A great organizational tool

We had a quiet Christmas which suited us fine this year.  We've been so busy that it's been good to just rest and regroup!  I've loved having a few days to process the events of the year, get my calendar in order, and begin on my planning and goal-setting. I just love the whole notion of cleaning out, cleaning up, reorganizing, and prayerfully considering what God is speaking to me for the new year.

One of the biggest helps I've had the past few months is a free software program called ActionOutline Lite (the "lite" is the free version; you have to pay for the premium). You can plan anything in outline form and flesh it out in a second pane that works like a word processor.  It's fantastic!  I finally have a place to pop every little piece of information--in an orderly place.  The screen looks like this:

Each tab you create is a separate outline that organizes everything you want on that subject.  I have my daily to-do list, goals & planning, blogging and my writing projects (you can organize and write a whole article and see at a glance where to drop in a piece of info), holiday and gift planning, homeschool and support activities, etc.  If you end up with a lot of tabs/outlines, you can hide them or mark them into a favorites list.

You can use color and flags, different fonts, bring in URLs, use numbered or bulleted lists.  You can print directly from the screen, which I find saves me a lot of time cutting and pasting in a word processor. I'm quite amazed at the simplicity and functionality of the program.  Great happiness for an organizational freak!

The tutorial that comes with it is very clear and in minutes, you're in business.  You can read more at their website:  http://www.actionoutline.com/lite/

Happy organizing!


Jesus, Our Light - Day 12

The call to "walk in the light as He is in the light" (I John 1:7) is the invitation God has spoken to mankind since the beginning when He said "Let there be light" (Genesis 1:3).  It was never His plan to leave us in the devastation and darkness that sin caused--praise His Name!

He is building a kingdom of light-transformed people who love Him and will spend eternity with Him, enjoying Him and everything they were created for.  That little baby in Bethlehem was the Father's promise of perfect and restored life for us.

And the best is yet to come!  Listen to what Isaiah prophesied centuries before Christ came:

"The sun shall no longer be your light by day,
nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you;
But the Lord will be to you an everlasting light,
and your God your glory."
(Isaiah 60:19)

He was not only referring to Jesus being the Light of redemption, but also the Light of heaven.  Just as we see God commanding light to shine at the beginning of the Bible, at the end we see him declaring what our eternal home will be like after the end-times events.  The apostle John, in Revelation, describes the new, heavenly Jerusalem:

"The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it,
for the glory of God illuminated it.
The Lamb is its light.
And the nations of those who are saved
shall walk in its light...
There shall be no night there:
they need no lamp nor light of the sun, 
for the Lord God gives them light.
And they shall reign forever and ever."
(Revelation 21:23-24, 22:5)


Thank You, Jesus, for being willing to come and be our Light, for being our "promised mercy" when we could not help ourselves.  We can never thank You enough or praise You enough!  Help us to welcome Your Light today as freely as You have given it.

Merry Christmas!


Jesus, Our Light - Day 11

One of the hardest things for our human nature is to let the Light shine in our darkness.  Those deep inner places we don't want God to mess with.  Weakness, fear, bondage, things we loathe and things we like and don't want to give up.  Yet to enjoy all the promised goodness and freedom of God's love, we have let it be on His terms.

"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.
Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in
all goodness, righteousness, and truth)...
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness,
but rather expose them...
But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light,
for whatever makes manifest is light.
Therefore He says: 'Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead,
and Christ will give you light.'"
(Ephesians 5:8-14)

 The great gift of the Incarnation is that in accepting Christ's light, we are changed!  Daily set free from the damaging works of darkess.  There's nothing in the way now between us and God--unless we want it that way.  

My prayer today is that we all will have a fresh revelation this Christmas of the incredible work He came to do for us.  We are Light-bearers in this very dark world, and every word or deed is an opportunity to dispell darkness. 

"You are the light of the world.
A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden,
nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand,
and it gives light to all who are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men,
that they may see your good works
and glorify your Father in Heaven."
(Matthew 5:14-16)

Let the Light shine!


Jesus, Our Light - Day 10

Paul the apostle had a startling encounter one day with the Light.  In prison for preaching the gospel, he recounts the amazing story to the king, hoping to persuade him to see his need for Jesus.

On his way to arrest Jewish Christians in Damascus for heresy, Paul reports, "At midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me" (Acts 26:13).  He falls to the ground, blinded, and hears Jesus Himself speaking to him, charging him with the mission to preach salvation to the Gentiles:

"...to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light,
and from the power of Satan to God,
that they may receive forgiveness of sins and 
an inheritance among those who are
sanctified by faith in Me."
(Acts 26:18)

Here's that wonderful symbolism again--Paul, who thought he knew the light (righteous in his own self-righteousness)--is plunged into blinding darkness that he might have his spiritual eyes opened to the Truth.  He receives his sight back three days later--a changed man, with God's Light in his heart, the revelation that Jesus died to give him God's own righteousness.

How fantastic that God seeks to reveal Himself to us personally, wanting so much for us to 'see' His heart, His invitation, the complete deliverance from darkness that He's provided through Jesus.  I love these words in I Peter 2:9-10:

"But you are a chosen generation,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
His own special people,
that you may proclaim the praises of Him 
who called you out of darkness
into His marvelous light;
who once were not a people
but are now a people of God,
who had not obtained mercy
but now have obtained mercy."

Marvelous light.  What an invitation!  


Jesus, Our Light - Day 9

Interestingly, my study today 'happened' to coincide with the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, which is also called the Festival of Lights. This story is from the extra-Biblical Book of Maccabees in the Apocrypha.  Though an entirely Jewish holiday, we see some wonderful symbolism in it that speaks of Jesus, our Light.

In the years before 165 B.C., the Jewish nation had been under the rule of the Greeks.  A pagan king named Antiochus Ephiphanes had defiled the Temple and forced the Jews to abandon their faith.  But a brave group of young men under the leadership of Judah Maccabee revolted and successfully overthrew the pagan rule. Judah headed up the work of cleansing the Temple and rededicating it in 165 B.C.

But when they restored the temple service, they found they only had enough holy oil to burn for one day, the rest of it having been defiled by the Greek invaders. This oil was a symbol of the eternal Presence of God, the Light of the World, and had been commanded by Him to never go out (Exodus 27:20-21).  It would take a week to prepare and consecrate more oil.  By faith they went ahead and lit the flame, and God miraculously kept it burning for eight days until more oil was prepared. Thus, the miracle of Hanukkah, which the Jews have celebrated ever since.  It's interesting to note that Jesus Himself was present in the Temple on this day; the account is in John 10:22-23.

The beautiful picture above is the menorah, the lampstand in the Tabernacle where the holy oil was burned.  It was made of pure gold and was the only light in the holy place.  What a picture of the promised Messiah!  Matthew speaks of Jesus as that fulfillment, referring to the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14:

"'Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son,
and they shall call His name Immanuel', which is translated,
'God with us'."
(Matthew 1:23)

Hear Jesus' words again about Himself:

"Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you;
he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going.
While you have the light, believe in the light,
that you may become sons of light...
I have come as a light into the world,
that whoever believes in Me
should not abide in darkness."
(John 12:35-36, 46)

Jesus is the Light of the World!


Jesus, Our Light - Day 8

We have seen what the prophets said about the Light that was to come, and we've seen what Jesus' followers had to say.  Later, Jesus Himself boldly declared that He was the Light.  He not only revealed what darkness looked like in the human heart, but showed the power of His Light to transform it.

In the familiar story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8), we see Jesus' forgiveness and mercy to a sinner.  This was played out against the iron-clad, law-enforcing Pharisees who would stone her on the spot.  But after Jesus granted her forgiveness, He turned and spoke to the Pharisees:

"I am the light of the world.
He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness,
but have the light of life."
(John 8:12)

An interesting wrap-up to that drama. Implication? Their merciless self-righteousness actually came from darkness.  Jesus was showing the heart of the Father--His deep desire to bring His loved ones back to Life.  Mercy, grace, second chances. The path back is Jesus.

He says it again in John chapter 9, where we see Him healing a man born blind--another beautiful picture of God's illumination of human darkness and misery.  This poor man had literally only ever known 'darkness' and was gloriously healed. Jesus explains to His disciples:

"I must work the works of Him who sent me ...
As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
(John 9:5)

One small detail, though--Jesus had healed on the Sabbath.  An unforgivable offense in the eyes of the Pharisees.  Instead of glorifying God for His mercy to the blind man, they create a furor trying to trick the healed man into condemning Jesus.  Their unbelief and hard hearts made them blind to God's mercy, the "peace, goodwill toward men" sung by the angels the night Jesus was born.

The Father's mercy to us is Jesus. Thank You for opening our eyes, dear Lord, and for setting us free to walk in Your Light!


Jesus, Our Light - Day 7

It's the start of a new week and the second half of my 'take' on the twelve days of Christmas...hope these reflections bless you as much as they have blessed me! The study in the Word has been wonderful.

The apostle John seems eager to communicate to his readers in his New Testament writings this whole idea of Jesus=Light=Life.  In his gospel, he starts right out in chapter 1:

"In Him was life, and the life was the light of men,
and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it...
This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light,
that all through him might believe."
(John 1:4-5, 7)

Again, in his first letter, he starts right out:

"This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you,
that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all."
(I John 1:5)

"Darkness" here in the Greek is the word scotia, which means gloom, evil, sin, night, moral depravity.  It also has the implication of everything that came to us from the fall of man--enmity with God, our sinful nature, and every kind of demonic work in mankind.  All the trouble in our lives is some manifestation of the curse of darkness at work in the world.

I remember as a child pondering once on the curious circumstance of 'waking up' born into the world, not having had any say about when or where I would live, which family I would belong to, etc.  It struck me how unbelievably fortunate we were to have discovered that our Maker was benevolent, that the universe ran by His love, that we didn't find ourselves the victims of some cruel experiment of a malevolent god.

Then, when I discovered that this terrible thing called 'the fall' and sin had happened to us, and that the good God had already taken care of it by the time I arrived on the scene through Jesus--well, I knew I wanted to belong to Him.  If it took that kind of a price to fix me and the world, I could never honor Him enough, thank Him enough.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,
and comes down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning."
(James 1:17)

Thank You, Father!  Thank You, Jesus!


Jesus, Our Light - Day 6

It's interesting to see how God used light to reveal Jesus when He was born--by a star.

The wise men who came from somewhere in the east had an understanding that this unusual Star meant that the King of the Jews had been born (Matthew 2:1-11).  In obedience to that revelation (prepared hearts!), they kept at their quest to find this baby King until that same star actually led them to the very spot. I love how God uses the symbolism of darkness and light here--stars don't shine during the day.  It was in the darkness that the wise men found Jesus.

Centuries before, a prophet named Balaam had actually called the coming Messiah a Star:

"I see Him, but not now;
I behold Him, but not near;
A Star shall come out of Jacob;
A Scepter shall rise out Israel...
Out of Jacob One shall have dominion."
(Numbers 24:17, 19)

And the apostle Peter, writing years after Jesus' resurrection, uses the same symbolism to call us to the Light of Christ:

"And so we have the prophetic word confirmed,
which you do well to heed
as a light that shines in a dark place,
until the day dawns and the
morning star rises in your hearts..."
(II Peter 1:19)


Jesus, Our Light - Day 5

Within days of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem, his parents Joseph and Mary obeyed what all Jewish parents of firstborn sons were to do:  present him to the Lord in dedication at the Temple a few weeks after his circumcision.

Meanwhile, God was watching the heart of a certain elderly man in Jerusalem--nobody special--whom the Bible says was "just and devout."  This man Simeon was not only a passionate seeker of God, but he was waiting for the "Consolation of Israel," a beautiful phrase describing the Messiah.

Now I find it surprising that the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders were not on high alert at this time.  It is not hard to calculate by the prophecy of the coming Messiah in Daniel 9:25-26 that the Messiah was going to appear any minute. (That's a great Bible study right there.)

So I wonder if maybe Simeon had figured this out, had maybe been asking God about it, pouring out the longing of his heart to see God's promise come to pass.  Luke 2:26 tells us that the Holy Spirit gave him a very personal revelation--he would get to actually see the Christ before he died.  Then he was directed to go to the Temple.

What a scene!  There he was at the Temple, waiting, and here came Joseph and Mary to dedicate their new little son.  Simeon sees the baby and knows--this is the One!  Like Zacharias in our story yesterday, Simeon bursts into prophetic praise:

"Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
according to Your word;
for my eyes have seen Your salvation
which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of Your people Israel."
(Luke 2:29-32)

What I love about Simeon's words is the direct promise that God's salvation would not only be for Israel but for the Gentiles--just what God had promised Abraham at the beginning.  He's never left us out.  His light is for everyone!

God, may my heart be like Simeon's, prepared for You.


Jesus, Our Light - Day 4

Picture this scenario:  a few hundred years have gone by since Isaiah's prophesies about the coming Messiah, and Israel is still waiting.  One day in the Temple in Jerusalem, one of the priests, Zacharias, is chosen by lot to burn incense before the Lord on the golden Altar of Incense, which stood at the doorway to the Holy of Holies.

While busy about his work, suddenly the angel Gabriel appears to him with an astonishing message from God.  (There were a lot of angels in the Christmas story.)  God was going to give Zacharias and his aged wife a son in answer to a long-time prayer, a boy they were to call John (which means "the Lord has shown favor").  John would be a prophet whose job would be to help prepare the hearts of God's people for the soon-to-appear Messiah.

Prepare their hearts?  Why?  Hundreds of years with no prophetic messages from God and a history of national subjugation to foreign powers had dulled their zeal for their God.  Sin, darkness, and unbelief had crept in.  (Sound familiar?)  A hard heart is like hard soil--it can't receive seed or water to nourish it.

So Zacharias, responding like perhaps many of us might have, said, "What?!  I'm too old for that!  (Ahem.  As a priest, he would have been well aware of the story of Abraham, their forefather, who had a miracle son at 100 years old.)  Gabriel replies, "Okay, because you didn't believe me, you'll not be able to speak until the day this comes true--and it will come true."

And of course it did.  Zacharias had to write notes and use sign language for many months to communicate.  But in that silent time, he had a chance to prepare his own heart.  I imagine he searched the Scriptures to see if this could be true, and you know what he might have found?  The last message from God to Israel four hundred years earlier promised that God would send a prophet to "prepare the hearts of the people" (Malachi 4:5-6).

Those long months Zacharias had to ponder did their work in his heart.  Little John was born and Zacharias' tongue was loosed.  But instead of fear and unbelief, the words poured out of his mouth in a prophetic song of praise. His first words were of the Messiah:

"Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,
for He has visited and redeemed His people...
as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets 
who have been since the world began...
To grant us that we, being delivered from the 
hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness
before Him all the days of our lives...
To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death
to guide our feet into the way of peace." 
(ref. Luke 1:67-75)

Not many months later in a town not far away, John's cousin Jesus was born, another miracle baby, but this one, The One, was He whom John would one day say, "He is preferred before me, whose sandal I am not worthy to loose."  (John 1:27)

Just think--we don't have to wait like Zacharias did or Israel did.  We can prepare our hearts right now and let our praise and thanks be to God for this incredible gift of salvation, our Jesus.


Jesus, Our Light - Day 3

And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you.
For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, 
and deep darkness the people;
But the LORD will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you.
The Gentiles shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.”
Isaiah 60:1-3

Here it is again, that sharp contrast between darkness and light.  Doesn't it perfectly describe what we see everywhere?  Darkness, 'deep darkness,' blinding and crippling and imprisoning people everywhere.  Hopeless, helpless, and desperate—that's what darkness produces.  How that must have grieved the heart of the Father to see those created in His image and intended for kingdom-sharing to be so destroyed.

But He had a plan!  Jesus, because He saw our need and subjected Himself to our 'deep darkness,' can now share His glory with us, on us, over us!  Restore to us the privilege of Kingdom living; a glory and light so real as to be seen by others.  The 'increase of His kingdom' we read about yesterday is echoed here, His light rising upon us just like the sun in the morning.

How astonishingly blessed we are!  Today may you sense in a new way the freedom that His glory is upon you.  And if you find yourself in 'deep darkness,' cry out to Him.  He came for you.


Jesus, Our Light - Day 2

“... By way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, in Galilee of the Gentiles.  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined … For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder, and His name will be called 
Mighty God, 
Everlasting Father, 
Prince of Peace.  
Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end...”  Isaiah 9:2, 6-7

This glorious prophecy is one of the very moving passages in Handel's Messiah we hear at Christmas, which clearly declares the person and work of Jesus, our Light.  He is promised as the world's Messiah and Savior, Son of God and Son of Man, God Himself as part of the Trinity, the reigning King for all eternity, and bringer of Peace and perfect leadership for “us”--the ones He came for.  This is is what we celebrate!

In these troubled times, I often find myself praying the words of this passage.  I need the Lord Jesus as my Peace.  I need Him as my perfect Wisdom.  I need Him to govern my life and the world around me.  I need Him to carry the daily burdens of my life for me.  I need Him to be the Light on my path.

“Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end...”!  I can't say what comfort that brings to my heart.  He is on the increase!  His kingdom will prevail—in this world He loves.


Jesus, Our Light - Day 1

One of my most favorite things about Christmastime is the lights--twinkling on the tree, sparkling on homes and streets and buildings.  The world doesn't even know the vast significance of it, that Jesus came to be our Light, to shine on our darkness.  Without the Light we are blind and the darkness rules.

So I offer you my version of the "The Twelve Days of Christmas"--a devotional thought each day from the Word, a thankful look at the beautiful gift the Father of Lights has given us.
"Behold!  My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights!  I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles...I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house..."  Isaiah 42:1, 6-7
From the time God gave Abraham the covenant that in him "all the families of the earth would be blessed" (Genesis 12:3), He meant everyone--the Jewish people and the Gentiles.  It was His plan from the beginning to redeem all mankind, all those who would accept it.  So in this passage from Isaiah, written hundreds of years before Jesus was born, we see His promise to give His Son as a covenant to us, our eternal Light.

In the years after Jesus' death and resurrection, the apostles initially preached to the Jews, proclaiming that their Messiah had come.  But with broad rejection of that message, Paul, in obedience to the revelation of the Isaiah passage quoted above, declared that the message was for the Gentiles, too.  In Acts 13:47-48, he says,
"...For so the Lord has commanded us: ' I have set You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.'  Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord."
 Hallelujah!  Today I am glad and glorify the word of the Lord!


New week, new month, new snow

It looks like we're working on a white Christmas in our neck of the woods—we've had three snows in the last week and it's been too cold to do much melt-off. It's beautiful! I think our clan is secretly hoping that it'll continue for a few weeks, at least in a reasonable manner, to set the stage for the holidays. I always forget all the fol-de-rol that comes with winter, the cumulative hours of time to dress in layers, don boots, hat, gloves, scarves, then repeat the process in reverse; shoveling, shoveling, and more shoveling. But there's little that can compare to a cozy home, crackling fireplace, hot tea, cuddly afghans, hot soup and muffins, and the gallery-hung-pictures out every window. Might as well as enjoy it!

We had the perfect Christmas-tree-getting this last week. In the interest of simplicity, we have for years opted for an artificial tree since SweetPea was little. But this year we were invited to the mountain home of some homeschooling friends, who had a crowd of us in for the day to cut trees on their property, sing carols, enjoy hot soup and fellowship together. What a perfectly lovely day. My favorite moment was sitting by the bay window during the carol-sing, looking out over the pine-rimmed valley before me in dusk-light, watching curtains of snow hanging in the nearby mountain skies swirling toward us. A herd of horses nearby set off running across the valley to their supper in a barn on the other side. Wow. One of those snapshot moments for sure. (Oh, and to top it off, I took home a load of fresh farm eggs.  Happy sigh.)

I'm thrilled to report that my honey's back has improved hugely in the past three or so weeks. Very little pain and getting stronger by the day. Yay! Hooray! We give thanks and praise to the Lord, our Healer, for His mercy and grace. And thanks to those of you who prayed—we really appreciate it.

Today is a tremendously satisfying day...you might remember that I was helping get my mom's book ready to send to the publisher, a few months of editing, planning, organizing, copy editing, working remotely with various family members who all have had a part in the process. Well...(drum roll), I clicked “send” on Saturday! Yay! It's now in the hands of the publisher and staff, and we're within just a few short months of holding the book in our hands. All my mom's hard work and patience will be beautifully rewarded. What a neat learning experience for us all. Now begins our part in the marketing efforts, another “adventure in publishing”! Stay tuned...



Happy day-after-Thanksgiving!  Hope yours was a blessing in every way.  Aren't we so abundantly showered with every good thing by our good God?  At our church's Thanksgiving Eve service, our pastor exhorted us to look at all we do have, on the answers rather than the problems and difficulties.  A good reminder, as it's too easy to be overwhelmed by the sense of need on every hand.

Before this focus on Thanksgiving is lost in the tide of all-things-Christmas, I want to thank the Lord for His incomparable, wonderful, incredible Word.  I could list a thousand manifest specifics I'm thankful for, all under the heading of His lovingkindness in my life.  But to consider the gift of the revelation of Himself, His heart, and what He's done for us--the Word--moves me to the highest praise.  To be given a plumbline for right and wrong, detailed instruction on how to live with blessing and favor, to have life explained, to be invited to relationship with the One who made me, to have my future described, to find freedom from guilt and fear, to learn how to love others, to be given vast purpose for life...oh...

..."Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift"!  (II Cor. 9:15)


Pain and progress

While I'm held captive in the kitchen tending food on the stove, I have a few minutes for an update.  My poor blog(s) have been on the back burner (no pun intended).  My poor hubby's back has been the front-and-center issue in our family life the past couple of months, and continues to be that until we get the issue resolved.

Turns out he has a herniated disc, the culprit of his intense pain.  We have a couple of options before us now, including that of surgery, so we're seeking the Lord's wisdom what direction to go.  I'm thankful for the good help we've had with physical therapy, chiropractor, and the counsel of professionals--and the sustaining mercy of the Lord.  We're trusting Him for complete healing and restoration.  We'll all be glad when this is done!

SweetPea has managed to stay on track with school and make good progress through it all--and has had a special blessing sent her way in these recent weeks, ice-skating lessons.  It's really a dream-come-true for her.  She's not a sporty person but she seems to really have found her thing and is making rapid progress.  Couldn't be easier for Mom, too--an ice rink a mile from the house and early Saturday morning lessons (yawn!) that don't interfere with school and free time schedule.  God is good!

I'm in school, too--publishing school!  We're making progress on finalizing my mom's book manuscript for publication with a self-publisher, getting excited as we see the whole thing coming together.  I had a phone interview last week with the publisher, talking through the process and learning all that goes into both creating a book and marketing it.  I used to do this back in my single days, but the whole industry has changed dramatically with computers and internet.

Had to share some of our fall pretties, though after a heavy, wet snowstorm a couple of days ago, there's not much left of our autumn color.  Glad we've got pine trees to keep us company over the colorless winter!



I'm pleased with the steady progress SweetPea has been making in her schoolwork this year so far; partly due to our decision to keep a watchful eye on how many outside activities to participate in and partly due to her own commitment to 'stay the course.'  Last year's outside stuff piled up the second semester and pushed some of her studies way out into summer, so we don't want to do that again.

One of the lovely benefits of a more disciplined schedule is that we've had time for some really meaningful discussions.  I remember this age as being when I really began to take hold of my own accountability to the Lord and know that I wanted Him to be the defining presence in every part of my life.  What a privilege to be daily with my daughter, helping her work through her issues and seeing God grow not only our relationship, but hers with Him.

Several of her friends are seniors this year and having to grapple with the 'what am I going to do with my  life?' question, check out colleges, fill out paperwork and pursue scholarships...and I'm SO relieved we're not there yet.  Still a couple of years away, but it seems quite overwhelming right now.  Thank God He has a plan for my daughter and will show us what to do.  I'm not ready to let go of my little girl, to let the big world have her just yet.  Homeschooling an only child means that when she graduates, so do I, sort of. 

So I'm thankful for these quiet days together, for the joys and laughter we share, and for this learning journey we're both on. God is so incredibly good!


Whose side am I on?

I've been pondering in recent weeks about the subject of criticism/judgment/accusation.  Seems like there is so much of it out there, either flying at us from others or doling it out ourselves, whether overt or subconscious, just or unjust. 

If you are a recipient of this unlovely trio, you know how painful it it, how it can paralyze you with insecurity and hurt.  We feel misunderstood, our hearts race to our defense, and we might lash back, fight for justice and dig in to maintain our position.  Or we might simply cave in, believing that we are really that bad and buy the whole package of "I'm not worth much."  The net result is usually that we distance ourselves from the source and go into protectism mode, avoidance.

The other side of the coin is when we dish it out.  "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks," so whatever we've been secretly thinking about someone might come out in a 'justifiable' situation, usually when we've got a sympathetic audience or directly at the target when the moment is right. 

In one of those moments recently--when I was giving rein to my accusation of someone--the Lord spoke to my heart and in essence said, "Did you know that you're helping the devil do his work?"  Ouch!  The Word says that he is 'the accuser of the brethren," one of his main job descriptions.  He's busy all the time working to tear us down, render us useless from within because we have to agree that we're not...whatever.  So my critical and accusing words are working beautifully into his plan against that other person--and I feel right and righteous in my 'position.'  After all, isn't my judgment right?

I see another whole realm of reason that God calls us to LOVE others (the second commandment, remember?).  When we look past the sins and shortcomings of others, entrusting them to the Lord's (effective) working, we are participating in His work of healing, blessing, restoring--to His righteous standards.  We can look past their faults and see their need.  It cuts them the slack they need to continue on their own path of deliverance and healing.  Don't I want that kind of mercy from others?

Another perspective the Lord has reminded me of is that everyone thinks they're right.  If that weren't the case, they'd be doing it differently.  Either that or they just didn't think about it, think it through, in which case they'd probably change if they knew they were wrong and could change.  Seeing it that way diffuses the missiles I'm ready to hurl their way (which is because I think I'm right).  Track that whole process back to its root, and I see that it's pride at work, a desire to control.  It's really about me, not correcting the other person or helping them to grow.

Well, needless to say, I'm working on it!  Having seen a fresh perspective from the Lord on this, I'm asking His help daily both to see where I'm operating in the wrong camp and get back to the right one, from my heart.  I'm so glad for His mercy.


A snapshot of today

If you came to my house today, you'd see...

Me...in the kitchen, frying chicken and cooking broccoli for supper, scooping handfuls of small garden tomatoes into a serving dish, and spooning marinated yellow bean salad into a bowl. What a beautiful palette of colors to enjoy--red, green, yellow. Makes it such a pleasure to cook.

My hubby...just home, resting his hurting back with a heating pad after a long day at work. He really did a number on it it while getting ready for our camping trip a few weeks ago, reinjuring an old trouble spot, and it's been quite a siege of pain, ice packs and massages, pain pills and chiropractor visits, physical therapy and lots of prayer. Thankfully, we're seeing daily improvement and yesterday got the good report that it's not a disc involved.

SweetPea...in the kitchen preparing the broccoli, helping pick up the house for a friend's visit this evening. She's had to do school pretty much on her own since we began four weeks ago since I was quite distracted taking care of Dad, but she's done a super job and is right on track. (I think I'm working myself out of a job here. Sniff.)

Mysterious jars labelled "rice, hay, egg, soil" sitting on a family room table...a biology experiment in process. We took a lovely little field trip the other day to collect pond water and see what would grow in those cultures. Pretty gross, smelled bad after a few days so I made her do her microscope work out on the patio.

A mess on our dining table...at least three sewing projects in process: 1) A skirt SweetPea needs to hem so she can wear on Sunday, the fruit of our summer's sewing class; 2) a quilting project I'm trying to work on--two pillow shams to match a quilt I did years ago for our guest bed (problem: new pieces look pretty vividly colored next to the faded quilt; I'm thinking I need to run them through some hot-water & soap cycles in the washer to force-fade them); and 3) several little fleece jackets for our little black dog--her short hair just doesn't keep her warm and she's already huddling in her bean bag to keep warm.

A lovely pile of watercolor supplies in my workroom...new paints and another brush to round out a nature journaling kit I'm putting together, sitting alongside a stunning how-to book from the library, The Watercolorist's Essential Notebook--Landscapes by Gordon MacKenzie.  And to further inspire me, I'm loving a garage-sale find, The Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden.  Not sure when I'll find the time to dig very deep into this stuff right now, but it's such a refreshing pasttime that I think I need to work it in. While on my current sewing roll, I'm going to make a denim field kit with pockets and ties to carry everything in.

A wilting pile of squash plants in my garden...after a heavy rain last night and some too-cool weather for them. I'll have to clean them out this weekend. But I'm happy to still be harvesting beans, collards, tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, and kale. Hope that first frost won't happen for a while!

A very cute little black dog called Sadie...bumping my leg and wondering why I'm not paying attention to her. 

A pile of books, papers, and notes on my desk...no, not homeschooling stuff--writing stuff! I came home from our summer trip to Arizona with a new and very exciting project to work on, helping my mom get a book published! We are going the self-publishing route, which is now a direction many authors are going, given the publishing environment (hurting). If you are interested yourself, I'd highly recommend the book, The Indie Author Guide ("indie" stands for independent)--a fantastic resource for DIY publishing.   We're going with a self-publisher who also handles a lot of the marketing. In case you haven't heard, marketing is something that authors have to do themselves now, no matter which way your book gets published, traditional or self-published.

More books, papers, and notes on my other desk...yup, homeschooling stuff. I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm still working on SweetPea's grades from last year, but it conveniently fits the "later--much later" pile, so I keep ignoring it. My goal is to keep up with all the record-keeping and transcript stuff for this high school thing and not panic in her senior year because I was derelict in duty, but I don't have to do it today...

In the basement...no, sorry you can't go there. That's The Place where no matter how hard I try to keep it organized, it defies me. Today a search for some yarn and a turtleneck wrought some chaos that I can't get back to 'til the weekend. Beside, there an irritating cricket that somehow got lost down there, and we can't find him. He seems to give voice to the general mockery of my noble attempts at order. He, too, might win--I can't stand squishing a cricket.

That's our snapshot of today.  "Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox." (Prov. 14:4)  Lots of 'oxen' here...but I love the promise of much increase!


A Sunday afternoon

We've had a spectacular shot of fall this weekend...much cooler, crisp clean air, the stillness that breathes rest into your very bones.  I don't think we're done with summer yet, but it's sure been a treat.

After church today, the loveliness beckoned, so I grabbed my much-neglected nature journaling set and parked myself in the backyard to observe our late-summer flowers.  Several last-minute stragglers still flourished and I had to capture their colors.  I'm learning to work with watercolor pencils and need a lot more practice...but it was satisfying nevertheless to sit still and really observe the incredible artistry of our God.  Have you ever noticed that every flower He made is perfect??



We managed to squeeze in one camping trip this summer, just last week, near Leadville.  It's a very historic area, boasting the early days of silver mining in our state's history.  And it's spectacular!

We enjoyed our time there with good friends, delighted we nearly had the campground to ourselves.  A fabulous setting with two big lakes ringed by several 14ers, absolutely breathtaking.  Wish I could share the scale with you.

Colorado is just so...vertical!

The highlight of the weekend was driving up over Independence Pass, a whopping 12,095 feet.  The day couldn't have been more perfect and the late summer hills were blanketed with wildflowers.  And yes, the air was thin!  We were glad to get down to more oxygen.

Photo courtesy of my daughter...the one with the good camera!

The weekend was nearly perfect, marred only by my hubby hurting his back.  More on that later...but we did make it home safe and refreshed.  I was glad we didn't hear until later that there had been a bear attack in the area!



Need some strength today?

I do...lots on my plate right now.  I bet you do, too.  Summer is winding down, fall and a new set of demands face us all.  So here's the "supplement" I'm taking today--encourage yourself with a dose, too!

  • "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
  • "The God of Israel is He who gives strength and power to His people."  Ps. 68:35
  • "Let the weak say, 'I am strong.'"  Joel 3:10
  • "...the joy of the Lord is your strength."  Neh. 8:10
  • "I am anointed with fresh oil."  Ps. 92:10
  • "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
  • "Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them."  Ps. 89:9
  • "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 (Amplified)
  • "As your day, so shall your strength be."  Deut. 33:25
  • "The way of the Lord is strength and a stronghold to the upright."  Pr. 10:29
  • "God is my strength and power, and He makes my way perfect."  II Sam. 22:33
  • "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous hand."  Is. 41:10
  • "The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped."  Ps. 28:7
  • "Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord."  Ps. 31:24
  • "...that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God."  I Cor. 2:5
  • "I have strength for all things in Christ who empowers me--I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses inner strength into me [that is, I am self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency]."  Phil. 4:13 (Amplified)
  • "The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like a deer's feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills."  Hab. 3:19
 Have a blessed day in the mighty strength of our God!


Home again

I had hoped to share some pics of our recent vacation to Arizona...and maybe I still will.  Just too busy with a million things right now to take the time, but I'll try later.

Arizona in the middle of summer is not usually the most desirable vacation destination unless you love it hot, hot, hot.  But the main attraction for us is our beloved families, and for that it was wonderful.  A sort of mini-reunion with both sides of the family...barbeques, sight-seeing, good talk, fabulous meals, three (!) birthday parties for me, heartwarming hugs from little nieces...got my cup well filled.  Even got to reconnect with a junior high friend whom I haven't seen in years (hi, Sue!).  Our thanks to each family member for all the loving hospitality showered on us--you're the best!

The drive home was a gift from the Lord--everything lush and green from so much rain, the high deserts studded with wildflower color and contrasts of red sandstone and the greens of sagebrush and junipers.  Then the astonishing panoramas of the pine-covered Rockies.  Honestly, I LOVE the southwest and am so happy to have been able to live my life here!

Back home, I was delighted to discover that my hail-smashed vegetable garden had made a full recovery and we've been enjoying the miracle all week--green and yellow beans, collard greens and kale so far.  Next week it'll be the various squashes, cucumbers, and maybe some tomatoes.  What is it about home-grown veggies that is so incredibly satisfying??

And now it's already time for school planning.  I confess to not being in gear yet to get back to the daily routine and it's demands.  I want some more time lazing in the back yard, nature journaling, soaking in the Word, riding my new bike, hiking with my family.  Having said that, I realize I'll have to make it a priority to not get swept right in to the "musts," but savor the season while it's here.  Soon enough it'll be cold and snowy and we'll be glad to hunker down indoors.  (Ugh.  Did I say that?!)

Blessings on your summer day!


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Saturday reflections

I guess I've been on a blogging-vacation though it wasn't intended.  My spring was so busy with things outside our home and school, that when June hit, so did all the backlog of what I hadn't gotten done.  I've been chipping away at my yard work, tackling piles of seasonal laundry and ironing, cleaning and organizing the house, catching up on visits with friends, and trying to enjoy the beautiful out-of-doors as much as possible.  And frankly, I've been tired.  The mental kind that affects your energy and vision.  I know I need some 'space' to rest and refresh, but it seems rather elusive with the never-ending need-to's and looming new school year.  I'm trusting that some vacation time with our families will help refuel my empty tank.

So I've scaled back on everything I don't have to do and am trying to spend time in the Word and being refreshed in the presence of the Lord.  He's the One who can make it all right and new, give me fresh vision for the coming school year.  I've been memorizing Psalm 91 this week and have been so struck with the complete goodness He has provided for my every need.  Praise God I don't have to do it all; He has already done it and I can just obtain my daily portion by faith.

We've had so much rain this spring and early summer that the flowers have been just incredible.  Here are a few shots of columbines at a friend's home--these are the Colorado state flower.  Aren't they just stunning?  They also come in pink or yellow, but this rich purple-blue is how you mostly find them in the forest.

 Can you imagine what the flowers in heaven must be like?!


A wonderful week

Wow, VBS week was great!  God blessed us with a good turnout of kids, good weather, a terrific team of volunteers, and the very evident work of the Holy Spirit bringing peace and ordering all the details of a packed schedule. 

I had a wonderful group of 6 & 7-year-olds, fifteen or so absolutely precious little lives.  As a homeschooler, I get so surprised when I'm leading a group like this--most of whom are public-schooled--at how quickly and obediently they line up for any and every reason.  ha!  Great crowd control technique and a blessed surprise when we had to move from station to station quickly and efficiently.  I've heard someone say that organizing a group of homeschoolers at an activity is like herding cats.  I agree.

My class
A large percentage of my class had already asked Jesus into their hearts before this VBS, but on the last day when I put the flannelgraph piece on the board of Jesus being crucified, a gasp went up.  It wasn't a particularly graphic picture but it did show the stripes and nails.  One little boy blurted out, "What did they DO to Him?"  Wow, talk about a teachable moment!  The SAW what it cost Jesus to pay for our sins and, as a group, were very moved.  Then we saw Jesus coming out of the tomb, resurrected and showing us His new and perfect body, what theirs would be like one day if they belonged to Him.  Finally, we saw Jesus on His heavenly throne and talked about the glories of our life to come (a wonderful reminder to me!).  I could sense the Spirit really connecting with their hearts and felt that He had sealed the week with His witness to them.  What a privilege to be part of a life-changing moment in these young lives.

"He's got the whole world in His hands..."
More fun this week...we're off to our state homeschool conference tomorrow.  Yay!  Fresh inspiration, seeing old friends, fresh fuel for the year to come--I need it all.  SweetPea will be with me this time, a first for her.

Then I think I can safely say that my summer really begins next Monday!!  :-)


Catching up

Summer, yay!  Feels like summer, looks like summer, calendar says it should be summer...I think it is, finally.

A peek into my garden...the "before" picture
(hopefully I'll share a great "after" one in August!)
I'm enjoying the privilege of some time at home after our marathon spring and getting caught up on all sorts of things.   My dearly beloved helped me get my late garden in on Monday--a huge relief that I was able to still squeek in under the proverbial wire.   Lots of home projects to tend to now that the weather is warm and our schedule has relaxed (oh, I love that word!).   Can't wait to set up my sewing machine again, teach SweetPea how to can, work on some landscaping ideas, and read some non-homeschooling novels over iced tea in the shade of the maple tree.  :-)

Most importantly, I'm enjoying the space for reflection and sorting out the cacophony of thoughts whirling in my mind over the past couple of months.  I've been needing quality time with the Lord to gain His perspective on my friend's death and how it has impacted her family, our little church, and myself; analyzing how this first high school year went in our homeschooling and getting God's wisdom on the areas we need to modify or improve; praying over our short and long-term goals for the last three years of SweetPea's home education; revisiting my own personal goals for the summer--in short, I need my cup refilled.  He is so faithful, He will do it.

Sorting flannel graph pieces

Monday starts VBS wherein I get to test-drive my writing efforts with a live class of wiggly 1st and 2nd graders!  SweetPea will be my flannel graph assistant and I have a lovely lady helping me with crowd control.  The sanctuary and main classrooms have been decorated with black plastic "space" with planets hung and the sun, moon, and stars providing the background for "The Power and Majesty of God."  It's going to be a lot of fun--and hopefully, the kids will go home with a new sense of awe and wonder at this mighty God who has called us to be His own.

Thanking God for the meaning and beauty He's brought to my life!



I'm sitting at our breakfast table looking out at a sea of green--a lushness in our yard that can only be attributed to the huge amount of rain we've had the past couple of weeks.  In fact, our support group's Field Day got cancelled for today due to rain.  Hopefully the reschedule next week won't be cancelled because of rain; more is predicted.  Though we didn't get much snow this winter, they're saying we've already made up for the deficit for water, which here in the southwestern part of the nation is always an issue.  God is good!

Back to green.  Another blessing of our cool and rainy May is that the lilac blossoms have hung on and hung on.  SweetPea told me that they've been out so long they're kind of bleaching out from what sun we've had.  It's great...our grass isn't crispy anymore and everything looks like it's breathed a sigh of relief and perked up its collective head.

My VBS project is moving along well, thank You, Lord!  I think I might even finish before our deadline.  Woohoo!  The hardest part is done--the inital writing--and now I'm into modifications for the various teaching levels and coming up with things for handouts and coloring pages.  In case you didn't know, there's a TON of great resources on the internet for S.S. and VBS programs. 

Tomorrow is a special day in our household--my daughter's 15th birthday!  I can't believe we're already here, solidly into her teen years and looking at after-homeschooling plans.  Man, it goes fast.  She's got two of her dear friends coming to spend the night tonight with pizza, movies, and general hilarity while Dad and I hide out have some sweet time to catch up on us.  Maybe even a walk in the rain.

I'm thankful for the Father's tender mercies over this week.  There's just nothing like knowing Him!


Is it Friday already?

It's a good thing we had a refreshing week last week in Arizona...I sure needed high-octane this week!

Monday greeted us with the first of two days of testing for SweetPea, the standardized stuff we're required to do by the state.  Since then we've flown between unpacking, and laundry, yardwork, Bible study, haircut, shopping, a last-minute chance to go ice skating, home stuff, and, oh, yeah, school.  I'm eagerly awaiting a week wherein we actually do school every day--seems like it's been a long time since that's happened!  With all the activities, we've pushed the end of school deep into June.  We're doing great for meeting our required hours and days, but finishing up our curricula is another thing.  I know the public schools often don't finish their books by the end of the year, but I just can't do that.  I like the closure of finishing it all, if possible, so we'll press on.

I received an assignment from the Lord this week, too, that will keep me depending on Him minute by minute until I'm done.  I told earlier of my dear friend Kim, our pastor's daughter, who went to be with the Lord three weeks ago.  Well, she and her mom had just begun drafting this summer's VBS program before she got sick--and it was left.  I was asked to take it over and write it...so guess what I'll be doing the next three weeks?!  It's the kind of thing I love to do, but how I need God's ability and inspiration and wise use of time to get it done!  I am trusting that "He equips those He calls," and that He'll help it go quickly so that I can get my home things done, too.  I know He will.

The sweetest blessing happened yesterday...my lilacs bloomed!  There is simply nothing like that smell and I've told the Lord I certainly hope He has lilacs in heaven. 

To my mom friends reading this...may you be honored and appreciated and blessed on Mother's Day. You're awesome!


A play, a trip, and happy May Day!

I fully intended to have a proper see-ya-later to my blog readers a couple of weeks ago, before SweetPea's play production week and our Easter trip to AZ to see our families.  But it didn't happen.  So here I am composing my blog update on the road home, enjoying a late spring snowstorm (ahem--note insincere tone) whirling around us and savoring some very sweet memories.
I would not generally recommend trying to plan and pack for a trip while participating in a play, but as is His gracious custom, the Lord helped us.  "Robin Hood" was a smashing success, drawing repeat viewers and filling our cups to the brim with hilarity and immense satisfaction. 
SweetPea's defining moment as a rookie actress came in the very first production when she was supposed to bounce gaily offstage, then bounce back in with a golden arrow on a pillow for Maid Marian to present to Robin for winning the archery contest.  Alas, when she went to pick it up offstage for her bounce-in, it had fallen down in a crack between the stage and the backdrop wall--and for all her efforts, she couldn't reach it.  So back in she comes, late, no arrow on pillow.  My mouth dropped and I could see a moment of shock on the other kids' faces on stage--what now?  Having been instructed to adlib any such situations, after a brief moment of recovery, everyone carried on with the now imaginary arrow.  As a comedy, it even worked out perfectly when Robin Hood exited with a grin and an "I'll be back for that arrow!"  We later heard that everyone thought it was supposed to be that way, that it seemed natural that the air-headed SweetPea character couldn't even do the arrow thing right.  My hatt is off to those kids--it was great.
Then it was off to sunny AZ.  As we headed west on I-40, we knew that somewhere on the road the very same day we were passing Sally and her Rough Diamond crew headed east on their way to their new home.  While we didn't spot them, we said an honorary 'hello' and 'God bless you' to the traffic general and hoped their packing had gone well!  It'll be good to hear of their new adventure and see some of her non-desert photos.  :-)
Having no family near where we live, it's always a very special treat to go see them in AZ.  Three generations on one side of the family, four on the other live there, so you can imagine I need my daytimer to keep track of our breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and outings straight.  But the Lord seemed to stretch our time out and I'm coming home feeling refreshed and blessed by a lovely week.
Now it's time to think of...final push of the school year, SweetPea's testing, getting the garden in, yardwork, next year's school planning, helping with VBS, house projects.  On second thought, maybe I'll do a Scarlet O'Hara and 'think about that tomorrow.'  I have a few more hours of vacation and I'd better enjoy them while I can!


A sad day

"You look so lovely today."

Those were the last words my dear friend Kim spoke to me, last Sunday in church.  She passed away suddenly yesterday morning from a recurrance of cancer, taking us all by shock.  She taught Sunday School and led worship Sunday morning, full of joy and anointing, with not the least hint that by the end of the week, she'd be gone.

My heart is so heavy for the family.  She and her husband have five lovely children whom they've homeschooled from the beginning, the first to graduate next month and the youngest just seven.  Her dad is pastor of our church and I can't imagine how difficult it will be for her folks to carry on the ministry without her very gifted and loving presence.  Ours is a small church, so she leaves a very large hole.

Kim and I hit it off the first time we met years ago in our homeschool support group.  Later, when she left the group, we would run into each other at conferences or fairs, and always it was as though we'd just seen each other just yesterday.  It was at one of those times she invited us to their church.  We did, and from the first day it was 'home' for us.  One of the highlights of these past two years for me has been the reconnect of our friendship and warm fellowship in Jesus.  But more significantly, her spiritual strength, radiant joy, and amazing faith has lifted me time and again when I've been discouraged over the long course of healing from health issues of my own.

I've been privileged to know a truly lovely soul and been blessed by her love and genuine, caring heart.  We will miss her terribly, but the Word promises that all of this is working together for good, and that we sorrow not as those who have no hope.  Thank the Lord, it doesn't end here--she's in our future.


This 'n that

This breathtaking sight greeted us earlier this week, a Colorado spring snow in the morning sunrise.  We dashed out so as not to miss our chance with the cameras, knowing that in just a few hours, it would be melted and gone.  It was.

Just as the ups and downs in our weather, so it seemed to go with other things this week.  My two sweeties were both sick with colds, which made it hard to get anything significant done.  School was choppy, events cancelled, and surfaces disinfected...over and over. Thankfully, the patients are mostly better, and I had the joy of cleaning and setting our life to rights again today.

We've just finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird in our literature study.  Wow, I'd forgotten what a powerful book that is!  It prompted some wonderful discussion, not only the issues of prejudice and injustice and so on, but also Harper Lee's incredible, funny, moving writing. To top it off, we checked the movie out from the library and watched it last night.  That has got to be one of the greatest movies ever made!  SweetPea says, "That's in my top three!"  I think I'd have to agree.

I had the delight of having a little dream come true this week...a netbook!  I've been saving my pennies for a while to get it, and on Wednesday the FedEx truck made my day.  (The estimated delivery time--from China--was 10:30 a.m.  The doorbell rang at 10:16.  I told the delivery lady that they were really good--Shanghai to my door, with 14 minutes to spare!)  I've envisioned how handy this little mini would be for my on-the-go life and writing-when-the-inspiration hits me.  Feels like Christmas.  :-)   

And in case you noticed that very cute mug next to Minnie in the pic, that was my thrift store find this week...a set of four for $1.50.  I have a thing about mugs (especially when they're filled with tea) and I'm sure my family groaned when I eagerly displayed my new wares, but they indulge me and for that I'm grateful. When Momma's happy...

SweetPea's drama production of "Robin Hood" is only a couple of weeks off, so we're adding extra practices and a costuming session to our school week. It's a wonderful group of kids, very focused, attentive, and giving it their all.  And the play is hilarious!  This past week they had the first full run-through and it was a delight.  SP's role is the dim-witted, klutzy daughter of the Sheriff of Nottingham and she has to deliver a number of curtsies that end in a sprawl on the stage.  No easy task to pull off and not color yourself black-and-blue!  She'll look back on this as the highlight of the year, I'm sure.



A chapter ends

Yesterday I sat in our homeschool teen public speaking class, checking off kids' names as they did their presentations and marveling at what God has done in them over the years they've been in this class. 

One young lady did an amazing dramatic interpretation of four different poems; another, a riveting persuasive speech on the power of media's influence on a teen's mind and heart.  One young man presented a colorful and intriguing story of the pyramids of Egypt (some amazing writing), and his brother gave a clear and compelling case for "one race" in humankind based on genetic and Biblical evidence.  And for a lovely ending, we enjoyed a young lady's mini-musical on her pedal harp, and her fascinating information about it.  I was so proud of them all!

I've helped moderate or teach this class since my daughter was six years old...nine years of fun and blessing as my friend Yvette and I have coached and challenged these kids how to become great communicators.  (The picture above is SweetPea giving a report on China a few years ago.)  God sure has his own sense of humor; with my own fears, the one thing I would never have dreamed I'd be involved in was public speaking!  But as is true so often with teaching, I've learned just as much as the kids.  And truly, it's been wonderful to see them conquer their fears and learn to speak with confidence.

I wish I had a video record of the amazing variety of presentations we've had over the years--everything from fencing to debate, little ones reciting their Awana verses, and skits that brought the house down.  Truly, it's been one of the richest highlights of our own homeschooling journey.  If your kids have an opportunity to do this, I'd highly recommend it!  I'm thinking a great project would be to compile an e-book with all the good information we used over the years to help out other homeschoolers (you know, one of those when-we're-done-homeschooling projects).

Our support group is, of course, mom-run as are all such homeschool groups, and I have felt that this year was my last in Oral Reports class.  Time to move on into some other areas, help out elsewhere.

Thank you, Yvette--thank You, Lord!