The Real Cost of PKU

I could not find a good graphic to compare the cost of PKU food to real food, so I made my own cost comparison. I based prices on my local Walmart vs. Cambrooke foods (US DOLLARS). If you notice any errors, please let me know and I can update. I hope others in the PKU community can use this as well.



Phenylketonuria: ‪#‎pkuawareness‬ ‪#‎pkuphotoaday‬


Book Review: Mission at Nuremberg


You know that hypothetical cliché question that people like to ask about salvation and forgiveness…some version of “So you’re saying that if Hitler repented before he died, then God would even save Him?”

We know that probably didn’t happen…but we stumble over trying to explain. Yes, God does forgive anyone who genuinely repents but yet explain that it’s not just a thing people can say without actually a heart change and then…well…basically, it leads to a lot of confusing conversation that isn’t all that helpful about a situation that probably didn’t even happen anyway. Hitler probably isn’t in Heaven and I’m sure the inquirer didn’t think he was…but it’s a classic way to get Christians to stumble at the idea that God could even save someone like Hitler.

But what about others like Hitler? What if those who worked for him and with him, those who carried out his most heinous plans, what if they repented? I had never even thought about it before coming across the book “Mission at Nuremberg” by Tim Townsend. The story is about an Army Chaplain named Henry Gerecke assigned to minster to the Nazis leaders on trial in the famous Nuremberg Trials.

First off, as a disclaimer, this book is biography, not a Christian book. The author is not trying to promote a theological view, but merely presenting the beliefs that Henry Gerecke held to in his ministry. Honestly, I didn’t even agree with some of Gerecke’s theology and approach to ministry. However, it was incredibly thought-provoking and challenged my view of  both God’s grace and His mercy.

If you don’t know much about the trial themselves, I encourage you to research and learn more about them. Basically, twenty-one high ranking Nazis leaders were on trial for the war crimes they committed. And I’m guessing most people know at least a little about how truly horrendous these crimes were.

The American Army decided to provide those on trial with Army Chaplains just like they might with any other trial. Henry Gerecke was a Lutheran minister who spoke German and was assigned to the task.

The book starts out a little slow. As a biography, it starts with Gerecke’s life story so that readers know who he is. However, most of the book is full of his observations and thoughts as he ministered to these men whom the world was eager to see pay for the Holocaust crimes.

Here is the catch -Gerecke wasn’t just there to counsel these men. He was there to call them to REPENT…which means he believed they could be forgiven. And…minor spoiler alert…some of them genuinely seemed to repent…as in, they may actually be our fellow brothers in Christ. These men that committed the horrible acts we read about in history books…some of them may have genuinely been forgiven by the Lord.

Yes, neither Gerecke nor anyone else aside from God could truly know if these men did repent. But the mere idea that they could be in Heaven completely challenged my view on forgiveness. Do I really believe what I say I do? Do I really believe that sin is sin, regardless of how much “worse” some sin seems than others? Do I really believe that salvation is a gift for anyone God elects, anyone He leads to truly repent, no matter their sinful past?

I can’t even begin to explain to you how hard it was to read some of the thoughts of Gerecke about these men. They were real people, sinners just like you and me. Yes, their sin was immensely terrible. But if God truly is the God we say He is, He can forgive their sins just as He has mine.

Since I’ve studied and taught about the Holocaust for years and heard numerous survivors share their personal stories, I must be honest…the sinful side of me wants to hope that Gerecke was wrong about these men and that they didn’t truly repent…and maybe he was wrong.

But I must remember what Paul says in Romans 9:14-16 “14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”


Saving Money, Part II

Year ago, I wrote a post on some simple things I do that actually save a decent amount of money. You can find that blog here. I still use those tips, but since then, I have found a few more tips to share…the first of which is even better than anything from the first blog.

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 10.01.45 PMEBATES: I have no idea why EBates wants to give us money, but they do. I did my research and basically it seems that they give you a cut of the money they would earn for their link leading you to a buyer. The only thing is you don’t even really need to go to their site. Once you sign up, you can download a “button” for your browser that reminds you. For example, if I go to a button pops up on the right to activate EBates. This should happen for any site that they offer cash back so you don’t even have to remember. We’ve only been using EBates for a few months for a few items, but we already received a check and have earned about $20 “cash back”. For us, it’s a no-brainer. Before you sign up, please check with your friends and see if they can “refer” you. This gets them $50…which is awesome for them. If you don’t have a friend already on or don’t want to ask…at least use my link so I get $50…SIGN UP HERE. Just don’t sign up directly on their site without getting someone $50! Then once you sign up, share your “referring” link via Facebook or a blog and earn your $50 as well.


Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 10.19.25 PM

Amazon Family (Formerly Amazon Mom): Ok, so you must have Amazon Prime to make this work…but everyone needs Amazon Prime…that’s a entirely different blog post someday. I have been buying Huggies diapers for anywhere from 14 cents to 17 cents per diaper and never paid more. That’s cheaper than the “cheap” diapers at other places. To make it work, you have to know what you are doing.

  1. The best deals are only found if you go directly to the “Amazon Family” page, not just I just type “Amazon Family” into the search bar on Amazon and it links there.
  2. You need to “Subscribe and Save” to get the good deal. But no worries, you can cancel the next month if you don’t want it more than once…and you can sign up again whenever. I often do this or “skip” shipments
  3. The best deals are the Economy Size (or whatever the largest size box is of your diaper brand)
  4. You can change diaper sizes at any time as long as you do it before they ship…they send you an e-mail to confirm before they ship.
  5.  Occasionally they have coupons in addition to the normal savings. To use a coupon it usually has to be the first shipment you get of that particular diaper…so when I find I coupon on Amazon Family with a good deal, I simply cancel my current “Subscribe and Save” and sign up again with the deal.


Pampers Rewards / Huggies Rewards …etc: Ok, those codes are annoying. But yes it is worth taking the time to enter the codes. I save all codes in one spot until I have a few to enter at once. It can be annoying, but it can save money too. I haven’Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 10.20.14 PMt even spent my Pamper’s Rewards yet, but just for entering for an entire year they gave me free “Grow On”  reward options…and I was able to get a 12×12 ShutterFly book. I made a First Year photo album for my little one that normally would have cost over $50.  I’ve used a few Huggies points to buy a Melissa and Doug toy for my kiddos first birthday.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever


Seriously…the best.

A few years ago, I was searching for a recipe for some cream cheese cookie bars that a friend had made and I stumbled across the most amazing recipe for soft-batch style homemade chocolate chip cookies.  They were a hit. Every time I make them, they disappear quickly and I have tons of compliments.

Since the recipe is from a blog site that probably generates views and revenue, I don’t want to post it here…that’s not fair to the blogger, Kelly. But I can’t hold back on the secret any longer and need to share it with other. So…without further ado…


Quick Tip: If you like this recipe or any you find on a blog, please write it down the old-fashioned way or save it to your computer on your own file. You better believe I have a recipe card for these cookies. You never know when someone might shut down their blog or change a link somehow. I’ve lost a few great recipes I “pinned” years back due to this!

P.S. Kelly – I hope you don’t mind that I linked to your blog and your recipe. Hopefully it will only help you get more readers. I also “borrowed” your photo because I’ve never bothered to take one of the cookies. If you come across my blog and this bothers you, please comment and I will take this post down…but the world needs to know about your cookies! 


Host a Clothing Swap


Last week, I hosted a clothing swap for a group of my friends. I can’t take credit for the idea (I was invited to a few before) but it’s brilliant. Basically, you find some of your nicer clothes, jewelry, purses, and other items that you don’t wear or us anymore and trade them with friends who might fit and enjoy them. And you end up with some of their great stuff to enjoy as well. It’s like shopping without money.

But it takes a bit of planning…so below is how to make it work.

Invite friends. That part is easy. I made a Facebook invite because it was simple and all my friends but one have Facebook (and I e-mailed the anti-Facebook friend). Do whatever works for you. Keep in mind to be sensitive to friends that may not wear the same sizes as others. You may want to encourage everyone to bring accessories as well so that everyone can find something. Obviously, try to pick a time that works for most people. If you pick a meal time, be ready to provide some sort of food or ask ladies to bring food.

In your invite, you want to explain the basics of what this is. It would be easy to give too many details, so just give the basics. You can explain the rules and tips later in an e-mail or follow up text, call, etc. My invite said this:

“Bring at least 10 items of gently-used clothing, jewelry, shoes, purses, scarves, and/or other accessories to swap with others. Light snacks and drinks will be provided. You are welcome to take home any of your items that are leftover or leave them to be donated.”

Simple and to the point.

Plan the Layout. The best way to organize is to find some clothing racks. You may be surprised to find you have friends that actually own these. I was able to find three to borrow, which was the perfect amount for my group. We had TONS of items (hundreds). If your party is small, you may not need that many. I also had folding tables set up (borrowed as well). I used three tables plus our guest bed to “display” clothing.  The amount needed will also depend on how you organize sizes and items (see below). I used two rooms in my house for the clothes – our living room and our guest bedroom. Keep in mind you may want to leave a room for a fitting room. You may also want to borrow large mirrors to place around so people are not all cramming into the bathroom to use the mirror.

Label and organize. Everything had labels…everything! Basically, I used the clothing racks for dresses, skirts and nicer shirts and pants. All causal shirts and pants went on tables. Since I had three clothing racks, I had one for X-Small and Small, one for Medium, and one for Large and X-Large. Keep in mind what sizes of clothing most your friends are likely to bring to help you assess which sizes need the most space. If you only have one clothing rack, you can put all sizes on that one…just be prepared to have tables full of non-hung clothes.

Then I had a table for pants with one half for Small (0-4) and the other side for Medium (6-8)…and I put a box labels “Scarves” between the two sizes to divide them. I did the same for a small/medium shirt table, with a box for purses in between the two, another table for Large (10-14) pants and X-Large and above (16+) pants. And then I used my guest bed for the Large and X-Large shirts. Once again, keep in mind who will be there. You may not need a section for certain sizes. And you may want to divide sizes differently. Size 10 could easily have gone under “Medium” and I hope none of my guest were insulted, but I knew I had TONS of size 6 and 8 pants, so I needed the 10’s to go on the large table in order to have room.

IMG_1544Once again, you don’t need clothing racks and can totally just use tables, beds, and other flat surfaces…but the more that is stacked up, the harder it is to find items…if you can’t get clothing racks it will still work, it just may take longer for ladies to “shop”.I designed my own signs to label the tables, which you are welcome to use…ClothingSwapSigns. The clothes racks were a little more difficult. I had a hard time figuring out how to fit labels on the bars, but I used this as the basic template  (but I had to shrink it down to fit the small bar on the portable clothing racks- I will try to add my template later- but see the photo for the finished product).


Explain the rules. Since I did a Facebook invite, I waited a few days after the initial invite and explained the details of how the swap works.  You can modify if you need to, but basically our rules were included in the photo at the top of the blog. Drawing numbers is the easiest way to make it fair…we actually went through the numbers once forward (1-15) and then the second time backward (15-1) so that the higher numbers weren’t so terrible.

Tips. Then a few days before the swap, I gave some tips. Some of them were custom to my friends and situation, but you get the idea:

Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 11.29.23 PM

Obviously since people are coming to your home you may want to also clean, get some plates and stuff for food, play music in the background, etc – whatever you would do to make people comfortable in your home. 

Preparing for the aftermath. Once the ladies leave, you will still have tons of clothing in your house. Be prepared. I saved large boxes for a few weeks leading up to the swap so I could box things up after. The best plan is to call ahead to your local donation center and let them know you will be coming with a large amount to make sure they can take it. You could also do what we did this time, and donate it to a friend’s fundraiser garage sale. Anything works- just have a plan! You don’t want boxes of clothing sitting around your house for months! Just make sure you let the ladies know the plan and stick to it. If you say you are donating to Goodwill and then sell that designer pair of jeans that no one could squeeze into at your own garage sale next month, you may have some angry friends!

Questions? I know this is a lot- if you have any questions about how it works or what on earth I meant by what I typed, feel free to comment. I check my blog often.

Biblically Illiterate…or just illiterate?


A while back, I was listening to #TheBriefing and Albert Mohler referenced his article on Biblical Illiteracy. It immediately got my mind stirring and reflecting on a problem beyond what he was pointing out…a generation that has such a low reading level that they struggle to be Biblically literate.

Let me explain what I mean by first giving a little about my background.

I was a High School Literature teacher for six years in an inner-city charter school for at-risk students, then for two years at a small-town high school with some at-risk students and some very well-off students, but most somewhere in between. In my years at the at-risk school, I found very low rates reading levels and a few students who couldn’t read at all (this is in 9th and 10th grade, mind you). I expected a much higher standard in the small-town that has great amounts of community money invested in the student’s education. Though I found very few illiterate students, I found most had very low reading levels as well.

Maybe my expectations for reading levels were too high? I personally went to a private school and was in honors courses. It never occurred to me to not read a novel or story assigned (or at least not attempt to read it and read the cliff notes instead!) However, my husband actually went to the small-town high school I worked at. And years ago, they had to read novels as well. Yes, some students did not do the reading…but it was out of choice.

In my eight years of teaching, most of my students could not read a novel or short story themselves and actually understand it. I’m not talking about high-level novels, I’m talking about basic grade-level stories. When we read stories from our textbooks (classic short stories that are the same that I had in my textbook years ago), most of them scored in the 60-70% range on the book-made quizzes only if I read them the story aloud in class (and coached for the plot points they needed to know for the quiz). Yes, there were a few outliers who did well, but it was very few.

And if they were supposed to read to themselves? Most scored far under 50%. Yes, some of them didn’t read the stories…but most did try and honestly didn’t understand the basic plot. The more dedicated students would read the story and then read online notes from various sites if they felt they didn’t understand it well enough…a great idea, but still showing they didn’t have the comprehension skills needed to figure it out themselves.

And the novels? When I worked at the at-risk school, I either read most of them aloud or had them listen to an audio version as a class. Then when we reached “cliffhangers”, I would assign the chapter as silent reading and most would attempt to read to find out what happened. I always assumed this was recommended and needed because they were at-risk students and behind academically. I was shocked when I found that reading aloud to students was the norm at the small-town school! Hours and hours of class time were wasted reading the story, not discussing it and learning! Even with pauses to explain plot and details, students still had trouble.

And don’t even get me started on the higher-level texts, like Shakespeare, Homer, and Poe!

What does this have to do with biblical literacy? Everything.

In addition to teaching, I also volunteered in youth ministry for over ten years teaching teenage girls. The church I worked at was mostly middle class youth who had high goals academically (almost all went to great colleges, a few on academic scholarships). Most (but not all) of these girls really wanted to learn, but they had serious struggles understanding any Biblical passages beyond basic narrative.

One teenager I talked to explained how she really enjoyed that her phone app could read her Bible passages to her because she couldn’t follow along just reading out of her Bible. This was a student in advanced literature classes who lived in a rather wealthy school district. It’s great that she was daily listening to the word, but she was unable to understand it without having someone else’s tone and emphasis on the words.

In Mohler’s article, he asked…“How many local-church youth programs actually produce substantial Bible knowledge in young people?” 

I will say, in one of the youth programs I worked in for years, they did a great job helping students learn Bible knowledge, almost all of that was by preaching and teaching it to them. Sadly, the students were not able to pick up their Bibles and read and learn themselves.

The original point of public schools was to teach literacy in order for the general population to be able to read the Word.  As explained by one source , public schools started in the late 1600s with  “the goal is to ensure that Puritan children learn to read the Bible and receive basic information about their Calvinist religion.”

Obviously, public schools today have no desire to teach about religion, but even the literacy level needed for students to read their Bible on their own time is just not happening.

I  whole-heartedly agree with Mohler’s points in his article…“Churches must recover the centrality and urgency of biblical teaching and preaching, and refuse to sideline the teaching ministry of the preacher.” I’m in a church that does a great job of this and I can’t even put into words how much it has reshaped my view of the Church and who God truly is.

But I think the problem goes even further.

Getting away from my own personal teaching experience, the numbers illustrate the problem even more clearly.

The reading level of the Bible varies by translation (this Cokesbury .pdf is very helpful), but the only English translations available below the 5th grade level are the New International Readers Version (NIrV) and other versions written for children. The translations most commonly preached from in churches (ESV, NASB, NRSV and NKJV) are all rated at an 11th grade reading level.

The most recent data I found (from 2003, but not much has changed in education since then) stated that 14% of adults in the United States read at a “below basic” level and 29% at a “basic” level. That’s 43% of adults that cannot read and comprehend their Bible translations! Many of the faithful adult church members around you may even be in this category.

We are raising up a generation that needs to rely entirely on teaching and preaching and cannot read the Word for themselves. With good teaching, that may not be too terrible. Many concepts in scripture need educated teaching or preaching for the average person to truly understand. But so many in the next generation can’t even understand the basic ideas in a passage. And who will teach them from their own generation in years to come? How can the next generation produce Biblically literate teachers and preachers?

Mohler wrote “Parents are to be the first and most important educators of their own children, diligently teaching them the Word of God. [See Deuteronomy 6:4-9.] Parents cannot franchise their responsibility to the congregation, no matter how faithful and biblical it may be. God assigned parents this non-negotiable responsibility, and children must see their Christian parents as teachers and fellow students of God’s Word.”

So true for Biblical truth! I think this applies to encouraging literacy in general as well. Parents, read to your children (from the Bible and from other texts as well). Encourage them to read things that interest them. The skills they need to read the songs and verses Tolkien wrote in “Lord of the Rings”  or Homer’s epics will help them build their literacy and in turn help them be able to work through the poetry of the Bible.  The historical books they may enjoy reading will help them have greater context of the Biblical timeline. I could go on and on with examples. Most of all, the general practice of reading and comprehending the words on a page will help them have the discipline and ability to read the Word on their own and strive to understand.


We need to raise up a generation that is not only Biblically literate through the solid Gospel-centered preaching and teaching they have heard, but literate enough to then in turn study and teach Truth to the next generation.







Gift Tags

This year I decided to design some Christmas gift tags in hopes that they could hide my sub-par gift wrapping skills. It was simple and only required white card stock, my paper cutter, and a hole punch. I’m fairly certain the gift tags distracted from the terribly folded corners!


Ladies Advent Invite 2015

Once again, I was able to design an invitation for the ladies’ event at our church this Christmas season. As this was the third year, it was hard to come up with original ideas (especially since we did the same theme 2 years before). Here is what I came up with.


Web Redesign

Back in 2012 I took on the task of redesigning a website for a local run. I’m pretty sure I was proud of it at the time since I wrote this blog. Ick. I was able to redesign it this year. It’s much easier on the eye, but I was limited by iWeb. I need a better design platform. I still have a lot to learn, but I had to redeem myself from my old post! Here is the much less 90s-style screen shot of the homepage:


Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 9.35.15 PM.png



Nettles Seminar

This year, our church hosted a seminar with author Tom Nettles covering his biography on Charles Spurgeon. I had the challenge of designing the tickets and other promo material. I have never designed anything with a man’s picture as the featured image (and there seems to be only one picture of Spurgeon out there!) Here is what I came up with…nothing amazing but it worked.