Tom Sawyer and the Most Important Commandment

Sometimes I choose involuntary titles to read to my children. As in, I pick the book, and they have to listen. I have four boys, and with their personalities this is necessary if I ever want them to read a single classic novel. It worked well for the Little House series and Old Yeller, so why not Tom Sawyer?


I do have the unabridged version of Tom Sawyer, which is on an 8th grade reading level and is chock full of big words, some taboo language, and outdated ideas. I think it broadens their understanding to read things like this.

And it is a hilarious book, as you would expect, certainly funnier than their beloved Captain Underpants, in my opinion.

I’m only reading Tom Sawyer to my two oldest because the little ones don’t have the attention span for that yet.

One chapter we read recently reminded me how much America has changed for the worse, though many changes, such as America’s dark past of racism, have been for the better.

What change was for the worse? Bible knowledge. These days most people have terrible misconceptions of God and the Bible. How could we have any knowledge of a book most people no longer study?

Tom Sawyer was no goody-good church kid. That much you know, but out of requirement he did attend church every Sunday. The kids in Tom’s Sunday school class could even earn tickets by reciting Bible verses…..much like AWANA today. Tom was obviously not one to spend much time practicing his verses, so he took to trading for tickets.

This was funny to me because Caleb used to do this exact thing with SOAR cards when he was in 1st grade. SOAR cards were handed out at school for good behavior and could be exchanged for prizes. Caleb used to take Lego men to school and trade them for SOAR cards. He and many of the boys in his class had a real underground black market going with those cards.

Anyway, in the book Tom hands in enough tickets to get the grand prize, a new Bible. Not only that, but when he receives the grand prize he gets to stand up in front of the entire church and receive applause.

So they brought Tom up, and they asked him questions like, “What is the greatest commandment?”

No, Tom didn’t know.

Most people in America probably don’t know what commandment is the greatest. Sometimes the loudest so-called Christian people are the very ones who have confused everyone from knowing what God’s message even was. Ugh.

So I ask you, do you know? What is the greatest commandment? Some of you know, and some of you may not, but I don’t think we can ever be reminded too often.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”


37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”                                  –Matthew 22:36-40

Because if we love others, we will naturally not steal, lie, cheat, or use God’s name in vain. When we love others, we want to respect, help, and honor them.

None of us are perfect, and none of us ever will be on this earth, but what we should be striving for is LOVE.

“We were meant to put ourselves out there for people. An earthly cause is nothing without a people it affects.”       –Beth Moore

Love God. Love people. The most important commandments. People often split hairs about raising children. Do they have all As? Are they good at sports? Are they leaders? Do they sit quietly with their hands in their lap? Are they outgoing?

Who cares? You know what matters? Do your children love God and love people and show that through their actions? That’s what matters in my book and in God’s book too.

Of course, they have to learn that from us. We have to show our children how to do these things through our own actions. I hope we will always look for ways to show love to God and love to people. It isn’t always easy, but it’s more than worth it.

As I type these lovely, ideal thoughts out, I wonder. How will I show love today? You know, I’ve probably already failed a few times at this, and it’s only 10:39 am. But it is never too late to make the next step in a positive direction.




Top Back Pain Tip from the Arthritis Lady


Mom and me at Kansas City International Airport

Last week Mom and I had to take an unexpected trip to Kansas. My aunt was in the hospital, in ICU. Mom and I were worried, so we trekked on out there.

I’m the arthritis lady that has to take a special trip to the doctor’s office so I can make it through an airplane and car trip. I have to schedule walks down the airplane aisle to keep my legs from going crippled.

Good news: My aunt DID get moved out of ICU, and we got to visit with her. Even in hard times, Aunt Linda’s sharp wit can save a dire situation. She’s funny when she tries to be. She’s even funny when she’s not trying to be. I hope I have that much grace when I’m in a situation like that.

Bad news: She has a long recovery ahead and will be in the hospital for a while yet, and she’s only in her 50s. Hospital stays are miserable.

Other good news: I got to see my cousin Amber, who I grew up playing with, so this was a big deal.

Mom, me, and Amber, taking a lunch break at Panera.

Other bad news: Amber’s back is maybe even more messed up than mine is. We have this family arthritis problem. We could have done without that part of the inheritance, Granny…

So Amber and I were both popping NSAIDs and muscle relaxers and spraying each other with BioFreeze. And by the way, we are still young. We are trying not to think about how much worse this could get!

Nothing was working too well. In fact, as annoying as it is, do you know what seems to help me the most??

Physical therapy exercises. I started them in 2010 when my chiropractor assigned me strengthening and stretching exercises, and I was hurting so much that I actually did them out of pure desperation.

I did them faithfully until I started feeling better. Ever since, I’ve had the hardest time getting back in the habit. I need my own personal physical therapist in my living room.

So I found this YouTube channel that is PERFECT. Actually, it’s more than a YouTube channel. It’s a whole website. I wrote all about it over at Monterey Premier. Check it out here.


“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”   –Jesus, in John 16:33


It’s been 7 months since we flew south, but we are always home.

It's been 7 months since we flew south, but we are always home.

Daniel had his first week of tee-ball. Alan didn’t sign up to coach this year, not even to assistant coach, but he went out there today and helped anyway. And you know what happened? Alan came home so refreshed and happy. It was a beautiful thing to see.

Alan says that Daniel will actually be one of the oldest, most experienced players on his team this year. Yayyyyy, Daniel!!!

Meanwhile, you know what annoys me? Pop culture.

Why? Because it has reached my children, at least one of them, and he has started saying “Dang, Daniel!” all the time. Insert me, looking like an annoyed vulture.

Now some of you have no idea WHAT I’m talking about because you don’t know anything about pop culture. Well, allow me to shrink your brain by catching you up. There was this video that went viral in 2016, originally on Snapchat, of these high school kids saying “D***, Daniel,” over and over again.

And go figure, the video-maker’s name is Josh. So of course, someone told him about it. So now he says, “Dang Daniel” all the time. He’s not allowed to say the original version. Of course, Daniel doesn’t get it at all. Only I get it.

(If you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s the Ellen clip to explain.)

Speaking of my big boys, I thought this was hilarious. We spent last week hanging out at DaddyO and Nonna’s house r-e-l-a-x-i-n-g. It was wonderful. Check out the amazing amounts of sleep I accomplished, according to my Fitbit. I was so proud. (By the way, I noticed Amazon has the Fibit Charge II $20 off right now.)

Yep! Proud of myself

I wanted to find a funny movie we could enjoy with the boys. I found Father of the Bride and Father of the Bride Part II!!!!!  I talked up how uproariously we would all laugh at this movie.

Father of the Bride Part II

We watched half of the first movie, and then Joshua proclaimed, “You said this was funny! I don’t think this is funny at all!” And then he disappeared upstairs.

What? Not funny? This stuff is HILARIOUS.  I guess there’s an age range for this humor. Remember this?

It's been 7 months since we flew south, but we are always home.

It has been 7 months now since we moved in, and we are starting to feel settled. We’re using our GPS less and less, and the boys are asking to go back to California far less. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. It takes a year to fully adjust to a move.

I’d say it takes two years to actually get past surface-level relationships and put down roots. That’s the lonely thing about it. No one knows you well enough to relax, and you are still trying to figure out all the new people you’ve met.

I can learn their names easily, but sometimes it takes time to root out the kindred spirits from the high-maintenance ones.

It's been 7 months since we flew south, but we are always home.

I feel like Alan and I did this ONE particular thing right that’s going to be the thing that makes life fun and frequent moving doable. These 4 boys. I can’t really say we gave them each other because God did that. If I had gotten to decide it myself, there would have been a Gracie and a Josie thrown in, and then our whole family dynamic would be different.

But this is better because this is what God gave us. I can’t imagine our lives without a single one of them. We have two sets of best buddies, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. The younger ones are learning from the bigger ones things, for better and for worse, ha!, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. They fill our hearts with so much joy.

And no matter where we move they all have each other, and Alan and I have each other and these boys.

Best of all, we’ve never grown too comfortable with any one place or house. There’s no confusion about where home is. Home is not a building that can be taken away. Home is right here, wherever we are. Home is us. So we are always home.

It's been 7 months since we flew south, but we are always home. It's been 7 months since we flew south, but we are always home.

And now here they are, all telling me that Lego Batman movie premiered today, and they are just dying to know when I am going to take them to see it. Yeah…I might have promised them to take them to see that because Lego Batman is a serious obsession around here.

Maybe I can make it happen today……

A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”…            –Jesus  (John 13:34-35)


It was not a failure, though I thought it was at the time.

It was not a failure.

*This post does contain some affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through my site, I receive a small percentage.*

I’ve been dealing with my own feelings of failure for a while now. Have you ever felt that way? I read this story this week, and I poured tears as I contemplated my own “failure.”

There was this man. He was from out-of-town. He wanted to teach people about Jesus. That landed him in prison, and not just prison. First, he was stripped and beaten, and then they put him in prison.
He got out though.
And then you know what he said about that trip? He said, “It was not a failure.”

Public humiliation. Beaten! Imprisoned!

That was not a failure?? He was basically chased out of town. He can’t go back there.

But that man was Paul, and that town was Philippi. You can read more about that story in Acts 16:16-25 and 1 Thessalonians 2, all of chapter 2.

“You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition.”    1 Thessalonians 2:1-2

It was not a failure because they STILL did share the gospel, as they set out to do. When we tell people the good news, that Jesus loves ALL of us and wants to save and be a friend to ALL of us, we aren’t responsible for how people respond to that. That doesn’t mean be a jerk and don’t care. That means don’t be obnoxious. Share it, and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

Public disgrace does not equal failure.

Things not ending as planned does not mean we failed.

Being physically destroyed is not failure. It’s not.

You are not a failure either. Think of your most recent failure, and then consider. What did you learn? What good came out of that?

I was reading about all of these things in Children of the Day, by Beth Moore. It takes books like these to help me understand things like Acts 16 being tied to 1 Thessalonians. Believe me, I’d never figure that out on my own. Every single Beth Moore Bible study workbook I have ever read has been a massive blessing to me.

This one is no exception. She just HAD to go and ask us what our most recent failure is. She left a little blank space for us to write about it. Ha! I got out my spiral notebook and filled up a whole PAGE.

I wrote, and I thought, and I cried, and I prayed, and in the end I was reminded.

“Though a righteous man falls 7 times, he will get up, but the wicked will stumble into ruin.”  Proverbs 24:16

Failure stings when it’s something that means the world to you. It stings like getting stung by a HIVE OF BEES  or 50 fire ants.

I set out to home school those two years with two objectives:

  1. I wanted to give them that one-on-one boost with their academics.
  2. I wanted to improve their character. No, I can’t improve it myself, but I wanted to promote it. I wanted to provide the right environment and the right tools for the boys and God to work that out.

I was not able to accomplish what I wanted, academically, and to make it worse trying to be a teacher, homemaker, blogger, and mom all at once made me MISERABLE. It was heart-breaking. Even as I write about it again, it’s like my heart is all ripped up and bleeding. I want to pound my fists to the wall and then lay my head against it and cry until there’s no water left because no matter how hard I tried, everything felt like failure.

I love these children with such intensity, I want to fix every single problem that they have, but that’s not possible, is it? The ability to fix everything was so far beyond my control.

So I failed. Or so I thought. But you know what? I did not fail. They didn’t fail either. Nothing failed. There was nothing wasted here.

In those two years, I saw their character bloom. I saw love, humility, honesty, justice, kindness, and goodness in my boys.

Caleb was saved and baptized, of his free choosing during that time at home with me. I even heard him teaching his friends about Jesus.

There was spiritual warfare waged over the souls of my children those two years, and God won.

I grew to understand the boys’ strengths and weaknesses. I came to terms with my own limitations. We emerged a different family than when we went into this.

I failed in some ways in order to learn. Sometimes we have to fall to learn, to grow, to become.

We saw it happen with my children too. We watched them overcome the kind of adversity that would have CRUSHED me at their age. I would not have handled it with the strength, dignity, and courage that I watched my son display.

That’s not actually failure is it? But it sure feels like it when you’re laying in a wad on the ground.

So no, we have not failed. We have only fallen and gotten back up again, and we too shared the gospel in the process.

All of these thoughts led me to this song, and I can’t get it out of my head. Its “fall down and get back up” message resonated with me. Yes, we are trying EVERYTHING. It’s a fun song, and my favorite line is this one:

“Birds don’t just fly. They fall down and get up.”

You’ll have to click the link below to go to YouTube to see the lyrics and hear this song. It’s worth it.


Ok. Your turn to answer Beth Moore’s heart-wrenching question. Failure. When did you last feel it?

“Ask yourself: Did we do the will of God as best we perceived it? Were we authentic before God and man?”    —Children of the Day, page 41, Beth Moore

And I would add, what did you learn? Then maybe it’s not such a failure after all, and even if it is, get back up again.


The Gray Jacket, The Road Trip, and The OCD Workshop

Check it out. We found photos of all four boys wearing this gray jacket. We own two of these jackets, both in a size 5/6, so that made it a little easier. I think it’s fun to see them all side-by-side wearing it. There are striking similarities. I think Joshua and John David look the most alike here.

In case you’re having trouble telling who is who, it’s JD, age 3, Daniel at age 5, Caleb at age 3, and Joshua at age 5. I’m a firm believer in buying clothes with wiggle room.


We spent the weekend in Alabama for DaddyO’s birthday. (Photos of that to come soon.) All went well. It’s amazing how much more pleasant it is to take a road trip now that our age range is 11 to 3!!! The difference is astounding.

No one wore diapers. No one peed in their car seat. No one needed a sippy-cup or a bottle. Best of all, no one cried.

On the way home I had to stop to get gas. It was just Joshua, Daniel, JD, and me in the car. Alan and Caleb rode separately. I had promised the boys that I would buy them each one snack at the gas station, as a treat. My dad used to do that for us on road trips when I was a child, and I remember how special that always was to us.

But when we pulled into the gas station, John David was fast asleep.

Years ago, that would have been a problem, especially since Daniel had to pee, but JD was asleep. A couple of years ago, I would have built Daniel a barrier, and he would have watered some grass and gravel. The last thing I want to do on a car trip is wake up a toddler or a baby!

But this year was nothing like that. I have an eleven-year-old now! Joshua said, “Don’t worry, Mom. I’ll take Dan in, and I’ll buy us some snacks.”

Y’all!!! The joy!!!!!

Poor John David was a little confused when he woke up an hour later and went straight back to the gas station search.

“There’s one, Mom! There’s one, Mom!”

“Oh, sweetie, we already stopped and got gas, and now we’re almost home.”


Children that sleep on car trips are such a blessing.


The OCD Workshop

Many people in our family are OCD. Not me. I probably annoy the OCD people to no end. One of them is our little Daniel. Daniel was going through a phase where he was clipping his fingernails every single night!

They were starting to look a little hurt, so we made him stop. The other day, he asked permission to clip his fingernails, and lo and behold. Look! He actually had nails to clip!


I was so proud of him! I mean, yes, I am also proud that he clips his own nails. Daniel is very grownish for a five-year-old. It’s funny because people look at him, and he’s a little short, so they often think he is four, and they wonder that I give him so much freedom. But you see, not all five-year-olds are equal, and this child…..I don’t suppose I know of too many things that big boys can do that he can’t handle.

One day a friend of Caleb’s was over here playing with Caleb and Daniel, and Caleb’s friend said, “I never let my kindergarten brother ever touch MY Legos!”

Daniel quietly pointed out, “Yes, but your brother is *Ziggy.* (name changed, of course.)”

Caleb and his friend all quietly agreed that yes, that was completely different from playing with Daniel.

But Daniel’s still human. Many mornings he is the very hardest one to wake up:

Out of bed and right back to sleep in the hallway floor

My husband’s theory is that we non-morning people types are simply not happy or excited to start our day, that we are perhaps a little depressed.

While that can be true, I can assure you, even if this is the day I’m going to Disney World itself, I don’t want to get out of bed.

Now I’d love to tie these three stories together with some sort of brilliant……um POINT, rather than be yet another story with no point at all, but folks, that’s about all I have today. I’m laying in my bed on a hot pad as we speak because I completely over-hauled, scrubbed,  de-cluttered, and re-organized Dan and JD’s room today. By 4pm, my right hip was SCREAMING at me, so here I am. We will be having pizza tonight.

Wall-E by Caleb


And now here’s little JD, rolling all over me, making typing quite impossible. How thankful I am for him! We wish you all a wonderful week!

“Life’s limitations are God’s invitation to change our expectations.”  –Kristen Strong in Girl Meets Change


“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  Mark 6:31




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