Friday, August 31, 2012

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Paying Attention

It is absolutely amazing how big your sphere of influence 
enlarges just because you open your eyes and pay attention.

So much of the time I am tired, so I tend to run in "survival mode."

[Insert] I am picturing a computer that is running in black and white "safe mode." The computer is protecting itself from bringing up programs that are infected with virus. Safe mode in my computer is a temporary "fix" while I am able to go examine files to look for and extract damaged files and viruses. Sometimes, without meaning to (and sometime intentionally) we Christians operate on safe mode long term. [end insert]

I have been living more intentionally. I have been expecting God to use every mundane act of life to bring me someone to witness to. I pray as I drive to the gas station or grocery store, "Lord, I am open to being used by You. Show me what to do, where to go, and what to say."

Today at the gas station (the same station that I mentioned before) I was able to talk with one of the employees that I have been gradually and intentionally building a relationship with. Here is how it all began a few weeks ago - I saw her walking funny and asked if she was in pain. She answered. I told her I would pray for her that day. The next time I saw her I remembered to ask about that previous issue. My one question of concern opened her life to me! She now anticipates that I care about her and welcomes my prayers. Today she will have some medical testing done to determine the cause of some of her troubles. She asked me to come and see her again tomorrow.

All this, because I took time to pay attention.

Another example - in the ER waiting room there was a woman alone and in great pain. I went to her and asked if I could pray for her pain. She happily received my prayers. And within second she was talking to me about all kinds of things and I had a big smile over the fact that her pain was clearly forgotten!

Other examples:
- servers in restaurants, and medical staff (and many other folks!) wear name tags. Many people have Bible names and do not know it. I like to tell them the story behind their name.

- Does an old person need help in the grocery check out line? Often they do!

- visit the same gas station every time you need gas or a coke

- In a small town grocery store you can choose the line of one cashier every visit.

- The librarian you see every week

There are just so many ways before us to serve people and to tell them about Jesus - if we just pay attention!

There are seasons of our life where survival mode may be a necessity (new baby, sick kids, etc), but let's not stay there forever. Let's be a people who watch for opportunities to bless others and show the the Love of our Lord!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Living without Strife

I have been considering how to make life more "livable" in our home. And, I have been asking this question about almost everything we do -

Does the benefit outweigh the cost?

When you start looking honestly at your life and asking that question with God's Holy Spirit to open your eyes... things will start changing. Some of the below examples are not all from my own life, but rather what I know that other moms are dealing with.

Homeschooling - In my family, the benefits of homeschooling CERTAINLY outweigh the costs on my body and time. It is hard, but it is good. And, I enjoy it. AND, when thinking about the possibility of Christian school - the costs FAR outweigh the benefits. (Driving time!, having to get up earlier and run on a real schedule, packing lunches, financial strain, etc.)

Breastfeeding - For me, this is worth the toll on my body. It was a real challenge while Baby Jeremiah was cutting teeth, but he is back to sleeping through the night now! And I hope/plan to nurse him all the way through his first winter. But, if nursing a baby causes you to live in a constant state of fatigue and sin - then you need to give it a lot of prayer.

Books and Blogs - I really don't have much time for these. I have not been reading for months. And, each blog I post is usually in progress for days or weeks before I publish it. It is far more important that I am with the children. We have periods of free play or rest. But, that is when I choose to nap rather than read or play on the computer.

Animals, Gardening, Homesteading - We still have many goals and daydreams. But, these will have to wait for another season of life. We did not plant a fall garden, because it would have been too much for us. I am happy with this decision. I would rather buy canned veggies than wear myself out gardening and answer my children with malice or wrath because of sheer exhaustion. The goals we have - they do not have to happen over night... or even in one year... It just does not seem that important in the grand picture of life.

Missions/Evangelism/Good activities/Scouts/Homeschool co-op/Etc - Teaching Sunday school is a good thing... but not if it taxes you so much that you sin against your family! If you are too tired to serve in any area of life without continually falling to some of the same pitfalls of sin week after week - then it is probably time to let that activity go. Make it a matter of great prayer! 

Food - I am making some cutbacks in this area. Homemade bread tastes delicious and it is cheaper than store bought, but it far more time-consuming. But, there is more to it than that. The other day we made bread and by the end of the process we were all getting really snippy with each other. Homemade bread is not worth that! Also, I went to Sam's and bought many easy-to-prepare foods... many of them not containing meats, since I still try to steer clear of hormone-tampering meats. Yet, for this season of my life, some less-wholesome foods are allowed.

Here's the thing, Is it better to grow all of your own foods and prepare meals from scratch, but you yell at your kids because you are so tired and overwhelmed? Or, is it better to give them some junk food and put a lid on some of your complaining and fighting?

Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife. Proverbs 17:1 (NLT)

Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred. Proverbs 15:17 (NIV)

This is just for a season. Life is short. My years with my children at home are short. Yes, I want to instill good eating habits. Absolutely. But it is far more important that I instill in them good character! I realize that there are people reading this who think that I am willingly serving my children cancer-causing foods... I do see where you are coming from. BUT, there is a greater cancer in this life. Open sin that we justify is a cancer. Making excuses for our sin will make us both physically and spiritually sick. Living in guilt over your constant sinning will make you sick. Stress can cause cancer. Being overly worried about foods can cause cancer.

I honestly believe, friends, that I am at a far smaller risk of cancer than some of my cooking from scratch peers (though they may eat all whole foods), because I do not live in stress.

I am truly free from worry about the foods we eat right now! God the Father is far more concerned about His children loving one another than He is about whether or not we are eating the perfect diet.

So - what about you? In your life - are there areas where the costs outweigh the benefits? Pray about it. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the areas that need some attention.

I also blogged about Meals Without Strife on July 15, 2011.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Thoughts on Homeschooling and "Socialization"

My intention in writing this post is two-fold: 1) to educate/inform those who are less familiar with homeschooling, and 2) to encourage those who are already homeschooling.

If you were to meet my children anywhere - be it church event, Gospel concert, Wal-Mart line, library, etc - no matter your age, my extroverted children will strike up conversation and my introverted children will grin big at you. My oldest, Rebecca, has "the gift of gab." (And, I totally believe that God means this gift for use in His Kingdom!) She can easily talk to anyone about any topic that seems interesting at the time. I know that this characteristic has caused some adults to feel sorry for her, thinking something like, "oh, that poor girl is really lonely." Sometimes I sense that this is what people are thinking, at other times the older person has spoken it.

What a sad place that this world has become - that older people no longer feel the sense of honor that their age brings them! We WANT our children to freely converse with adults (with our supervision, of course!) because they will learn so much from them! It is not a sign that my kids are sick because they WANT to talk to adults or to do nursing home ministry! It is a sign that this world is sick that most children do not want to be around adults and older adults!

Yes, my kids love to run and play. Yes, they enjoy playing ball with kids their own age. However, they also have the ability to mingle and/or play with children that are not their own age, adults and older adults. This is not a sign that we are doing something wrong, or that my children are not socialized. This is an indication that my children are interacting with people in a perfectly healthy way... though I admit it is certainly "abnormal" by 21st century standards.

My kids are friendly, but not starving for attention. If you come to my home and you do not bring kids - then, my children will visit with you in a very grown-up manner. I consider this to be a GOOD thing. And, if you come to my home with 1 child or with 10 children, my kids will probably spend more time with the children than with you, the adult. And, I consider this to be a good thing as well.

To any adult who knows me personally and knows my kids in "real life" - Be not alarmed that my children interact well with adults. They do spend time with other children. They do get to play kids' games. They are also being taught to speak with adults and older adults. We think we are blessing them by teaching them to value people in all age groups and not just their own. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

God Has Changed My Heart

God has changed my heart. I used to be too busy judging hurting people to try to help their spiritual needs.

Today I witnessed to a whole bus of college aged kids who were living a life of open sin and rebellion (against God and authority). I spoke to them in love and I told them about my Jesus. This conversation is missing some sentences here and there. I spent more time with them than this post shows. Oh - and Rebecca was with me within earshot. She was in the van.

I offered to help them if their bus was broken down.
They gave me some beads, because I was "so nice."

I said: "What do these beads mean to you."
Girl: "They mean we love you."
Me: "Thank you, I love you too."
I asked if they were a church, because their bus had a church name on it... (though I asked more as a leading question than anything else. I could pretty much tell they were not a church). The kids were pouring out of the gas station with cases and cases of beer and ice.

At this point I was going to walk away. But, I heard them saying that I did not know what they really were. (Because they were in a church labeled bus). So, I turned back around.

Me: "It does not matter to me if you are a church or the exact opposite of one. I still love you all. And, I would still want to help you."
Girl: "Aww, you're so sweet."
Boy: "Give her more beads."
They gave me more beads.
More and more kids coming to the bus with beer and such.
They said, "Hey, this lady offered to help us."
Other boy: "You should come with us... join our church." (Said with a sneer.)
Me: "No, man. I have a better church. I have God in me. I don't have anything against alcohol, but I have something better - Jesus in my heart."
At the mention of Jesus there was a sudden outburst of loud and violent swearing and crude speech.

The conversation was over.

I put gas in my van and went inside to pay. (I took Becca in with me.)

I prayed for them as I drove away. God has broken my heart for them. I wish I could have snatched the girl away from them. But, God will in His Time. I did my part. I sowed a seed. Now, I am asking God to water it.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Analogy For Looking at the "Big Picture" of Scripture

I think this will be a great "children's sermon" idea or a homeschool Bible lesson. But it is not just for kids... we all need this reminder.

Props needed (to really make this lesson come to life): world map, globe, or both and a Bible

I will write this like I am speaking to my kids (and I am speaking to American pupils. You will have to change the story according to your geographic location).

Can any of you children point to the Pacific Ocean for me? (Pick one child. He/She will most likely point to the West coast of America) You are right, Rebecca. That is the Pacific Ocean... but only part of it. Did you know that the Pacific Ocean wraps all the way around the globe (or on a flat map "appears on the far right side")? We usually look at the Pacific Ocean as being just off of the coast of America, but it is also just off of the coast of Japan as well. In fact, if we had a little boy or girl from Japan here, he or she would probably have pointed to the Pacific Ocean being right near Japan.

Here is another question for you - who can show me where the Atlantic Ocean is? (Pick one child. If the child is older and intuitive, he/she might have learned from the previous answer where to point more accurately). That is right, Nelson. The Atlantic Ocean is East of the United States... but that is only part of the Atlantic Ocean. Children, do you know that the Atlantic Ocean stretches between America and Europe and even over to Africa? In fact, if we had a little boy or girl here from Africa, he or she would probably have pointed to the Atlantic Ocean as being right near the coast of Africa.

You see, children, most of us understand the World from what we can see and what we know best. We live in America, so we understand where places are in the world as it relates to America. This is completely normal. However, we always need to be learning to look at the whole picture, the "Big picture." One of the ways that we will learn to see the "big picture" is to read history books. For example - if you read the history of World War 2, especially about Pearl Harbor Day, then you will realize that Japan and America both have a border on the Pacific Ocean. Or, if you read about how Christopher Columbus and others went searching for a "New World," then you will better understand that Europe and America both have borders on the Atlantic Ocean.

Now, children, this lesson is not just about world geography - though I hope you did learn something new today. This lesson is also about how we read our Bible. Our Bible is divided into two big categories: The Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament tells stories and history from the Beginning of the World (or "Creation") until about 400 years before Jesus came to the Earth. Then, the New Testament is the Story of Jesus being born, dying, and coming back to life. Actually, both the Old and New Testament are One Big Story about Jesus. All of the stories in the Old Testament and New Testament are about how God loves people so much that He sent His Son to die for us. 

Just like with the globe, we sometimes forget to look at "the big picture." Sometimes we forget to read the Old Testament. Sometimes we forget to read the New Testament. But, we need to read all of the Bible, because that is the only way we can make sense of the whole Story of God's Love for us.

So, children, next time you are looking at the map or a globe, I hope you will remember that we want to try to understand "the big picture" of how much God loves us. And, to do that we need to look at the whole Bible and read from both The Old Testament and The New Testament.

Let's pray - Father, Thank you that You love each and every child here so much that You sent Your Son, Jesus, to die for their sins. Please help us to remember to read all of the Bible. Thank You for giving us Your Holy Spirit to help us understand what we read so that we can see the Big Picture of how much You love us. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Busy Days

I have not been writing much because I have been too busy living. Today I just want to put a few thoughts on "paper" about this school year. I write this with two main intentions: 1) inform my parents and family what we are doing; and 2) help other moms who are like me... always comparing curriculum options.

I have already decided which areas need the most work. So, now I just need to figure out what that looks like in real life.

I think I started Rebecca on Veritas Press Phonics when she was 5. So, I am still new to homeschooling - only 5 years under my belt. (Or, if you add all the childrens' collective schooling - only about 10 years.) Anyway, I am always looking for what works best for our family. We are eclectic homeschoolers with a little bit of "unschooling" when I am too sick to teach the traditional way. These titles don't matter a whole lot. What is most important to Paul and myself is that our children are taught every subject from a Christ-centered worldview.

All that to say, we change "curriculums" often. And I am okay with that. Actually, I am better than okay! I LOVE the flexibility of homeschooling! So, I will tell you what I am currently planning to do, but it is subject to change at any given time. I am not confined to one text for an entire year.

Math - Continuing in A Beka for the oldest three... at least for now. I am planning to switch the oldest to Practical Arithmetics in the coming year. I like A Beka. It has been fun. But, it is flashy. And, I still do not feel like my kids are able to take the concepts into "real life" usage.

History - Continuing Rebecca in A Beka - which she loves. For the younger ones (and sometimes Rebecca too) I read a lesson a day from The Mystery of History.

Geography - Not sure about this one. I am thinking that we will listen to the Geography Songs CD and look at maps. And, we plan to travel more this year than ever before. But, I do not have a curriculum in mind. I will probably find some great free geography resources through Old Fashioned Education. (If you go there be sure to look at the left-hand sidebar at all of the subjects offered! It is a valuable resource!!!) Thanks to the comment from Dawn we will also be using Sheppard Software!

Science - Our official curriculum for science is Rod and Staff, which we all love! We supplement that with real-life outings, star gazing, books from the library about whatever strikes our fancy, etc.We also have a vegetable garden, and this provides hours of real teaching time!!!

Language Art/Phonics - I think I am finished using Veritas Press Phonics Museum. I am not sure that it ever taught any of my kids to read... really. What worked best for all of them was flashcards and drill with hands on work. So, that is what I will do from here on out... I think. Joshua will be starting kindergarten and the idea of beginning him with VP Phonics Museum is not pleasant to me. So, I will not do it. The other kids did best with using puzzle pieces and homemade games to learn to spell out words. I use the flashcards and sounds as suggested in The Writing Road to Reading. (Though I would not necessarily recommend that whole program to children.)
Rebecca has been using Pathway Readers for a few years now. We move slowly through the grades as they are hard for both of us. 
I am not sure where I want to go with this subject this year. I think I might just "lay low" in this area and stick to reading out loud!

Latin - I plan to start Rebecca on Latin. A friend sent me the curriculum for Latina Christiana 1. I plan to get the DVD that goes with this curriculum and learn right along with Rebecca!

I am sure that I left something out. The joy of homeschooling is that it does not need to be set in stone from day one. I have an end goal and I let that be my guide. Come to think of it... maybe it would do all of us good if I write about "my end goal." Maybe I will do that sometime.

Have a blessed school year! Grace and peace - to your lessons and studies - in Jesus Name!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Tired Christian Moms, Repeat After Me

"I am SuperMom, because I am indwelled by a Supernatural God."

Repeat as needed!

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, 
and those who love it will eat its fruits. 
Proverbs 18:21 ESV

 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13 ESV