my Thursdays…serving in a prison

Every Thursday, I park my car beside several others and stand outside of it waiting to hear what the plan is. I’m always willing to drive, of course, but if I didn’t have to remove the car seats and brush off the crumbs and pick off the food with my fingernail before someone needed to sit there, that would always be preferable…know what I’m saying?

So I wait and watch, and then I get into whatever car I need to at the end. And we drive an hour. Honestly, if all we did was drive an hour and get out and be done, it would be worth it to me. To sit and listen to them talk, trying SO hard to shut my mouth and soak in their wisdom and love. But of course, I can’t always shut my mouth, because these women have been trained through this ministry. Not only have their hearts swelled with compassion and grace, but they have become amazing at asking questions; asking the right question that will cause you to open your heart, leaning into their comfort and trustworthiness.

But the hour drive isn’t the end. Once we arrive, I step out of the car to greet the others from other cars. I laugh in that parking lot more than I have since last Thursday. One of my very favorite places is that parking lot and inside the doors, but I know most others don’t feel the same. Because it’s a prison. And inside of it are lots of women color coded by clothing, looking the same, and feeling even less special.

After a quick leader meeting, we file into a chapel and sit in the midst of 70 women dressed in yellow. We listen to one of those women I tried soaking up on the drive as she teaches and shares from one of the best Bible studies I’ve ever had the opportunity to go through. Then we pray and I watch 70 heads bow. Then, we stand up and separate into groups.

And I go to the same room, with the same girls. And I know them by heart. I know what they look like, their names, their children’s names. I know where they’re from, sometimes, why they’re there. And I want SO badly to say, “I get it.” Because though I have never had to walk in straight lines, dressed the same as everyone else, and taking orders from someone who may or may not be kind, I know what shame is. I know what sin is. and I know what it’s like to walk with the visible evidence of your sin. I want to say, “I understand what it is to want to change your life, but keep failing.” There are many that are closed off to us, many that are open books from the start, and then there are some that in the beginning look as if they’re shamed for us to even see them there. And I want to take their face in my hands and say, “girl, last week, I stood in the middle of a church with thousands of people and saw someone from my past I haven’t seen in ten years. And knowing my freedom from that sin. knowing my life and my heart and even more, knowing God’s grace, I looked down and away in shame. I didn’t want to be seen there…in church. because, who am I to worship a holy God? I am His child. And so are you.” The phrase we speak to them the most is “you were created ON purpose FOR a purpose.” And for those who have never heard anything except that they were “an accident,” this truth alone can be amazing.

And I get to do that a lot in pieces, but…I’m learning. I’m learning how to be like those other women and listen. For the first time in my life, maybe, I listen more than I speak. The Bible study these girls are doing throughout the week says more into their soul and hurt than I ever could, because the Holy Spirit is blowing all through it. They don’t need an amazing teacher (luckily). They don’t need wise words and a pat on the back or a rescue (though they probably want it. who wouldn’t?) They need me sitting, there in that chair straight across from them. They need to tell their story, one at a time, while the tears pour and they sort through their lives. Then they say things like, “I’ve never had to deal with this. I’ve never dealt with my miscarriages and stillbirths. I’ve never dealt with my mama’s death. I just got high and dulled it away. and now…now it’s all flooding me and I have no idea what to do with all this.” And you offer them God’s love. And when they look at you with tortured eyes, and say, “I don’t want to be here. I don’t want this life. I had everything in the world and threw it all away. Do you think I’m a horrible person, Mrs. Heather??” you look them dead in the eyes, and say, “no. no, sweetie. I don’t. I think you are beautiful, and I love you. and more than that, God loves you. Right here. Right now.” and then you hurt for them as they crumble and nod as tears pour.

And the worst part of it all, is when the security guard walks over to let you know with her presence that your time is up. And you hug them, and promise to pray for them and their children and families. And that you will see them next week. And you gather with the leaders, and you walk out past the lined up women in yellow, and they wave with arms high over their heads yelling, “bye!!! thank yall so much for coming! thank you!” And you get back in the car, and process. and luckily, you get to process with others who were there too. you process things like, “she was 14 when she had her first baby? how old did she say she was when she first started being molested?” and heavy things like that. and not once do you excuse the laws that were broken for them to end up there, but dang. where would I be if I had the same life? I would hope I would make different choices, but I am aware that it is by the grace of God alone that I made better ones even with a better life.

and we pray all week long, that God is working through them. That He is changing their lives. All the while, I’m always aware that they aren’t alone, and that my heart is being transformed every Thursday the moment I step out of that car and my foot touches the parking lot, while my heart jumps in excitement ready to see my girls again.

All this to show you what prison ministry can really be like. I know that for so many, prison ministry carries such a presupposition with so many. It did for me, anyway. But I wanted to badly to give you a glimpse into my Thursdays, and allow the Spirit to show you even more than I could write while respecting my girls and their privacy. If you have any questions, concerns, or want to hear more, please message me!

Homeschool around the world study is really all about the food

Happy Monday! I hope you had a great Valentine’s Day weekend. We had a lot of fun, and my hunny and I ended it last night with his epic cooking (the boy can cook a steak, y’all) and then I made him answer all sorts of questions from Jennie Allen’s book I’ve been reading Restless.  Because, what’s more fun than eating a lovely meal and spilling your soul across a table? right? exactly. he played along well, and I love how much I learned about him that I didn’t know before even after all these years

So, as you may know, we’re homeschoolers. That comment usually gets an odd look from those not acquainted with it, but from those who do, it usually gets lots of questions like “what curriculum do you use,” and things of that nature. We are a bit different in our own house, simply because I’m super laid back with things…you wouldn’t know that from looking at my array of planners (I have 6 that I use for different things), but I am! So…we use worksheets and curriculum for reading and math, but all the rest is unit study that can change with the wind, y’all. Usually, it changes with whatever my girls are currently interested in. So, for now? We’re pulling London’s love of her geography work into an Around the World unit study. Can I just be transparent? I’m in it for the food.

She loves learning about other cultures, the way they dress, what they look like, what their houses look like…everything. And I love learning about what they eat and mimicking it. We all have our strengths and passions, right? So, we have spent time doing worksheets and crafts and reading and watching documentaries. We have covered Africa, Europe, and North America so far. And while it’s been super fun and we’ve learned a lot, I am loving the meal planning for it. Because 1) I get to incorporate lesson planning and meal planning together and kill two birds and all that. 2) It gets rid of that dreaded, “what should we have for dinner” question. oh my word, do you hate that topic as much as me? 3) it makes me excited about dinner so we are less likely to cheat and eat something cheap and easy, or eat out (eating out is the big one).

So, I just wanted to share some of our favorite finds so far! I’ve had several meals that were okay. One or two we didn’t like at all. Lots that we loved. My heart beats hard now for Chicken Fricassee. I’m not even kidding. We actually ate it when studying North America even though it’s not from this area, because it was Abraham Lincoln’s bday and it was his favorite meal. After making it, I decided I liked him even more. We could be friends, Abe and I..

I have an entire pinterest board here full of our Around the World themed food, but here are some links to my favorite recipes.

From Africa, we really loved these recipes>>> West African Chicken Stew and Ghanaian Jollof Rice and Beef Kabobs (sadly, it did not occur to me to ask people I know who are from Africa or whose parents are for their own amazing recipes until I posted a picture on fb one night and a friend said she’d send me her mom’s recipe! African theme re-do!)

Europe we loved these most>>> Irish Nachos (Oh my word, guys. This is not a drill. Make these. Think American Cheese fries at outback but better.)  Swedish Meatballs, Irish Beef and Stout Stew, Chicken Fricassee (of course), Cornish Game Hen with veloute sauce (VELOUTE SAUCE! that is all.) I feel like I’m missing some favorites. But I am also so incredibly happy to be able to say that we aren’t actually finished with Europe, so there will be much more European favorites I’m sure. The sauce addiction this has created is a serious problem, guys.

North American favorites>>>> Iron Skillet Apple Pie (I should probably be embarrassed to say this, but I make this enough that I don’t even use a recipe anymore. This pie is very forgiving in any mistakes and is SO good. It’s my husband’s favorite dessert so we have it more than we really should but I say it’s all in the name of submission and loving him and serving him and all the other things that make apple pie sound godly)  Mexican Enchiladas, Canadian Poutine, Navajo Tacos with fry bread (I first had navajo tacos on a reservation in Oklahoma years ago. I’ve never been the same since. so. good. Plus, the fry bread is really fun to make with the kids!)

Okay..I feel like that may be enough recipes for now…and only three of the seven continents! (but we all know Antarctica doesn’t count there) Several of these meals will make their way to our regular meal rotation. Also, I’ll reassure you that I don’t do super difficult recipes. ain’t nobody got time for that. These are all very easy meals that do not take forever. In fact! soo many of them are ONE POT MEALS! yay! less dishes!

So, I hope you have a great week! Let me know if you tried any of these, OR BETTER YET, let me know if I may have missed a really great recipe you know about! Exchanging recipes makes me feel like we should sit in my rocking chairs on my deck and knit or garden or something. love you guys <3 I’m off to find something great and American for dinner tonight for President’s Day 🙂

 

 

I’m still here..

Hello! my goodness, it’s February, y’all! I’ve decided that January is a trial month and the whole new year thing doesn’t technically begin until February…can I get an amen? We have been homeschooling and enjoying some whirlwind weather all through January. Seriously, we had lovely upper 60’s-low 70’s temps, then a record breaking beautiful, deep snow the next week, and now we’ve been back to high 60’s-low 70’s again. I have not been so great at the housekeeping, because it’s been too pretty. Yesterday, I literally sat in our backyard while the girls played in the sunniest spot and enjoyed the sun until it could no longer shine on me before heading inside to figure out dinner.

Fortunately for my husband and house, today has been chillier, so I’ve spent the day doing laundry and cleaning…sigh. I’ve also been busy doing taxes (ugh), meal planning, lesson planning, getting everything in order for my own classes to begin, and tip toeing my way through some early lessons the Lord has had for me on my word of the year:hope. All of which, I would love to share with you! I’ll force myself to wait and post about each of those individually, so I don’t end up with a giant rambling post anymore than I’ve started. (blame it on the lattes)

So, for now, I want to say that I’m still here. I hope you’ve found a word of the year, or that your heart will soon find one. And I can’t wait to share some of the family fun we’ve had and some of the great things God has shown me through His word lately!

See you SOON!

oh, and also? there will be a pretty fun giveaway happening over on my instagram soon, so head over and follow me if you aren’t already! @hspatters  because what better way to say I’m sorry to friends for disappearing in your own life than a fun thinking of you gift! 🙂

New Year and a clean slate—Free 2016 Printable!

Happy New Year! Did you have a great New Year’s Eve?? We had a fun dinner and celebration with our girls, ringing in the new year with parts of Greenland…ahem…thank you, Netflix, for giving us a countdown we can use at 8pm.

new years with kids

we had dinner with fancy glasses and new years tiaras…except there wasn’t enough for daddy, so we had to make him a crown

Even our Westie, Jazz got into it

new year dog

We bought lots of confetti poppers and made a balloon drop on our fan

balloon drop kids new year

Then, we played board games and filled out some kid friendly year end reviews, with all the big events of our year on the wall for reference…because lists are my life blood

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When bedtime grew near and the smallest of us began to wane, we pulled up the countdown on netflix and had a big celebration with dancing and poppers and balloons! This was the entire floor of my living room by the end of the it all…

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It was all really fun. I love celebrating holidays with kids. Everything is so magical and fun to them, and their lack of expectations keep away the fear of disappointment. After the girls were all tucked in for bed, Lance and I filled out our own year end reviews and looked back on our last year together. We have a really lovely tradition for New Year’s where we go to bed before midnight…I know, we’re so lame. But, after all that partying hard, we were tired! So, we went to sleep and awoke to a whole new year. And, the weekend was full of relaxation. He built things and I read books. The girls played and giggled and ran. And we began talking about what a new year means. Lance and I talked about how important it is to learn how to dream together, and we spent most of the evening discussing our own dreams for ourselves, each other, and our girls. Then, last night, we wrote them down. The thing I love about fresh starts, is that they can go any direction you point them to!

Clean slates. Just like a slate chalkboard wiped clean, yes it has the chalky white appearance of things erased, but it is ready for something new! So, what will you wipe off your slate? What will you determine to write on it? There are so many great printable lists online. I looked through so many just to find one for myself, but I couldn’t find any that contained all the directions I really wanted to go in my planning for 2016. So I made one for myself, and I’m making it available to you. 🙂

Here is the image, if you’d like to right click, save as, and download it that way!

2016 clean slate printable

and here is the pdf file if you’d like to download it that way>>>2016 clean slate printable

What will your slate look like this year? Will you be sure to wipe away ALL the old chalk first? What will be your big goal? What will you do for yourself? I’m still mulling over many of these questions, including food to eat. SO MANY OPTIONS! 🙂 But also, what is my big goal? What will I devote my time, energy, and heart to? Do you know yours? I wish I could sit with you over a cup of coffee and hear your answers. Have a happy new year and a first normal week back after the holidays!

oh, hello there, 2016–Free 2015 Year Review printable!

It’s a new year! I love autumn, deeply, truly. It speaks to my heart in ways other things and seasons can’t. But, oh my, oh my, how I love the season of new year’s leading to Easter.

I could use a second chance. I could use every opportunity of a second chance I can get. And New Year’s, Lent, Easter, all of it reminds my heart that I have just that each and every day.

But it’s hard to look forward without taking a moment to look back. Today, I grabbed 12 pieces of printing paper and wrote a month in the middle of each piece. And I’ve been going through my calendar, pictures, and social media accounts and making notes on important happenings in each month. I’m planning on taping them to the wall tonight for my family to read after dinner and maybe add their own moments. They’re not fancy, just like many of the moments we’ll add on later. But they meant everything to us.

new year's tradition

I also found a few kid friendly New Year’s pages we’ll fill out as a family, but I also wanted something for Lance and I to fill out together after the girls’ were in bed. So, I made us a cute little year end review, and I’ll make us a New Year 2016 goal list too that I’ll share with you. But for now, I wanted to share our year end review list as a printable for any that would love to look back on their year and breathe it in one last time.

Here is the printable as an image to right click and save as…

year end review

and here is the file as a pdf that makes it a bit easier to print ;)>> Year End Review

I hope you have a lovely (and safe!) New Year’s Eve! Now I’m off to go tape up a balloon drop to my ceiling fan and plan a yummy year end dinner for my family. You can’t end the year with mundane food, right??