Joy in Sorrow

In middle of this trial my family is in, it has been difficult to separate fear from reality, night from day, joy from pain, and even one day from another. Everything just runs together. We've had so many doctor appointments and phone calls and reports and instructions to keep straight.... just jumpy at the sound of the telephone ringing. We've had weapons form and attacks hurled our way. But, we have also had an outpouring of love, compassion, and the covering of prayer, some by people we don't even know.

God is still so gracious.

For months my son (5 yrs) has been asking about the things of God and his understanding amazes me at times. A few weeks ago, he told his daddy that he was ready to pray the "special prayer" to ask Jesus to be Lord and Savior of his life. I watched as they prayed together on my bedroom floor and I love that I was able to witness such a sweet moment. And, after making a public confession of faith at church, my little boy was baptized and my heart overflowed at the goodness of God. He said to me, "Mommy, I am a brother of the Lord!!" And today, he enjoyed partaking in the Lord's supper for the first time. Sweet communion.

I have been pondering these blessings (among many others) in my heart, and thought I should share to encourage you, too. God can bring joy in sorrow.
Friends, God Himself is Joy in sorrow, and I am extremely grateful.

But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the LORD your God 
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior...
-Isaiah 43:1-3a


Celebrating 100 Days

Many of us officially begin the start of the new homeschooling year sometime in the late summer/early fall. That means now is about the time that you'll reach 100 days of schooling for the year. That means it's time to celebrate!

Because you and the kids have clocked in good, hard, and steady work...
Because it's the middle of winter and lots of snow, freezing temps, and dreary days can have us in a rut...
Because kids always love a reason to celebrate...
Because we homeschool and we get to choose what we do...

banner the kids made

Even if you haven't been officially counting each day, estimate and pick a day to celebrate. The theme of the festivities is of course the number 100. Here are some of the ways we've had fun on our 100th day:

  • Design a "100 Days Smarter" bannet for the school room
  • Decorate t-shirts with 100 items (stickers. beads safety-pins, dots of paint, etc.).
  • Count to 100 by singles, twos, fives, and tens
  • Make a "trail mix" by selecting 10 types of bite-sized snacks (raisins, chocolate chips, marshmallows, etc.) and have the children sort 10 of each treat. Place in a baggy for a 100-count trail mix.
  • Impromptu discussion/writing: What will the world be like in 100 years; Name 100 things you could carry or eat at once
  • Get moving: dance, hop, or run in place for 100 seconds

Blow up a few balloons and make a batch of brownies or cookies for fun and you're good to go! 

Do you celebrate the 100th day of school? I'd love to hear hear what yo do to celebrate!

Originally written for "Our Homeschool Forum."


Hard to Breathe

Ladies, this past week has felt like months. I've lost track of time over and over.

This week, we received some difficult news, some very tough realities for our family. I am being vague intentionally, not because I'm seeking further inquiries about what's happening, but because it is a delicate matter involving one of my children. I am also writing this because I need the prayers of other believers to be offered before the Father.

Sometimes it's hard to breathe, hard to sleep, sometimes it's hard to stop the tears... struggling.
So here I am, writing, getting thoughts out, sharing with you, because maybe you're in a tough situation, too. My husband says that often, satan uses our trials to isolate us, to keep us from drawing on each other for strength. You aren't alone. I will pray for you, too. And prayerfully, very soon we can celebrate victory together.

a sign I saw in a waiting room
 In the midst of the rain, I am thankful for the blessed work of my home life to keep me busy. . . clothes I finally folded after not tending to them for a full week; little pigtails to twist; clothes to iron for church tomorrow; math grades to enter, granny squares to crochet...

my little girls'clothes

crocheted granny squares

And I've been reflecting, wanting to see God's hand in it all.... and of course, He is there... I mean way down in the details He's there. From people and places, timing and events, He's there. He knew we would have this moment in time to face, and He has taken the time to see about my family. And we are grateful.

So, as folks keep telling us, it is one day at a time around here. I'm counting my blessings each day, willing myself to put one foot in front of the other, while looking to the hills. . .

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—

From whence comes my help?

My help comes from the Lord,

Who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 121: 1-2


Cherishing Your Older Children

Little babies are so sweet and cute. To bring one into your family life is a game-changer for sure. Even so, it seems as though the camera lens is often aimed in their direction, as it should be, capturing smiles and funny faces, little fingers and tufts of hair. As Charles Dickens once said, "I love these little people; and it is not a slight thing when they, who are so fresh from God, love us." It is simply amazing.

As they grow into toddlers, we tell and retell all the funny things they say and do, all the faces they make and we double over in laughter. And, we should, because these years are lively and full and bring youth to a mama's achy bones, because there is never a dull moment.

And so it should continue as our children grow up and enter the next phases: tweens, teens, and young adults. So often I hear people saying awful things about their teenagers or telling me that I won't be so happy when I get to that stage. I see people almost giving way to the world regarding their behavior: You know how teens can be.

There's nothing in God's Word that instructs us to abandon the godly rearing and training of our children just because they are a little older. And if we continue to faithfully bring them up reverencing the things of God, they will be a great blessing not only to us a parents, but to the Kingdom of God.

And as we go with God, He shows us what a joy and treasure our older children are. With my own group of "big kids" there is so much to love and marvel at as their understanding of life continues to unfold. I've watched them learn sacrifice. I've seen them give of themselves. I've been there when they had to grapple with the Truth and rejoiced when they submitted to it. We have been through tough lessons that stretched them, that they can see the value in having learned, and are grateful for. Great, great blessings there.

Then there are the day-to-day gifts--helping siblings, academic achievements, sweeping a crumb-laden floor, taking out trash, folding laundry, soooo many hugs, whispered prayers, new skills, hilarious jokes. . .a sweet friendship that deepens as parenting older kids continues.

And of course, there's still all of the mushy stuff, like I still think their smiles and faces are as cute as ever, I still take tons of pictures of them, still enjoy the sound of their laughter, and I absolutely love that my big kids still call me "Mommy".

I know I'm just at the start of this teenage journey; my oldest is a few months shy of 14. I have a long way to go. But rather than look ahead to these older years with discouragement, regret or indifference, I will look ahead with joyful expectation.


Scripture: The Benefit of Reading Aloud

Reading through Scripture with your children may seem like a daunting task, particularly when they're young. If your young children are anything like mine, they are really wiggly and giggly and you wonder if they ever listen to what you're saying. And then, when you've finally quieted them (sort of) so they can hear you read, you wonder if they even understand what you're talking about. You may think, Lord, how can I teach them the deep truths of your Word, when I'm having trouble grasping them myself?

I'm here to tell you, just keep on reading. Don't ever underestimate what they can grasp . . . and more importantly, don't ever underestimate the working of the Holy Spirit. Nope, they won't catch every deep meaning. No, they probably won't understand each Biblical truth. But, God's Word is true and able. The Scriptures teach us that it won't return void and it accomplishes what it sets out to do:

For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:10-11

Even in the hearts and minds of your littlest ones, keep sowing seeds of faith. Let them get used to the Word upon their ears, not paraphrased Bible stories (although those are certainly useful and have their place). The point is, children should be accustomed to hearing the Word and becoming familiar with it, even at an early age. My little ones come up to me all the time, quoting bits of Scripture or asking me questions about something we've read. And, I am always amazed at what their little minds are able to understand. They are little sponges, why not fill them with the true Word of God?

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me,
and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
-Matthew 19:14


Book Review: Kids Study Bible (David Jeremiah)

I must say right from the start, this Bible is one I would definitely recommend for children! Here's why.

It is the NKJV, which is one our family has come to use most of the time for devotions, study, and history. The NKJV follows the KJV very closely in text, but is a bit easier for young ones to grasp. That being said, it is a true Bible with complete Biblical text--all 66 books are there. I love that because the gospel isn't watered down just because the Bible is intended for children.

In the first few pages, your child will "meet" the crew members of the Genesis Exploration Squad, who "travel" aboard the Airship Genesis. On this ship, they have the ability to travel back into time to delve into the Bible as it unfolds.
Throughout the journey, they point out different truths of God's Word to young readers, which I find does not overshadow the message of the Scriptures.

Some of the key features are Mission Overviews that give a summary and purpose of each book of the Bible; Rupert Reports which gives interesting facts about Bible history; and Bible Blasts which are specially marked Scriptures for children to learn.

It has traditional features as well, such as a Table of Contents, a Concordance, and maps interspersed with the text. It even includes full color pictures of Bible characters and stories, which children will enjoy.

Which brings me to my (short) list of drawbacks. Although the pictures are nice, it always bothers me when I see images that don't try to be Biblically accurate as far as ethnicity. The clothing is appropriate for the time, but the people could use a little work.

Next, the foreword is given by David Jeremiah, which is great, as the Airship Genesis is a brand from his children's ministry. However, I don't think his name should be larger than the words "Kids Study Bible" on the cover and title pages. It distracts from the fact that it is a Bible and not some other book.

Finally, the color scheme--navy blue and orange--may not be neutral enough for girls. When I saw it, I thought of my sons rather than my daughters.

Even still, I am glad to have found this Bible. It is geared towards children ages 7 to 11. I think it can go a little younger to a little older. I plan on giving it to my 5 year old for Christmas, since he's been wanting his own Bible, just like his older siblings. He realizes that his own children's Bible doesn't have the same words as ours and I think it's important to let children hear the the Scriptures without paraphrasing. So I'm excited to see his reaction at having a real Bible with features that are appealing to kids.

What Bible do you use with your children? Do you prefer one version over another?

(I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)


How Does Your Husband Teach?

Us moms, we are different from our husbands in many ways, as it should be. Different tones of voice, different in stature, different in our mannerisms.....we bring different dynamics to the atmosphere of the home.

So, it should be no surprise that our husbands' teaching and parenting styles are different from our own. But somehow, we are still surprised.

In my own marriage, I've learned to embrace my husband's way with our children, rather than criticize him at every turn. Nope, his style is not mine, and nope, I probably won't ever bear hug our children down to the floor, while tickling them mercilessly, only to have them come back asking for more. Not quite my style. But one thing is for sure:
God chose him to be the father of our children and equipped him to fulfill that task. I have to let him live that out before God, without badgering him to do it my way.
Another thing I've learned is that, whatever is dear to my husband, chances are he will use it as a means to teach the kids. Some husbands are number-crunchers, others hunt or fish. Some husbands build things while others play guitar. Whatever it is, it is likely your husband will use it to get his point across.

My husband is a former college football player, with a coaching minor. His teaching tool: sports, athletics, fitness, physical activity....however you'd like to phrase it. Now, although I knew this about him before we were married, and cheered for him to score in several football games, I didn't really know until after marriage.

I had no idea that he ran miles per day or did that many push ups and sit ups at a time. I'd never heard of a 3-count jumping jack or ever exercised until my stomach hurt. My husband would seek out tracks, fields, and stadium stairs for running and training. After his football days were over. He still does. So.not.me. My idea of fitness is to do an aerobics video or spend 20-30 minutes on the elliptical. Yeah, big difference.

So, when we had children, naturally for him, he would share this with them. Initially for me, it seemed foreign, awkward, and made no sense at all. But over the years, I've come to realize how much wisdom my husband is sharing with our kids, while they're sweating and running in an open field.

They're learning specific sports skills and how to keep physically fit, but they are learning so much more. Hard work. Dedication. Pushing through the pain. How to fall and get back up. Confidence. Mental is greater than physical. Progress. Patience. Grit. Determination. Teamwork. Don't quit. Togetherness. Encouragement. Loyalty.

I've listened as my husband has connected what he's teaching them with what they have to face in life. Sports skills become life skills, how worthy things take commitment and time, that consistent work must be done. Don't give up at the first sign of adversity, but keep the end goal in mind.

Maybe I've learned a few things myself.

Trust your husband, even if it is the opposite of the way you do it. God gave children fathers for a reason.

What are the ways your husband teaches? Does he use a hobby or skill to do it?

Originally written for Our Homeschool Forum.
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