler, writing out math problems for your first grader and cutting up a chicken for supper he will wander from his studies to get the really good color crayons buried somewhere in his room or take a 35 minute bathroom break. He will become engrossed in watching a spider crawl across his bedroom ceiling and forget about his copywork. When you homeschool it is difficult to balance this child that takes three times longer to do everything. When you want to be starting Bible Study he is looking for his Bible becasue he has misplaced it... again. He makes everyone wait. He is often spouting authority he doesn't have. He fails to take responsibility for his actions unless they are golden. Then he doesn't let anyone forget it. It is exhausting.

Now on the flip side this is that kid with the million dollar smile. He gives it out like a gift. Eyes lit up mischievously. You can't help but love him in his naughtiness. You know there is an amazing potential in this child. One that if directed and guided can be a powerful tool for the LORD. His boldness is celebrated by God. His fearlessness is suited for sharing the gospel in unkind places. His ability to read you can be used for discernment in places of unrest and upheaval. His whimsy will allow him to get lost in God without guilt of all the have-tos and must-dos all of the law abiding, responsible folks miss out on. 

But oh how painful it is to survive the here and now. How frustrating to feel that you may never see the day this child curbs his sin and instead uses his gifts for God's glory! It can bring a mother to tears. Sobbing tears. In the bathroom. With the Princess Petunia on her potty.

The Preacher Man peeks in and says : Honey, You are doing an amazing job.

I feel like I'm failing. ~snot running.

No, you're not failing.

He wraps me in his arms. 

If he ends up in jail, will it be my fault?

No, it will be his choice. We will love him just like we love all our children in their messes. And we will visit him. ~ He chuckles.

LORD God, Bless mommy and help her stop it crying. Amen. 

Out of Princess Petunia. I am blessed. I am doing something right.

In my concentrated prayer time this verse was jumping out at me. I had read it earlier in a distracted sort of way... 
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:7
In fact let's take the whole chunk... How do we get the peace?
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:4-7
Well, aren't I making my requests known to God? Doesn't He know how painful this parent -child relationship can be? Well, of course HE does! Are we not often just like this spoiled, naughty child?

Which is why we are commanded to let our requests {petitions} be made known BY our prayers and supplication. The World English Dictionary defines Supplication as a humble entreaty or petition. Catch that? Humble. Humble Prayer. And we are to do that humble prayer WITH Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the act of giving thanks; grateful acknowledgment of benefits or favors, especially to God. 

I am often demanding that He fix this child. Or fix me. Or fix us. But I am not being humble in my request. I am expecting that I know better than my LORD. Oh how wrong! And I am forgetting to be thankful. I have much to be thankful for, even with this child that vexes me so very much. 

The Lord goes on to tell me He will give me peace beyond all understanding if I will follow this simple equation. The LORD will guard my heart and my understanding if I am humble before Him and go to Him with thanksgiving.

In conclusion, He gives me the way to calm down those feelings of inadequacy. Of frustration. Of I feel like I am failing again thoughts. He gives meditation tools! 

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ~Philippians 4:8
If my attitude is defeatist I should dwell on things commendable.
If I am at the end of the proverbial rope I should think about the Strength the LORD gives me.
If I have had a day of constant disruption and agonized over language arts just one last time I can take a few moments and  meditate on how blessed we are to pray through those lessons.

And the Peace will be with me.

Always Blessed,
Gretchen :)

This was post was featured at:
The WholeHearted Home

Possibly Linking With: Cornerstone Confessions

Wisdom Wednesdays and Link Up
No Ordinary Blog Hop
Frontline Moms Friday Fun
The Welcoming House
Domestic Randomness~ Friday Fascinations

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Beauty of Tea

There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea.  ~Bernard-Paul Heroux

Find yourself a cup of tea; the teapot is behind you.  Now tell me about hundreds of things.  ~Saki

All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes.  ~George Orwell, "A Nice Cup of Tea"

The best quality tea must have creases like the leathern boot of Tartar horsemen, curl like the dewlap of a mighty bullock, unfold like a mist rising out of a ravine, gleam like a lake touched by a zephyr, and be wet and soft like a fine earth newly swept by rain.  ~Lu Yu

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.  ~C.S. Lewis 

A Proper Tea is much nicer than a Very Nearly Tea, which is one you forget about afterwards.  ~A.A. Milne

Bread and water can so easily be toast and tea.  ~Author Unknown

Tea time..........

Always Blessed,
Gretchen :)

Possibly Linking With:
Cornerstone Confessions
Wisdom Wednesdays and Link Up
No Ordinary Blog Hop
Frontline Moms Friday Fun
The Welcoming House