Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Unexpected

The most unexpected things can happen sometimes.  

This was the case for me today.  Who knew that I would be brought to tears in the meat department of the grocery store today?

There we were...three of my kids and me, working our way through Aisle 7 on a quick trip for dinner ingredients.  I looked up and saw an elderly couple standing by the lunchmeat cooler.  I noticed them because they had noticed us.  They were smiling and looking at the children sweetly.  I smiled back as if to thank them for their non-verbal approval of my grocery store helpers.  As we walked toward the end of the aisle, and hence closer to them, I could tell that he wanted to speak to me.  I walked over to him, and he immediately remarked on what beautiful children I have.  I thanked him, and then he looked me in the eyes and told me that they were the most precious gift I would ever receive.  He pleadingly told me to love them, to take care of them, to be kind to them.  He told me to never take them for granted.  He was so intense, that I wondered if he had lost a child at some point in his life.

Sure enough, after I sincerely expressed appreciation for his words of wisdom, he shared with me that he and his wife only had one child, and that he died of leukemia when he was "28 years and 11 days old".  He told me that it was 32 years ago, and that not a day goes by when he doesn't think of him; that he just misses him so much.  He told me that he hopes my kids will bury me when I'm old, instead of the other way around.

I welled up with tears (though I tried to hold it back while we were talking).  This gentleman had stopped me in the middle of the grocery store and shared with me precious words of advice and wisdom, which clearly stemmed from a broken heart.  I couldn't help but wonder about the thoughts that go through his mind when he sees a person like me, who seems to be living in the prime of family life, having young, healthy, vibrant kids.  

Oh!  How much I take for granted!

I wondered if one day I will look back on these days and wish I had them back.  I know that time ticks on, and things change, and it's possible that the unthinkable could happen.  That is why I relish the chaos which seems to engulf me at times!

That man was a blessing to me today.  Tonight, I found myself speaking to my little ones a little softer.  I tried to discipline with a more loving, less angry hand.  

God is so good.  I thank Him for providentially placing people in my path to remind me of so many things of which I need to be reminded - even in the most unexpected places.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Things I Learned From My First Big Run

Last week I ran a half marathon.  Now, I know that lots of people have run these types of things, but for me it was a big deal, in part because it was an unexpected event!  Being true to myself, I can't do something like that and walk away from it without some reflection on how it applies to real life!  :)  Here are a few reminders that I took away from my experience:

1.  Spontaneity is fun.

The race started at 7:30 am, and I didn't know I would be running 13.1 miles until 7:15.  My wonderfully talented runner of a husband was supposed to run with Ashlyn.  But he is occasionally plagued with a terrible bout of back pain, and it just so happened that Saturday morning was one such occasion.  We knew that if he ran it would only worsen and cause greater problems, so we decided that I would run with Ashlyn as far as I could.  I didn't even have a chance to stress about it!

This came at a time when I had lately been feeling in a bit of a rut with some things.  Sometimes doing something spontaneously can really lift you out of it.  It worked for me!

Not a very flattering picture of me, but I'm not here to win any beauty contests!  Haha!  I took this while running!  :)
2.  Encouragement is nice.

All along the way there were people cheering, encouraging us along.  It was so...well...encouraging!  We never heard anyone telling us that we were going too slow, or that we weren't going to make it, or that we had no business being there.  It was all cheers, and how motivating it was!

As Christians we are instructed by God to encourage and build up one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11).  But how often do we just throw out judgement or comparison?  I loved hearing "Good job!"  "You're almost there!"  "You've got this!"  And so on.  We need to say these sorts of things to each other as we walk (or run) together in the faith.  

3.  My daughter is a pretty cool kid.

Yes, I already knew that.  But this was such a special time with her!  We weren't running fast, so we were able to chat every now and then, about serious and non-serious things.  She was very patient with me as I had to stop three times and stretch my not-very-well-conditioned legs.  We both hit a milestone (literally I guess!) as we crossed the five mile mark, since neither of us had ever run that far!  :)  

One-on-one time with our kids is important and very precious.  It doesn't have to be a "date" where you go somewhere together.  Even reading a book together, playing a game together, exercising together or just having a conversation before bed is time well spent.  
Ashlyn and her cousin, who also ran the race (with another aunt).

4.  It's usually better to train beforehand.

Understatement of the year!!  I was not in shape to run this race very well, and my body started to feel it around mile eight!  We ran the whole time (except for the stretching) and I finished it, but OWWWWW!  Pain, pain, pain, pain, pain.  

I can feel it when I haven't properly prepared for the school day too.  Or when I am faced with something difficult and I haven't been preparing myself with prayer and God's Word.  The Bible says in Ephesians 6 that we must prepare ourselves for attacks from the Enemy by putting on the armor of God.  I think it would be safe to say that preparation, in many cases, can help relieve pain and make things go more smoothly.  

Jason had to stretch my legs as soon as I finished!  
5.  Perseverance is worth the prize.

My prize that day was the medal I received at the finish line for completing the race, and also that I was able to stop running!  :)  But my real prize was that wonderful sense of accomplishment.  To some this may not seem like a big deal, but I never dreamed I would ever finish a half-marathon!  The last five miles were agonizing on the IT band in both of my legs, but there was no way I was quitting.  First, for Ashlyn, and second, because after eight miles, my goal was to finish and I was GOING to finish!!  
I like to think that my lips are "bluish" because of the Powerade.  As far as I know, my oxygen level was okay.  Haha!
The sense of "I did it!" is a good feeling, and I am still happy about the whole experience (sore legs and all!)  But, alas, it was just a race.  A temporary occasion.  Something that really has no eternal significance.  But that is not so with my walk with Christ, or my position as a wife and mother, or as a homeschooler.  I love Christ.  I love my family.  But there are times when the trials are hard, the days are long and the journey is painful.  But there is a prize!  And it will ultimately come when my "race" on earth is finished and I see my Savior face to face.  Perseverance during our time on this fallen earth is completely worth the prize of seeing our risen Lord in all of His glory.

You know, it's funny, because I've never had a desire to run a half-marathon.  But now that I've done it, I think I'll try it again -- with some preparation next time, of course!  I do thank the Lord for sustaining me and giving me the health to attempt such a thing, and for helping me to be reminded of the spiritual truths that can be found in the everyday occurrences of life.  

Friday, April 5, 2013

My Poor Little Tree

Ahhh Spring!  Woo hoo!

We pruned a tree the other night.  We pruned a weeping cherry tree.  That sounds nice, doesn't it?  After all, pruning is necessary to direct all the nutrients to the right places.  And it's necessary to keep the tree looking the way it's meant to look; producing what it's meant to produce.  That is nice.

But our tree is nine years old, and this was the first time we had pruned it.  The FIRST TIME!  Because we didn't prune it from the time it was young, it was drastic!  But I was determined to make our tree into the beautiful, pink flowering tree that it was purposed to be.  The straight, green upward-shooting branches were choking out the beautiful flowering branches!  This could not be!

(I just didn't know better when we first got the tree.  I did no research and apparently was not told--or more likely--didn't listen very well.)

So, we got out the chainsaw.  That's right, the chainsaw.  Some of the offending branches were bigger around than my arm.  Then we severed two, then three, four, five (maybe even six) branches.  When we stepped back to survey the operation, there was but a lone branch emerging upwards from the top of the tree trunk.  But at least there were weeping, flowering branches coming off of it!

There is a point to this story.  :)  I think pruning trees is kind of like raising children.  My tree would be a lot healthier (and a heck of a lot prettier) if I had pruned those unwanted branches early on.  So it is with my children.  As parents, isn't it vital that we follow God's instructions for us and raise our little ones in the ways of Truth from the earliest point in their lives possible?  As we pray for them, discipline them and teach them the ways of the Lord, it is all part of "pruning" or shaping them.  Of course, the Holy Spirit is a Master pruner, cutting away things in our lives that are hindrances to growth in Christ.  He will do the same for our children, and He will guide us as we shape them in practical ways such as discipline and instruction.

Because of our negligence, I actually don't know if our tree will recover.  I guess there is a chance that it may even die.  But thankfully, if it dies, it will not be difficult to replace.  Not so with my kids--I have one chance with them.  And I love them too much not to do everything I can to help them understand the ways of the God very early in their lives.  I can't afford to wait like I did with my tree.  They are irreplaceable!

Proverbs 13:24
He who withholds correction hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Days Seem Short - I Gotta Have a Plan!

A couple of months ago, when I started blogging again, I told myself that I would keep it up and contribute regularly.

Insert awkward pause...

I guess I can't multi-task as well as I sometimes think I can!  

These days are busy.  BUSY!  Can I get an "Amen!" from any other moms out there?  I've always thought I was a decent manager of time, but I'll be honest; it is a struggle for me.  

In our home, we aren't to the point of being in the car every day.  Buut even on the days we are home all day (I love those, by the way), I struggle to fit everything in.  There is so much I want to do, and there are so many important things I don't want to miss.

I have to have a plan!  This is something I pray about often, because I, by nature, am not a routine oriented person.  Too much routine actually bores me.  I'm also not a planner.  Maybe these are character flaws - I don't know.  But either way, my inadequacies in these areas do not change the fact that I have four small people and school and meals and housecleaning and laundry and sports practices and ministry opportunities and church and dance rehearsals and music lessons and dates with my hubby...

...and other things I like to do such as Bible study and blogging and sewing and getting my pictures uploaded to Shutterfly (and actually ordering them) and reading a book and exercising and gardening and so on.  

Planning and a bit of routine is a must for me.  I'm sure you can relate! :)

This is such an area of weakness for me.  My natural tendency is to wake up in the morning and say to myself, "What will I do today?"  And I could do that.  But of course that would minimize our productivity and ultimately make me miserable (and it has, on several occasions)!

So as I have prayed about this for years, the Lord has helped me so much.  In the spirit of practicality, I wanted to share a few things that have helped me.

1.  Get up early.

I am not a "morning person".  In fact, I am a night person!  But a few years ago, I was challenged to get up at 5:30 a.m. and have Bible study.  Why 5:30?  Because that was a time that would be well before my children get up.  Now I'm addicted.  I'm addicted to 5:30. Well, actually, because routine rubs me the wrong way, it is sometimes 5:00 and sometimes 5:40.  Sometimes it's even 6:00.  But, no matter the numerals on the clock, it is before the kids are out of bed.  Precious time!  Sometimes there are days when I oversleep by a lot.  I hate oversleeping!  It really does make a difference in my day when I get up early and have that time with my Heavenly Father, alone.

2.  Start being productive early in the day.

When I say this, I'm thinking about things like taking a shower and starting laundry (among other things).  I'm not being legalistic and saying this is a MUST, I'm simply sharing what helps ME.  For some reason, I'm more productive when I'm not in my pajamas (unless we are having designated pajama day).  And I don't have that kind of hair that is tame in the morning.  So when I have made myself presentable early in the day, it just helps me!  I don't know why!  I'm just weird like that!  I'm sorry for shouting so much!

3.  Weekly planning.

This includes lesson plans, meal plans, when I'm going to grocery shop, etc.  Now, I know this isn't revolutionary to many of you.  Probably this is normal behavior for most of you moms.  But as I stated before, this is not natural for me.  I have to be intentional.  So, this is just in case there is a mom reading this who is a non-planner type of person like me!  It really does help our family life to be more calm and relaxed because there is {gasp} a PLAN!

4.  Put the kids to work.

Children are capable of so many things.  My issue here is taking the time to train them.  That takes patience and diligence.  But that's really all it takes.  When kids are trained in daily chores, they can contribute to family life, it relieves the workload from the parents in many things and they are learning skills they will use for the rest of their lives.  

You know, as wives and mothers, we are the managers of our homes.  Our husbands are the leaders, but when we take an approach in our homes to be orderly in the day to day living, things are so much more "friendly".  Even with writing this blog, I must be intentional, and actually schedule a time to do it.  Otherwise, it gets lost in the shuffle.  But there are certain things that we can't afford to lose in the shuffle, such as Bible study, prayer, discipleship of our children and the nurturing of our marriages.  The time passes so quickly, time that we cannot get back.  So in these hectic days, if scheduling everything is what it takes to fit in the important stuff, then so be it.

I have often been guilty of saying or thinking, "I need more than twenty-four hours in a day!"

No, I don't.  If I did, God would have given it to me.  My days must be ordered according to His Word, placing Him first above all.  Ephesians 5:15-17 says,

"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is."

A wise woman recognizes that time is precious, and seeks to use her time (and the time of her family) for the glory of God alone.  He will grant us wisdom, we only need to ask for it.  Now that's a plan!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The God of All Comfort

"I would go to the deeps a hundred times to cheer a downcast spirit; it is good for me to have been afflicted, that I might know how to speak a word in season to one that is weary."

~Charles Spurgeon

I can't say that I've gone through the same things you have been through.  I won't say that my circumstances are better than yours, and I won't say that my circumstances are worse.  No matter what may appear on the outside, the fact is that everybody suffers on some level.  


Because we live in a fallen world.

We all have bad days, we all suffer from trials.  And if you are a fellow believer, you can rejoice with me in the fact that our suffering is not in vain!  He has purposed it for a reason.  We can believe that life consists of more than ourselves; that there is a greater purpose.  It is within that promise that we find Hope.  

If I believed that my life was all about my happiness and my comfort, then any suffering that came my way (and it would come my way) would impart to me complete misery and despondency.  

But because our Savior is more powerful than even death, I can believe that my life on this earth is not where it ends for me.  Abundant life awaits me after death.

But, what about while I'm here?  As a Christian, what do I do with the trials I go through while I'm still living?

I can rejoice in them (James 1:2-3)
...because I can trust that God will use them to make me more like Christ.  As a Christian, I want to please God more than anything, because of what He has done for me by saving me.  I want to become more like His Son, who was the only perfect human who ever lived.  I want to live a life of thanks unto Him for the salvation He has given to me, a wretched sinner.  

I can be thankful in them (1 Thessalonians 5:18) 
...because nothing can happen to me which isn't allowed by God (Matthew 10:28-29).  Since this is true, I can know that He will give me the strength to endure.  Even the death of His own Son, Jesus, would not have happened if He hadn't willed it.  I can honestly give Him praise, because I know that He is sovereign and is in complete control.

I can use them to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)
...because of the great comfort He gives me in the midst of the trial.  This may not come for a while, but it may come.  Whatever evil we may face in life, we must never forget that God is good.  Suffering is not wasted.  It will accomplish His purpose and can be used to encourage others who may walk the same road at a later time.  That is one reason why anger and bitterness must never take root in our lives!

I think most would agree that life is interesting.  It is a journey full of joy, milestones, wonder and yes, trials.  And certainly this isn't a comprehensive commentary on the afflictions that we bear in this life.  But rather, these are thoughts to consider - merely the beginning, really.  God has packed the Bible full of instruction and promises dealing with the circumstances of our lives on earth!  The quote by Spurgeon at the beginning challenges me, encourages me and frankly, causes me to reflect on whether it is true of me.  I sure hope it is, because it is this sort of thinking and attitude that truly glorifies the Lord in our trials.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


I can be so forgetful.  Sometimes my head is so lost in all that is spinning around me that I think I'm losing my mind!  But I feel I can safely blame that on overload.  I simply have too much on my mind (and schedule) sometimes!

The memory is a fascinating thing.  It's fun to remember things like this...

And like this...

Memory can be such a wonderful thing.  God gave us a memory for the same reason He gave us other abilities:  to bring glory and honor to Him.

A fine example of that can be found in the books of Deuteronomy when Moses is addressing the Israelites with a review of their history and purpose.  The disobedient and rebellious generation had died out, and Moses, just before he died, reminded this new generation of things that had happened when they were only children.

He says things like, "Your eyes have seen what the Lord did at...."(Deut. 4:3)

"Remember the day..."(Deut. 4:10)

"Take care, lest you forget..."(Deut. 4:23)

"Remember well what the Lord your God did..."(Deut. 7:18)

"Remember how the Lord your God led you..."(Deut. 8:2)

"Remember the Lord your God...."(Deut. 8:18)

All of these were in addition to the special feasts of remembrance set up by the Lord!

Why does Moses remind them of all of these things?

Well, REMEMBER how quickly the previous generation of Israelites forgot God's provision for them?

I can be like that too.  So many times, God has provided just what I needed, sometimes materially and sometimes spiritually or otherwise, and yet when I am in need again, I don't remember.  I forget to praise Him for His past provision.  I forget that His resources are endless.  I forget the promises of His Word.  I forget that if I never get anything else in this life it's okay, because through Christ, He has saved me from the eternal punishment which I deserved.

I forget, and I am self-centered.

This is one reason I journal.  Even if you don't consider yourself a writer, keep a record of God's provision in your life, from salvation to the very least blessing (if ever there was such a thing).  Perhaps you have an extraordinary memory; I would still suggest that you write it down somewhere, for it may be a blessing for your children to read after you are gone.  It is our duty as parents to teach these things to our children, just as the Israelites were to teach their children (Deut. 6:4-9).  Encourage them to record God's blessings as well!  This will surely help instill a grateful heart.

One more thought...

Our ability to remember can serve us well or do us harm.  It enables us to rejoice in Christ, but if used for our own gain, it can enable us to hold grudges and serve ourselves.  Like every other gift that God has given us, it is intended to glorify Him.  Walking in the Spirit means that we use the wonderful gift of remembering to know more about His goodness and His provision.  It is how we can, through His Spirit, be "anxious for nothing" and not worry about tomorrow may bring.

Of course, there are some things that I want to forget.  But God, by His grace, can use even those things to renew my mind and help me turn away from sin.

So today, when you face doubt, discouragement, frustration or fear, Remember.  Remember when He has delivered you from such things.  Think specifically.  And if you just can't bring it to mind, remember the cross.  Remember Christ.  Remember that He who was sinless suffered the shame in your place.

For truly, that is all we need.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Still Learning to Love

It would seem that a post on love would have been inspired by the fact that Valentine's Day is two days away.  But here is a post on love, and Valentine's Day has nothing to with it.  Rather, the inspiration for these thoughts comes from a conviction which has been placed upon my heart by the Holy Spirit.  He is teaching me about love.  What it is.  What it means.  How to do it.

You might think I would already know those things.  

But see, I had the children memorize 1 Corinthians 13!  I didn't want them to only hide it in their brains, but to learn to hide it in their hearts--to put it into practice!  What that meant for me was that I began to examine it a little more closely.  Guess what I realized?  I realized how often I fail when it comes to showing true love.

Ah, but Grace.  Praise God for His unfailing Love!

Back in October of 2009, little Evan was born.

This is one of my favorite pictures of him as a newborn.  During those first days with him, I wrote the following on my blog.  I felt it was appropriate enough to re-post today.  

~C. S. Lewis

I could have decided that my heart was too valuable. That it wasn't worth the risk. But because I didn't make that choice, my heart is wide open. Wide open for pain. Wide open to yearn. Wide open to be broken.

But more than that....

it's wide open for joy. Wide open for happiness. Wide open to love and be loved.

It's sometimes a scary thing to look at my children, or to watch my newborn, so helpless and dependent, and realize the depth of love that I have in my heart. It's scary because I know that it makes me vulnerable to the worst kind of pain. To love, is indeed, to give your heart away. But the joy in the journey far outweighs the pain of a loveless life.

To be in a place of feeling and vulnerablility is far better than the callous, cold "safety" of a guarded heart that refuses to love.

I still believe all of that.  Love can be a frightful thing!  I don't always do it well, but I am so grateful for a Heavenly Father who created love and knows it perfectly.  Because His Spirit dwells within me, I, through His strength, am enabled to love others according to His way.  

No, it isn't always easy.  And it really hurts sometimes.  But He is our Constant; we can always 




Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Favorite Book: Trial and Triumph

Occasionally I like to use this space to share some my favorite books.  Today is one of those days.

Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula is one of the best books that we have ever purchased.  This book is excellent for introducing children to the some of the greatest heroes of Christ's church, from Polycarp to Martin Luther to Charles Spurgeon to Richard Wurmbrand.                                                                                                            

I bought this book initially because it was recommended in our Tapestry of Grace curriculum.  I am thankful that it was part of our curriculum because I don't know how long it would have taken me to hear about it otherwise!  It is a great resource for any family.

There are forty-six biographical sketches in this book; some of them disturbing, all of them inspiring.  Reading this book with my children has reminded me that as a follower of Christ, persecution is common, and should actually be expected.  Reading story after story of people throughout the history of Christ's church who have stood firm for their faith is, to me, continuous confirmation of the fact that He is worthy of our lives--of our suffering.

We do this book as a read aloud, because there are times when I need to stop and explain, or offer assurance that although some of these people suffered greatly, they had counted the cost, and they endured their trials knowing full well that their suffering was not in vain.  Their faith was in Christ.

Not all the stories end in martyrdom, but a few do.  What I like about this book (for my kids' sake) is that it is not altogether graphic, yet it provides enough information to get the point across.  Persecution of the church is real, and I would be doing a great disservice to my children if I "guarded" them by pretending that walking with Christ will always be what the world defines as "happiness".  After all, Jesus said in John 15:20, "A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you."

Will my children face persecution?  Of course they will.  Maybe severe, maybe not.  Maybe to the death, maybe not.  But they need to count the cost of following Christ.  And they need to understand that following Christ is entirely worth the cost!

If you are looking only for in-depth biographies, this is not the book for you.  But if you are looking for a starting point or are interested in teaching your kids the basic stories behind some of the greatest heroes of church history, you need to buy this book.  I really think you'll like it, and I have no doubt that you will be encouraged in the Faith.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Tale of the Deviled Eggs

As you may have read in my last post, my Grandpa turned 90 this past Friday.  Yesterday, his beloved wife, my Grandma, would have been 85.  In honor of her birthday, I decided to re-post a blog I wrote a few years ago.  I give you...The Tale of the Deviled Eggs.

I detest deviled eggs. I've never liked deviled eggs, and I don't think I will ever like deviled eggs. To me, they are a repulsive fare that I don't ever care to even try (no offense to all of you who make deviled eggs...I'm sure they are delicious to the many people who seem to love them).  However, in spite of my aversion, it was because of some deviled eggs that I learned a valuable lesson.

One day when I was small, I was going to ride to church with my Grandma Lillian and Grandpa Dallas Jacobs. I guess we were having some sort of pot luck at church that night, because Grandma had made guessed it...deviled eggs, and had set them in the floorboard of the back seat of her car. Before I got into the car, she kindly reminded me to be careful not to smash the eggs in the floorboard. However, I, being very young (yeah, we'll blame it on that), stepped on the eggs anyway. They must have been covered with plastic wrap or something, because the eggs were pretty much ruined.

You can imagine the frustration that Grandma must have felt with me. But do you know what she did? She didn't yell. She didn't fuss. She didn't show any anger. She got out of the car, took the container of eggs and threw the whole thing up in the air while letting out a gleeful, "Wheeeeeeee!"

True story.

That's what I call making the best out of a "bad" situation. I need to remember that on days when twice I open the refrigerator and an open glass of unfinished milk falls out onto the floor.  I need to remember that when I walk into the bathroom and there is water all over the place because Evan has been "fishing" in the sink.  I need to remember that when my young resident cowboys decide to have a "gunfight" on top of my "I just folded those!" pile of clothes.  I need to remember that when I am simply inconvenienced, or when I have been lightly offended by a friend's harsh words.  I need to remember that when I am simply at my wit's end!

Certainly some things are deserving of our anger, but there are other instances (perhaps like the ones mentioned above) which may seem deserving of our anger, but in reality would be better off being overlooked and handled in a gentle manner.  

In short, I learned from that story, that yes, some things are worth getting angry over, but other things can be just as easily tossed aside...or up in the air!

Proverbs 19:11
A man's discretion makes him slow to anger,
and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

He Doesn't Wear Glasses Either...

Yesterday was a special day in our family; one of our favorite people, my Grandpa, turned the big
In honor of him, I would like to post just of few of the reasons why I have so much love and respect for this man.

1.  He loved my Grandma
Not only was he a faithful husband throughout their lives, but he was her sole caregiver in the last years of her life as she suffered from Alzheimer's.  She passed away ten months ago, and the life they lived together in the few years before that was a picture of devotion that will forever be impressed upon my heart.  

I watched him sit next to her on the couch.  

I watched him hold her hand.  

I watched him faithfully dispense her medicine to her at the specified times every day.  

I watched as he slowly walked her to their car when they were able to get out, and then carefully help her into the passenger side.  

I watched him love her.

Then, last year, I watched as he said his emotional final goodbye to her. 

I watched him hold her hand as he witnessed her very last breath.  

I watched him at the funeral as we remembered her life on earth and celebrated her being with Christ.

I will never forget it.  Those images are etched into my memory for the rest of my life.  As I watched these things, a lifetime of love and devotion flashed before my eyes, and words could not express my gratitude for his commitment to his wife, which was a direct result of his commitment and love for God.

Since then, I have watched him live on.  His days are not without struggles, but he lives and he enjoys.  He goes to town.  He goes to church.  He takes walks with his black lab Babe, and he goes fishing, catches a bunch and then filets them and fries them so we can eat them!  

Although he wasn't able to do any of these during the years when Grandma was so ill, I never saw him express bitterness.  But now, although he still grieves her passing, he is thriving and doing well, and for that we praise the Lord.

2.  He served our country.

Grandpa was a side gunner on the B-17 bomber in WWII.  What a brave generation of soldiers and men!  He has shared so many stories with us when we've asked him to, and he always gives credit to the Lord for bringing him out alive.  

This past summer, he traveled with us to the Air Force Museum.  What a treat that was!  We located "his" plane in the WWII section of the museum, and he showed us exactly where he sat and what he did.  People would overhear him talking about it and then approach him and thank him for his service.  We felt like we were with a celebrity!  :)

Grandpa with some of his great-grandchildren in front of the B-17.
3.  He loves and enjoys my children.

We go to visit Grandpa quite a bit, and sometimes (like when we celebrated his birthday yesterday) it can get a bit...let's say hectic.  See, his house has a really cool hallway in it that is open on both ends, so it is the perfect place for people like my little people to run around and around and around and around and around and....well, you get the picture.  I'm always amazed at Grandpa's patience!  He simply remarks that he wishes he had a nickel for every time my dad ran around that hallway when he was a boy, and then gives a little chuckle.

Last fall, he helped my kids pick up walnuts around the farm, and then rode with us to the walnut selling place.  It was his pleasure!  He has a tobacco stick with a tin can attached, which is the perfect walnut picker-upper!  It was a great day!

4.  He is a poet.

He has written many, many poems about all sorts of things.  The poem I've posted below is hanging up in our schoolroom.  We read it aloud every now and then just to keep us on our toes!

5.  He is a man of God.

This, of course is the most important one.  Grandpa has always been one of the most generous, patient, caring and strong men I know.  He doesn't do any of it for his own glory, and obviously he isn't perfect.  But as long as I have known him he has been a faithful follower of Jesus Christ, and is not ashamed to say that it is the Lord who has sustained him throughout his life.

I love him!
Happy 90th Birthday Grandpa!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

A "Natural" Way of Learning

       I'm a nature lover.  
                      Love nature.
                                 Love God's creation.  

It's a good day when we get to spend it outside, especially in the woods or on a trail or just "going on an adventure" as Jacob call it.

Thankfully, we all love being outside, so that has made it really fun to do our nature studies.  

I'm not a purist in any particular method of learning.  We have an eclectic style in our homeschool, blending classical, traditional, Charlotte Mason and even a little of the unschooling method.  

When it comes to nature studies and nature notebooks, Charlotte Mason and unschooling are where it is for us!  We love it!  I basically don't do anything, except help them research if they need help.  After all, God has filled His creation with so many wonderful and unique birds, plants, trees, creatures and so much more, that the children are naturally curious and excited to go explore and then come inside to sort and journal their findings.  Sometimes they take their notebooks with them outside and draw, but either way, I am usually amazed by what they come up with.  

Here are just a few pictures of our nature studies this year!

At the beginning of the year, we studied about Lewis and Clark for several weeks, so they made "leather" covers for their journals.  (They learned quite a bit about nature journaling from studying about those guys!)  The journals themselves are composition notebooks, and the covers are made of brown felt.  It was so fun watching Jacob sew the yarn around the edges.  The cover is made so that when the present notebook is full, they can slip it right out and put a new one in!

Well, clearly Evan wasn't ready for this snapshot!  This was a day back in the fall, when everyone was diligently working on their math, until Ashlyn randomly announced that we just HAD to go to the woods to see a GIANT pile of acorns that she had spotted the day before.  The kids finished their math and we dropped the next thing and went to the woods.  We saw the giant pile of acorns (part of it is in the bottom right hand corner of the photo), and several other interesting things too!
Jacob is really into feathers right now.  If we don't recognize what kind it is, we try to look it up online or in one of our books.  Sometimes he writes, but most of the time he draws his experiences or something he has seen outside and I write word for word what he dictates to me.
It has been fun to see Ashlyn's nature notebooks advance from year to year.  Her drawing has improved quite a bit!  She is naturally a writer, so many of her pages are filled with just words.  
The older three, working on their notebooks!  They are just finishing up the labeling here I believe.  Many times there is all kinds of "stuff" from outside covering the table as they sort through their treasures.
Emily has quite a few drawings in her notebook, but sometimes she likes to take the plucked specimen and "seal" it in her notebook with lots and lots of clear tape!!  
This little guy was snatched up one rainy day, and I'm pretty sure that there is a drawing of him in all of their notebooks!  
Emily came running into the house one day screaming for the camera.  She took the picture and then printed it off on our printer and glued it into her notebook.  Sadly, I don't think we ever figured out exactly what it is.  If anyone knows, please tell us!! :)
UPDATE: A good friend has informed me that it is milkweed in bloom.  
Here are the finished covers with the journals inside.

See how it works?  God has given children a natural curiosity, especially when it comes to His own creation.  There is no way I would hinder that curiosity!  Now is the time for them to learn, and to learn to love learning!   I would love to hear any ideas that you have when it comes to nature notebooking!

Our Lord's creation is a wondrous thing, and I'm so thankful to see it, every now and then, through the eyes of my kids in their notebooks.  But it doesn't end with just an in-depth observation or some research to satisfy academia.  I want to consistently remind my kids that all of God's creation was made for one purpose, and that is to bring glory and honor to Him.  As Romans 1:20 so beautifully declares, "For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made."  
He has made Himself known through His creation, so that all people are without excuse.  It's all for Him!  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Our Real Home

This world is not our home.

That truth is one of the most important truths that Jason and I want to drive home to our kids. 

About a year ago or so, I remember talking with Jacob about how we are merely pilgrims in this world (we had been studying about the Pilgrims in school the last couple of weeks).  

I told him all about how the earth will all go away one day, and that there is a forever and ever after that.  I told him that when a person has been redeemed by Christ, heaven is their real home and that we should always think of our life here on earth as temporary, kind of like when we go on a trip (I was trying to speak on a level he could understand).

Then I said, "So see, Jacob, Christians don't have to be afraid of death.  We know we are going to heaven!  Death is just a passageway to our real home!"

He excitedly replied, "I know, I'm not afraid to die!"

A few quiet seconds passed, and what came next was the sweetest confession I've ever heard.  

"Well, really I am afraid, but I'll try not to be."

I understand completely, Jacob!

Death can be fearful because it is unknown.  Even though I know what's on the other side for me, it can be unnerving thinking of how it will happen.  Questions arise in my mind.  Questions like, "Will it hurt?"

Of course we will pass on from this life!  This life is miniscule compared to eternity.  

This life is a speck on speck on a speck compared to what has passed and what's ahead.

That's why it is so important that my children understand what's at stake.  I mean, what logical sense does it make to work, work, work and achieve everything this world can offer, but store up nothing for eternity?  If this tiny space of time is our only goal, then we really have nothing.  With Christ (and Christ alone), eternity will be grand.  Without Christ (even with many "good works"), eternity will literally be hell.

As parents, we have the opportunity every day to teach our kids about the importance of Christ's kingdom.

  Take it! 

I try to be mindful to let it be woven in and out of every subject, even sometimes math!  Lessons of Christ's Kingdom are not separate from academics, because I desire Christ to be the in and out of everything my kids are taught.  

After all, this world is not our home!

Monday, January 28, 2013

My Space on the Web

Social media is funny, isn't it?

Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, the internet in general; I believe I can safely declare that it has changed our culture!

For instance, anyone can sign up for a blog or create an account with any of the above mentioned outlets and Voila! they are published on the web (in a restricted sense, albeit, but still published) for all the world to see.

We see people at their best and people at their worst  We see real life and not so real life.  We see nonsense and things that actually make a lot of sense.  But the point is that we see.

I'm not opposed to this necessarily, because when these types of media are used properly and with care, they can be very helpful and really fun!

But I do believe that this new norm has brought out in us a very old problem, which is that it opens up a whole new horizon of comparison.  I can go to any blog of any other homeschool mom like me, and read her writings and see her pictures and then log off wondering why I'm not as creative or as organized or as hip or as spiritual as she is.  Been there?

OR...I could get on someone else's blog or see a Facebook post and log off thinking how much more creative or more organized or more hip or more spiritual that I am than they!  Been there?

When we compare ourselves with others, 
we often times place ourselves either as superior or inferior to that person.  

Both of those places are located on a very slippery slope, and I would even call it, well...sin.  My identity should be found solely in my life as a redeemed child of God.  (I hope to write more about that soon.)

I haven't updated this blog in a long time for various reasons.  But I have a great desire to encourage people in the Lord; people like me who struggle daily in the battle against sin and want to grow in Christ.  I would like to share what works for our family in the realm of raising kids and homeschooling them.  I would also like to share practical things like recipes, because I have benefited greatly from such things online!

What I DON'T want to do is give the impression that my homeschool is perfectly organized and that I have great meals prepared every day.  Just the thought of that makes me chuckle!!

Also, I don't have a really awesome camera that takes cool pictures with blurry backgrounds, so you won't see a lot of that here.

I don't have a knack for crafts, and I'm not all that tech savvy.

BUT, out of all the spaces on this big giant web, this little space is one that I pray will be used to point you to Christ.   We are here on this earth to honor Him, and it is my joy to do so, even in my imperfection.

My prayer is that you will be blessed and encouraged when you leave this small corner of the web.

Thanks for visiting!  :)