He Leads

Ephesians 6:10-17

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Today, as I was writing in my prayer journal, this passage came to mind. It’s a very familiar passage to many of us. But today, I found something new in it. Look at that first sentence.

“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”

It is He, God, who makes the following armor characteristics possible.  Who opens our eyes to Truth? God does. Who makes us righteous? God alone. Who gives us peace that comes from the Good News of the Gospel? God again. Who draws us to have faith in a God that we cannot see? Yep, God. Who makes salvation available to us as a free, unearned gift? Absolutely God. And who gives us the very Words of God?  He does.

I’m humbled and awed every time I find this occurrence in scripture. God takes the lead, and we have only to follow in obedience.  Do I need to be proactive in my faith? Definitely. That is part of being in a relationship. But I also need to remember that God initiates everything. He doesn’t have to do it, but he chooses to because he loves us. Isn’t that a beautiful truth?

On Turning Forty

Forty

She wasn’t big on birthday celebrations, especially her own. Being in the limelight just wasn’t her thing. Most of the past years her birthdays were little more than dates on the December calendar that was already filled with holiday plans. And with a birthday two weeks before Christmas, the two days’ celebrations were easy to blend together.

Her parents always made sure to treat her birthdays as special days with friends and family, parties and presents. But by the time she went to college those parties had come to an end. There were finals and moving out of the dorm instead of birthday celebrations. The truth though was that she didn’t really mind. She liked being busy about her own things. She liked the college life. She wasn’t the partying kind. When she first got to college she was seventeen. Her roommates and friends wanted to take her out the clubs, and she was ever so glad to have a reason not to go – She was under age.

No, she liked the classes and the studying. It was predictable and measurable. It fed her need for being successful. A four year degree for many could take five or six years. Not for her. She’d do it in four. Nothing less would do. Yes, that is what defined her. Success and accomplishments. Those were safe areas for her introverted personality.

When she wasn’t in class or studying, she was busy with extracurricular activities. It was through these activities that she met a boy. She’d gone on a mission trip and while there he unintentionally knocked her out with a basketball. Of course he felt bad for such a dumb move, and spent lots of time over the next two days telling her so. They were complete opposites. They looked in no way compatible, but against all reason they developed a friendship that brought the best out in each of them.

It wasn’t long before they were full of young love and temptation. They were still in college, but they thought it important to not cross those lines before marriage. Eager to marry, they chose a date in December – between semesters – and right between her birthday and Christmas. They were twenty-one and twenty-two years old.

It was a beautiful Christmas wedding that she would always cherish, but it was also another date crammed into her December calendar. It made skipping over her birthday even easier.

Years passed and babies came into the picture. Four of them. And as those babies became kids and teenagers with schedules of their own, Decembers got even busier. Multiple parties, cookie making, gift shopping, family get togethers… They were all good things, and most years she was thankful for the diversions.

* * * * *

She stared at herself in the mirror and contemplated her upcoming birthday. Her fortieth birthday. And somehow, she looked forward to it. She had learned a lot about herself this year. While she still dealt with some insecurities they were nothing like the ones she’d fought in her younger years. She’d learned a thing or two about resting in God’s provisions as opposed to her own. She was more often at peace.

She wasn’t thrilled with her fading leg muscles or the idea that she needed to take more time to tend to them, but she was liking the white hairs that were slowly appearing at the edge of her hairline. She’d always loved long white hair on older ladies, and she knew she’d like it on her own head as well. She was one of the lucky ones that didn’t appear to age for a long time. But now, as she looked in the mirror, there was not doubt that her face that was beginning to show some age. It had bothered her for most of the past year, but now she could remind herself that with that age came wisdom, a deeper understanding of her God and therefore of herself. Instead of criticizing herself, she’d remember that a smile and an inner peace were more attractive than any young skin or make-up. Not that a nice coat of make up didn’t help some. And for that she was thankful. She’d never worn much make-up until recently. Spending time in the mirror didn’t fit her busy life and attempts to keep the attention off of herself.

But this year things were changing. She had grown more comfortable with herself, more at peace with who she was and how she was valued by God and that was what mattered most. She’d learned those lessons through many, many hours of tears that were the result of struggling to be strong and in control of all of the outcomes and failing. It was exhausting, really. It was also impossible. And this year she really got that. And believing that truth freed her up from the bondage of striving for perfection. It was a battle she would still have to revisit from time to time, but the difference between the occasional battle and the daily, no, hourly, battle was monumental. This was the reason she had more peace these days.

Her phone to do list reminder chimed. She had titled the list with the date as always. December third. In seven days she would be forty. And this year she not only wouldn’t try to skip over her birthday, she was actually looking forward to it. She had already decided that she wanted frozen lemon cake and chocolate ice cream and that she would make time for a family get together. She was careful to get the Christmas shopping done and not to overbook the calendar this week. She’d take time for herself this year – another thing she was learning to do. Thirty-nine had turned out to be a good year. A hard fought one, but one with many victories. Forty would be good too. She felt sure of it.

Lessons from the Hammock


For the past year, I have been learning a great deal about rest. I think it started with a book I read called Captivating. It was through that book that I began to really understand the concept of rest. You can read about that at the above link.

Even though it’s a great way to refresh, I used feel guilty about the time spent doing nothing. I am definitely a doer. Forward progress defines me, and in my mind every waking minute of every day should be devoted to getting things done.

Perform more. Do better. Never enough.

No. Stop. Just stop striving to be perfect. Perfect isn’t really attainable.

Do what you can do, and that is enough.

It is. God’s the One in control.  Rest in that truth.

Am I saying that I should not put forth effort or do my very best? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that I need to stop moving, both physically and mentally, every day. And that is what sitting in the hammock does for me. This is where I let go of life’s pressures and remember who I really am. This is feeding into every part of my life one step at a time, and it is changing my life.hammock

I will leave you with a few things I’ve learned from my daily hammock time.

  1. I’ve really come to love trees. I love to listen to the leaves blow in the breeze or fall through the branches to the ground. I love to watch new sprouts burst through the trunk and into the sunlight. I love to see the leaf colors change even though we really only have green and brown here.
  2. I am finding peace in listening to the birds singing. I seldom see them since they are such good hiders, but their sounds are so captivating.
  3. Yellow butterflies are now my favorites. Their rounded wings are so small and delicate looking.
  4. We really do have a lot of beautiful days.
  5. Rest is good for me, and outside time is not the same as screen time. I need this time to be with my Creator. To remember. To rest in every way.

Captivating

A few weeks ago I read a book that is rocking my world. It has changed the way I understand my faith in Christ. It has brought freedom into my life in an area that I have struggled with for many years. Actually, the book didn’t do these things. It was just a tool. God used that tool in His best timing (when I was ready to hear it) to speak deeply into my heart, and those words that He spoke are changing me from the inside out.

The book is Captivating by John and Staci Eldredge. It is written primarily to women, but probably a good read for any adult. If you haven’t read it, I cannot say it loudly enough. Read it.

* * * *

I was frustrated with myself. I was aggravated with my kids. I was just in a slump and buried in insecurities. I was sure that I was not enough, and I managed to tell my kids the same through the ranting that I chose to carry out. I cried the ugly cry. I made one of my kids cry her own ugly cry. With shame covering me, I then had to join the family at the dinner table. I felt like scum. How could they possible want me there when I had just been so awful to them? It was awful, and it was not the first time by a long shot. Satan has been using this weakness of mine for some time now.

After dinner, I snuck away to be alone. I guess I just wanted to feel bad for myself for a while. Captivating was sitting next to me. I had checked it out at the library. Honestly, I have tried to read this book three times over the past few years. On the first two tries, I could not get past the first couple chapters. This time, the third time, I opened the book in the middle, probably 150 pages in. And God spoke to my heart right there in the middle of the book. I read from the book with every spare moment for the whole weekend. I could not stop, because I was so hungry for this good news. He knew what I needed to hear that day. He knew that that day He would heal my heart of some big misconceptions.

I used to think of the Gospel as saying something like, “It’s okay if you don’t measure up. Nobody does. I still love (I’ll accept) you.” It was a gospel of grace, but I missed the Beloved part.

Now I am hearing God say, “ You are genuinely beautiful. Life has hurt you, but I’m here to redeem you. You are so special to me. Let me heal your heart. Let me have you completely as my own.”

God pursues me like a bride. He not only cares for me, but He wants me. All I’ve every really wanted was to be wanted. He pursues me. And he want me to pursue Him in freedom of spirit, not bogged down with the baggage of self worth lies.

The gospel message is not just about forgiveness. That is big, but there is so much more. It is deep relationship. Fellowship restored. RedeemedBeloved. Bride of Christ. Valuable. Made for a purpose. My sin cast far away and remembered no more. Loved. Really, really loved.

He wants me to have a spirit at rest, at peace. He wants me to be beautiful inside and out. He wants me to be a woman that invites others to be near and to hear the same redemption story. This is the good news. This freedom is worth sharing.

* * * * *

I did go back and read the rest of the book. The first third was about how we all endure hurts and build up walls and insecurities. The last part was about how God wants to use us, how our experiences, passions, and abilities lend themselves to ministering to others, and how we are indeed valuable, even needed. Those parts were good too, but it was the middle that really allowed me to see God’s heart for me, for you.

Do you want to know how it is changing me? I feel confident. I have never felt truly confident. I could put on a face for a short time, but this is different. It is not from me. It is instead confidence in who Christ says that I am. Beautiful. Valuable. Wanted. I’m finding a new identity. I’m finding the beauty in me, both physically and spiritually. I’m not afraid to speak truth and love into others’ lives. I’m excited to see scripture and songs in new and fresh ways. The trees are more beautiful. Life feels more lovely. I sense that relationship with God growing and influencing me.

There is freedom from the bondage of self worth lies. Your self worth is found in God and who He made you to be. You are loved, wanted, beautiful. You are needed. Rest in that truth. Rest in the gospel message. God LOVES you. He wants a restored relationship with you. Jesus will forgive your sins and remember them no more. He finds you beautiful. Lovely. Worthy. And He wants you. Knowing and believing this will rock your life too!


Rest and Life Giving Activities

For the past few weeks I have been thinking and asking people about life giving things. We live in a world that most of the time is very draining. What is it that brings life back to you? What brings you joy? What truly refreshes you? 

The answers people have shared included being outside in nature, running, dancing, gymnastics, horseback riding, singing, playing music, sewing, knitting, scrapbooking, crafts, washing cars, reading books, being with people, looking for little blessings.

Look at those answers. Nowhere do I see cleaning house all day (though I love the results), making lots of money, staying busy. But that seems to be where most of us reside.

I know, there are things that need to be done. I am not disputing that at all. Jobs matter, money matters, general cleanliness matters. Taking care of people matters. All of that makes us busy.

But are we so in the habit of being busy that we force ourselves to be busy even when we don’t need to be? 

God commands us to rest. He calls it Sabbath, and it is for our benefit. With rest, we refresh our bodies and our spirits. Without rest, we wear down and become far less effective.

I am driven to busyness. It is an area I need to work on. From the minute I wake till the minute I go to sleep, I am either physically or mentally working. When I get a break from physical jobs, I sit down to fill my mind with new information. Some of it is important, and some of it is just obsessive because I just. can. not. stop. myself. I do this for weeks at a time until my body says no more. And once that happens, I drag myself around trying to do what I can while being totally aware of the fact that I can’t even put together an intelligent sentence. I can’t listen to that small voice in my heart. I can’t really love on the people around me.

I feel bad for not working. I feel like I am wasting time. I’m kind of okay with this for part of a day, but once this exhaustion hits me, it takes me *days* to come back.  And that feels like such a huge waste of time to me.

I need to take more regular Sabbath days. Maybe you do too. My rest days work better on Mondays or Fridays than on the weekend. Our weekends are so busy. Much of our learning happens on the weekend while Dad is home. I don’t think the day matters as long as we do indeed rest.

What qualifies as rest? Sometimes it just means sleep. Sleep refreshes physically. Once the need for sleep has been met, it is time for life giving activities. Choose activities that bring YOU life. I tend to jump into a book, but I have realized that reading doesn’t really refresh my soul. Yes, it is good for me. Yes, I like stories and new information. No, reading does not refresh my soul. For me, that renewing comes from  sports. I just love physical movement.  Doing gymnastics, throwing a football, even digging a garden.  That is where I need to go for refreshing. These are the desires that God put in my soul to renew me.

 What life giving activities are you incorporating into your days? What are you doing to recreate? Are you doing it enough? Are you making it a priority?

Life is busy.  Work is important. Rest is important. Life giving activities are important.

Married to My Job

Homeschooling moms, I’m burdened for healthy marriages, and it seems on the surface that a homeschooling family should have a great marital success rate. After all, we are family oriented, right?

But still I see marriages failing in homeschooling families all the same. I think I’ve realized something.  There is a lot of talk encouraging husbands and fathers not to be so married to their jobs  that they neglect their wives and children, but perhaps we homeschooling moms need to consider the same warning.

I know I’m guilty. My kids take my attention and all that I can give every hour of the day.  I keep trying to get around to time with my husband, but my “job” keeps demanding more. And after a while I look back only to realize that I have not tended my marriage for a while. I was busy being married to my job.

Now, I consider my marriage to be one of the better ones. I’m married to my best friend. But when life is busy and I again act as though I were married to my job, there is a clear difference in our unity.

I’m being brief here, but hear my heart, homeschooling mom. Our kids are wonderful. They are worth our time. But at some point, preferably a predetermined one, our marriages need regular, positive attention. Find balance. Set priorities toward an ongoing healthy marriage, and be intentional. Our kids will even thank us for it later.

2 Timothy 1:7

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

Let’s break this down in how it fits a lifestyle of homeschooling.

Fear. That’s where I’ve lately been residing. Driven by fear like a dear in headlights. Afraid to move forward. Afraid to try. What if the kids don’t listen? What if they don’t respond? What if they think my hard planned lessons are stupid? What if they still don’t learn it? What if I’m failing them? What if other moms think I’m too relaxed and not teaching enough? What if I don’t fit in to the group?

Timidity. Yep. That too. Blinded by fear and unwilling to step up and share what I know What if my words are all jumbled when I speak? What if I’m doing this all wrong? Blinded by fear and unwilling to step up and share what I know.

This is not what God wants. For God has not given me a spirit of fear and timidity.
Instead, power, love, and self control.

Power. God empowers me to do what he called me to.

Love. God’s love shows in my actions when I keep my eyes on Him. This love should drive my interactions with my children and other moms.

Self control. It is a fruit of the spirit that enables me to be about the business that God has set before me. That business is primarily raising, educating, mentoring, and loving my children. It is also to mentor younger moms who are now walking the path I’ve walked for the past 11 years.

This is where I need to live daily. I’ll admit I struggle with it. I’m so incredibly glad God’s mercies are new every morning. So today, I get up and try again.

I encourage you to do the same.

The End of the Ninety Day Challenge

It was like a great vacation. Fast paced, exciting, exhausting, emotionally challenging. It was totally worth the effort. As the time neared the end, I felt like my trip was coming to a stop. I dragged out the last couple paragraphs, realizing that it was ending. Happy and sad at the same time.

It started out as a challenge to myself in a time of desperation when I could not put solid legs down on my faith. I had developed doubts. I had realized that I could not answer my kids’ questions with any more than Sunday school answers. I knew I had to get serious about studying God’s word.

I didn’t know what would come of it. I hoped that I’d have a few more answers. Honestly, I just hoped I could get through the whole thing. I’ve never been able to commit long enough to get through even half of the Bible at a few chapters a day. This time I decided to try a 90 day challenge that required some 16 chapters a day. Was I crazy? Probably. Did I expect to complete it in time? I hoped for 180 days.

If you want to read about the beginning of this challenge, you can do so here

Yesterday I read the last words of the last book. It took about 70 days. Cover to cover. Once I got reading, I realized how hungry I was for God’s word. By the time I was a week in, I could not put it down. I read full books most days. I learned new things and made new connections that no amount of Sunday school classes and sermons could cover.

Most days were exciting as I rejoiced over familiar and new information about Gods provisions and plan for his people, but some were draining. Reading the four gospels over four days was difficult. Jesus offered some tough teachings in those books, and then on top of that he was beaten, mocked, brutally killed. For me. Reading about that four times in a row was really mentally exhausting.

About halfway through my reading, I felt God challenging me in a couple of areas of my life. Reading the Word was a good thing, but it wasn’t enough. There were things I needed to deal with. Little cobwebs in my heart that I didn’t want to let go of. How could I say no when I was so in love with spending time learning more about my God? I’m so glad I didn’t. My heart is lighter, filled with more peace and joy, and it isn’t because I’m working hard at it. God healed my heart of a sinful attitude when I cried out to Him.

The Word of God really is so fascinating. It is simple and complicated at the same time. The message of God’s jealous love for his people resounds throughout. I really enjoyed my whirlwind tour through the Bible. Every word of every chapter.

I might have neglected a few things for those days. I spent less time on Facebook, Words With Friends, and watching movies with the family. I cleaned a little less. I probably talked a little less. I read while I cooked, while I sorted laundry, while I waited for kids to get out of dance class, before kids got up in the morning and after they went to bed.

The kids learned to see that I was reading my Bible and waited more patiently for my attention. We talked about interesting parts, and they saw that it was important to me. My husband, who is also doing the 90 day challenge, was very patient too. Our evening conversations are often related to what we have read that day. We are digging into scripture together, a blessing of its own.

I really enjoyed the “vacation”, and didn’t really want it to end. At the same time I’m glad it is over. It was tiring…and yet refreshing.

Today I took a day off. It was actually difficult to stop, but I promised myself that I would write about the experience before moving on. This is where I am. I’m going back to reading tomorrow. I’m going to reread the New Testament over the next three weeks with my husband. It was such a quick read through, and there is so much depth in the teaching in the New Testament. I need to read it again. I’m not sure where I will go after that, but I do know that I will be reading. I must. I’m hungry.

Ninety Day Bible Reading and What I’m Learning

I’m at 24% in my 90 day Bible reading plan!  I’ve learned a few things in addition to the text itself.
1.  I didn’t think I could read so much in one day. I was never able to stay consistent in my Bible reading with much smaller daily chunks. Not only am I keeping up, I can’t wait to get back to it to sneak in a few more chapters.  Reading it as one big story drives me to come back and see what happens next.
2.  I didn’t think I would get any of the details with the fast pace. I’m sure I’m not remembering some names and places, but the big names and places are coming to life so much more than ever before. I can see them chronologically instead of scattered. I can see how the relate to one another instead of as individual stories. I can see whole lives with all of their humanness which makes them so much more relatable. I’m better understanding the passing of time between those major events that I’ve read in isolation many times over. I’m not worried about the smaller details that I might miss, because I’m already planning to go back and read through the whole Bible again as soon as I’m done.
3. I’m absolutely getting a new picture of God. I understand the cost of sin more. I understand the need for a Savior more. I am seeing the big picture of God moving through history, and it really is fascinating.
4. I spent the last few years teaching myself to read fiction books. I’ve always been a nonfiction reader, and preferred in my bible to read the New Testament. “Just tell me what I need to do”.  Now that I’m reading the whole thing in order and I’ve learned how to read stories about people, I’m getting a picture of the people God has worked through, of His relationship with  His people. It really is all about the  relationship more than the list of to do’s. It is a new perspective.

If you haven’t found your scripture study niche, I encourage you to give this a try. It has been a neat experience so far, and it doesn’t seem to take long each day. I split the reading into about three 20 minute reads in the day. And there’s nothing quite like immersion to make you think about scripture throughout your day 🙂

Keep Going

Today is one of those days that I am ever so thankful that I have kept writing this blog even though I’ve wanted to quit and delete many times over the years.  It is, to me, a treasure box of reminders of where we have been and how far we have come. And on days like this, I need to be reminded that what we are doing is indeed enough. I need to remember that I have seen the process of relaxed, delight directed learning produce kids that are smart, educated, and the closer they get to the end of our home journey, able to handle the real world out there.  It is days like this that I want to scrub everything we are doing and accept it all as failure. But I won’t. I only need to look here at the accounts I’ve recorded and be reminded again that even though it feels today like we are not making the progress I want to make, the long run a whole different story.

Today, I’m discouraged when L is not reading yet. When I look back and the long road we’ve been on, I see 3 other kids that were once in the same boat and did indeed learn to read. I’m discouraged that she doesn’t have the attention span to sit for even an hour of lessons of any kind. I don’t remember the others being so distracted, but there’s proof here in the blog that they were.

Today I’m discouraged that, as a whole, nobody wants to progress right now. Everybody’s content to stay right were they are. I’m stressing over this, because it just isn’t how I think. But as I look back, I am reminded of all of the things they’ve learned. They haven’t been stagnant all their lives. They are progressing, even when I don’t see it.

Today I’m discouraged that they didn’t want to sit down for lessons and I got upset with them. I’m disappointed with myself for forgetting that they often learn best with hands on lessons and activity. I’m sorry that today was not a good day, but I am reminded that there have been many more good days than bad.

Today I’m thankful for this blog. It often seems like a jumble of words, but on days like this it is a reminder that better days will come, that we are indeed making the necessary progress, that while what we are doing needs tweaking from time to time, it is working. I must press on.

A Cluttered Mind

“Dear Facebook,
You’ve been good to me. I have enjoyed keeping up with my friends. I have enjoyed reading the great articles that show up in my news feed every day. You have entertained me, encouraged me, taught me. And, unfortunately, you have lied to me. Well, not technically. But my heart struggles to remember who I really am and what visions God has given me for my family and my life.”

I realized this week that every day I read articles from my feed that, while intended to be helpful, impact me deeply as I feel my imperfections. I cannot help but compare myself to these ideals. After all, I read about them every single day. They are good articles, but listening to the words, the well meaning advice, of others has caused me to lose sight of my vision. The vision that God gave to me for my life.

I am trapped. Do I need to leave Facebook? How could I leave Facebook? I won’t know what’s going on with everyone! I need to read those articles. The information in them might come in handy one day! I know I am on information overload, but it’s important. Everyone uses Facebook to keep up with life now.

Then it hit me. Do I store in my house everything I might possibly need someday? No. If I don’t use it, I don’t keep it. If that changes and I do need it, I go to the store and buy it. And that is exactly how I can handle this type of information. If I need help with parenting or with marriage or with schooling, I can Google just that and get what I need when I need it. The information will still be there, and I can get it without information overload or crowding my heart with too many what if’s.

It’s not really Facebook’s fault. It’s my fault for allowing myself to rely so easily on the news feed and for spending more time there than I need. It’s my fault for forgetting to fill my mornings with worship and stillness to hear the quiet voice of God telling me who I am. I know I am not perfect. Not even close. But by His grace, I am forgiven, loved deeply, cherished even. Perfection isn’t something to be grasped in this life time. I need not be upset by this. Instead, I need to live life resting in the perfection of my God.
                                                                          
So who am I? I am a beloved child of the King. What is that vision that God placed on my heart? That is what I’m getting reacquainted with.
I’m spending less time on Facebook and more time listening to those small words from the One who loves me most. It’s worth not knowing all that is going on.

Traditions and Schooling

We’re going to the library in a bit. We shoot to go anywhere we have to go at 10:00am. The reason is sort of funny. When the kids were younger and we needed to go somewhere, I would schedule the outing between morning and afternoon naps. Then I discovered that I loved listening to the Family Life Today radio program that came on at 10am, and the tradition was set.  We still try to go places at 10am. As far as the kids know, it’s so that they can take their mornings slowly. For me, it’s so that I can sit down and listen to the radio program while I drive. I don’t often  listen to that program now. I still like it, but I’m busy chatting with the kids on the drive. Yet, we still leave at 10am. That seems to be how a lot of traditions are set.

And for me, traditions become expectations. And those expectations that have lost their purpose or have come about for silly reasons can become burdens. Today, I choose to question traditions. The ones that have purpose will stay. They benefit me, give me structure, help me remember important things.
Those traditions that don’t really matter, though? I’ve chosen to let them go. I want room to make new traditions, but more than that, to live in the moment, to stop rushing so much and allow time to laugh with my family. I have goals still, and of course I will move toward them. I will not, however, let unnecessary expectations control my days.

As we get back to school next week, I want our goals to be realistic and fitting to where we are. I don’t care where most seventh graders (pick your grade here) are academically. That is tradition. For example, my seventh grader is probably behind in some areas but ahead in others. He is right where he needs to be. Our goals will be for progress toward the ultimate goal.

“Life Academy exists to promote a life long love for learning, a complete education in the basics, and an atmosphere in which deeper passions may be explored in the ways each child learns best.”

And with that mission in mind, here are some plans for where we will be going over the next few months.

B: Work toward finishing Geometry book. ACT practice test will be in a few months, and this is an area that she needs to improve. Continue working through the One Year Adventure Novel course, Read more books. Explore basic US government concepts and compare and contrast them with the types of government in the books she is reading. Practice writing non fiction essays. Continue dance classes, Theater production class, youth group activities, guitar, violin, life skills health classes. Watch movies set in historical settings. Look into career choices and what is needed for those of interest.

A: Continue Math U See Epsilon once or twice a week. Build with Erector set, Knex, Lego’s. Watch videos of such built structures to learn science behind them. Email friends and family daily. Practice Typing with copywork a few times a week. Writing is very difficult for him. I’m assuming typing will allow him to bypass the handwriting and focus on the spelling and punctuation. Read orally to slow down enough to practice spelling. Participate in Boy Scouts, dance class, youth activities, life skills health class, Practice sportsmanship by playing games. Read a chapter a week of Child’s History of the World.

E: Move back to the fourth grade School Zone math workbook for review work. She needs more time for the abstract thinking to kick in before moving forward in math. Read Orally to improve reading and spelling ability. Practice Mavis Beacon Typing practice. Set up an email account to email grandparents. Listen to a chapter of Child’s History each week. Continue learning about nutrition and gluten free eating. Care for and learn about her new pet mice. Create a nature notebook. She loves all things nature, but this will be written and drawn. Put together a Bible notebook from her weekly Sunday School papers. This was her idea, and I love it.

L: Read library books. She likes to be read to, but her opinion of reading for herself is not so great. Improving her attitude in this is the biggest goal I have for her right now. Practice handwriting and math in workbooks and in playing. Listen to books that we read as a family. Spend time outside or with toys playing. Continue in dance class. Cook with Mom. Practice life skills.

Laughter

I’ve laughed more this week than I have in a long time. More times than I can count. And it isn’t been the short kind of laugh.  It’s the laugh till you have tears running down your face kind. The kind I usually save for those occasional deliriously tired late nights when only my man and I are still up.

We have been on vacation. Well, my man’s company closes their doors for nearly two weeks for Christmas and New Years, and he gets to be home for that time. We save vacation days during the year, and look forward to doing all of the great things the holidays bring. As the break neared we counted the days. Three days before the break, my man got the flu. And a few days later all four kids joined him. His didn’t last more than a few days, but the kids lingered. Our anniversary on the twentieth was spent passing out thermometers and Tylenol to kids; much of Christmas Eve  and Christmas day were slept right through by most of the kids. I was really feeling the stress. Caring for sick kids was not really how I had planned to spend our vacation. 

It’s turned out great though. Starting Christmas evening, kids started feeling better, and we broke out the Yahtzee game.  Energy levels have taken a long time to come back. In fact, nearly a week later, they are still taking naps and going to bed early. We scrapped all of our plans to go places, and have stayed home all week. Nobody wanted to eat, so I didn’t cook. They didn’t move around or take much out, so I didn’t clean. (I did do laundry.  A lot of laundry). We did play card games and board games, build with Lego’s and Knex, fix doll hair, play more games, crack jokes, make faces, and laugh. We all laughed.

I am not a laugher. Is that a real word? Anyway, I am definitely the serious one here. Maybe it was the stressful week of being nurse instead of doing all of the Christmas festivities. Maybe it was the smaller load of work once the fevers were gone but everyone was still laying around.   I think it was a case of finding the simple pleasures of being together without expectations hanging over us.

The laughing was fun. It was infectious. It was filled with jokes that we will remember and laugh about for years to come.  It was something I don’t want to leave behind as we get back to routine later this week. I found joy, great joy, in just being with my family. It turned out to be a beautiful vacation, and I am so thankful that God opened my eyes to the joy of laughter in the simple things. It was a gift, my Christmas gift to myself, to let loose and laugh. Not just chuckle, but whole heartedly laugh to the point of tears. Often.

Christmas Isn’t Found in a Store

Last week we were watching the old Grinch cartoon when  my 8 year old said to me, “Mom, Christmas isn’t found in a store. Some adults don’t get that.” I was kind of surprised that she picked that up, but she was right. It’s not found in a store, and it’s often the adults who don’t get it. 

I thought surely that that idea of Christmas not being about the gifts would be lost on the kids once they were flooded with gifts from grandparents, parents, and others. But it wasn’t. Yes, the gifts were fun, and a couple of the kids are completely enamored with them at this point. But the things we talked about  yesterday, the glimpses into their hearts, they were so beautiful. One  reminded me that gifts are not what it’s about. Neither is tradition.  One realized that gifts, no matter how many or what kind, don’t really satisfy that longing in her heart. She’d rather have time with people. Relationships. Sharing life together. Where do they get such wisdom?

We had the flu this week, so not much of the traditional festivities of Christmas day happened. I was disappointed as I love routine and tradition. I grew up in a family where ceremony surrounded so much of our lives, and this doing little for Christmas was hard for me. But what else was there to do when the kids were all running fevers and finding the days away? We still opened gifts and had short visits with some family, but it was not the same.

Not the same. But I learned some new lessons this year. I learned how to embrace the imperfections of life. Not only to tolerate them, but to take them in and love them. They are part of life whether I like it or not, and they require me to trust that God’s in charge instead of me. Oh, that trusting. It’s hard, but I’m slowly finding comfort in it.  I remembered the humble day of Jesus’ birth. I’m sure everything didn’t go just as planned for Mary that day, and yet it was a beautiful time because it was just what God had planned. I learned this year to slow down, stop worrying about school and parties and shopping, and start spending my efforts or the people in my life.  This morning, the day after Christmas, I’m not feeling let down. I’m feeling refreshed actually, and it didn’t come from a store.

Faith Like a Child

This has been an incredible year for my family spiritually. It started out very rough as my oldest girl struggled with friends, teenage decisions, and walking away from a faith that she had barely held onto. She just didn’t know that she could believe it anymore. Until she went to an event at our local BCM. She heard from God that day. He was real, and it was for her sin that He died. She grieved over what she was doing. She had friends that she lost, but God put new ones in her life. She had messy issues to deal with, but God put just the right people in her life to walk her through those and more. She is a different person now, one that has felt Gods grace and truths played out in her own life.

At the same time, my ten year old daughter was coming to me with a lot of big questions. “Why does God allow sin? Why are we not just made perfect? Why do we have to die?…” Then one day this summer, she came inside after sitting in the van alone and crying. She had been convicted of her sinfulness and her need for God’s grace. Over the next few days we answered some more questions and watched as she began her Christian life.

A couple weeks later, their youngest sister came to me at bedtime and proclaimed that she had been listening to all that we’d talked about with her sister, and she wanted to be a Christian too. I didn’t take her too seriously. She’s pretty rash in making decisions. But over the following months she was adamant. She was really challenging me in my faith as well.

My son has not yet come to this place, but he’s asking questions, and I have faith that he will soon.

My two little girls were water baptized this November and continue to amaze me in their child like faith. The reminders are such blessings. In my next post I’ll write about one of them that I’m loving right now. But for now, look to children. Ask yourself what they can teach you about trusting God in your everyday life. Ask what they can show you about compassion. Ask what they can show you that you have forgotten. You will be blessed by listening.