Monday, December 9, 2013

Thanksgiving Feast Preparations

Gratitude can transform common days into Thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” ~William Arthur Ward

This is one of the many reasons I was too busy to blog for the past three weeks.

...and God is so very good! 

With guests coming for Thanksgiving dinner, I began my holiday cleaning with full intentions of a thorough top to bottom cleaning of the kitchen, dining room, living room, and the guest bathroom. That turned out a bit too ambitious of an undertaking, but I was still quite happy (and tired out) because at least my kitchen sparkled from top to bottom! You may remember that I began reorganizing my kitchen in March―yeah, that was nine months ago―and I got it all done except for one deep cabinet that goes from the left of the sink to the corner of the room. That one was just a mess of vases that I have never used, grocery bags for which I now have a place in the garage, those plastic trays from bakeries that I use this time of year to share my own baked goods, and plastic bags that are repurposed from being filled with bulk grains to covering my homemade bread. I finally found a perfect thing to use to organize those plastic bread bags: a magazine file holder that I had no more use for in the office/homeschooling area. I love repurposing!

Now my recycle container is in the front of that cabinet, easily removed to get to the other items that are used less often. I also used a small wired shelf to organize the rolls of cling wrap, aluminum foil, wax paper, parchment, and the like. I placed gloves and dishwashing pads in a small rectangle basket that I got at Goodwill that I did not know what I might use it for at the time, but I had a bathroom cabinet in mind. I finally found another home for plastic containers that we recycle in a variety of ways which will mean that my other cabinet where they had been will finally not have stranded lids all over the place and the other small plastic containers we use for food storage will not be falling down anymore. That alone makes puts a big smile on my face.

The Princess kept saying that our guests would not be looking into the cabinets or on top of the cabinets at all the dust that had collected there, but I felt so much better, particularly after tackling that one cabinet I had put off for all these months―actually years before that as well―as if some great weight had been lifted from me. And the really strange thing is that it really was not that bad of a job. The hardest part was deciding to finally throw away the extras that came with our refrigerator and dishwasher that were in a large shopping bag taking up space because I might use them some day or the appliances were more complete by keeping them even though we had not used any of them. I had to come to terms with myself; I completely forgot about them so it is unlikely I would ever need them. I mean, the refrigerator is nearly 20 years old and the dishwasher is probably 15 years old, so if I have not used those things in all that time, how could I justify the space they are taking?

I just seem to have a problem with letting things go that I never used, do not use, and do not plan to use. I suppose it comes from growing up poor and having grandparents that grew up in the Depression, who were hoarders of many unused things: treasures we discovered as children but were basically trash.

Even though the deep cleaning only was done in the kitchen, with every cabinet door oiled and gleaming―my husband said they looked nearly brand new, we cleaned the dining room, living room, and bathroom so that it all looked nice for our guests. Our families had basically adopted each other since we both have no other family around. The six-year gap in our daughters' ages not much different than the over fifteen-year gap between the adults. We have known them from our former church and they stayed a few months more after we left, but when told them about a church that was just five minutes from their home, they loved it at their very first visit. A few weeks later we all became regulars there. We sit together, especially now as the husband is getting involved in media and she is sitting alone on those Sundays―I well remember what that was like for the three years my husband did it.

For our dinner, my husband prepared the turkey in a brine and roasted it on the grill as he has done the past few years. This not only makes for a very moist turkey, but leaves the oven free for baking and keeping the other food warm. I love to make sweet potatoes with pears and pecans adding just enough brown sugar to the broth to add some sweetness. We also had my coleslaw and sourdough rolls. My husband is famous also for his garlic mashed potatoes and gravy. My homemade applesauce was nearly as good as my husband's homemade cranberry sauce with ginger and pears. I made an apple pie (with a wonderfully flaky crust this time) and my friend made a pumpkin one.

There was some good feasting and friendship on our Thanksgiving!

~ My Lord, may I give You thanks forever and forever. ~

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Rescheduling in Reverse

The truth is that schools don't really teach anything except how to obey orders. ~John Taylor Gatto

I will concede that I, perhaps, just have an aversion to schools. Schools, even ones that are hand-picked, home-like meeting in a remodeled ranch house, highly inspirational and encouraging, and wonderfully honoring of God, are still schools. They have rules, schedules, classrooms, grading, tests, homework, and inflexible project deadlines. Well, inflexible for us, but not necessarily for them.

I understand the need to change schedules. Our homeschool has to have a higher degree of flexibility with my husband traveling so much, but both my husband and I have deadlines in our lives, so I think it is good for the Princess to experience them from outside sources as well. She has done this for many years with piano recitals and judging, but most of these deadlines get moved back if they are moved at all, which is rare.

The syllabus had the science presentations scheduled for the two weeks between the Thanksgiving break and the Christmas break, but there was also the warning that the schedules could change at the bottom of the page in finer print. About a month ago, the teacher flipped two weeks of planned lessons due to a planned trip that obviously was move to the week before. It is understandable that such things happen, however...

This week on Tuesday afternoon, my husband and I received an email to "clear up the confusion" that the science presentations for my daughter's class would be on...(Are you ready for this?)...the following day, Wednesday. Clearing it up? Ha! That is when the real confusion began in my house!

Now the Princess probably had been warned in class, but we parents were not and our thoughts were why not revise the syllabus or send out emails about this change a few weeks ago? I have been trying to let the child take on this responsibility fully for herself in regards to her science class, but still, the presentations are such a major project and high percentage of their grades...AND since the parents are invited, one would expect the school to be sure the announcement of the schedule change was given a few weeks in advance with greater priority than all the other emails about donations, upcoming events, like yard sales and a silent auction, and the food pantry collections! (This may be one of the reasons I have aversions toward schools.)

The Princess knew her facts and had everything ready except that she had not practiced her presentation in front of us, so we crammed that should have been done over the next couple of weeks into one night. I was impressed with how well she knew the information that she herself had researched. Unfortunately, she was a bit scattered in her delivery, so we gave her some pointers and tried to get her to hold up the dried starfish that I had shipped in for this presentation.

The Princess told me adamantly that she could not use notes during the presentation. However, my husband and I attended the presentations and of the nine presentations we watched, all but three, including the Princess, used (at least) outline notes, three read word for word either what they had typed out on paper or on their Power Point presentation. They all gave very interesting information on the various Fifth Day creatures they had chosen, but still the ones who read the entire time had boring deliveries.

The presentations were supposed to be a solid seven minutes to ten minutes and every student was to present twice to give the other students in the rotation the opportunity to see at least nine of the eleven presentations. The very first one we attended was done in under a minute--not kidding, we had just settled in our seats and it was over in four or five sentences. A couple students went well over ten minutes.

How did the Princess do? I think the Princess made it to between 4 to 6 minutes, because she dropped different facts between the two presentations and the second one was rushed due to her being the last one and we had to finish by a set time. She did fine for her very first presentation ever, but not knowing how she should have done would have improved any assessment. I tried to get her to practice her opening statement a little dramatically, for which she has a knack any other time: "The Crown of Thorns Starfish is the second largest starfish, the most destructive one and is poisonous!" Too bad she forgot to begin with this line the second time when her teacher was watching to assess the presentation, but her last line thrilled her teacher: "The thing I like most about the Crown of Thorns Starfish is that was named after the crown of thorn placed on Jesus' head."

The one thing that I think the teacher was hoping for is the thing that most of the students did not do, except for my daughter and one or maybe two others. That would be to relate some thing(s) to God with their creatures of choice, and it was obvious that she was thrilled when they did. I would have given my Princess a B grade, but this school seems to be easy on its grading, which bothers my husband as she has been getting all A's so far, and the focus seem to be on the students having the experience of giving a presentation, so we shall see.

~ My Lord, help me to stay the course with the reasons we had enrolled our daughter into this school. Help my husband and I both to see beyond the institution and its disorganized organization to its heart, which is to excite the children about the wonders of this world that You created for us and honor You in it all. Please continue to bless this school and all the students, teachers, and families. Be along side of my daughter in her class and interactions reminding her of Your presence in her life in all she does and open her ears to instructions, especially when there are changes in schedules. ~

Sunday, November 3, 2013

2 Busy 2 Blog

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. ~John Lennon

Decades ago, my aunt once told me of a ranch that had an interesting name. The brand was a number "2" followed by another "2" lying on its side, which represented a "lazy 2," followed by a capital "P." It reads like texting: 2 lazy 2 P. This represented the name of the ranch which was "Too Lazy to Pee." I honestly am not making this up.

With that thought in mind I probably should have a blog called "Too Busy to Blog." Sometimes there is so much going on that I just have not time to blog or I may have some time but no energy...or maybe it is just that I feel I have too much to write when I have not been writing regularly.

Perhaps lots of chocolate would help, but "Never Enough Chocolate to..."—well that just is not working, is it?

So, back to the Wednesday (the day I seriously needed chocolate) that was too much to write about, as I wrote in my last post. First of all, it really started the week before when my daughter told me that she had no homework from her science class but preparing for her presentation, because the next week there would be no class. She told me that was when the high school science expedition would be. Although I thought it was the first week in November, I did not question it because sometimes schedules change or I may not have remembered accurately, and surely the girl would have been told correctly in her class! In retrospect, I really should have checked the school calendar, but in part she is supposed to be learning to listen to instructions and little did we both know that she was about to get that lesson the hard way. (Me, too.)

So, with this news we went from the school directly to the Princess' piano lesson and I asked the teacher if we could change her lesson that following week to Thursday as there is a closeout store near her at which I had not been able to shop since the errand day change to Wednesday because it is open only Thursday through Saturday. I told her that I would call to confirm the change later after I checked with my husband, who was going to off that week as well.

Sunday we helped set up for my friend's daughter's birthday party directly after the first church service and I face painted, which means I missed out on watching the lawn twister game and mummy wrapping contest, but all the kids loved having their faces done. We also helped clean up some and then dragged ourselves home as it was getting dark.

Monday I was working on trying to get an appointment for getting my eyes examined while my husband was home so I would not have to drive home with dilated eyes, but our vision insurance, while quite good, only is for private practitioners of which are few these days, particularly in this area. Tuesday I finally got everything settled and found a nearby doctor in the network, but the only appointment time open that week was on Thursday and since I completely forgot about going to the piano lessons on Thursday, I decided to take that appointment even though it meant I would be driving home myself, since my husband was leaving on Wednesday to go hunting.

Wednesday morning, as I am preparing to leave for our errands, is when I finally remembered changing the piano lesson to Thursday, but I had not called to confirm. Nothing like realizing something like that at the zero hour! Still, knowing my piano teaching friend how she would have typically called me to confirm by then if I had not (and I had not) I wondered if she had forgotten also. I was trying to get in touch with her by calling both her cell and home phone numbers about every twenty minutes, but the lady often does not answer her phones and she is not that good about checking her times. Not all the time, but just at times, which makes me always wonder if this time is one of those times.

So, I decided that we would go shopping anyway having faith in my Lord He work it all out and the Princess would bring her music to be prepared for a piano lesson. I have been needing to stop at the bank and withdraw some money from a trust account that my husband and I manage so I decided to do that, but that ended up being a 45-minute ordeal without resolution because they apparently cannot find our signature cards...again. By then, I definitely was not in a happy place when we went on into the city to go grocery shopping.

Things brightened up for me after I called my husband and he said he would handle the trust fiasco himself. Then the piano teacher called us when we were over halfway to the store saying because she was having dead trees removed from her backyard, she was going to be home all day anyway so we could keep our regular lesson time.

Not even two minutes after she and I hung up, I received a call from a number I did not recognized. The young girl introduced herself as one of the servant leaders (high schoolers that help in the lower grade classes) from Living Science and asked where my daughter was. Oops! Now it was my daughter's turn to be unhappy. I told her that although she was not prepared, she would be there in about twenty minutes. The Princess did not have her backpack; she did not even have a pencil or sheet of paper to take notes. I suggested to her that she could borrow off of someone this one time and dropped her off with an hour and a half of her two-and-a-half-hour class left.

Then I drove back towards the health food stores and did my nearly two hour shopping usually between two to three stores in less than an hour at one store alone to pick up the Princess about fifteen minutes after class and get her to the piano lesson right on time. She assures me, absolutely confirmed, that next week there is no science class, and the first week of November sounded right to me. (I have since checked the school's calendar.) This time I made arrangements for piano lesson to be the next Thursday and we are taking the piano teacher to lunch before her could work.

On the way home my daughter said that it seemed as if God worked everything out. If I had not decided to just go hoping her regular piano lesson time would be available, then we would have been an hour from the school and not prepared to leave the house at all. If I had not been delayed at the bank, we would have been in the store with a shopping cart half full and having to leave in a hurry to get to the school instead of approaching a good place to turn north to get to it. Plus, the piano teacher was able to take us at the regular day and time. She is looking for how God fits things together for our good, even when it seems to add to our difficulty at the time. That made the day completely worth it!

We made it home after buying new athletic shoes for the Princess, who now wears the same size as I do (although she is about six inches shorter than me and still has one baby tooth yet), so when she out grows these, I will probably inherent them even though they are not my taste. As the sky darken, we had food to put away, pets to feed, and we finally ate just after 7:30 PM...and my friends wonder why I do not make it to church service at 7:00 PM on Wednesday nights, but then somehow God will work that out with us as well.

~ My Lord, as we try to become more involved with church, it seems we have more difficulties with our managing our time, but whether in the building or not, help us to be Your church at all times and in every situation...and not be too busy enjoy to chocolate and blogging now and then also. ~

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Eye Am Fine

The eye sees a thing more clearly in dreams than the imagination awake. ~Leonardo da Vinci

On Thursday, the Princess and I went to have our eyes checked. I know that I am somewhat nearsighted with a slight astigmatism, but I have not had glasses for over 25 years and I gave up on contacts 20 years ago because my eyes became so relaxed that my eyesight was worse than before I had them, but it improved again afterward. I rather my eyes not get that lazy about focusing on their own. Reading a book or working at my computer I do just fine, but really tiny print or cross-stitching now requires 1.25 reading glasses, so I could have gotten bifocals that I could wear all the time, but I really felt that I just wanted glasses for distances, mostly for reading signs when I drive, signs in a unfamiliar store, the occasion captions on a movie, or words of songs projected at our church. I just do not see me wearing them in my home, where I am most of the time.

The Princess has been telling me that she has a problem seeing things close up, but I think the range in which she means close up would be difficult for nearly everyone! I have always known she had good eyesight for distances and she has no problems reading at all, but now I have confirmation: the girl is 20/20. The optometrist said that she is very slightly farsighted, but not enough to bother with glasses; she looked so disappointed, as I was thanking God! I think she even tried to convince the doctor that she must need glasses, because he made a point to say that her complaints were probably due to eye fatigue. This is likely because she reads books and writes on her computer in her leisure time as well as the work she does for homeschooling.

I was also thanking God that both of us had very healthy eyes, because last year about this time I had incidents of flashes of light in my eyesight, which could have been an indication that the retina was detaching, but when I asked my Lord, He told me this was not the case. Flashes are also common as the fluid in the eye changes with age. So, in a little over a week I will be enjoying the fall colors in crystal clarity, if I choose to wear my glasses.

Our appointment was just after 8:00 AM, but because our eyes were dilated for most of the day, even well into the afternoon (instead of the two to three hours we were promised), we took the day off from former lessons. The Princess said everything was fuzzy and she even was seeing double. I told her that what she was complaining about is how I see all the time, except for the double vision. Because the doctor was so informative and because she had recently dissected an eye in her science class I decided that this would be considered a field trip. Everything is a learning opportunity! She spent part of the day working on her science project and cleaning her room, without being asked.

Some days are good days...but then I have not told you what happened the previous day, Wednesday, our errand day...and I just do not think I have the energy to go there right now.

~ Thank you, my Lord, for our healthy eyes and for the excellent eyesight you have given to my daughter. Protect her vision in that she sees only what You wish her to see. ~

Friday, November 1, 2013

Healer in Need of Healing

Christ is the Good Physician. There is no disease He cannot heal; no sin He cannot remove; no trouble He cannot help. He is the Balm of Gilead, the Great Physician who has never yet failed to heal all the spiritual maladies of every soul that has come unto Him in faith and prayer. ~James H. Aughey

The past three weeks have been...well, a single word for it escapes me, so if you have one, please submit it.

Although it is mostly gone now, I had been having intermittent back pains that jumped from side to side and even traveled up and down my back but mainly settled on the right mid back. I had two chiropractic adjustments and a massage in three weeks, all which were very helpful, but the next day the pain would return. My chiropractor suggested I needed a new pillow and I considered that, but the pain was very odd in how it moved around during the day sometimes. I have had a variety of back pain throughout the years and this was nothing like anything I had before and since I did not get any lasting relief from the chiropractor and no emotional or spiritual knowledge during my massage as has happened to me in the past, I began to wonder from whom I was picking up this pain.

It is very difficult being an empath at times because it is not always obvious if the pain is my own or coming from someone else, especially if the someone is in my home and not telling me they are in pain, as is often the case with pets. My seventeen-year-old indoor cat finally became so ill that I thought he had had a stroke one morning, but it turned out that he was just terribly sick. I prayed for him and was led to a homeopathic remedy called Thuja. This remedy is often used for detoxing animals from vaccinations, but it can also help with viruses and bowel irritations, which was exactly what was going on with my old cat. After the first dose, my back pain diminished noticeably. It would take a few more dosages and days before he was truly feeling well again, evident by his increased degrees of annoyance, and that the back pain I was feeling would be completely relief most of the day.

I wonder sometimes if my daughter is right when she tells me that she will be giving that cat to her own grandchildren one day. I know that is not likely, but he has outlived every pet we have had so far and doesn't that just figure when he is also the most annoying cat I have ever had!

There were two women at our church Sunday, one was the pastor's wife, that I found out had back pain when talking with them after the service, so I prayed for them. It is so nice to see people get instant relief. Thank you, my Lord.

Sharing another's pain is unnerving at times, but for me it is the way of my life. It forces me focus on the needs of others, because I am affected by them. There are benefits, though. It also helps me to have compassion for everyone regardless of their appearances. You see, I have found that everyone has pain...not just the physical pain, but emotional. I try to see through them to their hurts, because in that sense there is no one better that another. One who looks successful can be racked with hurts that are not seen.

The only solution is love: God's love. What a privilege it is to be the instrument of God's love for them! I only hope that I can be sufficient in God's purpose for me in bringing them His healing love.

~ My Lord, thank you for the opportunity, even the pain it causes me at times, to give healing and love to others. Help me, my Lord, give all of what You have given me to give. ~

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Warning: Surprises by Nature Cause Unexpected Results

There is no surprise more magical than the surprise of being loved: It is God's finger on man's shoulder.
~Charles Morgan

My Week:
This was actually over two weeks ago. I began feeling rather unappreciated. I complained quite a bit that week. There was dirty dishes left in the sink as if they are going to jump into the dishwasher magically all on their own. There was the empty toilet paper roll as if a new toilet paper roll in the closet would escape and replace it. There were piles of personal items left here and there as if they were squatters with no other homes. There was my daughter who referred to the beginning of our weekday as doing "doom and gloom" lessons, which I reminded her that I sacrifice many things I would like to do in my life to homeschool her and that it is time we spend together so when she refers to it that way, it hurts me. Yeah, by Thursday of that week, when my upper back began its nagging aching, I was miserable and probably even more miserable to be around. On Friday, I was starting to come out of the mood...sort of, as I was trying to look forward to the weekend as we had plans with some friends.

The Plan As I Knew It: 
I would pick up my friend to go to the women's meeting at church on Saturday morning. While we were there, her husband and her daughter would come over to my house so that afterward we could have lunch and play a game while our daughters play together. Even though there is a difference of 5½ years with theirs being the younger, most of the time they play well together.

My friend and I were talking about her upcoming birthday that we planned to celebrate the next weekend by going to her favorite restaurant, Bahama Breeze, so I had been thinking about the orange  glass bead bracelet (like my love bracelet) I was going to give her, because the woman loves everything orange and having to do with pumpkins; it reminds her of autumn—even her daughter's middle name is Autumn.

The Arrival Home:
My friend's upcoming birthday was foremost on my mind as I walked into my home and up the stairs from the basement garage and saw that the top rail was decorated with crepe paper streamers and balloons. When I reached the top of the stairs in the living room and turned toward the dining room to see more decorations there. I was a bit exasperated at that point saying to my husband "I have not even wrapped her present yet!" and immediately following that I heard a child say "Happy Birthday, Mama" to the left thinking that sounded like my child, but surely it was theirs.

Even as I looked around at the color scheme I wondered why they would use purple and green which are my favorite colors together instead of orange for my friend. Okay, I admit that was beyond just being dense, but honestly I have never had a surprise birthday party in my life. My birthday was forgotten in my mind as it was two weeks past when my husband was working away from home. When it finally dawned on me this was for me, I immediately dropped my exasperation and enjoyed the leopard printed paper plates and table cloth. Yes, these were definitely decorations I like.

Their Secret Plan:
All week, even when I was melting down and the temptation to let the cat out of the bag was so great, so my husband told me, my husband and friends had been conspiring, but I suspect the real ring leader was my daughter, who can keep a secret about a party since she was three, even under extreme duress. My husband told me he was not sure how it would work out between the leopard print and purple and green, but our daughter knows how to pull a party and the decorations together. (I think she even plans parties in her sleep.) The balloons, still meandering in a slightly deflated state in her bedroom, were purple and gold. Even if the decorations looked silly together to anyone else, I truly enjoyed them: I felt loved and appreciated.

We had fried chicken from Publix (which is the best fried chicken, better than any restaurant—except maybe Chick-Fil-A) and a cake with ice cream. My friend gave me a pumpkin roll with a cream cheese icing filling (I did write that she loves pumpkin, did I not?) and I had my love bracelet on. I also had just received a new cover for my Kindle that I ordered from Amazon because the bright green one I had was falling apart and the new cover was—can you guess?—a lovely leopard print! Yes, this is about as good as it gets in my little world.

My Friend's Birthday
For her birthday the very next weekend, my friend wanted to eat out at Bahama Breeze, her favorite restaurant to which I have never been before, but my traveling husband had. I was concerned that I might not be able to go or that I might dampen the mood. I was on the tail end of a flare up with my upper back that day and normally I would not have gone to church as sitting up always makes it worst, plus those hugs many like to give can be quite painful. Thankfully, I did get better after the service as the day progressed.

We went to the early church service as we normally do on Sunday and then we stopped at Carlton Farms, which is nearby, to get raw milk. The girls took off to the petting farmyard area. My friend was hoping to buy a pie pumpkin but even though the farm store is always open to sell milk and eggs, they were not ready for selling pumpkins until noon when they also open the corn maze, which was another 30 minutes after we had gotten the milk.

We decided not to wait, driving both vehicles to our home, dropping off the milk that would stay just fine in the cooler, since it is kept just two degrees above freezing at the farm, until we got home later to prepare it for freezing. (We place it in half gallon containers because then we use it all before it begins to clabber.) We left their car at our place and drove together in our van to the restaurant. I liked the atmosphere and the food was good too. My friend loved her orange bracelet present.

Another One Coming
Next weekend, two weeks after her mother's birthday, it is their daughter's turn to have a birthday. Her mother began planning it last weekend while she was beating us at Uno after we returned from the restaurant. They discussed Chuck E. Cheese as that is what their daughter wanted since she had been to a birthday party there, but her parents decided on inviting her entire school class and a couple others outside of her class like my daughter to a birthday party at their home. As she was brainstorming, I offered to do face painting, but suggested that she have an activity where a child could be pulled out during it without missing something. Leave it to my friend to come up with painting pumpkins! Yesterday she asked me to bring our Twister spinner as she is going to spray paint red, yellow, green, and blue dots on the lawn so everyone can play at the same time. It seems it will be some party!

~ Thank you, my Lord, for good friends and celebrations of life! ~

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Only Thing You Can Take With You

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red and yellow, black and white
They're all precious in his sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world

A friend let me borrow the audio version of the book Heaven is for Real. First of all, I have to comment on the writing itself. It was delicious! Rich in its descriptions that would rival the best of fictional books, but it was an account written by the father of a boy named Colton who had visited heaven. I was so glad my daughter listened to most of it with me, because I would stop it now and then to comment on the writer's imagery and I could see she was processing how the writer painted a canvas with his words.

As the father had written at one point, I too believe that God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, heaven...all of it is true, but there was something so confirming listening to the remembrances of the boy. I am so hungry for heaven now. Previously, I really did not get what heaven might be like other than in my mind it would be so different in indefinable ways, but maybe it is not a different as I though it would be. For one, it became clear to me that God originally formed Adam and Eve as He wanted us to be. We as beings are still very much ourselves in heaven. I really do not know what I thought we would become there, but I thought we could be changed immensely somehow, nearly unrecognizable to what we are in the flesh. I also never thought that there would be children in heaven, but that age would have no bearing there. Since what is spiritual can cancel out what is logical here, I just assumed that the spirit of a child would be the same as the spirit of the elderly, but it makes sense that God allows a baby to develop in heaven.

The one thing that really hit me was how much the boy seem to emphasize that Jesus loved children. That to me translated to how much He loves me personally. I am not a child in the sense of my age and development, but I was and still am His child. The boy mentioned that God the Father adopted the children, so when I sing the words "I am a child of the One True King" it is not just wishful thinking. I really am. Wow!

Between the accounts of visitations to heaven by Colton and Akiane, I have changed my perspective quite a bit. I was a bit afraid of passing on, as we tend to all fear the unknown because heaven was largely unknown to me (still is in many ways), but now I am just hungry for heaven! I am anxious to go there, like a child wishing to go to an amusement park.

Actually, it changed more than just my fear of the unknown and my sometimes wondering if God really does love me, I was thinking about all the children that were going to heaven everyday. Is it any wonder that the Lord allows this world to continue? While He hates evil, He is also receiving the children who died from evil deeds and illnesses due to our fallen state, all those children He so much loves into His Kingdom, a truly wonderful place where no evil exists. So, no matter what happens here that causes our death, there is a far better place to which we go...if we are believers.

So, what does God really find valuable? Children, people, everyone, and even me! It is one thing to know that and it is another to experience it or just truly accept it. I tend to wonder why God allows the world to continue as it is when it is so determined to reject Him, but now I realize that even as corrupted as this world is, through it is produced what He loves: people. It even produced me and He loves me. So, while I am in the process of accepting this on a personal level, it came to me that God treasures us. We are His treasure and He wants more.

The very cool realization for me this day is that the only thing we can take with us into the Kingdom is what God treasures: people. It is not just about getting someone to accept Jesus so he will be "saved." It is not about hiding away and being protective of Christianity or even our own lives, it is about bringing one more person to God. It is about living our life giving the God we worship and love what He treasures.

The truth is I have not been one to treasure people as a whole. My Lord is obviously working on me about that a lot lately. I have a small number of friends whom I treasure, but I certainly have not been looking at a stranger thinking this is one of God's precious treasures, whom He loves. God is changing my heart and it has been rough moving over to understanding and accepting His perspective about people because it is so convicting and revealing how inadequate my love for other people is. In a way, it makes me sad for all the years I spent trying to feel His Love and to seek His Heart, when it now is so obvious that I was missing what He treasured. Again, it is one thing to know it like we are called to spread the Word so others can be saved, but it is another to think that bringing Jesus to people is how we bring what God treasures to Him.

He treasures me. He treasures you. He treasures the lost people in the midst of their evil acts. How can that amazing, awesome love He has for us be overpowered? It cannot. Let us bring what He treasures with us!

~ My Lord, I know you have been changing my heart. I am still tripping over old thoughts but I love You and and to bring You what You treasure. May I be accepting to what You would have me do. ~

Monday, October 14, 2013

Foundation or Anchor?

I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church;
~Matthew 16:18

Rocks in Israel were (and still are) plentiful and have been used for all kinds of things that have been replaced in our modern times with other materials, so I think we do not understand the importance of this promise Jesus was making. It takes the right kind of rock to be used as a foundation of a building, one that will not break under the weight of all the other rocks that will be placed on it. It can have flaws but not ones that will compromise its purpose under pressure. That was the kind of rock that Peter was. That was the kind of people on which Christianity was built as Jesus promised.

In places, like here in America were Christianity is a well established religion and there is freedom of religion, we have very few foundational rocks. Most of us have never and will never be tested under the kind of pressure that the early Christians suffered or even Christians still do in some other countries. We sit comfortably in places of worship openly, perhaps a bit too cozy, for a foundational rock is always under pressure.

Another use for rocks in the time Jesus walked with men, many of them fishermen same as Peter, was an anchor. Do you know that the Bible has no record of Jesus ever referring to an anchor? (I confess that sometimes I am more fascinated by what Jesus did not say than what He did.) Here He is in the company of fishermen and He did not say that Peter will be the anchor on which the believers will hold steadfast in times of turbulent seas. Think about it! Is this not what the Western Christian church has become, people trying to anchor Christianity while the turbulence escalates?

Are we to hold steadfast? Yes, we are to hold steadfast in our belief, faith, and love for the Lord, but that does not really build the church. One could be a very devout believer and stay at home, however I also believe that if one has a close relationship with my Lord that He would not be asking the person to stay at home.

How about the church pew? Would it be enough to please my Lord to just show up in a church pew on Sunday or better yet have some task to do in the church? So many Christians believe this that the church has not taught them how to be Peter, the rock on which to build the church...other than just politely inviting people to church. I am trying to imagine a meek Peter politely asking someone to come worship with him after He witnessed Jesus die and be alive asking him to feed His sheep right before his eyes! Yeah, that just does not work for me.

Peter was a passionate man, fearful at times when not with Jesus but once He realized Jesus would always be with him, he as even more fearless in building the church than when he tried to protect Jesus from being taken from him by the Roman soldiers! Peter had an invincible long as Jesus was with him and he was with Jesus.

So, which are you, the rock at the bottom of a turbulent sea holding steadfast or the rock on which Jesus is building His church even under pressure that could break other rocks?

~ My Lord, thank you for the freedom we have to worship you, but help us who love You be foundational rocks on which to build the church for You rather than just anchors. ~

Saturday, October 12, 2013

My Love Bracelet

...Love your neighbor as yourself.
~Matthew 22:39

A friend just told me that she did not know if I had noticed how different I am from the way I was last year at this time. My Lord has blessed me with the ability to completely forget the bad or at least not remember bad things that have happened in my life in any kind of sequential orderquite a feat considering I am a sequential kind of gal. Thankfully, I have this blog to keep a record not just of events but of my spiritual state of being as well. I have not forgotten the burden I felt for my former church that became so keen and overpowered every thought and prayer I had at the time. I nearly lost myself in the quagmire between wrestling with what God wanted and what the church wanted, and what I might have wanted, other than trying to please my Lord rather than fight with Him, was completely pushed aside. I believe there were many reasons I had to go through that short season of my life, but one in particular now is far more evident than before.

A few weeks ago I did something I have been wanting to do for a long time since even before we began visiting other churches in January, even though I still was wrestling with God to just do it. A visiting pastor invited anyone who needed healing to come up and let him pray for them. I wanted to be healed of a few minor physical things, but there I was standing next to a man, who of all the people there, had the greatest need for healing; a man on oxygen and barely able to stand. Immediately, I felt selfish for coming up as I knew this man needed healing far more than I did. I also felt terribly sad because I just knew God had another plan and he would not be receiving it at that time as much as he wanted it. (I did not know him or the situation, but I just knew his time was short—the very next Sunday, we were celebrating his passing on to be with his Lord.) So, I am standing there wanting to go back to my seat thinking of how my needs are so little in comparison to him and probably everyone else if no one should waste a prayer on me.

The pastor did not just pray for me but passed on words of knowledge from the Holy Spirit. He talked to me about how I did not love myself. It is still very difficult for me to accept this. I always feel that I am rather selfish and even demanding, but this pastor was sharing what my Lord wished for me to hear so I tried to listen and accept them. He also said that being humble is not what I was doing, although I might believed it to be that. If I am to love my neighbor as I do myself, yet I do not love myself, then my neighbor is in trouble. That hit me very hard. I have never thought of it that way.

Although I did not know it at the time, that was a pivotal point for me and I have yet to grasp it completely. For the last few months, I think I have been in a very slow recovery of a lifetime of denying myself that I had come to begin to recognize almost a year ago yet it got kicked up a few notches that day. Even as I write that I still hear the denial of it in my mind as I try to convince myself I really have not been doing this. I survived poverty and abuse in my childhood, but continued in a self-imposed semi-state of self-denial and self-degradation. I write a semi-state, because I have fought against going too far and slipping back into a clinical depression. I have lived through such a depression once in my life for nearly two years and I just refuse to allow myself to be in that debilitating hell on earth ever again. However, the few times I began to make peace with identifying my self-worth, something would happen that would make me pull myself back down to that point of not being depressed yet not really enjoying my life if whatever changed was a sign from God to make sure I did not become too full of myself, so I led myself to believe. Now I am thinking that I was attributing something to my Lord that was not from or of Him. If you have read my blog for some time, you may have recognized this struggle in my least, I am seeing it for myself now.

So, recently, I have noticed that I have been doing some little things that I just like to do for myself...and others too. I have been more generous, not because I feel I should be, but because I really want to be, which has been growing in me as well. It is not just giving to others, but also allowing myself to enjoy things as well—I really did not realize how much I do not allow myself to enjoy things, all kinds of things...I probably still do not fully realize it. 

This glass bead bracelet has become my personal symbol of love. I saw bracelets like this a few weeks ago on display at the studio of the Princess' piano teacher. One of her "piano moms," as she calls the mothers of her students, makes these Pandora style bracelets to sell for $20, who can pass up a price like that with beads that look like this! I decided they would make nice gifts for a couple of friends and also for me, as it was around the time of my birthday.

I met the jewelry maker at her home a few weeks ago and pick out bracelets for the others and had decided that even though I am not much of a jewelry kind of girl that I really liked these and I was determined to get one for myself. Now here is where my struggle usually begins. First of all, I will choose the most difficult path, which in this case was to pick out my own beads from a selection that would boggle the brain. The jewelry maker told me that she has a friend that can never make up her mind on which beads she wants and I warned her that I would probably be that way as well. Since she is well practiced with situation, she told me to pick from the bracelets she had made and then we could exchange beads according to my wishes.

I still struggled with just selecting a color! At this point I normally would talk myself out of it completely just because I could not make a choice so I must not want it enough to make this worthwhile. Perhaps that is just my excuse to say I am not worth it? Then I consciously made a decision instead of finding the one I think I should get to justify my reasons for wanting it in the first place, I would pick out the one that I just want, the one that catches my attention most. My eyes immediately fell again upon the one I first liked so much it at the piano studio with some beads of stemmed flowers on a black background. Then I tried to talk myself out of it: It is bulky and heavy so would I really wear it? I could not use the metal allergy since most of it is made with glass beads, probably from China so maybe I should not get it because of lead? I do not wear the black and purples to match it really. In fact, I am a pretty drab dresser with denims, whites, and earth tones except for a few hot pink T-shirts, so I was telling myself I should go for the browns or something else that I could match.

However, I surprised myself and picked the one I really liked and asked her to add some green beads, matching those green flower stems. I even had her pick them and when she put it together...I just loved it! Next thing I knew, just a few hours later that day I found a cute black top for around $6 with the Kohl's price tag of $46.00 still on it at a nearby (to the piano studio) SERV store and a black sweater for around $5 at Goodwill so now I am liking black along with some other colors I have not dared to wear. I have always liked short black boots, black tops, and black belts with a light denim jeans, but I cannot think of any time I have ever had such an outfit of my own...yet.

I know it is just a bracelet and the bracelet did not change my life, but it is symbolic of a change in my life...and I am allowing myself to really enjoy the bracelet and the love for myself that it symbolizes.

~ My Lord, thank you for simple pleasures. I know they do not last, but while they last please remind me that it is You Who allows me to enjoy them.~

Friday, October 4, 2013

Inviting the Uninvited

Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.)

But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”

When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
 ~Mark 2:15-17 (New Living Translation)

Yesterday we received an invitation in the mail. It is amazing how a few words on a piece of paper can change one's mood and focus. It was not wedding or baby shower invitation, but a blanket invitation on church stationery sent from a person we highly respect worded so very delicately to invite those who have departed...not from life but our former church. The "impromptu homecoming" is set on a Sunday this month, when a gospel couple will be singing at the morning service. (Too bad it did not mention a meal to follow as that always seemed to attract more people than anything else ever did.)

Initially, when my husband told me about the invitation, I though it would be nice to have a bit of a reunion with the people who were a part of our lives for four years...just a visit for the hi's, hugs, and no hard feelings kind of thing that I would like to see at all reunions.

My husband is one to bring me down from my wishful, head-in-the-clouds dreams to hard-earth reality. Has even one of these people called us in the ten months since we left? Only one but that was initiated by me some months ago and I was told that even she does not attend the church now. (The one couple with whom we are close I do not count; it was only a matter of time that they would leave and they have. We all go to the same church now and I think they love it even more than we do!)

My husband is not in the least interested in the get-together, although he did say if it were only for the person who sent the invitation, he would go, but later he thought about how uninvited we were into the lives of the church members. For the most part, we both are all or nothing types of people. We will give our all until we have nothing left, which is why we are choosey about making commitments trying to be sure it is God's will and timing. When it comes to individuals, we always look for something with which we can connect deeply, hooks that will stick into the flesh and keep us from pulling away from each other. Such hooks seem deflected by Sunday shields of shallow politeness and we have been in such churches for most of our lives, including this one. We have been invited, but heartily welcomed...?

When we were in that church, we called ourselves a family but the family lacked some crucial relationship-building elements, like being involved in each other lives, helping each other out, being invited to one's home to share a meal, or at least a "how ' ya doin'" phone call once in awhile—and to pray with a person just because...well, I guess that was supposed to be the pastor's job. We knew more about each other because over time we had shared information, but I stopped giving much personal information for months and no one made any inquiries. Other than the Sunday morning polite exchanges our relationship with them was no deeper than walking in the doors of another church to which we had never been previously—having had the experience for some months to compare, I promise you that I am not exaggerating. Even when we invited others for a meal, which was hard enough to coordinate with my husband's work schedule and his travels, there was always an excuse as if getting too close on a personal level was a secret code that we were breaking, except for one couple with whom we have developed a strong bond. Even when a visiting pastor came, one of two couples would ask his family to dinner after services, but even if they were eating out, it was like a secret where they were going. The churches we loved the most would tell everyone so whoever wanted to join the meal would feel welcomed to do so.

"We were hoping our dear friends who helped found and settle our church...." That could have been us in a prior time perhaps, but it would not be us since the 40-day fast two years ago. We did not help found that church: not the church as it began but more so not the church it has become. If anything, we felt very strongly God's leading to unsettle was this time last year, in fact.

The questions that still hang in the air:

  • What has changed in that church from a year ago?
  • Why are there no young people or children in the church? 
  • Better yet: Why has God not even sent anyone under 40 years of age to the church in the last three years?

While I enjoy and have sung gospel music, it does not escape me that the only ones who are going to be attracted to a church service of gospel music are the people mostly over 50 years old who were raised in churches that had gospel music (and often preached that all other music, except for hymns, are not holy enough). That is exactly the same tactic this church has used for years...while hoping for change. It is so sad to watch this same scenario being replayed over and over with enough window dressing that the members can convince themselves that it is a step towards change. How many steps towards change have we taken with them? Enough to know we walked in circles inside of the box they have created. Being outside of the box gives one a completely different perspective than being inside of it.

There are masses of unsaved, never-been-churched people who could not be more unreachable with "old time religion." It may be good enough for some, who wish to come out and be separate from the world, but the flip side is that it is not reaching all those lost people who live in the world. Religion has always alienated people, but Jesus did not: He was (and still is) the Kingdom at Hand. He is Incorruptible Love. He is the Church. He is most definitely out of the box reaching the unreachable, inviting the uninvited. I just do not think my Lord reached the unsaved singing gospel music and sitting in church waiting for God to change things for Him or bring people to Him, but by being willing to change things for God and do what the most religious men found to be unacceptable, and even unholy, as He met with the sinners outside of the synagogue! He was the representation of His Father and are we not to be representing Him?

There is a chorus of a surrender song by the band Unspoken called "Lift My Life Up" that rings in my head right now:

All my dreams, all my plans
Lord, I leave it in Your hands
I lift my life, lift my life up
Have Your way in me
Have Your way in me

If only that could be the focus of this church! If only we had more church-goers being Jesus instead of talking about Jesus and trying to look like model churchers as were the Pharisees, not Jesus! If only God could have His way with the church...He would call people to it, young and old. I have seen what churches look like when the people are sincerely asking God to have it His way with their church AND are willing to act on His wishes, those who are being Jesus to the unsaved, those who are willing to do what is impossible for them to do, because they have seen so many times how God will make it possible! They have something that is not contained in a box or a building.

My Lord has sent my family to churches where their services are a spiritual splash of refreshment and a joyful reunion with people we did not even know, yet the spiritual connection was evident. It would not be a homecoming for us to visit our former church, nor do I feel my Lord calling us to go back. There will be time for meaningful reunions of old acquaintances in heaven; today is time to embrace more lost souls with His arms.

~ My Lord, help us all to give up our religious views, those things that we place so much importance but bear no fruit, those things that so blinded the Pharisees. Bring us all in reunion with You and Your will.  ~

Monday, September 23, 2013

Product Review: NERF Rebelle Bow

The tween years for a girl is a time when she loses interested in toys, but my daughter took to the NERF Rebelle Heartbreaker Bow as if it was the most wanted gift on her Christmas list, even though she had even thought of it! She has been out with her friends practicing for accuracy or just chasing and shooting at each other for fun ever since she received it. I have had to buy replacement darts because they do get damaged or lost eventually.

Now NERF Rebelle products are now something that every girl in the neighborhood wants. My daughter rarely has the opportunity to be first to start a trend, but this really is a fun toy. I know because I have shot my daughter with her own Nerf darts several times! I did have to remind her that it is because I am a Bzzagent that I could give it to her for free; this I tell her so I can get some play it with it.

My daughter tells me that it shoots darts really far and our cats like to capture falling darts...and take off with them, which ends up with giggly girls chasing after cats to retrieve darts. My daughter thought the funniest thing was when a neighbor boy shot it at her with her own bow and he could not hit her with a dart. She said it was like she had an invisible force-field. I just told I was not surprised since it was not made for boys.

Shhh! I predict refill darts in her stocking at Christmas time.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Where was I? Oh, yes.

Sunrise, sunset.
Sunrise, sunset.
Swiftly flow the days.
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze.
~Fiddler on the Roof

You may have been wondering where I have been. I am still in the crackdown-on-homeschool mode; the crackdown is mostly on myself, by the way. I finished planning the year as to how to fit all the curriculum in Language Arts, but I still have much work to do planning Social Studies. Currently, I am lost under piles of paper and trying to acclimate to our new schedule, so I am not yet using my time and resources as efficiently as I hope to do. If you ever tried educating your child at home you know that tasks of getting the child from one lesson or assignment to the other and of organizing paper in various forms, such as new ruled paper, art papers, worksheets, workbooks, books, index cards, flash cards, printed papers, etc., are the two main things a parent does over and over...and o-v-e-r.

Since I changed everything in my daughter's curriculum—yes, everything, but I just have to write, is working out so much better for both of us!—I now have old papers from our old curricula with which I am not quite sure what I will do and I need to place the new stuff into binders. Schools have the advantage of not having to save at least a sampling of the students' work to prove what and how they are teaching, as much as I do, as much as homeschooling families should do. So, temporarily everything is in piles on a table in the middle of my office/homeschool room, where there really is not enough room for a table, but better there than spread out on the floor so my cat and dog can make additional arrangements to the mess.

This year, although it is not required, I also decided that I will practice keeping records for high school transcripts, a skill I will need to have for the upcoming years anyway. Besides, she has been earning partial credits in some subjects like Greek and Latin. Also, the Princess wants to be graded, has been wanting that for the last few years, and even though I appeased her at times on this, I did not keep records of her grades. For those who do not homeschool, I was teaching to mastery without concerns about grading previously, however some children thrive on completing for that "A." My husband and I both were like that, but we thought it was due to the make-the-grade school influence in which we were raised; since this has not been the case with our daughter, I guess it is just in her genes to want a measuring stick of her abilities.

The science class is adding the measure of independent learning—independent of me, I mean. I think it was a very good investment into her education: The very first day of her school, they dissected an eye! The Princess did most of it as her lab partner thought it was very gross. The Princess is thriving in the classroom and laboratory environment, but then she has a teacher who truly loves teaching science. (I am thinking that it is easier to really love it when it is just one class a week, although I know she has other classes.) I give the Princess an hour on two separate days each week in our schedule so she can do her science homework as she must type out her summary of each class in addition to any lab reports and other things like take home tests. She has eagerly begun researching her chosen 5th day animal for the autumn presentation: the Crown of Thorns Starfish. She does not seem to mind that the science assignments take more time than I have set aside. She works on her science project in the evenings and on weekends also. Since she has observed good and bad 4H presentations, I am curious how she will put her project together for a seven to ten minute presentation.

Oh, my little Princess, a half-grown woman-child! Was it not just last summer when she was four years old protesting with a defiant look of determination after I had called her my child: "I am not a child. I am a woman!" From that point on, when people asked how she was, I would reply, "She is a formidable woman!" which would catch them off-guard until their giggles set in. Back then the Princess was only four, nearly always in pink, learning to play piano with only one hand at a time, and reading at a second grade level.

Today, she prefers teals, mauves, and greens with blues and browns, has a purse faddish, will be starting algebra in a month, talks about going to college, and wears nearly the same size shoes as I do. She is particularly good playing Bach on the piano, but she is good with a wide variety of musical styles. She writes as much as she reads, which is considerable. She is rather good with comics and used to draw several pictures a day, but she never really like the fine finishing work (as I do). Now she often cannot wait to start writing a story she has in her head and this is why I placed so much emphasis on language arts for this year. She may think she wants to be an actress only, but I see the girl is also a writer, artist, and musician at heart.

Which brings me back to why my homeschool area is a mess. I wanted to change things so that we could encourage and support her talents and areas of interest more so than before. Those years of laying foundations have prepared her for this change of fine tuning her education.

Did you know that the Amish only formally school their children to 8th grade? Why? Because by that age, a child has learned everything that is absolutely necessary to learn in a school setting to get along in life. The rest they will learn as well, better actually, by living experience or by apprenticing. When I was eleven, my mother was in and out of the hospital for illnesses, surgery after falling for which she was in traction at home for about 4 months, and giving birth because she had apparently conceived just before the fall. I did the housework and made sure my siblings were fed as was expected of me being the oldest. I have this philosophy that education from age of twelve on is to specialize their education toward their talents, gifts, and potential as well as practicing those practical skills. I feel that the potential of the teenage years is not fully utilized when students are taking classes and trying to get good grades just to prepare for college. Why not start learning college courses while in their teens?

On that note, some things had to shift in our priorities for this year and my homeschool materials with it. The Princess no longer needs the math manipulatives that helped her understand 5-3=2 in her four-year-old hands. She is twelve and those years have passed. It is difficult to let go, selling or packing away materials that helped shaped her knowledge for today, but changes must be made to accommodate and encourage growth and exploration in preparation for the woman she will be.

I may not be ready for it, but I have to be sure that she is.

~ My Lord, guide us as You desire us to be. ~

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

No Do-Overs

If I had it all to do over again, I would do most all things differently. However, how would I know that if, I had not had the opportunity to do them the first time.
 ~Janice Markowitz

Googling for information about a certain homeschool product, I came across this intriguing blog post entitled "If I Were Starting Homeschooling Over From Scratch." As I scanned through it, I began thinking about how much the homeschool market has changed since I began and how much my daughter and I have changed as well. So many materials were not available at the time when we started that I might have liked to use or at least had considered before making a final choice. I am sure that there are some newer products that I might have preferred over what I decided on at the time, but the ones I picked were tried and true, still available today and I rarely ever find myself thinking "I wish this was available years ago."

I have this philosophy to purposely not look back at my life with regret, which is not to say that I do not have regrets or I never wished I had done some things differently or not at all, but I have always been one to believe that in the same circumstances with the same information and same emotions in play I had at the time, I would have done exactly what I did. It is very rare that I say or even think if I had it to do over again...

I simply do not believe in do-overs. They are the illusions for when we cannot face up to the worst we have done, but they are not reality. I don't believe in examining my past and thinking about how things would have turned out if I had done this or that differently. Those are empty wishes on which I simply do not spend time and effort. It is better to spend that time and effort in making good decisions right here and now. I believe in going on from where I am. I believe in the possibly of tomorrows. I even believe that all my history—the good, the bad, and the ugly—made me into the person I am today and what I do today will make me into the person I will be tomorrow. 

Some would argue with me that when we accepted Jesus, we became new persons in Christ. Yes, but this did not erase my history, it became part of it. Jesus did not give me a new past, but a new future. I do not believe in do-overs, just in new days, each being a beginning of the rest of my life as the cliché goes. This very moment is the first of the rest of my life, even though there have been 50-some years of moments before this one.

Homeschooling has tested these philosophical convictions of mine. There have been more than a few things I have questioned. There have been more than a few things I planned to do that we have not done, at least not the way I planned. I have, am, and will be holding myself responsible for the failures within my daughter's education. What I do, actually all that I have ever done because it makes me who I am today, has a direct influence on who she has been, is, and will be. All of it is her education.

There have been times I simply had to surrender and rely on God's guidance, even unschooling because of circumstances and being unable to control the Princess' education—as if such a thing can be controlled! (I think "control" is another illusion with which we delude ourselves.) There have been times I was more organize and strict with her lessons as reminded myself that there are no do-overs. Still, I learned this most wondrous secret: either way she learned. Yet, most of the time, I fluctuate between the two extremes at points in our lives and even differing between subjects, but it has had little bearing on how fast she learned whatever she learned with a few exceptions like Greek and Latin.

I was thinking about all these things this week after I reviewed the Elementary Greek curriculum that arrived a few days ago. It is very different from Greek 'n' Stuff - Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek! which is for what I hoped, but it is not quite what I was expecting either. It is good, probably just what we need at this point, but does not have as much practice as I would like to see. The lessons are short, but meant to be done daily. Hey, Andrew! lessons could be done daily, but they were very uneven in their time demands, and since it was the same with the Greek 'n' Stuff Latin, I chose to do two pages of Greek on one day alternating with two pages of Latin on the next day, which even out the time somewhat better. Some lessons were taking about an hour, but the organization of these programs was adding to our difficulty of really learning the material. From what I am seeing with the Elementary Greek, there is the possibility that I may need to supplement its lessons with some exercises from Hey, Andrew!

Elementary Greek was available when I was choosing our Greek curriculum, but I was right in my assessment at that time. Had we started with Elementary Greek when she was younger, it would move too fast for us to really process and grasp the information well. I think it would have been a hard cold start even for her at this age considering she is learning other languages also. My plan to "train her brain" to accept the concepts of other languages very early, while she was still learning our own language, did fulfill its purpose and she is rather good with this. I do not know why I feel this is so important at this time, nor even why it was to me then, although I had my reasoning, but I believe my plan must be working within God's plan.

With Elementary Greek, much of the first year will be review and because it lacks some of the things we have covered with Hey, Andrew!, I am assuming that those things will be covered in Year 2 or even 3. The benefit of Elementary Greek not aligning with Hey, Andrew!, is that we will have enough review to cover our weak areas and ease us into the new routine. In addition, there are some vocabulary words that will be new to us and some concepts also so it will not be boring. I also was a bit astonished to find that from Hey, Andrew! we learned a few wrong pronunciations in simple things like the alphabet letter names. Omicron is not /OM-i-cron/ but /om-EE-cron/ and pi is not /PIE/ but /PEE/How well would that have gone over in my geometry class, I wonder?

Do I regret using Hey, Andrew! for all these years? Not at all. I used to think we could have moved along faster as we took more than a year for each level, which is why we are only in Level 4, but in reality what it was was as good as it could be with the lesson loads the Princess has had and our crazy schedules. I initially had hoped to switch to Elementary Greek after Level 3 or 4 of Hey, Andrew!, but as we used it, I changed my mind concerned about how the two would not align. Now, here I am implementing the original plan and seeing the change as beneficial. Actually, I am quite pleased with my choice: The timing is good as to her age and quickness to understanding. Hey, Andrew! did well for introducing us both to Greek, so that we could do well with the faster start pace of Elementary Greek and I will be keeping Hey, Andrew! on hand as it still may be a good supplement. 

This change in our Greek curriculum works so well it is almost as if it was planned for this particular time, and I do not mean by me. I have always asked my Lord to be the one in control of my daughter's education and that I would be guided by Him. If it is His plan then it cannot be wrong.

So, if I had it to do over again...I would do it exactly as I have. If I were starting homeschooling now, I probably would have used the same plan, at least for Greek, as I did because there are no other overly impressive Greek curricula for young children that I have seen so far.

Today we will work with what we have and move on with our sights set on the future. Whatever the Princess lacks in her education at this point, God will provide along the way. I have seen that happen many times, so I have faith that He will continue within or despite my plans and failures.

~ My Lord, keep us looking forward, learning from mistakes but not wishing we had done things differently, and making better choices today for our tomorrow. May all our chosen paths be the ones You have chosen for us. ~

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Homeschool Replanning Out Loud

Write your plans in pencil and let God have the eraser. ~Unknown

L.I.F.E. is the name of our homeschool: Lessons in Faith and Education. The name is far more than the acronym, it is our life and if there is anything that is constant in life, it is change. I know, the terms themselves are contradictory. "Constant change" is an oxymoron—hey, even "oxymoron" is an oxymoron—but such is life.

Since my post Homeschool Planning Out Loud and even my latest enthusiasm over Ask Dr. Callahan's math bundle more recently, I have changed my mind or added some other items.

Before I list my final (?) decisions, I have to write about the mandatory parent meeting for the Home Study Center on Tuesday night. We asked one of my best friends, who also happens to be the Princess' piano teacher, if we could drop her off while we attend the meeting as no children were to be there and her place was on the way. The meeting was 7:30 to 9:30 PM with us driving a two hours there and back. For the most part, it felt as if it was a meeting for the school's benefit rather than ours or at least for the mainstream homeschool "schoolies"...kind of a rah-rah thing. They did cover the online interface, which was pretty self-explanatory to me once I logged on after paying the tuition, and a few things offered that I would would have looked over in the newsletters as they are not really relevant to us currently, but mostly it was pep talk. There was no talk of dress codes or supplies; in fact, they said that they read through the manual last year, which made the meeting go into overtime, and that we could read the manual ourselves. Many people were talking to each other as if they knew each other, but we were not in that group and I did not get connected with my mentor, who had called me earlier saying she would try to meet up with us.

As I sat there, I felt increasingly out of the mainstream...for this school, I mean. (I know how out of the mainstream I am with homeschooling as it is.) For one, my daughter is only taking one class and we live an hour away while many of these people have multiple children going to this school for several classes. We simply are not going to be as involved with all the other social and fund raising activities. I saw a map of where most of the students live and probably 50% are just fifteen minutes to the school with another 40% within a thirty minutes. We might make it for the barbeque picnic next weekend, but not much else other than maybe tagging along with the expedition in the spring. However, when we watched some of the videos with their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) program, we just knew our daughter would want to do more there, especially the engineering.

After that meeting, I felt overwhelmed and oddly inadequate...and this after taking pride in her great test scores. I know I got her to this point and I know that we felt that the science class would enhance her learning. But, when faced with the "institution," even one as Christ-centered and homeschool-based as this one, I felt that everything I have been doing was second they could do it better than me in every way. I was interested in a few sidelines: They had a company that was very familiar with preparing transcripts for their students (for a fee) and another company who would help students get scholarships (for free but worth $3,000+) as his way to support the school. It made me think how I was on the right track about my instincts to get even more serious about preparing the Princess for the future beginning this year. Still, it took a few days to shake off those inadequacy feelings and get real about it all, but I am now in the mode of its a supplement for our homeschool as it was meant to be for us.

As to my thoughts of this year, when both her father and I were the age of the Princess, we were at least a year ahead in school, actually he was nearly two years ahead for he graduated within a month of after turning seventeen years old. So, his entire senior year he was sixteen until the last month, and I graduated at the age of seventeen a few months before turning eighteen, one of three of the youngest in my entire class. He skipped a year after going to a private Christian school, even though they took a year off from school as they traveled the country, and I just started early at the age of five into first grade because of a change in birthdate deadline in the county I lived at that time. So, when we were twelve and a half as the Princess nearly is, I was over halfway through 7th grade and my husband was in the first half of 8th. I have always had this in mind as I planned her lessons because she gets one-on-one tutoring and should be ahead of the standard grade for her age, however I also think it is time to step up our approach and tighten up on some subjects. I have always focused my encouragement on her piano and creative arts, but I want to focus heavily on building her skills within language arts, art, and music.

One big change for the Princess is that she is going to be tested regularly. I did not find testing necessary previously, except with spelling in a way, because I know what she really knows (and doesn't), however I have also noticed in the past two years that if the information does not interest her and she sees no obvious reason to retain it, such as she will be tested on it, she may not be able to recall it few weeks later. Oddly, she seems to want to be tested and many of the curricula I have decided on have built in tests. Maybe she will thrive on the challenge regular testing and grading will provide! Okay, it is not my ideal homeschool philosophy but, hey, whatever it takes.

The two problems that we really need to work on are following through as instructed, whether in writing or verbally, and listening to her instructors (so she knows how to follow through with the instructions), mostly me, but her piano teacher has problems with her at times and now we are adding a science teacher. I am hoping that the science class will be a good lesson for her in more ways than in science itself.

There have been some changes since the Homeschool Planning Out Loud post—actually, some were made just today as I was writing this post:


Language Arts/Grammar
  • Vocabulary from Classical Roots starting with Level 4.
  • Analytical Grammar which has 18 units of daily work. Then it has just two sheets of review and reinforcement exercises for each of following 10 weeks, at which time I will make a decision about what to focus on like reading, narrating, copywork, memorization, or writing.
  • Classical Writing for Older Beginners Here I go trying it again! I know I wrote previously that I did not like the grammar of the Aesop book, but I either am into self-punishment or I really do like the way they present their progymnasmata method. I am at least going to give it another look, because the Older Beginners version should move along faster so we can get the basics down and get to the really good stuff in the next level.
  • Classical Writing Poetry for Older Beginners to follow the one above and I am hoping she have a greater understanding of poetry as she used to write poems often.
  • Writing Strands beginning with Level 3. This is to further develop her writing skills.

Required Reading
  • This year I am going to have a list of books for required reading. The Princess is an avid reader (and writer), but I would like to at least have an age appropriate list of classics and good literature from which she can choose.

Classical Languages
  • Lively Latin has caught my interest just today. I wish it had been available years ago when I first looked at Latin programs for young children, but once I started another program, I was not looking for this one when it came out. Both book volumes together made for younger students are equivalent to one high school credit. Although Greek 'n' Stuff's Latin's Not So Tough!, currently Level 4, has been a program that worked well enough for the Princess at a younger age and we stayed with it even though I was getting lost with how it was structured. I have been doing the lessons myself along with the Princess and have had as much difficulty as she was (and she gets languages). The switch to any other Latin program would mean they will not line up so I have to determine with which book to begin or get both and find a good starting place with a little review and before launching into too much new stuff.
  • Elementary Greek is another switch-off just-decided-today from Greek 'n' Stuff's Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek!, currently Level 4. Greek has been the Princess' favorite of the classical languages, but I was concerned we would be slipping into the same rut as we did with Latin, which is further along in Level 4. Elementary Greek has copying scripture built into the lessons, which we were doing as extra work with the other. A huge plus is that it is currently on sale, so I just now bought all three courses for just a bit more than I would pay for just one course alone and even less for two, and I did not have to make a hard choice of only ordering what I hoped would line up with where we are now. Wow!

Modern Language
  • Tell Me More French is the first homeschool version and it is very good, however now available is an updated version with a friendlier user interface available up to ten levels, which goes well into college level. The one I have is comparable to the current five levels...still, I would really like to upgrade. It was on sale through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op but I restrained myself to buying it only if I could sell the one I have first. That did not happen before the sale deadline so I will be patient for the next sale, which is at least once a year, sometimes twice, I believe.



  • I am still planning to direct that myself without a curriculum.

Social Studies
  • Story of the World Audio CDs to listen to on our errand day, which is more of a school day for the Princess than ever before with her science class and piano lesson. This was one change I had in back of my mind, but thought it was unaffordable until I found that they are discounted at I already have most of the books for this series, but the problem is we will be spending about two hours or more in the van on Wednesdays and the Princess gets carsick reading, so this might be our best solution for using a portion of that time wisely. I still need to work out a social studies plan for lesson time at home also.
  • Uncle Sam and You is my pick for civics, but the change is that I think I would rather begin it next semester.

Well, I think I have finalized my decisions...maybe. I received the history CDs yesterday. I just order Elementary Greek today, but still need to order Lively Latin and I think I am going to do the online option and download everything. I should be receiving the algebra curriculum and a few missing books for the two Classical Writing curricula next week that I am buying used. I will order Uncle Sam and You later in the year and after I sell off some of my no longer needed curriculum, which I should get busy to listing now.

Such is my L.I.F.E. homeschooling.

~ Thank you, my Lord, for the guiding through this selection process and please bless the Princess with desire to learn, enjoy, and thrive in all these choices to guide her education. And, if I may, please help her to actually enjoy algebra more than she thinks she will or may want to admit. ~