What Do We Do with Doubt? [VIDEO]

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Look out, world.  I have a YouTube channel.  It’s still quite laughable in my mind, but alas, it now exists and I am now telling you about it.

All not-taking-myself-too-seriously aside, my first video seeks to answer the question, “What do we do with doubt?  Where do we go with it?”  I didn’t figure my channel needed much introduction besides simply jumping right in with something that matters to me, and I suspect, to many of you.

I hope you will find the discussion encouraging to you in your walk with the Lord, whether your current situation finds you steadily leaning on the everlasting arms or shakily hanging on for dear life.

You can find my first video here.  If it’s a blessing to you and you’d like to see more videos of this kind, along with some practical home, life, and school management videos, please consider subscribing to my channel.  Lord willing, this first video will not be my last.

God bless!  Soli Deo gloria.

Growing a Love for Music: A Review of the Prodigies Music Lifetime Membership (Plus a Discount Code!)

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In this review I’ll give a bit of history as to how we decided on the Prodigies Music Program for our kid’s education, a heads-up on their current sale (they’re constantly adding to the value of the program and thus will be raising the price on Monday!), discount code for my readers, and then some examples of how our kids have benefited from the program over the past nine months!  This post contains affiliate links, but I’ve been promoting Prodigies to friends long before signing up as an Ambassador–you’ll see some of the reasons why I believe in it so much in this post.  

My husband and I both love music.  And we love sharing it with out kids.  But it’s hard to find the time to introduce them to the basics of music theory with my husband’s busy work schedule and the fact that I’m already teaching them every other subject in our homeschool.

We looked at local general music classes, and probably would have gone that route if we hadn’t found Prodigies.  We sampled the videos they made available for free on YouTube, and I was impressed.  So impressed that after crunching numbers and comparing our options, we bought the Lifetime Membership for our family.

Here’s why the Prodigies Lifetime Membership beat the local class option hands-down:

  • We paid one price for the whole family for life–within just one year of weekly local classes for two children, we would have paid the same amount for FAR less instruction.  This would be even more economical for a larger family.
  • We can do music lessons every day in the comfort of our own home–this again ups the amount of instruction and guided practice, allowing kids to go deeper and practice regularly without mom having to muster up the energy or having to waiting on the next class day to roll around.
  • We have access to all the materials (videos, workbooks, songbooks) both online and as downloadable files for our computer.  This means I have an awesome curriculum (and my kids have a fun music teacher!) available any time it fits our needs or schedule.
  • While I’m sure the local classes are nice, they aren’t using the Prodigies program–which is colorful, engaging, and focuses not only on meaningful play with pitch to train a child’s ears, but also on learning to translate between the color names, number names, letter names, AND solfege names of the notes of the major scale.  Most teachers wouldn’t dream that teaching all of this at such early ages is possible.  But it is!  Mr. Rob does it!  And my kids are getting it!
  • The team at Prodigies Music is constantly adding to their program, which means that the money I put down for our membership goes farther and farther.  They now have a complete preschool program (what my kids are working through now), have started publishing lessons in the primary program, have tons of fun supplemental videos in their Melodies series, and are now rolling out lessons for the recorder.

That last point brings me to the current Lifetime Membership sale that I would be remiss not to share with you.  The price of membership is being raised on Monday to account for all the amazing additions to the program.  But today and tomorrow (Sept. 30 & Oct. 1) you can get 30% off the current Lifetime price–plus you can use the code LMJ to get an extra 5% off your Lifetime Membership PLUS 5% off anything in your cart–like the bells, or hard copies of workbooks or songbooks.  That makes the final cost of membership $329!  If you wait until Monday, the price jumps from the current regular price of $497 to $597.  So if you’re interested in what Prodigies has to offer for your family, now is a great time to join.

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Finally, here’s some of the benefits I’ve seen in my children over the past nine months that we’ve been using Prodigies.

  • My kids can translate easily between solfege, color, number, letter names, etc.  This is something I never knew how to do despite participating in choir as a kid.
  • They are learning the names of chords and what notes are used to build them.
  • My husband can pull out his guitar and the kids can pull out their bells and play together because they’ve memorized the melodies of a handful of songs.  It’s a family jam session!
  • The kids are learning to sing on pitch in a friendly, non-embarrassing environment.
  • ONE OF THE BEST THINGS I’ve seen so far is that my kids are not intimidated by music.  Or any instrument.  Though their practice at home so far is only with the desk bells and hand-signs, they have internalized the concept that music is made up of notes–notes which they have learned to call by name.  So all they have to do when they walk up to an instrument is figure out where the notes are, and then they can play any of the songs they’ve learned!  The boys will eagerly plunk out a melody on a piano whenever one is near–with no fear whatsoever.  While at a family member’s house, they spotted a harp and asked how it worked.  With no more instruction than “The strings are notes on the scale,” my eight-year-old guessed that the red strings were Cs and began to play the Imperial March from Star Wars.  On the harp.  When he’d never touched the instrument before.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QX2rYgKMSN0&feature=youtu.be   And while some instruments like violin are inherently more difficult to play, my kids have also fearlessly picked them up and guessed at what notes they hear when they scratch away at the strings.  Point being:
  • The pump has been primed (and will continue to as they acquire the ability to read music from their Prodigies lessons) to have such an intuitive understanding of music that when we do sign them up for instrument-specific lessons down the road, they will be able to focus on the mechanics because the understanding will already be there.
  • Beyond all of this, they are learning to both understand and enjoy music.  And when you understand something, it’s a lot easier to love it, and when you love it, it’s a lot easier to want to learn and understand it more.  Thus, with Prodigies, our kids are being equipped for a literal lifetime of learning and enjoying music.

I hope this review has been helpful!  Don’t forget to use the code LMJ to get 5% off of your order, and if you want in on this program for your kids, order before Monday, October 2 when they will be raising the price forever!

First Day Confessional

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Many of the public schools in our area started back yesterday, and so did we.

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you might be a little confused since I posted about our “First Day” back in July.

That would be the first of my confessions.

I thought that in the middle of all of our remodeling craziness it would be a good idea to re-institute some order by starting back to school.  We made it a whopping four days before a trip and life in general took over again.

So yesterday was technically something like day five (or six if we’re counting the immersive day of water color painting last week–hey, I’m counting it!).

I’m just thankful that my husband encouraged me not to worry about it.  Now that the living room is, well, livable again, we can start to throw some school into the mix.

His support has been invaluable since we would, in theory, like to have our kids keep going with at least math and reading through the summer months.  I planned to just take June off, and keep a bit of review going even on break, but it stretched into an extra month-and-a-half and our review became non-existent.

And it’s ok.  Really, Lauren, it’s ok.

But those scheduled intentions are just surface-level.  I’ve got some deeper issues to confess, as well.

This is our fourth year of officially homeschooling and yet I have felt less prepared than ever.  I gave up on a traditional homeschool planner this year, opting to build my own system for planning and record keeping (a combination of Plan Your Year, a bullet journal, and clipboards for the kids).  I hope to share some reviews, articles, and videos about it sometime soon once the dust clears and the wires are all rigged up in our remodeled office/studio.  But the process has been like stepping out on an invisible floor, hoping there is something to stand on when you land.

Unlike Indiana Jones, however, on our first day of school yesterday, instead of finding a firm footing, I literally slipped on the slick, wet front steps, finding that gravity still works and that landing your rear on the corner of the step an entire foot lower than your feet began makes for a very purple derriere and quite a stiff and sore neck.

This didn’t exactly quell my fear of more figurative slips.  Again I’m reminded of the only truly firm footing I have in the first place–and that gives me strength to press on.

I know that the end result will be a good one–having a completely customized system that meets our needs better than any pre-fab planner ever could.  But with a new arrangement on paper comes a new arrangement of habits–both mental and physical–and building those habits takes time.  I need to have patience with the process, trust that it will be worth it, and simply recognize the little adjustments that have to be made along the way as a part of what makes it better.

All of that said, our first day went wonderfully well!  My well-laid plans did pay off!

At least, before lunch.

Our first day of school started well but ended woefully.

In my planning I took into consideration the longer-than-ever-time-off from which we would be recovering, and I tweaked our curriculum accordingly–especially math.  My big boy would do only half of the worksheet.  My youngest would copy numbers, do some basic math facts, and then we’d play a math game.  The almost-six-year old finished his work in no time, blazing through math, reading, and copy work so he could go to town with his beloved watercolors the rest of the morning.

I was thrilled.  This was easy.

The just-turned-eight-year-old, however, struggled to focus.  His work certainly should have taken longer than his little brother’s, but it drug on and on and on needlessly.  I told him time didn’t matter, that he didn’t need to set a timer, just work diligently.  But he set the timer anyway and then stressed himself out with it.  Long story short, he was anything but diligent, even when I gave him breaks to go outside or read and then come back to it with a fresh mind.  His score in the end was near perfect, but it was well into the afternoon before he finished and then there was language arts to do.

I was patient for the morning.  But eventually my patience ran out.

I had planned fun activities for our afternoon.  A game, read-alouds over Afternoon Tea.  Things my children LOVE.

But a dawdler was messing up my plans to do him good.

I escaped into my own projects and spent some time online to boot.

“I’ve tried to help you.  You won’t be helped.  I’m done.”

Signing off.  Checking out.  On day one.

Bravo, Lauren.

Over dinner my husband asked us each how our day had gone and how we felt about it.  There was good, there was bad, and there was ugly.  But it was good to get it out in front of us as a family.

He sweetly encouraged me not to base the success of my day on other people’s performance–especially little people.  Control what I can control–my own responses.

That’s hard, isn’t it?  But it’s exactly what I needed.

After further consideration and prayer last night, I realized that I had judged my children worthy of my time and patience during the morning hours–I had even decided this long in advance.  It’s my job, after all, as their mom and teacher.  But with one child dragging his half-sheet of math work beyond any reasonable time frame, and with the other testing my patience at lunch time, I came to judge my children as unworthy of my time and patience for the rest of the day.

Forget my God-given role as their mother and teacher, I measured them against my plans and expectations, found them wanting even after patient instruction and care, and since I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted, I decided they didn’t deserve my effort–I decided I needed a break.

There is wisdom, at times, in walking away from a situation so that both parties can get fresh air, deal with what’s in their hearts, and come back in much better spirits.  But I can’t say that was what was going on this time.  I was resentful.  And it took ME “beyond a reasonable time frame” to get my heart right.

Math work or heart work, my son and I were both taking too long to learn our lessons.

I suppose I could steal a quote from my reflections on planning above since it seems to fit this character-growing, relationship-building process, as well:

“…building those habits takes time.  I need to have patience with the process, trust that it will be worth it, and simply recognize the little adjustments that have to be made along the way as a part of what makes it better.”

The goal of education isn’t ultimately results or getting things done anyway.

As I wrestled with my own bad response–with my sin–the Lord kindly reminded me of His love and patience toward me as His child.  I cowered at the thought of His great love and my great lack.

Father, You chose to love me while I was yet a sinner when You sent Jesus to die for me.  And You choose to love me still even when it takes me years to learn a lesson, even when my attitude and actions are quite like a distracted and unruly child.  

Because You have chosen to love me, because You have made me Your child, Your patience and Your love never wane…like mine so often do for my own children.  

Forgive me, Father.  I repent.

Thank You for being a GOOD Father.  My need for Your love and patient correction is ongoing.  And the work You’ve called me to do for my children is ongoing.  Oh, please produce in me the same patient, diligent love with which You parent me.  

I saw yesterday morning that I could choose to be patient with my children.  But O how I need Your Spirit, Lord, to choose to be patient even beyond my good intentions!  When my planned patience wears out, show me Your patient love, and please help me to then pass it on to them.  

Amen.  

For those of you who also started school recently, I hope your first day fared better than mine (and you should read that as “I hope that your patience lasted more than four hours”).

But it’s just the first day.  And it’s now behind us.  Sins repented of, mercies new this morning …and every morning hereafter.  We’re in this for the long haul, aren’t we?  Let’s do it with patient love, remembering the One who continues to lavish us with it.

Happy New School Year.

All Other Ground is Sinking Sand

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Upheaval.  That seems to be a good word for what I’ve experienced lately.

The landscape of my life seems to always be changing.  It’s hard to find a firm footing.

Some good friends of ours moved away a few months ago, and we’re about to bid farewell to another couple of friends within the next several weeks.

Another one of my closest friends may be moving out of state in the near future as well.

We’ve grieved a loss in our extended family this year, and felt the weight of failing health in other precious family members and friends.

We’ve known the despairing sting of futility–in making our own plans and seeing them fall through, no matter how hard we tried to work out the logistics–in gardening, in homeschooling, in trying to get enough sleep, in family visits, and in many other projects and pursuits.

In the same moments that we are (by the grace of God) learning to plan and manage our lives more effectively and efficiently, more responsibilities and cares pile themselves like memorial stones set to remind us that we are not ultimately in control.

And the current state of our home is an analogy for all of the above–our one-room remodel project is stretching into its second month–and, try as I may to ignore the mess and mayhem, a simple walk from the kitchen to the front door brings it screaming to my attention.  Because if I don’t survey the landscape and watch my step I might trip over a paint can, run into a stack of boxes, or knock over the bed and box spring leaning against the couch.

This maze of a house we are living in right now is not for the faint of heart.

And neither is life itself.

 

If I try to stand on the good gifts God has given me in this life–blessed relationships, material possessions, good health, intellect and abilities, position and influence, the experience of all things temporally enjoyable, comforting, and familiar–I will predictably falter when they begin to wane.

My self and my circumstances are ultimately unpredictable and unreliable.  They make for a feeble and faulty foundation, indeed.

But I have a Rock, a firm foundation in Christ.  Those who hope in Him will not be disappointed.

While mowing this morning I listened to a few chapters from Knowing God by J. I. Packer, finishing with the chapter on adoption into the family of God.  It moved me to the core.  When I struggle spiritually, when I am tempted to despair, it is most often rooted in a forgetfulness of God’s promises and love for me in Christ Jesus, usually clouded over with self-condemnation and a focus on the temporal things that have me confused, cast-down, and unsatisfied.

I know my sin and my need for a Savior.  I know Jesus died to pay the penalty for my sin so that by faith I can be forgiven and escape eternal condemnation, but as Packer so richly reminded me today, Jesus not only purchased my pardon but brought me into the Family.  And the love which the Father has had for His Son throughout all eternity is mine now as a child of God.

Justification–having a declared righteousness and peace with God through Christ–is glorious because it brings me to Him.  And, as Romans 8 so emphatically reminds me, nothing can separate me from His love.

And beyond the amazing solace that brings me now, how quickly I also forget the hope of glory that is to come–to be in the presence of God, free from sin and death and suffering, but not merely as one who is tolerated in God’s presence, but as one who is loved, welcomed, embraced, and delighted in as a beloved child.

I can’t really begin to express all that this means and its effect on me as I continue to walk the maze in my living room and in the world-at-large.  I still slip and fall when, like Peter did on the sea, I look at the storm around me and the unsettling terrain below me.

“Why did you doubt?”

There was nothing in the waves holding Peter up.  It was the Lord Jesus Himself.  All he needed to do to literally keep his head above water was to look to Jesus and believe.

And I suppose at the end of the day the same goes for me, too.

Would you sing this hymn with me?  Let’s declare the truth that our hearts so often forget.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

Finding Cheap or FREE Resources for Bird Nature Study

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Amazon links are affiliate links, meaning that if you make a purchase through that link, I will earn a few pennies, nickels, and dimes.  I only link to products I would happily recommend even if no compensation were possible.  🙂 

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Our family doesn’t completely follow the Ambleside Online (AO) free curriculum, but we pull heavily from it for our book list, among many other things.

One of those other things is their Nature Study schedule.  If I want to pick a particular topic of nature study for us to focus on for a while, why not start with their suggested schedule and tweak it along the way, if need be?  This way there is less choice-fatigue for me and I can find some community around what we are studying, whether with other AO families I know in real life, on the AO forums, or on the Facebook group.

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This summer and fall is for the birds, so I’ve been doing a bit of research and collecting materials that will prepare me to assist and inform my children in their own observation and enjoyment of our feathered friends over the next several months.

I’ve seen a lot of materials for purchase on the interwebs, and many of them were quite tempting, but I wanted to see what was available to me for free before punching in credit card numbers.

First, I searched my own shelves. 

We already own the Handbook of Nature Study, which will serve us for many years and topics to come, making the purchase price slim over the long haul.

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Birds are covered on pages 27-143.  The pictures are not the most impressive, but this book is chock full of information so that you, the parent, can be a literally walking resource for you children on the trail.  Types of birds, parts of birds, migration of birds, lessons with suggested questions, pictures, diagrams, and even related poetry are included.  I plan to read this section for my own knowledge and make a few notes on particular questions or topics to raise while I’m out with the kids.

Remember, the purpose of Nature Study is to get the child in touch with the world and creatures God has made and to enjoy it.  The Handbook of Nature Study is NOT a textbook of information you have to cram into your precious children’s little heads.  It’s a tool to aid the work of observation that the kids ought to be doing and delighting in on their own.

I found another volume that I may reference over the next few months:  Living with Wildlife: How to Enjoy, Cope with, and Protect North America’s Wild Creatures Around Your Home and Theirs.  I don’t think there’s much to say about this book now since the title is so descriptive!  We found this gem at a library cast-off sale for probably about 50 cents.

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The point here isn’t so much that any of you need THIS book, but that if you keep your eyes open, you may find something similar.  If I didn’t have the Handbook of Nature Study, this book (or some other like it) would suffice quite nicely.  Birds are covered on pages 180-252, if any of you by chance come across this guide or find it at your library.  There aren’t so many pictures or diagrams, and it’s not aimed at teachers or parents to instruct their children, but the information is valuable and would do the trick of providing a parent with both a general and some specific knowledge of birds.

My oldest has read many chapters in The Burgess Bird Book for Children, one of the great selections found on the AO booklist.

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It’s a narrative introduction to all kinds of birds, with animals talking and acting consistent with their particular habits and personalities.  Each chapter covers a different bird, and we may just read one here and there for fun if we’re interested.

My mom gave us a laminated Pocket Naturalist Guide of Arkansas Birds for Christmas several years ago.  This guide isn’t particularly detailed, but it does provide color pictures of a variety of birds, including their Latin names, size, and an occasional special note.  Listed on the back are bird viewing areas and sanctuaries, as well as a state regional map.

For very young children, a laminated field guide is almost a necessity!  Even when they can’t read, they love feeling like real explorers with a guide in their pack that they can pull out at will.  And you as the parent love feeling like it won’t be destroyed on the first expedition!  If you don’t live in Arkansas, you can look up the Pocket Naturalist field guide for birds in your state.

Even just one or two of the above resources is more than enough to get started with nature study.  Actually, all you really need to do to get started is step outside and pay attention, and maybe take along a notebook and a pencil!  But we’ve been at this for several years now and I wanted to add to our resource collection (and convince myself that I didn’t need to buy anything new or shiny in order to do so).

So…where did I go for new FREE resources? 

I went online.

Many of the paid resources I’ve seen lately were all ebooks and video courses anyway, so I thought I’d search in the same format–starting with websites specific to my home state of Arkansas.

The Audubon Society of Arkansas and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission have a wealth of free resources for studying birds, among many other kinds of wildlife!  There’s a searchable database where you can find pictures, details, and songs of birds when you search by color, size, habitat, and more.  The Game and Fish Commission provides free printable brochures on birds and so much more, but they will also send you a hard copy for free if you send them your mailing address!

If you’re outside of Arkansas, check out the corresponding organizations for your state.

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All I asked for was the Arkansas Backyard Birds booklet, but they sent the other three as well!  I suppose they figured someone like me would eventually ask for more booklets and they could save on shipping by sending them all at once.

There are two more ways I’d like to complement our focus on birds, and both can be achieved without spending a dime.

I’d like us to improve our artistic abilities in the area of drawing birds, so that our nature journal entries can better represent what we see out in the field.  Enter YouTube.  There are TONS of FREE video tutorials to help us hone our skills.  I think we’ll get a start with watercolor painting a saucy little wren like the ones we see every day around our house.

Finally, one of the greatest gifts I can imagine giving my children when it comes to nature study is to tie God’s truth to what they see.  The heavens are declaring the glory of God, and I want them to see it.  I just read the Sermon on the Mount this morning, and I think we’ll incorporate Matthew 6:26 into our memory work as we observe the winged creatures around us:

Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?

I hope this has been helpful to you, my friends.

Do you have any other super awesome free resources for bird nature study?  If you’ve studied birds already with your kids, what did your family enjoy most?

The Cashier at Walmart

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She was probably 15-20 years my senior, with bright eyes and her long brown hair, half pulled back and half resting gently on her standard navy blue shirt and coordinating vest.

She was still helping the customers in front of us when it happened–my antsy five-year-old, who had earlier decided to don gym shorts and cowboy boots, accidentally stepped backward–right on top of my seven-year-old’s sandal-clad foot.

The scream was ear-piercing.

We had already been in the store too long after spending far too long at our previous errand stop.  The boys were tired and so was I.  And when the wailing persisted for several minutes, I’m sure everyone else’s ears were tired, too.  I tried to calm my big boy down without much luck, and the whole situation was so traumatic that the five-year-old started crying because he was so sorry that he had apparently hurt his brother so badly.

It was a meltdown.  I looked up at the cashier and said something about missing nap time…not that my boys take naps anymore, but the downtime would have been good for them.

The boys were fairly well calmed down by the time the cashier started ringing up our order.

“I miss shopping with my boys,” she said with a warm smile.  “They’re grown and moved away and both married now.”

I paused a moment to consider her words (trying to decide if she’s crazy) before asking, “How old are they now?”

“They’re 24 and 26.”

Two years apart.  Just like mine.

“What I wouldn’t give to have them with me again–even on the rough days.  I just miss having them with me.  And tucking them in at night.  You know, all those special times together that you don’t think about much until they’ve grown up and you don’t have them around all the time anymore.”

I don’t usually handle other people’s sentimentality that well, but hers, in this moment, was a gift from God–a redirection of my heart away from the frenetic and frustrated mode that I was in to see the blessing it is simply to have my children near–with the sobering reminder that that nearness won’t last forever.

But she didn’t just make me see.  She made me feel.

I think that’s why other people’s emotional moments make me uncomfortable.  It forces me to feel something that I’m not sure I’m ready to deal with (because, to be honest, my own emotional moments make me uncomfortable).

But sometimes that can be a very good thing.  I may have been most comfortable feeling embarrassment or frustration in that check out line, but she made me feel affection for my kids, turning what could have been a nosedive in my attitude into a total rebound.

“Thank you for sharing that,” I expressed before pushing the cart way, “especially in the midst of a minor meltdown.”

She may not have realized it, but she changed the tone of the rest of our busy afternoon with her kind words and heart-felt nostalgia.  This was a little bit of Titus 2 in action, friends.  At Walmart.

Love those boys, mama,” she had communicated in no uncertain terms.  “Love them well–even when it’s tough.  You will miss them someday.”

 

 

The Friday Five: Hospitality Edition

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Amazon links are affiliate links, meaning that if you make a purchase through that link, I will earn a few pennies, nickels, and dimes.  I only link to products I would happily recommend even if no compensation were possible.  🙂 

013Do you have a vision for hospitality?  Do you use your home as a place to welcome and refresh others?  Here’s some reading material on the subject that I’ve been chewing on lately.  I hope it will be an encouragement to you in this endeavor.

  1. Mystie Winkler has written several articles on homemaking and hospitality lately that I have found quite helpful.  Forget Pinterest or that magazine cover, Mystie’s tips get straight to the heart, encouraging us to be ready to show hospitality toward everyone who enters our home–by practicing on our own family members.  Here’s the most recent article I’ve enjoyed.
  2. Did you know that hospitality is a characteristic required of those in church leadership?  Tim Challies reminds us that the hospitality that elders are to exemplify is to be a characteristic all believers should pursue.
  3. I don’t usually read Christianity Today, but this article came to me recently by recommendation from another blogger.  Have you considered God’s role of “home-making”?  There’s good food for thought here, but I would suggest the conclusion we draw from this shouldn’t stop at awe and consolation for our souls (as wonderful as that is in and of itself!).  We’ve been made in the image of God and we can reflect His care for humanity in our care for our homes–in fact, it’s both explicitly encouraged and commanded.  All the same, if you are in a season in which you are overwhelmed by the mess, wondering if you’ll ever get things under control, take heart.  As the article says, your God has prepared and is preparing a home for you.  And He’s always on top of His game.
  4. My father-in-law recently finished reading Alexander Strauch’s The Hospitality Commands to our church over our fellowship meal on Sunday afternoons.  We took it about a chapter at a time and discussed how we might grow individually and as a church in showing hospitality.  This is a great read if you want to go deeper than a few blog articles will take you. 
  5. As I’ve considered God’s call for His children to practice hospitality, I’ve been reminded of a metaphor from one of my favorite mommy books:  Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic.  The chapter entitled “Heavy Branches” likens our gifts and the things we produce to fruit on a tree.

    In the side yard, right outside my window, were two old apple trees.  And year after year they made apples.  …these trees had been throwing apples on the ground every August for probably ninety years or so.  It is something I love about fruit-bearing trees and bushes–that God told them to make something, and they do it enthusiastically.  They don’t care about what happens to the fruit.  They do not measure their efforts or fuss when no one appreciates it.

    …What happens to all our fruit is not our problem.  That doesn’t mean that we are not to care about the fruit.  While it is on our branches, it is our life work.  It is an offering to God, and we ought to care intensely about the quality of our fruit.  But the branches are our responsibility; the ground is not.

    May we joyfully produce fruit in our homes to bless our families and any who walk through our door–without being discouraged when an apple gets bruised or the beauty we sought to create gets overlooked.  May we not grow weary in doing good–our God is at work in it to accomplish His purposes.

What’s your favorite book on hospitality?  Have you read any good articles on the subject lately?

How have you been blessed by the hospitality of others?

What things get in the way of you opening up your home, and how can you, by God’s grace, overcome those obstacles?

If you’re in a tough season of life, what are some small ways you can show love and welcome to others?

Five Refreshing Scriptures for Finishing Strong when You Feel Weak and Weary

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This was intended to be a “Friday Five” post, but it just makes so much more sense on a Wednesday, doesn’t it? 

It’s crunch time around here.  We’re planting the last shoots and seeds in our garden, planning our homeschool group’s last big event for the year, watering the trees we planted in the fall, trying to keep up with the now-regular two-hours of mowing necessary to keep ticks at bay,  and–somehow–we’re going to have the house clean at the end of the month for a much-anticipated visit from my parents–a tall order since houses just don’t stay clean during gardening season.  Especially if you have two little dirt magnets helpers and no mud room.

Oh yeah, and then there’s my day job:  we’re still finishing up school for the year.  It’s only about two more weeks, but I must admit I wouldn’t mind fast forwarding to the pool side where I sip lemonade in the shade while the boys have their swimming lessons. At least that’s what I imagine June will look like.

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But I digress.

Are you in the thick of it right now?  As a student?  A teacher?  At work?  At home?  Do you wonder at times how you’ll have the strength to finish the final task (or twenty) for the season?

Maybe you’ll find these scriptures as encouraging as I have.  There is Truth we can rest in even as we roll up our sleeves to get the job done.

Isaiah 40:28-31

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

 

Jesus in Matthew 11:28

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

 

1 Corinthians 15:55-58

‘O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

 

Galatians 6:9

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

 

Colossians 1:9-14

For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Let God’s word be your sweet lemonade in the midst of a busy season.  Sip slowly.  Be refreshed.  And finish strong.

When you struggle to find the motivation and energy to see a project or season through to the end, what scriptures do you turn to?  What truths do you savor? 

The Friday Five: “Special Events” First Edition

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Today seems like an appropriate time to write my first “Friday Five” post.  After all, it’s not every year that the first Friday of the fifth month falls on the fifth day of the fifth month.  If I were really good, I’d have posted this at five this morning.

Don’t you just love the alliteration?

It’s my hope that “The Friday Five” will be a fun addition to the blog.  Some weeks it may be five related things, and other weeks it may be five completely random things.  And, just being real, some weeks it may be non-existent because life happens.  But when I do get to eek out one of these list posts, I plan to include spiritual encouragement, practical tips, personal anecdotes, and much more.

For now, we can call this a “Special Events” edition.  Here goes!

  1. My boys recently participated in their first musical stage play, “No Strings Attached: The Musical Adventures of Pinocchio.”  They had a fantastic time playing 19th-century school boys, donkeys, a marionette, and singing fish.  They were the youngest in the production, so the five-hour-long dress rehearsal was pretty exhausting for them (and their parents), but they absolutely had a blast.  IMG_0001 (2)
    When the last performance was over, our five-year-old shed a few tears.  I assured him that he would have the opportunity to be in another play sometime, but he was quite upset that it would likely not be Pinocchio again.  “I like THIS play!”
    He later had a dream that they did the play again, and he reported the following morning with a beaming smile, “It was the most wonderful dream!”
  2. Pink eye isn’t exactly the kind of visitor that you usually want to celebrate as a “special event,” but it’s been a guest at our house for a couple weeks this spring so it’s at least worth a mention.  We’ve had pretty good luck getting rid of it by mixing a 1/2 teaspoon boric acid in one cup boiled water.  001Once it has completely cooled, you can place a few drops into each eye.  We had our kiddos lay down on a table and close their eyes while we dripped a bit of the water onto each eye near the tear duct.  Then they could open their eyes so that the water could come in.  This is way easier than holding a spoon over open and very frightened eyes.
  3. I invited my local Scholé Sisters group over for a Nature Study Day at our place. DSC_0101 We live on seven mostly-treed acres, have a creek running through our property, and last fall seeded a part of our land for wildflowers.  We feel so blessed to have such a lovely slice of creation right outside our door, and it was so much fun to share it with friends!  DSC_0110We identified trees and flowers, had a picnic lunch, and the kids spent the rest of the time playing in the creek.  DSC_0142.JPGHaving other curious moms around with their various field guides also meant that we now know a little bit more about what’s growing on our land than we did before.
  4. We also had our last day of co-op classes a week ago.  In the first hour, my youngest got a cookie in his Hands-on-Science class, and my oldest enjoyed a cupcake complete with his own personally-decorated edible stamp for his Stamping Through History class.  As if that weren’t enough of an end-of-year celebration, the much-anticipated Book Club Party awaited them after recess.  Each family was to choose a favorite book and bring a snack and an activity to share with the whole elementary group.  We settled on Stuart Little the morning of, and I like to think our little table-top presentation turned out alright considering the high level of procrastination.  laurens-phone-5-2017-271.jpgAfter so much excitement the kids fell fast asleep in the van while I ran errands.
    Unfortunately when we got to the library and I actually had to get out of the van and take the kids with me, my little guy didn’t wake up happy and said he didn’t feel that well.  I knew we only needed to go inside for five minutes, so I carried him–the five-year-old on my right arm, purse and bag of books on my left.  Well, that did it, apparently.  Just as we stepped up to the front door of the public library the poor little man puked all over my left side.  And my purse.  And on the bag of books.  And all over the steps.

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    Maybe eating all those cheese cubes after an equally large amount of sugary treats wasn’t such a good idea after all.

    Again, I wouldn’t normally consider sharing a puke story as part of a “special event,” but how often do I get to be “that mom” with the sick kid who just made a horrid mess for everyone else to walk through?  I’m at least hoping this was a “special” occasion–and not a new norm.
    And, when I think about it, I am so incredibly thankful that the mess happened outside where a kind man washed it off with a few buckets of water.  A few more steps and it would have been inside the library itself: on the carpet, smelling up the whole place for who-knows-how-long.  Or it could have happened in the van.  God was merciful.  And I was thankful.  With no fever and the sick feeling lasting only about six hours, I also thanked the Lord that this was apparently just a response to way too much junk food and not a virus.
    Our last day of co-op sure was fun–a real blowout!

  5. This isn’t a last-but-not-least kind of #5.  No, this is a save-the-best-for-last #5.  Ten years ago today it was Saturday.  I was studying for the last finals week of my senior year of college.  Later that afternoon, I played paintball with a few friends, including this guy named Nathaniel.  After the game we all returned to campus and discussed dinner plans.  My dad had told me to go to a local Italian restaurant to try a few dishes so he could plan for an after-graduation lunch for our family and close friends when they would all be up for the ceremony the following weekend, so I lamented that I wouldn’t be joining the group for dinner.  Nathaniel said he had a project to work on.  We all parted ways.
    But an hour later Nathaniel asked if he could borrow my camera for this project of his.  I obliged.
    After cleaning up for the evening, I grabbed some books to study at a local coffee shop after dinner and headed to the restaurant.  I asked for the manager, just as my dad had instructed, and she curiously led me to a table in the back.  A table set for two.  A table where a cleaned-up Nathaniel sat with his Bible open to the verse that says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing…”
    After a few nervous words and a question from him, I said, “Yes.”  And he said he loved me for the first time.  He pulled out a ring and my camera.A “project”, huh?!?

How about you?  Any special happenings or celebrations lately?  Any “special” visitors or messes?