Saturday, December 22, 2012



A dusting of snow.

Clangy carols from the miniature Christmas town music box.

Shopping all done and the wrapping's begun.



Twinkling lights.

Cookies baking. Giggles and yums from the decorators hard at work.

So much to love and find joy in this time of year. Celebrating the greatest gift ever given, the incarnation of the one true God that loved me enough to humbly take on human form and eventually suffer and die in my place to purchase my place in heaven.

Amazing love.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas ornament - Bahamian style


Our second Christmas as a married couple -- 1994.

Our tree was a broom stick with holes in it and some random artificial branches from who-knows-where sticking out. I know we had some lights, but I don't remember much beyond that. All of our newly collected Christmas trappings from our first Christmas (as well as most of the rest of our  belongings) were tucked away in an attic hundreds of miles away.

The weather got down to a cool 50 degrees over night that felt surprisingly frigid to these native Chicagoans.

It was a very simple Christmas. Guests from home joined us for part of the Christmas break and we enjoyed gifts that we had not expected to be part of our celebration that year.


This lone sandy ornament brings it all back. The sand, the shells, so foreign to suburban Illinois became a part of daily life as we worked at Windermere High School in the Bahamas that year. We like to tell people we were on Eleuthera (the island name) because that sounded a little more respectable than being a missionary in the Bahamas. But make no mistake, there was nothing cushy about this role.

That year grew us in amazing ways. Daily reliance on God for strength and wisdom, weekly faith-building to pay the bills without a salary, continual revelations of the power of God and his stunning love for us.

We lived with whatever we could fit into our two allowed suitcases on the trip there, and God provided the rest, which was enough.

That year shaped us in so many ways. It taught us what enough really was. Revealed God's sovereignty in an amazing way. Schooled us in living by faith. Built relationships that remain to this day. Enriched our experiences to heighten our learning when we returned to wrap up our degrees at Moody Bible Institute the following year.

Unforgettable. And, the little ball ornament hangs with that story to tell over again each year.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Verse of the Week -- John 5:30

Full surrender.



John 5:30 -- I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge ; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.

We read through the gospels and marvel at God's power on display verse after verse. His love, miracles, authority, intentionality, compassion, humility, focus.

Aside from being fully God, the reason Christ could live this out in such clarity for us is because his fully human side had surrendered completely to God's plans. 

He lived absorbed by the Father's will. He set aside any human agenda and resisted the temptation to seek worldly acclaim. His choices fell completely at God the Father's disposal.

Now and then I live that way, for a few minutes. I so quickly take command again. 

When I relinquish full control His thoughts weave their way into my thinking. Verses pepper my day. Opportunities materialize. All that needs to get done in a day gets done.

That's how Christ lived each and every day. I would have stressed over all that I was choosing not to do by choosing to go to a certain town or talk with a certain person. Why spend an evening with just Nicodemus? Masses wait to hear! 

Even Jesus just needed to accomplish the Father's will for that day, for that hour. All that was asked of him was what his human self could accomplish when fully surrendered.

Surrender can't be temporary, partial, or grudging. Just like I tell my kids -- true obedience is immediate, complete, and cheerful. Same with surrender to God. 

Jesus didn't reclaim control. He went 40 days without food and still resisted the devil's temptations. He mourned the loss of a friend and cousin, John the Baptist, and continued to minister. With hunger gnawing at his stomach he found sustenance in sharing God's promise with the undesirable of the Samaritan town. He experienced the anguish of surrender in the garden of Gethsemane, and still followed.

Daily, fully, willingly. Complete surrender.

I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge ; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.

~John 5:30~


Friday, December 7, 2012

Note to Self


Be sure to make the time, because otherwise it will get taken with everything else.

Nothing on Facebook is as interesting as what your child just discovered in the backyard.

The to-do list will still be there after you watch the amazing cartwheel that you've just got. to. see.

In 10 years you'll have no idea what was more important than snuggling through another book with your toddler.

Your kids are growing faster than your Twitter or Pinterest following, but who gets more attention?

There's always tomorrow, for getting the rest of that stuff done. Fifteen minutes of eye contact and real conversation won't neglect anything that matters.

Yes the calendar is bulging at the seams, but your 8 year old has so much to say before they turn 9, and then 10, and 11, and 12. Don't miss it.

No YouTube video can compare to the antics you can observe in your kitchen each day if you stop and watch.

Need some stress relief? Get your eyes off the laundry and onto the wearers of it. How can you not smile?

And the list goes on. 

What would you add in your note to self?

Especially this busy Christmas - end of year - New Year's time, what priorities do you need to re-establish?


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Why is there anything good in the world?

Thinking today during my quiet time.

Praying for friends that are hurting, aching their way through times of uncertainty and grief.

The too often asked question came to mind: How can a good, sovereign God allow suffering in this world?

Now, in one brief blog post I do not deceive myself into thinking I can completely refute this challenge that has driven people to atheism and blasphemy for millennia. And, likely what I write someone else has written at some point in time ("I dunno if I ever had an original thought" -- in the witty lyrics of the Newsboys), but God washed this truth over me afresh today.

Reading through the life of Rehaboam after the misery that came near the end of their lives for both David and Solomon, I wondered again about the evil that befalls even God's people.

Suddenly the question twisted in my mind, "Why is there anything good in the world?"

Every good and perfect gift comes from above. The only reason we enjoy any blessing, goodness, and hope is because God has not completely left us to our sinful humanity.

Praise God for his daily renewed mercies. His compassion protects from the flames of hell yet another day for those who have rejected Him. His love allows us to see another day to pour out on others that need to change their heart before they leave this earthly shell behind.

The suffering is just a growing reminder that our time is short, we cannot put off sharing our faith, speaking the gospel, scattering the seed.

Suffering also reminds me of His goodness and all He saved me from. I deserve none of the goodness, yet He loves beyond reason.

God is good, all the time.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Creating Christmas memories


When we first started creating Christmas traditions in our home, we largely copied ideas from our childhood homes or other homes we had visited. Of course, this was long before Pinterest, so we had to actually see the idea or clip it from a magazine. No virtual "pins." 

We first decorated our tree with mostly ball ornaments and color chasing lights. An artificial tree that served us very well for many years. These little skiers appeared early on and they spin, too. Something we sought out after seeing moving ornaments on someone else's tree.

All these ideas and plans began to become our own. Stockings filled the night before. Staying up late on Christmas Eve just enjoying the lights and each other's company. Driving around and looking at lights. Finding our style, and taking our own sweet time about it.

As each year goes by we add, remove, and alter our traditions. I am reminded that it is never too late to start a new tradition. That's a conversation I want to have with my family again soon, any new traditions to incorporate into our Christmas? As long as it remains ultimately His Christmas, there is room. And, if it is detracting from the celebration of Christ, maybe it is time to remove it, as hard as that might be..

One of our longest standing traditions is buying new ornaments for each person each year that we open on Christmas Eve. The ornaments have such stories to tell, so they will be the backbone of my posts this holiday season.

Treasuring the season, 

   

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Renewed

Two months? Doesn't seem possible.

I've started a number of blog posts in the last couple months, but apparently never returned to finish them.

God continues to teach me so much, through His Word, through a small group study, through weekend sermons. I am truly feasting spiritually right now! Which at times means Satan is all the more active to counteract the growth.

Now, with Christmas just three weeks away (that just does not look right, there in black and white), I feel the need to record the richness that is bubbling inside.

I have always loved this time of year. The lights, the decorations, the music, the chill in the air, the family time, the focus on church and Christ's birth. Our Christmas celebration has changed over the years. When we first started married life we decorated. Lots of color and lights, music all the time, shopping, wrapping, lots of family gatherings to go to. And, church was in there, too. The birth of Christ remembered through it all, but more in the midst of the wrapping, not the center of it.

Times change. Families spread out. Things accumulate, children come and grow, and the birth of Christ becomes all the more precious.

This year as we put the ornaments on the tree, I reminisced about the evolution of our Christmas celebrations. From where we came to where we stand now.

As a little extra motivation to settle back into some type of blogging routine, I'm going to share pictures of some of the ornaments on our tree, some favorite, some significant, some typical and give you a glimpse into our Christmases past.

In the midst, I'll share my Christmas priorities, projects (very few), motivations, and focal points that have grown and changed as well.

I'm sure you'll hear it often in the weeks ahead, Merry Christmas!

Please feel free to share your favorite ornaments and maybe the stories behind them throughout the weeks ahead, either in the comments or by sharing a link.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Choosing Joy

Lately I've been posting oodles of my younger boys' funny antics and expressions on Facebook. It seems hardly a day passes without true belly laughs over something they say or do.

While visiting with my siblings and parents this weekend one of my sisters asked if we were so funny as kids. My dad thought a bit and said, "Oh yeah, you were pretty funny."

But, time passes and you forget.

Life gets serious. Sorrows multiply. Important matters surface. Smiles get scarce.

Well, not all smiles disappear. Most adults are pretty good at the artificial "so good to see you" smiles that greet us everywhere from Walmart to the church lobby.


A child can remind you how to genuinely laugh. Set aside the cares of the world and giggle a bit.

My precious Eli smiles with his whole face until his eyes turn into half moons and you can't help but smile along even if the source of his mirth makes no sense to anyone over 3.

Even when the adult in me can think of nothing humorous about the day, they choose joy and fill our house with its echos.

I have the choice of where to put my focus each day, and gratefully I have a 2 year old theologian that reminds me often of my God that kept his eyes on the joy even in the midst of incredible heartache.

Choosing joy, again today. How could I refuse those eyes anyway?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Verse of the week -- Romans 12:21

Evil lurks for an opportunity. Throughout history people have made the wrong choice and have lingered too closely instead of running away.

God himself gave the first warning. Cain should have known better. I would imagine his parents told of their own linger too long experience. When God saw the anger and jealousy creeping in He said, "If you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it."

Instead, he gave in. He was swallowed up by his self-centerdness. He wouldn't be the last.

Israel grumbled and wandered til they died.

Samson also fell.

Judas didn't let himself live long enough to tell his story.

Solomon married into it (again and again and again).

Book after book warn of the extreme danger of dancing with temptation.

History books verify the risk.

Book after book encourage the pilgrim to embrace the good. Psalm 1, Genesis 4, Romans 12, and on and on it goes.

One of the joys of reading the Scripture multiple times throughout the day and drinking from it through various vessels is the stunning themes that explode from its pages despite the different authors, different millennia, and different subjects.

Romans 12:21 wraps it up well, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

Cain, Samson, Judas, Solomon, and many more let the evil overcome them.

How can I have a different outcome?

Certainly not in my own strength. Rather, I prayerfully continue to walk in His.
Today I walk with an extra dose of caution, remembering all those that fell and how I am no better than they.

Evil continues to hover. Sometimes I feel the breath of it threatening to overwhelm, the stench of it seeking to overpower, the claws of it fighting for a foothold. Yet, God has given me a way of escape, a promise always offered.

Instead of lingering, we march on surrounded by a great cloud of others who have done the same.

Choosing today to walk in defiance to the undeserving prince of this world and join ranks with Abel, Noah, Moses, Abraham, Daniel, Paul, Polycarp, Luther, Carey, and many more.

Are you with us?
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
~Romans 12:21~

Sunday, August 12, 2012

SCREECH!!!!

That would be the sound of the brakes in my homeschool history planning.

My plan for the year was to use TruthQuest History and focus on Ancient History. I was planning to jump on and download it today for my prep week coming up.

Well, then I started perusing my book shelves and remembered that I had the Diana Waring history set from Answers in Genesis that my parents had given me. However, I had a couple people tell me that it was really boring. So, I was thinking maybe I would just use it for some background info while doing the TruthQuest.

As I pulled it off the shelf and looked it over, I got more excited. I love the structure of the book. The 9 months of the school year each have a 4 week unit progressing through ancient history from Creation to the life of Christ.

The first week you lay the foundation and study the facts. Week two you research an area of interest within that time period, work on the timeline, and other exploration related activities. Third week you dig in with hands-on activities, and then wrap up in week four with presentations and final products.



(click on the image and scroll down to see it on their website, a bit more readable)

I do wish the book was written in a little more engaging format, I can see my kids getting bored during week one when we read all the background info. But, it's only 5-6 pages and does an efficient job of presenting the material.

And, we're going to add some living books in everyday as well to keep the scenery fresh and to help them really picture the people and places we are studying.

Okay, now here's what made the light bulb go on and clinched it for me. In the intro to the teacher's guide she has a section about worldviews. She shares a critical comparison between anthropologists and missionaries. Anthropologists enter a society with the purpose of scientific research. Missionaries bring life through compassionate ministry.

She explained that this is the difference between darkness and light, "the difference between secular humanism and bibilical Christianity; it reveals how godless man looks at cultures and how God looks at people. Seeing with God's heart will prevent bigotry and hate, replacing it with outreach and compassion."

That is something we need a lot more of in our world today. I look forward to this school year as one of continual life change for myself and my kids, even while studying ancient history.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Curriculum for 2012-2013

Not Back to School Blog Hop
The new year!

We have a couple weeks yet before we begin. August 22 is our official start date at this point, but at least we know where we are headed. 

I made myself a master list like the following but just with the generic subjects listed and then a box for each day of the week. Then I won't forget what they should be doing each day. And, I can use it to record their grades for each assignment in each subject which will make record keeping so much easier. 

In the past I would pull out their individual notebooks and pull their grades off the top of each graded assignment. Now, I will just record it all onto my master sheet throughout the week and just have one paper of info to put into the computer on the weekend. That will make my weekend job a 15 minute one rather than an hour long one. 

Lots of the same. We know what works for us and what we love, but some new stuff, too. Of course, since we don't really follow the regular school calendar, many of these books and subjects they are already in the midst of.

I am streamlining a bit this year and doing history all together. Obviously their homework and their interaction with the material will be quite different over the 8 year age span, but we will all be in the same time period and it will tie into our Bible time as well. Science for all 2-8th will be the same as well. My 8th grader already finished Physical science and General Science so she gets to have fun with us this year as she isn't really ready for high school science yet.

I am mixing up grammar this year. We love Rod & Staff, but it gets a little repetitive year after year. So, I am going to switch every other year and pepper in Shurley and Easy Grammar. We gave both of these an introductory run during our summer school and they seem to fill the need well.

High School continues to stretch us, but mostly in a good way. This year we will tackle Spanish and Advanced Mathematics (including pre-calc) together.
  
Nathan -- 2nd grade
First Language Lessons (mostly oral)
Saxon Math 3 (already half way through)
Handwriting without tears -- big focus!! Trying to improve his pencil grip and penmanship this year
All About Spelling level 3 (almost done)
Truth quest History (Beginnings -- ties into Bible)
Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology 
PE -- baseball, gym and swim, PE at co-op

Brooke – 3rd grade
Rod & Staff English 3 (half way through)
Saxon Math 5/4 (half way through)
All About Spelling level 3 (almost done)
Truth quest History
 Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology
A Reason for Handwriting T (half way through)
PE -- soccer, gym and swim, PE at co-op

Faith – 6th grade
Easy Grammar Level 1
Saxon Math 8/7 (half way through)
All About Spelling level 4
Truth quest History
 Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology
PE -- soccer, gym and swim, PE at co-op


Paige – 8th grade
Shurley English 7
Algebra 1 (half way through)
Puppetry (Co-op)
IEW Level B (Co-op, I'm teaching)
All About Spelling level 4
Truth quest History
Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology
PE -- soccer, gym and swim
 
Blake – 10th grade
Apologia Chemistry (Co-op)
PE -- baseball, gym and swim, PE at co-op
Bible
Spanish 1
Advance Mathematics (Saxon)
IEW Level C (Co-op, I'm teaching)
Truth quest History

Full days, but wonderfully full. I look forward to another year of exploring life and our amazing world with my kids. In between it all we continue to enjoy the antics of a two year old who breathes new life into everything. Thankful to God for another opportunity to live life in the midst of my family each day.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Verse of the Week -- Exodus 14: 31

God continues to teach me through the life of Moses. So much of his journey I feel parallels my own as a homeschool mom.

The sometimes relentless desert experience (although mine doesn't last 40 years).

The murmuring of the troops.

Lack of faith and spiritual motivation from those placed in my care.

The need to continually relearn lessons.

Serious doubt of my own ability and worthiness to carry this role.

As I read his life I continue to pull out truths and practical practices that can help me become a more godly  guide in our homeschool journey and as an everyday mom.

This verse claimed my attention today, "Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses." Exodus 14:31 kind of wraps up where God had brought his little chicks.

God saved this immature nation from definite dismantling and slavery. They had just been eye witnesses to the 10 plagues and they still doubted his power. But three steps helped their faith inch forward.

They saw, feared, and believed. I see those as clear stair steps that must come in that progression.

They saw actual physical evidence of God at work (they had no Scripture or written historical record as they were living out the early years of the Pentateuch). They saw his miraculous hand on their nation. They saw the protecting cloud. They saw the destruction of their enemies. They saw an impossible trap turn into a miraculous escape. Of course, to see you must be looking.

You can see, but still not take the next step. As they processed, they feared. They feared God's awesome power. His firm judgement. His clear sovereignty. His unquestionable authority. 

They couldn't help but take the next step and believe. They trusted God. They trusted Moses. They had evidence, experience, and a growing personal and corporate faith to back it up. Yet, they will continue to struggle and grow in the chapters ahead.

Take it home . . . My kids need that same experience. I need to keep leading them to God. Help them see, fear, and believe, and do it all again. Even in my own life my faith grows along these steps.

Praying that God would make Himself all the more real in this year ahead. That we would see Him with greater clarity, fear Him with greater reverence, and believe Him with greater confidence.

Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down! (Isaiah 64:1)

Looking to the coming school year with great expectancy.

Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.
~Exodus 43:31~



Friday, June 15, 2012

Changes

Driver's Ed.

Toddler talk.

Responsibility.

Sibling love.

New friends.

Parents aging, a little.

Budget tweaks.

Cooperation.

CHANGE

Busy with changes in life lately. Roles evolve with each passing year. Relationships grow and change. Friendly faces in stores as we feel more at home in our area.

Change comes so gradually that I sometimes don't notice it. Struggles of the past somehow blur with time. I've all but forgotten about how I fretted over my now almost 11 year old's speech when she was 7. I worried she would never say "r" correctly. You would never know it today.

The clingy toddler that I would need to peeeeeel off my legs to try to finish dinner without hurting one or both of us. Now he runs off busily occupied in his own toys and sibling love.

I laugh at his antics in the store and an older woman wisely reminds me to enjoy it while it lasts because it goes to quickly. I nod my head, understanding more than she realizes.

I work more diligently to treasure these moments. I know how quickly they go as I drop off my oldest "baby" at Driver's Ed. How can it be?

And yet, I get impatient at times. When will they learn? When will the teaching sink in? When can I let up a little bit on the daily, moment-by-moment parenting needed to shape their lives?

Two illustrations help me keep a proper perspective and both are garden related.

How fruit grows

First, I heard Crawford Lorrits on the radio a while back. He said, "Don't tell your kids to be more loving." Really? He went on to explain that love is a fruit of the Spirit and they need more God in their lives for the fruit to grow. They can't just love more just by trying.

My impatience still expects it. "Love your brother," I remind them. Yet they don't, not really. Now I see that it is fruit. Fruit takes time to grow, to ripen. You can't command it to be where it is not. You can't command it to be sweet when it just needs more time on the vine. Parenting is slow work. Many changes take prayer, and lots of time and nurturing.

Finding the fruit

Other times I feel there is no fruit. The garden teaches me again. How often have I scoffed at the large leaves on my cucumber plant wishing to find just one refreshing "fruit" on the vine. I water and watch day after day and see nothing. Then, I lift a leaf. You know what I find? Cucumbers almost ripe for the picking. Half a dozen of them, yet invisible to me before I looked, really looked.  

Sometimes the fruit is missed. Yes it takes time, but when it is not ready it is easily missed. Those fruits we wish to see in their lives take time, and we need to look for the results. Keep watering, keep watching, and be sure to peak under the leaves now and then.

I find the near ripe fruit in their lives when I pull back the pages of my journals and their baby books. Amazed at how they have grown. Stunned at the gentleness that blossomed without me even realizing it. Their faithfulness to read God's Word sits unnoticed on the couch, as I forget how far they have come.

Their faith is growing, their fruit is growing. My role as the gardener is to keep praying, keep tending these tender plants and new growth, and patiently keeping on through each changing and exciting season.

Galatians 6:9 reminds me to never grow weary in doing good. We will harvest that crop in due season.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Literally

Faith: Mom, where do you want the chairs in the basement?

Me
: By any wall

Faith
: Which wall?

Me (A little exasperated, is this really hard to do?)
: It doesn't really matter, just put them against a wall.


Faith
: Uh. Okay (snicker, snicker) Mom, how's this?

Gotta smile, right? :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Walk with Him Wednesdays



As a child I learned “thank you” quickly. I remember the comments about what a polite young lady I was as I sat at the breakfast following the Easter sunrise service. “Thank you” became an automatic response. Yes, good manners, even a sign of good character, but not necessarily godliness.

Sometimes I want to be thankful for things, but leave a little sting with it . . .

  • For insurance that pays the bills, most of the time.
  • For kids that obey with a smile, when reminded.
  • For the beautiful weather, that could be just a few degrees cooler.
  • For food to eat, even if the kids don’t like it again.

The kids have really grown adept at this, giving thanks for all their siblings by name, except one. Where did they learn to give thanks and spite at the same time? Oh yeah, me.

True gratitude doesn’t come with conditions or exceptions. In rereading the story of the leper that returned alone to thank Jesus, his attitude struck me this time.

Shouting, falling on his face.

He didn’t say, “Thanks for making me clean, finally.” He overflowed with gratitude. He couldn’t use just an inside voice to explode the good news.

Father God, please purify my gratitude. Flush out the left over tidbits of discontentment and comparison. Help my eyes to see only your blessing and respond with pure thankfulness for what you have done.

1000 Gifts . . .

11. A husband who works tirelessly both on the job and at home.

12. Leftovers for lunch. Everyone gets their favorite.

13. Team sports and hard lessons learned

14. Faith’s, “I need something” – always a hug

15. Brooke’s snuggles

16. Paige’s thoughtful questions and observations

17. Blake’s wit and incredibly analytical mind

18. Nathan’s character and flair for comedic drama

19. Eli’s absolutely contagious giggle.

20. Snapping timed pictures, cheek-to-cheek with my favorite 6 year old

21. Willing helpers

22. Sisters singing together while they play

23. Techy kindergarteners

24. Sermons that deliver just what I hungered for

25. Whispers of summer in the air

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Verse of the week -- John 1

I've spent my share of idle afternoons on the sand. Spread out on a beach towel soaking in sunshine warmth, usually just under the shade of the trees along the perimeter. Savoring the occasional breeze. An empty agenda.

The best part? The sound of waves. Not just fabricated in a nature-scape alarm clock, but the real deal. The irregular rhythmic pounding and fading of water crashing into land. It washes everything away, physically and emotionally.

Have you ever watched the beach as the waves roll in? Footprints, sand castles, stick trails, holes dug, all disappear with a few waves. Leaving behind a fresh canvas to begin again.

My pastor this weekend compared God's grace to the waves on a beach and my mental images and memories ran away with the illustration.

John 1:16 says, "And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." Just as those waves crash ceaselessly upon the shore, his grace continues to wash over us. Take a moment to look and you see the fresh blessings flowing into our lives with each outpouring of His grace.

I began to look for what the Bible says we have received by grace:

our hearts to be strengthened by grace Heb 13:9
Life and salvation by grace Eph. 2:5-9
Promises by grace Rom 4:16

By grace we believe, by grace we have faith, by grace we are redeemed, by grace we receive an undeserved gift, by grace we live, by grace we have access to His throne, by grace we stand unshakable.

All that, a gracious gift. And more. Daily he pours out His grace again. Like the waves that never quit crashing on the sea shore, so His grace keeps washing up, wiping away, refreshing, and recreating. The gritty sand of our life becomes the canvas for His beautiful work in and through us.

Lord, thank you for pouring out Your grace on my life. Keep my eyes wide open to the blessings, and continue to grow in me a grateful heart. ~In Jesus' Name Amen

And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
~John 1:16~

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Koolaid Playdough


Something magical about playdough. It can become just about anything, and for most of us it is not an everyday play thing. An afternoon of playdough tends to take on a life of its own, so we savor the experience, and don't repeat it more than once a month or so.

Playdough can run a little pricey if you buy the good stuff, and most of my experience with the cheap stuff has been pretty unforgettable, and not in a good way.

Instead of spending my kids' college savings on playdough, we make our own.

The kids love the process, they can pick the colors, and it makes a whole bowl full of playdough instead of a tiny little half cup container full.

Here's the recipe (enough for a whole preschool class to get a little or your own preschooler to build a life size replica of himself):



Kool-aid Playdough

5 cups flour
1 cup salt
4 pkgs kool-aid, any flavor
1/2 cup oil
3-4 cups boiling water (start with 3 and add more until kneadable)



Mix until like a soft dough and store in air-tight container once cooled.
I used to store in the fridge, but our current batch has stayed good in our basement for 6 months!

Easy as can be and my kids love the colors and smells of this playdough. It has been a standby in our home for over 13 years now.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Verse of the week -- Colossians 3:12-14


In our house a dear six year old boy occasionally needs some nudges to get dressed. He too often jumps out of bed and into his day without thought for what he has on.

We roll through the morning of school and suddenly I realize that this boy has plowed through math and English in his jammies. Not a problem since we homeschool, but we continue to remind him to get dressed and ready for the day.

You never know for sure what twists and turns the day will bring, so getting dressed has you at least outwardly prepared for any event to follow, we remind him.

My heavenly father gave me a similar reminder this week.

His clothing reminder focuses on my internal preparations though. In Colossians 3 he says, "12
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,
13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony."

How often do I jump into my day without proper clothing of the spiritual kind?

Just as my little boy might find himself at the lunch table in pajama pants, I will rush into a discipline situation with my kids before clothing myself with a compassionate heart or begin to struggle through a lesson together without putting on patience.

So easy to get caught up in the day and forget to check the mirror of my heart now and then and make sure my clothing is still neat and tidy even when I do remember to put it on.

So, are you dressed for the day?

12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

~Colossians 3:12-14~

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Works for me Wednesday -- phone numbers


How many scraps of paper cluttered my desk with random phone numbers of who-knows-who from who-knows-when?

I couldn't have told you.

But, all that has changed because of the simplest, silliest tip of all time.

Ready?

Wait for it --

Write down the name whenever you write down a phone number.

I know, it seems too simple, but let me tell you it really works. ;) Taking that extra 5 seconds to jot the name of the business, friend or family member that the number belongs to has saved me a ton of time and kept my desk cleaner.


Now, when I find a number a few weeks later I know who it belongs to.
Now, I know if I can throw it away or write it in my address book.
Now, when looking for a number that I just wrote down yesterday, I know when I find it and don't end up calling for pizza instead of calling the library.


One little bonus tip that is somewhat related, always use pencil when writing in your address book. People move, get new cell phones, change their email, have more kids, move again, and change their phone service more times than you have space to write about. And, who wants a scribbley phone book anyway?

My MIL set this example for me and I cannot believe what a space saver it is and keeps my phone book current without being messy.

So, go ahead, friends, change your emails, move down the street or across the country, get a new cell phone -- my pencil is ready!

Check out more wfmw.

School plans -- second semester

Roughly the half way mark brings a sense of accomplishment, and new resolve to buckle down.

The plans for the coming semester:


Everyone:

Bible -- Grapevine New Testament Survey. We took a little break to study the advent, but will be picking this up again now. Blake and Paige will finish reading the whole NT on their own.

Blake -- 9th grade

Apologia Physics (through a co-op).

Elections-- another co-op class. This is prime season for this class. I'm excited to learn along with him as they get involved in the election process during primary season. They have already helped bag literature and he seemed like he kind of enjoyed it.

Geometry --This has improved as the year has continued and we should have no problem completing this before year's end.

American History
-- Sonlight Core 100 will pave the way for this. Timelines, group discussions, and lots of reading.

American Literature -- Jumping off of Sonlight Core 100.

PE -- his favorite class. ;) I printed out a check sheet for him to mark off hours as he participates in various classes and activities in and out of home. when he hits 135 hours he has his credit for the year.


Paige -- 7th grade


American History -- she'll complete this over two years using Sonlight Core 100

American Literature -- Sonlight Core 100

English -- Rod and Staff 7 and IEW Level C. We are taking two years to complete the R&S book and she is doing the IEW slowly, a lesson every 2 weeks when co-op is not in session.

Sewing-- co-op class

Math -- Saxon Algebra 1/2

Science -- Apologia's Physical Science

PE -- soccer, gym and swim, and classes at home

My independent worker. She is doing a great job keeping up with everything.

Faith -- 5th grade


American History -- Sonlight Core 100. I will be reading selected books outloud with the younger kids and we will be compiling our timeline. Also taking my class at co-op on the American Revolution for Kids.

Music -- piano lessons. She wants to take violin, I just need to get it in working order.

English
-- Rod and Staff 5; All About Spelling level 3

Math -- Saxon 7/6

Science -- Considering God's Creation. I'm really enjoying this. A simple program for diverse ages and activities that we can easily pull out and do. Hopefully I'll get some pictures up with our experiments and demonstrations.

PE -- soccer, gym and swim, co-op class, and classes at home


Brooke -- 2nd grade


American History - Sonlight Core 100. I will be reading selected books outloud with the younger kids and we will be compiling out timeline. Also taking my class at co-op on the American Revolution for Kids.

Music -- recorder lessons (co-op)

Math -- Saxon 5/4

English -- Rod and Staff 2 (will be starting 3 soon); All About Spelling level 3; handwriting

Reading -- Abeka readers. She's currently wrapping up the third grade readers.

Science -- Considering God's creation

PE -- soccer, gym and swim, co-op class, and classes at home

Nathan -- 1st grade
Lots of oral learning, but we use these workbooks and such to keep us grounded:

American History - Sonlight Core 100. I will be reading selected books outloud with the younger kids and we will be compiling out timeline. Also taking my class at co-op on the American Revolution for Kids.

Math -- Abeka 2, at break neck speed. His goal is to catch Brooke.

English -- First Language Lessons book (oral); All About Spelling level 3; handwriting

Reading -- A Beka readers. He is currently wrapping up the first grade series.

Science -- Considering God's Creation

PE -- gym and swim, co-op class, and classes at home


Eli -- 20 months

Great napper. Loves independent play at times. Enjoys all stereotypical boy things -- balls, trucks, etc. Getting easier to keep busy during the school day in some ways, but also learning to make a mess bigger and faster with each passing day.

Plugging away until June.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Verse of the Week -- Colossians 1:17


Christ is my glue. Holding together the cracked vessel of my life.

This weekend our pastor reminded us that we are God's chosen instrument. We could all fittingly carry a sign over our heads saying so. Not because we deserve it or have done some amazingly worthy act, but because of who He is and what He has chosen us to be.

God used those words to describe Saul, a murdering, passionate anti-Christian that walked as far away from God's way as possible. Yet God had other plans.

I cannot look at any accomplishment as my own. Colossians 1:17 says, "And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together."

He holds together my family.

He keeps my day from falling to pieces.

He has glued together the cracked chips of my past.

He holds together my future.

He is the secret to the cohesiveness of my marriage.

He holds it all in His hands.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
~Colossians 1:17~

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The first 10 of 1000 gifts

My journey begins.

Don’t remember exactly when I came across it. Probably first at Courtney’s blog, then I perused Ann’s blog, then a friend mentioned the book, then I won it in a giveaway from the House upon the Rock.

I started to read the book with my kids, but realized it dealt with topics too serious for their innocent ears. We left out major portions, but still captured the message – a need for gratitude if we wish to live fully.

The new awareness of life around me is soul stirring. Like getting a new pair of glasses, the world seems so much more defined than I ever realized. Each day jam packed with gifts from God that used to just blur into the background.

I have much to learn as God grows greater gratitude in my life and heart, but for now I begin to learn on the job . . .

1000 gifts

1. Shared mugs of cocoa

2. Bedtime snuggles

3. Quiet moments to sort out my thoughts at the end of the day

4. A full glass of refreshing water close at hand

5. Droopy eyelids on a nursing toddler

6. Days that stretch every parenting muscle till it aches

7. Resolution, character growth however small in these precious children

8. Friendships, true friendships, homegrown

9. Connecting with my own siblings over thousands of miles

10. Cookie dough fingers


Read more lists of 1000 gifts, beginnings and continuations, and start your own.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Verse of the week -- Psalm 121:1,2


Counterattack.

As I continue to learn to trust God at a deeper level, I seek greater change in myself, my parenting, and my kids.

Love should overflow from our family. As disciples of Christ, others should see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. However, sometimes love is all but absent in our home.

I recently noticed a sharp loss in love in our home, among siblings in particular, and went to my knees to bring some improvement to the situation.

What did I expect? As I prayed, I expected voices to miraculously soften, words to grow tender, expressions to shine, and hugs to abound. Okay, maybe my expectations needed a dose of realism, but I did expect improvement.

What did I get? A sharp turn for the worse, and I didn't think that was possible. Simple manners were virtually non-existent between some duos and civility was just barely detectible in others.

I hadn't anticipated Satan's counter attack.

He relishes our arguments, the disrespect, the unkindness, and he wasn't about to let go without a fight.

Initially, the struggle seemed too great, and then I remembered where this battleground lay. This supernatural battle takes place on my knees. Abundance of words will rarely calm hotheads. Lectures, even peppered with Scripture, flow in and out of fuming ears.

I had to return to where I started, more time in prayer.

Slow changes. Thankful for a husband who joins forces. Bedtime giggles between girls remind me that some in the house remain good friends.

Keeping my eyes heavenward, even as the battle rages.

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.
~Psalm 121:1,2~

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

February, the new January

I think I'll change New Year's Day to February 1st.

A month ago I was definitely not ready to think about fresh starts. Especially since our holiday celebrations ran into the second week of January, the last thing on my mind was resolutions and restarting schedules. I still had gift lists and grocery shopping to do.

Just catching up after a week of stomach flu over the holidays left us all a little off kilter and I had no thought of a brand new me for a brand new year.

Now, a month later, on the other hand, I'm raring to go.

A vacation to the land of warmth and sunshine recently behind me, I feel invigorated to get on track. Setting schedules (or resetting), spit-shining some of our school goals that have lost their luster, taking a new look at my health and fitness, setting the alarm to make sure I get my quiet time in, and getting a handle on our budget.

It's a lot to take on, but February is the new January for me.

Did you make resolutions a month ago? Back before the lull of eggnog and hypnosis of Christmas lights wore off? Want a do-over?

I'm starting fresh.

Signed up for Sparkpeople (again . . .)
Got the excel sheets ready for the expenses (thanks to my husband)
Had the sit-down with the kids about manners today (ugh! Don't get me started.)
New devotional out and ready to go.
And, printed out the assignment sheets for the next couple weeks.

It's going to be a good year. I can feel it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Verse of the week, or maybe the year

http://marketwala.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/trust.jpeg

A couple weeks in, and mulling "my" word for 2012 all the more. I love the discovery of hearing God's quiet voice as we wait and listen.

Trust runs so deep. It is the birthplace of our salvation, but also the bud of our dependence on Him, and still the full bloom of a rich and vibrant spiritual walk.

All along the way, trust must accompany our spiritual life.

Trust brings us peace with our past, contentment in the present, and confidence for the future.

Trust must rest mainly in Him who gave it to us in the first place, but trust must also mark our human relationships.

Growing greater trust in family and friends.

Trust frees me when I dive into it.

Now, I continue on reading the verses that show me what trust really looks like. Starting with a long-time favorite, Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight."

It starts with trust.