Tuesday, May 08, 2012


The blog has been quiet lately...

I had a ton of posts planned...drafted in my mind just waiting to be shared...

But when I prayed, God was saying "farewell"...

What do you mean, God? 
That makes it seem like you want me to say goodbye...
That couldn't be what you want...

...could it?

But it is.

And just as clearly as I heard him tell me he wanted me to start, I've heard him gently tell me to stop.

The words were never mine anyway... and, as I've had time to mull it over, I realize it isn't a sacrifice to give up writing here. I humbly accept that these words were gifts on loan from my Heavenly Father. While I'm thankful that he's given me this opportunity, it is time to say goodbye.

So, farewell.

Thank you for your comments, prayers and support of this little blog.


Thursday, May 03, 2012

What I've learned this year...

Today is our last official day of school for the year and I try to wrap up by asking my children what they have learned. Their answers always contain some surprises, and I look forward to reading them later today.

Here is a short list, in no particular order, of what I have learned this year:

~ I am called to homeschool my children. Despite my lack of qualifications and my many shortcomings, homeschooling works for our family. The grace to school my children at home can only come from my Heavenly Father.

~ I enjoy learning so much more as an adult! I wish I had learned history as a tapestry rather than a set of disconnected dates. The literature that I loved as a child has grown more precious as I watch my children experience it for the first time.

~ I am about as flexible as a piece of dry spaghetti at times, but I am learning flexibility...I really am!

~ I love the freedom of homeschooling. When we had a series of illnesses and hospitalizations in February, my children didn't "miss" school - we just started again when we were well enough to continue.

~ Despite my frailty, I am stronger than I thought. This really has nothing to do with me, it is only through God's immeasurable grace that I can say this. During the season of illness, each time I was on the brink of falling apart, God would appoint a friend to call or email or tell me they were praying...Those kisses from heaven kept us all going.

~ I am blessed beyond measure.

~ My children are simply amazing and I am blessed every day to be their mother.

It has been a good year - a year of trials, a year of blessings - and on the last day of school, I wouldn't change a single thing.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012


Leftover day...

Even reading those words probably caused some of you to shudder.

In our house, leftover day is lovingly known as "clean out the fridge day." We eat up all the leftover meals for lunch so I can restock our refrigerator that evening with wonderful foods from the grocery store.

But let's face it, leftovers never taste as good as they did the day you made them. Warming up the food can cause it to become dried out - less palatable, less pleasing.

Over my break from blogging, I realized that I was serving God the leftovers of my time.

Oh sure, I opened my Bible first thing in the morning as I enjoyed a cup of coffee...But sadly, I sometimes savored the flavor of the coffee more than the bread of life I was holding.

Even time at the beginning of the day can be leftovers.

God wants the first fruits of my time. The time of day is unimportant. He wants my heart and mind fully engaged to listen, to learn, to grow...

I don't want to serve my God leftovers!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

It's about time...

Too many days of too much to do and too few hours in the day have left me both weary and defeated.
image by digitalart freedigitalphotos.net

I felt like I was doing nothing well, and I was frustrated at my inability...

I sat down at the keyboard many times over the past few days, and sat and watched the cursor blinking, the blank box for a blog post mocking me....

And I heard that little voice again:
you can't do this...

Only this time, it was not a lie.

This time, it was the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit calling me away.

The time for writing and posting would come...It was time to surrender, to listen, to learn...

It was time to bask in the presence of my Savior and spend time with him... Time to apply the life-giving words I've been reading - to let them fully soak into my heart and mind...

Time to rest...to reflect...to renew my vision for my calling as a wife, as a mother, as a teacher of my precious ones...


My time is all I have to offer those I love. Time to teach my children, to love my husband, to bear witness to the Lord's goodness...

When my time is His time first, the weariness fades, the defeat becomes victory, and the striving ceases.

My circumstances have not changed, just my focus.

My contentment and joy return, and so do the words...
The blinking cursor, no longer mocking, calls me deeper...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tending the soil...

My little seedlings grew quickly and my husband and I have been working hard (well, ok mostly my hubby) to prepare our garden beds.
Sayan Samana freedigitalphotos.net

We've picked out rocks, tended the soil, pulled weeds...all in preparation for the harvest this summer.

As I've been tending the little plants, I can't help but think about my kids.

How have I tended the soil in their lives?

Have I been a good example of the way in which they should go...or have I been more of a "do as I say, not as I do" mom?

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child...
(Proverbs 22:15 ESV)

Just this morning I found Little One hiding behind the sofa desperately trying to cover up evidence of a "stolen" snack after momma said, "No." When confronted, despite the evidence to the contrary, she tried to lie. "I didn't eat the snack, I just look at it." Hmmm...

Those instances are easy to address. But perhaps, there is a bit of folly in my own heart...Did I answer too sharply? Was I too quick to show my frustration? Should I listen more and speak less?

I think I'll use this opportunity to tend my own heart so I can lead my children by quiet example.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Finding her way...

Today, as we begin our last two official weeks of school, I feel a bit nostalgic...

Next year, Precious Girl begins 7th grade. Middle School?! How did that happen? Just yesterday she was sounding out words as we snuggled on the sofa. Just yesterday we cried together as I tried to explain how to tell time to the nearest minute...


Today, she is doing Pre-Algebra and enjoying it. (She may not really be my child. *wink*) Today she is flying through The Pilgrim's Progress and loving our discussions of the deeper meaning...

This weekend as I watched her on stage at an Irish Dance feis, my heart was filled with a swirling mix of emotions.

She will be twelve soon. Somehow it seems just yesterday that I was counting little toes on that first morning with her. Now those not-so-little toes dance with joy and beauty and determination. As she lined up with the dancers onstage waiting for her turn, her eyes sought me in the crowd. As our eyes met, we exchanged a smile.

But one time, she didn't look for me. And I know that my role will soon begin to change.

I realize that the privilege of being her mother is not in the holding on, but in the letting go.

As she stepped off stage she said,
"I didn't look for you, because I knew you were there."

She knew I was there, watching and praying, thoroughly enjoying her dance. And that was enough for her.

With one foot still firmly in her childhood, I love the joy and beauty that she sees in the world. I pray that she will keep that joy with her always.

With one foot testing the waters of young ladyhood, I love the questions that she asks and the discussions we have as she tries to find her way.

That's just it, isn't it?...Some of my nostalgia is that she is finding her way...

I don't know what my role will be as she navigates and learns and grows over the next few precious years. But I am thankful that she will never be alone. Even when she and I may disagree, and I'm certain we will, the Holy Spirit will be there to tenderly guide her way.

And me?

Even if she doesn't need me to walk beside her, I'll always be there, just off stage, cheering and praying as she finds her way.

Linking Up:
The Straightened Path
The Better Mom
Far Above Rubies

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Be still and know...

Be still and know that I am God. 
(Psalm 46:10)

That little reminder hangs above the door in my kitchen. I pass it countless times during the day, but I don't often take the time to reflect on its meaning...

God is calling to my heart, His voice a quiet echo in my heart and mind...
be still, my child...

My flesh cries out,
but I'm so busy...I have all these things to do...

When I pause to reflect, I realize my attitude is completely unlovely. I was telling God:
I don't have time for you, God. Not now.


God wants us to be still in the midst of our high calling as mothers. God wants us to be still in the midst of our duties.

God wants our hearts to beat in time with his. God wants our thoughts to be his thoughts. God wants our dreams to be his dreams for our families.

He wants us to know that he is God.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Just between you and me...

Quiet times are rare - precious and fleeting moments when you are able to see God's handiwork in your children...times when you are able to see into their little hearts and minds and understand who they are.

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of everyday busyness, they are easy to miss.

It may be as subtle as recognizing an unformed question, and helping the child to figure out what is bothering them.

It may be listening as they sort through a problem with a friend, asking questions that help them to figure out for themselves the right course of action.

It may be putting down what you are doing and really listening.

It may just require a hug and a kiss or a well-timed "I love you."

But as your child grows, they may be less likely to share everything as they did when they were little. For that reason, it is vitally important to establish communication with your children when they are small, when it is easier.

image courtesy of nuttakit freedigitalphotos.net
When Precious Girl was in first grade, I gave her a handmade book filled with blank notebook pages to write on. On the cover, I wrote "Just Between You and Me." I explained that if she ever wanted to tell me something, or ask me a question, all she had to do was write it in the book and leave it on my bed. Then, I would write something back to her.

Many times, when I've sensed that something's bothering Precious Girl, I've found the book on my bed. Sometimes the issues are big, sometimes small, but every time I've thanked God that I have an opportunity to know what is on my little girl's heart and mind.

This book is a treasure trove of conversations between mother and daughter. Sometimes, I look back over the pages and remember...Someday, its pages will be filled, or maybe even unnecessary...So each time I have the privilege of writing to my daughter's heart, I am thankful for that chance to speak into her life.

Linking Up:
Growing Home
These Five of Mine...
The Better Mom
Deep Roots at Home

Monday, April 16, 2012

Peace during the busy season...

Have you ever felt the irresistible urge to throw the calendar in the trash and just stay home?

We have entered the "busy season" in our home. Baseball 3 times a week, dance 3 nights a week and Little One doesn't even have an activity yet...Ugh! : )

There are nights after running around for hours that I want to take that schedule and throw it in the trash and just hold my babies. I know, however, that isn't a reasonable solution.

Little Man loves baseball. He spends hours pitching and throwing the ball in the backyard. He lays out his baseball cards in elaborate piles comparing skills and stats. It is joy to watch him in his element. As I watch him at a game, I often get a bit teary seeing him so full of joy.

Precious Girl lives, breathes Irish Dance. She walks with her feet in turn out just for extra practice. Her fingers dance to music when her toes cannot. "Point cut jump jump jump..." She practices diligently every day except Sunday for far longer than she realizes because it isn't "practice" to her - it is joy.

So the question for our family really isn't
what can we cut out?
because there is nothing to cut. We cannot deny our children the opportunity to utilize their God-given talents.

The question becomes
how can we manage the schedule 
so that it doesn't drive us crazy?

We carve out as much special time together as we can manage.

Monday night is sacred time. There is nothing on the calendar and we strive to keep it that way. That is our night to have a meal with five people gathered around the table to listen, to be fed, to live life together.  It is really my favorite day of the week.

Tuesday night Precious Girl and I talk and laugh in the car as we make the trek to dance class over half an hour away. We use that time to catch up and talk and listen. It has become my chance to hear my daughter's heart and I love that time.

Wednesday, after baseball, we gather at the dinner table even if it means breaking bread at 8:00 p.m.

Thursday, my parents drive Precious Girl to her dance class and my husband and I get some one-on-one time with Little Man and Little One. We try to spend time playing and listening to our youngest children. We want to learn who they are, how to reach their little hearts.

Friday is baseball and a late night at dance so we split up and look forward to Saturday morning after baseball for time together.

It isn't perfect. But it is the best we can do.

Bottom line, we want our children to know that they are precious to us, that they are precious to God, that they have amazing gifts to share with the world. Home is our refuge - a safe place where you can be who you really are, a place to connect and dream...

We always want to manage the schedule to keep it from enslaving us. Carving out special family time in the midst of a busy season gives us all peace.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Not Qualified, but Called!

It was a simple enough question...

"What makes you think you are qualified to homeschool your children?"

But I must admit, I was unprepared to answer the woman asking it as I stood in the cafeteria line at the hospital.

Join me over at A Mother's Heritage to read what I wish I would have said...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Going back to my roots...

My Grams and Grandpa always had an enormous garden full of all kinds of beautiful, healthy vegetables. When I was a child, my Grandpa would take me by the hand, gently leading me between the perfect rows of little plants and ask me to identify what was growing.

I have such fond memories of time on their farm, time spent with my fingers in the dirt and enjoying the delicious taste of fresh-picked vegetables.

My Grams now lives in a retirement home (she's 88!!) but her wisdom from 60+ years as a farmer's wife is still sharp and willingly shared.

Up until this year, I've always purchased the little seedlings to grow in our garden but this year, based on the wisdom I've gleaned from Deep Roots at Home and several other blogs and websites, I decided to dig in! (Sorry, no pun intended!)

We purchased Heirloom seeds at our local hardware store, some biodegradable seed starter pots, organic top soil and some trays to set the pots in...

The children enthusiastically helped get the garden started. Precious girl filled the pots with dirt, Little Man dug the hole (and got properly dirty in the process), and Little One carefully dropped the seeds in the holes. We used popsicle sticks from the craft store to label our little seedlings (just in case my brain is rusty!). We set the trays of seeds in front of a sunny location, and in a few days we had little plants poking up through the soil. You should have heard the squeals of joy Easter Morning (not over their baskets) over the appearance of an entire crop of little pea plants!

We also have some beets and lettuce seeds sprouting now. In a few days, I'll start our second batch of peas, beans, lettuce and squash so that everything isn't ready for harvest at the same time.

I'm certain that there will be a lot of trial and error this year, but I am so glad I decided to go back to my roots and give my children the experience of growing our little garden from scratch. I have such fond memories of time with my Grams and Grandpa, and I want my kids to have the satisfaction and joy that was mine.

I think my Grandpa would be proud!

All photos were taken by Precious Girl. She is our photographer in residence. *smile *

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Delight yourself...

Delight yourself in the Lord 
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4 ESV

Is Jesus your delight? Does your time with him cause your soul to sing and your heart to smile?

Or is your devotional time 
just another thing that you do?
image courtesy of Willem Siers

This is something that I've been praying for quite a bit. I don't ever want my time with the Lord to be "just another task" to check off my list.

I want that sweet time in his word, in his presence, to be something that I desire...something that I cannot live without.

I want the sweetness of his presence to linger with me as I go through my day, I want the joy of his love to bubble through me to those around me.

I want my feet firmly rooted in his promises so that I can gently guide the 3 little hearts I've been charged with.

I want my children to see their mother satisfied, not by a beautiful house or things of this world, but by Christ alone.

The things of this world, while sometimes lovely, do not satisfy.

I don't want to settle for the good 
at the expense of the best.

We, as mothers, have a high calling. May all you do today be a delight!

Linking Up:
The Straightened Path
Far Above Rubies
Growing Home
Time-Warp Wife

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

What if...

I read a quote on a friend's facebook page the other day, and I haven't been able to get it out of my mind...

word art by Kristi Slattery
*Disclaimer: I tried to find the original author of the quote I used in this blog post, 
but was unsuccessful. If you know, please contact me so I can give the proper credit! 
Thank you. *

I was convicted. Seriously convicted. 

What would I have if I woke up with only the things I was thankful for? Sadly, not much.

I had thanked God for my food, and I had thanked him for his healing presence in a friend's life...but that was all I could remember...

Granted, there could be more things that I just didn't remember, but let's not sugar-coat this. I was stunned and saddened by my lack of thankfulness for all of the blessings in my life. 

My mind began to race. 

Surely, I had thanked God for my husband. Hadn't I? We celebrated his birthday, we celebrated him...But I don't remember taking a moment to thank God for the wonderful blessing my husband is to our family. 

Tears stung my eyes...

My beautiful children...had I thanked God for these 3 amazing little miracles? I'm ashamed to admit that I hadn't. The tears flowed freely with that awful realization...

Heavenly Father, how could I be so ungrateful?

As we move toward Easter Sunday, I resolved to take this week to reflect on the blessings in my life -  chief of which is my Savior's gift of eternal life. 

So today, as I watched my children, heads bent over school books, I thanked God for each of them...For Precious Girl's diligence, for Little Man's compassionate heart, for Little One's joy...I thanked God for my husband, that my husband was working so hard for us, and that God had provided more than enough for our family...I thanked God for the music Precious Girl played on the piano...I thanked God for the love of learning...I thanked God for our clothing as I washed and folded the laundry...I thanked God for my home as I swept the floors...

It changed me. Instead of seeing all I had to do, I saw all that I could lose...

Thank you, Jesus, for a second chance!

Linking Up:
Far Above Rubies
Growing Home
Time-Warp Wife
Hip Homeschool Hop

Monday, April 02, 2012

The myth of "me" time...

I've heard it several different ways, but the gist is always the same...

I could never homeschool my kids. I need some "me" time.

This statement has always made me bristle. I can't really explain why, but I kind of hate the presumption that:
#1: because I homeschool I am somehow above selfishness (soooooo not true!)
#2: we deserve "me" time

Let me take off my superhero cape for a moment as dispel myth #1. Homeschooling your children does not confer superhuman abilities to overcome frustration and selfishness in any mother. In fact, it gives you innumerable opportunities to experience frustration and selfishness.  *wink* The difference is, most homeschooling moms I know choose not to give in to their flesh and prayerfully submit to their calling. Does this mean it is easy? um, no!

Case in point: Last week was a nightmare. Truly! No one seemed to be in the right frame of mind to do school (including the momma) and each day was a monumental struggle. By Monday evening, an entire week's worth of weariness had settled in. My amazing husband saved the day by arranging a coffee date with a dear friend (and fellow homeschooling mom) so I could recharge my attitude.
image courtesy Stuart Miles

I suppose it could be said that this was "me" time...But that isn't how I see it. You see, the focus -for both my friend and I - was NOT on "woe is me, this is soooo hard" but rather encouraging each other and building each other up to face the rest of the week with a better heart attitude.

Iron sharpens iron,
and one man sharpens another.
Proverbs 27:17 ESV

Don't get me wrong, I love a mom's night out as much as the next homeschooling mom...but "me" time? Really?!?

I think that is the wrong focus. With our time away, shouldn't our focus be on refreshing ourselves so we can be a better wife and mom?

That's just what happened with our coffee date. We commiserated with each other. Listened to each other. Encouraged each other (or, at least I hope she was encouraged!). We left the coffee shop ready to face another few days of homeschooling.

So please grab a girlfriend and take some precious time to refresh your heart. It will make you a better mom, a better wife, a better friend. When you are running on empty it is hard to give. Time with the Lord will refill us with renewed energy and vision. Time with a dear friend can give you the strength to move forward.

Just please remember, "Me" time is a myth.

Raising children is hard. Being a wife is a difficult job even if you are married to a wonderful man. If all I focus on is "me" then my kids and husband will suffer. My attitude will bottom out and everything in our home will be yucky. (sorry, I really couldn't think of a better word.) "Me" time assumes that how I feel is more important than anything or anyone else.

What if, instead of "me" time, we focused on "Jesus time"? That is the only thing that promises to make us both better wives and mothers.

Sprinkle in a few times of refreshment and encouragement with other Godly women and that sounds like a recipe for success.

Linking Up:
The Straightened Path
These Five of Mine Plus Two
The Better Mom

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Train up your child...

Homeschooling is about so much more than ABCs and 123s. Focusing on academics would be much easier...

image courtesy of bulldogza
But that isn't my calling, nor is it my heart's desire.

Of what use is a head full of knowledge if it hasn't been lovingly shaped into wisdom? What have we accomplished in our little homeschool if my children's hearts haven't been softened and shaped by the Holy Spirit?

Character training is so difficult. In fact, it is often the most demanding part of my "job" as a mom. But it is absolutely essential. In a world that tells us whatever feels good is right, it is my duty to teach my children a more excellent standard.

Sometimes, as I open God's word to train my children, I realize that I still need some work. *smile* But that is the beauty of training. I can speak truth to my own heart as I teach my little ones. I can apologize to my children when my actions weren't right, repent and go forward - hopefully in a better way.

In the midst of all the training, I feel exhausted. Working on first-time obedience with Little One is a full-time job in itself. Helping my older children learn diligence and perseverance in their school work requires my full attention...and I feel so inadequate for the enormity of my task.

image courtesy of dan freedigitalphotos.net
This is not a battle won by my human efforts. This is a battle won on my knees as I pray and intercede for my children. This is an ongoing work of God in my children's lives.

Just when I feel I am making no progress, God lovingly shows me the fruit of my labors. Little One didn't get what she wanted and joyfully exclaimed, "I didn't whine, Mommy!" Little Man labored over 100 multiplication facts with focus and smiled as I congratulated his efforts. Precious Girl folded some laundry as she read her Chemistry lesson, and I applauded her helpfulness.

As the Holy Spirit tends to my children's hearts (and mine too!) I know that all the love and attention poured into them now will bear fruit.

Some day, when I am on the other side of all this training, I will sit back and enjoy the beauty I see in my children.

It will be worth it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A bittersweet anniversary...

Today is a bittersweet day. Always I meet it with trepidation because I am not sure how my heart will react. I have healed, but I never forget...

This year, I awoke with a smile. It is a wistful smile, but a smile nonetheless.

She would have turned 4 today. 

But there will be no party, no balloons or presents...

And my heart wonders...

As I hear the laughter of my other children, I wonder how her laughter would have blended with theirs.... I wonder if she would have had my green eyes or her father's dark hair...I wonder how it would feel to hold her in my arms...

But it was not to be. 

Her life, although brief, changed mine forever.

Because of her, I know that God's grace is sufficient.

Because of her, I hold my other 3 blessings a little tighter.

Because of her, I know that my Abba Father loves me deeply - and that His love is all I need.

Because of her, I can say
the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away;
blessed be the name of the LORD.
(Job 1:21 KJV)

Happy Birthday, sweet baby.

Linking Up:
Women Living Well
Deep Roots at Home
A Wise Woman Builds...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Our book review policy...

image courtesy Phiseksit freedigitalphotos.net
We have a review policy in our house. That means, whenever the children want to read something that we haven't read, my husband or I must review the book in question first.

Sometimes a very cursory review is acceptable. When we're in the library, it often takes nothing more than reading the back of the book or scanning a few pages to make a decision. Other times, my children can say, "So and so read this book and said it was amazing/funny/interesting..." If I know the child who recommended the book (and what their parents allow), I can often give my permission without hesitation.

Sometimes, it's a bit more tricky than that.

Recently, Precious Girl mentioned that she wanted to read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Despite all of the recent media hype, I had never heard of the book or the author. (No, I don't live under a rock. I just don't really watch TV that much...)

I did a quick search on our local library's website and found (to my disappointment) that there were over 100 holds on the book. At that rate, she would be able to read it sometime before she graduates...When I mentioned the book to my husband, he said that he'd heard it's being made into a movie and that it was very popular among the middle school crowd.

To make a long story short, we ordered the trilogy with the stipulation that I would read the books first according to our "review policy." I presumed I'd find little to stop Precious Girl from reading it. I had read a review on Focus on the Family (link here). They included some very compelling discussion questions at the end of the article and I felt prepared for what I'd find in the pages.

I was wrong.

I tried to read with the eyes of my little girl, and I was stunned and disturbed at what I read.

Many people I know and respect have read the book and enjoyed it -- but they are adults. As a book marketed and targeted to children, I knew it was not for my daughter's eyes...at least not now.

You see, this post really isn't about the Hunger Games at all. Next year...next week there will be another book hot off the presses that promises to be another bestseller. But that doesn't mean my children will read it. It also doesn't necessarily mean that they won't...

But their father and I will decide. Hopefully with both prayer and wisdom we will decide what books cross the threshold of our home.

For better or for worse we help our children choose what fills their tender minds and hearts. We try to guide them to make choices that will help them learn and grow. Sometimes, they will have to read about difficult topics - but not alone. We will be there to ask questions, to provide answers, to pray. The hope is, that we are raising children who will make good choices in what to read. Choices, not dependent on what is popular, but on what is right for them.

So, for now, our review policy stands. We will not allow the world's standards of acceptability to influence our choices for our children. We will make mistakes along the way, but we will learn and grow and continue to look for
whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence,
if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Philippians 4:8 ESV

Linking Up:
Far Above Rubies
Growing Home
Time Warp Wife
Workin' It Mondays

Monday, March 26, 2012

Holding my own torch...

Why am I doing this?

Have you ever asked yourself that question? Usually, it is accompanied with lots of sighing and perhaps with hands raised in the air...

It's hard at the end of the year to see the finish line, but also know there are many days left to fill...Your energy (and perhaps your enthusiasm) is lagging, and you may wonder if you have the strength to go on...

The hardest part of a race is always that last little bit before the finish line. The part where you are certain that you cannot take another step forward, your strength is gone and you are

I've been feeling a bit burnt out lately. The cumulative effect of 160 completed days of school and the daily management of our household seems to have caught up with me.

Spending time in God's word has been a source of strength, but honestly, sometimes I still feel like I'm running on empty.

It doesn't help much that this is the busiest time of the year for our family. Precious Girl is taking extra dance classes to help her in upcoming competitions, Little Man (and his daddy) are in full baseball mode...There is only one evening a week that we have nothing on our schedule...

But the problem really isn't our schedule or the fact that I still have 20 school days to log.

I've taken my eyes off of the goal. Instead of seeing the finish line just ahead, and knowing I can make it; I've started to focus on the bumps in the road ahead. And boy, do those hills look big when I'm trying to run in my own strength...

The problem? I'm walking in the light of my own torch. Isaiah 50: 11 is a sobering reminder to all of us who are attempting to carry a torch to light our own paths.

image courtesy John Kasawa

Behold, all you who kindle a fire,
who equip yourselves with burning torches!
Walk by the light of your fire,
and by the torches that you have kindled!
This you have from my hand:
you shall lie down in torment.
                        Isaiah 50:11 ESV

The verse just prior to this one is a beautiful reminder of how we should walk with the Lord...

Who among you fears the Lord?
and obeys the voice of his servant?
Let him who walks in darkness
and has no light
trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on his God.
     Isaiah 50:10 ESV

The choice is simple. I can either choose to continue to walk in my own feeble understanding and live in torment or I can put my hand in the hand of the Lord and let him guide me with the light of his eternal perspective.

I don't know about you, but my arms are weary of holding my own torch. My own understanding is too limited. The light I cast is feeble and dim.

I want to be so close to my Savior that it is hard to tell where he stops and I begin. I want to walk in simple faith and trust and let him lead me to the finish line

no matter how far I have to go.

Linking Up:
These Five of Mine...
The Better Mom

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Redefining a "date"...

Candlelight, fancy dinners, tables for two...
grocery shopping...
grocery shopping??

image courtesy of Ambro freedigitalphotos.net
 Grocery shopping has a new definition at our house. It is now a date for my husband and I. Is it romantic to stroll through the grocery aisles with the love of my life?
Not exactly.
But is it good for our marriage?
Yes it is!

Thirteen years ago, this would NOT have been my idea of a date.

But now, in this season of life, it seems just perfect for our family. It's just a little excursion, but my husband and I get to talk and laugh and discuss things without interruption.

The bonus? The grocery shopping gets done, and it's even become an enjoyable chore.

The lesson I've learned in our grocery store dates is, it's not the location, it's the company that is important. And while, on occasion, it is still nice to have candlelight and fancy dinners, these little grocery store dates are enough of a break from the daily routine to make them fun for both of us.

How do you carve out time with your spouse?


Linking up:
Women Living Well
Deep Roots at Home
A Wise Woman Builds Her Home...

Monday, March 19, 2012

Finishing well...

Spring weather has come early to Central PA, and this unexpected warmth has been a huge blessing.

image courtesy Simon Howden
freedigital photos.net
My magnolias are in full bloom...in March?!

But this beautiful weather has also caused a huge problem in our little homeschool...no one feels like doing school anymore.

(Unfortunately, this malady struck the teacher as well.)

On Thursday, as I was diligently reading aloud to Little Man, I looked up to find his little chin resting on the window sill as he gazed longingly at the sunshine...

Later that same afternoon, Precious Girl declared that if she couldn't get outside sometime soon, she might just die...

Me, I was dreaming of hanging sheets and towels on the line for the first time this year...

In my Bible reading this weekend I came across the verse:
...and let us run with endurance 
the race that is set before us...
Hebrews 12:1 ESV

So as we all dream of Spring time and sunny days, the question becomes, how do we finish well?

How do I run with endurance until the end without having to duct tape my precious children to their desks? *wink*

1. Be flexible.
This is not easy for me as I can tend to be a bit rigid, but flexibility will keep everyone sane in these last few weeks of schooling. On a sunny afternoon, read your history lesson on the front porch. Your children can do their reading lessons outdoors. Spelling words can be written with chalk on the driveway...

The possiblities are endless and you will make memories as you accomplish your schooling. 
Everyone wins that way!

2. Be accountable.
In Pennsylvania, I am required by law to complete a certain number of days by a certain deadline. My first priority is always to meet the requirements so I can bring honor to God in my homeschool. However, no one ever said that all of those days have to be "classroom" days. Studying outdoors is just as valid as sitting at a desk. Also, this can be the perfect time of year to do a few field trips just to mix things up a bit.

3. Be joyful.
My attitude is contagious. If I'm dreaming of digging in my garden when I should be conducting lessons, my heart will be in the wrong place...As long as I keep my attitude cheerful while we do school everyone will work better.

Finally, if nothing is working, a "mental health day" may be in order. I'd much rather take some time off and get our hearts right and work on character issues than slog through a miserable day.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Living each day...

Did you ever have one of those days where you just wanted to turn back the clock? Maybe it was one of those awful days that you'd just rather erase from memory...

or, if you are lucky, it is one of those wonderful days you'd like to re-live over and over again...

But whatever the reason, we really can't get time back. As much as we'd like to either forget or re-live moments, it's just not possible.

We do have the opportunity, however, to live each day to the fullest.

To be fully present with our children.
To be fully engaged with our husbands.
To be fully obedient to our Heavenly Father.

I pray for days that fill us with wonder and excitement. For days we'd love to re-live... for days full of Jesus...for love...for laughter...for peace...

Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Controlling technology so it doesn't control you...

I'm usually quite a low-tech person...

I mean, unless it's going to wash and fold laundry while I do school with the kids, I'm probably not interested. (If you have a gizmo like that, please send me a message...)

But a few weeks ago, my husband got us an ipad...
image courtesy Salvatore Vuono freedigitalphotos.net
...and I'm sort of in love...

It's a great little device, with hundreds (thousands?) of FREE apps that can do anything from help teach Little One her ABCs, to tell us what star we're looking at in the night sky. (The latter is our family favorite app!!)

In many ways, I think it is a wonderful tool IF we know how to keep control of that slick little device.

1. In "Settings" you can choose "Restrictions" for many different aspects of your ipad. For example, you can prevent the download of songs with explicit lyrics or control the ratings of movies and TV shows. You can also choose what your kids can access or prevent them from downloading apps all together.

2. Preview each and every app and game your children want to download to the device. 
My kids downloaded a seemingly benign drawing app. Little One was happily using it with her siblings when I heard a lot of giggling and a "Mom's not going to like this!" Being the astute mother that I am, I recognized signs of trouble. The drawing app contained a "sticker" of a pile of poop (I'm not kidding) complete with bathroom noises to illustrate its placement...It was summarily deleted. Lesson learned.

3. Set a password to access the device itself.
If you have tied your personal email and/or facebook accounts to the device, someone could have access to a whole lot of personal information if the ipad was ever lost or stolen. There is even a setting that will wipe the whole thing clean if the wrong password is entered 10 times...

4. The ipad is a tool, not a substitute for hard work.
Yes, you can download an app for Spanish vocabulary or Multiplication facts, but the ipad will not help mastery of these concepts if your student isn't willing to do some hard work on their own!

Remember, this cute little device should be firmly controlled so it doesn't end up controlling you!


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A new reading plan...

A few years ago, I embarked on an ambitious mission - to read through the entire Bible in one year. It helped that there was a nicely laid out reading plan right in the back of my Bible. Each day as I read, I felt immense satisfaction as I checked off the day's reading. That time with God every morning became precious to me - something that I hungered for, and missed when I forgot my reading for the day.

image courtesy Arvind Balaraman freedigitalphotos.net

I learned so much that year, and if you haven't done that, I'd highly recommend it! There are some wonderful reading plans available online - and they are FREE (that is certainly important to this homeschooling momma, who tends to be a bit cheap frugal). Back to the Bible (link here) has several offerings on their website. My favorite one is the chronological study - through it, you read the Bible in order as events happened in time, not just Genesis through Revelation. My husband and I did that study many years ago and it was awe-inspiring to see how God laid out his story in the Bible.

Lately, however, I haven't felt called to read through God's whole book cover to cover. I've simply read what I feel my heart pulled to each morning. For me, an inveterate list-maker, it's refreshing to have no particular goal in mind but to read what God wants to teach me for the day. It should come as no surprise that the passages I read are always exactly what I've needed to hear from my Heavenly Father. Isn't God awesome?!

More and more, I find my attention drawn to the Book of Proverbs. The richness of what God has laid out for his children overwhelms me and it has cultivated a new love of the scriptures in my life! That book is truly an instruction manual for living God's way, and I find myself eagerly poring over what God has to say to me.

One day, as I was reading Proverbs chapter 31, it occurred to me that there are also 31 days in many months...and I smiled as I realized that God's instruction manual in the Proverbs could be read, one chapter a day each and every day of the month (sometimes you'll have to double up, but you see what I'm getting at). Each morning, with my cup of coffee (and often a Little One on my lap), I've read a chapter of Proverbs. It has been amazing! What is more, these beautiful verses are becoming familiar friends! Someday maybe I will even be able to memorize some of my favorites just by continuous re-reading...

As mothers, it's so easy to prioritize other things above reading the Bible (I do it too!). But we would be better wives and mothers if we'd take a few moments out of each day and read what God has to say to us...no matter what reading plan we follow.

As we approach the beginning of a new month, I invite you to try it too! Or even better, just jump right in today and start reading in Chapter 13!

for I find my delight in your commandments,
which I love.
Psalm 119: 47

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Psalm 90: 14

Blessings on your quiet time with the Lord,

Monday, March 12, 2012

Is your heart hidden?

Thank you to Kingdom Housewives for the image!

Yesterday, this popped up in my facebook news feed several times. At first, I ignored it. Sometimes the things people share are not for my eyes...But it kept drawing my attention...So I took a chance and clicked on it...

My eyes filled with tears as I realized the truth that this little image contained. As I heard my husband's laughter drift in on the breeze from our backyard baseball game with friends, I wondered, have I been living with my heart hidden in God?

Sadly, the answer for this weekend, is probably no. I've been living with my heart hidden in homeschool planning, recipe gathering, spring decorating and searching for local Irish Dance feisanna... I've been a bit distracted and (dare I admit it?) irritable grumpy.

Whenever the things of this world become my focus, I become self-absorbed and a bit less pleasant to live with. While the planning and recipe gathering etc. are all worthwhile pursuits, they should not have become my focus.

When my eyes and heart are firmly affixed on Jesus, I am better - a better wife, a better mom, a better friend...

I want my heart so hidden in Christ that my husband has to seek Him to find me!


Thursday, March 08, 2012

The comparison trap...

I've shared several days of homeschooling tips this week, but this last one is very close to my heart...

As a homeschooling mom, it is very easy to fall into the "comparison trap." After all, many of us (when we really admit it) have a bit of silent insecurity about the whole homeschooling thing - we're different, and many in society question our decision to teach at home. Sometimes at the end of a hard day, we may even wonder if we're capable of doing this...

This insecurity can rear its ugly head especially when we start to compare our children or our homeschooling with others.

All of Mrs. Smith's children read by the time they were 4 and are doing advanced algebra in 3rd grade. You may have a 2nd grader struggling with subtraction and a 5th grader who still struggles with reading. You may begin to wonder, is she more qualified to homeschool? What is her secret? Or more destructively, what am I doing wrong?

Mrs. Jones' children are all accomplished musicians and they have a family band. Your children can barely play Mary had a Little Lamb on the ipad app...are you a musical failure?...are your children destined for a life of musical ignorance??

How is her house always clean, and her laundry always done? She even bakes her own bread???!!!

The comparison trap is a slippery slope. It's so easy to begin that downward slide just by looking at someone else's accomplishments and seeing how you fall short. Comparing ourselves to others is quietly destructive because it's a trap that we set for ourselves.

Our skewed comparisons are not how our Heavenly Father sees us. I don't think God looks down at my humble little homeschool and says, "her bread never rises evenly, and are those shriveled peas on the kitchen floor?" He is infinitely loving and sees even our meager obedience as a sign of faith.

Whenever we start to compare ourselves with others, it is harmful. Why?

We can't look around us and still keep our eyes focused on God. 

He doesn't want his beloved homeschooling daughters to walk around this earth feeling inadequate for our calling just because someone else has different gifts.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
Psalm 139: 14 ESV

I've found that this verse is very comforting when I have to climb out of the pit of comparison. It's like a lifeline for me!
image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono

I am fearfully and wonderfully made and so are you. (Go ahead and say it out loud!) Our gifts may be vastly different, but we both cause our Father to rejoice with singing! 

The same God who made sunsets that leave us breathless with their beauty, made us. His work in fashioning us is no less wonderful. Your unique gifts are perfectly suited to raise and homeschool your children.

If you are struggling with comparisons that aren't beneficial, remember the last line of the verse, "my soul knows it very well." It's ok to know and recognize the wonderful gifts that God has poured into your life. Know them and use them to His glory and you'll avoid the comparison trap!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Planning...next steps

I've talked a lot about planning lately...but once you have all those wonderful materials for next year, now what?

Since I use a wide range of materials, nothing is planned out for me. It's a lot of work over the summer, but when you are sitting on the patio enjoying the beautiful sunshine with some cold lemonade, it is actually quite enjoyable.

The first step, is page through all the materials and try to decide how to break up long chapters into manageable pieces, or decide how many days a week we will use the materials. Then I sit down with my planning grids and write away...I plan everything from quizzes to movies to extra books from the library...All of this up-front work saves a lot of time during the school year.

This grid is set up to plan any subject for up to 5 days a week. You are welcome to get a free copy of my planner at the following link: Blank Lesson Planner. (When you print it, be sure to change the orientation to landscape so it prints correctly.)

I fill one of these lesson planners out for each subject. Then as we go through our school year, I check off the boxes as the assignments are completed. I like the flexibility of this system - if Little Man wants to do an extra lesson of Math, I just check off an extra box and it hasn't ruined weeks of plans.

Then I take the lesson plans by subject and put them on individual assignment sheets for each of my kids. Yes, this is a bit labor intensive, but necessary in our house. The kids were confused looking over the grids to find their assignments and I got tired of having to write each assignment on the white board. I print out one week's worth of assignment sheets and put them in a 3 ring binder. The kids can look at their assignments even if I'm busy.

I only plan one week at a time. (And, coincidentally, I don't post on Fridays because I usually spend that afternoon after co-op planning for the following week.) If someone isn't able to complete everything on their assignment sheet, it just gets moved forward to the following week. If someone completes extra lessons, I record them and check them off on the planners - again, it doesn't mess up 2 weeks worth of carefully planned assignment sheets.

I've found this is a really useful assignment sheet, 1 page per day for upper grades (6th +). You are welcome to get a free copy at the following link: Assignment Sheet Upper Grades. When I use this for Precious Girl, I print it 2 sided so I don't waste paper.

Here is a link to the another week-at-a-time assignment sheet for those who like that system better: Assignment Sheet Weekly. (Be sure to change the orientation to landscape so it prints properly.)

I hope these resources were helpful to you!

Blessings as you plan,

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

When planning feels like bondage...

image courtesy of Michal Marcol freedigitalphotos.net
Sometimes there is a fine line between having a plan and becoming a slave to your plan...

This is an area that I have struggled with extensively over our years of homeschooling. When I first started homeschooling, I didn't realize how many rough edges I had - rough edges that would be lovingly sanded by my Heavenly Father through homeschooling. But could be another post all its own...

I'm a perfectionist at heart and the ugly truth of that was, if something was written in my plans and I didn't get to check it off - at the end of the day I felt like a failure...Or perhaps worse, I worried that I may have failed my children...

I would lie awake at night and worry that a workbook page remained blank...and what would the school district think of that??

Neurotic? Yes. True? Sadly, yes.

I was so focused on checking off those little boxes in that slick all-planned-out-for-me curriculum we purchased that I forgot why we were homeschooling in the first place...(you can read our homeschooling testimony here.) Sadly, Precious Girl who needed her mommy to help her heal, was sometimes forgotten in her mommy's quest for homeschooling perfection. 

Thankfully, God stepped in and showed me that homeschooling was not about the lesson plans, it was about my child (and ultimately about obedience to Him). He showed me what a mess I was making by trying to do school in my own strength.

God helped me to see that homeschooling is about bringing honor and glory to Him, not the curriculum company (or showing the school district that Precious Girl was better off at home thank you very much). He helped me to gain freedom from planning bondage when I put our homeschooling fully in His infinitely capable hands.

He gently taught me flexibility when there was too much to do...
He taught me the beauty of a mental health day when everything was going wrong...
He taught me that the only plans worth following were His.

The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps.
Proverbs 16:9

There are still days when I struggle with those things that are left undone, but I've learned that having a joyful journey with my children is much better than a bunch of neatly checked boxes.

Tomorrow I will share some more homeschool planning tips! I hope you'll join me.

Linking Up:
Far Above Rubies
Growing Home
Time-Warp Wife
Deep Roots at Home