Friday, August 31, 2012

I was thinking about how people write it - "Never change!"

I'm sure it was in my yearbook at least three times, and I got thinking.  The idea isn't just a teenage whisper to stay the same.  It is one of our culture's narcissistic anthems.  Be who you are.  Never shy away from your inner self.  Grasp your true self.  Never let go.  Be yourself.  Put yourself first.  Actually, obsess over yourself, if you fancy it.

Doesn't this tie into our notion that we need not question our faults?  If I'm mean to my husband, well, "that's just who I am - I'm grouchy."  If I'm impatient with my children, "Oh, I've got a short fuse - the kids are used to it."  If I'm lacking joy, "Well, I'm certainly not a cheery person."  If I'm critical of others, "Hey, I can't help it - it's just how I am."

We are living in an age of astronomical egotism with one resounding message: don't change who you are for anyone.  Not even God.

But for those of us who call Jesus Lord, we're called to something very, very different.  We're not called to 'never change' but rather to always be changing.  Ever striving to become more like Jesus.  Renewed.  Renamed.  Recreated.  Change is inevitable when we are pressing in to the Creator and choosing to be cleansed in Him.  Choosing to be molding by His mighty hands.  The Holy One, Yahweh, I Am.  He, the One who never changes - yes, He calls us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

We are called to be transformed, friends.  We should always be changing.  If we stop changing, if we aren't becoming more like Him every day - something is awry.

In this striving for Christ we ought to be moved to tears, moved until it is painfully uncomfortable.  Always growing, always examining ourselves, and always finding the joy that surpasses human understanding in the process.  In Him we find our true selves.  Our true character.  Our purpose.  Always ever changing to become some one new - reflecting His love.

And eventually, we pray we'll start looking more like Him and less like us.

Changing.  Always changing.  Always finding greater, deeper, and overwhelming peace in the transformation.

Written for:
Five Minute Friday

The Unplugged Quiet

Thursday, August 23, 2012

When my husband and I decided to toss our TV about five years ago, it took us awhile to get used to.  However, within a few months of going TV-free, I couldn't stand being in a room where the box was blaring.  I literally couldn't think straight.

And I often wonder if that's how most of our culture lives - with the inability to focus.  We are a culture obsessed with distraction.  It's why I call a lot of media "Weapons of Mass Distraction".  We are so accustomed to entertainment, to always having something to watch, something to listen to, something to fall into and something to zone out with.

Continue reading over at the Better Mom... 

In My Arms

Monday, August 20, 2012

I sit on the edge of her bed, waiting for her to stop stalling at bed time.

"One more snack, Mama."
"You've had three already."
"I want yogurt."
"But you've had four yogurts already today."
"Do you have watermelon?'
"Ok, I'll have that."

"Oh..."  she continues so innocently, "and water too."

I sigh and trudge down our country stairs (they creak and moan under my weight).  She has always been both demanding and overwhelmingly sweet, our daughter.  She's five now, and an expert at this sort of tactic.  Every night it's the same ordeal.  She stalls, I get frustrated.  She stalls more, I finally get frustrated enough that she knows to stop and go to sleep.

I come back with the watermelon and water.  I'm such a push-over, I know it.  She munches and I impatiently think of all the things I still have to accomplish before my usual midnight repose.

"I want you to hold me for lullabies, Mama."

Her big blue eyes search mine.  I'm tired.  I don't really feel like 'holding' in this moment.  But she crawls into my lap and puts her head on my chest, arms around my neck.  Her slight frame completely limp in my arms.

"Hold me like you used to, Mama."

My face softens in the dimly lit room.  This child of mine - when did she get so big?  I rock her and quietly hum a favorite tune.  Yes, I remember this well.  The baby who would not go to sleep unless rocked in a sling while pacing the room - perhaps I contributed to this night time upset just a little?   I hold her close and kiss her soft forehead.  Long curls fall across her cheeks.

The peace that overtakes us in this moment is worth a million steps up and down that stalling staircase.  My heart is calmed.  She's in a blissful existence in her Mama's arms.  And I'm realizing how I've allowed myself to be annoyed by the very thing I should be cherishing.

My daughter, she only wants me.  

No, she probably isn't hungry (especially when she's already had three snacks).  And no, she probably doesn't need one more glass of water.  What she needs, is me.

The snack.  The water.  Just ways to get Mama to come back.

I gulp back tears.

Because they really do go from this...

to this... in, well, the leap of a frog...

In my arms - this soul of a girl.  So in need of care.  Of acceptance.  Of God's grace and immense love.  So in need of a Mama who is always there.  Who always wants her.  Who will still rock her - even when she's tired and doesn't (really) feel like it.  Because it's in those moments that Mama is taught by daughter.

Cherish the small, tender moments.  Don't rush them.  Don't be quick to end the day... to end the hugs and kisses.  We are not promised the morning.  We are only promised this embrace.

Oh God, teach me to always be aware of the gifts.  Of the tender rock-a-byes and the precious, priceless people-gifts you have placed in my arms.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Over the past several months, our family has reduced our spending and cost of living substancially.  In many areas, by more than half.  Yes, half.  It's a time of stretching like you wouldn't believe.  Streching the dollars and stretching the soul.  Stretching the faith as we leap into my husband starting a business of his own and invest in a farawary ministry we believe in so much.

To savor that which has no price.

We're testing our ability to live on less.  A preacher says it through my ipod as if it's an impossible thought: "Just IMAGINE!  Imagine if the people who follow Jesus actually lived on less so they could give more away.  Imagine!"  Yes, imagine. It shouldn't be that crazy, it's what we're called to do.  People have said we can't compare what we spend to what it would buy in Uganda.  It's unhealthy.  It never ends.  I mean, eventually, you'll feel guilty for buying a piece of fruit.  Right?

Wrong.  I've found the past weeks to be the healthiest of my days here on this green and blue sphere.  I don't walk around guilty, I want around AWAKE.  I walk around aware and sometimes painfully aware, yes, but I'd rather sit in the stretching pain than shrink and shrivel into ignorance.

So I beg God to stretch me more.  Show me what else we can change, Lord.  Show me the true value of what we have and what we think we need.  Teach me further to be thankful for what is right here, right now.  Teach me to not linger on that which I have not, but to sit content in all these gifts I already have.  Teach me to intimately be aware of which gifts are precious and priceless and which ones are mine only to be given up and given away.

Stretched.  Stretched from the outside-in to look at life as a slow, savored journey of giving rather than a raceway of getting.  Because we truly do make a life by what we give.

 To stretch the cultural view of normal within my own heart and my own life and not be afraid.  Not even for a moment.  Because what He has for me is so, so better than anything this world can offer

Five Minute Friday


Homeschooling 2012-2013

Sunday, August 12, 2012

It's an exciting time of year as we plan for the coming homeschool year.  I love it - new beginnings, new plans, new opportunities.

I spent several months researching a general curriculum that would work within our Charlotte Mason/Unit Study learning structure.  I like to use a base for learning and then springboard from there.  I've found boxed curriculums do not work for our family or our method, so I tend to piece together several resources and programs.

This year we are using Galloping the Globe as our main curriculum.  GTG takes us on a journey to every continent on the globe.  Within each continent, we study various countries, their people, cultures, landscapes, climates, animals, religion, political structure, etc.

Unity Study based homeschooling is a really fun and engaging way to learn.  Our children will be incorporating many aspects of their schedule to whichever unit we are studying.  This includes - Bible/Faith Studies, Science, Nature Study, Languages, Music and Art Appreciation, Visual Art, Cultures, Life and Practical Skills, History, Geography, and more.  For example, when we study Kenya, we will be learning about traditional African Art, studying African instruments and ancient traditional music, reading East African tales, and memorizing poetry from an African poet.  They will learn about the climate, land structure, and wildlife in this region.  We will take a look at the Maasai people and make diagrams of traditional Maasai homes.  The children will be making paper beads and stringing traditional East-African necklaces and bracelets. We will also be shopping in cultural grocery stores and preparing African foods and meals. 

A study of Italy will include famous historical places, language studies, and artists such as Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Giotto.  The Netherlands study includes learning about Van Gogh, Rembrandt, windmills, and Dutch cooking.  Canada includes looking at Mounties, Henry Hudson, Jacques Cartier, democracy, Moose, Maple Syrup,  Native American culture, and Inuit culture.

Each child is working on their own "Passport to the Globe" which will be a large binder/scrapbook of all their work this year.  It includes maps, journals, facts, stories, lap-books,  and whatever else we decide might work well for documenting our journey.   At the end of each country unit study, we celebrate with a cultural meal showcasing that country's traditional food.

I'm really looking forward to this year!

Galloping the Globe
Five in a Row, Volume 1
Considering God's Creation
A Child's Geography, Ann Voskamp
Africa, Land of Hope (Compassion Int'l)
Resource Books from the GTG book list:
Answers in Genesis Aquarium Guide
Answers in Genesis Zoo Guide
Eat Your Way Around the World
Missionary Stories with the Millers
Desert Animals, Grassland Animals, Troical Forest Animals
Canada Activity Books

Other Resources for Galloping the Globe:
The Great Global Puzzle Challenge w/ Google Earth
Children's Atlas of the World
Usborne Children's Encyclopedia
Usborne Book of Peoples of the World
Usborne World of Animals
Usborne First Encyclopedia of the World
Usborne First Encyclopedia of Animals
World of Animals (Usborne)
Wild Places (Usborne)
Essential Atlas of the World (Usborne)
“Taking Your Camera To” Series – Brazil, Spain, Canada, France, Panama, Australia, Egypt, Italy, Japan, Russia, Mexico, Israel.

Art and Music Appreciation
Curriculum -Harmony Fine Arts Grade 1 by Barbara McCoy
The Usborne First Book of Art
Live of the Musicians by Kathleen Krull and Kathryn Hewitt
Oxford First Book of Art
The Children's Book of Art by Rosie Dickins
The Usborne Book of Famous Artists
The Usborne Book of Art

Now We Are Six, A.A. Milne
The Llama Who Had No Pajama, Mary Ann Hoberman
All Day Long, Mrs. Mark Yoder
The Usborne Book Of Poems for Young Children
Tales- Clever, Foolish, and Brave
A Visit to William Blake's Inn by Nancy Willard

Bible and Faith Based Curriculum
Hands-On Bible Explorations by Janice VanCleave
The Dig by Patrick Schwenk
Bible reading, scripture memorization
I Heard The Good News Today (global missionaries)
Ergermeier's Bible Story Book, Children's Bible Storybook, Usborne Illustrated Children's Bible

Literary Studies and Read-a-loud Novels
Literary Studies -
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
The Story of Dr. Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Read-a-loud Novels -
A Grain of Rice by Helena Pittman
Mary on Horseback by Rosemary Wells
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
The Hundred Penny Box by Sharon Bell Mathis
In Grandma's Attic by A. Richardson
The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
Mario, A Belizean Boy and Mario and His Friends by E. Wagler
The Happy Hollisters On a River Trip by Jerry West
Tales from Beatrix Potter by Beatrix Potter
The Bobbsey Twins of Lakeport by Laura Lee Hope
Storytime with the Millers by Mildred A. Martin
Aram's Choice by M. Skrypuch

Science Centers (grade 1-2)
The Usborne Pocket Scientist Blue Book
The Usborne Pocket Scientist Red Book
50 Science Things to Do Cards (Usborne)
The Handbook of Nature Study (Nature Studay and ourdoor Science)

Simon - Teaching Textbook 3
Audrey - Math-u-See Primer

Phonics and Reading
For Alex and Audrey -
Jolly Phonics Program and workbooks 1-4 and 1 and 2
Letter Sounds Drawers
Take It To Your Seat Phonics Centers
Usborne Very First Reading Program books 1-15
I Can Read Reading Program
Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons

As a side-note, I'm not a huge fan of 'workbooks' as I feel they are so often just 'busy work'. I do, however, have several on-hand throughout the year. The children do go to them and complete various activities. These are not, however, central in our learning.
Simon (age 7):
Crossword Challenges
Word Puzzles
Audrey (age 5):
Math Basics grade 1
Phonics Workbooks 1,2,3 (Usborne Very First Reading Program)
Ladybird Phonics Books – Fox in a Box, Duck in a Truck, Sheep in a Heap
Grade 1 Phonics, The Clear and Simple Workbooks.
Big Book of Sticker Maths (Usborne)
Alex (age 4):
Preschool Scholar
Beginning Math
Preschool Skills
Shapes and Colors
Rhyming Words
Brainquest Pre-K

Travel plans for the year 

September: Africa- South Africa, Kenya, Uganda
October: Africa- Nigeria, Egypt Morocco
November: Asia- Japan, South Korea (Five in a Row - Grandfather's Journey, A Pair of Red Clogs)
December: Christmas Around the World, a cultural study of the season
January: Asia- India, Israel
February: Europe- Russia (FIAR - Another Celebrated Dancing Bear), Great Britain
March:  Europe- France, Italy (FIAR- Papa Picolo, Clown of God), Netherlands
April: Europe- Spain, South American- Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, Argentina
May: Oceania- Australia, New Zealand
June: North America- USA, Mexico
July/August: Canada

We already studied The Poles unit studies in the Spring of this year.  So, that covers it!

Our School Room - because so many people are curious, I thought I'd share a peek at our 'discovery room'.  It's in our back sun room/mud room and I love it. 

Now... to actually start!

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Friday, August 10, 2012

We sit in a food court like two teenagers, talking about anything that flies into our minds.  My Mom and I - just the two of us, enjoying a rare date together while our men watch the children.  We laugh at water sloshing in the car and compliment a tacky piece of furniture and chuckle at wacky teenage fashion.  I talk endlessly, as usual.  And as usual, she listens graciously.  It's the first time I've stepped in a mall in more than a year.  I realize quickly that I've missed nothing.  But I have missed my Mom.  This special time with my Mom - my unconditional friend through all.  This connecting - how I cherish it.

We arrive home later in the evening to two men and a child, still awake.

"Mama...  look."  He tugs my arm as I try desperately to finish a conversation. "Mama.  LOOK!  Look what I made with Papa..."  I look upon it.  Two pieces of paper with batteries and switches and lightbulbs pasted everywhere.  "They work.  Look."

Our seven-year-old proudly displays how his electrical contraptions easily turn on and off the little lights.  He beams.  I wonder if his Papa (my Dad) knows how Simon has desperately tried to accomplish this for weeks.  How special that time spent together was to him.  How he talks endlessly about it for hours.

And I simultaneously wonder if anyone ever truly knows how special that kind of connecting is to me.  For a girl who calls "time spent" her love language, if a loved one sits and talks with me - my soul is warmed.  My son ticks the same way.  He thrives on direct love.  Direct connection.  Direct attention.  All the time.  Yes, it's exhausting.  But, his little soul is worth it.

The next morning-

"She's HEEEERRRRREEEEE!"  They scream it from the window sills as a precious friend makes her way up the driveway.  Grandma.  I listen to their giggles and watch their excitement as she engages with them in a game of Uno.

These are the moments they remember.  The personal, intimate, "I want to spend time with you" moments.  I cling to them in my own life.  Surely,  they do too.  Yes, clinging to these whispers of "I love you" spoken in time.

This is the connecting of hearts.  This is the pulse of relationship.  This is what keeps us together and keeps us pasted through the days and the nights and the hard times and crazy hours.

Intentionally connect with someone special today.

A phone call.
A book.
A board game.
A chat.
A big, huge hug.

You never know how your actions warm another heart - no matter how little your efforts may seem to you.

Written for:  Five Minute Friday

When the impossible, isn't.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Seeking beauty we trekked down country roads and up steep hills and over rocks and moss-covered landscapes.  One goal in mind - get to the bottom of the falls.  Our six-year-old spoke the dream a week ago and my response was an automatic, 'that's impossible'.  This falls is over 40 meters high.  The peak is easy to get to, but the base?  It's hidden in a sea of forest and river bed kilometers long.  Surely, we'd never find the base - it'd be too difficult.

"But those people did."  He states it simply as we peek down at a group of bodies the size of grasshoppers.  Hikers.  All adults.  Yes, they got there, somehow.  But us?  We're a family with a seven, five, and four-year-old in tow.

My husband's motto is too often an overwhelming, 'All things are possible!'.  So, two days ago, we were suiting up with backpacks and water shoes to attempt to find the base of this majestic waterfall we'd so often gazed at from above.

I'll admit - I was skeptical.  And because I was having a bad day, I was also grumpy.  More than enough times we've walked hours into the woods on a quest for some 'amazing place' - to only turn back with grouchy, tired kids on our backs.  But, maybe my husband knows it, and maybe that's why he pushes me to hike, but once I'm surrounded by forest and river - my mood melts away.

How can I be negative surrounded by all this beauty?  Siblings walking hand in had, grabbing frogs and so determined to get somewhere completely, seemingly impossible? It's endearing and precious and I'd better embrace it.  And I do.  Slipping my arm around my man, I smile and embrace this crazy quest.

About two-hours in, surprise!  The most breath-taking landscape I've ever seen.  Vacant of people.  Lush with soft moss and sparkling pools of fresh water, cascading down a small waterfall.  This isn't "the" waterfall we're questing to find, but it's a welcome surprise in the middle of our walk.

This is the part of the day where I forget I didn't wear my bathing suit and surrender to the moment.  Soaking wet, we climb behind this wonder.  We're yelling, it's so loud.  Shimmering light, wide-eyed children.  Snuggled in a waterfall's cove.  This is a recipe for release.  And once we climbed to the top?  A natural playground of slippery slides and God's wading pools comparable to what a theme park would desperately try to replicate. (And never succeed.)

We trudge on, desperate to reach our goal.  We slip, there are bruises, trips, falls.  Tears.  Sips of water in the hot summer sun.  Feet wrinkled from too long in the river.  But then, around another bend, over another fallen tree, and...

 We made it.  We did it.  Shouts of "Look!" and "We're here!" can be heard echoing around us.

I gasp.  We did make it.  We actually did.

So, the end of the story is this - yes, our three-year-old DID accomplish a four-hour hike to the bottom of one of the tallest waterfalls in Canada.  And our older son proudly proclaimed, "See, Mom, nothing is impossible." 

Tears well up as I gaze around me.  This is what life is about.  The magnitude of God's creation. The pursuit of something greater than me.  The impossible becoming possible. 

The ability to humbly admit when you were wrong and your child taught you a lesson.  To look up.  Always up.  To realize how very small we are and how very enormous He is.  To embrace the beauty and accept it as a profound gift.  A precious gift for the ones He loves.  To get outside and sit there a long, long while.  To trudge.  To get muddy and sweaty with your kids.  These little ones, bathing in a pool at the bottom of this surreal dream world.  These little ones who are staring up in awe as they look upon all God's glory.  These little ones who feel satisfied in their own ability to achieve a dream.  Something great.  Something someone said was impossible.

But, oh, it is possible.

Come on, Mom.

And I sit quiet, surrounded by thundering roar, and wonder what other impossible things we can accomplish in Him.  I'll lean hard into Christ who has the power to make bigger, life-changing 'impossibles' turn into a glorious, "we did it".

A treasure found along the way -

Blessings to you in your 'impossible' pursuits...

And Jesus said to him, "'If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes."

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