Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Where Has My Peace Gone?

Resign every forbidden joy; restrain every wish that is not referred to God's will; banish all eager desires, all anxiety; desire only the will of God; seek Him alone and supremely, and you will find peace.
~François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon

Do you know that peaceful, satisfied, assured feeling that comes with doing what you feel God wants you to do? Okay, sometimes you need a push to get with His program, but once you are there you feel at peace with the Lord. You may even get a bit pleased with yourself for handling it so well, but then....

I have lost my peace.

The last two weeks has been...well, not peaceful, because I have been rustling with my God-given tasks.

I am to homeschool, but am I educating the child my way or God's way? Should we give up some things or are we on the right course? Should I change my approach? Let go of my dreams for her education? Am I working with my Lord in all ways with homeschooling or against Him in some things?

I am to lead praise and worship at my church, but it takes so much time to prepare that it is taking time from other things. I have to wonder what I else I should cut from my life. Housekeeping is better than it was, but I hoped to get it more under control.

When am I ever going to fit in my own art, let alone guiding my daughter with her artistic talents?! Why haven't I done that? Oh, I have plenty of reasons--excuses, really--but what it boils down to is that it has been pushed down on my priority list because...because I enjoy it, it costs money, and I am afraid I am not as good as I think I need to be. I would like to use art to glorify my Lord. I even dream of my daughter and I having a booth together at art shows selling our art, but is that what my Lord has in His plans for us?

Does it serve God's purpose for us to continue with 4-H? I mean, that was half a day we just spent with caring for the horses and riding for about 45 minutes as much time spent on grooming. My daughter does not seem to be interested in riding most of the time...but then she really enjoyed it just this week. Maybe I am just tired of the routine, but when I see my equine friends, I cannot help but smile. Even their barn game of musical stables is funny sometimes.

Are my priorities right with my Lord?

Should I find another piano teacher closer to home? Trudy is an hour away, has been a very good teacher, and a very good friend to me since before the child was born. I started with her because there was no piano teacher nearby who was eager to take on a four-year-old, no matter how gifted she was and Trudy had just begun taking younger students, but more importantly she was actually enjoying it. At this point, I could find a teacher to take her, but then it would not be Trudy, her piano teacher for the last seven and a half years.

My Thursday runs go from paying local bills to the organic health stores then north to Trudy's before looping back towards home. We stop at several stores but not the same ones each week. Target has the best prices for the organic tea we like and for the natural dishwasher detergent I use. When we have some time, there is an excellent Goodwill store on the way to Trudy's, too. Big Lots is another place that had organics from time to time. Kroger is my favorite for refilling my water jugs and looking for Manager's Specials in organics that are close to their "sell by" dates. Sam's Club has some things we get regularly also.

Am I doing too much really? Am I burning out because I have too much on me, or is it just my attitude? Maybe I am just not organizing my time well.

Did my daughter tell me this afternoon that she was enjoying Latin? I was nearly convinced we should drop it. Yes, she even said that she thought she never would enjoy Latin, but she is today and it was one of the more difficult lessons.

Attitude...perspective...choice. How many times I have sat down in heart-to-heart talks with my child explaining these three things make a huge difference. I know why she is enjoying Latin today, because we have been connecting better. It changes her attitude and her perspective and she chooses to make it enjoyable.

Perhaps I am just feeling disconnected...maybe.

Such (and more) has been my mind-talk for the last two weeks.

Since Sunday though, I have been feeling better. I prayed about my daughter's lessons and I have peace about my direction and our schedule. I prayed about our activities, and maybe there will be changes eventually, but not right now. I have prayed about my attitude toward my duties at home, which I have been letting slide and I am getting a better handle on them. I have prayed about my church--well, I may need to pray some more there.

I do not have peace about everything, but today I will be thankful for the peace I do have in the areas I have them.

~ My Lord, thank You for the peace You have given me to reassure me of the areas I am following You. Thank You for the times I do not feel peace so that I open myself to connect with You and check to be sure I am working within Your plan. Help me to clearly see the path You have prepared for me and have prepared me to take. Let Your Spirit fill me with peace when You are pleased with me. ~

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Book Review: The 5 Love Languages of Children

I rarely read a book from cover to cover twice, but when I was given the opportunity to receive a free copy of the 2012 Edition of The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell for review, I was eager to do so, particularly since my daughter was so young the first time I read it that I could not determine her love language at the time. To be honest, even with the Love Language Mystery Game to help determine a child's love language, I still cannot be sure of my daughter's even though she is old enough that I should be able to do so. There is nothing wrong with the concepts described in the book, I think it is just that my daughter seems pretty balanced as she receives all five gratefully and gives all five as well, which I believe suggests that her father and I successfully have been keeping her "emotional tank" full most of the time.

The book proposes that as loving as parents may try to be, a child may believe his parents love him, but may not feel loved because the parents are not speaking in the child's love language. While one child may be happy with a gift when the father comes home from a business trip, another child may not feel loved by getting a gift because his love language is quality time. This book helps parents to determine which of the five love languages--physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, or acts of service--a child appreciates and needs the most as well as how the parent can help the child to feel loved. It also stresses that every child needs all five, but one will be predominate.

I highly recommend this book for all parents, particularly those who are having difficulties with their children, but it is beneficial even to those who think they have happy, loving children. Probably just as important as understanding how to speak in the child's love language is how to discipline with love without causing damage to the parent-child relationship by using a type of punishment that empties the emotional tank; a chapter is devoted to this subject.

If you are like me and have a 1997 Edition, let me explain the main differences I noticed between the two books, besides the change in the cover. The earlier edition often referred to keeping the emotional tank full would help to avoid drug use and teenage promiscuity, which was not in the latest edition. In the 2012 Edition, there were some updated statistics and reference to a book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua that was published in January 2011. Some of the names in the stories had been changed to more popular names at the time of the rewrite. The most notable addition was the list of suggestions to speak the child's love language at the end of each corresponding chapter. Otherwise, there were only minor editing changes here and there. I did think that the hand print in the heart on the cover of the first edition was a better depiction than the green rubber boots with flowers, but that is a minor point.

I received this book for free from Moody Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Song of My Heart Weeping

This simple song just whispers all the things my heart desires at its very core but often does not know how to put into words. It is the most humbling prayer in song. Singing it...just its echo in my mind brings me to a quiet, weeping place with the Lord. Try it and see....

~ MyLord, please...
Search me, know me
Try me and see
Every worthless affection hidden in me
All I'm asking for is that You'd cleanse me, Lord

Create in me a heart that's clean
Conquer the power of secret shame
Come wash away the guilty stain of all my sin

Clothe me in robes of righteousness
Cover my nakedness with grace
All of my life before You now I humbly bring ~

Monday, September 17, 2012

Product Review: Luster Premium White

As a BzzAgent, I received Luster Premium White to try for my honest review. First of all, I have to confess that I have never used a teeth whitening product other than toothpaste now and then. I have never really seen much improvement before and I have four teeth that tend to be darker than the others.

There are a few things unique about this product: each treatment takes only a few minutes, a special light is used during the treatment, and it is not suppose to make teeth sensitive. It has twenty treatments in the kit with each treatment taking just a few minutes. These treatments can be done one after the other taking about an hour in total or can be done over time. I did ten treatments when I first received the kit and then the remaining ten treatments (five in each) in two sessions of a week apart.

After brushing my teeth I used the special mouthwash, which takes only about ten seconds, to cleanse the teeth and prepare them. Then I painted on the whitening formula being careful not to get it on the lips or tongue. Afterward the light was placed in front of my teeth while "smiling" so that the treated teeth are well exposed.

After the first ten treatments, I noticed that all the treated teeth were lighter, but the four darker teeth had the most noticeable improvement. Although still darker than the others, much less so. The following five treatments did not show as much improvement nor did the last five.

I was very pleased, since I have sensitive teeth, that it did as promised in not making my teeth more sensitive, but I was a bit disappointed with how many treatments it took to see improvement and I wish it had been more effective. Still, I was very pleased that it only takes a little time to do as much as it did.

I would recommend this product for anyone with sensitive teeth wanting to use a convenient tooth whitening system at home, but it may take more than one kit to get the desired results depending on how effective it is in each individual case.

If you are interested in getting Luster Premium White for yourself LUSTERBZZ is the 20% discount code to use at the Luster Premium White website.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Time Slipping Away

Time is free, but it's priceless. You can't own it, but you can use it. You can't keep it, but you can spend it. Once you've lost it, you can never get it back.
~Harvey MacKay

Monday was a particularly difficult day for me. My daughter said something to me, I cannot even remember what, and I watched my own tears ironically fall into the sourdough I was kneading. I was thinking of all the things I felt were so important in my life, in my home, in my lifestyle have now taken a backseat to the needs of my church. Just planning some time to make bread is challenging. I am wondering how long this need, this season of my life, will be.

While I have enjoyed being a new church board member and leading the praise and worship (P&W), I will also have the responsibility of setting up the new church website (again, but let's not go there). I have offered to step down from my board position for missions as I truly do not think I can give it the attention and devotion it needs and deserves, and another former member returned to our church who did it well three years ago. In one way I do not want to give up being on the church board, but in another I feel that couples should not be serving on the board at the same time also. Plus the website and preparing P&W take so much time that I am concerned about how well I will be able to homeschool with the schedule we have, which is not working out as well as I hoped.

Another concern is now I am beginning to feel very burdened by the responsibility of leading in P&W and I am still wondering if all things the board voted to do is going to make any difference. What I mean is, if the District Superintendent (DS) means to close us down, we can do nothing to stop that. If he wants us to merge with the other church, I do not know he can force the two to do that as it does not state so in the manual, but he is the DS. I think the whole thing with the P&W is more pressing on me since we do not have a pastor. With visiting pastors giving the message, the P&W not only needed to be a bit different than it was before, but also to provide cohesion and grounding. I began to realize how much responsibility it is and I began to feel overwhelmed by it. I do not preach, but music is a very powerful influence, a message of itself, when it flows well and it seems the Lord has blessed the P&W.

With listening to music, searching videos, and looking at skits, poems, and other things to share several evenings each week, I just have not been preparing well for our homeschooling lessons. On top of that, I will be having to devote more time to work on the website as well. Once the website is set up, it may take less of my time...but still more than before as it was not a part of my schedule at all previously. Time seems to slip away from me each day.

I have thought about giving up the horse barn on Tuesday mornings and allowing my daughter to ride one evening a week if she would like, but I also know the woman who heads up our 4-H club, which is one of the most active of all the 4-H clubs in the state, has so much to do and has a difficult time with her back, hips, knees, and allergies. The horses are very therapeutic for my daughter and me even when we do not ride, but the barn is about 25 minutes away and we try to arrive around 8:30 AM. Just feeding, cleaning water troughs, taking hay to the upper field, and cleaning the barn takes an hour or more, so 9:30AM. If we want to ride, we have to give the horses an hour to digest their grains, which we spend cleaning the arena and surrounding paddock...10:30 AM. If we also groom and ride or train we could easily be there all day, but we usually leave around 12:30 PM and then we go to the nearest Kroger to refill gallon jugs of purified water and look for bargains. We get gas and sometimes go to the bank which is all in the same area. We get home around 2:00 PM and eat a late lunch. After showers, my daughter practices piano and works on her horse curriculum or 4-H project, which makes it a long, physically tiring day.

I do not want to give it up but with most of her formal lessons on just three days a week, it is difficult to get everything done before 5:00 PM without dropping something from the schedule and she is not reading as much as I would like...actually, I should rephrase that, she is not reading as much of the things as I would prefer for her to read. Even though she can do more lessons independently, she still needs lots of guidance and I still need to actually teach her some things.

In the meantime, my gardens need attention and I would like to plant the cool weather plants before it gets too late. I have books stacked high on my nightstand that I promised to review and I am slipping on my regular morning cleaning routines. My blog...I would like to post a bit more regularly and I have some giveaways to do. I did do something extra as I prepared for the consignment sales the last couple of weeks and I have three sales at which I hope to shop this week, then I pick up my leftovers on Saturday and I am done with that until spring.

I was doing a morning devotional time just for me and also with the Princess at breakfast, but somehow breakfast has slipped in time to be anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes later than I planned. I need something...but I am not sure what. My Lord knows what I need. Perhaps He will tell me or just provide it.

~ My Lord, I know that You never place on us more than we can take, but I also know that we often take on more than You plan for us to handle. So, my Lord, I am asking that I only do what I should be. If I am doing the tasks You have set before me, please give me peace that You are still guiding my daughter's education according to Your will. ~

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Church Wars

Church isn’t where you meet. Church isn’t a building. Church is what you do. Church is who you are. Church is the human outworking of the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s not go to Church, let’s be the Church. ~Bridget Willard

As I was just settling into my new role in leading the praise and worship portion of our church service, something was happening that our District Superintendent (DS) had to know about but did not tell us. One of the other Nazarene churches had purchased a property, but found out afterward because of all the regulations that they could not build there so, without anyone whispering even a hint to us, they purchased another building with twelve acres just four miles from our church. This had to be sanctioned by the DS and it is not logical to allow another church to be so close when the average distance between the Nazarene churches in our state is around 60 miles, in large cities closer but not as close as this; it is not logical unless there is purpose.

My husband found out about new location when he drove past it last night. It is on a major roadway, one I use every Thursday on my errands so I would have seen it on Thursday myself. My husband was quite angry and most likely so will be most all the members of our church because he emailed them immediately with pictures of their temporary sign. Their website confirmed that they had their first service there last Sunday.

This is just one more time that our DS has kept secrets and we were surprised...unpleasantly. First, some history that a couple of our members experienced, but I did not. Years ago there was a small church meeting in a store front in a nearby town. They were struggling much like we are now, but they did not own any property and they had a pastor, which is so different than our situation. So, as it was told to me, the DS had declared it a "church in crisis" and gave them so much time to find a property to purchase. They did not meet that deadline, so one Sunday they were told that the church was officially closing down after that service.

We have a bit of a different situation as we are not renting. We have property on which we owe more than its current value, a common problem in this economy here. The DS could close us taking what is left of our building fund and possessions, but it would not be able to sell the property as nothing is selling here so the district would be strapped with that mortgage. We have believed that our debt is actually protecting us from the DS closing us down without warning, but it is still a fear that some of the members have.

The second major secret was that he advised our last pastor not to share with us that he was struggling with depression. The pastor told us all this as he was resigning. Then the DS did not show up for a special board meeting, our last one, which he scheduled in the afternoon. He was quite ill with a stomach flu but no one called to tell us he had to cancel. His secretary's mother had passed away that week so she was not in the office the last part of the week...okay, but really, someone should have called us. Before that the DS has not supported our church in many ways, like in providing names of available pastors when we were looking for one two years ago. Although Nazarene and the Nazarenes have ordained women as pastors from the very beginning, he seemed to have something against women pastors in general, which did not help out the first two pastors of our church both being women.

The irony is the church, now so close to us, was the church that help start ours over a decade ago. It was told to me that at the last conference the youth pastor and his wife had been rather vocal about having our church merge back into theirs, but at that time, it was located too far away for most of our members. Now that is not the case.

While I understood why my husband was dealing with his anger, I was trying to see God's purpose in the situation. Is this an opportunity? Yes, it is! But, in which direction?

If I was from the outside looking into this situation, I probably would say the best thing to do would be to merge. Our children could be involved with other children. We would not have to try to find a pastor who would be bi-vocational. Our finances would be a lesser issue. We would have a property that is cleared and can be used for so many things, while our current property is a mosquito breeding ground in the extreme and we seem to be their dinner.

As I see it, we have three main options:

  • Stay the course as if the other church has no influence on us--except now we might be more motivated to change our name!
  • Merge with the other church.
  • Abandon our church and let the district just have it, while we start an independent church.

Two of these options wipe out the fear-of-closing-us-down factor, which weighs so heavily on the members at times. Two of them results in us continuing to struggle. Two of them seem to be the harder to swallow, but result in a fresher start. Each of these pairings are different. Then there are some variations: We could abandon our church, let the district deal with it, and join the other church individually...I have my doubts that would be pleasing to my Lord though. This is where our Christian values are put to the test the most, not outside the church but within it. Did I ever mention how much I dislike the organized church in general? Mostly it comes down to how everyone will feel. I am hoping that those feelings are based on God's leading and not fear or anger or bad feelings or even logic--just on God's leading.

We have a board meeting this Saturday in the afternoon. It usually is in the morning but it is the first day of bow hunting for deer and two of the board members, my husband being one, had plans to be in the trees for that morning. (I would like to say they begged shamelessly but they simply looked as if they were two men making a decision we would not like and one member easily caves to the bribe of deer jerky.) With this news, I am sure they would not have missed this board meeting. I imagine it is going to be a lively discussion.

~ My Lord, please let us see the single opportunity You provided for us. Let us see it clearly and in agreement. Let us welcome it. Let us embrace it. Let us run with it. Let it be our purpose and our joy. ~

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Book Review: Around the Word in 60 Seconds

As a homeschooling parent, a morning Bible study and/or devotion is part of our lifestyle. I am always on the look out for good books as a resource. Now that my daughter is in the middle of the tween stage, I was hoping to find a devotional that would guide her into a more personal relationship with God's Word. I was excited to have the opportunity to review Around the Word in 60 Seconds: The Ultimate Tween Devotional. However, after using it for a few weeks, I have mixed feelings about it.

I like how each week was organized by various challenges: grumbling, betrayal, forgive, etc. One does not need to start at the beginning of the book and go through to the end, but can chose a particular challenge that would be currently relevant. I like the concept of using the blank space under the daily scripture as a journal to jot down thoughts or draw a picture. I may have even understood the purpose for each day's devotional time possibly taking as little as sixty seconds just to get a child started with a daily devotional, because that really is not enough time for devotions.

Unfortunately, I did not like the unevenness of book. On the first day of each week, which is supposed to be Monday, a scripture is given and then a short fictional story. Afterward, there is a section called "Take Action" which is like a suggested assignment to do during the week, some which could easily take over thirty minutes to do. Following that is a scripted prayer.

For the days of the rest of the week, there is only a scripture and then a question or two. There is one page per day plus one page per weekend, and the author encourages the reader to use the blank space to write out the answers to the question, but also suggests writing down a poem or pasting in picture or any other creative work as one would in a journal. The journaling is a nice idea, but pasting things on the pages of a paperback with over 400 pages would be messy at best and make it hard to write on other pages or cause stress on the binding.

I have a highly imaginative, creative, and fairly self-discipled tween, but I think the way this devotional is structured that it would be better for an older teenager. I feel it does not give adequate guidance on the days following Monday to be a devotional for a child of the ages of eleven and twelve to do alone. It reminds me of fast food: it has meat, but that does not make it a substantial meal.

I also was not particularly impressed with the Bible version used for the scriptures, but that was a minor point as I did appreciate that it was in a more contemporary language that children would easily understand.

I would not recommend this devotional for a tween to be done alone and I am even a bit skeptical about it for a young teen.

Tyndale provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.