Calling out the Dead

As we wrap up September, I’ve been thinking about our word for this month: Lifestyle. I am always trying to build a lifestyle that includes creativity from how I set up our home to how I spend my free time. A creative lifestyle is to live how we were created to live. We are created in the Image of God and in His likeness, which includes being creative (I doubt I need to list all the ways God is creative!) This is who we were intended to be, but as we know everything fell apart with a single bite in a garden. Since that moment, God put his agenda into action to redeem every facet of brokenness through Jesus.

“The gospel re-creates all of you so that every part of you–including your creativity–is from Christ, through Christ, and to Christ. The gospel retunes your creativity to sing his grace. It re-creates your creativity so that it can finally do what he made it to do–bring him glory, forever.”Thomas Terry and Ryan Lister, The Gospel Coalition (click link for full article)

When we live creative lives, we live out another facet of our redemption through our Savior. When we exercise creativity, we reflect redemption. We find freedom and glimpses of the Paradise that was lost and the eternal Paradise to come. Through our creativity we can worship and commune with the Genius of all creativity. In this, we truly live.

“The trumpet of imagination is like the trumpet of the resurrection. It calls the dead out of their graves.” –G.K Chesterton

And true life is what this dead world is aching for.

“…There will be the irresistible attraction of the beauty of holy-love, showing what life in the presence of God really is–life as it was meant to be lived. This cannot but attract the human heart since a deep desire remains in us to be all we were meant to be.”–Sinclair Ferguson, Devoted to God. 

A lifestyle of creativity is not just for the ‘artsy types’ or the ‘hipsters’ or the ‘millennials’ or for ‘creative types’. It’s for anyone who has been redeemed by Christ. It is for every ‘reborn type’ and ‘new creation in Him type’. It’s for me and for you, dear Christian. This Lifestyle is for us.



SPOTLIGHT: Chris Scott

Screen Shot 2018-09-19 at 3.39.50 PMAge: 37


IG: @anniescott


What is your background in education?

I was a co-learner with 7-8th graders at Santa Ynez School for 8 years. We learned history and technology through varying experiences.

What inspired you to create these Minecraft books and camps for kids?

Screen Shot 2018-09-19 at 3.40.03 PMLike all teachers, I had students that were difficult to reach using traditional classroom tools. I loved using project based education, and part of that was working on processes that enabled kids to take initiative and control of their learning. I borrowed heavily from the Agile project management to enable functional group work and independent accountability. Agile project management is used in businesses that require large projects to be accomplished by groups. This process starts with identifying the goal of the project (typically our goal was “demonstrate your understanding of X topic”). Kids then developed ideas on how they could demonstrate their understanding of a particular topic. The project is then split into a series of tasks that can be accomplished in a class period. 

Around the same time kids received a netbook running Ubuntu, and a few kids figured out how to load Minecraft on it, and explained how they could use the game to accomplish their project. It was that first group of kids that used Minecraft to accomplish learning goals that inspired me to dig in deeper.

As a class we all started to use Minecraft more, and sought out other classes using Minecraft  as well. I met my co-author John Miller who is still using Minecraft with kids in middle school years. John and I were asked by a friend (Henry Danielson in Cambria) to run a Minecraft camp with teachers and kids on the summer of 2012. 

Our publisher Quarry Books found John and I through our website. Quarry asked us to write a proposal for a book, which became Minecraft Lab for Kids published 2016. Now we have a second book Minecraft STEM Lab for Kids published May 2018. Last year we started a non-profit Woven Learning and Technology to better reach kids who don’t have access to expensive technology-infused camps. 

How do you nurture creativity in your three sons?

I think creativity and curiosity are closely related. I believe everyone is creative and it’s just a matter of understanding people to experience their form of creativity. My wife and I ask our kids lots of questions to encourage curiosity. We work with our kids on creativity-focused projects by spending time sharing and working on ideas. We want our kids to learn about who they are, and their own character traits, which is certainly rooted in being curious, which leads to creativity. 

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What other areas of your life do you exercise creativity?

At the end of 2016, my wife and three boys and I moved onto our sailboat. We chose to try a new lifestyle. As part of living on a boat we’re all forced to solve problems with limited resources. Through this lifestyle I’m still learning about my own form of creativity. 

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Quiet Time for All

One of the most popular questions I get: How do you find time to write with three little kids and homeschooling and…

When West was 4 yrs old he was done napping. But I had a 1 yr old who still napped and IMG_0070I had my sanity to keep. So I started training him how to have a quiet time. This was very tricky because he was the type of kid that was just born insecure and needy and did not entertain himself. He did not go off and play on his own during the day. But I knew his learning how to be alone and do something on his own was a valuable thing he needed to learn–and I needed it.

Each day after lunch after I put Will down for his nap, West and I would go in his bedroom and get him ready for quiet time. I would set out three activities (books, Legos, sticker activities, coloring books, etc) He could choose to do whichever activities whenever.

IMG_9317We started with 10 minutes. I set the oven timer and the rule was he had to stay in his room until the timer went off. If he came out for any reason less than injury, we started the timer over (he went to the bathroom and got a drink of water before the timer was set). At first he literally stood in his doorway just staring out, waiting for the timer to go off. It was sort of sad!

After a few weeks, I upped the time to 15 minutes. Less and less he hung out in the doorway, and more and more I would find him on the floor with his Legos or action figures. As time passed and he grew more comfortable with being alone and more engaged by himself, I added more time. When he turned 5, the quiet time was 45 minutes, after which he could watch a little show like Curious George until Will woke up. Through the years Quiet Time has evolved as his interests have changed and we’ve had to rearrange the house for new babies, etc.

This school year we’ve changed it again, now that West is in 2nd grade. He starts by IMG_0449 (1)reading to himself for 15 minutes (he sets that oven timer). Then for 90 minutes he does a quiet activity, which nowadays usually includes drawing with Art for Kids Hub, or creating 3D sculptures with random craft supplies, or building a marble maze. Recently we’ve been renting STEM activities from the library. After 90 minutes, at which time usually Will (who’s 3 and whose napping days are nearing an end–God help me!) is up, and they are allowed to have “tech time” for an hour (they play Mine Craft or Mario Kart usually).

IMG_0499And THAT is how I am able to read books, write stories, work on creative projects, and refresh everyday. Establishing a nap and quiet time is vital to my creative survival and overall health as a mom. And in turn it is so good for my kids. They learn to be alone and to be ok being alone. They learn to be quiet and at peace and to just be. They learn to use their creativity and imagination. And they learn that their mama has passions and pursuits that she invests in, and while she loves them dearly, they are not the entire center of her universe and thus not entitled to all of her time. It’s part of our lifestyle.

SPOTLIGHT: Melissa Smith


Job: I operate a licensed Family Childcare Home in Orcutt, CA that serves children 6 months to 5 years old.

Info: email

Phone: 805-268-8500


What is your background in education and teaching?

I have been in early education for 18 years! I started my journey at Allan Hancock College, taking classes as a single teen mother (I was 19 with a toddler who attended the ECE program too), and working as a student worker in the child development program on campus. I pursued a Child Development permit, and a certificate, followed by an Associates and Bachelors degrees in Child Development. I taught in all the classrooms on campus for about 6 years, ad then after graduation from the University of LaVerne, I wanted to work in a capacity that served a different demographic. 

I landed as a Lead Teacher and substitute Site Supervisor in our Early Head Start program. It was an incredible experience to challenge myself to learn more Spanish, guide families in reaching their personal goals, mentor teachers and student teachers, and also teach children. I was lucky to receive specialized training and certification in the ‘Outdoor Classroom’ teaching strategies, and lead our center in implementing these philosophies in our daily work with children.


What do you love most about running your learning center?

I adore directing and teaching in my own program. I love that I can set my hours to fit my family’s needs or accommodate other families’ needs. Not being tied to a company with hard and fast regulations is great. It means I can bend and change in a field hat is critical to the developing of little humans. I have experience with many demographics and I like that I am able to serve a diverse mix of cultures and ages. I love the freedom to find a groove with my students and allow my curriculum, lessons, and activities to emerge naturally, which is the most effective and creative way to teach early childhood. I also love the relationships built between children, families, my own kids, and me. I am able to get to know each parent and family in a way that fosters acceptance and belonging. When that is done, it truly frees us to learn, to create, to grow.

How do you nurture creativity in your little students?

Often we hear the word create and we think art. Art is certainly a staple in education, and I am a believer of process art and giving children opportunities to create art with varied mediums and materials, but creativity encompasses much more to me. I encourage children to create all day long. We create elaborate cities and structure with blocks, Legos and magnets. We make Styrofoam robots and garbage trucks and use books as ramps for our cars. We pretend to be animals, mommies and daddies, and firefighters. We use scarves and costumes and puppets to retell and act out real life or fantasy story lines. 

Our backyard has a variety of “loose” parts for children to use however they see fit–I have seen crates stacked up as they play Humpty Dumpty or lined up on the ground to be a train to the North Pole. There are tires for monsters. The swing set has functioned as a prop for pretend games. Our mud kitchen is a favorite place to bake cookies, make pizza soup, and hunt for buried treasure. 

Are there other areas of your life where you practice creativity?

I love to cook, and my concoctions and creations amuse myself and my family. I also really enjoy home decorating. I feel so much joy and energy when picking out a new rug, or creating a wall of family photos and quotes. I also love to paint and have painted (with the instruction and guidance of an artist friend) a couple beloved pieces that are proudly displayed in our living room. 

EduCare’s philosophy is that children learn math, literacy, science, social studies, social emotional skills and more through play. I try to nurture creative and pretend play to foster the development of all these skills.



Info: email

Phone: 805-268-8500



My Turn

IMG_0692The theme of this month is Education, and the creativity that goes into educating ourselves and others. So I challenged myself this month to learn a new creative endeavor. I was inspired by my sister-in-law Erin (see Sep. 12 post) and her self-taught embroidery. I used to do a little when I was a kid, but never learned proper stitches, etc. So I went to Joanne’s Fabrics and bought supplies. I already had lots of embroidery ‘floss’, as they call it, so I just needed hoops, fabric, and needles. Overall I spent under $10, which I thought was a good deal for a new creative project.

Then I spent a whole evening Pinning embroidery ideas while watching my new fave reality competition show Making It. I started with an easy design with basic stitching. I penciled the outline of the design onto the fabric first to use as a I guide, then referred to the Pinterest pic as I went along. The first cactus took me about an hour.

Learning something new feels as tiring and rewarding as working out. I’m not a IMG_0691 2perfectionist (some people assume I am because I’m naturally organized or overly intentional) but I’m really not. I joke that I’m a “Good-Enougher”. I do like to challenge myself and I do strive to do my best in all my endeavors. And I remind myself that mistakes and flaws and revision are all part of the creative process, and it all has value. So I can enjoy the process just as much (if not more) than the final product.



I’m really enjoying embroidery because it uses different skills than I’m used to, it’s something I can work on while watching TV, and it makes me feel vintage in a good way!




Simply Symposium

This year in our homeschool I wanted to incorporate the idea of a Symposium time or Morning Time. I’d read a couple blogs and a great book called Teaching from Rest (by Sarah Mackenzie) that shared ideas for this. Basically it’s setting aside time for all the extra things you dream about including in your homeschool, but that often get pushed aside for the core subjects (math, Language arts, science, etc). It’s a time to sit with your kids, introduce them to enriching topics, and learn together. You can do this wherever best fits your day. The boys and I have been doing our symposium first thing in the morning before the youngest gets up (she’s a late sleeper, thankfully). The boys grab an Eggo waffle to tie them over so we can do our symposium before breakfast. So far it’s working great. We also do this only on Monday and Fridays, which are our full homeschool days.

We start the time off reading a little devotional together called Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd-Jones. I love this one because the art is so unique and the writing is poetic and theologically-sound. It’s also short!

Next we read about a famous painting from a fun book called 13 Paintings Children Should Know(there’s a whole series of these books that include famous artists, art movements, and art techniques). We read the facts and have a conversation about the painting together.

Then we study a topic of interest. At the beginning the school year I asked my second grader what were some things he was interested in learning more about. His first choice was outer space. So we spent the first two weeks studying this during our symposium. We rented books from the library, we watched You Tube videos of the first moon landing, I read the Magic Tree House: Midnight on the Moon aloud while we did some fun art projects. My preschooler in particular enjoyed it and can now list our planets.

I put together a symposium basket for our materials. I also threw in some stickers activities, puzzles, and board books to keep my littles busy during read aloud time. I keep our watercolors and cups in there also so they’re easy to get to for our art projects.

It has been so fun to be creative with this part of our homeschooling. Our symposium time has also been a little bonding time for us, and starts our day off right: with reconnection and relationship. And bonus: I’m learning fun things with them!

SPOTLIGHT: Donna Burtnett


Age: 50

Kids: Two sons (one in college, one senior), one adopted daughter from China (5 yrs old)

Job(s): pastor’s wife and homeschooling mom



Why did you choose to homeschool your boys through high school?

Seeing how much my sons could get done in a short amount of time and seeing how much I enjoyed having them home made us continue with homeschooling. Each year we prayed, asking God what was the best choice for our children. We never went back…homeschooling stuck. My sons excelled in their lessons, they were a joy to have around, and we enjoyed our homeschool community.  

What resources aided in that?

First and foremost the resource that benefitted us the most was being in a community of homeschoolers. I found this community to some degree in my church, but ultimately it was through a local Christian homeschool support group. I found like-minded friends, people to co-op with, activities for my children, and mentor/prayer partners for me. 

Second, in our high school years my sons were enrolled in Biola Youth Academics online classes for their English and Social Science. These classes helped them learn how to “think” with a Christian lens. Their writing and ability to discuss difficult topics with their peers was challenges.

We utilized co-ops for science classes, elementary physics education, and in late elementary we had a writing co-op. Co-ops not only provided my sons with being able to learn various subjects, they also provided accountability for myself as their teacher. Furthermore, my sons made wonderful friendships.

What are some new challenges to starting over with your daughter Eliana?

One, I have been seeking God to help me with the desire and joy to continue on for another 13 years! There is a part of me that feels overwhelmed with the prospect of starting at the beginning again. Just when you think you finish a task, it can feel discouraging to find out you have to start again. 

Second, there is just Eliana…one student. With the boys I could pair them up for lessons, etc. So I have to rethink how I will teach some things. 

Third, Eliana is very different than the boys. So I am seeking to understand her needs and learning style and adapt accordingly. I have already changed some of the curriculum to meet her needs. I am still seeking to keep her education God-centered (like with the boys). School is not just about gaining knowledge, but becoming the person God intends you to be through the knowledge you gain.


In what ways do you use your creativity in your schooling/parenting?

We are creative beings and I believe we respond best through creativity. The best way to reach our children is to understand they are creative. Did I fail at this sometimes? Yes! Sometimes I was more concerned about checking off the next box. But when I stepped back and sought to make things memorable for my children, inevitably creativity would flow. I think it’s more memorable and creative to, say, create a Lego battlefield, for others it would be painting a picture, for others it would be acting it out, or writing a story. 

Any encouragement for other homeschooling mamas out there?

If you feel God has called you to homeschool, then He has already enabled you to do so. God has given you the children that you have and has uniquely gifted you to give them what they need. I am not always patient, understanding, super organized, a great planner, nor super smart in all areas of schooling. But I am a willing servant who loves her children and trusts God will provide exactly what I need to homeschool. And I have seen just that.

Also we don’t need to try to duplicate public school. Our children can have the joy of being children and discovering the amazing world around them at the same time as being challenged.

Allow time for your children to be children. Don’t overlook their time (and yours) thinking you must provide every possible experience you can for them. Your children need time to be bored. Time to invest in their own interests. If you ask my sons what was memorable about their homeschooling, they don’t say the piano recitals, the exciting field trips, the cool classes…They’ll tell you about the books we read and the things we studied at home that were of interest to them.

Lastly, trust God to provide. We live in a world where we feel like we must have it all figured out. We need to pray, seek, and wait for God to answer.





Life-Long Learners

Check out these self-taught creatives who found an interest and set out to learn it!

Erin and EmbroideryI became interested in embroidery after seeing a few marvelous and unique embroidery posts on Pinterest. I started with a pattern (the daisies) and then started drawing my own patterns with an embroidery pencil I bought from Hobby Lobby (the bee). Most of the stitches are therapeutically easy, and if I ever have problems with a stitch, I can look it up on YouTube. It’s a great little something for me to do while watching TV with Andrew (my husband) because I’m usually fidgeting in front of the TV, and it helps me focus on our quiet time in a productive way! 


Bethany and CakesI use Pinterest mostly. I look at a picture and figure it out. Once in awhile I watch YouTube to make edible flowers and such.


Annie and Wood-BurningI first learned because of a school project. We had to create a board game and I wood-burned the board for it. It was so terrible! haha From there I practiced more and figured out what to do better. 


Micah and Wood-WorkingI find something I’m interested in and I just go for it! I’m in the middle of experimenting with carpentry using more traditional tools. 

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Mallory and LetteringInstagram and Pinterest have been helpful and inspiring, but the main driving force is just my love of letters and typography. “Just My Type” is a book that opened my eyes to the process and history of typeface design; understanding the “why” of letterforms makes me excited to learn through mimicking. I know my skill can’t even begin to catch up to my aesthetic, but that struggle is the rewarding part of the process, y’know?


Eric and Tap DancingI wrote a play set in the 1940s and I wanted to include some tap dancing since that is such an icon of the 40s. I’ve always had natural rhythm and coordination, and had learned to do the Charleston for a 1920s play. So I set out to learn tap from YouTube videos. I was diligent to practice a minimum of 2 hours every day. After several weeks of learning basic tap routines and steps, I choreographed a tap dance for a scene in the play. It’s reminiscent of Fred Astaire’s July 4th number in Holiday Inn. 

SPOTLIGHT: Ellen Castillo

IMG_0634Age: 61

Business/Position: Executive Director and Biblical Counselor of Word of Hope Ministries, Inc.


Facebook: Word of Hope Ministries and Ellen Conover Castillo

Instagram: @wordofhope

Twitter: @EllenWordOfHope

What does your ministry/business entail?

Word of Hope Ministries is a nonprofit organization in Santa Maria, CA. We provide Biblical counseling locally (and occasionally online, utilizing video calls). We are also a certified training center for the International Association of Biblical Counselors. We train others who wish to become certified Biblical counselors. Our training is individualized, self-paced, and can be done from anywhere. We also provide a unique training for women who wish to mentor women and girls in their sphere of influence. This course is held locally in-person, and there is also an online option that can be done from anywhere. 

How does creativity play into it?

We are a business that provides ministry, which makes us unique in many ways. I started Word of Hope from scratch, and as any entrepreneur knows, there is a substantial creative component to building a business from the ground up. I love the creative process involved in starting with a “dream” and finding a variety of ways to turn that dream into a vision with potential and possibility. It was a process over a few years to get it where it is today. There have been many twists and turns, road blocks, and surprises, as well as frustrations and blessings. 

Finding ways to do what I do in the best possible way for our context requires creative thinking. From deciding what services we offer to building a website and more is a creative process. There are no templates for me to follow. Every ministry similar to ours is also very different from Word of Hope. Because my creative energy is always bubbling inside me, I rarely feel content keeping things the same if there is room for improvement. I thrive on re-envisioning  when I see the need (or when I get bored, which happens if things are too stagnant!)

Creativity in my counseling is a critical part of how I build relationships with the younger generation. I enjoy using creative activities within counseling sessions with teens and children. I utilize drawing, sketching, crafting, creative writing, journaling, etc. For example, if a teen has a hard time with eye contact, I might give them a poster board and some markers, pencils, and pens (they LOVE gel pens) and let them doodle or draw while we talk. It helps some to be more forthcoming if their hands are busy. Or I might give a specific assignment that we can talk about, such as “draw a picture of what you wish life could be like for you”. I can learn a lot about the teen’s heart from their drawing, and to some, it feels safer than verbal expression. 

Writing assignments are great in counseling sessions as well. I assign journaling to every young person I meet with. Their journal is a key way to keep track of their counseling homework and to write down their struggles and victories through their weeks so that we can process together. I have them write out scripture and memorize it from their journal. 

Writing is a creative project for me also. I have the great privilege of writing blog posts on various topics for the Biblical Counseling Coalition and the Biblical Counseling for Women blogs. I find each assignment to have a creative component–how to lay out the post, how to title each section, how to word it in a winsome way so that it’s interesting to others. I have also written a course on “Biblical Mentoring’ which was a year-long project that has been very fruitful ongoing. Putting that course together from scratch, I wanted it to be very different from anything else on the market. I wanted it to reflect my passion and my heart for the younger generations. I love writing the content, and I also enjoyed putting it all together in a creative way. I am currently in the beginning stage of writing a book about discipling teens, and am looking forward to the creative side of putting that kind of resource together.

What do you love most about your ministry/business?

That God changes hearts with the ministry of Biblical counseling. Along with that, He has given me a way to use my creativity to benefit the ministry in ways I would never have imagined. I used to think that vocational ministry meant having no time for creativity. I quickly learned that I would have no time for other things (like quilting), but that there are many other ways to satisfy my creative desires. God blesses those I counsel, and I am blessed by Him as well.

Are there other areas/endeavors where you use creativity?

I have always had creative projects going on in my life. I was raised by an artist, I learned to sew in 3rd grade and made my own clothes for years, I dabbled in all kinds of arts and crafts. My first profession was a psychiatric Occupational Therapist and much of our treatment methods included teaching creative arts to our patients. I now use those skills as a Biblical counselor. Prior to starting a ministry, I used to quilt, but now I pour those creative energies into ministry projects. What a blessing!


IMG_2505Age: 34

Job: teacher (5/6 grade) at Orcutt Academy

How long have you been teaching and what do you love most about it?

This is my fifth year teaching . I love building relationships with my students first and foremost, then seeing them learn and grow. 


How do you use classroom set up and decor to inspire your students?

I run a very organized classroom. My hope is that this will inspire students to be organized as well. My decor is ‘Super Hero’ themed. I tell my students on the first day of school that I love super heroes because they inspire me, and make me believe I can do anything I want as long as I am willing to “train” and work hard. I also explain that super heroes help me to believe that good will prevail over evil. My hope is that these thoughts and this decor will inspire my students to believe the same.


How do you create an environment that nurtures kids’ learning and imaginations?

By creating a safe space for my students, in which each student knows he or she is loved, cared for, and is special. I also have very clear and high expectations for them. They know what is expected of them at every moment of every day in my classroom. I believe that these classroom characteristics foster learning and imagination. 

Are there other areas of your life where you exercise creativity?

I love to create new recipes. I also love to crochet and craft. My creativity definitely comes out most in my classroom!