Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Lighter Side of Homeschooling

With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die. ~Abraham Lincoln

If you homeschool, you know it is very serious business. There is little funny about the groaning mass of agonized flesh rolling around recovering from the torture cause by just briefly touching a math book. One equation alone can produce intense fear, pitiful beggings, and tears of desperation...and sometimes this describes parent rather than child!

At some point you realize, as you homeschool, that you are not in control. You never were really. It was an illusion you dreamed up in your mind. You prepared with anticipation and then you buckled into the roller coaster ride of your life. Yes, that is you screaming as you plunge down towards math and you giggling as you rise when reading her latest story and you feeling a bit queasy with that sudden turn in another direction with your curriculum and just when you think you are into the groove, you get turned upside down watching helplessly as things you thought were so necessary to take along just fall away.

Such is the homeschooling life!

If you have not yet visited Cristina at Home Spun Juggling to read the many homeschooling cartoons she has done, you are missing a real treat. I can always find something worth a chuckle or two there. Please leave a courtesy comment to let her know you stopped in.

Sometimes you just cannot find a laughable moment, you just have the BLUES...homeschool blues.

Now here is something to help out those who cannot readily recognize that "oh, so obvious" difference between homeschool children and...the other socialized children.

Languages are very important also. As homeschooling parents, we are responsible in teaching our children how to communicate well with other people, so keep this in mind.

~ My Lord, thank you for the gift of laughter. ~

Friday, August 26, 2011

Quakes, Hurricanes, and Family...Oh, My!

Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we've put it in an impossible situation.
~Margaret Mead

The earthquake that rocked the Eastern United States caused problems with the machines my husband services. They are complicated and rather sensitive, therefore must be level. After the quake, the precision of their leveling was off just enough to cause some malfunctions. The Atlanta area was not effected but neighboring states were, therefore my husband has been away from home all week and probably will not be home tonight either.

Today he will be traveling to North Carolina and I made the mistake of nonchalantly passing this information onto his mother when she asked during our phone conversation last night. You see, Hurricane Irene is blowing her way up the eastern coast and her projected course makes for North Carolina to be its first landfall, but having lived in Florida for many years, I have learned why hurricanes are given names: they seem to have minds of their own and change their minds or just stubbornly not do what is expected of them.

Anyway, my mother-in-law related that she now has something else to worry about, since her anxiety levels began to lower now her car is fixed from the noise it made due to a faulty air conditioner and her kitchen sink drain is now draining properly. Now her son is going into the state where Irene is expected to make landfall! I assured her the he would not be near the coastline where people are being evacuated.

Now there is a sense of irony in all this that I cannot just let quietly slip pass.

She had just told me how, even though Irene will not be hitting Florida head-on, that she has closed up the hurricane shutters because of the strong winds that could blow things into the windows just from the rain bands. Apparently, she was concerned enough to batten down the hatches! (But, we are not suppose to worry?)

Unlike her son, my husband, being far inland, she is within ten miles from the beach, so that every hurricane season, we worry a bit more than usual about her living in Florida alone. I mentioned that perhaps she then can understand how we feel being concerned about her and not being able to get to her to help. I was met with silence and then the explanation that Irene will not be hitting, not this particular hurricane, but there is always another and there are other concerns about her being alone also. She cannot drive far and she has a dog, which makes it a bit difficult to go to a shelter, even if she would go, which we are convinced she would not.

I have been thinking about this quite a bit. First, if I did not have my husband (and sometimes it feels as if I barely have him as it is), I probably would not own a house, or at least not this one. I would chose something smaller and needing less maintenance, particularly less yard work. Houses need a good deal of maintenance and I am a realist about what I am able to do or at least willing to do and can afford. Mom's house is quite large: four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a Florida room that is as long as her dining room and living room together and just about as wide too. It is spacious, but with each square foot is extra cost to cool, heat, and maintain too.

Second, my husband and I joked that when the Princess settles into her adulthood and should that be a distance from where we are residing, that we will move to be near her. We want to be involved in her life and with our grandchildren. We don't want to make it difficult for her, as our only child, to help us when we need it. We do not have the same sense, which many people around us do, that we should not be a burden on our families...helping each other is what makes it a family and that is the family ethic that we hope our daughter embraces. We have seen that aging parents trying not to be a burden, being stubbornly independent, is actually quite burdensome for their offspring...more so, in many cases.

A few years back, my aunt and uncle moved out of the house they had lived in for 50 years. They had a house built with their son and his wife out in the country. There have been compromises on both sides, but those compromises have also allowed my aunt and uncle to maintain and pursue their interests more: gardening, raising and milking goats, playing her hammered dulcimer, reading books, creating artwork, cooking, and being active at church. My cousin has a demanding manager's job, working long hours, but he does not have to worry about getting home to let his dog out or spending his day off over at his parent's place helping them out with home or barn repairs. His wife, also a manager but just recently retired, has had several medical difficulties, which my aunt and uncle were able to help by going with her to a doctor's appointment or taking care of things around the house, like general cleaning that they would not be able to do if they had to care for their house as well. It has been mutually beneficial.

There are times things have gone through adjustments, changes, and personality conflicts, and even more compromises and working together, but these are what families do. I am heartened to see the arrangement they have and how it has worked. I wish my husband's mother could see that and would move closer to us, perhaps in a small house that would be less work for her to keep up. I wish she could see that she is not giving up memories, as memories stay with you, but she would be making new memories. That she would not be a burden but be involved with our family and especially her granddaughter.

On the other hand, I suppose what really makes it work is the willingness to make it work. The willingness to accept change and seeing the good in it. I wonder if I would hold so tightly to a past that I would not enjoy the future? No, I know I would not, because I grew up with an entirely different perspective. I believe life is about change and change is living and healthy families change as they grow stronger together. That is what I want for my family and I believe to do that I am willing to make the necessary changes.

Lastly, I could worry about every time my husband drives the long distances he does or flies. Once he was traveling up I-75 after I had warned him that strong storms were coming through, but God was good as he was delayed in leaving the one customer to get to the next. He had to wait for three hours at a complete standstill in the middle of the night as they tried clearing the Walmart that the tornado left scattered across the highway, where he could have been if he left on time. It is not that I do not worry at times, it is just that I put my faith in God that whatever comes our way is His will. I know He may not always protect us the way I would like, but I have faith that His will shall be done in our lives. Most of the time I have peace because I choose to trust and have faith in my Lord.

~ My Lord, I am so thankful that I have recognized You as my Father and that You have accepted me as part of Your family. Help me to continue to grow and change and be helpful to You. Also, please keep all of our family close to You, My Lord. ~

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Book Review: Thunder of Heaven

I call it Ezekiel's thunder.
~Pastor Peter Campbell in Thunder of Heaven, 2011, in reference to Ezekiel Chapters 38-39

From the very first page, I was completely enthralled with Thunder of Heaven. I just could not put this book down once I started it! It is the second in The End Series by Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall. It is set in the very near future, almost too near for comfort as we watch course of present day government policies work towards their obvious, but frightening, conclusions.

As I was given this book in exchange of an honest review, it was the first one I had read from the series and I was impressed that it read well as a stand-alone, so that is how I will write the first part of my review. However, I decided not to post my review on this book until I have read the first book of the series, Edge of Apocalypse, for comparison between the two and the flow of one to the other. I must admit from this one alone that I am anxious to read all books in this series.

It is like a menagerie with elements of the past, the present, and the prophetic future, a modern version of King Arthur's tales of knights having a code of honor and patriotism, but with our technological advances in weaponry, along with familiar age-old conflicts between good and evil yet building to the prophetic conclusion written in the Bible. The style is action-packed with conspiracies on many levels and a small band of dedicated people, the Roundtable, of varied expertise willing to use their influence to obtain information vital to the country's security as well as sacrificing money, liberty, and even their lives, when necessary, to protect the United States against its own leaders with globalizing agendas. The latest American polices seeming to promote global tolerance with past enemies while ignoring the constant threat against Israel were incarnated in such a believable way that it is quite chilling.

As described in Ezekiel, Israel is to be hopelessly surrounded, outnumbered, outgunned, and attacked from all sides...well, if you know your Bible, you also know the outcome of that. If not, you should know that this very thing is prophesied and the miraculous preservation of Israel is so wonderfully illustrated within the pages of this book that it took my breath away.

Even with all seemingly falling apart in the world, the God-given gifts of love and hope were not lost in the rubble of events. I liked that there were believable and strong Christian characters: a Christian woman struggling with her feelings for an unbeliever; a man befriending a disfigured Christian while in an Iranian prison; and the desire to do what is right even in fear of retribution from the White House itself.

Lastly, the message of God's authoritative superiority, control over the elements, perfect timing, and protection of Israel was portrayed powerfully. It truly was Thunder of Heaven.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now that I have read the first book of the series, I will conclude this review. Edge of Apocalypse quite suspenseful, even as the first book of the series when one is introduced to and becomes acquainted with the characters. Having read the second book before the first, I expected the first to detail, perhaps even in a dull fashion, the who's who and how the Roundtable came about. I was pleasantly surprised that it did not, as the clandestine group was apparently established at a prior time.

Reading the first book did give more insight to some references in Thunder of Heaven but it was not necessary to read the previous book to get the gist of what had happened as it is covered well enough. However, one thing in particular I will say is that the first book created a strong foundation for flowing into the second by expounding the main character, Joshua Jordan, and his personal struggles, particularly with the awakening of his spiritual understanding. This builds up in the Thunder of Heaven much better if the books are read in order. So, I do recommend reading Edge of Apocalypse, but if you start with Thunder of Heaven, as I did, you will not feel as if you were missing something intangible while reading it.

~ My Lord, please bless all the people involved with the writing and publishing of these books as well as all the readers. May these stories help lost souls find You. ~

Monday, August 22, 2011

Weighing the Worth of Seasonal Consignment Sales

Frugality is founded on the principal that all riches have limits. ~Edmund Burke

Seasonal consignment sales are the probably the epitome of frugality, where one must carefully weigh worth between money and time, savings and effort, value and intangibles.

It has not escaped me that to place items for sale in a seasonal consignment sale, one must devote time and energy to find which items for the season that have not been worn in six months no longer fit and then look for spots and tears and whatever else that will cause the clothes to be rejected. Clothes must be laundered and ironed to look their best, then hung on hangers just so with the tag in the upper right corner. Some sales require all to be hung on wire hangers only because the plastic ones can break. For some, shoes must be in bags pinned on hangers and others just want the pair fastened together to be placed in bins. Other items like nursery decor, toys, games, shoes, DVDs, CDs, homeschool materials and books must all be clean and in working order with batteries included for those items that need them. Depending on how much you have to do, it can take a least a few hours of preparation and some consignment sales have limits of how many items can be listed, that is listed under one consignor's number and each one has a fee.

The Princess tried on all her clothes from last year, because some things were large on her then and she seems to be in a slow, but steady growth, staying a bit petite for her age and we cannot go by the size on the label to determine what will fit and not fit. She thinks this is such a waste of time, but this is the worst of her part in the preparations and just the beginning of mine. After I have sorted the piles of what she will still be able to wear and not, I have much to do.

After I have prepared the items, I must take them to the designated place at the designated time to drop them off. Now for most sales, the only thing I must do afterward is to pick up the leftovers, if I want them back, at another designated time on a Saturday. Some sales also have the check ready and others mail it in a day or so.

As a seller, I get to go the preview sale for sellers and volunteers, which is usually on Wednesday night. To entice people to volunteer to help with the sale, there are earlier preview times according to how many shifts one worked. A shift is three hours, so for working three hours, one gets in a half hour earlier up to three shifts. I don't think the trade off is worth it personally. Particularly when the children of volunteers are put in a daycare with other children where it is likely that at least one child has a contagious illness just waiting to be pass along, which happened the one and only time I volunteered when the Princess was four. They also tried to feed her junk food, which she refused, but this was after I told them she had her own food and not to give her anything else. Now the Princess is old enough to help or sit quietly doing her lessons, but I still don't see the trade-off for volunteering three hours as worth it.

Unfortunately, the second of the two sales for which I registered, which is this week, has a rule that new sellers MUST volunteer one shift. So, tomorrow I drop off my items and begin working for three hours right through our lunch time. They usually allow the workers time to eat, but I am still not looking forward to it, because when I work, I work hard...perhaps harder than I need to do? The last time I was at this, I noticed that I matched the work of three other volunteers collectively, who spent a great deal of time talking. I also worked through the hour lunch everyone else took so that I was only there two hours instead of three. I see time as precious, something you cannot buy or make up when wasted, and as a homeschooling parent, I have other things to do that are far more important to do than to organize assortments of clothes, shoes, games, toys, etc. However, if I do it this one time, I will not be a "new seller" next time and hopefully will not be required to do it again...ever.

Today I must take off the tags of my leftovers from the last sale and put on new tags for the next one. Tomorrow makes for a short homeschool day and it is the same for Wednesday with Thursday being our errand day. Obviously we are not going to cover all the lessons I would like but I do have a few shortcuts for weeks like this so that the most important subjects are still covered. Basically, it is just different style with resources I would typically use as supplements.

I wish I had sold more in the first sale so I would not have to go to the second one. I sold about 33% of what I listed for a check of $101. Which was pretty good as this sale had so much in clothes left over and I sold more in homeschool things than clothes. Still, this is twice more than I did in the last two fall sales put together! The next sale is also early in the season and very popular so I would like to double my profit with the 66% of items I have left and this time I marked many of the items for the 50% discount on Saturday, hoping I will have very left over.

Now, my one peeve is about the seller's fee. Most sales charge $6 to $7 for a seller's fee in addition to the 30% they make off the sale, which in the last one was around $51. The first $10 of the sale just goes to make up for the seller's fee which is about four tops the way I price them. I do not understand why there is a seller's fee at all, but I particularly don't get the seller's fee when a person is also volunteering her time. The first sale takes off the seller's fee for volunteering, which I think is still not a good trade for my time: for three hours I save $6 and I get a 30-minute earlier shopping time? However, the sale I am in next not only requires new sellers to volunteer three hours but also charges $7 for the seller's fee whether you volunteer time or not. it really volunteering when it is required? I think not!

With all that said, I guess it is worth it because when I do well with the consignment sale, it offsets the amount I spend in the consignment sales for new-to-her clothes and shoes most times. Oh, and can you believe it? I bought her another fancy dress after I already said she does not need another one, but it is rather lovely.

~ My Lord, thank you for this extra bit of money and help me to be sure that all my efforts to be frugal are wise choices. ~

Monday, August 15, 2011

When Threre's Too Much To Do...

When there's too much to do
Don't let it bother you, forget your troubles,
Try to be just like a cheerful chick-a-dee
And whistle while you work
Come on get smart, tune up and start
To whistle while you work.
~Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937

This week I prepared for a seasonal consignment sale, one I have not done in previous years but have shopped. The problem the last few years is the one I have been doing in the fall is very late in the season and I just did not sell much two years in a row. I think it is because shoppers have already done most of their shopping by then, so this year I was determined to sell in two earlier sales and see how I do at them. My drop off time is tomorrow late afternoon for the first one and next week I take what is left over to the second one.

Having gone through the Princess's wardrobe, there is not much that she needs this season, because I bought too much in larger sizes last year and she did not grow that much. One of her friends is seven years old and they are just about the same size, so other than shoes and socks, she does not need much of anything. I will look for some some special stuff, but I will be selling more than buying this time around...I hope I will be selling more at least.

I am hoping the sales will offset the cost of the Landmark books I bought from a friend recently. I received three large boxes with 78 books. I had to clear two 36-inch long shelves in my homeschool bookcase. Some of the no-longer-needed homeschool materials were listed for the consignment sale, but some I am holding on for a bit longer as we finish up and others, like readers, I will box up to give to the Princess for her children.

I still have a couple of book sets to find a home for and the shelves in the Princess' bedroom are overflowing with books as well...sigh! She does love to read though. I often catch her trying to hide a book under her covers when she should be sleeping. I am very thankful for that, but then I have to be a parent, because tomorrow morning begins a new day with morning chores and lessons.

I am getting side-tracked.

My husband planned to have Thursday and Friday off as comp time for working through last weekend, but at the last minute he had to work Thursday and would take Monday off. That would have been fine as the Princess and I have errands and her piano lesson, but as I was within ten minutes of leaving the house, the piano teacher called to say not to come and not only that but asked if I would stay with her the night because she had not slept in a week and nothing was helping her to sleep, even things she had used successfully in the past. My husband came home late that night and I kissed my daughter good-bye saying I would see her the next day.

She has been away with her father for a trip to Florida years ago and her father is often away. However, this was the very first time that she was home and I was not. It felt strange.

I stayed up talking with my friend and praying over her. She finally seemed sleepy, so we said good-night very late. I woke with the sun and read a book until I heard her stirring near 10:00 AM. Yes, she had finally slept. I stayed a couple more hours and arrived home at 1:00 PM to a very talkative if I had been gone for so very long.

Saturday we all rested most of the day. I should have done many other things but I read most of the day.

Sunday was our 24th Wedding Anniversary so I decided to wear my wedding dress to church. It is a white cotton, tea-length, A-line dress, not fancy with lace and pearls as one would expect, but simple and comfortable. A couple of the women unknowingly mentioned it looked like a wedding dress and I confirmed it had been. (My husband is certain I have alienated the women at my church for certain now since I still fit into my wedding dress from nearly a quarter of a century ago.)

As a family, we did an outing today that I will post separately after I go through the photos.

The rest of this week I have to make mayonnaise, ranch dressing, granola, and yogurt. I need to pickle sweet peppers as we have so many banana peppers. Just over a week ago, I cut up my pickle-sized cucumbers and let them pickle in the left over sweet pickle juice; they taste delicious! Right now I have too many zucchinis and large cucumbers, so I have to decide on what to do with them. We made our first rabbit meat pie this week and it was quite tasty. (Honestly, most people would not have been able to tell it was rabbit as it does taste so much like chicken.)

Homeschooling has been going much better, but we got off schedule because of the days my husband took off and not having the needed library-borrowed book on New Jersey, but generally I am very pleased with our new approach.

So, I am a busy woman, but not frazzled I am both surprised and very pleased to say! Now if I could just catch up on the housework...(whistling).

~ My Lord, thank you for the little ways I can save us money so that we can spend a bit extra for outings like we did today. Help us all to be very careful with our time as well. Help us to keep our priorities, Your priorities. And thank you for giving my friend the ability to sleep again. Please help her to fully recuperate soon. ~

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hawk-Promise Or Insanity?

No pillow so soft as God's promise. ~Author Unknown

I awoke this morning pleasantly refreshed around 6:00 AM as if I had slept a good six or more hours, which is amazing because I was still wide awake at 1:30 AM, wondering how I was going to feel about working at the horse barn since I just could not sleep and I would be fasting too. Fasting...something strange happened when I completed my last fast.

On Monday, the first day after my fast, I came up the stairs from the basement where we do most of our homeschooling and saw a wonder on the rail of my back deck: a hawk. This was not the common red tail or red shoulder hawks I usually see. This one had no true brown or red markings. It was a slate black with some striping (I am not a bird watcher so I am probably not using the right terminology) starkly contrasted by bright yellow feet and, of all things, yellow eyes. I was so surprised that I did even look for my camera, which was just a few steps away, as I thought it was in the basement. Given the choice to experience something even though I may not recall details and running to find a camera taking the chance to miss the experience, I will choose the experience. I called the Princess away from her lessons. Obviously the girl is more quick-thinking as she went to grab her binoculars.

After calling SmokedPam, who not only used to live here and majored in Biology but is a bird watcher, we were both still perplexed at what it might be. She had mentioned a Cooper's Hawk, but it just did not seem a match as it really had no brown on it, not even the breast, just a slate black with black flecks on a white breast. However, since I have found a few pictures of them mostly black and white as the one I posted, so it probably was with Cooper's Hawk with this rare coloring and when they are immature, their eyes are yellow. Still, I think it was just too unusual.

So, from my viewpoint, this unusual hawk is perched in a quite unusual place and the most unusual part of all this is I had seen a hawk on that particular perch while in prayer when I was asking for a sign in answer; I was asking to see a hawk very close to me on my back deck. This was when my husband was out of work just over three years ago. I did see a hawk as my answer then: A red tailed hawk had been high up the next door neighbor's tree calling me. I came out and thought, "Well, that is not very close." Then he swooped down between our houses within just ten to fifteen feet of me. Okay, God, that was pretty close. Message received. I danced back inside to looks of astonishment from my husband and daughter as I shouted "I saw my hawk! I saw my hawk!" They had no idea about what I had been praying. We had cashed the last of the severance checks and no job offers, but I knew that there was one coming then. A few days later, my husband was hired and, in answer to a two-year prayer of his own, he visited Israel where he had to go for training for that job.

Everything has its season though. A year ago, following the 40-day fast, we made a commitment to give a double tithe to our church for six months, but I knew at the end of it, we would be as broke as we had ever been during our marriage and being salaried, my husband could not just make more money. Plus, his company did not give him a raise when they had promoted him a year before, nor was he going to get any increase at all for coming year. We were so concerned about our church, because it was just barely making expenses and we would have to drop back down to our regular tithe. Apparently, God had other plans. During the fifth month, when our finances were just dust at the bottom of the barrel, my husband was offered another job. A recruiter contacted him based on his resume from three years before. He was even better suited for what they wanted because of the training with his then present job, which made the recruiter very excited. He would be still salaried, but it was enough that we could continue to tithe the same amount to our church and not lose our own house.

With all these miracles, you would think I should be satisfied, and I am, but...I think God had told me something else when this all started that I have ever since doubted that I heard it right. I never doubt my Lord, just my hearing! And, even though I know that first hawk was the sign for that time, I still was thinking that I did not see what I believed I should: a hawk perched on the left side of the arc-shaped deck rail.

So, I was struck with a living vision of this unusual hawk perched just where I pictured one would be and it comes to mind that the Lord also promised more back then.

Then I wonder: Is my Lord trying to get my attention? Is this about the other part of what I thought I heard Him tell me?

Around 11:30 PM last night, my mind began swimming, as it does when I am falling asleep while reading, so I turned out the light and lay down. I prayed as I do before sleeping and found myself still awake at nearly 1:00 AM, I decided to get up and have a few sips of milk and a couple of Valerian capsules. My husband is also still awake and suggests we sit on the couch. He is concerned that I am worrying over something, but I am actually at peace...oddly, because I can think of many reasons to not be, particularly since I am reading another apocalyptic book having just finished one and being well-aware of current events.

I feel so silly over this hawk-promise thing and yet...well, I also feel I cannot share it fully, because I myself do not understand it. I tell him that there might be a change in his career coming, something that may seem nearly absurd. Then I feel even sillier, for I know my husband is always looking to work himself into a better position, but I have a feeling he would either think it is a joke or too risky? I don't know. To be honest, I don't know what it is or when it will be or if it was all just a coincidence. I do know all those other things were not coincidences!

I am hoping...hoping that I am not seeing signs where there were not any. Hoping I am hearing my Lord.

Sometimes, though, I wonder how sane I really am....

~ My Lord, I trust you. I wish to believe in all the things You wish for me to believe. I do not doubt You; I doubt me. I doubt my ability to hear You. When I get the message wrong it reflects back on You, so I am very cautious. I don't want to take any glory from You either way. I also thank you for all that You have given us and all that You will give us. ~

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Fasting Off the Fat of Life

Prayer is reaching out after the unseen; fasting is letting go of all that is seen and temporal. Fasting helps express, deepen, confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, even ourselves to attain what we seek for the kingdom of God. ~Andrew Murray

I suppose it seems to many of my friends that I will fast at the drop of a hat. I suppose that is true in a way. I have found that fasting cuts off the fat of one's life. Oh, yes, it will cause a loss of body fat, but I am referring to all that unnecessary stuff that we tangle ourselves into while rationalizing their necessity.

I have done many fasts over the last twenty-some years up to fifteen days and many more for less days. I have fasted one day a week, Wednesday, for over three years, which I used to do on Mondays years ago before we had the Princess. Last year, at this time actually, was the first time I have ever fasted for 40 days and it was far more enlightening on so many levels!

During any fast past two days my energy level drops down, but during the 40-day fast this was not just a few days and then I pick up where I started and life goes on. 40-days is just shy of six weeks. It is a long time and life goes on during it. My husband still had to work and I still had to do my duties at home, especially with a child to homeschool. I found myself budgeting my energy, streamlining what absolutely had to be done, and just letting the rest fall away. Even the energy I would have spent angry about something did not seem worth the effort and the desire to pray peacefully replaced it.

The world dims, the spiritual awakens.

Although I do it regularly, I do not really enjoy fasting...but I just absolutely love the benefits of it. I have written about fasting many times here so you can look up some of my past posts here.

Today is the last day of a 7-day fast. This one was devoted mostly to my daughter. You see, she has been talking of being baptized for many years, but we were not certain she was spiritually ready. I believe that she loves the Lord and will readily explain her beliefs against the Big Bang Theory, but she just did not seem ready in some ways to us. But then do parents ever really feel their child is ready for the things she thinks she is? Then there was the thing that she was afraid of putting her head under water. Two Sundays ago, my daughter walked up to our pastor and asked to be baptized. This was one of the signs for which I had been waiting to show she was ready.

So, the date has been set: August 21. It will be done at a member's pool and a celebration will follow, that is a pool party with eats. This date comes just seven days after our wedding anniversary. The Princess was also born seven days before my husband's birthday. I am not superstitious, but it just seem that seven could be significant and I had a strong desire to fast for seven days. Biblically, it is believed that the number seven stands for spiritual perfection.

We all have been praying that God will prepare her heart and I have been praying for her to surrender to the Holy Spirit or as the Nazarenes would say "to become sanctified." (You can read an early post on this: Surrendering.) I am praying it will be a spirit-changing experience for her and that she will hold it dear all her life. This is why I am fasting. To cut the fat away in my life asking the Lord to do the same for my Princess so that the Spirit will awaken in her.

~ My Lord, please hear my plea. Please bless my daughter. She loves You. Now help her to come know You and willingly surrender herself to Your Spirit. May her baptism be of her heart. ~

Saturday, August 6, 2011

What Have I Been Doing?

When you are through changing, you are through.
~Bruce Barton

You may have noticed I have not been posting much on my blog. It seems that when life gets busy, writing about what I am doing or just what is on my mind gets pushed aside, but I always have much on my mind about which to talk and type...always...much, too much. So, I decided to take a breather and dump some of these things out of my mind and onto my blog.

This past week we adapted to changes in schedules and homeschooling.

I changed our 4-H barn time from Friday night to Wednesday mornings. Usually one or two other families work at the barn on Friday night so it would not cause a problem. My husband has been traveling a bit more lately and it is not uncommon for him to come home on Friday evening and, since it is his travel day, his company will pay for his meals. This makes for an excellent opportunity for us to go out to eat together as the Princess and I can easily split an entrée and usually we go where I have a discount coupon to save us and his company some money. However, it has been difficult to do when we have worked at the barn for about two hours and need a shower. I have been too tired and a bit sick from the heat of late after the barn work. Now that I am familiar enough with the barn, the Princess and I can handle the morning feeding and if it is really nice and cool, as the climate will be changing in that direction soon, she can ride also. The problem will be to get her to engage with her lessons for the afternoon when we get back home and we did have a problem with that this week, so there is going to be an adjustment period.

For that very reason, I was hoping to take Tuesday morning at the barn instead because then our homeschool schedule could be heavier on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with lighter days on Tuesday and Thursday space out nicely just like a sequential would like. However, that did not work out as I hoped with the barn schedule, so Monday, Tuesday and Friday are the heavy days with Wednesday and Thursday being lighter. Thursday has always been piano lessons, grocery shopping, and errands.

I looked over our homeschooling materials and decided that it was time to do a few things differently and to do some things I had hoped to do but never seemed to fit in on a regular basis. I feel the Princess can take a bit more personal responsibility for some of her assignments so I organized the Trapper Keeper she has been begging for us to use since we got it over a year ago. Now her daily math worksheets are in place sectioned by days of the week. She has two week long assignments: One is her Beautiful Feet History of the Horse, which I use as her read aloud lesson for now and it has other work that she can do independently. The second is a state using Study Starters as she is studying one state each week in the order that they became states. (We might spend a week or two extra on Georgia since we live here and other states in which we have family.)

Math has been the problem. Every day after she practices piano for nearly an hour, we begin on math and, unless I am sitting right next to her, she can get very ADD on it, taking two hours with what should take about 30 minutes. I have been praying about this and I felt I needed to go back to my original plan. We do triangle flashcards, multiplication and division number families right now, for five minutes and this is to help her memorize her math facts. Then she is given a drill worksheet from Calculadder that she is supposed to do under so many minutes. This week we started back at the beginning, because the purpose is not to challenge her but to train her to focus and pick up her speed. Then she is to begin her math workbook and worksheets, which presently are a mixture of Signapore and Miquon. It worked well this week. She was so surprised that she could do all her math in just 30 to 40 minutes each day. (I just knew she could.)

We slowed up a bit during the summer on Greek and Latin, but we are picking up the pace now. She really likes languages. We are adding French back into lessons, while driving on Thursday, since the minivan I use now has a CD player. She will also do some of her week long assignments in the van on that day. I am thinking of adding a word a day for hand signing also...maybe another index card system? Now she is asking to add Spanish also and I have one program that is a good starter, but I just was not sure how many languages she could handle at one time...perhaps I am more concerned about how many I could juggle! (And I am still hoping that she will tackle Hebrew when she is a bit older too.)

For Language Arts, I mix various sources. She likes the Daily Buzzword for her vocabulary and writes it along with a description in her own words on an index card each day. I use some of them for her spelling also. I still do my own spelling lists on an index card system. She gets a few minutes to look over her lists and phonics rules before I quiz her on a rule or two and give her a test of twelve words. When she gets any wrong, she is to go write them on her Magna Doodle several times and then come back to hand sign them to me. For grammar, I have been using a sentence diagramming workbook mostly, but this week I cracked open Classical Writing again and even though I think there are a number of grammar errors in the model, the program is pretty good. It has assignments for each day and she is liking it for now. I began setting up an index card system using Harvey's Elementary Grammar and Composition.

History and science have been pushed to the wayside most of the year because of the math issue, and these are subjects she really likes. Now she sees that we can actually have time to do both and she is excited about that. However, it is not that she missed out learning history or science in the last year. When we went to the library more often, I used to require that she check out three books of her choosing, but one needed to be about a person, another a place, and the third a science. Although this is a bit too freestyle for me, being sequential, it worked quite well for her, being a random, and I learned that I do not have to control every aspect of her curriculum quite so tightly. I will probably use that method again as a break.

I need to prepare for the entire week each weekend and print out her schedule using Homeschool Tracker, with adjustments for dentist appointments and consignment sale volunteering and the like, but I am definitely feeling less pressure because it is better organized and she will know exactly what she should be doing.

My husband is away for the weekend this time in hopes that he will get comp days for next weekend for our anniversary. I had plans for the Princess this weekend so it worked out fine. The Princess and I now are about to begin the preparing for the consignment sales, which means she will be trying on all her fall and winter clothes to see which no longer fit. She does not like this ritual so I usually allow her to pick a DVD to watch as she changes clothes and set the air conditioner just a degree lower for her comfort.

~ My Lord there is always so much to do and so much more that could be done, but I thank you for showing me ways to make better use of our time and help my daughter to learn to focus when working on math. I continue to pray it will make both of us happier daily. ~

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Book Review: The Seraph Seal

Whenever anyone said "I am spiritual but not religious," It did not mean that person had no religion, but that religion was self-organized, self-indulgent, and self-governing, free of authority and constraints. Selferism was solipsism gone spiritual. ~The Seraph Seal, 2011

The above quote from the book was one of many deeply profound truths bridging its future and our present. I see this selferism infesting our churches today making the future setting proposed alarming possible, perhaps even probable.

I had not downloaded an eBook before and I had to install a free eBook reader for my PC, which was simple enough, as I do not have an eReader. I was not sure if I would enjoy reading a book on my laptop. Yet, I chose this book because it appeared to be somewhat of a Christian sci-fi novel, my two favorites in one. The plot was intricate and the book was a well written interweaving of present day facts and anxieties spiraling download frighteningly into a futuristic worldwide apocalypse in 2048, with a singular hope of finding salvation through clues left throughout the ages.

The plot was excellent, however the execution could have been better. Each chapter was divided by hops to several locations all over the world. These sections were subtitled for easy identification, but seemed disjointed particularly in the beginning and I would have preferred dates and times to give more coherence. Each location had its own set of characters, some of which where only mentioned once or twice, so it was difficult to recognize the key characters in the beginning. However, I believe this style also added to the mystery and suspense as it did not dwell on any unnecessary details. Everything had relevance in pulling the plot together.

Once I felt more familiarity with the characters, the suspense intensified as a handful of chosen people race against time with great urgency as disasters of various kinds increase in frequency and devastation hampered their final journey to the foreordained destination. True to any good sci-fi, it accelerated in an intensifying spiral towards the "end of the world as we know it" and I could barely tear myself away.

This would be a great movie and would probably pass Hollywood's standards because the historical religion symbolism, technology, and mysticism far exceeded any substantial Biblical or Christian reference. In fact, I was rather disappointed that a relationship with God was not developed with the main characters, when it was believed they were chosen by God. There was some watered down references to faith and love that could have gone more in depth. I remember only one of the characters praying and even then it was merely mentioned that he prayed. The one baptism suggested the ritual, but was not described, and it served mostly as a means to introduce one key character to another, as it did not seem to add any real spiritual significance in the story.

Overall, like most "end of the world" themes, men were not seeking spiritual enlightenment but focused on finding their own way to save the world, seemingly without seeking any divine intervention outside of the mysterious symbols, codes, and bits of scripture. The book was as devoid of a spirit-filled heart as the future it described, where all religion was basically dead. It was as if God was a faraway spectator of the events for which He had set the stage long ago, not really involved with any of the characters nor they with Him. God's role was limited to providing a way through chosen individuals and symbols for some people to be moved to the New Earth and what faith was mentioned rested on that. There is no reference to Satan, only a vague force counterbalancing that which is good, so no angelic war. Instead, this entertaining fiction of the End Times intermingled a few Biblical references with Kabbalistic mysticism, Mayan prophecy, artistic renderings of the Four Horsemen, music, science and that soon-to-come-to-an-end theme of good versus evil.

Also, the book contains over a hundred pages of appendices in the form of journal notes and footnotes I felt are worth reading to understand how today's facts were woven into the fictitious future, on which this book really excelled. I would have liked more of these notes incorporated in the story. I believe this story could have been enhanced between the journal notes and spirituality to nearly double its size and would have been a better read for it.

Despite its shortcomings as a Christian novel, I enjoyed the sci-fi aspects very much and would recommend the book to those who enjoy futuristic fantasies with some very profound truths of man's spiritual condition sprinkled throughout.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

~ My Lord, it is wonderful how people can create a story in the future, but only You have written the true one. ~