Christmas joy

Whew!  I think the rush of Christmas is over for another year...at least I'll be able to say that when I get my Christmas cards done!  It's the one thing that I just couldn't squeak in, but I'm hopeful it will happen before New Year's.

We had a lovely, lovely Christmas.  It was just the three of us this year, but memorable and sweet.  And yes, we even had a white one!  It was fun to have no schedule and just savor the crackling fire, good tea and good food, play games, and explore our presents.  I got well into Sarah Palin's new biography (well-written!) and worked on our yearly Christmas puzzle.  After a busy month of teas, parties, and special events, it was good to enjoy God's Peace.  I've just been overwhelmed the past few days pondering on the goodness of the Lord to us, how incredible it is to be the object of His love and care.  The Incarnation is still the most staggering thought, the best "Good News" we could ever have received.

Christmas brought SweetPea a neat opportunity to finally put her piano training to good use.  Our new little church has been without a pianist for some time, so she was their 'guest' pianist for the Christmas Eve service.  I think it's refreshed her personal vision for her music and is helping her see some of God's purpose in the long years of training and practice.  We're delighted, and grateful to the Lord for opening up this new door for her. 

I'm hoping for some 'think' time this week.  Being an incurable planner, I'm already knee-deep in goals and lists for 2010, and I need to think through this coming semester and try to get a handle on what we need to accomplish both on school and home fronts.  Always seems like a process of weeding out and prioritizing...what do I really have to do? and how can I work in what I want to do this year?  (You know, stuff like refinishing furniture, writing, learning piano, larking my way through my nature journaling books...  )

Being newly reminded of how good it is to walk in God's peace and leadership, I'm excited and content to see what He has for us this year.  I really want Him to be Lord over everything.




Some Christmas reads

This week we've read aloud "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever"--what a fun book!  We laughed and cried with it, and said to each other how well written it was.  Very good message of how the church has portrayed Christianity, not always in the most clear or welcoming light.  I'm glad for the fresh reminder of Christ's unconditional love.

I remembered we have a very old copy of "The Christmas Carol," annotated for school studies way back when, so we're going to read this aloud as a family in the next couple of weeks.  Who doesn't know this story by heart--with all the many spin-offs we've seen or heard?  But there's just nothing like pure Dickens.  I subscribe to The Writer magazine, and in the most recent issue, one article pointed out how excellent Dickens was at characterization.  So we'll piggyback some writing study along with our Christmas enjoyment.

(Ever the homeschoolers, right?   )



Cold, cold, cold!  Right now it's 6 degrees outside our breakfast nook window, headed for a high of 17.  For those of you who live far away in warmer climes, enjoy it!  We're actually enjoying this wintery weather, though I would like it a tad warmer.

Today is the only day this week we don't have to be somewhere outside of the house, so we get to homeschool all day.  Yay!  So much going on this time of year that it's a treat to be home for a whole day...

- SweetPea's got both math and science tests, as well as editing a story she's submitting to Vision Forum's story contest.  She and I are also planning a Christmas tea for some of our friends next week, so we're finalizing our plans for that.  Seemed like a good year to do this for us, with some good experience in all that hospitality entails.  And she's mad at work on a piano composition she has to have ready for her teacher in a couple of weeks.  It's a duet, which is harder to write.

- We're learning about Napolean and finishing up the French Revolution in our history studies.  What an amazing time in history that was; brutal, desperate, wild.  The church in disarray and powerless.  It makes me appreciate all over again the relative peace we in the western world are enjoying right now, thanks to the Lord's purposes at work and the sacrifices of righteous people with His vision.

- Fried rice with shrimp and baked butternut squash and salad for dinner.

- I'm thankful for a warm house, my family and friends, for the privilege of homeschooling.  God is good!


Changing churches

This is one of those things I really dislike--finding a new church.  It's like moving; you leave behind old friends and connections, have to go through the whole adjustment to a new body and how they do things, try to find the right classes for everyone, and forge new relationships.  Sometimes the reasons for leaving a church are unpleasant or hurtful, leaving you aching and cautious.  And inevitably you leave behind some good things that can make you wonder if you did the right thing.

Well, we've moved on to a new church without all that!  It's been an amazing experience, peaceful and full of blessing.  For several years we've gone to a very large church, a wonderful one, but this last year it was becoming obvious that things were changing for us, not the least of which was SweetPea.  She found she really disliked the youth culture/youth group and got involved as a Sunday School helper instead.  While that's good experience, we were concerned at the lack of spiritual input from her church experience, as well as a rather jaded attitude we saw in her about church in general.  We weren't really thinking about changing churches, but the Lord had other plans.

Due to some health issues I have had for a few months, our attendance over the summer was sketchy, and when fall rolled around, on a whim we decided to visit a nearby small church a homeschool friend attended.  It was wonderful, an unexpected joy.  Mature leadership, Spirit-filled teaching and worship, and a very loving body who welcomed us with open arms.  And SweetPea loved it!  After her first time in the tiny youth group, she said, "Mom, we actually use our Bibles!" 

Within weeks we were marvelling at God's wisdom and timing.  Most of the families in this church are homeschoolers with their own support group and activities.  I began to realize how isolated I had been feeling in the large church, and with our families living out of state, how I really missed the family aspect of church life.  It's a vigorous body, full of vision and outreach.  And they remember our names!

Anyway, it's been such a refreshing and unexpected change.  Best of all in my book is the eagerness I see in SweetPea--she can't wait until Sunday.  She's digging into the Word, hungry for God, and soaking it all up like a dry sponge.  And it might even be that the Lord will have opportunity for her to use her piano skills, something which couldn't have happened for years yet in the large church.

And all without striving and angst on our part.  What a blessed relief.  And what a profound reminder that Jesus is our Shepherd.  He's charting the path ahead of us, planning loving and good things to surprise us with--all wrapped in Peace.  Wow.  I'm overwhelmed at His goodness, at His thoughtful and tender care.


Form follows function

One of the interesting things I've observed about our daughter growing up is how her changing stages affect the functionality of our home.  Just when I have the rooms of the house organized, and furniture set to meet needs in each room, and shelves, drawers, and closets in good order, I wake up one morning and realize that "we" have moved on and need a whole new 'functionality.'

So today I'm looking in our schoolroom--which only a few months ago was 'set' for the next five years (ha!)--and I realize that SweetPea is hardly ever in here!  With a new desk in her room, that is where she chooses to do school.  Or curled up on the couch.  Or sprawled on the floor somewhere.

I suddenly notice that bins of crayons and markers, stacks of construction paper, math manipulatives, and other elementary-years stuff, won't probably be needed anytime soon.  (Do high schoolers still color?)

Which means that maybe I can put away some of these irrelevant items and move some of my sewing stuff from the dark and unappealing basement to this lovely, bright room!  It's a sad thought and a happy one.  I thought homeschooling would go on forever, that in some distant decade I would have time to focus once again on 'my' stuff.  While I'm loving SweetPea's independence in her studies, with only one offspring in the house, it means we're steadily moving toward being done.  Homeschooling has defined our life for so long that I quaver at the thought of the changes being done will bring.

But as with other major changes in my life, I must remember that each season of life God gives me, His favor and blessing and high purpose will cover it.  I can choose to see this coming changes as part of the adventure of living, under the masterful hand of the One who defined my life before the foundation of the world.

So I'm going to enjoy sewing in this happy room and savor every minute of this wonderful time with my beloved SweetPea.  Thank You, Lord!


A visitor, a play week, and a good book

A fun week on the way...no school!  One of those privileges of homeschooling.  We started school early in August to be able to take some time off during the year, this week being one of them.  My beloved aunt, who is like a big sister to me, is coming to visit from AZ and we're gonna play.

I'm looking forward to endless cups of tea and some rollicking laughter.  I don't know if it's our chemistry or what, but my aunt and I can laugh till we're crying.  I'm due for some of that!  She is one of the neatest people I know and one of my all-time heroes.  (She was The Agent that introduced my beloved Hubby to me!)  She had a long career in missions, serving in South and Central America, retired now, but still full of the joy and zeal of the Lord.  I'm glad SweetPea is going to have the chance to just soak her up this week and glean some treasures.

And wouldn't you know it...we're welcoming her with SNOW!  We're due for some tomorrow and more later in the week.  Seems too early somehow.  Ah, well, once our yard is really cleaned up from fall leaves (they're still falling), then we can go into "cozy" mode indoors.

We just finished reading Escape Across the Wide Sea as a read-aloud.  It follows a French Huguenot family in the mid-1600s who have to escape religious persecution and end up on a very long journey to freedom.  While the book was neither really long or deep, it was a very compelling story, based on a true story.  We learned about the slave trade, sugar plantations in the West Indies, and how the French Christians finally found a place to put down roots in America.  A good story--I'd recommend it!



And fall danced...

Funny the small drama that played out around me on my walk yesterday. The wind, though not cold, blew and blustered around me in fits and gusts, no rhyme or reason to its direction. It blew and drove clouds of gold, red, and brown leaves about my feet, rattling and dancing and scuttling and swirling across the road in front of me. Trees bent to its invisible force, releasing their burden of colored leaves in showers about me, looking for all the world like flocks of birds scattering in wild array across the crystal blue Colorado sky.

The scene sparkled with action and color and aliveness. Neighbors raked and tried to keep up with the piles-in-the-making, and in the distance I could hear the drums of a high school marching band practicing for a game...homecoming, maybe? How good to be able to walk and smell and hear and see all the richness about me.  How good to see the Lord's hand everywhere.  He loves fall, too.

A wonderful time of year!


Fall fell...

...literally!  We've had a few days of very cold weather, freezing temps at night, and a lot of our leaves have simply fallen off en masse, without the beautiful golds or oranges.  Just a dead, blah, greenish-brown.  For those trees that didn't succumb to the cold, I'm hoping for a few weeks of Indian summer now so we can have some color to enjoy.

Had a fun visit from my sis and her husband this weekend, and though we had to bundle up against the chilly temps, it was cozy with a fire in the fireplace, an old movie, and some fun hanging out.  We don't have any of our families living nearby so it's always quite a treat when any of them visit.

My brother-in-law put me onto a free Bible software program, E-Sword.  In case you've never heard of it--wow.  It's amazing!  You can download it here.  Most of the resources are free:  Bibles, dictionaries, commentaries, graphics, etc., though some require purchase.  It has some great functionality, though; definitely worth checking out.

Thankful today for the grace of God that has given us all things to enjoy richly.


A lovely weekend

This was one of those 'satisfying' weekends.  We took a drive through the mountains to see the fall colors, marvelling again at the stupendous scope of God's handiwork.  Smells, vistas, reds, yellows, oranges...wow.  Amazing and utterly refreshing.

Come fall two things always happen to me...I want to cook and I want to sew.  So I had a happy afternoon doing both.  Made Swedish meatballs and creamed potatoes for last night's dinner, (recipe for the meatballs is on my Healthy Living blog), and sewed up a couple of little fleece dog jackets for Sadie the dog.  She's a short-hair and gets cold so easily.  Fleece was easy--doesn't need hemming and I just sewed velcro on for closures.  Fun.

We're well into another of Genevieve Foster's great history books in our school studies, George Washington's World.  We just love these books!  Sonlight's Core 6 had two of them, Augustus Ceasar's World, and Colombus and Sons, and we have yet to read Abraham Lincoln's World in the second half of Core 7.  Captivating reading, story-style, well-written.   I love how she weaves the random threads of history as we've learned it with stories of real people and their lives.

SweetPea is enjoying a creative writing program we got right here at the Old Schoolhouse Store, "Reach for the Stars," written by Susan Marlowe.  It's a great intro into the basic components of fiction writing--characterization, show-don't-tell, plot development, vivid description, etc.  It's a nice balance to the heavier school assignments for my young authoress!

Glad for a nice weekend, glad to be back to our routine tomorrow.


Need some strength?

In case you're tired and feeling like you can't pull it together for another week, here's good news!  In the Great Exchange, the Lord gives us His strength for our weakness.  I'm drinking at this well today!

"The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace."  Ps. 29:11

"Your God has commanded your strength; strengthen, O God, what You have done for us."  Ps. 68:28

"Let the weak say, 'I am strong.'"  Joel 3:10

"...the joy of the Lord is your strength and stronghold."  Neh. 8:10 (Amplified)

"As for God, His way is perfect...It is God Who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect."   Ps. 18:30, 32

"Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart.  Wait, I say, on the Lord."  Ps. 27:14

"He gives power to the faint and weary, and to him who has no might He increases strength--causing it to multiply and making it abound...those who wait for the Lord...shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired."  Is. 40:29, 31 (Amp)

"As your day, so shall your strength, your rest and security be."  Deut. 33:25 (Amp)

"...through the greatness of His might, and because He is strong in power, not one is missing or lacks anything."  Is. 40:26b

"I can do everything through Him who gives me strength."  Phil. 4:13

"For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, In returning to Me and resting in Me you shall be saved; in quietness and in (trusting) confidence shall be your strength."  Is. 30:15 (Amp)

"God is my strength and power, and He makes my way perfect."  II Sam. 22:33

Be blessed this week in His strength!


A lesson from the leaves

It's a cold, drizzly, gray day here, with snow falling in the high country.  Seems like summer was just in its fullness and yet here's the evidence that fall is really upon us!

I looked out the kitchen window this morning and saw that our aspen trees are edged with gold.  Their changing is so subtle, a bit every day, and yet within a few weeks they are transformed into a mass of brilliant gold.  It reminded me of something I've been pondering recently--the concept that most things with God follow the Law of Progression.  We want quick change, immediate answers, instant fruit, but that's just not how He's set it up.

Whether it the need for healing in our bodies, or character issues that cause us to stumble, the building of a business or the discipling of a new believer...it's all progression.  We homeschooling moms are doing this everyday, building precept upon precept, line upon line, academic and spiritual, until one day we see that "it came to pass."  While I am one who wants the immediate (!), nevertheless the stellar miracles are few and far between.  The Lord seems to be always aiming at the process part of it.  And at the other side of the journey, we could really call the results a miracle, because we know it couldn't have happened with our own resources.  It's all His blessing.

So while I chafe at the slowness of things, I am comforted when I see the leaves.  God who is the Master Designer of all things does all those things well.  The leaves don't have to "do" anything to bud and develop and mature through their process; they are empowered by their Creator.  So I, too, can rest in the progressions.  After all, isn't the root word of progression progress?



Character curriculum for young ladies

For the past couple of years we have been using a wonderful character curriculum I wanted to share with you.  Some of you may already be involved with this.  It's called "Bright Lights," developed by Sarah Mally who has also authored "Before You Meet Prince Charming" and "Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends."  This is actually a program that is conducted in home studies with groups of young ladies ages 10-14, and Sarah offers conferences as well to provide further training and encouragement.  You can read more about it at their website.

We attempted to do it as a group but it didn't work, so SweetPea and I have been doing it as part of our morning devotions.  I highly recommend the studies!  Sarah writes in a very conversational manner and includes lots of testimonionals from girls who have learned something valuable from their Bright Lights studies that has changed them.

The program is written in sets, each centered around a theme such as "Be Strong for the Lord in Your Youth" and expands on topics such as honoring your parents, friends, attitudes, our words, siblings, etc.  Sarah is writing further studies that are not yet available (hurry, Sarah!).

It's all based on Scripture, very solid, with lots of references to use in further study.  The cost is nominal and they also have accompaning CDs with more study and testimonial material.

What I have particularly loved about this program is the wonderful discussions it has sparked!  And because it's written to the girls, SweetPea has taken the challenges personally and responded with some beautiful attitude adjustments and a greater desire to be a Godly young woman for the Lord.  God was so good to have led us to this program.  If you're looking for something to bolter your parenting efforts for your young lady, this might just be the answer!



A great first week

We had a really wonderful first week back at school, better than my expectations--all thanks to the Lord!  We're both really happy with our new schedule, liking our studies, and I think overall, really grateful for the balance the Lord has brought to our homeschooling life.  It's something I've been working at for a couple of years.  I know we'll have our ups and downs in the course of the year, but with a strong start, I'm encouraged and hopeful that we're on the Lord's track.

This year, Sweet Pea's 8th grade year, we're doing Sonlight's Core 7, the second half of a two-year world history adventure picking up at the late Renaissance.  The King's Fifth by Scott O'Dell is a captivating adventure that takes place in northern Mexico during Coronado's explorations (quite a look at the devastation the Spaniards' "gold fever" caused to the indigenous peoples).  And our read-aloud, A Murder for Her Majesty is giving us a very authentic look at the world of musicians and the cathedral at York during Queen Elizabeth's time.  Fascinating.  If you read the book, be sure to do a Google on photos of the cathedral--there's some excellent collections that really give you a perspective on what happens in the book.  Amazing building.

We're also doing Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra for math this year, Apologia General Science, Easy Grammar 9 for a light review, and a big-time emphasis on writing.  We'll be working through exercises in Jensen's Format Writing as well as the fun fiction workshop, Reach for the Stars, sold as an e-book through HSB.  And SweetPea will be doing the public speaking class again in our support group, and piano.

So we have a full plate, but a rich one.  And as I've said a hundred times, I'm so glad I'm getting to do my education all over again!  Satisfies me to my toes.

Now I need to tend to my "day off" to tend to everything else!  The weather is beautiful so I'd better include some sunshine and physical effort outside.


Back to school!

We had a wonderful first day back at our homeschool today, thanks be to the Lord.  While we were both sad to have summer 'officially' ended, we both said it was good to be on a schedule and in a routine again.  And who can deny the thrill that comes with a new set of books and the prospect of new learning spread before you like a feast?

This school year brings us some changes as well, chief among them being SweetPea's desire for more independent learning.  So we're trying out a new schedule...and after one day, we like it!  We're up early and doing our 'together' work in the morning, then the rest of the day she's on her own.  Since we do Sonlight, I used the Instructor Guide page to add all the other studies--science, math, and out-and-about stuff for the week, made a copy for her, and she can govern her time to get it all done as she chooses.  She was a happy camper today, and I'm praising the Lord!

One of my summer goals was to look at our weekly schedule to see what we could trim or simplify and I was able to make some good changes.  So I'm hoping that this will be a more focused year on our academics.  I'm wanting her to really polish her writing skills this year, particularly essay writing in preparation for high school.  And I'm woefully behind in training her in various homemaking skills--sewing, bread-baking, etc., so maybe, just maybe, this will be the year!!

The Lord reminded me this morning of His wonderful help as we face a new school year:  "Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass."  Hallelujah! 

Be it unto to me--and all of us--according to His Word!


Jesus is winning!

We had a neat church service today.  Our pastor is just back from an evangelism conference in Hong Kong with 3,000 Christian world leaders in attendance.  It was thrilling to hear some of his report:

-  There were representatives from 100 countries there.  Of the 3,000 attendees, 1100 were from China!  What does that tell you?

-  God's work in India is accelerating in spite of the terrible persecution there.  In 2001, 2% of the population were baptized believers; in 2005, 7%; and now it's from 10%-12%.  Yay, Lord!

-  In China, the number of believers has multiplied 100 times in the last 60 years.  10% of the population is now Christian, meaning 160 million.  And this is largely through the underground church movement.

- The really ASTONISHING statement was the consensus of these leaders is that with the exponential growth of the spread of the gospel throughout the world, it is possible for every person on the planet to have heard the gospel within the next 10 years!!  According to the Word, then Jesus can come!  Let's really commit to prayer over this; even if we can't "go" and do the preaching, we can do the enormous groundwork through prayer and generous giving.  I'd like to recommend the book, "Operation World" by Patrick Johnstone to use as a daily pray-for-a-country resource--it's fantastic.  Tells the specific prayer needs, gives a myriad of statistics, has maps and other info.  Their website has each day's country up for prayer with all sorts of links.  You can view it here.

And finally, consider this wonderfully encouraging set of statistics.  This tells how many believers there were in the world from 100 years after Jesus's death and resurrection to the present at key times:

-  100 A.D.       1 out of every 360 people

-  1000 A.D.     1/220

-  1500 A.D.     1/69

-  1900 A.D.     1/27

-  1950 A.D.     1/21

-  1980 A.D.     1/11

Now.......1/5 or 1/6!!

This figures to 2 1/2 billion people from 639 people groups 100,000 people or more (6500 different language groups in the world) that still haven't heard about Jesus.

We've got work to do!!


I love the Sabbath

A wonderful rainy, thundery day here with tons of rain.  Wow, how we need it and how good of God to lavish this gift on us.  Second storm in 24 hours so surely our trees and growing things will explode with happy growth this week.  Good to have a legitimate excuse to nap, read, sip hot tea and soak in the refreshing, inside and out.

It's been a whirlwind few weeks here finishing up the end-of-year activities...a very fun Field Day with our support group, a mini-writer's conference for SweetPea and a couple of her friends, piano recital and Piano Guild for her, a few days' at-home vacation time with Hubby, and all the daily stuff.  Yet to come in the next couple of weeks are the push to finish Sonlight Core 6, SweetPea's biennial testing, switching out winter for summer clothes (you should see my mountain of ironing!), a wedding, and the fun prospect of a visit from a folks for a couple of weeks.  And of course, the yard work looms; I've hardly begun raking, much less pruning and planting.  Ah, well...what's really important will get done and I'll just content myself with that.

I've now gained the significant distinction of being the mother of a teen-ager!  SweetPea turned 13 this week, excited but feeling some qualms about all the horrors she's heard about the teen years.  I've seen some lovely growth of character in her the last couple of months, and I hastened to assure her that as long as her heart kept the Lord in first place, He would be faithful to make these years blessed and good.  My parents were always my best friends and I pray that I will give my daughter the trust and closeness they always gave me.

Gotta go smell the air outside!  It must surely be medicinal.


All things bright and beautiful

I've been basking in the incredible joys of spring these past few days.  It's finally been both warm and sunny so we've been able to really enjoy our back yard.  And as with every year, I forget how astonishingly colorful the whole scene is, like Dorothy stepping out of the house that just landed in OZ.

The blessings of the week...

- lilacs bursting into bloom, dispensing their heady fragrance

- roly-polys, spiders, and flies doing their bug thing

- the sound of lawn mowers buzzing around the neighborhood

- smells of flowers, warm soil, fresh-cut grass

- gaudy splashes of pure flower color everywhere

- dirt under your fingernails you can't get clean

- a puppy crazy with spring excitement

- flip-flops and bare feet (too sensitive from a winter entombed)

- first sunburns

- first BBQ's, picnic lunches

- dinner on the patio to soak it all in

- green, green, green, green

- happy, happy, happy birds

- the end of school and schedule pressure, the prospect of lazy, free days stretching ahead like a golden beach

Sigh.  What a gracious reprieve and gift after the long, gray months indoors.  Thank You, Lord of All.  We'll see if this year I can get all the projects done this season inspires!


Why I like old movies

There are a lot of reasons, of course--nostalgia for a simpler, more virtuous time, quality stories, moral uprightness, wonderful actors.

But watching the original "Father of the Bride" with Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor last night for Friday Night Family Night, I was struck again with one of the very significant changes that has taken place in children and their relationship to their parents in our culture.

Throughout the movie, "Kay" was respectful and loving to her parents, trying to submit to their wisdom and keep the peace, quick to forgive and not hold a grudge, very connected relationally to them, especially her father.  No sassy talk or backtalk, no rebellious overtones in everything, no implications that her parents were the get-a-life dummies to be tolerated.  Even the young fiance showed the same basic respect and honor for his elders.

I've seen this in so many other old movies.  Two wonderful kid movies that come to mind are "Flicka" with Roddy McDowell (and it's sequel, "Thunderhead, Son of Flicka") and "Misty" with David Ladd.  Let me tell you, it's almost a shock to see their "Yes, sirs" and submissive hearts to their parents and grandparents.  Not to mention, deeply refreshing!

I could almost cry for the loss of this fundamental--and Godly--virtue in our society's family structure today.  It shows up in cocky independence that hides only thinly behind a veneer of niceness if it's demanded at home, school, on the job, or wherever.  The fruit is that we carry a basic suspicion about people.  We don't trust them, believing they really have a hidden agenda or attitude of scorn or mocking.  If you compare the old movies with the fare produced today, you see what has amply fed this downward spiral.

This whole idea makes a case for selective viewing, doesn't it?  I pray that these 'voices from the past' will continue to speak a better way to this generation.

That's my Saturday Soapbox!



A great reading list

In trying to find some "screened" reading material for SweetPea, I remembered this wonderful resource I'd printed out some time ago.  It's put out by the Classical Education Support Group, called "1000 Good Books" and you can link to it here.  You may have heard of it.  If not, check it out--it's listed by age group (elementary through high school), anthologies, poetry, holiday reading, and classic literature.  Wonderful!


Sadness and peace

It's been an unsettling kind of week, the kind that drives you to the Word to get your bearings again.  A friend from our Sunday School class suddenly passed away a few days ago leaving a widow in very difficult circumstances.  A dear gal from our extended family lost her battle with cancer yesterday, which came as quite a shock as we all felt she was on the mend.  My older aunt fell and broke her arm.  And just listening to the news is enough to show that trouble is washing over this old planet on a scale we've never imagined.

But God!  To know that these two dear ones are now in His presence, free from suffering and receiving their "well done's" is really incredible.  And to be assured that for all the other trouble, God is lovingly and purposefully working out His plans.  Fear not!  Peace be still!  Rejoice!  These are not just abstract platitudes but bedrock assurances that in belonging to Him, we are free to have no fear, free to be at peace, and free to rejoice. 

I am profoundly grateful to the Lord Jesus for His grace, His Word, and His love. 


Some R & R

Well, spring break is nearly done here and it's been a great week.  We've been so schedule-driven in recent months that it's been wonderful to just...do nothing!  While it makes me a bit nervous to be so unproductive, I recognize the need for rest and space to just be.

The weather was mostly cold and snowy on and off all week so we didn't get a lot of outdoor time.  But SweetPea finished reading the 8-book "Anne of Green Gables series" she's been on for a few weeks and we watched the movies to go with it--what a fun story.  In fact, she and a friend are going to reinact three funny scenes from it for a teen public speaking class she's a part of.

I don't even know what I did!  I think a lot of reading and thinking and keeping up with the basics of home and cooking.  I think we're both ready to get back to our school life now.

A school observation:  In the early part of our Sonlight Core 6 history studies this year we read D'Aulaires Greek Mythology and a book about the Trojan War.  I was not impressed with either one of them and was sorely tempted just to ditch all those gods and goddesses living their crazy lives on Mount Olympus.  I wasn't convinced about why we really needed to study this.  However, we stuck it out and now I'm glad we did.  I can't believe all the times across the breadth of our daily experience--the news, books, movies, etc.--I hear references of one kind or another to Greek mythology.  I have never studied it before in my own education, but it's good to understand the context now.  Just today on the radio I heard the intro of an opera at the Met where they were explaining how the hero of the story was a lady-killer like Paris of ancient Greek lore.  I knew what it meant! 

Anyway, my two cents worth.


A wise woman

I've been challenged this morning in I Samuel 25, the story of David and Abigail, another wonderful picture of doing things God's way.

We see David, who is still living in the wilderness, hiding from Saul, sending messengers to Nabal requesting food for his men.  He reminds Nabal how respectful and helpful he and his men had been to to Nabal's sheepshearers before.  Nabal scorns him and refuses aid, acting according to the meaning of his name, "Fool."

Here is where David gets off track.  Normally, he seeks God in every situation and then obeys--"Shall I attack?  Shall I pursue?"  The Lord always gives him specific instructions and perfect victory is the result.  But here, David's mind of the flesh takes over and he reacts in anger, even making a rash vow to kill every male in Nabal's household.

Enter Abigail, Nabal's wife (her name means "source of joy").  She is declared in the Word as a "woman of good understanding," and she is told of this perilous situation.  Her response is courageous and very wise:  she takes food for David's army and heads off to meet him.

I love her approach, which shows something very key.  She couldn't have had "good understanding" without having known God's Word!  Watch how His wisdom permeates her appeal and counsel.

First, she agrees with David's righteous indignation and admits to Nabal's foolishness.  Then, she goes to the heart of the matter--David's own sin in avenging himself.  The Law in Leviticus 19:18 says, "You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people."

Next, she presents the lavish gift of food to these hungry men.  Proverbs 21:14 says, "A gift in secret pacifies anger, and a bribe behind the back, strong wrath."  One could argue that Proverbs hadn't been written yet, but this was obvious practical wisdom that was a common practice when approaching a ruler or king in any culture.

Then, in her impassioned speech, the Lord actually gives her prophetic words as she reminds David of who he is--the anointed king-to-be--and saves the punch for last:  "And it shall come to pass, when the Lord has done according to all the good that He has spoken concerning you...that this will be no grief to you...that you have shed blood without cause...or avenged yourself."  A king shouldn't act like this!

Her wise words wake David up and he sees that God has provided a way to keep him from sinning.  When he gets out of the way, letting God be his vindicator, God quickly intervenes and Nabal dies.

This amazing story is concluded with a final step in doing things God's way--both David and Abigail gather the spoils.  David takes this beautiful and wise woman to be his wife, and she is moved by God from a very difficult marriage to a place of blessing.

Wow.  A lot of truth here to chew on.  I have a personal saying that this illustrates:  You can't go wrong doing the right thing.  Having your mind renewed in the Word gives you His wisdom for any situation.  Choosing to be Spirit-led rather than flesh-driven puts you in a place of safety, with God handling all the "stuff."  And there's also this idea that we need to skillfully and courageously point people to God's truth, that His blessing may be upon them.

Thank You, Lord, that your Truth is ever new!


A call to PRAISE!

Some wonderful thoughts from Psalm 107 this morning...

"Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!  For His mercy endures forever.  Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy."

We are redeemed--"set free by avenging or repaying" according to Strong's.  It foreshadows the full work of Jesus' work on the cross for us.  But look at the fullness of our redemption:  we're redeemed from...being lost, hungry, thirsty, faint and longing... redeemed from affliction and distress caused by our own rebellion and rejection of God...redeemed from foolishness and sickness and sin...redeemed from trouble without and fear within...redeemed from poverty and lack, barrenness and loss and sorrow!

And what does He do for us in our redemption?  We are delivered from our destructions, led by the right way, established and satisfied, our chains broken and bars of iron cut in two, saved out of our distresses and healed of our sicknesses by the Word, brought to peace in the storm, brought to our desired haven, led to drink from springs in the wilderness, established and blessed, given a dwelling place, a fruitful harvest, increase and abundance, families like a flock, and peace!!

Good grief, what has He left out?  Nothing!  Every need met by His love and goodness and mercy.  This is my own testimony and to Him is all my praise.  No matter how difficult things get in the world, His "mercy endures forever."

The Hebrew style of poetry in music shows up so beautifully in this Psalm; four times is this wonderful refrain, "Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men," with this added in verse 22, "Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing."  Lord, today I declare Your goodness and mercy with profound praise and thanksgiving.  You are good!

And as a majestic finale to this call to praise, the last verse gives us our challenge with a promise, "Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the lovingkindness of the LORD."

Amen!  "Let the redeemded of the Lord say so!"



Spring fever

I'm so glad it's spring break time at our house because we're dealing with a major case of spring fever!  The whole natural world around us is waking up early this year and it's nigh unto impossible to stay inside.  I can't wait to wrap my hands around a rake and start snipping with the pruning shears.  SweetPea and I spent a lazy morning today planning our gardens and some kind of "fort" project for her.

Let's see...how about a quick update on our lives...

...We're moving steadily through Sonlight's Core 6 and will probably finish it by the end of May.  I've really loved the in-depth study of world history this time around (we did an intro in Cores 1 & 2) and have really gotten a better picture of how things connected in the Roman and Medieval civilizations.  We loved "Master Cornhill" as a read-aloud and for the first time I really understand the Plague and the great fire of London.

...SweetPea is doing pretty well with Saxon 8/7 though we've slowed the pace a bit.  I'm more concerned she really master the stuff with algebra in view.  Math is just not her thing but she's trying anyway.

...She's part of a special baroque piano concert in a week so is busy polishing her three pieces.  It's been quite a discipline to do this type of music--not her favorite, but I think she's gained some valuable skills.

...She's loving Apologia General Science.  What a well-written program and suited so well for independent work.

...I'm trying to focus on better nutrition for all of us--less sugar, more alternative grains, interesting new recipes.  I get lazy and default to "quick" foods but then we don't get enough fruits and vegetables.  It takes time to wash them and cut them up!  But we all really need the benefit of these good foods God made so I'm recommiting myself to a more diligent effort.

...We're all waiting for really warm weather to try out our new canoe!  Hubby got a wonderful-condition used one that has some features I like...non-tippable, non-sinkable.    I guess some fishermen designed it so it should serve us well.

...I'm enjoying a book study with some other homeschool moms, "Age of Opportunity," by Paul David Tripp.  A great approach to parenting teens, with some excellent and very practical ways to keep their hearts.  I highly recommend it.

Blessings on your weekend!  May the Lord be especially sweet to you today.


A writer's checklist

In working on the third rewrite for a homeschooling article this past week, I learned (or re-learned!) an important lesson, one that I'm going to make sure I teach my daughter...that of really organizing your thoughts before you begin writing.

Sounds pretty elementary, I know.  Most language arts or writing programs we use in the homeschooling community teach this.  But I've seen again in my own writing that while you may think you know where you're going with a piece, you can quickly find yourself in a mucky swamp of words, not sure where you're headed or how to get out of the mud.

So I'm going to use a master checklist something like this from now on, both for myself and for my daughter's assignments.  I want to make sure this analysis will include both pre-writing and post-writing editing.

1.  In a sentence or two, state clearly what you are trying to communicate to the reader.  (A "nutgraph" for your writers out there.)  Narrow it down as far as possible.

2.  Describe who your audience is--who you're trying to influence or persuade.  Then talk to them.

3.  What will your tone be?  Playful?  Serious? 

4.  What point of view will you be writing from?

5.  What format will you use for this piece--an essay?  A story?

6.  What anecdotes, quotes, and references will you use?

7.  How long will your piece be? 

8.  Have you done an outline?  Include intro/hook (what type), all sub-topics, conclusion.

Writing books will tell you that the real craft of writing happens in the editing phase after your first draft.  I wish it weren't true but it is.  Rarely--if ever--will you come up with something really stellar the first time around.  This is the hard part with kids; they don't want to work and rework their words.

So when your final draft is ready, it's good to sit on it for a couple of days.  Then go through and check:

1.  Did you promise something in the intro that you didn't deliver on?

2.  Have you used smooth transitions to lead the reader from one thought to the next?

3.  Can you change any passive verbs ("was") to active ones?

4.  Have you used colorful, sensory descriptions?  Metaphors?

5.  Reread each paragraph carefully.  Does it follow the topic sentence/supporting sentences format?  Does anything need to be put elsewhere or in a new paragraph?

6.  Did you show us, not tell us?

7.  Have you done a grammar and spelling check on the piece?

8.  Do any of your facts need to be double-checked?

9.  Have you had another pair of eyes read it for an objective view and input?

I'm sure there's more but these are some key things I have to walk myself through in my writing.  It's hard to keep all this in mind at once!  But I think it will come easier with practice, as with most things.



The birds are back!

And that only means one thing...no matter what they say...SPRING is coming!

I cleaned out the bird feeder outside our kitchen window yesterday and we've had the funnest time getting reacquainted with our bird family...pretty orange-breasted finches, squawky blue jays, robins, chicadees, juncos, flickers, and sparrows.  The finches are busy searching out their old nest sites in the ivy by the window, fussing and funny in their efforts.

No matter what craziness is going on in the world, the simple sweetness of the birds and the order of their lives rest my heart in the knowledge that 'God's in His heaven and all's right with the world.'


Control vs. authority

I don't know about you, but what I'm seeing in the news about all this governmental regulation over everything from the economy to our kids causes me alarm.  I know Bible prophecy tells us these kinds of things are coming, that we're looking at end-times stuff, but wow, doesn't it seem to be escalating at an astonishing rate?  On a German news site, my husband saw where at an economic meeting in Switzerland of world leaders, the German chancellor proposed a global economic unification.  Right out of the pages of the Bible.

I've been thinking about control.  If you look at the whole picture of what sin ushered into the world, it seems that control is at the bottom of it.  Satan wanted control.  Countries and tribes and leaders wanted control of one another and their people.  Husbands and wives want to control each other.  Parents want to control their children.  Children want to control their parents.  I want to control my life.  And on it goes.  The root is pride and selfishness and independence, and the fruit is war, destruction, rebellion, oppression, and chaos.

But look at God's way of doing things.  He gives authority which is delegated power.  But it's not power to control, it's power to govern.  To lead by example.  To serve others over oneself.  I think this is where the whole idea of submission in marriage has gotten off into the ditch; people misinterpret the authority to mean control.  And who wants that?  Authority is actually a trust that benefits those under it--if it's handled right.

So if I have a clear understanding of this differentiation, it leads me to see that a government that wants to control is out of line, out of God's way of doing things.  No matter how earnest or great-sounding the rationale.  And if I'm trying to control others, I'm out of line.

May the Lord help those in our government--and me--to use the trust that's been given them rightly and wisely.  Amen.

That's my soapbox for the day. 



It's a cold and snowy January day here, quite a switch from the record-setting 70s earlier in the week.  God is good to give us those little reprieves though; it reminds me of one of the things I like about winter...spring is next! 

Our pastor gave a very good sermon today on trusting God.  Timely, of course, with all that's going on in the world and our country.  He laid the familiar foundation about why we can trust God--"assured reliance" on His character, ability, strength, truth, faithfulness, and so on.  A wonderful reminder of Who it is we love and follow.

But what really struck me was the second part of the sermon, "Can God trust me?"  He asked, Can God trust your opinion of Him?  This touches so deeply on an issue we all struggle with, I think.  What do we really think about God when someone we love suffers or our prayers don't get answered or tragedy strikes?  A right conception of God is crucial to life and without it we're destined for doubt and unbelief, bitterness, or the shipwreck of our faith.

A precious friend of mine has lived this out before me in a profound way.  She and her husband lost their middle son, in his mid-20s, engaged to be married, to cancer a bit over a year ago.  Their prayers for his healing were not answered, at least not in the earthly sense.  But all I have heard from her is their praise and love for the Lord.  They have not gotten off in the ditch of bitterness and railing against God.  Instead, their Christmas letter said their desire was to "make His Name glorious."  They are pressing on to seek His will for what's next and are not lost in a sea of grief.

Wow.  A right conception of God?  An unshakeable foundation?  I guess.  I didn't do so well in my own hour of testing a few years ago, but eventually I saw that if I did not choose to trust God with all the unknowns and seeming contradictions--based on what He has revealed of Himself in the Word--then I would go from one bitterness to another until I lost Him completely.  An unthinkable course.

I'm glad to have had this reminder early in the year, to set my course and goals by this truth.  And to be reminded that this is one of the most important things I can impart to my daughter, that God is good, all the time, and that He is completely faithful and worthy of our trust.


A prayer friend

Of the many things I'm thankful for--and that's a lot!--I'm so very thankful for a special friend God brought into my life early on in my homeschool journey.  She's a kindred spirit in the truest sense, and the Lord has grown a precious friendship between us through the years.

One of the greatest things we share besides our love of the Lord and His Word is prayer.  Every Sunday that we're able, we have a phone prayer time over our coming week.  We pray over our schools and kids, our husbands and schedules and stresses.  Even just the freedom to talk out our needs and concerns helps to unburden our hearts or clarify our thinking and faith.

And wow, what a difference it makes in my week!   Not only does God answer prayer! but as the week unfolds it is no end encouraging to know that she's praying for me about whatever specific needs I have.  We have gone through many deep waters together...illness and serious health concerns, job layoff, support group crises, spiritual attacks and oppression, discouragement and weakness, parenting issues, homeschool stresses and needs...the list goes on.  We've had a safe place to talk it all out and know that nothing but love and support are there for us.  Thank You, Lord, and thank you, my friend.

We've seen the Lord's faithfulness and VICTORY through it all, whether the answer comes right away or has been a process.  It's become a commitment that we can't afford not to do, even with our busy schedules.

So I strongly encourage you to ask the Lord to give you a prayer friend if you don't have one.  I think homeschooling is a 'front-line' work of God that the enemy targets any way he can (you know what I mean, don't you?!), and in such agreement God promises to show His power.

"As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend."  Pr. 27:17


This 'n that

It feels good to back to our routine!  I guess we all function better that way around here.  The weather is mild enough to be out and walking regularly with sunshine to lift the winter doldrums.

School this week looks like this...

- The waning years of the Roman Empire, the invasion of the Huns (we're using both the Usborne Encyclopedia of History and the Kingfisher History Encylopedia--they compliment each other very well)

- Very interesting read-aloud on St. Patrick called "Flame Over Tara," excellent description of early life and Christianity in Ireland (I don't think I'll ever view St. Patrick's Day quite the same)

- Planet study and Moody videos on our galaxy and space

- Newspaper journalism/analysis and writing practice

- Oral presentation prep for our support group class on (I can't give away the topic lest any class participants might be reading this!)

Not to mention...SweetPea's practice and rehearsal for a special spring piano concert on Baroque music, the set-up of the latest of our animal menagerie--a hermit crab, and the start-up of her first little business--jewelry-making.  We have a friend who runs a homeschool bookstore who sells cottage crafts and is willing to see SP's stuff.  (I think I can count it as economic study, right??)

I'm having fun experimenting with my new pressure cooker, although I think I can safely say "timing is everything."  Did you know that by overcooking meat it actually gets dried out?!  But if you keep on cooking it it finally falls apart and gets tender.  ha!  Who would have thought?  Sounds like some kind of a safety net to me.  But I have had a couple of good successes so I press on with the pressure!  (Bad joke.)

Have a great week!



Back to school, back to Life

Happy 2009! 

We're back from our 2-week Christmas vacation with our families in Arizona--wow, what a wonderful time.  It was heart-satisfying on all counts, one of those "appointed" times when you know the Lord has had a hand in all the little stuff.  Weather was good, we stayed healthy, and most of all, our cups were filled with great family time and wonderful memories.  Thank You, Jesus!  You are the Giver of all good things.

I came home with a pressure cooker and an eagerness to cook again, something that has waned in recent months.  Yay for fresh inspiration!  I've tried a couple of recipes and I think it's going to be a boon for time savings.  Any great tips to share???

SweetPea surprised us just before Christmas by announcing that she had made the (momentous) decision to quit a horse program she's been in for three years.  This is a mounted drill group that takes a pretty big chunk of time and commitment to be in it.  We'd both been feeling the stress of "no margin" for some time, but I wanted such a decision to be her own, not influenced by me.  It was!  She wants to write and pursue other interests, and now is free to do so.  I was proud of her for having the courage to leave behind a good thing for something better.

So 2009 stands as an open door before us, promising all sorts of joys and delights inside.  Funny how the Lord works--one of my homeschool goals for SweetPea this year was that of writing, really getting solid in the basics before moving on toward high school work in a year or so.  And here it's just what she wants, something she feels God is calling her to.  So as we've begun school this week, it's been with a fresh excitement for us both and an assurance that the Lord is leading us into new things.