Jim Davis / Garfield Preschool Art Project

This coming year in Cycle 3 of Classical Conversations we will be studying influential American artists. One artist is Jim Davis, who created Garfield! We decided to experiment with an art project… Caught in the Cookie Jar. It’s actually a combination of a few different art projects, but so far it’s been approved by our 4, 7, 9, and 11 year olds.


First you start with the black and white of Garfield.

(Here’s a pdf file to print at home)




Fold carefully! In theory you should be able to fold in half and then line it up on the line marked on the side, but each printer is different so just make sure that the lines match up around the lips/nose area.

Viola! You have a sneak Garfield Caught in the Cookie Jar, inspired by Jim Davis!



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The Posts That Brought You Here Over the Last 8 Months

I don't know the who or why to this photo but it's going to give me nightmares for the rest of my life.
I don’t know the who or why to this photo but it’s going to give me nightmares for the rest of my life.

My dear friends. In my blogging break the past eight months I had completely forgotten the joy I receive when I take a look at the search terms that people put into The Google that bring them to StealingFaith.


It’s hard for me to believe that people will pull up their search engines and type these phrases. And then, they arrived at this website as a response to these search terms.


Oh, the sweet, humorous joy of it all is hard to contain! I had forgotten the great variety of topics I’ve blogged about in the past that would make these quirky phrases relevant!


Today I will continue in the tradition of The Posts That Brought You Here and share the 10 most intriguing search terms of the last quarter… and my best guess for the posts these terms discovered.


1. Samwise gamgee. So maybe this isn’t the funniest search term to start with, but it may be the most inspiring. I don’t know anyone who can’t love on the grand ideas presented in the Lord of the Rings, and the true friendship offered by Samwise Gamgee. The quote in this post helps us remember It’s Worth Fighting For.


2. Suppository stories. I’m not sure how I feel about this search term, but it came up in more than five variations on the search list. I’m guessing it has something to do with Dos and the Thunder Poop. This story just never gets old. I can’t wait to tell it to Dos’ future spouse. It will be memorable.


3. stealingfaith family planning. Though some might clai with four kids it’s unlikely that we did any family planning at all but that’s just not the case! We strategically opened the door to kiddos using Natural Family Planning and I share our reasons why in this post, Going Natural.


4. trapper keeper kittens. I’m certain this search term had something to do with my memory of a Trapper Keeper with kittens on the front I got for Christmas one year, because who doesn’t fondly remember presents from the Revco?! My memories, on display, in The Christmas of the Guinea Pig. But, just as a bonus to all who care, I’ll share this lovely video of kittens: CLICK HERE FOR KITTENS. Lucky you.


5. is classical conversations a cult. The quick answer? No. But the reality, I love Classical Conversation quite a bit. This organization makes homeschooling possible for our family and we’ve bought in hook line and sinker! Just in case you’d like to drink the CC Kool-Aid, too, here’s a link to their website, Classical Conversations. You can thank me later.


6. help stepped in dog vomit barefoot. My initial reaction is that there are more problems than dog vomit when you turn to Google before the Bounty quicker-picker-upper, but that might just be me being judgmental and all. Despite my faith in your emergency decision-making skills, I can comfort you by sharing I’ve been there, done that. Then I blogged about it. It’s not fresh like Teen Spirit.


7. thongs at the minnesota state fair. Oh dear heavens. I pray this is talking about the thong on your foot rather than the thong in your… ahem. I’m scared, though, knowing the crazy things that can happen at a state fair. In order to venture into safer anatomical territory, I’ll just redirect you to the three part series of the best fairs, festivals, and funny events in the United States.


8. how to tell roommate not to borrow my underwear. Dude. This is messed up and I’m just sorry you’ve had this experience. I’m guessing this term turned up a post where I interviewed Kikolani with Three Simple Questions, but can I just say… I’m sorry? Underwear is an intensely personal item and it’s a bummer you had to share. I suppose you might find some thongs at the state fair if you’re really in the market, however.


9. can tape get the hair from underarms. Well yes, duh! It can also make you scream like a little girl who just saw Elsa Let It Go in person. I believe it’s about as much fun to use duct tape to remove armpit hair as it is to compare yourself to the standards put forth in Family Fun magazine, but you be the judge.


10. identify dogs by tongue. So… I searched this term myself and all I got was “Apologies, but no results were found.” I don’t know how to identify a dog by it’s tongue but I do know some random facts about the tongue like the fact that the blue whale has a tongue the size of an elephant and the hardest tongue twister in the English language is, “The sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick.” Those won’t really help you in the real world but this post on 5 Worst Ways to Start a Conversation might get you a date. Or something like that.


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My “Why?”: Because It Is Yet Light

Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience
Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience

I’ve been at a few training sessions lately for Classical Conversations (the organization we collaborate with in our homeschooling journey) and it’s forced me to answer a very important question for our children’s education: Why?


Why bother educating at home when I’m impatient, easily frustrated, always behind on housework, not formally educated in elementary school techniques, etc.? Basically, in all the ways that seem to matter from the outside this whole home schooling path we’re on as a family seems… well, idiotic.


And yet… here we are. Even worse, the more I learn about CC the more committed I am to seeing the culmination of this method within our education process. We’re choosing a difficult path… and liking it.


But why?


In all the world, of all the many ways we could choose to educate our children, Why would we choose Classical Conversations? Why would we accept more leadership in an organization when my life is full as it is? Why bother when it would instead be so much easier to take off some hats and find space to relax? Classical Conversations is not a religion. It is not a replacement for church. It’s just a model, a method, in the sea of other options, right? And even more importantly, Why CC?


My Why is that CC makes home education possible for me. This organization clearly places an exceptional, achievable educational journey in front of my family that I can follow as the primary educator in our family without freaking out because I may be missing something in setting up their knowledge base. It’s comprehensive – and the company’s explicit aim is to reveal God through the knowledge of Him and His creation, to know God and to make Him known. And that mission – that ability to make a monumental task like education my child achievable – is a gift I find a blessing, one my husband and I are willing to sacrifice our time and energy  to promote!


I don’t want to keep this opportunity to myself, or to for those lucky few families who happen to live within driving distance. I am so aware of the mom who is dying inside, knowing they don’t want to turn their children over to public schools to be wards of the state for 30 hours each week – but don’t know where to start to even attempt to teach their children themselves. I want that dad who aches to mentor his children to find a way to walk alongside their child in all aspects of life into adulthood with the support of a Godly community. There are people desperate to make the life change necessary to bring their children home who don’t know where to start; CC can be the diving board… at least it was for me.


I know we are all busy – too busy, truth be told. We don’t really want to pull our children home with us because we are intimately acquainted with their tricky personalities, the way they can push all our buttons 16 times before 7:30 a.m. We are already so very tired just with the day-to-day living that must take place to survive. Even so, there’s something valuable about this homeschool craziness that somehow, some way makes the sacrifice worth it (for me).


Here’s one more snippet from my most recent training session that gives me goosebumps. It was a written response to a person expressing hesitation about whether being a leader in the CC is worth the pay off, but the sentiment applies across the board to those who embrace this counter-culture idea of being your child’s primary influencer:


“… as home schoolers, we have a responsibility to work while it is yet day. The night is coming, when no man may work.  We can’t be sure we will be able to home educate 20 years from now. What can we be doing now to make that a possibility for our grandchildren?  So yes, our main responsibility as wives and moms is to our husbands and children first… [but] it isn’t going to do any of us any good to protect our home time and our family time if we have no freedom to home educate. There may come a day when we are compelled to give our children to the state to be educated.  At that point, we will have much more time to devote to the cause.  But a very much harder task to accomplish.”

Before you take me to task on being all death, doom, and destruction regarding the urgency of working to make homeschooling a viable option today, please consider the families in Germany seeking political refuge in the US because the German government wants to jail them and place their children in the state foster care system for daring to educate at home. Take a moment to consider our current US Secretary of Education publicly announced he feels Americans should not consider the ability to education their own kiddos a basic right of citizenship.


The night is coming, friends… but I want to do my best to keep it light for a few (figurative) hours longer.


Just for fun, here are several links to infographics regarding the home education movement and effectiveness:


1. Homeschooling by the Numbers.

2. Homeschool Domination: Why These Kids Will Take You Down.

3. History of Homeschooling.

4. 2008 – 2009 SAT Scores.

5. How American Homeschoolers Measure Up.


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Crazy Courageous

mitchlaw / stock.xchng

I spent the morning teaching facts about Byzantine Emperor Justinian, Confucius, and Eastern Asia to a classroom of wiggly preschoolers.


We set our facts to music and sang our hearts out. Right about the time I committed to some, “ooo, ooo, ooo’s,” waving my arms in the air, I caught sight of one of the parents giving me the look. 


That parent wasn’t trying to embarrass me or derail me in any way. It was just a look they had that said, “I’m so glad that’s her, not me!”
My commitment and courage wilted. My internalized criticism took flight! I felt dumb. I wanted to stop the class right then and there.


I needed to get over it.


It’s easy to feel foolish and stop moving toward your calling because peers think you’re strange.


Even middle-aged parents succumb to peer pressure! Yet even more powerful than peer pressure is the dialogue in our heads


Consider Henri Nouwen’s words:

“I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection… When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, “Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.”… Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”


We all know the mantra about “being yourself.” Today I’m asking you to embrace that idea and courageously stand up as a leader. I bet you’re pluckier than you think!


Question: Are you courageous? Are you willing to face the obstacles and move forward in spite of the fear that may try to well up within you? Be courageous and you will succeed!


This post was originally published October 26, 2012 and is being recycled as part of the “I’ve Been Around” summer! Hope you enjoyed it and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!




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Homeschool Biography

clenples / stock.xchng
clenples / stock.xchng

I’m at a training meeting for Classical Conversations. As you know, I love the program and think it’s been amazingly effective for our family – and this training has been consistently thought-provoking and encouraging.


Our assignment tonight was to write a short biography for ourselves that could eventually be posted on the CC website. If you’ve never written your own introduction, you should know it’s about as much fun as trying to thread a needle by moonlight or talk a two-year-old into not swallowing their chewing gum. It’s much easier to write about other people than yourself!


A few of us got together, and, as creative inspiration, decided to write a spoof-bio utilizing home school misperceptions while also using our most horrible writing. The result had me rolling on the floor, laughing, with tears streaming down my face. There’s a chance this won’t be funny to you at all if you’re not a home educator (or you don’t have a pulse), but I’m going to take a risk and share it with you tonight:


“I love homeschooling! It’s so awesome to stay in my pajamas, not shower, and eat bon-bons all day while teaching my kids quantum physics.  Every night I brush my floor-length hair with at least 100 strokes, sometimes 104 strokes if I took a bicycle ride with the children during the day. My preferred attire is a denim jumper, which has also always inspired my husband, as evidenced by our 15 children aged 10 and under (which I dress in matching clothes). I discovered CC through a magalog left at my local Rod and Gun club. One day, while swapping stories about birthing goats, I learned my favorite 4H friend also attended CC and decided to check it out. The rest is history!


I find the repetition that CC offers to be repetitive. We love repeating the memory work repetitiously. If I had it to do all over again, I would do it all over again. CC rocks!


People have always wanted to follow in my footsteps. I am humble enough to know that I am a natural-born leader. I have a vision of creating a “cult-like” following of Leigh Bortins in the region through one-day and eventually three-day Leigh-a-thons. CC was our family’s Polish Rambo*.”


I do hope you have a smile on your face. I promise I don’t have flowing locks I’m busy brushing.


*The Polish Rambo reference should be confusing to you. It is from a story we learned last night regarding the Global Home Education Conference held in Germany in 2012. One of the attendees shared the story of a child being placed in foster care because the parents were choosing to home school. The lawyer for the family described the refuge status and said there was a Polish Rambo available for hire to steal the child away if they could only raise enough money to pay for the helicopter. It was a sobering story – and highlighted the freedom we take for granted in the U.S.! Thank you to the Home school Legal Defense Association for protecting our freedom of educational choice!




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I’m Learning… It’s O.K.

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The problem with having a perfectionistic bent to your personality is that you are very seldom satisfied… with anything.


Over the last few weeks, my dissatisfaction has centered pretty fully on homeschooling. It’s not the Classical Conversations program we work through in community – far from it! It’s my own ability to be the primary educator for my children.


Every day I become exasperated, I fault myself. When I look at my children and they’re still wearing pajamas at 4 p.m., I fault myself. If it’s a squabbly day around the homestead, I figure a way to blame myself. When the dust bunnies creep out from under the sofa and I realize I can’t see myself in the bathroom mirror for all the fingerprints and toothpaste splatters… I fault myself.


If I’m not careful I create a soundtrack of all the things I’m NOT doing, the areas I fail, the frustrations I sense, the lack of will power I feel I display. I can play that soundtrack at a moments notice because I’ve practiced singing that tune for years.


Two weeks ago I was so discouraged I found myself in tears with my husband and praying for direction.


Through that humbling experience and the conversations of some precious friends, I learned something:


It’s O.K.


Really. Everything is O.K. I don’t have to stress out to the max, prepare for the worst, and assume the world is coming to an end if my kids aren’t working two grade levels ahead.


It’s O.K.


Imperfect progress is still progress – and it’s O.K.


That realization has literally changed my attitude in the past days. When I start tensing up and listing my “not done” items I give myself a mental shake and remind myself, “It’s O.K.”


All I need to do is the next right thing… the right thing that is necessary to fit this next five minutes, fifteen minutes, hours, and day. Just do the next right thing – and it’s all O.K.!


There’s a small chance that the stress of the last week has you feeling like you’re spinning your wheels.


Can I encourage you? It’s O.K. Really. Whatever is in your life and keeping you up at night can be released for a moment while you do the next right thing. Forget the five year plan, give yourself grace, take a deep breath, and gently, lovingly remind yourself that it’s O.K.


Whatever “it” is.


Do you find yourself challenged by your self talk?




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Wal-Mart Vacation



When you walk into Wal-Mart at 10:55 p.m. and feel like you’re on a vacation simply because you are without children hanging from your legs, you know you need a break.


Speaking from personal experience.


My late-night Wal-Mart run was prompted by procrastination – tomorrow morning will be our last Classical Conversations meeting of the semester and I want to give each member of the class a little something as a gift.


Personally I think any four-year-old or five-year-old who is able to tell me about Byzantine Emperors Constantine and Justinian and why they are historical figures (legalizing Christianity and giving rights to all men, respectively) has earned a scented ball point pen decorated with Rudolph!


I threw in a penguin eraser, just because I’m crazy like that.


In a perfect world I would like to have given them each something handmade. But when I checked Pinterest for ideas far too many of them involved glitter and you all know how much I detest glitter for its sick, reproducing ways.


My time spent wandering through the Christmas section, redone from the home and garden area, was almost a state of bliss because I traveled to the superstore mecca minus children and around our house the last little bit the children have been a force to be reckoned with.


In fact, this afternoon I found myself sitting in a huddle on our kitchen floor, wondering if I really need to ship all of them off to military school. I did a little Google research on it and discovered most military schools prefer their inmates to be tall enough to ride all roller coasters without parents and potty trained.


While we’ve got the potty training down, thanks to 3 Day Potty Training, the roller coaster situation is iffy unless Uno is wearing her boots. Dos and Tres can’t even attempt it, though pluckiness of spirit cannot be doubted. It’s just the facts of genetics and growth that are holding them back.


So military school is not an option, despite the mess of humanity in the form of a mother who vacations at Wal-Mart. If only the home and garden section hadn’t been overtaken by felt Santas and plastic firs I bet I could find a hammock.


And maybe a package of those little paper umbrellas. Yeah. Those are festive and vacation-like.


Alas, it was not to be. Instead I bought my gifts for the kiddos, admired the “As Seen On TV Music Bullet,” the light-up pillows, and lines with no waiting, and headed home.


That was the end of my vacation. In the words of my newest favorite TV show:


‎”It’s Over. Time to pee on the campfire and call in the dogs.”

Phil, Duck Dynasty

Good night.


Have you ever done late night shopping? Did you find it enjoyable or creepy?




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Scientific Methods and Analytical Brains

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Today was “tell a joke” day for our Classical Conversations presentations.


I believe it’s well-established that our children don’t know how to tell jokes. I have many mixed emotions in telling you Dos told three jokes this morning – not a one of them made sense.


God Bless that Child. She needs it.


The funniest part of the nonsense joke-telling is the other kids were totally ok with a joke that didn’t make sense. They laughed along and even asked her follow up questions.


It reminds me of watching Veggie Tales last week. There is thunderous applause at one point and Bob the Tomato says, “How are we clapping? We don’t have any hands!” and Larry the Cucumber says, “I have no idea.”


Then they go on. That’s the entire dialogue about the hand clapping. They’re ok with the mystery. And the kiddos who watch Veggie Tales are ok with floating hairbrushes and all the other items that float mysteriously through the air, wielded with what I can only assume are Jedi-mind tricks.


{not intending to mix my fictional characters and genres too much. what am i saying? star wars and veggie tales should not be mixed. here i go, pushing the edge of the envelope, once again!}


In case you were wondering what my point is, a question I frequently have for myself as I wander the rabbit trails of my stream of conscious, I’m really curious when we lose our comfortability with mystery.


I know I’m absolutely not ok with mystery. Surprises, uh-uh. No way. I don’t like sudden movements, gray areas, or other such questionable items and activities. I would never come up with a talking asparagus who can sling a sling shot a la Junior.


I also can’t stand the idea of telling a joke without a clear, concise point. This is why I’m typically not “ha ha” funny in person. I don’t tell jokes, I make witty observations. I hate playing those “fun” party games like Mafia or “I got this crossed and am handing it off uncrossed.”


Are you like me? Do you puzzle over children’s ability to simply accept without question? Does the idea of not having all your ducks in a row make you anxious?


My current season of life is highly child-focussed. I’m not a childhood development person, so probably 85% of my day is spent looking at my children with true puzzlement. I have no idea what they’re thinking or why they do the things they do.


I wonder if, in my desire to remove the mystery, I’ve lost track of the point of life? Perhaps humans are designed to embrace mystery, to never fully comprehend the “big picture,” to plunge ourselves into a river of uncertainty simply to see if we can swim!


What are we thwarting with our scientific methods and analytical brains?


I don’t have answers yet, but I suspect there are some good theories out there. I’d love to hear your thoughts – in your opinion, how important is the quality mystery?




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Why We Homeschool

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OK. I’ll admit it.


We are a homeschooling family.


We don’t wear matching denim jumpers and our hair in buns, although we have been known to dress the kids in matching outfits.


As we begin this journey, I think it’s important to identify why we would choose to homeschool, especially since in so very many ways it would be easier to send the kids off to make friends and learn from a person who has a college degree in education and love for children.


Two quotes have deeply influenced my ability to consider homeschooling as a viable option:


“We should understand that teaching our children is our delight, our joy, our opportunity. When we see spending time with them as a burden, rather than a joy, we see further evidence of how encultured we have become. Children, biblically speaking,  are a blessing from God. And we ought to seek out time with blessings from God, not plot out ways to avoid them, or hand them over to others.” – RC Sproul Jr. When You Rise Up


“When you face two options and each seems to please God, consider the one that displays God’s glory, power and strength. This makes room for God to reveal Himself to you and show Himself through you. Don’t be fearful about the hard road he may ask you to take… He desires to show Himself strong in you and will encourage you to do things that require trust and faith.”  – Priscilla Shirer


I used to make fun of homeschoolers and swear I would never, ever let my kids be socially awkward freaks who were so sheltered from the world they couldn’t function and rebelled outrageously as soon as they had an opportunity.


Never say never.


As our little ones have grown closer and closer to school-age, we became more and more anxious. Something didn’t seem right. We sent Uno to Pre-K and loved her teacher… but never felt easy with the entire system.


So we are trying it a different way. We’re becoming the counter-culture. Here are some of our reasons why:


1. We like our children and believe it’s our primary responsibility to raise them. Our children are awesome. They’re quirky and funny, smart and sassy. We genuinely like them as human beings!


At the moment we conceived, we put on a new hat – to be the best stewards of this gift God has given us of life. It’s our job to take care of these little ones, protect them and cultivate them so they are able to A) do the work God needs them to do B) be the people they were created to be. Yes, others in the community help, but no one has the same level of responsibility we have as parents.


2. We want to be the primary influencers of our children. Humans become what they spend the most time doing. The time spent in school is equivalent to a full-time job and that’s a lot of time for a little person. At home, we carefully and intentionally construct our family, employment and life to create an environment we believe is family-centered, supportive, and Godly. We want to filter the influences on our children. As parents, we have a maturity our children haven’t acquired to discern what is helpful and not helpful to their development. If we don’t stand alongside them, we are abandoning them.


3. We know our children. Putting a single teacher in a classroom with 20+ wiggling, goofy children is the definition of madness. Who would willingly choose that?! How can I expect my child to get individualized attention from a teacher trying to teach social skills? It’s not fair to the teacher or my child.


Homeschoolers typically rate 37 percentage points higher than public school students. The average homeschool 8th grade student performs four grade levels above the national average (Rudner study). At home, I can work with my kiddo one-on-one, have the time to listen to them, make certain they understand a concept before moving on, and create an environment where mistakes are gently corrected instead of mocked. I know my kid and I care most for their well-being.


4. Children benefit from peer interaction, but profit from adult interaction. A friend of mine told me this. Yes, the social aspect of friendship is valuable, but as much as children benefit from peer interaction, they profit from interaction with adults who have maturity and wisdom we hope they emulate. After all, fart jokes and friendship bracelets can only take you so far in the free market.


5. We have a support group. I was terrified to homeschool because I didn’t think I was up to the challenge. I also didn’t realize it’s not rocket science. (Think of all the teachers you’ve had in your life – don’t you think you can at least do as well as they can?) I also didn’t want the kids to “miss out” on anything significant. We discovered Classical Conversations, a program that provides a framework for learning. There are weekly meetings for peer interaction and accountability and the level of academic instruction is amazing. Once I had that help, I was in!


Let it be said, you can accomplish all of our goals with your child in the public school system. I once had someone tell me my hesitancy to homeschool was a lie from the pit of hell – and she meant it! Good friends have their kids in public school and they are awesome, bright kids who are impacting their peer groups in a positive way.


Our decision to homeschool is not a condemnation on anyone who decides not to homeschool! But we do have an accountability to do what makes sense for our family. And this is a snippet of why we feel compelled to keep the ruffians at home.




Here are some pieces of Scripture we’ve found helpful as we think about what family means and why we do what we do:

Psalm 127  1  EXCEPT THE Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; except the Lord keeps the city, the watchman wakes but in vain. 2  It is vain for you to rise up early, to take rest late, to eat the bread of [anxious] toil–for He gives [blessings] to His beloved in sleep.3  Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. 4  As arrows are in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.5  Happy, blessed, and fortunate is the man whose quiver is filled with them! They will not be put to shame when they speak with their adversaries [in gatherings] at the [city’s] gate.

Romans 12 2 Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Deuteronomy 6 5 Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got! 6 Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you 7 and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night.


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