Sunday, August 19, 2012

Back to School

Back to School.... that is the message series that Clint began at church this weekend…. It was a great reminder that we never grow out of our need to have a mindset of learning and growth.

Thank you Holy Spirit that you never stop teaching me… day after day… through much struggle at times from the demands of daily life. God has had us all in the refining fire… a place of sacrifice and serving to another level than we had before due to the demands of having toddlers running free in the house. It has forced us all up on our toes away from our normal rhythms and comfort zones.

 With all the stretching we’ve encountered; our family finally came to a big crossroads this summer. We all needed to stop looking back to the way it “used to be”…. To the “easier” days our comfort-driven-selves daydreamed about… the good ole days when we could play games as a family… have conversations without constant interruptions… put your glass down without it being knocked over…. You know….”those easier days”. Well, this summer, through a family meeting time of prayer and challenge, each of us finally had to intentionally internalize the fact that we are no longer a family of 6, we are a family of 8… with all the different dynamics that brings!

 Although challenging at times, 6 can never be 8, and 8 can never again be 6. We are being transformed! We had to re-define what that really looks like and who we would become now as a team. Asking ourselves the questions: What is the culture of the Sprague Tribe home?… and more importantly…what did we want it to be? And then finally, What each of us must bring to the table in order to help create that culture. Thus the re-working of a family mission statement began.

 Sometimes it is hard to believe it’s been 18 months since we brought Justus and Hannah Mercy home from Ethiopia… we have come so far, but at times I feel we have so far to go. So many times, dealing with the broken places in our two adopted “Littles” over these past months have served to reveal the broken places still in me. How thankful I am for the steadfast love of the Lord… whose mercies are new every morning.

Today I am posting an excerpt from the Blog named “Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet” written by Sara Hagerty. It’s one of those blogs that always seems to speak right to me in a cut to the heart fashion…. to so clearly articulate in words my daily experience/struggle so often. I’ve never met Sara, but I thank the Lord for her voice that has ministered to me time and time and time again in our adoption journey.

In the blog Sara posted this past week, she’s talking about dealing with her biological daughters struggle to love her adopted siblings…ample opportunities of trial and fail… only to begin again. I relate so well, as this has been the path all of us in our home have walked for months now. There are great days and there are challenging days as in any family with lots of people… there are always lots of opportunities to grow in your love walk and patience. Anyway, I hope posting this excerpt of her last post encourages you the way that it encouraged me… and if you haven’t read Sara’s blog…. It really is so so real…. And so so good. Here goes….

  “…Earlier that week, I asked Him to grow my love. My prayer was much like hers. My family stretched me, each in their own way. They rubbed and pulled and pressed parts of me I’d like to pretend weren’t there. For once, I wanted my actions to stretch further than my words. I wanted to be pushed, in love, not to recoil inside when they got under my skin. 

I wanted a new depth of love, if even just a junior version of long suffering love. I wanted the love that leaves stretch marks, the kind that thrives behind closed doors — without an eye, but His, to witness or an accolade to affirm. 

 So I asked Him. Grow my love, my long-suffering love. 

 And like most times, an ask like this, charged with a private commitment, does more to me than simply become a personal treatise. It calls my attention to the chasm between that for which I was made and the place where I now live. 

 Hours later, as if it had been simmering underneath all those words and that great big ask, I fell. Well, I had a series of falls. The words of my prayer became like grand and empty platitudes against the backdrop of my gross inability to love. 

My heart was grumpy, my frustration mounting and, to top it off, I saw the objects of this love for who they weren’t, not for who He was making them to be. 

And when confronted, I was just like her. I saw the gap between myself and those words I had prayed. First, I justified. I have so much to manage! kicked-off the argument in my mind — which gave permission to all the thoughts that followed. Four kids in two years! – that same old line that lassos my heart, of course I’d respond this way. Too much on my plate! I muttered to myself. Each defense, another plank in the wall around my heart. And the gap between those words I prayed and the life I was living, widened. 

 Then, I awakened to my sin. It was too obvious to avoid (He was kind). 

And I flopped, for a few minutes, to the other end of the spectrum. The place where she’d also find herself. I keep messing up. Over and over and over again my heart movements and my mind’s dance revealed those words, that prayer, to be so far from where my feet were really walking these days. Neither response, though, was the one He called forth. 

The sin in her, just like the sin in me, serves a purpose beyond stirring up self-justification or sending me into shame. 

 Sin — the awareness of sin, hers and mine — is an invitation to press my wound against His. It’s a chance to behold the God-Man who, in perfection, chose to nail that part of Himself which wore our flesh against a block of wood, fashioned for death, so that this tree might, three days later, be the representation of my life. 

My life, hours after that prayer, when my words were like vapor against my actions that spoke another reality. You see, that day and the days that followed marked movement. Perhaps, the growth spurt for which I’d been asking. I’d prayed big and He revealed the gap and that gap beckoned me to press my oozing wound against the only thing that could heal it. 

Those who are forgiven much, love much. 

 The very love I had asked for in that prayer came in through the back door. Not through my efforts to make my feet fill out a vision too big for me, but through my repentance … when all my efforts failed miserably. Some of my sweetest communion has come at the foot of that block of wood. 

Could it be that sin, my worst sin (in my mind) — the kind that comes just after I’ve committed to do the opposite — is my launch pad for growth, when it’s turned into repentance? 

 A repentant heart is an opportunity for this day’s death to be a resurrection. 

I don’t need to pray smaller prayers; I need to see myself as I truly am: small at the foot of a very big cross. What is this kingdom He’s contrived? Who is this God who takes my rancid flesh, at its point of greatest failure, and turns it into a growth spurt? 

 Repentance doesn’t take me back to zero; it advances my heart. 

 For her to grow, not just beyond these moments where she fails, but through them, she will need to know the Man she meets when she repents. 

A lifestyle of repentance – “I was wrong. Will you forgive me?” – is perhaps our greatest impartation to our girls, because behind repentance is communion with the one who truly will turn our flesh to glory. All to come, if our weak knees bow. But I can’t take her there if I don’t go myself….” 

 Today, before my 19 year old daughter left for the airport, she affirmed me. She basically told me that the best thing Daddy and I gave to her was the example of the realness of our relationship with God, our humility in apologizing when we were wrong, and our passion to follow Jesus. So even though I’ve spent countless hours reading stuff to help me parent my adopted kids and am still feeling so inadequate to do this, today I’m reminding myself that the Holy Spirit is the best teacher…. That I can’t fail if I don’t quit… I just need to LISTEN and FOLLOW his lead one day at a time. I love Back to School!!

 “We can know before the battle begins that we will win, if we keep our eyes on Christ.” 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Resist or Rely?

It’s been 14 months since we brought Justus and Hannah Mercy home from Ethiopia. Adoption is not for the faint-hearted. Our God is faithful and He continually teaches us along the way. This year has been so rich in lessons He is teaching us through this adoption journey. We wouldn’t trade it!!

I taught @ our churches quarterly woman’s event (Girl Time) on Monday night. I wanted to post the message I shared of what God’s been speaking to me over the last 6 months. If you need encouragement… this Word is for you…and it is for me, as you will hear if you follow the link below to listen to this message called Resist or Rely.

May His Word strengthen your heart as it has continued to strengthen mine.

Learning to Rely,

(sorry I can't seem to make it a link, but if you copy and paste the line above in your browser window it will take you to the message. Or you can go to and then click on media, then click on Resist or Rely message from 4-16-12)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Life Church India Style!

Praying for our team in India as they begin the journey home. What an amazing privilege we have to partner with Freddy & Daisy as they rescue kids off the streets of Chennai, India!

Check out the picture of "Life Church India Style!"

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Blessed. Broken. Given.: Finally... Video update!

Our daughter Kayla recently updated her blog. Check it out!

Blessed. Broken. Given.: Finally... Video update!:
Here's a window into my life over the past 5 months.  I hope that it encourage...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

So, WHAT’s for dinner???

It’s what my inquiring kids always want to know... When you have 6 kids, you hear this question a LOT to say the least…. But if you’re like me, you don’t always have an answer… so you let the suspense build and scramble to figure it out! BUT, on the other hand, if it happens to be Wednesday, then of course it’s a given… because on Wednesday night the middles have Awana and my 2nd to oldest has Vertical (youth group), so it’s best to make something that everyone’s always happy about and easy to clean up!

What’s that you say?...Oh you want to know WHAT IS FOR DINNER?!!! Well, for fun I will share the recipes I use on Wednesday nights…AND also have a contest for a fun GIVEAWAY at the same time, so hopefully by the time this “plan” is facilitated, I’ll have the answer to the question at the top of this blog post for many nights to come… BRILLANT!

Now, I’m no spring chicken… we are almost to our 24th wedding anniversary and I've been parenting for over 18 years… been through many seasons… and in some of my very “organized seasons” when life seemed easier and carefree with 3 or 4 kids, I even had a weekly menu taped up on the pantry to ensure that I didn’t have to answer that question. It was great when I consulted it and really freed up some of my brain cells…. which by now are all used up from chasing the littles around all day and changing too many diapers once again.... where did all that organization go?? um...I can't remember:)

Do you ever feel like you're in a rut and you make the same meals over and over again? I don't know about you, but I'm ready for some NEW recipes! Um, you see that’s where YOU come in…. this is a participation blog:)


YOU share your favorite family recipes and IF I make it and it’s a “keeper”(meaning the Sprague tribe likes it), then I will send you a $10 Starbucks gift card!! How’s that for a fun participation prize… yes, you can now thank my friend Lori Gardner… she’s the hilarious blog queen who actually does fun giveaways on her blog. Now, I can’t send a gift card to all the “keeper” recipes… so I will have my kids vote on the one they liked best from this little contest… and hopefully it will be YOU because you cared enough to take the time to share a favorite recipe with me. I will mail you the gift card in appreciation… or if I know you I’ll just take you to Starbucks and then give you a gift card too!!

Now, depending on the feedback… this could take some time, so I will let you know right away if your recipe makes it to the “ones to try” pile. Then you will at least know you are in the running for the Starbucks gift card. And to save some time… here’s a few tips for what kind of recipes we'd like... I’m more of a "from scratch" kind of cook… use real onion, garlic, and spices… so I don’t buy the cream of whatever Campbell’s soups…I do buy canned beans though for making chilli…. I’m not into MSG and hydrogenated oils…. We do like vegetables too, so the recipes don’t have to have meat in them… although we do like meat too…. Oh and in case you have one, I would love a great spaghetti sauce recipe, or stir fry, pasta recipies... like the noodle company makes...or anything easy really… the sky is the limit!

Back to what's for dinner....Wednesday is HOMEMADE PIZZA NIGHT in the Sprague home… It’s the one night of the week that I never get complaints, only cheers… oh how I love that when it comes to dinner!!! (which by the way is NOT always the case with other meals in our home because I refuse to raise picky eaters, so I say this phrase quite often to the littles, middles, and bigs, “We train our taste buds in this house and if you don’t like it, that’s okay… you CAN still EAT it!”… but no time for that bully pulpit now… was getting sidetracked…yes, yes…back to fun pizza making:)

If you have a bread machine to make the DOUGH, and you want to make it a weekly dinner, set a weekly alarm in your phone to remind you @ 2pm or so to start the dough…. that way it’s ready when you are! Here are the two pizza crust recipes I always use… perfect every time. They vary a bit, so take your pick. If you don’t have a bread machine, consult my friend Lori… she uses her kitchen aid mixer to make her dough and if you don’t have a kitchen aid… well my food processor makes good dough using the recipe in its manual… or you can just use your hands… what a concept! The reason I prefer my bread machine is because it’s the easiest! You throw in the ingredients and an hour and a half later the perfect dough is ready… and can just sit in the machine until you are ready to use it... very simple, very easy.

The following recipes come from "The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook" by Beth Hensperger

For Basic Pizza Dough – add the following ingredients to your bread machine and select the “dough” cycle.
1 1/3 cups water
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I use ultra grain)
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
2 tsp SAF yeast OR 2 ½ tsp bread machine yeast

When cycle beeps, remove dough (the dough ball will be soft), divide into desired number of portions.. I do two (but for more fun on a night you have time… the kids love making their own personal pan pizzas too).Oh wow… the recipe says to then…"Flatten each portion into a disc. Cover with a damp towel on the work surface to rest for 30 minutes until the dough has increased about 20 percent"…. But I’ve never done that… guess I never read past the ingredients part… oh well. Try it… it might be better that way… who knows:)

Or for the granola girls out there… you can try this recipe:

Whole Wheat Pizza dough- (this is the one I use most... unless it’s for guests who like the standard American fare better… both are great recipes though.)
1 1/3 cup water
¼ cup olive oil
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I use ultra-grain)
1 cup whole wheat flour (not the dead stuff on the shelves, I grind mine at HyVee in their health market section… they have these big vats of Montana wheat for .88 per pound. Grind and put straight in your freezer to preserve nutrients… or if you’re super cool like my friend Lori… you own a grain mill!)
1 ½ tsp salt
2 tsp SAF yeast OR 2 ½ tsp bread machine yeast

Once the dough is ready (or actually, once I’m ready to start) I divide it into 2 balls and put it on the pizza pans. (I roll them out on my counter, but am finally beginning to try the hand stretching... no throwing in the air yet, but baby steps on getting the dough ready for the pan.) For years I used my pizza stones, but I find clean up way easier and the crust much crispier when I use the round pizza pans with the holes. I got them on sale at Kohls… $12.99 each… non-stick, 16 inch, with the holes all over the bottom. The pizza literally slides right off onto the cutting board and the pan is still CLEAN… I do wipe it with a rag, but I’m telling you… easy clean up to me is a major bonus!! Once the dough is on the pans, cover with light cotton towel and let them rest while you make the sauce.. but you can do it the way the recipe says.

The SAUCE is so simple to make… takes about 15 min. to simmer and is SOOOO worth it!! You’ll really never buy a jar again… it’s that good. It makes 2 cups, which I use every drop. I keep telling myself that I will make double or triple batch sometime and freeze some, but It’s just so easy to whip it up real quick, I haven’t done that yet…. Besides if it was frozen, I would have to set an alarm in my phone to remind me to take the pizza sauce out of the freezer!Time flies so much faster now that I have the littles, and that handy alarm in my phone is my helpful friend.

What I love most about this recipe is that I always have all the ingredients on hand since it's so if you've never made your own sauce... it's time to give it a try!

Essential Tomato-Herb Pizza Sauce
1-2 T. olive oil
¼ large yellow onion, finely chopped (I use whatever color of onion I have)
Two 8 oz cans tomato sauce (I use one normal size can… I think 15 oz)
1 clove garlic, pressed, or ½ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano or marjoram leaves (I’ve only used oregano)
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion until soft and the edges begin to brown. Add the tomato sauce, garlic, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a low boil and adjust heat to low. Simmer; uncovered for 15 min. Remove from heat and cool (I never do that). The sauce will keep in the freezer up to a month (haven’t tried that yet either).

When the sauce is ready…. Spread half on each crust, add whatever toppings you want… or if your kids are like mine… just cheese on theirs. Now they do eat from ours after the cheese is all gone, but if it was their choice… they prefer cheese. Allie is my kitchen helper and she loves to help with the sauce and the cheese.

I bake the pizzas one at a time in a preheated oven of 425 for 14 min. (for crisper crust)… or at 450 for 10 min. (for less crispy). See what you like… and if you want thicker crust don’t make the pizza as large. I stretch them to the max on my pans cuz there are a lot of mouths to feed at my table. Since my new pans can’t be in heat of more than 450 and you can't cut on them because of the non-stick finish, I just put a cutting board on the table and slide the pizza off the pan and onto the board and serve from there. I always cut up fresh veggies to go with the pizza because it’s the most important part of the meal to me. What’s funny to me is that my kids eat the veggies plain, but dip their pizza in ranch.

Here is a picture of some happy campers devouring the goods this week.

Now that, my friends, is a wrap! No actually, it’s pizza, but just wanted to use some cooking show lingo. Seriously though, this is that wonderful weekly dinner where you NEVER have to tell you kids to, “eat your dinner”…. Let me know if it works that way for your family too. Enjoy!!

Oh and please don’t forget about the CONTEST/ GIVEAWAY…

Below are a few pics so you can meet the middles...A few serious members of the judges panel for this contest. One of my littles is pictured at the top of this post, but she doesn't get to be on the panel of judges because I've not really found anything she doesn't LOVE to eat since bringing her home from Ethiopia... she's a momma's dream!

*all pics taken by my iphone so excuse the poor quality...and I'm no photographer either... so that might be some of the lighting issues.