Grocery Store Gospel

Sunday, December 23, 2012

I work at a grocery store part-time and today, the weekend before Christmas, was BUSY.  The till whines an incessant tune of:

BEEP - turkey - BEEP - stuffing - BEEP - cranberries - BEEP - flour - BEEP - butter - BEEP - sugar...

I smile at an endless stream of faces and peek into lives as they enter my world for a few short minutes.  Today, people are weary.  Weary with work and overwhelmed with crowds.  It feels like a sea of people, in the same place but with no togetherness.

I see a little girl in polka dots at the checkout in front of me.  She's about three and her hair bounces as she asks for a sticker.

"Cass, do you have any stickers?"  another cashier leans over.

"Sure."  I smile and raise my eyebrows at the hopeful youngster.  She gleams, giddy as I pass her a small strip of Christmas stickers.  I chuckle as that sweet girl attentively and delicately chooses the perfect design to decorate her chubby hand.  A Mom hurries her, as we Moms too often do.

"There!"  she proclaims it, bright eyed.  "This one!"  She's beaming, elated.  One sparkly present-shaped sticker displayed on a waving hand.  I'm almost in tears watching the innocent joy before me.  Pure, unadulterated happiness laid out for all to see.

"Say thank you," pushes the Mom, oblivious to the child's disposition.  Mama barely cracks a smile.

Say thank you?  My heart winces.  This moment, this exquisite moment, IS the thank you.  Her skipping toes and shining eyes, her exclaiming, "LOOK DADDY!  Look!  My sticker..."  she adores it for a moment.  "I'm gonna show Uncle Ron!"  Her voice squeals, she's over the moon.

Such a simple gift she has received, and yet, such genuine, humble bliss.  Her eyes, her smile, her waving arms, they all scream thank you at the top of heaving lungs.  Her joy is her gratitude and I can do nothing but let tears well at the beauty of it all.

I smile and whisper 'you're welcome' and as always, I'm sure people wonder if I'm truly okay.  Yes, I'm okay... just overwhelmed by a relentless God.

She never uttered the words 'thank you' but her thank you was written all over her joyful existance.

I smile and nod slow as I think of it later.  Yes, that's it.  Her gratitude was in her joy and her joy was her gratitude and they are one in the same.  The grateful have joy and the joyful have gratitude.  I want both tonight - I lean full-tilt into the truth of that child-like moment and every other small, momentary blessing in my life.


Hours later when the sticker child has long gone, I scan groceries for a beautiful lady with wrinkles creasing her cheeks.  She tells me she's in her eighties and this crazy Christmas shopping is just too much for her now.

"Oh, my goodness, you can't be eighty,"  I smile sincerely.  "You look amazing."  I mean it.  She exudes a peaceful calm and sweetness in her eyes.  I see it in how she moves.  She chuckles and waves a wrinkled hand at me.  "Oh, come on now."

In that moment, it happens.  A flash mob in the middle of the grocery store.  Yes, like the ones I've seen on YouTube, only simpler, more quaint.  But just as awe-inspiring.  First, a single female voice rings out loud and clear, like a morning bell:

"Deck the halls with boughs of holly..."

And a chorus of perfectly harmonized voices chime in,

"Fa la la la la la la la la...
'Tis the season to be jolly..."

My heart leaps inside my chest.  People everywhere stop, eyes are searching for the source of this captivating sound.  A group of unsuspecting carolers have formed a group at the front of a crowded store.  Buggies halt, phones flash.  The all-consuming madness which was Christmas shopping quiets.  The tills stop beeping.  The chatter shushes.

The voices ring out:

"See the blazing yule before us..."  Me, I'm a puddle of mush again, welling up in my uniform.  So much beauty today.  Overwhelmed again, I hold back tears as I look around me at the faces, all aglow.  The eighty-something friend in front of me smiles sweetly, her eyes creased.  After a moment, she sighs and whispers:

"It's so beautiful... it must be real."

I laugh, grin, unsure what to say.  The moment was humbling, captivating but her comment consumed my thoughts long after she had strolled away and the carolers had received their hearty applause.

It's so beautiful, it must be real.  Life-givers spreading joy to the wounded in the middle of the cultural chaos of shopping.  Furrowed brows of middle aged men softening and teenagers stopping dead in their tracks.  Staff talking about the beauty of the moment all day long to every soul who missed the blessed song.

A room full of busy people, all strangers, hault everything to breath in the beauty of those voices.  The sheer bliss of surprise joy.  Voices singing out peace and bringing in love in the most unlikely of places.  For a few moments, we were all one.  It must be real, this kind of beauty.  This is what we were made for.  It's why we stop dead and are mesmorized.  It's why we talk about it for days after.  It's why grown men well up and children fall to their knees.  Yes, this must be real.

Our souls gulp it down.  It is holy and sacred and deep inside we all know it.  Beauty in its purest form is always Truth.

The truth we all need - joy, thankfulness in this very moment.  The Christ child.

Sparkly Stickers.

Truth in the gratitude that comes from dwelling on the little blessings and being willing to jump up and down and wave our arms and whisper, "It's REAL!" to strangers.

Our dwelling, our wide-eyed existence, our smiles, our wonder, our stopping... this is our gratitude for this moment and for this life.  The gospel whispered to me today is this...

"He came so we may have life
and life to the fullest!"

Even in the grocery store.  His love is all around us - in the sparkly sticker, polka dot girl moment, in the creased eyes of an old soul, in the ringing voices of willing gifts... He is here.  I want to cling to that feeling deep in my soul.  That feeling of awe when strangers are lost in a holy moment together.  That feeling when children squeal silly joy for a sticker.

Believe in miracles this Christmas.  They are all around us and they are waiting to be seen.  Christ came so our hearts may be truly open to fully receive the gift of life to the fullest.  Embrace it, friends.  The sheer bliss of the simplest of gifts.

Every small joy - warm tea, chocolates, children up too late, mashed potatoes, presents under the tree, kids dressed like sheep - they all become grace and grace lived out in joy becomes gratitude.

Yes, these gifts become consuming elation if we open our hearts wide enough and become that child again. That child who pastes her gifts on her wide open hand and waves it around joyfully for all to see.

Embrace the moments this Christmas,
moments are all we have.

Merry, Merry Christmas to you all and love and hugs to you and your families and friends.


Peace for the Wounded

Thursday, December 20, 2012

I'm driving on a crowded street of Christmas frenzy when I hear it on the radio.  Parents in uproar because Toronto city schools spoke to their children about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  I glance in the rearview mirror at my three, safe with me this morning.  My eyes well with salty tears.  Salt burns in the wounds.

Parents are enraged because they 'tried to shelter their children from the news' and yet teachers speak truth in school.  And this upsets them?   I slowly shake my head.  So, it's not okay to speak about human tragedy but it's ok to teach big bang and evolution.  It's not okay to talk real life pain but it's ok when our first graders bump to hip hop and fuss with peers over their perceived 'hotness'.  Oh, this world is upside down.

Six teachers and twenty children are dead and we're creating armed backpacks for kids.  Friends, we need to be talking about it.  With each other and especially wih our children.  As a home educator, yes, I choose to shelter our children from certain things, but never, ever from the truth.  Real life, real loss, these are things we discuss openly.  They know slavery and they've prayed for children by name who've died too soon and yes, we talk about life just as it is - messy and gravely in need of a Saviour.

It's lunch time now on a dreary day.  We sit together and light candles at the kitchen table.  I breathe deep and look into their innocent eyes.

"Somestimes, really terrible things happen in this world," my chin quivers. "And something really, really awful happened a few days ago." They're all ears, quiet, expectant.

"What, Mama?"  our sweet daughter's whispering, waiting.

"A young man who was very angry and very lost... he killed many children and teachers in a school....  In the United States."

My daughter's eyes soften, her brow furrows.  My heart could bust inside of me.  These three little ones in front of me - so precious.  Still here.  Breathing.  Alive.  All those other ones - they're not here.  Their beds are empty.

There are no words to explain it away.  This world is shattered.  I look down.  My socks are mismatched and my nails are chipped with blue polish.  People still ask me if I'm a student and I shovel mini chocolate chips in my mouth when I'm bored.  How am I a Mother?  Who am I to speak life into these three souls before me?  What answers do I have?

I whisper to them about things I don't understand - pain, evil, sickness, guns.  I whisper His name, Jesus, in spite of all this, He is God.  He is here and He is good.  And no, it doesn't make sense, but in the center of it, peace is waiting.  Our God doesn't promise a pain-free world, He promises to be right in the middle of the filth with us.

And, there, He is.  In the mucky old stable and in Sandy Hook Elementary.  Because when we weap, He weaps harder still. 

People mutter, "... at Christmas time... all this suffering at Christmas time, what a terrible thing..."

Yes.  It is terrible.  But, what of Christmas time?  What of it?  The epicenter of Christmas is CHRIST Himself.  If Christ is found anywhere, it is in the midst of unimaginable pain.  There He is waiting to be found.

At the lunch table we read truth for all this mess.  Boys fidget and a daughter worries about lost children and the candle light blazes.

"God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble...

You are my lamp, O Lord;
the Lord turns my darkness into light.
With Your help I can advance against any troop;
with my God I can scale a wall..."

A son's eye brows raise.  Now that's language he likes... yes, Simon, yes.  We want to train you up child - to be in Mighty God's army.  You have a calling.  Stop tipping your chair and listen.  I smile at my inner ramblings.

"I lift my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth..."

So, pain at Christmas, yes.  Because although we have a Mighty God, we live in a fallen world.  Childen die in schools and children die in Daddy's arms and children die of starvation every day and they are not honored or remembered.  My shoulders shake for the grime of this earth.  No, it's not fair. 

The world is a huge, broken sphere and we're all spinning in the middle of the shrapnel. 

The world is in the midst of birth pains, waiting, hoping in deliverance.  Those that know Christ know peace because He takes the pain and transforms it into hope.  The peace that surpasses all understanding.  Yes, I've tasted His love and heard His whispers.  I understand how incradibly broken everything is and that He is the great Healer.

Christmas.  The time we celebrate the Healer's arrival. He was born in a stable, humble, poor.  He came to save us from something.  What, then, are we being saved from? 

...From the mess of this life. From the muck of this globe.  Broken.  Dying.  Everything is passing away - the scripture says it loud and clear.  (Matthew 24)

But hope came down, it's not just fiction.  Please, lean back and close your eyes and let your shoulders shake if they have to because it is real.  Christ came, God Himself, incarnated into a baby, born of a virgin - a lowly, unbearably lowly entrance into this broken place.  He lived a perfect life, He died a bloody death.  He died a sacrifice, so we may be redeemed before a perfect God.  We are so flawed, so far from His holiness, yet then, Jesus.  Jesus, redeemer.  Saviour.  Peacemaker.  Refuge.  Healer.  He came down and He rescued us from school shootings and dying babes and starving friends in far away places.

Yes, these things happen, but they will be redeemed.  The enemy does not get the last word.  This is only phase one.  This earth is the beginning of the story.  There is more.  It continues.  Beyond this place, there is another.  Our children speak of the other place and hope.  We know there is so much more to the story - more we don't always understand.

 "Like Narnia...", yes Simon, like Narnia.  Only better.

Sandy Hook Elementary happens and we talk gun contol and mental health but we should be screaming out, "Redeemer!"

We don't need more gun control, we need more Jesus.

I listen to Ann Voskamp speak about Christmas and the cross and my heart is warmed and it is revived:

"Ultimately, Christmas isn't a product we can wrap up, but it's a person we unwrap... and Christ comes to the cradling trough... but it doesn't end there... that manger, it's wood, and it's nailed together, and that manger takes us right to the cross.... and we are saved only through another tree.  That tree from the garden, that tree at the manger, and the tree Jesus hung on to save us.  So, unless we've got a tree at the center of our Christmas, I don't think we have a Christmas."

A whisper of 'still' for the soul...

The Gift.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I sit here, my heart aching and pounding.  Tears cloud my eyes and my chin quivers.

A completely stranger spontaneously gives $300 so our friends at Nurture a Child Uganda can host a Christmas party for countless children in their community.  Yes.  A family in Northern Uganda will celebrate Christmas because of this humble gift given by a woman half way around the globe.

I have to shake my head and wonder how miracles like this happen.  This money in our paypal account, it is hope and it is life.  Money is only worth having when it is used to glorify the King.  Money only gives life when it is given away.  And THE miracle Himself breathes into me tonight.  His hand is on them, these beautiful people who have given everything to welcome the orphans into their home.  These people who hold my heart even though I've never held their hands.

I don't have words of 'thank you' for this gift-giver who in faith sends money to a little blogger's paypal account.  There is no word big enough, no word meaningful enough.  Thank you just won't do.  Generosity is a deep, cleansing river and when it flows freely, it is life itself.  Tonight, she is gift-giver and life-giver because hope is life and a simple gift can be the very light someone so desperately needed.

There's no snow here yet, but it's beginning to feel a whole lot like that miraculous Christmastime.  His gifts are everywhere, friends.

I think about the baby in the lowly stable, that humble flesh-Gift.  Christ Himself, the Light of the world.  The true Christmas gift so pure, so beautiful.  Yet, there He was birthed, amidst the hay and animal smells.  Born of a humble servant girl, visited by shepherds.  King of kings and Lord of lords, Immanuel - born right to us there in those dirty surroundings.  But that's Yahweh.  He gives Himself to us in the most unimaginable ways because He is the backwards gospel.  The last shall be first and the first shall be last.

Blessed are the humble.

And blessed are the gift givers.

Because we are first blessed by the Gift Himself.

He gave so we may give, friends.  Give our love, give our grace, give our money, give our time, give our talents, give our everything for Him and for others.  Give in the dark places too. Yes, it's wildly backwards.  When the world says hold white-knuckle to your stuff and yourself, Christ says give it ALL away.  Yes, give everything, even your very life.  Give it all away and we will find the greatest Gift.  We will find Him and we will find Life.

Live generously.  The Word says it plain and clear:

"Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven."

When we are open to others, we open the gate wide to God's miracles. 

And after this post is written and published - another life-giver comes to us after church and hands us an envelop for our friends in Uganda.  Enough money to bless them with sheets, blankets, new school supplies, special presents for Christmas - all this and more.  The tears flow again.

And AGAIN at night a friend from long ago calls unexpectantly.  He wants to bless NACHU too.  The gifts just keep coming, who am I that I am witness to such miracles?  This is the river of generosity and it's wild, friends.  I giggle with absolute joy and awe at the purity of Christmas loved spilled from one continent to another.

These givers, they inspire me to do more.  To be more.  To trust more.  This Christmas, I want to walk with my heart ripped right open for the things of Immanuel, God with us.  Flesh of our flesh - He was here.  If you believe it, you understand what I mean.  If you don't yet believe it, I pray you one day will.  He was the greatest Gift and we are called to be again that gift to others.  I want my eyes lifted to the heavens and my head humbled down low to see the smallest of gifts and the biggest of triumphs.  To be witness to Christmas miracles, all around. 

Our dearest friends will celebrate Christmas with orphaned children next week because open people pour their heart upon strangers in the middle of Uganda.

If this doesn't bring us to tears, I don't know what will.

Generosity like this is wild, crazy, beautiful hope.  And we are all invited on the journey - who can you pour upon this season?  Who patiently and humbly awaits your gift?

Linked In:

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A Holy Experience

Just a Humble Servant Girl...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I open up my bible and read it again, the story of Jesus' birth.  Tonight, it is Mary's words that touch my heart.  Funny, I've never really noticed them that much before.

“My soul praises the Lord,
My heart rejoices in God, my Savior,
because He has shown His concern 
for His humble servant girl.”

The Mother of God was a humble servant girl.  Nothing more.  Yet, she found favor with the Lord.  She honored Him with her life and He noticed her.  He 'showed concern' for her.  Yes, in Mary, he was very pleased.

A servant girl.  She cooked.  She cleaned.  She washed clothes.  She worked in the garden.  She did mundane, repetitive, home-based work.  She was lowly in the world's eyes.  She served.  But the Almighty saw straight to her very heart.  He saw her every day spirit.  Yes, the Mother of Jesus – she was but a humble servant in a tiny town.

I read this truth sitting cross-legged in a dim hallway.  My back aches, my hair is a mess, and I'm impatiently waiting for a nervous daughter to fall asleep.  She won't go to sleep unless she can 'see' me.  So, here I sit.  A complete mess, weary from the day, and already making checklists of what needs done between 8pm and midnight.  Homeschool schedules and lessons, writing assignments, plans for a meeting, cleaning, laundry, emails, baking, and preparations for tomorrow's meals.  Many nights I'm feeling pretty little as my life's demands pile high around me.  Have you been here, friend?

Join me for some encouragement and truth over at Heart of the Matter...

Miracles Happen Here.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

We're not Jewish, but this week, we studied Hanukkah.  This holiday season we're traveling the globe and learning about Christmas and December traditions from various cultures and religions.  It's wonderful.

It's a cozy, rain-filled morning when we're spinning dreidels and betting gold coin chocolates.  We learn the meaning of the letters on the dreidel - "A Miracle Happened There".  Our Jewish friends remember the story of their people taking back the holy temple and a mere 24 hours worth of oil miraculously lighting up the Menorah for eight days straight.

"I don't know..."  I whisper.  They perk up.  They always listen better when I whisper.

"I believe miracles still happen.  I believe they're happening right now."  The smile.  Simon wiggles his brow.

"A miracle happened then, miracles happen now, and miracles will keep happening... because God is with us - Emmanuel.  And He's at work, yes He is..."   Our daughter smiles and nods, as if she completely knew what I was going to say.

I breathe, fighting back tears.  "So, I think our family can say, 'Miracles Happen Here'."  I fight back tears because the past few months have been harder than our children know.

And a few nights later I'm right in the midst of one of those little miracles.  Hundreds of people packed into a church sanctuary, candles lit in a glowing, breathtaking unity of light.  Photos just cannot capture the richness of this moment.  We sing with the choir about light and being that very light - those candles blazing, they're supposed to be us.  The Jesus lovers.  The disciples.  We're supposed to shine and burn warm every day.  That's the only way His breath is seen.  Love.  Light.  Burning in the darkness.


I look around, awed.  I wish I could stay in this moment forever.  The depth, the beauty, yes, the warm-fuzzies abound.  But, alas, we live in the real world.  We all have to blow out the candle, toss it in a bin, and walk out into a crowded foyer where we'll serve ourselves coffee first and fight for the last sprinkle cookie. 

I mean, really, what's so spiritual about drinking a coffee and grabbing a snack?  Everything.  That's just it.  Beneath each and every moment of our lives, there is a deeper, more profound reality.  The spiritual isn't just in a candle lit sanctuary, it is everywhere.  It is all around us and for some, it is in us.  It doesn't require anything of us.  Only asks that we pay attention and tune in.  I remind myself - Almighty God is speaking, am I listening?

Two weeks ago we made the gut-wrenching decision to cancel our trip to Uganda.  And friends, when I say 'gut-wrenching', I mean it literally.  It was HARD to say no when we had already so publicly said 'yes'.  Our dear friends in Uganda were heart-broken, and we were left confused and crushed.  Sometimes, you can't fully explain the 'why'.  Sometimes, when peace leaves you and confusion sets in and your mind feels foggy and your purpose is wavering - you just have to step back and pray.  So we prayed.  And prayed.  And talked.  Talked to each other and talked to trusted family and friends.

Slowly, we discovered what we dreaded - we didn't have peace about our trip.  Something just wasn't 'right'.  I still can't fully tell you why we don't have peace about going to Uganda right now.  There are many logical reasons why we should wait, but there are also many logical reasons why we should go.  Sometimes, the whispers of the Holy Spirit are all you have to go on and those aren't easily explained or summed up in a sound bite.

Many, many tears fell and I had to say it over and over, that one word that's so incredibly huge - 'surrender'.  Surrender if God sends us to Uganda and surrender if He tells us to stay right here.  Surrender.  Because we believe He knows best, even when it's hard. 

But do you know what has happened lately?  My eyes have opened wider.  My senses are awakening to the deeper - the fullness of 'God with us'.  Immanuel.  The name above all names.  He is with us and He is here and yes, miracles happen here.   

See, for a while I was stuck in the unconscious belief that miracles were only happening in Uganda.  The homeless child, finds a family.  The hungry child eats because a meal was brought to her.  The seven year old who spent two years on the street almost vomits after children hug him,  because he's never felt love like this before.  These miracles.  Yes, they are happening there.  

But they are also happening here.  Because when a stranger decides to simply ask her friends to get involved,  30 children receive new shoes.  And when a friend hosts a home show, a family eats for a month.  And when strangers see us at a Christmas show and buy presents for their loved ones, they are investing in changed lives.  We meet hundreds and tell the story of how James and Norah walked in faith and now care for more than 30 children who before finding NACHU, never knew safety.  No, some didn't even know a hug or a kiss or their birthday.  This is a place of refuge and this is a place where Jesus is found.  Through their love and surrender, and our 
simple act of selling of jewelry, together we have given orphans a family.

This year, a child dies and I will tell his story.  Though I choke back tears,  I will not shush and I will not stop.  There are happy endings, but there are also children who die because we choose to live in our indulgence, our crude 'oh well' state of mind.  Their culture doesn't kill them, we kill them.  Because there is a way out - and the hands are there and they long to serve but they lack the means.  We can be the means and we are called to be the means and miracles happen when people say YES.  

Another miracle right here - I meet an instant kindred spirit who lived most of her life in Kenya.  Her skin is a creamy brown that radiates love and a soft kindness no one can resist.   Oh, but this woman is strong - she is more inspiring than she knows.  She's lived in the slums, she's seen the pain, she knows the need.  She leaps in faith and starts a non-profit enterprise selling soapstone made by her family and friends back home.  And one weekend worth of Christmas gifts bought for loved ones HERE make an unimaginable Christmas come alive somewhere deep in the heart of East Africa.  Yes, close your eyes and believe... we are all connected. 

This month, miracles happened in a warehouse that feeds the world's hungry, in church auditoriums, in living rooms, and in checkout lines at the grocery store.

In one party, this family group raised enough money to support several Kenyan women and feed the NACHU family for an entire month.  Praise God.
We're praying and trusting God for the approaching day when we can boldly ask partners to give financially.  To boldly ask if they will choose to clothe the naked and give shelter to the wanderer.  And just like that the wanderer becomes a real, live child and they have names and faces and stories and beautiful, joyful souls.  

And child by child, the world is changed.  And those miracles happen right here and then they find wings and fly themselves all the way to sub-saharan Africa where they nestle right in among those smiling faces and are birthed - miracles in the dusty red sand.

We choose how closely we want to press in.  

These faces are real and these children breathe and know love because someone reached out and said, "I believe".  That little boy, the child who came to us after years on the street.  He is seven.  And the boy who sleeps soundly upstairs in his bed, yes, our boy is seven too.  One child is ours in flesh but the other is also ours in soul and he is yours too.  Black, white, rich, poor, homeless or right upstairs - we all have the same maker and rely on the same grace and our hearts beat alike and we breath in time.

These children aren't much different from yours.

And we aren't much different from the ones who bring them in.  We are called to do the same.  To open our hearts to the unlikely.  To believe in miracles.

To believe miracles happen right where we are.  We just need to enter in and open our hearts to receive.


Won't you prayerfully consider partnering with us in the coming months as we grow the amazing work of Nurture a Child Uganda together?  More miracles to come... we believe.

 Linked In:

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Galloping the Globe - Germany!

Friday, December 7, 2012

It has been a crazy, busy, wonderful season.  I am longing to write a post about what has been going on the past few months, but tonight, I think I'll start with sharing our study of Germany from a couple of weeks ago.

This study wasn't as comprehensive as some of our other country studies, but we really enjoyed the simplicity.  Germany is a beautiful country and it just so happens that our family has German roots through my Dad's side, so that was pretty neat.

We started off our journey with food, the perfect start, as far as I'm concerned!

We made German Pretzels from scratch, which is actually quite easy to do.  My only recommendation would be to go very very easy on the salt.  We purchased coarse salt (as per the recipe) and once the children has 'sprinkled' their pretzels, they were so salty, they wouldn't eat them.  We ended up having to scrape the salt off in order to enjoy them!

At the end of our study, we also enjoyed a field trip to a local restaurant specializing in Austrian/German food.  We all enjoyed a meal of Schnitzel with potatoes and vegetables and the children were able to pick out some German cookies and chocolate for dessert.


German history - castles!  Germany has some of the most beautiful and ancient castles in all of Europe.  We read about various sites and then experimented with our own castle building set.

We also enjoyed some fabulous books and stories, too many to list.  The children particularly enjoyed Goldilocks and Heidi.  We also found a very age-appropriate version of the film with Shirley Temple playing Heidi.  Highly recommend this version for children!

We enjoyed an extensive study of classical music and famous German composers with this unit.  The children listened to a different composer every day.  We listened to and discussed two pieces of music and the children chose their favourite to write in their "German Composers" mini-books.

Our Germany Lapbooks -

Thanks for reading!

Galloping the Globe / Five in a Row - Italy

Monday, November 12, 2012

First, I must comment - the more I learn about Europe, the more I love it.  What a beautiful land rich in so much culture and history!  Italy is no exception.  It's so incredibly beautiful and whimsical! 

For the record, if there was somewhere in the world, other than Africa, that I'd LONG to visit, it would be Italy.  It really would.

We started or journey with a 'trip' to Venice.  The place of looove. *wink*  We followed along with the study of Papa Piccolo through Five in a Row and used many of the concepts to introduce Venice through the eyes of a cat who lives along the Grand Canal. We then studied Clown of God which is set in Sorrento. (Living books are a key part of a Charlotte Mason homeschool, so we use many but these two are fantastic as are all of the Five in a Row books.)

Papa Piccolo Activities:

We always start every country study with some cultural food and a look at the world map.  We learned that Italy is shaped like a boot.  I'm excited to see that our children can easily identify Italy, Great Britain, France, Kenya, South Africa, Canada (and Ontario), and the USA on the world map.  Pretty good!  Our cultural introduction meal was Spaghetti and Meatballs with fresh Italian bread.   Easy, but delicious.

We looked at some Italian words and learned how to count to 10.  We also made Italian flags and looked at countless beautiful images of Venice and various other places in Italy.

We took a look at Art in various ways through Papa Piccolo.  First, we worked with watercolors as we tried to create a 'replica' of the title page. This was a study in the use of various mixes (more or less water) and how to create a water scene.

Audrey couldn't resist trying to paint Papa Piccolo.

Art - the study of colors, contrasting and complimentary.  We used old paint chips to creat colorwheels.  We also talked about cool and warm tones and how certain colors either compliment each other or clash with each other. 

Audrey's final painting for her water colors strudy... love it!

Drama, language, vocabulary, exercise.  In Papa Piccolo, there are countless action words.  I printed them off and then we drew words from a mason jar.  Each child took turns drawing words and we acted out the action together.  Great hands-on vocabulary building activity.

Curled Up.
Perched. Ha.

More Art studies - Michelangelo

Learning about Michelangelo and the Cistine Chapel in Rome. We discussed how he was commissioned by Pope after Pope to paint, when truly, he wanted to sculpt. Even so, his works are now world-famous.

Here's a great activity to do when learning about Michelangelo - painting laying down!  Michelangelo labored for years on his back to paint the ceiling of the Cistine Chapel.  Here we laid a piece of old plan between two chairs, taped a paper to the plank and practiced painting laying down.  We used oil paints to follow along the lines of what Michelangelo would have used (closer than trying to use acrylic or water colors).  Fun!

Audrey's finished painting of a person with a volcano.

More Michelangelo - we learned about his famous piece, David and how he was mostly self-taught in sculpture!  We used dry pieces of clay and 'carved' them using chisels and hammers.  It was a lesson in how incredibly difficult it must have been for Michelangelo to carve his famous pieces and how much talent and determination he had.

Making Masks!  This goes with our study of Venice.  We looked at the history of Masquerades and the art of Venician masks.  We used paper plates from the dollar story and some yarn to create our own masks.


Art - using yellow to depict light inside a building.  Easy construction paper activity.  I cut our yellow rectangles and squares and black buildings.  The kids decided how they wanted theirs to look.  Here is Audrey's:

More Italian food... making Gnocci.

Making sugar cookies - not sure if it really ties in to Italy... but it's baking, anyways!

Field Trip... out for Gelato at a local Italian Cafe!

Yum!  A fun family outing.

Clown of God Activities:

This is a beautiful tale of a man who finds his gift and uses it to honor God by making people happy.  Our kids would eagerly listen to it over and over.

Gravity - learning about gravity through the use of parachutes.  We made simple parachutes out of white garbage bags, string and lego people.  We also threw different objects from a high bridge to see how they fell differently based on weight and shape.

Cultural food - making our own Pizza!

Ready to make our very own dough.

Fresh out of the oven - delicious!


Our Clown of God Lapbooks:

Field Trip... to the country market!  So, it's not quite the Piazza San Marco, but, we were stretching it. This was an outdoor market where we could buy coffee, hot chocolate, treats, fruits and vegetables, etc.  We thought it was similar to going to the piazza and visiting with friends and shopping the locally made and grown foods.

Other Tid-bits:

Five in A Row Story Disks showing Madeline, Glorious Flight, Papa Piccolo, and Clown of God.

Other books  and legends we added to our study.

We LOVE these videos.  They are fabulous for kids. 

Vivaldi - The Four Seasons in full

Learning Italian Numbers

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