Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Potatoes, Choir Pictures, Gratitude Journal

This is my last post of 2013. I pray you have a Merry Christmas and Joyous New Year!

We are having our single friend, Dean, for Christmas dinner, and also for after-dinner entertainment, which will be a Christmas Nativity Play put on by the eager, budding actors and actresses here. They have been busy making shepherd staffs and a feeding trough to hold baby Jesus, and they're trying on sheets to try and simulate middle-Eastern clothes. They opened presents last weekend, and with that out of the way and the house cleaned up, we can concentrate on dinner and the Nativity.

I did some hunting for Christmas potato recipes, and found two posted on Paula Deen's site (sweet potato casserole and garlic mashed potatoes). In case you don't have your final menu planned, I thought you might want to take a look at these. Her recipes aren't healthy, but for a holiday meal, who's counting calories?

Sweet picture. My favorite of the sisters this year.
Sweet Potato Casserole
posted here
3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup heavy cream, half & half, or whole milk
1 cup brown sugar
3 Tbs butter, melted
1/3 cup flour
1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
Mix topping together with fork, and sprinkle over top of casserole before baking.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix every thing except for cream. Beat with mixer until smooth. Add cream; mix well. Pour into greased casserole dish (11/2 quarts). Add topping. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Serves about 8.

One of my favorite things about Christmas is the church Children's Christmas Choir. Here are my boys saying their Christmas verses, and here is one of Beth, too, singing Away in the Manger with other preschool church friends.

I am so grateful that one of the church moms has been gracious enough to work with the kids for three years now, putting a short program on for a thankful, smitten congregation. The more often children are involved in worship the better; they help melt our preoccupied, adults hearts, so we can approach the Lord with a more childlike faith.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes posted here

I doubled this recipe:
6 medium potatoes coarsely chopped
2 tsp. salt to put in water
8 Tbs. butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream at room temperature
2 tsp. finely minced garlic
2 Tbs. milk (or to desired consistency)
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook potatoes in salted water until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain. Add butter and garlic and sour cream. Mash with potato masher or back of fork until desired consistency. Add milk, 1 Tbs. at a time, until desired consistency. 

Also on the menu is ham, whole cranberries, steamed green beans, corn (hubby has to have his corn), ambrosia salad, wheat rolls, and apple cider, and for dessert: pumpkin pie, apple crisp, and a chocolate pie.

Bless you, friends. Your friendship has been such a balm to my soul. I dearly love you.

Gratitude Journal:

~ My son Paul, who is such a kind, gentle soul, abounding in love and forgiveness.

~ A Baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, who wants my heart for Christmas. Praise God!

~ Children singing about Jesus.

~ Dear friends who blessed us.

~ The way cheap candy canes light up my children's faces.

~ Hot cocoa on chilly nights.

~ Extra hours with hubby this week, as he gets a little rare time off. Unpaid time from the one job, but we still consider it a blessing.

~ Our heater and air conditioning guy's loving way with our children, especially with little Beth.

~ Apple cider 

~ Shepherds and wise men and stunning angels to make Christmas so exciting.

~ God news of great joy which shall be for all the people.

~ That every Christmas is a special opportunity for our unsaved relatives to become acquainted with the Christ Child, and His Good News. 

Please Lord, save our relatives?  May they be with us in Paradise, we beg of you. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

My Mary and a Boy Named Jonah

My older daughter's middle name could be Jonah-Who-Wouldn't-Go-to-Ninevah. Her brand of stubbornness runs deep on her father's side, with my father-in-law leading the pack. It skipped my husband entirely, but not so his sister.

Several months ago we were having a conversation, Mary and me, and don't ask me how it started because I can't even remember. I told her about the Biblical mandate for her marriage prospects: a Christian husband or no husband.

Her response?

Was it news to a mother's heart? Not even close. She responded, "That's stupid."

Right then and there, my heart panicked. Oh, Lord. How will I ever usher her into biblical womanhood, with stubbornness leading her heart? Please. Don't let her go her own way and break your heart and mine.

In all fairness to her then-six-year-old self, I should say that the boy across the street is pretty cute in Mary's estimation. The thought of him probably prompted her hasty response.

The story doesn't end with my desperate prayer that night, and every night thereafter.

At our new AWANA is a boy named Jonah. If you named your son this, I'm probably going to offend you with this, but why? Did your son stay in the womb an extra two weeks, prompting you to name him Jonah? Was it because right away, he was stubborn? Don't get me wrong...the name itself, I love. It's adorable. But Jonah wasn't exactly a Biblical hero, so as much as I like the name, I wouldn't want it for an official birth-certificate name.

So, there's this boy in Mary's Sparks class. He's cute. He's sassy. He's Jonah. He thinks my Mary is pretty and he wants to marry her, thank you very much. He told the teacher so and I heard it myself.

At the last AWANA meeting he gave my Mary a Christmas bell necklace to match his own. No, not an engagement ring, but my girl wore it proudly, as if it were one.

The Sunday before, after bedtime prayers, my Mary said, "Mommy, I hope you're not going to be mad about this, but I called Jonah "Sugar" tonight."

Inwardly, I rolled my eyes, but there may have been a slight smile show on the corner of my mouth. Girls are so different from boys, I tell you. They have a matchmaking radar, it seems, rather early, that boys for the most part do. not. share. (This Jonah excluded, apparently.)

I tried to explain what flirting was and that maybe it wasn't such a good idea to call a boy "Sugar". But the concept of flirting was over her head, so I very soon gave up.

My kids have church verses to learn, as well as AWANA verses, and one week Mary had to memorize the Lord's Prayer. She rather liked it, and that's an understatement. She went around for three week straight, saying the Lord's Prayer several times a day, because she could. Verses are her thing; she loves them.

So another night, after bedtime prayers, she told me, "Mommy, I tried to teach Jonah the Lord's Prayer tonight."

"That was sweet of you. How did he do?"

"He gave up. It was too hard."

"Mommy, do you think Jonah is a Christian?"

That sentence right there? It melted me. Here's my little girl, stubborn as all get out, remembering the Biblical mandate for her marriage prospects, and now, a few months later, instead of saying it's stupid, she's taking it to heart. The Holy Spirit is winning. My little girl really likes this boy, but she's showing allegiance to God now, not just to herself.

Parenting is nothing if not a desperate, lengthy, on-going prayer.

I don't agree with the boyfriend/girlfriend thing, but I'm grateful it prompted discipling issues that need to be discussed very early in our children's upbringing. It should be on their radar very early: "God says: marry a Christian, or don't get married".

Just between you and me, the little boy is stubborn, just like my Mary. He was playing with his bell necklace and had the little bell part in his mouth, unattached to the necklace part. Being an ex-classroom teacher, I don't give as much slack as children's church teachers usually do. Many don't discipline and church classes can be a waste of time, due to unresolved behavior issues. I'm kind but firm, because to survive in a classroom day after day, you have to be.

Sadly, two of my children have AWANA classes with no discipline, and the boys' class at our church provides no dicipline for the Goofy Boys Club. (Elementary is not my jurisdiction at church; there's a reason I only signed on to be the Birth-Kinder children's coordinator.)

It's so sad the way upper-elementary boys think they have to act goofy and stupid to fit in. I call it the Goofy Boys Club, and it's getting our nation's boys no where. I suspect the bullies lead it, and the other boys feel they either have to fit in and act goofy themselves, or get bullied. Unfortunately, the bullies lead the schools, and there's precious little school staff can do about it, because they can't follow the kids everywhere, and when a child tattles on a bully, it just gets worse.

My boys don't enjoy going to classes because of the goofiness, but neither do they prefer listening to long sermons in the sanctuary.

Anyway, I was sure any minute the teacher or myself would have to do the Heimlich choking manuvear regarding this bell in Jonah's mouth. I told him having the bell in his mouth was dangerous, and would he please take it out? He did, but only temporarily. It went back in his mouth, so I took it from him, yucky as it was to hold it in my hand while the teacher finished the Sparky story.

Then he began hitting his neighbor with the string of his necklace, and I told him to pay attention to the story. He kept doing it, so I asked for the necklace. He said, "No." I gave him a firm, teacher-type look, and told him he was being disrespectful.

Immediately, he gave it to me, a guilty, sorrowful look on his face.

There was her question, hanging in the air. "Mommy, do you think Jonah is a Christian?"

I thought about the bell and necklace incident, which had happened that night. I thought about the repentent face.

"Yes, I do think he's a Christian, Mary. He's a silly boy, but I could see in his eyes that the Holy Spirit has a hold on him."

This marked the end of the conversation that particular night, but there's more to say.

We all have a long way to go, Mary, in trying to be like Jesus. Jonah is no exception. He might disappoint you with his behavior sometimes, and when he does, remember that the Lord never disappoints. The Lord is always a perfect gentleman. The Lord, and no one else, must be your strength and your song.

Exodus 15:2 The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Pride of Life and Too Many Toys

When I had my first child I down-scaled my full-time job to a part-time, home-based homeschooling facilitator position, visiting the Charter school campus for individual monthly meetings with 26 different families. I also taught two 90-minute reading enrichment classes on campus two days a week, and a 6th grade social studies class once a week. For about 4 months I brought my baby to work, but when he became too mobile, that no longer worked.

One of the families offered the babysitting services of their college-aged daughter, and having no family in CA, and knowing that this girl was probably a Christian, I hired her to come to my home two days a week, five hours at a time, during which I would come home to nurse my child briefly, before going back to finish meetings.

This arrangement meant that I had no babysitting while I did the follow-up paperwork from these meetings, and lesson planning, at home. Peter was a very active child from an early age--rolling over early, crawling early, and walking early. He was high-needs and didn't play with toys on his own well, so trying to get my work done became extremely stressful. I had $26,000 in student loans to pay, we had two car loans, a home loan, and credit cards; my quitting work was impossible at that time.

In my new-parent ignorance, I thought interesting toys would be the answer. Maybe if he had enough to do, he would let me get some work done. I was already up late into the night planning lessons, and nursing him, and I was desperate for a solution that still kept him by my side.

Over the years I had that job (three years total), we bought a lot of toys and books and God added another baby boy to our family 22 months after my first was born (we used credit cards during that time, so of course we were overspending on toys). I wish I could say we quickly learned the folly of too many toys, but no. It went on even after we moved to Ohio, where I planned to run a small in-home preschool/daycare, which never came to fruition. I did babysit for infants before having two girls of my own, but I never ran a preschool and haven't worked since (the sale of a CA home in a good economy took care of that debt).

So, we had all these toys. When conservative, older people came to our home, they would say, "Wow. These kids have a lot of toys." I knew from their demeanor it was a criticism, but I rationalized it. Everything I bought had teaching potential; they weren't mindless toys, books, puzzles. They were curriculum.

The Lord didn't leave me there, thank goodness. He didn't allow me to keep rationalizing my over-indulgence. Eventually, he helped me view it as sin. I was chasing something unholy: the pride of life. 

I looked up the "pride of life" so I could give you the best possible definition, and here is what I found (below):

The phrase “pride of life” is found only once in the Bible, in 1 John 2:16, but the concept of the pride of life, especially as it is linked with the “lust of the eyes” and the “lust of the flesh,” appears in two more significant passages of Scripture—the temptation of Eve in the Garden and the temptation of Christ in the wilderness (Matthew 4:8-10). The pride of life can be defined as anything that is “of the world,” meaning anything that leads to arrogance, ostentation, pride in self, presumption, and boasting. John makes it clear that anything that produces the pride of life comes from a love of the world and “if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
I gave away a great many toys, and I learned something about my misdirected heart. Education was a false god to me. I spoiled my children in the name of knowledge and it felt okay for awhile, until God helped me see something that every teacher needs to realize: How soon a child learns to read, or how much she knows compared to other children, is not important in the Kingdom of God. It is my duty to teach my children, but not to make them superstars.

In fact, when we happen to have a superstar child, educationally speaking, we have to constantly guard against pride--our own and our child's. We didn't create a superstar child; God did. The child didn't earn his superstar academic status; God gave it as a gift. God gives out abilities and as parents, we shepherd them; we help the child make the most of God's gifts, while exercising humility.

Four years after we moved to Ohio my husband lost his job and we lost our credit, and there was no more buying, except at garage sales or thrift stores (I had to learn to temper that, as well).

You'll think I'm crazy to say this, but that was the very best thing for us spiritually. Instead of chasing the pride of life, we began to fight shabbiness and household items and vehicles in disrepair. I have learned to carry myself with dignity at church, even while at times looking unfashionable and wearing the same jean skirt week after week.

It feels wonderful to have on a stylish outfit you know you look good in. It feels great to have pieces in the closet that work together, fit well, and are current. Sometimes that's possible via thrift stores, but usually not, if your funds are limited.

It feels wonderful to have an impressive home with clean, current furniture and decorations, or an impressive car.

You know what I've learned, slowly but thoroughly? My worth comes from the Lord. That sounds so simple, doesn't it? But getting there wasn't simple at all. I never would have taken this truth to heart had I not suffered a little shabbiness. I see life through a different lens now, and it's a clearer one. I see children with too many things who aren't likable or sweet, and their parents are so caught up in the pride of life, they don't realize they're handicapping their children spiritually and socially. That was me...that was us; we were blinded for a time.

Ideally, all of us should want for something, materially speaking, and our children too. We should reach for the Lord's comfort, not the world's. We should look to the Lord for our self-worth, not to the peers around us, with whom we try to keep up, unconsciously.

Let's not get our children everything they want this Christmas. We would do well to let them know need and want, just enough to go to the Lord for their worth and their comfort. An overindulged adult or child is blinded, handicapped, because of too much world, and too little God. It feels good for a time, but the world gives a false comfort, a false sense of worth, which doesn't serve us well after a tornado destroys everything, or after we lose our job and sink into shabbiness.

Our children are part of our legacy and the gifts we give them can be mostly spiritual, or mostly worldly. Whatever we choose gets passed on to the next generation of our family. When we wrap those presents and place them under the tree this year, let's evaluate what we're after. Are we chasing something unholy? Are we trying to make our children temporarily happy, at the expense of spiritual fruit later? Are we even going to like them, two days after they've opened too many presents?

Relatives must be on board with us, if we're to pass on more of the spiritual than the material. If necessary, we can sit down with them and discuss how many presents, and which ones, would bless our children but not spoil them. Raising a child for the Lord is an extended family endeavor, not just a nuclear family effort, however, parents are the ultimate authority. I think parents have a right to exercise restraint with gift cards and money given to children by relatives, especially when relatives don't share our spiritual views. When handled with prayer and tact, peace can still prevail at gift-giving time, and our households can emerge from Christmastime closer to the Lord, not further from Him. 

Restraint is valuable for many reasons:

~ Too many toys kills imagination and ingenuity. Kids in Africa design their own toys, becoming budding engineers in the process. Kids without many toys make up thrilling games that lead to precious sibling memories.

~ Too much stuff creates clutter and stress.

~ Too many choices creates stress.

~ Kids take better care of fewer toys, because when there are too many, they're all expendable.

~ Kids' hearts are full of gratitude only when the giving is done sparingly. The opposite of gratitude is entitlement, and first-world children suffer greatly from this.

~ Kids don't want toys so much as they want us. They want and need our time and attention; toys are a poor substitute for a parent's investment in a child's heart.

~ When they've opened everything and it was too much, and the spoiled attitude comes soon after, you can't go backwards. You can donate toys, but you can't create the sweetness one sees in an unspoiled child. You can't force your child to feel thankful for all the treasures they've opened. It just doesn't work that way. Gratitude comes easily when we were wanting for something--when we needed to wait and/or sacrifice. It's elusive when we get everything we needed, and more.

Once in a while I wonder what it would be like to have enough money to meet our every need, and many of our wants. Would I slowly but surely sink into entitlement? The Bible tells me it would be the greatest spiritual fight of my life, to accept all that material blessing, and still cling to God. I believe this truth, and I count myself blessed.

How do you pull the reins in at your house, at gift-giving time?


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Gratitude Journal Dec 18

Sometimes I'm flooded with thanksgiving over an answered prayer, and my heart swells. My Paul has gone three days without a headache, after 9 consecutive days with migraine, and my right ankle has been normal for four days now. Time to advertise God's goodness, but before I list my blessings, I want to say to anyone out there suffering and still waiting for answered prayer: God. is. still. good.

Immanuel means "God with us". He is always with us, beside us, inside us, eclipsing our pain, redeeming our brokenness. We should advertise his glorious ways, praise Him from the mountaintops, even when the pain persists, because Immanuel (God with us) rescues us, every day.

What's currently blessing me:

~ Paul thoroughly enjoying a Christmas Origami book. He spent hours making origami ornaments to place in our tree branches.

~ Paper chains overflowing in our home.

~ The boys "doing school" even while on vacation. They wrote a long, silly, irreverent version of The Twelves Days of Christmas, during which I felt it necessary to forbid any potty humor. I'm so happy there are two little girls in my home, as well as two as-yet unrefined boys.

~ Little David in the church nursery, a toddler after my own heart, ran up to me and hugged me when I came into the nursery last Sunday, just like he does when his own mom shows up. Okay, maybe it was because he had the messiest diaper imaginable and needed me, but still. It set my heart all aflutter.

~ No more headaches for my Paul.

~ A lady from church coming later this month, with her two girls, to teach us to knit. She had triplets late in life and all three of them have multiple problems, including one who is almost grown and is three years old, cognitively speaking. My friend's husband passed away eight years ago, and we are thrilled to perhaps somewhat fill a family void in her life, and vice versa. My Beth loves playing dolls with her daughter.

~ The Lord's faithfulness, always.

~ Reading the book of James with the children, alongside the book of 1 Kings, which is sometimes hard reading.

~ This winter has been harsh so far, and no problems with our older furnace. (We keep it at 64 at night, and 66 during the day, but our noses are still always stuffed up this time of year, from the drying tendency of forced heat. My children never complain of being cold, and sometimes the boys take their shirts off during their made up PE games.)

~ The children using our flat driveway and disc sleds to make up "The Winter Games". They go back and forth, doing different exercises with the sled. I love their ingenuity, but not their competitiveness.

~ They all have a little bit of money, which they want to use to buy each other Christmas presents. They have been making each other birthday presents these last two months (4 birthdays in just over 2 months).

~ A horrible legislative bill was introduced in the Ohio legislature, requiring parents and children to be interviewed separately by child protective services before a homeschooling request is granted. Additionally, they have to be interviewed twice more during the school year, and must submit to "interventions" if their request is initially denied. They can also specify if a family can homeschool on their own, or must use a public e-school. The good news? The Homeschool Legal Defense Association will fight it for us. It's so over-reaching that it's unlikely to pass, but it does have three sponsors in the legislature, and it speaks of the lengths to which the government may someday go to take away parents rights. Such ridiculous bills are becoming more common, but HSLDA has been very successful in upholding parents' rights so far. The bill is a response to a fatal child abuse case that had nothing to do with homeschooling families.

~ A sweet friend sponsoring us for Christmas, and another friend's gift card paying for a Christmas ham. It's hard and very humbling to accept such gifts, and I wish I could graciously say "no thank you we're fine", but the Lord reminds me that it is not about me, but about how he chooses to shine his glory. I can't cross my arms in stubbornness and refuse to allow Him to shine, for when a Christian gives, it's a manifestation of his glory shining through them, and despite my sinful pride, it's a beautiful thing.

The family voted on it and ham won over turkey. I don't care for the taste of ham, but I like that when we have ham for Christmas, my husband makes it, leaving me to choose and make delicious side dishes. And even though hams are horribly expensive, between soups and other dishes, they do provide protein for a lot of different meals before they're used up.

~ A wonderfully simple and delicious way to make cranberries (we've been having them weekly). Using a frying pan, place washed, fresh cranberries in a single layer, along with a half cup water, and 1/2 or 1 cup sugar, depending on how sweet you prefer them. Heat at medium temp. until you hear them pop, about three minutes, usually. Then turn the heat to the lowest setting, and cook for five more minutes only. They will remain whole and taste heavenly.

~ The Lord is my strength and my song.

What are you thankful for today?


Monday, December 16, 2013

The Great Joy and the Good News

Merry Christmas.

When you read that, think not of cliche sayings from holiday cards, for I truly wish you joy and merriment, but not only what the world gives. The best the world can give at Christmas is great food, great company, great presents, sparkly lights, and laughter in our gatherings. And it’s all wonderful, true, but it’s fleeting. The next day the calendar reads December 26 and life is the same again, after all that preparation and merriment.

It can be a let down after all the anticipation, but December 26 doesn't have to be like this. Remember, an angel appeared to the shepherds in the field, and the message given forever changed the human condition.

Luke 2:8-11
And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

“Good news of great joy.” What is this, exactly? When we seek and find the answer to this question, our joy is not only complete, but everlasting. December 26 and every day after it becomes a manifestation of the good news the angel announced.

When a newborn baby arrives in this world, it’s an occasion for joyous thanksgiving and celebration, for babies represent hope in the future. Babies are a new beginning, enriching and changing the course of our lives forever. Blessed is the family who welcomes a baby, either their own or one lovingly adopted. Either way, a baby is a blessed gift. Think of that joy! Nothing can match it on earth, for babies are a miracle so perfect, only God could be the Designer.

How fitting, then, that the good news of great joy came in the form of a baby…but this Christmas baby? He is more than hope, more than joy, more than blessing. He is Life itself! He came to give us Life—an overflowing spirit of peace in our hearts while we dwell here for such a fleeting time, and later, eternity spent in His presence. This later is oh so much greater than this now…this now being as a vapor.

Eternity spent in His presence. Think of the magnificence of that truth, as well as the comfort and inner peace He gives on earth amidst every ailment, every disorder, and every sorrow.

For four hundred years before the Baby was born to us, God was silent. No prophets, no miracles, no news; nothing but frightening quietness.

And then, suddenly, there is good news of great joy, as foretold by the prophets so long ago. God planned this day we call Christmas. He planned this good news. He foretold this Great Rescue, as we see in Micah and Isaiah, Old Testament books.

Micah 5:2 But you, O Bethlehem Eph′rathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Immanuel? It means God with us. The long-awaited Messiah, the source of Life, the solution to our separation from a perfect, Holy God, has come. He is here. There is no separation for those who trust in Him. No more unanswered need, unanswered sorrow. No more emptiness of spirit. After four hundred silent years, and many more years of turmoil and failed allegiance, as documented in the Old Testament Bible, the Savior, the Messiah, has come.

I wish you a slow down, a time to set aside the offerings of a worldly Christmas. Trade what the world offers for joy everlastingjoy that doesn't end at midnight on December 26. Make the Christ Child your own good news this year, for the angel said: I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people “.

He was born for you. Enter into Joy everlasting. Take him into your arms, into your heart, where every baby longs to be. He is the good news of great joy your soul longs for. No one and nothing can ever fill us as He does. He is Immanuel, God with us. With is a joyous concept to hold on to, for it means we are never forsaken, never alone, always loved.

Wow! That is good news of great joy!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

December Discipling: Jesus vs. Santa

John Piper, long-time pastor and founder of Desiring God, writes about Santa versus Jesus in response to a parent's question:  Corbin, a listener from Gainesville, Georgia, asked: “Pastor John, should parents allow their children to believe Santa Claus is bringing them gifts on Christmas?”

Piper's answer? Superb. It's a must read that will blow your socks off and set your heart on fire for Jesus all over again, and it will rejuvenate your commitment to making it all about the only One who will never disappoint us, never forsake us, and never stop redeeming our brokenness.

Right now, it's fun to excite our kids with presents and cookies and sparkly decorations, but if that takes up all our time and energy, what will they have to hold on to, as adults, when sorrow and disappointment come their way? When our daughter is fighting for joy after a miscarriage, will all those hours spent with lights and tinsel and cookie dough help her then? When our son loses his job and wonders desperately how he and his family will make it, will the toy trains and Hot Wheels tracks we fought the crowds and traffic to buy, do him any good? When our child's spouse cheats and devastates our child's heart, the choice will be to divorce and move on, breaking our grandkids' hearts, or stay and do the hard work of undeserved love and forgiveness.

Their lives will get hard quickly when they leave us, and we get only one chance to give them a taste of the Lord, preferably a very strong taste before 12 years old. Once in the world, their chances of falling in love with Him and possessing tested faith in Him, are slim. The cookies and the trains are nice, but they have to take up a very small portion of our parenting time, compared to our discipling.

The best way for a parent to spend the Christmas season? How about spending one half a day buying a present or three (Jesus received only three), and spend the other 23 days of December leading up to Christmas, with your child next to you, explaining over and over again, with different resources, books, and conversations, why she needs Jesus and why she'll always need him, and how no one and nothing else will ever measure up to Him.

One suggestion--something we do in our home--is to have the children open whatever is given to them the weekend before Christmas, so that Christmas day is not spent in commercial preoccupation and anticipation.

They are children only a small portion of their lives, and while childhood should be magical and precious, it is also preparatory. It's a fleeting window of opportunity to teach life-saving, legacy-leading, heaven-bound principals. 

We moms and dads try pretty hard to make Christmas exciting for our kids. This year, I challenge all of us to spend less time searching for exciting Christmas cookie recipes, and more time finding ways to make Jesus the Star.

Some Ideas:

Lots of Drama -  Put on simple family Christmas story skits or plays, starting with the Angel Gabriel appearing to Mary. It can be surprising how often preschool and lower-elementary children, especially, need to hear and see this story before they can tell it themselves from start to finish, and remember it from year to year. Make that the goal, that each child in your house can tell you the whole Christmas story from start to finish, and memorize at least two fundamental Christmas verses, by Christmas Day. We don't have our children memorize scripts for simple family plays. We narrate a little and announce scenes, and they come up with their own sentences/dialogue, depending on age. We often suggest what our youngest child could say, if she is struggling. The drama is casual, fun, simple, and a very effective teaching tool.

Vocabulary and Concepts - Jesus came to us in a humble stable, living a humble 33 years among us. Humility is a big word in the Christian faith. Put some butcher paper on the wall and write the word Humility or Humble in the center of the paper. Each day, add definitions or examples of humility to the paper. Leave it up all month for review and more discussion.

God's Purpose  - What was God's purpose in sending Jesus? Why is it so exciting that the Messiah has finally come? How does Jesus save us, that first time we believe, and every day after that? What is the good news of great joy?

Storybooks - Write simple illustrated books depicting the Christmas story. The best artist in the family can illustrate, and the rest of the family can write the words together. Those of us who can't draw get a little nervous when asked to produce art, but it's great to ask anyone who likes to draw to participate. Some can color or decorate, while others draw the images. If we spend enough time discipling at Christmastime, this won't be a difficult activity for our children, and these books can be saved and treasured through the years.

Resist the pulls on your time, and make a Mary decision--to sit at Jesus' feet and learn of Him, together.

Luke 2:10-11 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Homeschool and Mother's Journal Dec 13

In my life this week…

In the upside-down Kingdom of God, this was a fantastic spiritual week full of rich growth, and for that I say, Praise God.

If you're reading between the lines, you know the above means I barely survived the last seven days.

Spiritual growth is painful. Can I get an Amen?

The migraines my 10-year-old son were diagnosed with on Monday, continued. Rarely does a person's first migraine experience stretch to 8 consecutive days of migraine, each lasting 1 to 2 hours. Each time this week he has come to me and said, "Oh, Mommy. I have another headache", my stress level immediately rose, and my ability to cope took deep dives. For him and the other children I tried to be strong, but it was so hard not to outwardly fall apart. My older son's ADHD and OCD are both in a horrible flare, and he had three nights of mild asthma this week as well, adding to the stress of the current migraine problem in his brother. And Beth's arthritis isn't responding well to winter this week, or to the stress in the house; she's less active due to rising pain, which could mean more physical therapy sessions.

Just when I think the health trials will end, they get worse.

Migraines are so painful that a person begins to fear them coming on, especially when they begin about the same time every day. For my son, the fear and dread are making it more likely he'll get another, since he also suffers from anxiety.

Kids who can relax easily generally fall asleep with a migraine and then when they awake it's gone. If they can manage to fall asleep, they don't need a pain reliever, but on most days he's needed one, and with each dose, I knew this could potentially become a bigger problem if the body began to crave the pain reliever at about the same time every day (rebound headache).

His doctor put him on a benign antihistamine given off-label for migraine prevention, and also suggested I continue giving him ibuprofen or acetaminophen. He discounted the risk of rebound headache, which I told him has happened to me, and is common in people who take OTC remedies, and some prescription remedies, more than twice a week regularly for headache. I've found that few doctors understand rebound headache, unless they've been forced to research headaches recently. As a pediatrician, our doctor clearly hadn't read or heard much about this maddening condition.

Our pastor doesn't anoint with oil, but I hear one of the deacons will, so I'll be asking him to pray over my Paul this Sunday.

I finished reading God's Adventurer, about Hudson Taylor, missionary to China ($7.79 at christianbook.com), and also Eric Liddell: Something Greater Than Gold ($6.69 at christianbook.com). Both these missionary books helped me with the health issues going on this week.

Eric Liddell, the "flying Scotsman", a missionary to China and Olympic Gold Medalist runner, died in a Japanese concentration camp in China in 1945 at age 43, from a massive brain tumor. He was separated from his family for five consecutive years before his death (he died five months before the end of World War II), never having met his third daughter, Maureen, who along with her two older sisters, is still living in Canada, their mother's native country. Eric Liddell was the main character portrayed in the movie Chariots of Fire, an Academy Award winner for Best Picture in 1981.

Eric Liddell: Something Greater Than Gold   -     By: Janet Benge, Geoff Benge

Eric Liddell is perhaps most famous for refusing to run the two Olympic events he was favored in, because they were scheduled on a Sunday, which in earlier times was taken more seriously as the Lord's day. The Lord honored Hudson's sacrifice, giving him a gold medal anyway, in a longer-distance event he wasn't favored to win.

Eric Liddell was selfless in all he did; that's what stood out most for me about his life. It was always what the Lord wanted, never what Hudson wanted. Even though sending his 4- and 6-year-old daughters and pregnant wife on to Canada without him broke his heart, he stayed on the extremely dangerous mission field, knowing the lost in China, amid years of oppression and war, needed Jesus more than Hudson needed his family or vice versa. Hudson gave it all, and while imprisoned in a horrible Japanese concentration camp, he became known as Uncle Eric, teaching the children of the camp, young and old, without textbooks or supplies, and organizing sporting events to fight the boredom that threatened to undo all of the 1800 people held there during the last 2 years of World War II. Several people from that camp wrote books about their experiences, and Eric Liddell was always spoken of as an angel. One fellow Christian and missionary wrote that Eric was the finest Christian man he'd ever met.

God's Adventurer   -     By: Phyllis Thompson

Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) started China Inland Missions, and opened up inland China to missionaries for the first time ever, in the 1800's. Forty years after he stood on a beach in England and humbly prayed to God for 24 skilled and willing missionaries to help start his missionary organization, 800 missionaries, all from his organization, penetrated all 12 of the inland China provinces. Hudson began by asking God for two missionaries per province, and from there, because he was faithful, humble, and obedient, God grew the ministry many fold.

And it's important to note that when God first put the idea in Hudson's head about starting a missionary organization, he resisted. He simply didn't want to do it, fearing that if the missionaries were put to death, their lives would be on his head. Not long after these fears surfaced, however, God made it clear to Hudson that the lives were in God's hands, not Hudson's. Obedience followed and continued until Hudson died peacefully in his bed in inland China in 1905, with a smile on his face. He was 73.

Hudson and his wife Maria had 7 children, but this was not mentioned in the book; I had to research his life to get details about his family. Maria, his first wife, died of cholera at the age of 33, and Hudson remarried, having two more children and adopting a third. His second wife died a year before he did.

What I learned this week is that sometimes God asks people to do great things for the Kingdom, and sometimes he asks us not to perform, but to endure. When health issues are present, and with them pain and dysfunction, God still asks us to fight the good fight of faith, even if we can't be terribly productive. Pain prevents us from bringing glory to ourselves--from accomplishing anything amazing--but it doesn't prevent us from bringing glory to God. It's in continuing to love Him and praise His name through our unrelieved pain, that we bring Him glory.

Is it as wonderful as what Eric Liddell or Hudson Taylor did for the Kingdom? Well, no, but if you're the person in pain, it can feel just as big, just as challenging.

Another thing that stood out about both these men, is their commitment to daily devotions and prayer. They understood that without Christian discipline, we're nearly useless to God, and we can endure very little.

In our homeschool this week…

With each passing headache for Paul, I became more determined to reduce stress in our lives. The headaches are hereditary and brought on by pre-pubescent hormones, but stress will definitely aggravate the condition. So on Wednesday I decided it would be best to take a vacation from school until the second day after Christmas, except on the days when behavior is too challenging.

But it's a working vacation, as I'll be training the children with a five-minute timer to clean up after themselves several times a day. It will be a more regimented 5-minute pick-up so our house doesn't become disarrayed so easily and stressful to look at. As well, with all their things put away, the actual cleaning can go quickly and on schedule. So basically, I'm using this vacation to work out the kinks in our home management.

Despite a bit of vacation and training, we kept up with our morning devotions, our AWANA verses, our missionary reading, and our Christmas book reading. And the boys have worked two days on a model of a volcano, using up a whole lot of paper towels, old tea from tea bags, glue, paint, and scratch paper. Right now they're drying the paint with my blow dryer.

I have some Christmas season books to share:

The first is not a children's book, but an Advent Devotional written by John Piper, entitled Good News of Great Joy:Daily Readings for Advent. We read it as a family after dinner. I bought it off Amazon for less than $5 new, but it's also available as a free download from John Piper's site, Desiring God. Use link above.


The other nightly book we use for devotions is What God Wants for Christmas, written by Barbara Rainey of Family Life. (Friend Beth, if this looks interesting, please don't order it. I sent it your way already.) This resource helps lower-elementary children truly understand the Christmas story. With all the hullabaloo surrounding Christmas, we have to work very hard with the young ones to help them truly understand the significance. This resource is wonderful, full of rhyme, hands-on, and includes scripture reading references if you wish to use them. Older children will definitely absorb more of the Scripture than the younger ones, making this resource good for a range of ages.
What God Wants for Christmas
Family Life Photo
Now on to a few picture books:

The Twelve Days of Christmas, by Jane Ray. Delightful illustrations in this book (features the traditional carol).

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Publisher overview:
With luminous artwork full of elaborate detail, the acclaimed Jane Ray brings new life to a classic holiday song.
In this lushly illustrated interpretation of the familiar Christmas carol, each spread offers surprises for the eye as nostalgic city scenes depict a multiethnic cast of characters bustling with packages and sprucing up their homes for the holidays. But at one home in particular, an endless succession of gifts keeps arriving: birds of all stripes, ladies dancing aboard a brightly bedecked boat, lords leaping on rooftops, and pipers piping up and down stairs. Filled with intricate patterns and whimsical flourishes, Jane Ray's gorgeous artwork is the perfect match for this wonderfully cumulative tale.

Next up is The Story of Holly & Ivy, by Rumer Godden, illustrated by Barbara Cooney. These two women are among my favorites in children's literature. I loved this beautiful story, but it's long and you'll need a couple days to get through it with the youngest ones.

The Story of Holly and Ivy

Publisher Overview: Ivy, Holly, and Mr. and Mrs. Jones all have one Christmas wish. Ivy, an orphan, wishes for a real home and sets out in search of the grandmother she's sure she can find. Holly, a doll, wishes for a child to bring her to life. And the Joneses wish more than anything for a son or daughter to share their holiday. Can all three wishes come true? This festive tale is perfectly complemented by beloved Barbara Cooney's luminous illustrations, filled with the warm glow of the Christmas spirit.

Orphaned Ivy finds her Christmas wish fulfilled with the help of a lonely couple and a doll named Holly.

Next up is the Peterkins' Christmas, adapted by Elizabeth Spurr, illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin.

The Peterkins' Christmas

This is a comedy. A hoot from horse and buggy days. Fun! And once again, I love the illustrations!

Publisher Overview: Meet the Peterkins.
There's Mr. and Mrs. Peterkin, Agamemnon, Solomon John, Eliza-beth Eliza, and the three Little Boys (who everyone forgot to name when they were born).
The Peterkins love a good surprise almost as much as they love Christmas-time, and this year is no different as they try to surprise the Little Boys with their tallest Christmas tree ever. All their secret plans go awry, though, when they realize that their special tree is too big to fit in the house! How will they save Christmas?
The Peterkins were first introduced to delighted children everywhere more than one hundred and twenty years ago when Lucretia Hale wrote The Peterkin Papers. Adapted from that timeless children's classic, The Peterkins' Christmas is a charming holiday tale that will thrill readers of all ages.

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share…

Never hesitate to take time off to get the home-managing kinks out. In the end, you'll be more productive and less stressed when your homemaking, shopping, and laundry maintenance are as smooth as they can be.

My favorite thing this week was…

Learning about Christian heroes Hudson Taylor and Eric Liddell, and what God spoke to me, through them.

My kiddos favorite thing this week was…
Making a volcano, Mommy buying them candy canes, holiday baking (although we haven't done much yet), making big tents in the playroom/family room, and Christmas picture books.

Things I’m working on…
As mentioned above: home management. One challenging area is laundry. I do very well at keeping up with the washing, but our living room gets loaded with unfolded clothes, as I wash more on a given day than we can process, and we don't have a garage or basement, or adequate storage closets to set the baskets in. The solution I'm working on is to wash the shirts, sweaters, skirts and pants--the things I hang up directly from the dryer--on one day, and the next day wash all the items that need folding--pajamas, socks and underwear, and linens. On this day we will all work on folding as a family, and no one will go to bed that night without having folded and put away their pajamas and underclothes. This will mean no clothes ever on the couch. The end to laundry clutter!

Home management is not my strong point, as regular readers know, but I keep trying. I don't believe in giving up because I know with God's help, I can become a very able manager of home and stress.

I’m grateful for…

~ my Heavenly Father, who never leaves me nor forsakes me

~ my love for my four children, challenging me to be my best

~ picture books to ease the burden of stress, and prayer to do the same

~ that everyday the Lord tells me...if you get this one thing right, it will all be okay. This one thing? It's to pray with my children as often as I can throughout the day, starting at morning devotions. Praying together about the struggles the family is having unburdens hearts, and replaces pride with humility.

~ kind friends

~ the babies in the nursery at church

~ Christmas baking aroma

~ anticipating His coming.

A quote to share...

Luke 2:10-11 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Thank you for reading, friend, and how was your week?

HMJ Logo 500x484

Monday, December 9, 2013

Moments of Grace

Brokenness getting the better of me, my spirit questioned God.

Awake at 1:00 AM with throbbing pain in my ankle, I lay there, wondering if my Beth was in such horrible throbbing pain two years ago, when her arthritis first surfaced. I remember sleeping in her queen bed with her for months, because she woke up so frequently, and my husband needed sufficient sleep. I nursed her whenever she asked day or night, up until last summer, when she began sleeping quite well.

Was it enough? Was any of it enough, to soothe a little girl in the kind of pain I was in from 1:00 AM to 5:00 AM?

I wondered, too, if Beth would be one of the 50% who don't grow out of this disease before puberty or in her teens. Would she be in need of multiple joint replacements by 30 years old? In giving me similar symptoms right now, is God giving me reason to emphathize with her like no one else could? Rheumatoid Arthritis is very painful, yet few understand the pain, since it comes and goes and can put you down quickly. You don't look ill, so you suffer silently. You stand alone, lonely, and the loneliness can be as hard as the disease itself.

My heart ached last night, thinking of Beth's pain, and me being unable to truly understand up until now. I don't know if I might have something else instead, but all the other possiblities don't account for the coming and going of the pain, and the range in the quality of the pain.

On top of those concerns, both my boys will soon start therapy for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which makes their hands raw and red from too much washing, and costs us a fortune in toilet paper, since one roll can be consumed by one of my sons in one day. When OCD gets moderate to severe, household products disappear quickly.

And today we went to the pediatrician to investigate four days in a row of headaches for my Paul, which were diagnosed as migraines. He has to try a preventative medicine for one month to see what happens.

Groan, went my spirit as I made the call for Paul's appointment today. Except for Mary, we are cursed, healthwise. Allergies, ezcema, occasional asthma, migraine headaches, OCD, ADHD, anxiety, Tourette's Syndrome, Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, and now my ankle bit. We are all a healthy weight and we don't smoke or drink or eat too much of anything, but we have these mental disorders, conditions, and diseases to contend with, which suck energy from our souls.

Why do some families live symptom-free except for your usual colds and flu, and others have such everyday burdens? Stupid question. I knew that before my brain even uttered the last of it. Every family struggles with something, and many suffer silently.

It's even embarrassing, trying to explain these things, so I don't. People start wondering what we are doing wrong, to have so many issues, and that just makes my heart heavier. Better to keep quiet.

I learned yesterday that a dear woman from church, 41 years old, lost a baby before Thanksgiving. I cried with her, and during the service her 20-month-old son, whom I get to love on in the nursery, stood in the aisle during worship music time and lifted his hands to the Lord, a broad smile on his face as he swayed back and forth, 2 feet away from Daddy. Many people noticed his sheer joy, and the moment was of God, orchestrated by a loving, gracious, faithful Father, to encourage a grieving mother's heart, and all who grieved with her.

Today we piled into the van to go to the pediatrician's, and my boys put a CD in the player they had been working on at church. One of their teachers wrote a worship song with them, drawing from many different Psalms. They needed to rehearse because next week all the 4th-6th grade kids are singing it with their teacher up on stage.

The second stanza was all it took. I cried all the way to our doctor's office,  listening to the words and the teacher's voice. It wasn't professional by any means, but it was another moment orchestrated by God to flood a hurting soul with grace. Mine.

I don't know what tomorrow will bring for my boys, my daughter Beth, or myself, in terms of health. But I know when it gets heavy, God will be there.

He will be there in the middle of the achy, throbbing night.

He will be there when the site of another toilet roll gone, makes me want to cry.

He will be there when the sight of my sons' hands shock me yet again.

He will be there when my husband gets angry, rather than sad, at what we deal with. (Everyone grieves differently.)

The Lord will be there for us, and for you, in your hour of need.

I leave you with the worship song words, the ones that touched me so thoroughly today:

Expression of Psalm

We lift up our flags in the name of our God

We give thanks to the Lord

He is good

We sing for joy at the work of Your hands

We will praise you with all of our hearts

We will say of the Lord

He's our refuge & our fortress

Our God, in Him will we trust

We will say of the Lord

He's our refuge & our fortress

Our God, in Him will we trust

O Lord our God in You is our hope

How excellent is Your name

You are our help and deliverer

Our strong and mighty God

We will say of the Lord

He's our refuge & our fortress

Our God, in Him will we trust

We will say of the Lord

He's our refuge & fortress

Our God in Him will we trust

We give honor

To God our Savior

We will shout with joy

When you win the battle

We will not be moved

He is our defense

We shall not be moved

We will say of the Lord

He's our refuge & our fortress

Our God, in Him will we trust

We will say of the Lord

He's our refuge & fortress

Our God in Him will we trust

What encouraged you today?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Let the Women Guide the House

Standing in line at the grocery store one winter’s eve, tears of shame fell down my cheeks. Stress had gotten the better of me and when I left the house, I’d slammed the front door shut, announcing my departure.

And that slam? It came after an angry verbal tirade about sharing a house with five people who never clean up their messes. Why does everyone treat me like a maid? How can I do everything? How can we have a Bible study at all, if I’m the only one picking up?

I love our Bible Study, but so many times I questioned the wisdom of hosting and teaching a Bible study in our home. The stress of preparing and the sinning that went on in the hours before the study were downright hypocritical, and I knew it. The irony of teaching Biblical principles after I’d lost my temper with my own family multiple times that day, was never lost on me.

Fortunately, my husband is the usual teacher, while I sit in shame, hoping my family will forgive me yet again.

So there I was in line that night, groceries in my cart, the Bible Study already two hours behind me. Remembering my sins, I fought the tears, feeling miserable and confused.

Lord, you know my heart. I want to be a loving wife and mother, and yet the stress is so intense that sometimes, I just snap. What can I do differently, Father?  Show me.

In 1 Timothy 5:14, it says that women are to guide the house. 

 1 Timothy 5:14

 “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.”

Husbands are the spiritual leaders and we are to respect and obey them, but the affairs of the household? They are a women’s responsibility to manage, and it’s not a job to take lightly.

Children must be trained, discipled, fed, clothed. There are dishes to do, toilets to scrub, socks and underwear to be put away in drawers. There are meals to plan, shopping to do, bills to pay, and paperwork to process.

And that’s not all. Extracurricular activities scream at us too. If you’re an average American, there are sports teams to work around, committee meetings to attend, and cupcakes to make. There’s that sweet family next door who needs a meal after surgery or childbirth.

They can all be good choices, but we can’t have everything. If we follow after Jesus, we can’t be the average American. He calls us to be set apart, which sometimes means making tough, lonely choices.

How do we discern right from wrong in our scheduling, so we can guide the house with a gentle and quiet spirit, rather than with a lion’s ferocity? What does Jesus want from us?

He wants our worship. He wants us to have no other gods before Him. When we heed this, our affairs fall in line accordingly.

Keeping up with the Joneses in any sense, whether financially or in extracurricular activities, is always a mistake. The world and Facebook push us to create a certain image, and it often involves having it all: perfect kids, perfect house, perfect vacation, and perfect job.

The stress of creating and maintaining an image robs us not only of time, but of joy, too. The sin involved? It’s pride, disguised but ugly. Pride makes us follow the world’s cues, instead of the Lord’s. And fear is there too. We’re afraid of standing alone, of not fitting in.

When I feel like stress is out of control in my home, I turn to the Bible to check my priorities, because the tone at home is my responsibility, as guider of the household. Am I spending time in the Word and in prayer? Am I leaving my burdens at the Lord’s feet? Am I spending enough time at home? Is the house a mess because I’m failing to train the children, or because I’m guilty of idleness? Am I employing sound organizational techniques and sticking with them? Am I spending wisely, buying only what we need, and purging the clutter regularly? Am I making meal plans and chore plans and following through?

A well-run home and a gentle and quiet spirit are not out of our reach, for the Lord never leaves us alone. When he commands, he supports. Here is what I’ve learned:

1.       Focus on God first, then family; create a devotional plan.

2.       Pray for wisdom and guidance.

3.       Confess sins.

4.       Don’t blame others for your shortcomings.

5.       Learn to say no…to extracurriculars, to frivolous Facebook, to any time wasters.

6.       If an activity can’t build God’s Kingdom, consider cutting it out; keep the activities that focus on loving the Lord and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

7.       Pray for a Titus 2 woman to come into your life…one who will pray for you, teach you, and hold you accountable.

8.       Cut your schedule down considerably while you’re still developing your organizational skills. Show obedience in the small things first, and then expand your schedule appropriately.

9.       Jesus spent all his time with his disciples, except when he was in private prayer. Discipling is hard work requiring long hours. The Lord wants us to invest ourselves in our children’s hearts, teaching Christ, showing His love.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates

10.   Know the true source of joy. It isn’t Facebook likes or accolades the world gives. It isn’t even family, children, or holiday get-togethers, though all of those do bless. Communion with God’s Holy Spirit brings joy. The only true joy. Your gentle and quiet spirit? It comes from joy within.

 I hope this blesses, rather than condemns. Love to you, friends. We can do this.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Homeschool and Mother's Journal, Dec. 5

In my life this week…

My son passed me his strep throat infection, so it's been a week of ibuprofen, and today I started on an antibiotic. As long as I don't let the ibuprofen wear off, I've been able to do full days of mothering, teaching, homemaking, and grocery shopping.

But I"ll have to admit, lying down sounds really, really good.

The strep might have invited something else, but it's too soon to be sure. I'll give some background to help explain.

My youngest daughter, turning five this weekend, was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at the age of two and a half. It started in one knee and we thought she'd injured it; the swelling was significant. Less than a month later swelling began in the other knee, and it only took minor research for me to learn the difficult news, and make an appointment with a rheumatologist to confirm.

Six months later it began in her left ankle as well, but no more joints are expected. (It's rare to add more joints after the first six months of the disease).

This is an auto-immune disease, and the tendency to develop such diseases is strongly inherited, but it takes an illness or injury to trigger the actual symptoms.

This week, it's seeming like I have rheumatoid arthritis pain in my right ankle. A strep infection is just the thing to trigger rheumatoid arthritis or other auto-immune disease, and this disease hits women between 40 and 60 years old. Hormone fluctuation, like in perimenopause, can be a factor too.

I don't have health insurance right now, so my first plan of action is to watch it and see if it continues to behave as my daughter's disease does, with pain being worse in the morning and after periods of sitting. Also, if the swelling persists for another couple days, I will start on daily naprosen (anti-inflammatory), which is one of my daughter's treatment drugs. Failing to treat the swelling eventually leads to joint damage.

Adults with rheumatoid arthritis can get ugly, deformed joints, but this is not a feature of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. My daughter has opportunity, statistically speaking (50%), to grow out of her arthritis before puberty or in her teens. Adults never grow out of RA, but it can go into remission with the use of serious drugs, like methotrexate (an immunosuppressant drug commonly used to fight cancer and rheumatoid arthritis), which my daughter is on.

This is something I'm mostly pushing out of my mind as I go about my day, as you can imagine, but when I realized what it could be (I did not injure my ankle recently, or ever before), I can't say I was surprised. There are extended family members (maternal aunt and her daughter) with MS, which is also auto-immune.

With four kids and homeschooling and homemaking, all I can do is push the unpleasant things aside, and arm myself with Scripture and prayer, knowing the Lord has a plan.

 In our homeschooling this week…

Sonlight Photo

The boys, 10 and 11, are reading three missionary books for the China portion of Sonlight's Eastern Hemisphere curriculum: Mission to Cathay, by Madeleine Polland, God's Adventurer by Phyllis Thompson, and Eric Liddell: Something Greater Than Gold, by the Benges. They read a chapter a day in each, and Momma assigned them A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, which they're reading at a rate of 10 pages a day.

God's Adventurer   -     By: Phyllis Thompson

Eric Liddell: Something Greater Than Gold   -     By: Janet Benge, Geoff Benge

A Christmas Carol  -     By: Charles Dickens, Dean Morrissey, Stephen Krensky

We've also read these Christmas books as a family:

Christmas Tree Farm

Christmas Tree Farm, by Ann Purmell

This is an enjoyable book that will give your primary science curriculum a decidedly Christmasy flare.

School Library Journal Synopsis: A boy tells how his family's Christmas tree farm requires yearlong work, from planting seedlings to weeding, pruning, measuring, cutting, and baling. Energetic, naive gouache-and-acrylic illustrations accompany the narrative, which will give children an inside look at the workings of a family-owned business.

Christmas Farm

Christmas Farm, by Mary Lyn Ray

I found these illustrations quite charming and the story equally so. A nice one to add to your shelf this month.

“This lovely tale celebrates intergenerational friendship and determination, growth and nature, and the joy of the holiday season.” —School Library Journal

Publisher Synopsis: When Wilma decides her garden needs a new beginning, she gathers string, scissors, shovels, sixty-two dozen balsam seedlings, and Parker, her five-year-old neighbor. Year after year, Wilma and Parker nurture their trees, keeping careful count of how many they plant, how many perish, and how many grow to become fine, full Christmas trees. A cozy, holiday read-aloud and a lyrical way to usher in the month of December.

The Money We'll Save

The Money We'll Save, by Brock Cole

This story is fun, fun, fun! Sit the whole family down for some laughs.

Publisher Synopsis: When Pa brings a turkey poult home to fatten for Christmas dinner, he assures Ma that it will be no trouble since it can live in a box by the stove and eat table scraps—and just think of the money we'll save! But it's not quite so simple to raise a turkey in a tiny flat in a nineteenth-century New York City tenement. Can Pa and the children manage the willful and growing Alfred and keep the neighbors happy until Christmas? Pa finds a solution for every difficulty—until he encounters one that threatens to ruin Christmas completely. How the family joins together to solve this last difficulty makes for a very funny and satisfying holiday story.

First Grade Goings On: I added a book from my first grade teaching years into Mary's (age 7 next week) spelling/reading curriculum.

Easy Lessons for Teaching Word Families

As she encounters new word families in her Sing, Spell, Read, Write student readers, I will teach the corresponding lessons from this book.

Today I gave her these letters: a, e, h, l, m, n, p, s, t (Lesson 53)

And then I asked her to manipulate the letters to spell these words, one at a time, by rearranging, adding, or removing letters:


Ahead of time, the teacher writes the words on word cards and after the spelling lesson, the student sorts the word cards by word family. Then the student practices the common pattern eat in "The Pumpkin Eater" and "Little Miss Muffet", which are provided in the book to photocopy, use in a reading lesson, and color and display.

Mary had a blast and she's got the ea vowel digraph down pretty well. Hands-on is what my girl needs.

Lesson 1 in this book starts out far simpler:

Letters: a, c, m, n, p, r, t

Make: cap, map, tap, rap, nap, pan, ran, tan, can, man

Practice: common pattern an in "Simple Simon", and "Georgy Porgy"

Reading researchers in 1970 identified 37 phonograms which could be found in almost 500 primary grade words. These 37 phonograms make up the 55 lessons in this book:


My favorite thing this week was…

Putting up the Christmas tree with the kids this afternoon. Buying ingredients for some major cookie baking over the next week, hopefully.

My kiddos favorite thing this week was…

Definitely the Christmas tree! What child doesn't love a Christmas tree.

I'm cooking:

My son Peter helped a lot with cooking this week. Both my boys, when they cook with me, end up giving me spontaneous hugs, which I think is indicative of how bonding it is, preparing meals together.

garlic cheddar chicken
potato soup
turkey burgers
chicken noodle soup
taco bake
baked ziti

I’m grateful for…

~ Things don't go perfectly around here, but we continue in our Bibles and with prayer, and God's grace prevails. I'm always thankful for that.

~ loving husband

~ online friends, so kind and sweet

~ hot cocoa

~ good reads and warm blankets

~ brushing my girls' beautiful hair

~ learning along with my children

~ Beth's love for dolls

~ watching Mary grow in her studies, and Beth too

~ penpals

~ forgiveness

~ candy canes (not me, just the kids. I'm not a hard or sticky candy person at all.)

~ peanut butter blossoms

I’m praying for…

We're still praying for my father-in-law, almost 91-years-old, who is back at home alone in Florida, after leaving the rehabiliation facility against his doctor's wishes. The injury he sustained in a fall three months ago has healed, and he's pretty much told us he wants to die naturally at home when his time comes. He won't take any medicine or follow any doctor's orders. He can't do much, but he still makes simple meals and gets himself in and out of bed, the bathroom, and his chair. He won't move up here (Ohio) to live with us, nor will he go into an assisted living facility. He has one neighbor who looks in on him, does his grocery shopping, and brings in his mail, with whom we are in contact. We also call Grandpa ourselves several times a week, and my husband will visit him in February, which is when we can afford it.

Also praying from our weekly list.

A quote to share:

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

Thank you for reading, and how was your week?

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