Amish Homemade Bread Ingredients

Homemade Amish Bread {Whole Wheat}


Summer break is over, our homeschool is back in session and it’s time to blog again! I want to share some of our summertime adventures with you, and can’t think of a better place to begin than bread making! Although our biological daughter already has lots of experience in the kitchen, our soon-to-be adopted daughter from Ukraine has spent the past ten years of her life in an orphanage, so she doesn’t yet have much knowledge in the area of cooking and baking. She’s a fast learner, and will be flying around the kitchen whipping things up in no time. :-)

Mennonite Community Cookbook

As my mother grew up in an Amish home, one of the staple resources in our kitchen as I learned the art of cooking was the “Mennonite Community Cookbook”. It’s filled with treasured recipes from Amish-Mennonite homes all over North America. The bread featured here today comes straight from the pages of that cookbook, with exception – I substitute Olive Oil for Shortening. So, with no further ado, here’s the recipe!

Bread Ingredients

Whole Wheat Bread {Recipe from The Mennonite Community Cookbook, pages 3 & 11) Makes 2 small-medium loaves

1 cup scalded milk

1 cup hot water

1 yeast cake or package of active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)

1 Tablespoon salt

1/4 cup honey

3 Tablespoons olive oil

2 cups white flour

4 cups whole wheat flour

(*I use 6 cups of whole wheat flour, omitting the white flour the recipe calls for.)

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of the hot water.

Combine remaining 1/2 cup of water, olive oil, honey, salt and scalded milk in a large bowl.

When milk mixture has cooled to lukewarm temperature, add dissolved yeast.

Add flour gradually, making a dough stiff enough so that it can be easily handled.

Knead dough quickly and lightly until it is smooth and elastic. (I like to lightly dust my counter with flour, and knead dough directly on that surface – adding more flour if necessary to keep dough from sticking to counter.)

Place in greased bowl, cover with cloth and set in a warm place to rise.

Let rise until double in size. (About 1-2 hours.)

Divide in half, shape into loaves, place into two bread pans, brush lightly with olive oil or melted butter and allow to rise again until double in size.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 50-55 minutes.

Rising Bread

And there you have it. The tried, true and (many times) tested Amish Whole Wheat Bread recipe. Remove from pan, place on wire racks to cool, and enjoy one of our family favorites!

Fresh Homemade Bread





Rhinestone Jesus {Saying #YESinmyMESS}

#rhinestonejesus #yesinmymess

Throughout my life I’ve had the humbling and challenging experience of meeting some pretty incredible people.

Ordinary people who were born with no more privileges, connections, talents, resources or money than me. But there is something that set them apart from the masses.

Each of them decided to say YES when opportunity to serve others come knocking.  And because of their “YES”, the world has been impacted with Gospel, and the love of Jesus.

Today my remarkable friend Kristen Welch (writer at We Are THAT Family & founder of Mercy House Kenya) has released “Rhinestone Jesus – Saying YES to God When Sparkly, Safe Faith Is No Longer Enough“. This is her vulnerable, authentic and real story about the process of saying YES to God while living a messy life  just like the rest of us. I can’t wait for you to read it, and be challenged, inspired and encouraged to partner with God to do the things He has called you to do – right where you are. Every single “YES” matters.

Click here to watch “Rhinestone Jesus” book trailer

Click here to buy “Rhinestone Jesus” today! A portion of proceeds benefit Mercy House Kenya.

This book will make a PERFECT mother’s day gift!

I’m also giving away my personal copy of “Rhinestone Jesus”. If you would like to enter to win, simply leave a comment below.

Learning to say #YESinmyMESS right along with you my friend!

~ Justina Dee


Overalls & Worship {On Seizing the Life I’ve Been Given}

I’m a country girl at heart. Give me wide open spaces and tea with a friend on a tiny county porch over the finest shopping at Nordstrom’s any day of the week. And Sunday. But through the series of  my life’s events, I live in the epitome of suburbia. I’m not complaining y’all. It is pretty amazing to live within minutes of every convenience & nicety known to American culture. Starbucks lattes, Chick-fil-a sweet tea and a Trader Joe’s around the corner from our house are nothing to sneeze at.   But the desire of my heart is to live in the country again. The way I grew up. The way my farming grandparents and their parents did.  You could say living on the land is in my DNA.

You could also say that I was not content with my life, as it related to the place I lived.

But my heart was changed on a spring afternoon two years ago. I was planting a few tomatoes in my lonely little raised bed, earnestly longing for a farm. The desire was so deep, and I just couldn’t shake it. I’ll never forget the feeling. I felt I had to document my deep dream and hope in some way, and so I tweeted “I want overalls”.

Later that evening I was playing piano in a worship set. A prayer leader came to me afterward and told me he had something odd to say. “While you were sitting on the piano bench worshipping this evening, I glanced over and it looked like you were wearing overalls. I know it’s strange, but I thought I should share it with you.”

I was flabbergasted. I felt as though God Himself had just spoken to me. And in a roundabout way, through a dear friend, HE HAD!

That day and night is ingrained into my memory and heart. I learned two things that have forever changed my perspective.

First, I realized in a fresh way (not just in my head but deep in my soul), that God knows me and loves me deeply. He is intimately aquatinted with all my ways. (Psalm 139). He even cared about my little “overalls” Tweet! I was blown away friends! He knows the desires of our hearts! He has good plans for us! We can trust His leadership and contentedly rest in His perfect ways in every season of our lives! Even when things don’t look the way I want them to look. He cares, He cares, and He cares some more! He is so good.

The second thing I learned through the “overalls” tweet was a lesson in stewardship. All this time I had been longing to live in the country again, and I knew that day that God was clearly telling me that He knew about my wishes for a farm, but that the most important place to be was in a position of worshipping him. At all times. In all seasons. No matter what. And that little spot of ground He’d given our family in a beautiful community? Well, if I couldn’t make the most of every square foot of dirt there, stewarding it well, caring for it and tending to it with diligence, how could I ever in a million years keep up with the unending, demanding and exhausting responsibilities of a creating and caring for a beautiful farm

Maybe I don’t need a whole farm right now – or ever! I need to plant vegetables in the dirt God’s given me, and make my own little piece of farmland right where I am.

Maybe I don’t need an artists studio, I need to use the paper and tools I have at my disposal, and start creating beautiful things to share with the world right here, right now.

Maybe I don’t need to go on an expensive vacation, I need to carve out a few hours in my day and soak in the beauty and treasures of the city where I am blessed to reside.

Maybe I don’t need a new car. I should clean the one I have.

The new kitchen is glamorous, but perhaps I should organize and fully utilize the stove, counter, fridge, cupboards and pantry in my house! I can make delicious food and serve my family & neighbors with nothing but a few great ingredients and simple kitchen tools.

Sometimes we have noble and good longings, dreams and aspirations -such as working in full time ministry, having a child, or countless other worthy things. I am in no way saying to stop hoping and dreaming. But I am learning that it is much more rewarding and peaceful to make the most of what I’ve been given. To seize every day and each precious opportunity. I am learning the delight of contentment, and above all, placing my hope in my faithful, always caring, ever loving, Heavenly Father. His ways are higher than mine. And he cares about every detail of my life. Even overalls.

May you also find your hope and delight in Him, as you taste and see that He is good.

~ Justina Dee





10 Things That Make You My Beautiful Girl {the next five}

As a mother learning to help her daughter navigate the treacherous waters of body image, I am learning one of the most valuable things that I can do is help her understand the true definition of beauty by identifying teaching, encouraging and reminding her on a daily basis of things about her that are beautiful – and unrelated to weight, size, and our warped and idiotic (I know it’s a strong word, but it’s true) cultural ideals of beauty. I want my daughter to understand and know beyond the shadow of a doubt that even if she loses all that this world shallowly defines as beautiful, her inner beauty will still remain, and shine clear and bright in a dark world. Last week I began a seven-week series on body image, by writing about five things that make my daughter beautiful, and this week I am sharing five more. If you have a daughter, I encourage you to make a list of at least ten things that make her your beautiful girl and read it to her. I know she will be lifted up and encouraged, as my daughter has been!

6. Your identity

A person’s name is a way we identify someone. When Daddy and I found out you were a girl, we spend countless hours pouring through baby name books, looking for the perfect one for you. We wrote many lists of names we both agreed were beautiful, then carefully researched the meanings. Then (together) we prayerfully decided on the name we gave you on that unforgettable day you were born. Amazingly, the meaning of your name has proven itself to be a true representation of your remarkable and strong character and personality! Your identity comes not only from your name, but from the story, personality, gifts, talents, passions, hopes, dreams, family, friends and experiences (both the good ones and the difficult) that make you, YOU. Your personal identity is completely unique, 100% original and beautiful in every way, and I am so thankful that I have been given the privilege of seeing your identity and story grow and unfold into something more amazing than I could have ever imagined!

7. Your strength

I’ll always remember the way your tiny yet very strong fingers wrapped around mine when you were a baby, and you squeezed with all your might. And I remember the day you decided you wanted to roll over, and you practiced relentlessly until you accomplished the amazing feat. Even when I was pregnant, I could feel that you held an incredible sense of determination. I’ve seen what happens when you set your mind to something, and your tenacity and “stick-to-itivness” inspire me every single day. From pushups to a difficult math problem. From teaching your dog a new trick and not quitting till she gets it right, to practicing a dance routine until you can perform it perfectly. From learning a new volleyball skill with Daddy to following through with a personal decision you made about anything from eating healthy food to keeping your room clean, your determination to finish the task you’ve started is a rare and valuable quality. Keep on working hard, flexing the muscles in your spirit, body and brain, and growing stronger ever day. Your strength is beautiful and powerful, and will help you accomplish great things.

8. Your hands and feet

I’ve always loved these words:

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7 NIV

This verse reminds me of YOUR beautiful hands and feet. I know that you want to travel to foreign countries and share the Gospel someday, but let me tell you a little something about you that is happening at this time in your life. I’ve seen your feet run towards those who need help. I’ve seen them walk into places and lives void of the Gospel and share the love of Jesus with people who may never have heard of Him before, as you served refugees and orphans. I’ve watched your feet walk beside a little one, holding their hand and helping them stay safe along the street. I’ve seen those beautiful feet of yours walk towards a person who is sad, so that you can give them a hug. I love the way your feet can’t stay still when you hear music you love. Those feet of yours have been dancing since you were a tiny girl – bringing joy everywhere you go. I’ve seen you dance in praise when no one but me is watching and it makes (happy) tears roll down my cheeks. I know God loves watching you too. I love the way you kick off your shoes and run barefoot every minute you can. And your hands! They are incredible! They care for others, they create, they make music, they draw, dance, hold books while you read, they write, they help – I could go on and on and on. Your hands and feet are perfect, and absolutely beautiful.

9. Your knowledge and love of learning One of the things I love most about you is your unstoppable desire and quest for knowledge. When you want to learn about something new you will research it for hours on end. It’s exhausting for me to even think about it! I love when you gain new insight and understanding on a matter and the light bulb goes off over your head. I’m in awe of the way math comes so easily to you. How quickly you learn foreign languages, and when something interests you, you give yourself no rest set until you’ve learned more about it. Your intelligence, knowledge and love of learning is an incredible gift, and it is beautiful.

10. Your sense of adventure If we lived in the days of pioneers, you would be on the wagons rolling west. If there was an uncharted mountain looming in front of you, you’d want to climb it. If someone was in danger, you are the girl who wouldn’t stand on from the sidelines wringing your hands as you watch, but instead you would bravely run to help.  Your wonder & excitement in not only the big things but tiny treasures like hummingbirds and butterflies are a joy to see. Always keep your sense of adventure. Never lose your wonder. They are beautiful.

Blessings to you my friend, and to your daughters. Thank you for taking the time to visit my little spot on the web. May each of us understand more of what it means to be truly beautiful. ~ Justina Dee

Related post: 10 Things That Make You My Beautiful Girl {The First Five}. Next week’s Healthy Monday post: “Body Image: Why Eternal Perspective Matters”.  Also coming soon: How Your Unique Creativity & Talents Make You Beautiful

10 Things That Make You My Beautiful Girl {the first 5}

Intro: Today I’m beginning a series of seven “Healthy Monday” posts dedicated to my daughter. I’m appalled and devastated at the manner in which western culture has already begun to define her perception of beauty and her own body image, despite all the rigorous efforts on my part as a mother to keep it from happening.

I naively believed I had this healthy body image part of mothering figured out. But there was a day it all changed for me. I was talking with my distraught daughter. She was curled into a ball on her bed. Her sweet little head was on her pillow while gut-wrenching sobs came one after another. My heart felt like it was being ripped inside me. My (then) eight year old daughter had just told me she believed she was ugly and fat. I was flabbergasted. Shocked. Numb with disbelief. Infuriated that the world had inflicted such pain upon my daughter. How could this have happened? Her daddy and I (with much sacrifice) had protected her at all costs. Daily surrounded her with love and affirmation, and truth about who she was. Reminded her always of her great worth and the beauty that radiated from her heart. Even guarded her from the torrent of media that pours out it’s superficial lies and values to our little ones. Between my torrent of tears and her body-shaking cries, I coaxed her to tell me why she felt this way. She told be she had been carrying this burden since she was five years old. A little girl she knew, loved and admired looked at my daughters healthy body with it’s little girl belly and told her that she was fat. And that her teeth were crooked and her face wasn’t pretty. And my innocent child believed her. And never told me what happened till this day, several years later.

My daughter is not alone. Did you know that at the tender age of nine, 35% of girls are already dissatisfied with their bodies? (1) WHY?! I’ve been on a mission to find the answer, do something to change what’s happening, and help my daughter heal and navigate through this territory of a healthy body image. Over the next seven weeks I’ll share the things I’ve learned here. I value your input on the issue, please comment with links, resources, quotes and any helpful advice you have to share. I’m starting the series with ten of the many things I believe define beauty in a young lady. They may seem cliche, but that’s ok with me, because they’re true!

Disclaimer: if you don’t want to see the words “love” and “beautiful” written over and over again, stop reading now. (Smile.)

10 things that make you beautiful

Ten Things That Make You My Beautiful Girl (the first 5}

1) Your caring heart.

There’s nothing in the world more beautiful than a heart that cares for others. If you filled every house, skyscraper and shopping center in New York City, Paris and Hollywood with the best makeup, most expensive lotion, most-watched YouTube beauty tutorials, modeling how-to books, and fashion magazines, and used every single one of them, they couldn’t do a single thing to make your heart more beautiful than it already is. Because Your heart is a reflection of your character, and that’s a beautiful, valuable, precious gem that money can’t buy. I love your heart. I’ve seen it in action. The way you care for the people you encounter is an inspiring thing to see, and it makes me so proud to be your mother. There are countless ways to test what someone is made of. I’ll mention two of them here. The way you interact with children and animals, those weaker than you, and those who you will gain nothing from that counts in this world, and number two: the way you treat these same ones when no one is watching. I’ve seen you act on your tender respect for the least of these countless times. And the way your heart cares is beautiful.

2) Your perfect face.

I love every part of it. The beautiful, defined shape. Your radiant skin that gets all rosy with exercise. Your forehead and eyebrows that raise with surprise and furrow with frustration, where I love to gently rest my hand when bedtime comes. Your perfect nose that always finds a flower in which to bury itself. Your cheeks that I’ve covered with countless kisses since the day you were born. I love the way your jaw clenches with determination. If I could choose one daughter from a million girl’s faces, I would choose yours every single time. It’s lovely in every way. I still look at your face when I come to check on you at night while you sleep. I see your lashes resting on your cheeks, look at your ears, your perfect lips and beautiful hair framing it all, and I shake my head in disbelief, a tear rolls down my cheek and I whisper “thank you” to your Creator as I once again am overcome with your beauty. And I love to see your face peek around the corner when you wake up in the morning. I cannot believe how blessed I am to have a daughter with a perfect face like yours.

3) Your strong, healthy, beautiful body.

You have a beautiful, strong and healthy body. As I watch you grow I marvel at your energy, vitality and beaming health. When that incredible body of yours bounces into a room it’s like a ray of summer sunshine that brings energy to all it encounters. God designed every single inch of you with a specific purpose in mind, to bring much glory to himself, and make an eternal impact on the world. Your body is PERFECT. There’s not another man, woman, boy or girl in the world who will be able to do the things you can do, with the unique DNA you have running through your amazing veins . From your height, to your size, to the way you move, to your weight, you are beautiful. Your body is a perfect, delicate, strong and priceless vessel made for incredible things. Your worth is never measured by what others think of your body. Always remember what God thinks about you, how he lovingly made you, how He treasures you, the way he knows you and deeply loves you – and remember and know that your strong, healthy, beautiful body was made to do great things.  (Psalm 139)

4) Your sparkling eyes.

I fell in love with your eyes the moment you were born. I’ll never forget the time when you were a tiny baby, and your eyes truly looked into mine for the first time. I was moved to tears at all your eyes said, and the complete trust and love you placed in me. Whether your gorgeous eyes are sparkling with joy, or brimming with tears of pain or sadness, they are an incredibly beautiful thing to see. The eyes are windows to your soul, and because your soul is beautiful, your eyes bravely and brightly shine that inner beauty of yours into the world. I love the way your eyes are filled with expression, and you’re never able to hide what you’re truly feeling. I love the way dark circles under them will always tell when you’re tired. And the way you’ve fought with everything in you from the time you were a tiny baby to keep them open and not miss any of the possible adventures taking place around you. The way you see things amazes me. From shapes in nature, to tiny objects on the sidewalk, the adorable green ribbons a little elderly lady in town is wearing in her white hair, to a classic car driving down the road beside us, to the first bluebonnets and robins in the spring. The way you use your eyes to seek out and notice the people who need to be noticed – those ones no one else sees. Ah…your sparkling, eyes bring such joy to this mama’s heart.

5) Your gorgeous, contagious smile.

How I love that smile of yours – filled with joy, happiness and delight. When you smile, your whole face shines with such radiant beauty! I love the times you’re laughing hysterically with friends, when you tilt back your head and smile and laugh with all you’ve got. It makes everyone around you feel happier! I love to see you smile when you’re alone – reading, or dancing at home, or listening to music. Since you began smiling as a baby you’ve never been one to hand out your smiles to anyone. They’re always deserved. And that makes them even more special. You smile at elderly people. Lonely people. People who are sick, and sad, and feeling down. You share your smiles with babies and little children. And they all smile back. And I watch you, and I smile too. You’ve experienced some deep sadness and pain in your young life, and that makes your smile all the sweeter and more beautiful & meaningful. I love that knowing smile we exchange, where you nod your head slightly, and grin a little at our own inside joke. And you have your daddy’s humor and quick wit. I am always amazed at how you have the right words to say, at exactly the right time, and we all laugh and laugh and laugh. Your grandfather tells the story about falling in love with your Grandmama’s gorgeous smile forty years ago. It’s one of the sweetest stories I’ve ever heard him tell. And you’ve inherited that incredible smile. Keep smiling darling. And never, never stop. Your gorgeous, contagious smile has a tremendous amount of power and influence, don’t you ever forget it.

Next week come the next 5: Your beautiful hands & feet, your incredible strength, your knowledge & appetite for learning, your endless creativity, your brave spirit – and the icing on the cake; your unique identity (the story that can only be yours).

1. Liechty, J. M. (2010).Body image distortion and three types of weight loss behaviors among nonoverweight girls in the United States. Journal of Adolescent Health, 47 (2), 176–182. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2010.01.004


Verses on Self Esteem 

Find Your True Beauty

A Mighty Girl

Dove Self Esteem Project 

HP on “Am I Ugly Videos”

Eye Opening Statistics About Body Image


Sweetmama {In Honor of International Women’s Day}


Sweetmama #lydiaglick

She walks into a room and her very presence brings a calm, beautiful serenity that gently settles over everyone like a cool, soft, sheet on a summer night.

Sacrificial love pours from her life like water from never-ending vessel, selflessly, quietly & gracefully serving all she encounters.

A loving and timely word spoken from her understanding heart – which has felt and endured much pain, encourages weary souls along their tiresome journey. When people are with her they find themselves aspiring to greater and nobler dreams than ever before. 

Hospitable and gracious is she. Dignitaries, and people of importance love her excellent company and worthy conversation. But of much greater concern to her, are those who are never seen by the crowds hurrying and bustling along life’s Busy Boulevard. The ones who desperately need love in order to simply survive are not only noticed but sought out by her. And she extends her hand, draws them close and carries them to the safe, warm light and comforts of home, giving freely of all she has.

The future is clear to her. No, she may not know exactly what will happen each day, but no matter what comes her way she is certain of her destination and she rests in supreme confidence on the Love of her Savior, leaning on her Beloved every single step of life’s way.

There is a bold and creative beauty in her eyes, one that takes risks and seizes moments others have not the courage to grasp. She sees potential and opportunity where most see nothing but bleak darkness. She’s a visionary and forerunner who blazes trails others will later follow.

To be with her is to learn from her. From the simplest of tasks to the most formidable, she carefully teaches and shares purposeful meaning in all sorts of matters.

Each day is filled with opportunity,  and she is master of the moments, never squandering a single minute. Instead she rises early and orders her day and the events and tasks – as well as opportunity for quiet, peaceful moments it holds – in such a manner that when she finally lays her head on the pillow at night she knows she has done all she could do to make the world a better place for those she so desperately and tenderly loves.

Impossible, you say, for a woman to be all those things? I say it is not only possible, but  it has been done. One of my childhood and lifetime heroes (who is advancing not only in years, but also in radiant beauty, and is lovingly called “Sweetmama” by her family) is all these things and countless more.

Although most have never met her, and they certainly don’t know her name, to me “Sweetmama” epitemizes the essence of beautiful womanhood. Years may have stolen some things from her, but her beauty shines on and grows only stronger with time. I honor her, my mother, my grandmothers, my sisters, daughters, aunts, friends and all the other brave and TRULY beautiful women in this world on this “International Woman’s Day”. 

May God bless you and cause His face to shine upon you,

~ Justina Dee

Some favorite, fitting quotes:

“Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:28-30  (ESV)

“Beauty… when you look into a woman’s eyes and see what is in her heart.” – Nate Dircks

“You can take no credit for beauty at sixteen.  But if you are beautiful at sixty, it will be your soul’s own doing.”  ~Marie Stopes

“Elegance is timeless” ― Habeeb Akande

“For Attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run their fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.
People, more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed. Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of each of your arms.
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself and the other for helping others.” ― Sam Levenson

“The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides. True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It’s the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows & the beauty of a woman only grows with passing years.” ― Audrey Hepburn

“Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.” ― Kahlil Gibran

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross


Saying Goodbye To Some Good (Book) Friends {40 Bags in 40 days}

Books #lydiaglick


My adorable nephew already loves to read :-). Here’s a picture of him with his daddy’s books. Our whole family loves books. I’m incredibly fond of them. The smell of a library is intoxicating to me. I choose a trip to the bookstore over the mall every single time. But sometimes we can have too much of a good thing, and that’s NOT good.

Lent is here, and this year I am honoring this special season with a serious household purging mission. I want to have our things in order, so that I can easily say “YES” when God asks me to do something. The first step of order is to eliminate the unnecessary. I decided to tackle the thing that would be most difficult for me to say good bye to on this, my first day of “40 Bags in 40 Days“.

I saw some helpful tips from organizer Peter Walsh regarding these covered friends of mine. He suggests getting rid of:

#1. Books you are never going to read.

#2. “Gift books.”

#3. Books you no longer love.

As a lifelong bibliophyle and homeschool mom it’s going to be difficult to bid farewell to some cherished titles, but a clean & clear space will make my heart sing and free me up for better things.

Would you you like to join me and others on the journey of de-cluttering our homes in 40 days? Click here to learn more about 40 bags in 40 days.

Happy home-purging!

~ Justina Dee

The Reason I Won’t Quit Working Out

Why I Won't Quit Working OutI’ve been a personal trainer for nearly two decades, and serviced thousands of client sessions. People exercise for countless worthy reasons. To lose weight, lower blood pressure, gain strength, rehab an injury, train for a sport, look better in their clothes, increase their energy, lower their stress level…you get the idea.

As I’ve worked with clients in gyms and home workout rooms, I’ve had the privilege of training men & women I call “lifers”. These are the rare kinds of people who have learned to prioritize exercise in such a way that they never quit. Every minute of their schedules are packed full. They have no more hours in a day than anyone else on the planet, and they have more responsibilities than most. Yes, they may have an illness or injury that sets them back, or a family emergency which prevents them from sticking to their normal routine, but in spite of any obstacle, they continue to stay active. Day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year. These people astound me, and they provoke me to action. In watching and talking with them, I’ve learned they all have a big reason to work out. And whatever that reason may be, it is of such importance and purpose to them that it keeps them on track even on the days when they don’t feel like exercising.

Short term goals are magnificent. And quite necessary. But when they’re met (or NOT met), we tend to fall off the workout wagon. In order to stick with this thing we call exercise for the long-term, we must have a “WHY I’m exercising” that’s bigger than our “why I shouldn’t exercise”.

I challenge you to begin thinking about your “WHY”. And if you’d like a bit of fuel for your thoughts, here’s mine.

Our parents gave my siblings and me the delightful and rare opportunity of growing up on a little farm in East Texas. We were unusually active. We played and formed dams in the creek, built forts from scrap lumber, climbed trees and played kickball. We went horseback riding and walked, rode our bikes and raced down the long, 1/2 mile lane to our mailbox and back everyday. But there was one activity in particular that stands out in my mind, and has been a life-long inspiration of mine.

That strong recollection is of a man we called Grandpa Thomas. He was the ninety year old great grandfather of the neighbor kids who lived across the pasture, and he came from his home in Chicago to visit them every year.

I was accustomed to seeing people who were advanced in their years using canes, in wheelchairs, and even bedridden. Many of them were being cared for by family, or they were in nursing homes as their health had deteriorated to the point that their children & grandchildren could no longer care for them.

But 90 year old Grandpa Thomas shattered my definition of an “old man”.

He could do flips on a trampoline. He could speak several languages. (I still have the paper on which he wrote my name in Mandarin.) He went swimming and loved to dive off the HIGH dive. And when this remarkable, spunky man came to visit his great-grandchildren, he took them – and all of us neighbor kids – on long, exhausting hikes through the woods and outdoors. In fact, he would wear US out and he still had plenty of energy.

What a shocking contrast: Grandpa Thomas vs. the average person who was advanced in years. As a girl, I aspired to be like him when I was a great-grandmother some day, and be the one who was taking care of their great-grandchildren, instead of the other way around.

Deep inside of me there was (and remains) a God-given desire to serve others. And I believe a part of being equipped to help others is to be physically ready for whatever opportunities present themselves. If I am called to a remote part of the world, I want to be able to say “yes” and go, with no worry of not being fit enough for the task. Should a day come where caring for someone in need requires hard physical labor, I want to be strong enough to be able to do it. If danger presents itself and I need to run, I want to be able to run! Or if there is a rescue mission or emergency situation at hand, I want to be a person that is able to jump right in and help.

This is a real and broken world, and I know that circumstances and health problems arise which can prevent the ability to stay active and mobile. There are things that happen which are out of our control. And should a day like that come to my life, I will ask God for the strength of character to handle it beautifully and gracefully in a way that brings glory to Him.

In the meantime, my health and strength is a direct reflection of the choices I make. At times I have short-term fitness goals that are fun and rewarding to reach. But my long term goal is what fuels my passion for staying in shape. For me, exercise is about something greater than myself. And that is the reason I keep going.

I hope you’re able to find a “WHY” that’s large and beautiful enough to keep you going, even on the days you’d rather not move. Whether it’s helping your family build good habits, keeping your body healthy and strong in order to prevent disease, or to be like Grandpa Thomas someday, I know that when you discover that big reason, it will help you to have the courage and discipline to do what’s necessary to reach your goal.

Healthy blessings to you,

~ Justina Dee


Justice Issues – The Single Most Important Thing Families Can Do

The most important thing a family can do to end injustice is pray together

This broken world is full of ugliness and injustice everywhere we look. Human trafficking, sexual exploitation, child slavery, religious persecution, ethnic cleansing and abortion, among countless other issues. If we’re not aware of the facts, we’ve simply chosen to comfortably close our eyes.

There are many ways families can become involved with solving and ending these atrocities. But where do we start? What can we possibly do in our own little corner of the world…with babies and toddlers and students and work and school and LIFE?

I believe the single most important thing a family can do to end injustice is PRAY TOGETHER. Informed intercession is a powerful thing. 

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:11-13, NASB

Children are incredibly important in the Kingdom of God. The prayers of our little ones are a powerful thing. 

Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger. Psalm 8:2 NIV

A praying, believing, unified family is a powerful thing.

Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. Matthew 18:19 ESV

Several things happen when we intercede on behalf of the people who so desperately need justice, and can be found in every area of our planet.

First, God answers our prayers. He really does! Our prayers are effective! He is for the downtrodden, for those in bondage and slavery. He cares deeply about the widows, the orphans and those who are being mistreated. He loves to answer our prayers on their behalf!

Next, as our families pray for these people, our hearts begins to come in line with the Father’s heart on these issues. And as we are given His understanding and insight, we begin to know what it looks like for us to take action as a family. Together, our family can ask God, “what do you want US to do about these horrible things?” And when we have chosen to become informed to these issues of injustice around us, God will make it abundantly clear to us what it looks like for OUR FAMILY to get involved and be part of the solution. However small the action may seem, it is not insignificant. Rather, it is of vast importance in carrying out God’s purposes and sharing His love and redemption.

So, how does a family pray for “justice issues”?

Here are three ways to get started:

1. Decide together as a family to become informed and to pray on a regular basis for these things. We need not go into the dark details of what is happening with our young children, but simply explain that there are people who are being treated unfairly, and they need us to pray for them. Little ones have a great sense of justice, and understand far more than we give them credit for. Children love to pray for people! Show them a map of the world and point to the places and areas you are praying for together.

2. Our prayers must be saturated with the Word of God and guided by the Holy Spirit. Look up verses about God’s power, justice and might together. Find out what He says about orphans, the downtrodden, and those who are unfairly treated. Look together in the Bible for descriptions of God’s character; His faithfulness and everlasting, never-ending lovingkindness, and the way He loves to rescue people. Then pray from that understanding. It’s that simple! Our prayers do not need to sound fancy or “religious”. All that matters is our fervent heart, coming from a place of understanding what God has done for US, and how He has saved US. We also love to play praise and worship music in the background while we pray, and join along and sing at any time.

3. Find other families who have the same passion for human trafficking and justice issues, then set time aside to join in your home and pray together!  

In closing, this is my prayer for your family:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,  giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. Colossians 1:9-12 ESV

May you be blessed as you live & breathe, and see & move & pray through the lens of His love for us and for the world.

~ Justina Dee

Link : Human Trafficking Prayer Guides 

Orphans & Human Trafficking – Is There More I Can Do?

Not to speak is to speak, not to act is to act The stories make my stomach lurch. Girls sent away from the orphanages of Eastern Europe at sixteen years old with nowhere to go. Predators prey like vultures, and mercilessly snatch them up. Kidnap them. Sell them. Abuse them. Buy them. Use them. Beat them. Even kill them. They are trapped in rooms and broken down. And horrible, atrocious acts are inflicted upon them. They contract HIV. They suffer. They die. And where am I? I never even glance their way. I have MY very busy life to live. My spouse, my children, my family and friends, my job. My health. My goals.  And on top of all my responsibilities and problems I’m too busy catching up on my favorite Netflix show. Pinning on Pinterest. Tweeting on Twitter. Deciding where we should vacation. Organizing my bathroom shelf. Getting my oil changed. Perfecting my life plan and mission statement. Reading a book to help alleviate the stress of it all. You know, important things. Oh, I’ve attended fundraisers. I’ve studied up on the matters of human trafficking. I’ve even shared videos and Facebook statuses about it all. I refuse to live in naivety and bury my head in the sand. Yes, I’m aware. But is it enough to be aware?

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Hold on! I’ve done more than just educated myself! I’ve prayed. I’ve interceded on behalf of these victims, and asked God to bring freedom, justice, healing and restoration. I’ve prayed for those in law enforcement and human trafficking ministries and organizations who are in the dangerous and life-threatening trenches – bringing comfort, rescue and a future to these precious souls. I know that awareness and prayer are vital! I have seen the powerful effect of our fervent prayers directed towards the human trafficking issue. I believe that it is during those times of prayer that the complacency in my heart began to melt, and my eyes were opened to the truth that I’m not helpless to the issue.

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying.  He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.” –  Samuel Chadwick

But then there’s this:

…be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22

The next step is to be a “doer”.  As my heart impacted by the things that stir God’s heart, my feet and my hands cannot help but move in response. I will begin to live in such a way that as the Spirit moves in my heart I become a vessel of God’s love and mercy through my actions. God has gone to great lengths to rescue me, and as a result of my overflowing gratefulness for what He has done for me, I cannot help but to the same for others.

Praying men are the vice-regents of God; they do His work and carry out His plans.” E.M. Bounds

Our family has long talked about the injustice of human trafficking. And faithfully prayed about this issue. We’ve met and been inspired by brave people who are taking action in this area. And now we have decided the next thing we must do is to find one girl who is about to leave an orphanage, has no family, no support system, no protector, and is headed to the street to survive, and welcome her into to our home to give her a chance to say yes to the invitation our family is extending to her, and find love, safety, healing, and most important of all: meet Jesus. To be frank, the thought of adopting a girl who has grown up in an orphanage, doesn’t speak our language, and has all sorts of emotional scars and psychological damage is scary. It’s unknown territory. It’s a downright crazy thing for our comfortable, most-of-the-time happy family to do. But it’s what God has asked us to do. And we’ve committed to doing it. And we know that He will sustain us, give us the tools, surround us with the people we need, and that she will be an unimaginable gift to us. And we believe that we will see beauty rise from the ashes. And that we can literally prevent at least one child from becoming another human trafficking statistic.

 “Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Church: if we are truly concerned about the issue of women and children bound in the unspeakable horror of modern-day slavery, there are many ways to take action. It’s going to look different in each of our lives. And all of the things we do must be done with wisdom and in God’s timing. But let’s at least do something. We can begin by becoming aware of the issue of human trafficking. Then pray for all parties involved, ask God how he wants us to help, be obedient to His call and become a “doer”. If you (or someone you know) have responded to this great need in some way, be it seemingly tiny or quite large, I’d love to hear about it! Please share it with us in a comment below. I look forward to hearing from you. May you be challenged to answer the stirring in your heart. And be blessed. ~ Justina Dee

“If God sends us on strong paths, we are provided strong shoes.”  – Corrie ten Boom

Links: International Justice Mission Fact Sheet  | Stella’s Voice : Watch this video to learn about what is happening to girls in Moldova  | 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Slavery, Human Trafficking, (& What You Can Do About It) | End It Movement Ukrainian Resource Center Hosting Program – Consider hosting an orphan! | The A21 Campaign | Love146