Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas is Worth It

Here's what I'm learning about  Christmas:

It's all worth it.

The choosing of very special gifts for the ones I love.

Even the wrapping of them, which I loathe.

The cookie making and decorating.

The homemade goodies we deliver to the neighbors.

All the cleaning about to be done before the big day and before company arrives.

The money spent, the extra effort put in, the gift of kindness... even if it is never returned or never acknowledged.

Listening to the same songs over and over again, all those old Christmas classics that the kids need to know.

Santa.  Whether we believe in him or not.

All those Elves getting into trouble.  Whether we have one or not.

Jesus.  First and foremost, always.  Whether or not the whole world celebrates Him, we celebrate Him here.

And Hanukkah.  And Kwanzaa.  Even though these are not our holidays, it is okay to offer a wish for those who do to have a Happy Holiday.

Love. Kindness.  Humility.

Those three things I see in the Baby Jesus, meek and mild, lying in a feeding trough when he should be sitting on His throne in heaven.  He cast off his rights.  He denied himself.  He gave the ultimate gift that none of us deserved, that many will never accept or never acknowledge,  He lavished his love upon us that we might become children of God...

This leaves me feeling, knowing, that it is okay to lavish love and joy and kindness on my own children and those around me.

All the extras of this season are worth it.

Costly sometimes.  And I'm not just talking money. I'm talking time.  Forgiveness.  Grace.  Letting go of my plans and my ideas of how things should be.

It really should be a Merry, Merry Christmas and a season of Happy Holidays.

Now, time to clean. Time to cook.  Time to  enjoy the snow softly falling before the rain storm tomorrow.  Time to celebrate.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Face It, Mama

Face it, Mama.

This house is never going to be in a magazine.

It will never really be completely clean.

The toys will always be scattered in front of the wood stove,  And across your bed.  And in all the other spaces you think are yours.

Spills will continue to happen.  On the rugs.  And furniture.

Walls will get dented and dinged.  And colored on.

Dust will settle, but their energy never will.  Unless they get sick.  And then there will be more laundry, more cleaning to do, and less energy for you.

Lights will be left on.  No matter how often you remind them to turn them off.

Showers will be long.  No matter how often you preach to them about the cost of hot water.

Face it, Mama.

There will always be interruptions.

That voice talking to you when you're trying to sleep.  Or write a blog post.  Or go to the bathroom in total privacy.

The mad hunt for lost shoes, uniforms, wallets, and borrowed items.

The sudden projectile vomiting from the back seat on the way to church.

The wet undies from the child who just went potty before you left the house.

The ear infections, broken toes, skin conditions, sore throats, and swollen ears that require a prompt trip to the doctor's office. Despite everything else you had planned for the day.

The knock on your door- or the bursting right in- when you and the husband you love are trying to rekindle a little romance.

The shrieking and screaming that seems to indicate a sudden amputated limb, but really is just the cry of an offended sibling... right after you politely- oh yes, you were polite- asked them to give you just fifteen minutes of peace.  Alone. In your room.

Face it, Mama.

This will never get easier.

First, it was a colicky baby.  A hungry baby who woke at all hours for sustenance.  A snuggly baby who just wanted to be close to mama.  No other arms would do.

Then it was having a biter. Or a hitter.  Or a get-into-everything-er.

Terrible twos.

Potty training.

You survived all that, though you thought you wouldn't.

And then it was separation anxiety.

The child who will sleep nowhere but your own bed.

The chronically sick child.

Food allergies.

Social anxiety.

Over stimulation.

Then, time for school.  The tears, from one or both of you, as they begin this journey away from you each day..  Or the tears, from one or both of you, as you try to teach them at home.

Reading disabilities.


Trying to fit in.

Or to not fit in so much.

And then, puberty.  Hair starts growing in new places.  The "talk".  New smells.  Crazy emotions. Boy meets girl.  Girl meets boy.

Then, getting ready to leave the nest. For good. The stress over financial aid.  And choosing the best schools.  Or choosing college at all. Another cutting of the cord, but this one you feel so keenly.

Face it, Mama.

These children will grow up.  They will, most of the time, leave the nest.

It is hard now.  It will be hard then.

The bestseller can wait.

The ruined furniture doesn't matter.

The things you buy them will be mostly forgotten. The things you can't buy them will be, too.

Your tears will not be in vain.

Everything you gave up for love- your body, your orderly home, your career, your money- will be an investment with returns you may or may not see.

But you will look back and see that it was worth it all.  Anyway.

Face it, Mama.

These children.

They are the only thing you have the chance to take to heaven with you.

You'll get a new body there.  No stretch marks.  No baby weight to lose.

A perfectly prepared home will await you there.

No more tears. No more sadness.  No more sickness.

No more interruptions as you worship together around the Throne.

And the words of your Savior, that you can hardly believe He is saying...

"Well done, Mama, my good and faithful servant.  Enter into your Father's rest."

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Peace is the Sweetest

It's been a month since I updated my last post regarding our baby and my placenta previa.  On one hand, I am so private and feel guilty "talking" about it, but on the other hand, I feel like this is a developing story that needs to be shared... because I am fully expecting that the Lord is going to be faithful beyond anything I can imagine. And I want it to be known.

I am not old, just 36, but "older" and having my fourth child.  While lots of women are having their first child around this age, having a fourth child is what many  might consider crazy. Especially when I have three that are already "healthy" and "normal".  Honestly, I thought we were done, but I'm so glad we're not.  Our baby boy is due March 28th.  All along I have prayed that this pregnancy would bring glory to God. I think that is a great and honorable prayer. Especially because I knew that though I wanted it to glorify God by way of healthy exuberance on my part, vibrancy, energy, glowing skin and hair, and joy abounding... I realized in the inner recesses that this pregnancy just  might glorify the Lord by way of some unwanted circumstances.  And that is what the placement of the placenta over my cervix is.

Last week, I met my new doctor and had another sonogram.  I have a new doctor because the previous one is only a general practitioner who delivers babies, but is unable to do c-sections.  I need the care of a full-fledged OB.  I have to confess that I was never fully at peace with the other doctor or delivering at a different hospital than the one where I had the other three.  I fell in love with my new OB immediately (HUGE for me!) and I have so much more peace knowing that I will deliver at the same hospital I am used to.  I have had three all natural, no drug births. I've never seen the inside of an OR.  I don't like the idea of it, but it is the reality.  There is also an amazing NICU on site in case we need it.

The sonogram I just had at 22 weeks reveals a placenta still fully covering the os ("opening") and both the sonographer and the doctor do not feel confident it will move.  So from this point on we consider this pregnancy high risk.  I will start receiving steroids for the baby's lungs at 28 weeks and the doctor plans to deliver the baby between 36 and 37 weeks to avoid preterm labor or serious drama like hemorrhage... and we pray none of that happens before then.

So that is the update, so far.  I have heard stories of the placenta moving completely as late as 36 weeks, so it is possible, but we want to be prepared if it doesn't.

I suppose all of that information could be bad news. But here is the good news:

I have complete peace. The kind the Bible describes as "surpassing all understanding".  When faced with all the facts and potential scenarios of what could happen as this pregnancy progresses, I could be scared out of my mind.  But I am not.  I have moments of worry and concern.  But then the peace comes.  I know that the Lord is with me and that He has this completely under control. I even had this image of HIS hands delivering our baby, pulling him from the womb.  How did I know it was HIS hands in this dream or vision?  I just knew.  It is the Lord's hands that are going to bring this child into the world.  And we are always safe in his hands.

It is the sweetest, most precious thing to have in a situation like this. Peace.

It's all I really need.

It doesn't mean my little guy won't arrive early and have to be in the NICU. It doesn't mean the placenta will move after all. It doesn't mean I won't go through some things I'd rather not go through. It just means that no matter what, He is there and He is in this.

We hear a lot about peace on Earth this time of year.  And I think we'd all agree that there is no global peace on Earth. There isn't even peace in our own nation these days.  But peace with God through his Son Jesus Christ and the peace that surpasses understanding when everything around is uncertain... that is here on Earth, in our hearts as we trust in Him.

We still very much covet your prayers for me and for our baby.  I confess I have no idea how prayer works but I know it changes things and it is especially changes us.  When I pray, I see God working more than when I don't. And I don't think it's because he's not at work if I don't pray, I think it just makes me more mindful of all he IS doing when I do pray.

May God bless YOU with peace, too.  Stay tuned for the rest of the story.

 "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7

Friday, October 31, 2014

Good News Deserves... Prayer!

I have joyful news to report!

We found out on Monday that we are having a baby boy, hopefully in March.  March 28th is my official due date, but I say "hopefully" because...

Baby looks great and is growing just as he should.  We did discover, via ultrasound, that I have complete placenta previa.  This is when the placenta is fully covering the cervix, making it impossible for the baby to be delivered naturally.  I wasn't surprised by this information at all, because I have had bleeding nearly every week of this pregnancy.  Thankfully it has been over three weeks since I've had bleeding, though.  I suspected, after some research, that something might be up with the placenta, as this was a very unusual thing for me to experience. Granted, it's been a while since I had a baby, and I am older, but it still was unusual. In some ways, it was comforting to have a reason for why this was happening.

However, after doing a little more research, I discovered that placenta previa can mean far more than just a c-section.  It can mean a host of dangerous things happening suddenly, like bleeding, even hemorrhage.  Which can lead to early birth via emergency c-section.  There are also even more serious things that can happen, like the placenta attaching itself to the uterus, requiring a hysterectomy in order to control bleeding.

But enough of the scary stuff.  The good news is this isn't the end of the story and there is the possibility that my placenta will migrate north as the baby grows.  He might pull it along with him.  We are asking all our friends and family to pray that this will happen.

I confess, it is really scary to think of what could happen.  But I'm so thankful for the peace that surpasses understanding.  I know that our baby, and I, am safe in the hands of the Lord.  We tend to think that in certain situations we are "safer" than in others.  We are "safe" if our test results come back normal.  We are "safe" if we are wearing our seat belt.  We are "safe" if all our ducks are in a row.

In truth, the Lord is showing me that I am always completely safe with Him in control.  And there is never, ever a moment when He is not.

Recently on Facebook I saw the status of someone I do not know.  You know how that is- you see all these posts from friends of friends, mostly things you don't want to. But this one said something like this: You always wonder how you will respond when such and such a thing happens- cancer, death, other difficult circumstances. You wonder if you will trust in the Lord, as you know you should.  And then the trial comes, the test not much different than what Abraham went through when asked to sacrifice Isaac.  And the Lord carries you. He is your constant presence reminding you that He is still the same loving God who is in control.  And you trust, maybe not perfectly, but His faithfulness provides your faith.

I am thankful that, though I don't like what is and what could be, I can dwell on the truth. His Spirit is with me and ministering truth to me.

Josh and I went out to celebrate after our sonogram. We bought a few things for our baby boy- some long sleeve onesies and a little sleeper with deer on it, a pair of jeans.  We pulled out baby's pictures to admire him.  The mere thought that anything could endanger his health and well-being just strengthens my love for him.  This child I have only seen through ultrasound.  It again just reminds me of how much deeper God's love is for me and how much he cares for our children, too.  This love that we have for our children is just a mere reflection of God's love for us.  And if I feel so fiercely protective of this child, wow... how much more is my Father in Heaven protective of his children.

It doesn't mean things will follow my plan, but it does mean I can fully trust the Lord with my life and my child's.

So we ask you to pray for the very best situation in the coming months.

And we rejoice that  God has seen fit to give us another son!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

What Takes Faith?

Long ago, I remember just when, I was reading this little book and one line stood out to me. It has stayed with me all these ten years.  It was right on the cusp of our burgeoning home Bible study turning into a full-fledged church.

It was this line, this question:

What in my life takes faith?

Oh, and it stopped me in my tracks. Because, you see, I like all my ducks in a row. I like all my t's crossed and my i's dotted.  I like money in the bank, assurance of a positive outcome, and very little room for error.  I still like these things, but I have asked myself this question over and over again the past ten years.

What in my life takes faith?

If I am working so hard to make sure everything is just right, what am I leaving up to God?  And what am I missing  out on?

Leaving our home church to start a church, that took faith.

No regrets, though.

Staying there through several job losses when we had the chance to go, that took faith.

Finally leaving home and mother and father and church and the best people in the world, that took faith.

Still does.

Homeschooling these children.

When the economy is bad and getting worse, and what makes financial sense is to go to work and put these kiddos in school so we can put them through college and put braces on their teeth.

When my fourth grader still doesn't read at grade level and the girls' bickering drives me mad and the loneliness mounts up and up and up.

By faith, I still choose to homeschool.

Praying for a year for a baby and believing that despite that last miscarriage 3 years ago that wrecked my hormones, that despite my age (a geriatric 36) and my husband's (a youthful 39), that even though it may seem absolutely crazy, God has promised it. And we step out on faith.

And baby is here, within.

When my only friend says she is moving away, not losing heart takes faith.

Stepping out, deciding I am the one God is calling to start a homeschool co-op in my town.  Seeing my mediocrity as a mom every day through my own eyes and these crazy kids and my own inability to do even one successful thing on my own... and yet following through, in faith.  In perfect peace. Despite minimal interest, I proceed.

There are many people who have made greater steps and sacrifices of faith than me.  But I am so thankful they are not my measuring rod.  The Lord God says that without faith, it is impossible to please Him.  And he knows my frame, He knows I am but dust, and He sees these baby steps as giant leaps, and He is pleased.

I've been considering how often I let fear stand in the way of even small steps of faith.  I recently posted a picture of me with my baby bump on Facebook, finally announcing our pregnancy to the outside world.  I hemmed and hawed and stressed and fretted that I should A. post the picture and B. announce the pregnancy, even after hearing the baby's heartbeat for the second time.  All these thoughts went through my mind.  I could still lose this baby.  Is it really safe to tell?  Is it okay to post this picture?  Will people think I'm showing off?  Will my bare arms offend someone?

I tend to be a very private person. Except perhaps here, I am more transparent. After all, I have a readership of about two (hi Moms!).  I rarely post my writing on Facebook.  And it's often fueled by fear. Fear of offending, fear of being transparent.  So posting that picture and that announcement was just a huge step of ... faith.  Checking  my heart. Why am I posting this?

Because I am overwhelmed with joy!  And the fear is always trying to steal my joy and this one time I just want to banish it and be brave and tell everyone, no matter what they think, that we have cause for joy.

And that is what I see when I look at that picture.

The faith God has given me. The joy He has put in my heart.  This journey He has us on, to walk by faith and not by sight.

To give Him room to do incredible things, even if it means scattering all our ducks.

So right now, when I look at my life, and ask What takes faith?, there is much.  And I can't wait to see what the Lord does with my little mustard seeds.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Waiting

Tom Petty sang it well.  The waiting is the hardest part.

How often I hear one of my kiddos lament that they just can't wait til tomorrow for their friend to come over. Or they just can't wait  x number of weeks to earn enough money to buy what they want.

And I'm thinking in my head, Get used to it kiddos.  The waiting is part of this worldly life.  Yes, one of the hardest parts.

I shouldn't quote a rock n roller without quoting words more infinitely true and inspired, the words of God written through his prophet Habbakuk.

"Though the fig tree does not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food,  the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet will I take joy in the Lord. I will rejoice in the God of my salvation." vs 3: 17, 18

This is where I'm at.  Still and again.  Waiting. Waiting on God, who is faithful and true, who keeps all his promises, who never leads me astray. But who does not act in the timing that I think He should act.  Almost never.

I remember waiting, with hope, on this amazing man who is now my husband.  I confess, I didn't have to wait quite as long as I thought I would to become his bride.  From a three week courtship to a three month engagement- that's a pretty quick trip to the altar.  But I remember how even that felt like an eternity.

I remember waiting to sell our former home, hoping every day to receive a call from the realtor that someone wanted to view it.  We got three calls. Third time was the charm. Just 77 days to sell it in a very depressed market, yet every day seemed like forever.

One day, I hope to look back on what is presently almost three years of waiting.  It may be, and probably will be, longer.  But I hope to look back on these three years of waiting for something.  Anything.  That next move, that next step, that act of God that finally makes these dry, desert, lonely years blossom into the fruitful and abundant, the gushing springs.

At this point, there is very little blossom, very little fruit.  Our endeavors seem to wither and fail.   It can be so easy to dwell on the empty places.

And yet.  In the waiting, the joy of the Lord can be our ready strength.  And if we yield to that, there is abundance after all.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Two "Oldies" to Try

I am decidedly behind the times.

I am rarely current on movies or books and pay little attention to what's new in music aside from the occasional scan through the radio stations.  Really, I have mediocre interest, and even less time for staying up-to-date on things.

But often, some of the best things out there find their way to me.

Books like The Kite Runner by Khaled Housseini.

I found a copy of this book at an annual library book sale on the Fourth of July, along with a few other gems (A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Book Thief).

The Kite Runner is easily one of my favorite books now, perhaps even vying for first place with To Kill a Mockingbird.  It is beautiful, redemptive, and perhaps, strangely, a book that drew me closer to God, though the god of this book was Allah.   While reading the recent history of Afghanistan, and seeing life through an average Afghans, my eyes were opened to the deep love my Father God has for these people.  To their suffering.  To their very humanness which is so like my own.  These Muslim people are not worthy of my fear or my scorn, but my compassion and the same love Jehovah-God feels for them.

Another book found it's way to me.

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.

Many a time I've thought of trying it out, but haven't.  I recently found a copy at Goodwill and began reading it on a rainy day this week.

These tears well up in my eyes, but don't fall, as I read it.  Because I can relate to it so well.  The void between being saved from my sins but living a full and abundant life of joy in the midst of the daily.  Just as she began a list of gifts,  I began one. A list of gifts God gives me in the everyday.  Because this is what God has given me and I want to call it good.

More than likely I will not stay current on movies, unless it's the latest in the Marvel Avenger's series. Josh looks forward to those and they are about the only films we'll go to the theater to see.  And even though I am a music buff, the new stuff can be so full of ick that we stick to Christian radio for the most part.

So you'll never find me reviewing what's Cool and New, but maybe give these few oldies a shot.

Monday, June 2, 2014


Sometimes you're not invited.  Sometimes nobody talks to you.  Sometimes you feel just plain left out.

And it's not intentional.  Most of the time, people really don't mean to do it.

And truthfully, you don't mean to do it either, but you sometimes do.

It's not on purpose.

Life is busy. Kids are crazy.  Work is stressful.  The house is messy.

You've barely got time to think about what's for dinner.  Me, I've got a child turning nine at the end of the week and I've barely had time to think about a party and I just bought her a present.  I would never, ever intentionally forget her big day.  I would never put it off on purpose.

That doesn't mean it hasn't happened.

Sometimes I'm not invited to something, or my kids are not.  Sometimes I feel completely alone in a crowd. Sometimes I feel just plain left out, and so do my kids.

And when I think about it rationally, when I let the Holy Spirit minister to me in the sadness of it, I give the benefit of the doubt, I think the best of people, and realize it was not intentional.

And the Lord teaches me through it.

To be one who is Intentional.

About seeking out the lonely.

About finding a face to smile into.

About starting a conversation.

About inviting not just friends but those who could be friends.

About noticing people and loving people.

I will do many things that were unintentional and not on purpose.

But I hope to do even more things that are.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

It's not every morning you wake up feeling blessed.

So when you do, you take it and savor it.

I feel blessed this morning.

(Side-note: Please excuse any use of the f-word (feelings), k?  It has it's place. Don't over analyze.)

Yesterday we celebrated my firstborn's 11th birthday.  The further we get into these double digits, the weirder it seems.  It's only up from here.  He'll be in the double digits for the rest of his life.  Those single digit years, you only get nine of them.  I wish I had savored them more, but I am excited, yes, excited, to savor the upcoming teen years. I'd probably choose to skip the awkward preteen years, but I've never heard of that happening.  So I'll try to savor those too.

Yesterday, I got to see some of the ladies I love most in the world.  My Lincoln girls.  I miss what we had there so much, but the Lord is so faithful to remind me: you'll be friends forever.   We have bonds that will never be broken, built on history together and the love of Christ.

And then I'm reminded that God is building new bonds in our new place.  History takes time.  The Lord subtracted nothing from our lives when He moved us.  He only planned to add to our lives.

The sun is shining bright when the weatherman predicted rain for days on end.

I'm listening to this new song by Casting Crowns and praying the Lord will make it true of my life:

To know Him and make Him known.

To live more than an ordinary life 

To do more than just survive

To thrive...

Knowing that the key is knowing Him and making Him known.  There is nothing ordinary about that. Walking with Jesus is the best thing going.  Joy unspeakable.

No wonder I'm feeling blessed this morning.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Seasons Change

Yesterday was this gorgeously sunny, yet slightly cool day. Not a cloud in the sky.

The oldest two got on their bikes and Josh and I got on our running shoes. We strapped Petite into the jogging stroller and we were off.  We ran/biked/strolled almost four miles.  Together. As a family.  Four out of five of us were sweaty.

This was the second time in just a few days.

And about the first two times in all these years of parenting that we were doing something like this.  All of us, exercising together.

It made me think of all the things we haven't been able to do with young children.  And I do mean the things *we*  haven't been able to do.  Just like yours, our family is very unique.  There are things yours can do happily that we cannot and vice versa.  In fact, our family motto is "Just because it's supposed to be fun, doesn't mean it is".  Things like parades.  Not fun for us.  Gardening. Not fun for us.  You may have had the littles out running with you when they were toddlers. You may have teenagers that still won't run with you.

Hey, you may not run. It's cool.

For us, this was nice.  A new season has come upon us.

We can leave the kiddos for short periods of time, alone.  I'm talking just running to the store around the corner, no more than thirty minutes, but wow is it nice!  No longer dragging all three kids into the store to get a gallon of milk and loaf of bread is- dare I say it?- priceless.

Having two out of three be able to secure themselves with seat belts- very nice.

Conversations are gradually getting deeper.

Tantrums are waning.

We can drive to Florida and back without potty stops every hour; without wailing children in the back seat.

Directions can be read and followed without the help of mom... sometimes.

I remember when Mister was still a baby. I thought he'd never learn to feed himself without making a mess.  And then the day came and went when he could.  And there was something else I was waiting for him to do on his own.

Brown-Eyed Girl has been slow to become an independent reader. But now she's reading on her own, improving by leaps and bounds every week.  She wasn't like her older brother in this, but she got there.

Everything really is a season.  Those things that are miserable to do right now because the kids aren't ready... they will probably get easier.  And if they don't, if they never enjoy parades, it just means you get to fill that time with something that is better and more fun for your family.

I know I should be saying to appreciate the season you're in, the diapers, or hormonal teenagers, or what have you. But you already know that.  I just mean to say that things change. Before you know it your kids are speeding past you on their bikes, no more training wheels.  And when you hug them you realize they need to start wearing deodorant.

And so begins another season.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Conventional Wisdom 2014

I'm very thankful that nearly every year I get to go to a homeschool convention. In fact, the only year I didn't attend was when my youngest was still a nursing baby.  As welcome as nursing infants are at most anything homeschool, it didn't sound like a fun and refreshing time for me to tote around my seven-month-old.  For the past three years, I've been to conventions outside my home state, mostly because they are larger and nearly the same cost.  A wider variety of speakers and vendors are offered. I consider these getaways an essential part of my journey as a home educating mama.

Over the years, I'm less concerned with how-tos and finding the next great curriculum that's going to revolutionize my homeschool.  I'm in my seventh year of teaching, my children have never been in any other kind of school, and though I often feel like I'm hitting a wall, I've learned that it's usually not long before we find our way around it or over it or maybe we even knock it down. So I find myself going to more of the workshops that promise encouragement.  Workshops with titles like "Lightening the Load" and "Calm My Anxious Heart".  One fabulous workshop I attended last year was on keeping your own love of learning alive.

I'm encouraged just by being in the presence of so many other homeschooling families.  I marvel, truly, that so many of them bring their whole family!  Babies through teens, dad too.  I think it's wonderful, but I personally enjoy making this once-a-year getaway a girls' getaway.  (Josh and I will celebrate our anniversary with a getaway shortly and the kiddos will get away to Camp Nana.)  I've always enjoyed the diversity at these conventions, particularly these larger ones in big New England cities like Hartford and Worcester.  There are prayer caps, saris, veils, yarmulkes.  There are long skirts, a few short skirts, plenty of jeans. Tons of other moms are wearing those fabulous knee high boots that I can't even zip up.  In this group of people, I feel I am perhaps one of the more liberal attendees.  I don't want to be convinced to join a family integrated church, to shun all sports and clubs, or to throw away my son's Captain Underpants books.  I don't want to amp up my arsenal of creation vs. evolution arguments.  I don't want to hear anything political, even as regards parental rights or homeschooling laws. I simply wish to go and be reminded that I have made the right decision to homeschool my children.  To have someone tell me that all the little things I worry about (doing enough, balancing it all, teaching another child to read) will be just fine.

And I love to eat food I didn't have to cook.  To waste time in the vendor hall.  To be given a chance to miss my children.

So, I'll share my short list of the most profound things I "learned" at this year's convention:

Number One: Ditch the books after Easter.  This advice came from Carlita Boyles, creator of Math on the Level.  She is a veteran public school teacher and homeschool mom.  As a public school teacher, she said nothing was retained after Easter break. So as homeschool parents, she encouraged us to fill those days with less book work and more hands on, fun learning, even if it meant finishing our days on weekends or summer field trips.  Truth is, I probably won't ever ditch the books after Easter, but it is incredibly freeing to be reminded that I can. And that our days get to be whatever I think they should be.  And that great learning is taking place outside the books.

Number Two: Chore basket.  I am an absolutely horrible maintainer of the chore chart.  Chore charts make too much work for me.  I don't follow through with enforcing them or paying for chores. Obviously, I want my children contributing to the household chores.  And I realized I may be provoking them to wrath by not paying them their allowance consistently (even if they are not doing their chores consistently). So, I came home with a new plan to try, this idea also from Carlita Boyles.  I stapled two paper plates together to form a container, leaving the top unstapled to make enough room to stick a hand inside and grab a chore card (I already have these from the unused chore chart).  I made another container for pay tickets.  Each ticket has an amount on it, mostly 25 cents, some a little less, a few 50 cent tickets, and two $1 tickets.  First they choose a chore ticket, complete it, and get their work checked. Then they draw a pay ticket and immediately get paid.  So far, the kids have not even been asked to do a chore, but the entry has been cleaned and swept, a bathroom cleaned, family and play room picked up, wood box filled, and living room swept, and I've paid out about $2 (Mister got lucky and drew a $1 ticket the first time).  They love getting paid immediately. There have been no complaints even for a 15 cent pay ticket.  While it's too soon to tell if this will be a long lasting plan of attack, for now, my house feels so much tidier, the kids are proud of their work, and pleased with their pay.

Number Three: Don't go upstairs if you don't have to.  This was another incredibly freeing lesson to learn, this time from Denise Eide, a speaker I had never heard before, and also creator of a curriculum I had never heard of before called Logic of  English.  She was confessing many of the things she is anxious about, even little things like the cracked linoleum in her entry way.  She also confessed that she has a large, older home with four bedrooms upstairs and the master bedroom downstairs... and that she almost never goes upstairs in her house. Because she homeschools, runs a home, a curriculum business, and is a conference speaker.  And when she goes upstairs and sees the mess, it stresses her out.  And she just doesn't need the added stress, so she rarely goes up there.  This resonated with me so much, especially because I very recently thought that I just needed to not go into the "kids wing" of the house or even the family room, which is upstairs as well, because the state of disorder makes me, seriously, spazzy.  If I just go up the stairs, hang a quick right into my bedroom, and ignore the rest, life is more peaceful. If my downstairs is fairly tidy, I am happy.  Hearing another mom echo my own thoughts made me feel better about this.

Number Four: Fancy curriculum isn't necessary.  I am an absolute curriculum junkie. In fact, once I heard Denise Eide and then checked out this never-before-seen curriculum, I wanted it.  Because it looks so cool and fun and shiny and new. But, I heard this little voice many, many times at the convention:  I don't always need a new curriculum. In fact, many things I teach can be taught without a curriculum.  I'm quite happy with much of what I'm using. Rod and Staff English isn't fancy, it's Mennonite after all, but it's a great fit for both of my older children.  I teach spelling with a used copy of Spelling Power and Phonics Pathways.  I teach writing from my own knowledge of the subject.  We'll watch Sister Wendy for free on youtube for extra art history.  I'll get most of our read alouds from Goodwill.  Penmanship is integrated, not it's own subject.  I want to use every curriculum under the sun, from this new Logic of English, to IEW, to History Revealed, to every Sonlight core.  But we're good with what we've got.

That's this year's convention in a nutshell, from my perspective. As always, a great and necessary time away.

 And now, back to  year seven of homeschooling.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Justina, Health, Love, Freedom

I'm the kind of  person who tries hard to see both sides of an issue.  I also recognize that some issues have many sides.  So with the latest news about Justina Pelletier (permanent custody being given to the state of Massachusetts), I want hard to believe that there is a side to this story I don't know. That the judge and child protective service folks are really acting in the best interest of this 15-year-old girl.  I don't want to jump on the Parental Rights, conservative Christian bandwagon just because they are involved in this case (though I certainly qualify as a parental rights advocate and conservative (to the liberal world) Christian).

It's very difficult to find any information about the case apart from the outrage that is all over the Internet. I do think this counts for something, but in the Boston Globe report on the latest ruling, they cite the judge on several reasons for his ruling.  One is that Pelletier's father was abusive to state officials, using expletives in the presence of his daughter.  Another is that he was unwilling to work with residential homes that Justina may have been sent to, even threatening to sue them.  The family seemed unwilling to compromise with authorities. They wanted sole, full custody returned to them or nothing else.  The parents are also accused of medical abuse and being unfit to care for their daughter.

Again, I'm trying to see the side of the state in this case, but regardless of their reasons for not giving a daughter back to her family, I feel they are not based on what is best for the child.

More and more I believe we live in a country that is so flip-flopped, so off course when it comes to using a moral compass.  It seems you can perform any number of abuses on your unborn child and get away with it, but once that child enters the world, you have less and less control over how you raise it.  Ridiculous things have been called child abuse, like not giving flu shots, spanks on the butt, and feeding your child a certain diet.  Authority over a child more and more seems to be in the hands of "experts"- doctors, child welfare officials, teachers, and other school employees.  You may do whatever you want to that child in utero, but once it is born, you begin to lose the ability to raise that child as you see fit.

Personally, if one of my children had been taken away from me for over a year, I would begin to lose my patience as well.  I would seek any means necessary to get my child back. No doubt I would be angry, frustrated, and use words I would not normally use.  I would be broken, hopeless, not myself.  The love of a parent is often irrational and emotional, and makes us act imperfectly.  As I have often heard, to truly love someone, you must hate everything that wants to harm them.  And hate makes us do things we would not otherwise do.

I find it interesting that the parents are charged with medical child abuse.  They made a regular trek to Boston from Hartford to have their daughter treated for what they call mitochondrial disease.  Her treatments were successful.  Upon visiting a different hospital, Justina was deemed to have a psychiatric disorder instead and has been deteriorating ever since.  She has been living in a psychiatric ward for over a year.  No friends, no family. School?  Who knows.  To me, this is child abuse.  Children shouldn't live in hospitals, particularly psychiatric hospitals.  Children should live in homes, with loving caregivers.  Surrounded by the familiar, the comforting.  Letting a 14 year old girl live in a hospital this long?  That is child abuse.

It gets me thinking of the longer and longer arm that modern health care has in our lives.  We are now legally required to purchase health care (or pay a penalty).  This traditional health care rarely covers "nontraditional"  services like visits to a naturopath or homeopathic doctor.  It doesn't cover supplements, it doesn't promote dietary changes in order to heal and achieve better health.  It makes an assertion that medical doctor's know best when it comes to our health.  It backs up Big Pharm and forces US citizens to buy into this medical machine.  I'm  not arguing the place of modern medicine in our lives, but another removal of personal choice- how we choose to care for our bodies in sickness and in health.

It begins to reach its arm into how we care for our children and their health.

It begins to assert that it knows more than we do, cares more than we do as parents.

This arm is not so much healthcare as it is, of course, our government.

Which has removed a child from her parents for what I consider dubious reasons.

Were the Pelletier's not following the USDA food pyramid in Justina's diet?

Were they using supplements instead of chemicals produced in pharmaceutical labs to treat her?

Are they overtly religious? More specifically, are they conservative Christians (what is now a derogatory term)?

Are these some of the real reasons for losing their daughter?

I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but I find this all highly suspicious.  And heartbreakingly sad.  The one who is losing in this case is Justina, the one the state is trying to "protect".

I hope this girl knows how much her mommy and daddy love her.  How hard they are fighting for her.

Like mama bears when their babies are threatened, I hope they don't back down.

Love is blind, it's true.  The love of a parent is not rational, it's raw. It's relentless.  Love rarely acts on fact. It is preternatural.  Love cannot, in many ways, be defined by one set of behaviors or feelings.  It is unpredictable.

I welcome your (respectful) feedback on this case.  Show me a side I don't see.  Tell me something I don't know.  But please, even if we disagree, pray for this family.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Stuff I Love - Natural Edition

I'm a junkie, in case you didn't know.  Okay, maybe not as bad as some people, but I am a supplement/natural remedy/natural product junkie.  I finally put a name on it when I received my last shipment from Vitacost.  Josh laughed.

When other people go to the doctor, I go to the Internet.  I go on a search for something, anything that will keep us from going to the doctor's office. Not because we don't have insurance. We do. And it's really good insurance.  But I guess I just have a lot of faith in natural medecine and, well, less faith in modern medecine. Unless I suspect we need antibiotics, we don't go for any reason but regular check ups.  Granted, we've been really healthy.  But maybe it's all those supplements and natural remedies (?).

I'm not bashing the doctor's office. It's just not my preferred method of getting better.

There are some stellar, amazing products out there that I just love and this post is all about them- some Stuff I Love, Naturally.

First and foremost, my favorite toothpaste in the world:

Desert Essence Tea  Tree Oil toothpaste is amazing and when purchased from one of my favorite online retailers, it costs about as much as a fancy tube of whitening Crest but is far better for your teeth and gums and overall oral health.  Even my hygienist noticed a remarkable difference when I started using it, and that was before I had my braces and my teeth were harder to care for due to crowding.  My oral health is so much better since chucking the big name stuff.  Popular toothpastes are full of bad, bad stuff that dries your mouth out and creates an even worse environment.  Bacteria breed happily and profusely in dry mouths.

Another product I love, also by Desert Essence, is their Tea Tree Balm, sold in a little 1 oz pot.  I've had this pot for quite a while. A little dab will do ya with this amazing balm.  I put it on cuts and scrapes, bug bites, itches, almost anything skin related. It is a potent and natural alternative to typical antibacterial lotions. You can even put a tiny bit on facial blemishes.  This stuff is worth so much more than it sells for, in my opinion.

Everything I have tried by Desert Essence I love (except their dental tape- a bit too thick to be comfy for most people's mouths). Their lotions are paraben and SLS free and rich and creamy. They cost less than the lotion from Bath and Body Works and is far more natural and safer to slather on.   I also love their mouthwash- it's not sweet or harsh on the mouth.

With all this talk of tea tree oil products, I should mention that a bottle of tea tree oil itself is a must have. It's inexpensive and you can mix up your own toothpaste, mouthwash, and balms with it.  You can dab a little on a cotton swab or ball and apply it to bug bites. I even swab some directly on my gums once a week or so and then rinse with water or mouthwash.  It is a fantastic, all  purpose, healthy oil to have on hand.

I've never had any luck losing weight by drinking shakes, but since I'm not a breakfast eater, a good healthy shake is a great way to get some food into me when I'd rather not eat.  The best shake I've found at the most reasonable cost is Alive Pea Protein shakes, sold in both vanilla and chocolate. I love that they are soy-free and relatively low in sugar. Plus they are loaded with vitamins,minerals, and other great things like a veggie blend, orchard blend, and green blend.  Best of all, it leaves me satisfied for a long time.  I know Shakeology is all the rage now and I've heard great things about it. I just can't justify the cost when the Alive shake is such a great product at a third of the cost.  Also, I try to avoid soy, which is Shakeology's main protein component. Not knocking it, but the Alive shake is my preference.

One of the recent things I've grown to love is powdered peanut butter! I had heard of it, but couldn't imagine why you'd use it. I assumed it had as much fat and calories as regular peanut butter. Boy was I wrong!  Two tablespoons of powdered peanut butter has only 45 calories and 1.5 grams of fat... but tastes just like two big scoops of peanut butter in my morning shake. My local Walmart is now carrying it right alongside regular peanut butter, at about $4.50 a jar for 15 servings. Not too shabby and what a great way to save substantial fat and calories (though I have very few bad things to say about fat.)

I've long hated using commercially made deodorants due to the aluminum, among other nasty ingredients.  But frankly, none of the natural, aluminum free deodorants I've purchased have worked. At all.  They just make me feel wet and stinky.  The closest I've come to making my own deodorant is putting some rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball and swabbing my underarms. This does work pretty well because it kills bacteria, but I find I need a little more protection as the day progresses.  In my search for something that could work, and be better for me, I heard about Nature de France deodorants. The reviews were the best I've ever seen for aluminum free deodorant so I decided to give it a shot.  I have to say, this is a fantastic natural deodorant. I still swab with alcohol first, then apply it.  No, it is still not quite as good as popular brands, but it is far better than anything else I've tried.  And even if I start feeling a little wet under the arms, I don't get stinky.

The last product I'll share may be a little controversial, as it involves hormones, but it's been a miracle for me.  I had a miscarriage several years ago at about 12 weeks gestation and it left my hormones totally out of control. Night sweats and hot flashes were the main symptoms.  I waited a while, assuming they would go away, but they didn't.  I did talk to my nurse/midwife about it and I asked if going on the Pill would help. I  was very leery to do this, but desperate to regain balance.  In the end, I took it for a month, then never again.  I did lots of research on what particular hormone imbalance I had and got lots of different answers.  So, perhaps this is bad, but I began some trial and error "research". I began with a progesterone cream, which is often touted as the "cure-all", but it didn't help me at all.  Then I stumbled upon Life-Flo Estriol-Care cream.  It got fairly high reviews and the information about the type of natural estrogen it employs deemed it very safe.  Again, I was desperate, so I ordered it.

And all I can say is, my night sweats are gone completely.  It worked instantly.  I still have a few hot flashes now and then, but typically only when I haven't used the cream.  I do not in any way want to diagnose someone else's problem, and I want to say, for the record, that I'm having a full physical and blood panel done soon, but this product has been amazing for me.  And I think it is little known.  However, I do find it interesting that I've seen it popping up more and more in recent information I've been reading on hormones. I'm extremely thankful for this product and it's is worth every penny!

So there you have it, a few of the things I LOVE!  All of these are available from Vitacost at great prices and some on Amazon too.  And I don't receive a penny for saying that.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Debate

I didn't watch the debate last night between Ken Ham (The Answers Man) and Bill Nye (The Science Guy). If you don't know what I'm talking about, it was a creation vs. evolution debate. Okay, I caught the last minute because in my search for some information via Google, I clinked on a link from the Answers in Genesis site and it rerouted me to the debate. Anyway, that's all I saw. The last minute, Bill Nye giving his closing statement.

Only a few of my facebook friends seemed to be watching, or making commentary on it anyway. None of my non-Christian friends made comments so I assume none of them were watching.  So here's what I think: we need to be careful how we come across when we talk about this debate. Because I fear this creation vs. evolution issue is one that hinders people from entering the kingdom of God- and not in the way you might think.

To be a born again Christian, you do not have to be a creationist.  You do not have to be young Earth.  You don't have to take Genesis literally.  In fact, all you must do is be born again. Believe that Jesus Christ died for your sins, repent of your sins, and make Him Lord of your life.

That is the gospel. That is salvation.  Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

After that, the Lord will deal with you as He wills, and your primary calling in life is to listen to Him.  If he wants to change you from an evolutionist, He will and He is more than able.

But first things first. You must be born again.

I feel, sometimes, that these debates put the cart before the horse. As a person who always took the creation of the world in six literal days by faith, sure, I have an easy time believing it's true.  And since then, I've learned a lot about science that, in my opinion, proves it is true.  It's fascinating how it all makes sense scientifically.  And yet, it takes faith. To believe in a Creator God, in Intelligent  Design, there will always have to be an element of faith.  Not blind faith, but faith none-the-less.

My fear is that our assurance of these things, either by faith, fact or a mixture of the two, leads us to arrogance.  Arrogance that we have all the answers and these evolutionists are idiots who refuse to believe.  We hear the same debate and are blown away that anyone could side with Bill Nye. In our opinion, he lost.  He failed. He's an idiot.  And we send that message all over social media and do you know what it does to lead anyone to Christ through the blood of the Lamb?

Nothing.  In fact, it seems to have the opposite effect. We are not wooing people with clever arguments and our assurance of truth... we are preventing them from entering the kingdom by our lack of love.  By our arrogance. By our failure to recognize that this all takes an element of faith, regardless of all the fact, and that the only way to faith is through Jesus Christ.  And the people we're trying to win with these creation vs. evolution arguments most likely do not have faith in Jesus Christ.  And we're sneering at them. Jeering at them.

I'd rather say, You know what, you don't have to believe in this to become a Christian. You can be an evolutionist and be a Christian.  Don't let this keep you out of the kingdom of God.

In closing, let me say this:

I owe a debt of gratitude to Ken Ham.  My science-smitten, engineer husband was an evolutionist in college.  He was persuaded to go to an Answers in Genesis conference on campus and what he heard astounded him and when he left and when he researched it, the science of creationism made sense to him. And that did lead him to the Creator, to a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.  He is personally passionate and extremely knowledgeable about Intelligent Design, having read scholarly works far more complicated than Ken Ham has ever written.  Because of this, I see a place for ministries like Ken Ham's. Because people do have questions and it's good to have intelligent answers.  The Lord can use these questions to draw people to Himself.

My concern is that our lack of love, grace, and compassion for those who lack faith is keeping them from the more important matter- their relationship with Christ. I realize it may take more faith to believe in evolution than creation for some of us, but there is a world out there dying without Christ.... I'm sorry, I think the issue is irrelevant when it comes to that. Let it be a path to Christ, but not the door.

"Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;  But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot."
1 Peter 1: 18,19

Friday, January 3, 2014

How to Have a Really Great Year

Yesterday I read the final pages of the Bible. The last chapter of Revelation.  And because I read the One Year Bible, I also read the final chapters of Malachi in the Old Testament, the final Psalm, and the last words of the Proverbs.  Even though the Bible itself was arranged by man, it's not surprising that the last words I read for the year were filled with hope, challenge, excitement.

I've long held the opinion that all great movies end with a wedding.  It's not a flawless measure, but it often holds true.  It's the same for all great love stories.  There is a commitment to love and cherish forever.  That is how the Bible ends, in the final chapters of Revelation. A marriage supper is prepared and the Lord Jesus, the groom, brings his Bride, the Church (the saints), to live with him in glory forever.

Yes, it's a fabulous way to end a year.

I shared via facebook yesterday that I was retiring my One Year Bible, the one I have used for the past three years.  It's literally falling apart and covered in various highlighters and pen marks.  I have a new One Year Bible to begin this year with and it is the third one I will use.  A new book is always exciting, so fresh and clean, but a new Bible to curl up with each morning, one that I'm free to mark up and use up, is the most exciting.   This book is alive. Every day it waits for me, to speak to me, to do it's supernatural work in me. I'm really beyond words to explain how this works. The Word of God is, simply, alive.

Several friends asked me why I like the One Year Bible reading plan.  It's not a magical plan, it's no better than any other Bible reading plan, but it is, in fact, a plan. And I think we all need a plan, a discipline when it comes to reading God's Word.  There are countless ways to read the Bible.  You need one.  For me, the One Year Bible is easy, with no guesswork, and it works.  Like I said, I love to mark up my Bible.  So an electronic version just wouldn't be the same for me. But there are tons of electronic Bible reading plans available if this suits you. Get one.  There are various hard copy Bibles that will take you through the entire book in one year or two years, chronologically or otherwise.  There are printable reading plans you can stick in your Bible and follow daily.  You can start in Genesis and just keep reading every day.  Or in Matthew. What I'm trying to say is, there is no right or wrong plan.

You just need to have one.


It's the way to have a  really great 2014.

It's been said if your Bible is falling apart, your life isn't.  I see the truth in this, but the truth is also that sometimes your life feels like it's falling apart. Or it's just not going the way you had hoped.  I'll be the first to confess that 2013 didn't feel like the best year ever. Those people that say their day goes better when they read their Bible make me want to scream. Because often, nothing in my day goes the way I want it to. Reading God's Word, meditating on it, immersing myself in it, doesn't make my day better. It is slowly, painfully, and even joyfully making me better.

What do I mean by better?  It's making me into the woman Christ wants me to be.  Hard days, pain, everything falling apart and all.

My hope for 2014 is that it will "feel" better. That things will start going the way I want them to.  I wrote in my journal this morning that I want to look back and say that 2014 was the best year ever.  And I asked myself, what would make this the best year ever?  My answer:

More of Jesus in my life, in my husband's life, in my children's lives, in my friends' lives.

Spending time with Him every day is the key to this being the best year ever.

The new year began with Psalm 1 and verses from Proverbs 1. Again, a man-made compilation of Scripture in the One Year Bible, but perfect words to begin the new year.

Psalm 1: 1-2
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, 
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.

I don't have a goal for how much of God's Word to read this year.  Just to read it every day.  And to meditate on it. Let it steep.  Chew on it.  Let it feed me and fuel me and help me to flourish, not wither.

It's not about consuming mass quantities. As God's Word says of itself in Isaiah 28:10

For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
Line upon line,
Here a little, there a little.

Just the other morning I came downstairs and noticed how nice it was to have an empty sink and the pots and pans in the drying rack on the counter.  I had washed them the night before, something I never used to do.  I hate washing dishes.  Thankfully, I have a dishwasher, but there are certain dishes that can't go inside it and some that just need a good scrubbing by hand.  I used to let them sit overnight.  But then I began intentionally washing them after dinner, after I loaded the dishwasher.  Now it is just a habit, something I do every night, something that I'm glad I do. Because I love coming down to a clean kitchen every morning.

Reading God's Word every day is a habit that can be built like any other habit.  It is simply committing to doing it every day, even if it seems a small amount. It's making a time and place for it in your schedule. It's having a plan.  And then it's just doing it. Until you no longer struggle to do it every day.  It is just what you do and even what you look forward to.  This has been the case in my life and it's worth the effort.

And it's what will make 2014 a really great year.