Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Spiritual Testimony

Something occurred in the last few days that really highlighted the growth God has graciously facilitated in my life and heart. I used to worry and fear and wonder what would become of us, especially after we went down to one income in 2005, and then husband lost his job in 2009.

We went against the grain. I didn't return to work and we continued to homeschool. It was hard and I fretted. In those days I wanted things before I felt the need, not after, but giving up I just wouldn't do. I never entertained the thought of joining the dual-career households and saying goodbye to my children.

Slowly, through the years, a pattern emerged. When there was genuine need, the need was always filled. My fretting tapered off as I began to trust what our history had shown me: God always provides for my needs.

In all the years we didn't go to restaurants like a typical family (and still don't, unless we get Pizza Hut gift cards). We never went to movies, or on vacations, or on expensive outings, and we still don't. Our kids don't know what a decent restaurant or a movie theater or an amusement park is like. They know the County Fair and the library and the lake beach and numerous hiking trails and nature centers. We lead simple American lives.

Sometimes I worried that my children would be defined by their American-style poverty. True, they knew a warm house and decent things and when something was truly needed, God provided.

But they don't know much about the fancy or the new or the latest. They don't know what it's like to have needs met ahead of time. We are behind the Joneses in even this, a lower-class neighborhood. The neighbors go to the movies and to restaurants and they can afford yearly camping trips and fancy phones...and even land phones, which we forsook long ago.

Another pattern emerged. I saw blessing in our lifestyle. When my kids did get something new from relatives or friends or from us, I noticed a sense of entitlement creep in, fueled by getting used toys from Goodwill too, a few times a year.

The more they got... the more they wanted...and the less they appreciated.

I love them always but I like them best when long stretches occur without gifts. I prefer the unspoiled versions of their personalities. There is something precious about a child receiving the unexpected. The eyes light up and they're amazed. The first thing they want to do is hug you and thank you, gratitude bursting from their little hearts.

I have come to understand human nature more through my children (and my own folly). Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him and he shall make your paths straight.

Straight paths aren't fortunate paths, necessarily. We won't come into our fortune by acknowledging God's ways. Straight paths aren't new furniture, new cars, new paint and fancy trim, a trip to Disneyland and a remodel of the bathroom.

This verse speaks of a spiritually straight path. We kicked and screamed some, but God put us on a hard road that yielded much in the spiritual realm and I am a different person.

My kids will flourish more because of what they don't get. I'm sorry it has taken me ten years to really learn that, but I'm so grateful for the lesson.

So, this week we had a hard three days and instead of fretting, I trusted God completely through it all, calmly. I just knew God was working and I let him. I even enjoyed it.

Here's the scoop...

Thursday, after my husband arrived home from work at 7:00 PM, my plan was to grocery shop. I bundled up and got into my van, only to learn I had a dead battery--probably due to the extreme cold.

I took my husband's van instead, and upon my return my husband used the jumper cables and presto, my van was back in business.

The next morning, Friday, his van's battery was dead so he used my van to jump his.

That night on his drive home he got a flat tire and pulled into a church parking lot, which happened to be on an incline, making the jack useless. A good Samaritan pulled over to help but he couldn't get the jack to work either and it broke. The good Samaritan called Triple A.

They had a long wait. Apparently the man had been on his way to an AA meeting (Alcoholics Anonymous, that is).

The kids and I piled into our van thinking we could at least bring Daddy some dinner, but alas...my van's battery was dead again.

My husband has been a Christian long enough to know that if you get a flat tire in frigid temperatures and someone on their way to AA stops to help you, then you better bring up God, because why else would such a thing happen? Our personal business can be all manner of things, but God's business is souls and my husband knew better than to think he could get through this and not try to witness to the recovering alcoholic, who just might have been a little inebriated, even though he "hadn't had a drink in 18 months".

My husband never drank or smoked or had premarital sex--no bad boy history to use to change someone's life around with a miraculous tale of God's redemption. He only has this simple story: When he was seven years old, having been in church all seven of his years, he knew he wanted to go to heaven and that he needed God's forgiveness, so he said a salvation prayer and never looked back.

Was it enough, this simple tale?

Every time my husband tried to bring up anything spiritual in their two-hour conversation, the man changed the subject.

When Triple A got there, the possibly-inebriated good Samaritan moved his car out of the way and apparently side-swiped the Triple A tow truck, which angered the Triple A guy. He suspected this man had been drinking so he called the police, who came and found the Samaritan's blood alcohol level unacceptable. He was arrested.

By this time husband really needed help and couldn't worry about the man's fate, but it did raise his eyebrows and he thought...okay God, I wasn't expecting that.

The temperature was dropping, the hour was getting late, and our mechanic wasn't answering his phone. My aunt and uncle are still in Florida and the Triple A guy wasn't helping.

Our mechanic has become a friend over these last ten years. Our old vehicles have visited his back-yard shop pretty often. Our kids love seeing him and his huge dog and looking for crickets and grasshoppers on his two acres. He's come to our aid in library parking lots at 10 PM, and doctor's office parking lots at 2 PM.

And he's not saved yet. I suspect when he does get saved, our cars will break down less.

On this particular night he wasn't available, so our friend Dean the airplane mechanic who lives 40 minutes away and was bored anyway, came to my husband's aid.

He brought another jack and they moved the van to flatter ground to lift it, only to find the van's spare tire flat and useless. They go to get air in it and then put it on, finally making it to a McDonald's before 11 PM for some food.

Dean's been having a tough time and needed the company, it turns out.

Coming out of the McDonald's, husband tries to start up his van but the battery is dead again. Dean jumps the battery, and then all is well and husband makes it home.

But when he goes out this morning to go to work, and northeast Ohio is barely waking up from sub-zero temps, his van's battery is dead again and mine is still dead.

It being Saturday we wait for people to enjoy their morning sleep-in before pleading for help. A little later, we ask our neighbor to jump husband's van, but it just won't turn over.

Dean was coming anyway for dinner and a boys-night-out college basketball game, so he comes early and takes husband to the store for a battery, which does solve the problem for husband's van. My battery is only a year old so it has to go back to Walmart for inspection before they'll replace it.

I remained calm throughout. I didn't worry about the money or my husband freezing to death, or about the lack of transportation, or how my husband was going to get to work.

And when the nice neighbors mentioned they were going to the movies and offered to leave us their battery charger, I didn't worry when one son asked me later why we never get to go to the movies.

Don't lean on your own understanding. God has a plan in all of it...a spiritually rich plan. 

Despite the childish comment, I see evidence that my children are distinguishing wants from needs and gaining fulfillment in spiritual things. Already, they have a treasure trove of spiritual knowledge and faith built up in their young hearts and minds. I was spiritually dead until age 31, and a spiritual infant for years after that. I marvel at the privilege of watching my own children experience the spiritual blessings I never knew as a child or young adult.

My peace and joy are a testimony that God works all things for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to his purpose. 

Do you have a spiritual testimony of God's faithfulness in the last decade? Write it down...share it...tell it! There are many who need to hear: the spiritually dead who need to awaken, and spiritual infants who need to mature. 


Friday, February 27, 2015

Weekly Homeschool Wrap-Up 2/27

Some new read alouds I'm excited about:

The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney (first published in 1880 as a series in a magazine) (Kindle edition linked)
Times are tough around the little brown house! The widowed Mrs. Pepper has to sew all day long just to earn enough to pay the rent and to feed the five growing Peppers. But she faces poverty and trouble with a stout heart, a smiling face, and the help of her jolly brood: blue-eyed Ben, the eldest and the man of the house at the age of 11; pretty Polly, so eager to cook for the family and make everyone happy and comfortable; and the three littlest Peppers, Joel, Davie, and baby Phronsie.
A favorite of children, parents, and teachers for generations, this heartwarming classic first appeared in 1880. Since then, it has inspired countless young imaginations with its tender tales of the ways in which courage and good cheer can overcome adversity.

I ordered used copies of the Moody Family Series of books by Sarah Maxwell (books 1-5). 

Summer with the Moodys is the first book in the Moody Family Series. This book celebrates the adventures of everyday life in a Christian family. Come along with the Moodys as they help a widowed neighbor, start small businesses for the children, enjoy a family fun night, live normal life, and wrap up the book with two special surprises! Woven throughout the book is the Moodys' love for the Lord and their enjoyment of time together. Children (parents too!) will love Mr. and Mrs. Moody, Max, Mollie, Mitch, and Maddie—they'll come away challenged and encouraged.
The Moody books are wholesome stories about a homeschooled family, authored by the adult daughter of Steve and Terri Maxwell (Manager's of Their Homes authors and Titus2.com creators). We are nearly done with the Miller Family series, which has really blessed us, and I wanted something similar to continue the joy.

FYI: I've mentioned the Miller books a number of times, but I didn't warn you about some content. They were written by a Mennonite author so there are two stories that might raise your eyebrows: one is about pacifism, which the Mennonites are know for. It comes up along with a discussion about Memorial Day. The other is about wearing plain colors so as not to draw attention to yourself. Both stories are just a few pages so very small parts of the whole series. We read these stories anyway and just explained how we differ from these views. 

Don't let that scare you away though--these books are the best devotionals I've used with children by far. My children loved them and began to incorporate the Christian principles into their daily behavior. Most of the stories are based on one of the Proverbs, and many are also missionary stories.

Our Dyslexia Life
When you walk into my girls' room, you would expect to see the horses on their comforters facing as shown in this picture, but Mary consistently faces the horses the other way, so that they look upside down when you walk into the room. I've explained that the picture should look right-side up when you walk into the room, but that isn't enough of a hint for her. I started putting it the right way so she would get used to that perspective, but that hasn't helped. The next morning, I see it upside down again (and not because of defiance).


It's the same with her numbers. Giving her strategies to form the numbers to 9 the correct way hasn't helped much. She reverses them 50% of the time, and she has never once when writing a teen number remembered right away which digit comes first, even though she understands place value. I'm not frustrated with her, but I'm at a loss as to how to help her. I suspect time will be the answer. Dyslexics don't enjoy the same automaticity which the rest of us take for granted. Many things involving a perspective (a certain direction) are difficult for them.


The school secretary at the elementary school I taught at lived fairly close to the school, but when she first began working there she couldn't figure out which way to turn out of the school driveway to drive home (she has dyslexia). Her husband came after work and she followed him home for a couple months until she could do it on her own. Putting signs on her dashboard didn't help because in her mind she could make the sign mean left or right, depending on the perspective she looked at them from. Still, I will try putting a horse picture above Mary's bed showing the way the horse should face when you walk into the room.

Beth has similar problems. This week she made many little paper books, and she kept fastening them to open the wrong way (fastening the pages on the right instead of the left). After correcting her a few times, I got a book and had her compare her homemade paper books with the professional picture book, and she couldn't see the difference right away! By late Thursday though, she got it. I've been reading to her since her early infancy, so it wasn't a lack of experience with books that caused this.

This week I also noticed that when Beth decodes a word, she starts from the right instead of the left about 35% of the time, and doesn't realize the mistake until I point it out.

Miss Beth makes dolls out of everything.
Beth went looking for a sweater because our house is so cold. She found her sister's pink sweater, pictured here. Her sister hugged her and said, "You look just like a librarian!" That thrilled Miss Beth, who really looks up to librarians, so she asked me to take her picture. :)

Prayer time after nighttime devotions. Our house is cold this year! It takes four of us to keep warm together.

Sonlight Science G - DNA and genetics

Sonlight provides questions to review the chapters.

Saxon math

Personal reading time for the girls.



Akron Children's Hospital infusion center--works with cancer patients to infuse chem drugs through IV, or in our case, arthritis drugs. Everything is top notch here, including the waiting rooms. This is the playroom located in the waiting room.


Here's the hospital room where the infusion takes place. First they put a numbing patch on her hand for the IV (takes 20 minutes to work), and then they give her benadryl to prevent a reaction. Thirty minutes later, they start the infusion after drawing some blood.

Waiting for the nurses to come in.


Mary's painting

All About Reading time coming up.


Math time for Peter

Sonlight novel time for Paul

All About Reading Level 2 story (Mary's story)




During quick write the three older kids all made up recipes in their journals, and then later tried them out. I did have to help a little bit because each recipe needed a little more liquid, but after that edition they were all delicious. Paul made cookies with chocolate sauce. Mary made chocolate-chip cake, and Peter made apple cake. You can see in this picture what OCD is doing to Peter's hands. Makes me so sad. Sometimes they get so red and raw that they bleed.

Usually it is boring sandwiches for lunch around here, but other times we have leftovers (taco bake).

You can tell by this picture that Paul is a mathematician. He makes a lot of patterned drawings.

Cutting the pieces for an All About Reading game (Beth)


All About Reading Level 1 - practicing reading /th/ words, which are hard for her because she struggles with the /th/ as a speech sound. She had to fry these "eggs" and then take them out with a spatula one by one and read them.



Sonlight novel time for Peter
Mary mixing up the recipe she wrote in her journal.

Peter teaching Mary science. They're preparing for the experiment.

Sonlight's DVD of experiments
Magnet experiments





Math time for Paul. We had a little drama with math because when I returned the faulty PC we ordered, I accidentally left the math CD in the player and sent it off to Amazon. I was sick to my stomach over it, and Amazon, with their excellent customer service, tried to help but it had already gone to a refurbishing center. Eventually I realized that Teaching Textbooks will replace lost (single) CD's from the four-piece set for just $15, which includes shipping. They also have excellent customer service. We had to take a week off math, but now we're back in business.


Paul's check-off sheet for school tasks he does by himself on Thursdays. We have a schedule but I still need to keep them on track this way.
Folding time. Everyone has a basket except for Daddy. Beth changed her clothes three times, and is now pictured in a leotard. Sigh. It does add to the laundry load when you have a little princess who changes clothes more times than you can keep up with.
Here are all the clothes I picked out at the Goodwill this week, plus two pairs of jeans for Paul and two pairs of pajamas and a couple of other shirts for the girls, which aren't pictured. All for $45, and most like new, though I don't know that the pictures do the clothes justice. I haven't been able to find many dresses in several months. I guess they just make fewer dresses for older girls. When the girls wore sizes 5 and below, dresses were always plentiful. Fancy holiday dresses are easy to find, but not others. There were many skirts available, but all too short for Christian girls.





I'm storing shorts for the boys for summer. These look like they would fit my husband, but thankfully everything I'm finding comes with an adjustable waist.










Mary was very happy about the lavender snow bibs because she's been wearing one of the boys' navy blue bibs. Of course it doesn't matter, but I knew these would make her smile.

Thank you for reading. How was your week, friends?

Weekly Wrap-Up
Mother's Journal here

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