Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thanksgiving Up Till Now

A real North Dakota Thanksgiving!
Sledding at the Strand's place in the Turtle Mountains 

There were ten of us up to the table on Thanksgiving. Special guests were Great Uncle Carl and Great Aunt Sylvia.

Don't play cards with Amy unless you plan to get beaten.

I started the puzzle but JoAnn couldn't sleep one night and finished it for us!

While Ethan has been out West in Idaho support-raising the last couple of weeks, I will update you on the happenings around here.

We had a great Thanksgiving trip to Bottineau to visit Ethan's parents.  It was cold and snowy up there near the Canadian border, so we took advantage of it and played outside a lot! The day we left ND it was -4 F (that's -20 C for you Europeans).  Yikes! We drove down to Bismarck to pick up a car Ethan was renting from a mission organization, and then visited our pastor friend there.  The kids and I said "goodbye" to Ethan and began the four hour drive back home.  It was about an eight hour drive that day altogether.  

Since then we have been here continuing our lives of learning and working hard.
The kids insisted on Trimming the Tree before Dec. 1 even rolled around. Mommy gave in.
Decorating the tree in a ballet leotard...the fun never stops for these girls!
Thanks for the snowflake ornaments, Uncle Dan and Aunt Carol!
Missing Daddy!
It's been fun to prepare for Christmas and celebrate the Advent season together in our family and at church.  God sent to us the best gift...a Savior!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Some Things to Learn and Do in Rural Minnesota

When my parents, sisters, and I first moved to Fergus Falls in 1990 I was not too thrilled about it.  I felt like we were stepping back in time and as a busy teenager from a big city, small town living was not my idea of a good time.  Growing up really does open your eyes to the realities of life and what is really important.  Since Ethan, the kids, and I have moved to Fergus Falls three and a half years ago, I have really begun to appreciate this town and all the opportunities for growing and learning.  I see how the people in this community rally together to bless the whole town.  As Ethan says, "Minnesota is full of Scandinavians with Socialist tendencies."  People really are generous here and work together to get things done.

Homeschooling has added to our small-town learning experience fourfold.  Every week we are able to take advantage of things in this community that most people do not have the time for.  It has been very fulfilling.  In the past couple of years, my husband and his dad, along with my dad have spent some time teaching the kids about shooting a rifle.  Peter John received a pellet gun and a bow and arrow for his birthday in 2011, and now this year, he saved his paper route earnings to buy his own .22 rifle.  Gretchen and Peter John go to a club here in town called the Fergus Falls Jr. Rifle Club.  They meet at the indoor shooting range every Tuesday at 6:30pm during the school year.  They only charge $10 per child for the year plus ammunition costs.  What a deal!  And they are learning some great skills.
Lizzy trying out PJ's pellet gun at an outdoor range. 
PJ shooting prone at Jr. Rifle Club

Last week our homeschool co-op the School of Choice took a field trip up to Moorhead to see MSUM's children's play.  The theater department at the University puts on a children's play every year, and it is usually very fun and delightful.  This year we saw a play called, "Rupunzel and the Dragon."  Great job, MSUM! We had a good time looking for ice skates at second-hand shops in Fargo after the play.
Lizzy with her friend from School of Choice at the play
Amy with her friend

 Every Monday through Thursday our local indoor ice arena has free open ice skating from 1:30-3pm.  We usually only have time to go on Mondays this year, but the kids look forward to it! The only people who are able to go are adults and homeschoolers since the rest of the kids are in regular school.
Amy skating with an ice skating "walker"

Peter John and Gretchen always competing to see who is fastest!
Our family is planning to move away from this community some time in the next year as God is leading us to carry on our mission work in a much bigger city.  Now, thankful thoughts are filling my mind as I begin to consider leaving this place in the future.  I am very grateful for the family, friends, and learning opportunities God has given us here in Fergus Falls.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mothering on Friday

O Lord, You have examined my heart and know everything about me. Psalm 139:1 NLT

Friday was a normal day of raising kids--crazy but full of God's grace.  Ethan was out of town for part of the day, and we were busy homeschooling as we do on Fridays.  Amy had woken up with a fever and spent the day in bed. Later Lizzy came to me with a bleeding gum that was sore and swollen.  I was afraid it was an abscess so I took her to the dentist leaving Gretchen in charge of Amy.  I called the next-door neighbor to ask if they could be available if Gretchen had any questions or problems.  That went just fine.  Fortunately, her sore gum was due to some accident, probably from chewing on something hard.  There was no infection and no procedure needed, thankfully. Hah! The Friday before Peter had to have a tooth pulled for a different reason.

By the end of the afternoon, poor Amy began to complain about a sore throat.  After examining her throat with a flashlight, I decided she probably had strep throat, and I called the doctor's office. The receptionist told me if I could get there in ten minutes, they could fit me in before closing time.  The wonderful doctor took one look at her throat and determined that she had "angry strep" and she was promptly tested and prescribed antibiotics and sent out the door.  Meanwhile, Peter and Lizzy were swimming at the YMCA, and Gretchen was holding down the fort at home.

Being a mother is an amazing balancing act with all kinds of events taking place EVERY DAY!  It is such a comfort to know that God is in control of it all, and I can trust our Shepherd, our gracious Father to take care of everything!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Spread The Joy

Hearing children's author Sally Lloyd-Jones this past Friday in Minneapolis gave me an appreciation once again for the power of a good story.  Ms. Lloyd-Jones wove the events of her childhood growing up in Uganda, then at a boarding school in England, into a tale of wonder and interest.  Stories from the Bible became imaginative, heart affecting masterpieces that drew tears to my eyes as she read excerpts from her award-winning book The Jesus Storybook Bible.  Ms. Lloyd-Jones is not only an amazing author, but a vivid storyteller.  This line from her book captured my attention and my emotions:  The One who made us has come to live with us.

These are some of her convictions as she taught us how to tell good stories to children:

Always start with a story.
Life is a great adventure.
Give the gift of faith.
Nothing but excellence will do with children.
Quality must be high.
Write up to children, not down.
The power of the story is the story, not the lesson.
A story invites imagination.
Listen to what is left out.
Be concise.
A story uses rich language; language is the power of the story.
A story tells the truth.
A story reaches the heart.
Leave room for mystery.
A story wakes you up.
The moral code always leaves us in despair. We do not need a moral code, we need a Rescuer.
Hope isn't glossing over things; it is telling the truth.
Hope is a direction. Children don't need an escape, they need a direction.
A story is a performance.

After hearing about it for two years now, I finally bought a copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible for my children.  I had it autographed by the author last Friday.  I now can share in the joys of these stories along with some orphans in Ukraine who also own a copy of their own, thanks to In Lumine and the donations of many who believe in this project.  A few years ago some missionary friends of ours in Ukraine began the long, expensive process of translating, publishing, and printing The Jesus Storybook Bible into both Russian and Ukrainian.  They now have a ministry where they are giving away copies to orphans throughout the country of Ukraine.  This project is called Bibles for Orphans, and you can be a part of giving to these needy orphans by donating at their website:  A gift of only $3 will provide one of these storybook Bibles to an orphan child in Ukraine.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Unconditional Love

This is a note from one of my little children.  The morning started off busy with breakfast and devotions with the kids.  We went right to our Saturday chores which the kids worked hard at with my help. Soon after one of my children challenged me by losing her temper when I was trying to help her with her music.  One thing led to another, and she was soon disciplined, not without protest. It is always difficult for me to deal with conflict in my family, and my reaction was tears and crying out to God for help.  Later after my husband intervened, and when repentance and forgiveness was extended, things were calmer.

This is when another one of my girls came up to me with this note.  She quickly ran off, but I called her back to me.  I touched her and told her I loved her too.  She had nothing to do with the previous conflict, but she sensed my sorrow.  She loved me.  I told her that her note reminds me of Jesus' love.  He loves us, too, even when things go wrong.

They say to look for teachable moments when raising children.  This moment was one of God's grace teaching me through my little girl.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Keep On Praying...Ministry Prayer Requests

Iasi, Romania       September 30 - October 8 


Wanted to share a quick update on what's happening in our ministry and family.

Romania Bound

I have been meeting with my Romania teaching team this month and am impressed at the great men I get to teach with. Take a minute to meet them on our website! 

We will be in Romania Sept 29th to Oct 8th. We begin in a church in Brasov the first Sunday, then teach classes Monday to Friday in Iasi (say: “Yahsh”).

Iasi is in the NE part of the country and is the second largest city in Romania. The city and surrounding area is strongly Orthodox, and Evangelicals are an even smaller minority here than in the rest of the country.

We will be teaching pastors mostly from the Baptist Union. These students have already gone through a few TLI classes so we are excited to be teaching a Biblical Theology course and help them see the whole scope and story of scripture. We will be teaching in churches in Iasi the following weekend.

Please pray for me as I prepare, and for our team as we travel and serve these pastors, and for the strengthening of churches in Romania. 

TLI Staff Meeting

TLI has one of our three anual staff meetings the week before I leave for Romania. I am blessed to work with a great group of brothers, and look forward to being together. We have lots of work to do, and there is a TLI board meeting as well, so it will be a busy time. Its an especially important week as the TLI board will be deciding on a future location for TLI headquarters. We are adding a number of staff in the next year, and our teaching opportunities are multiplying quickly, so this is a big decision for all involved.

Please pray for the Lord's wisdom, guidance and blessing for TLI Board and Staff.

Support Raising

The summer has been a slower time for support raising, but God has been faithful, and brought us a number of new supporters this month! Praise the Lord with us! I will be traveling and sharing about TLI in the Midwest and out to Boise in October and November.

Please pray for our continued Support Raising efforts, and praise God for the team He is building!


School is back in session, and our kids are at a home-school coop two days a week and home with Elysia for three. Busy times, but good to be back in the saddle after a fun and active summer!

We would love to hear from you and what you are up to!
Drop us a line or find us on Facebook!

Grace Mercy and Peace!

 The Ethan Larson Family

New School Year

Amy, Lizzy, Peter John, Gretchen on their first day of school.

Peter John advanced to Level II in School of Choice (our homeschool Co-op that meets twice a week).

Gretchen's in Sixth Grade and Level II at School of Choice

Elizabeth is the big Second Grader in Level I at School of Choice
School began last week and Amy is SO excited to do preschool lessons with me during homeschool.  She has her own A Beka books and other things. I have also begun piano lessons with her which she has enjoyed a lot. I have always used Music For Little Mozarts by Alfred Music with my little ones on piano. It makes it fun for beginner preschool students. I am also teaching her two cousins piano this year.

The rest of the kids have begun Second Grade, Fourth Grade, and Sixth Grade. They are working hard in homeschool, and I have relaxed a bit this year teaching them.  The anxiety I first had two years ago has practically disappeared. Thank you, Lord!  We still depend on HIm daily, but through Christ, we have strength.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Losing Heart or Pressing On?

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.......But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:1, 7-10

OK. So, can I be one of the few who admit that homeschooling has been very challenging if not difficult?  When I was ready to throw in the towel, my friend, Angie, encouraged me a few months ago.  I felt defeated, but through her sympathy, I realized many mothers experience the same troubles in educating their own children.  Angie handed me a book to read that has been very unlike most parenting books I read which make me feel worse in the end.  "Gaining Confidence to Teach" by Debbie Strayer is basic, easy to read, and has many good things to consider in your homeschooling.  I realized through this book that perhaps what I need to do to improve things is simply make a few changes, such a curriculum changes that are not really working for my kids.

Like a breath of fresh air, another book came across my path through the recommendation of a new friend, Julie, whose husband is on the board of TLI. She taught her children using the Charlotte Mason method of education after being inspired by the book, "For the Children's Sake" by Susan Schaeffer Macauley.  My oldest child is eleven years old, so I cannot really "start over" in my parenting or anything like that, so this book has been an encouragement that many of the educational principles we have lived by are "tried and true" and not to be regretted.  We have tried to "feed" our children's hunger for knowledge with good books, good music, good art, good experiences outdoors, good creative handwork, and good daily Bible readings.  

Through both these books, I was also challenged to keep on the path of God's mercy and pursue what He shows us, not constantly comparing or worrying if we fit in with what the world is telling us or what we think we need to do in order to measure up or compare with other families.  These are admittedly struggles for me personally.  I must turn to Christ and fix my eyes on Him and His mercy, and not to faint or lose heart as the Bible verse above states.  In this world we WILL have tribulation, but be of good cheer, Jesus has overcome the world (see John 16:33).

Jesus Loves Me This I Know

This may be an elementary theological concept, but it should never be far from our thoughts nor our lips:
Jesus loves me, this I know.
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak but He is strong.

Kathy Chapell, wife of Dr. Bryan Chapell, reminded mothers in her talk at The Gospel Coalition conference for women of this basic theological truth, that Jesus loves us. I just finished listening to this talk called "Parenting With Christ In Mind" while working in my kitchen. She spoke so much about the unconditional love of our Father God and how that is reflected in our Christian parenting.  I know that this is such an important truth to know about God but we are often tempted and lied to by the Enemy of our souls to continually question if God's love is not based on our performance or works. The truth, of course, is "no."  God's love for us is based on His character and grace alone.

Dr. Chapell wrote in his book, "Holiness by Grace: Delighting in the Joy that is our Strength" these true words:
For if he loves us because of what is in our hands, then the days will come when we will believe that his affection has diminished because our works are small, or that his care has vanished because our deeds are wrong.
Ethan ordered us this book to read, and I began reading it last week while he was out of town.  The book is written to explain the relationship of God and believers based on a relationship of God's grace which results in a heart of love for God which desires to obey Him and to be holy.  It explains sanctification in such lovely terms that remind me once again why I love God so much: He loved me first that He GAVE His Son to save me from my sins and offer eternal life.  Grace alone.  No more guilt. No more shame. No more bondage. Free to love, not out of compulsion or obligation, but out of joy, gratitude, and newness.

To explain God's unconditional love in simpler terms, Dr. Chapell has written a beautiful story that we have read to our children called, "I'll Love You Anyway And Always."  In this story, a little girl disobeys her father's instructions to not overwater the orchid plant in the garden, and the plant wilts. The girl fears that her father will not love her anymore because of what she has done. Her father lovingly tells her the Gospel story found throughout the pages of the Bible to her daughter. Later when the girl's brother sins against her, she is able to forgive him and show him she still loves him.  So precious!  Let us never get away from this simple truth about God and His loving attitude towards us, his wayward sons and daughters.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Fair Is Fun! We Like to Go to One!

Here are some snapshots from the County Fair this week.

Big Tractors are always a hit!

I think we spent most of our time at the Children's Barnyard petting the animals. The kids are now convinced they want a puppy, chicks, and rabbits for pets.
Peter John did some milking of the goat again (he tries it every year). Success!!

Lizzy at the sheep barn.
Amy loved the sheep.

 The kids and I all entered some of our projects into the County Fair Open Class Exhibit again. Each of the kids got at least one blue ribbon for their work, and they will be able to earn some money from the fair for placing first, second, or third.  It is so fun to see what other people have produced also.  Here is the rundown of our prizes:
 Peter John:
pen drawing - 1st
pencil drawing - 1st
wood construction (toothpick) - 1st
Knex construction - 1st
Lego construction - 2nd
crayon drawing - 1st
weaving - 2nd
color pencil drawing - 3rd
freehand painting - 1st
crayon drawing - 1st
stamping - 1st
watercolor painting - 1st
crochet booties - 1st
molasses cookies - 2nd
pencil drawing - 2nd
cross stitch embroidery - 2nd
beaded bracelet - 1st
pencil drawing - 1st
watercolor painting - 3rd
construction paper and pen drawing - 3rd

watercolor painting - 1st
pencil drawing - 1st
crochet baby bonnet - 2nd
pumpkin muffins - 2nd
canned goods:
cucumbers, sliced, sour - 1st
rhubarb jelly - 1st
strawberry-rhubarb jam - 1st
pumpkin - 2nd
strawberry-rhubarb sauce - 3rd
3 bean salad - 3rd
fresh produce:
pickling cucumbers - 1st
beets - 1st
green beans - 1st

Monday, July 9, 2012

Harvesting Already

When my sister and fam were living in France they depended on this blog to give them a "virtual garden."  This year I have not been very faithful at updating the garden progress, so I will pack the past month and a half into this one blog.  We have already begun harvesting spinach, lettuce, dill, cilantro, rhubarb, and just this week the raspberries.  Today I plan to pick green string beans and yellow wax beans that are ready.
 Last month Gretchen and PJ helped me to cut up some rhubarb (it is a neverending harvest) along with our friend.
 Spinach was done in June so I blanched a froze it for green shakes or quiche in the wintertime.
 The raspberries were a little pink last week but Lizzy and Amy could not resist picking some.
 Lizzy and Amy are standing in front of part of the garden.  My corn is about chest high, but the local cornfields are more than 6 feet tall right now. It was an early spring so it has grown well beyond "knee high by fourth of July."
 Cucumbers, Zucchini, and beets.  I also have a lovely "Forget-Me-Not" that volunteered from last year.
Here is a good view of the beans (we have a ton of them), corn and most of the garden with our neighbor's house in the background.  It should be a good year, Lord willing.  God makes it grow!!!

When we got back from Colorado everything had grown a large amount, including the weeds! My mother-in-law was here for two days so one evening she helped me weed. It was so nice to have a partner in the weeding. I need to get out there again today. My in-laws are coming again today, and it is JoAnn's birthday, so I need to bake a cake, too.  Summer is great! Love it!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Hot Season

 Despite the sweltering heat of the last two weeks, we are keeping busy at the Larson household.  We returned from our staff meeting in Colorado and are back to summer duties: kids' activities, gardening, housework, and support raising for our mission work. 

 Fishing at Orwell Dam with our friend, Sylvia.
 Grandma bought us some flowers to plant around the house.  Amy is my gardening helper.
Ethan, Gretchen, and Amy canoeing at Homestead Point in Bottineau.
On the way back from Colorado we drove to Bottineau, ND where Ethan's parents live and work this summer.  Lizzy and Amy were staying with them and enjoying "Grandma and Grandpa time."  We decided to stay an extra night so we could enjoy the land that Luther grew up on in the Turtle Mountains.  Ethan's dad and uncles still own some of the homestead so they enjoy camping in the wilderness there with lakes, woods, and plenty of ATV trails.  We had a blast picnicking that day along with canoeing, riding ATVs, and of course doing some work on the land.  Last fall, Ethan took two of the oldest kids along to the land to build a small road bridge over a culvert along the dirt road that was being destroyed by a slough and beavers.  There is always something to do up there to improve things, and it ties the generations together.  We love that.