Dwell on These Things…

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
~ Philippians 4:8

Dwell_TheseThingsFocus. If I could only focus. Instead, I hear doubt shouting in my ears, telling me this is the last straw; I can’t take any more. Doubt enjoys the company of its cousins, fear and anxiety. They are quickly joined by frustration, which removes the fear only to replace it with bitterness. My mind is a battlefield, and if I’m not careful I’m going to lose this fight. Quietly, gently; I am reminded the battle is not mine alone. I have been given all I need to succeed, if only I choose to dwell on these things.

When I allow the cares of this world to overtake me, choosing not to dwell on what is honorable, I am giving the enemy a foothold. He plagues my mind with anxiety and worry. Yet I choose not to dwell on good things. He diverts my attention to the mess around me, telling me I am worthy of something else. Yet I choose not to dwell on good things. He pushes, pulls, will resort to hitting if necessary or any other form of coercion which will pull me away from the path to which I am called. Yet I choose not to dwell on good things. 

In contrast, when I purposefully choose to focus on what is good in my life, there is no room for anything else. In Philippians 4:8 we are led through a series of ideas – a checklist if you will – upon which our thoughts should dwell. Our minds are to focus on what is true, noble, just, pleasing to think upon, attracts the love of holy souls; whatever is wonderful and Godly.

Too often, however, I allow my mind to be diverted from dwelling on these things. The stress of daily life, the struggles of parenting, the hiccups in marriage, and constant responsibility crowd my head. If I am not careful, the cares of this world leave little room for anything good. I must remember the instruction found here in Proverbs. Truth must take precedence! My thoughts need to be refocused to dwell on the things of Christ. Things which are good.

No matter what my day brings, no matter the chaos which surrounds me, Christ needs to be my center and my focus. I need to choose to dwell on what pleases my Father, and brings me into His presence. Through practice, dwelling on these things will lead to a life well-pleasing to the Lord and peace of mind.

“Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become deeds.
Watch your deeds; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; for it becomes your destiny.”

Your Turn!: Is there a Bible verse which helps you dwell on the good when the enemy attacks?

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WHO is the Expert Here?

You must continue to gain expertise,
but avoid thinking like an expert.

~ Denis Waitley

WHO is the Expert Here?Have you noticed everyone seems to just love giving you advice on how you should be living your life? From websites to magazine articles; people you randomly meet at the grocery store to neighbors down the street. Even other homeschooling families seem to have an opinion on how you could be improving or how you ought to be teaching your children. Just who’s the expert here?

When we open ourselves up to receiving information from any and every source, we open ourselves up to trouble. Even those who consider themselves ‘experts’ in a given field are not infallible, nor do they know the particulars of our lives. We need to be very careful about what we allow to influence us and whose advice we are seeking. Anyone who tells us they have all the answers to our problems should be avoided. Christ is the true expert; He is the answers to our struggles.

We ought to seek wise counsel from like-minded Christians who will encourage us in our walk, marriage, parenting, and homeschooling. Listen to the wisdom the Lord has given them. Then, pray over it. The Lord may be doing a mighty work in them, but that doesn’t mean He necessarily wants to do the same work in us! What works for one might not work for another. We should ask the Lord to help us sift through the never-ending stream of information coming into our home, making His paths known and clear.

We should become an expert on our own family. I can begin by studying my husband, learning what blesses him and ministers to his heart. Focusing on our children, giving deep thought to how we can train and disciple them. Seek the Lord above all else, knowing He is the only expert we need.

I want to become an expert of my own life and family. I want to increase in wisdom to better meet my own family’s needs; to be a more loving wife; to be a patient mother; and the best homeschool mom I can be. Frankly, my plate is already full trying to be an expert on my own family, much less be an expert on how to minister to yours! The truth is, this side of heaven, an expert I will never be. But, until I finally go to be with the Lord, I have every intention of seeking that goal.

If you happen to stop over one day and read my blog, or I have the blessing of meeting you in person, I hope one thing always stands out; my heart is to encourage you not to follow me, but to follow Christ’s leading in your life, family, and home. Sure, I may have a word or two of advice on what’s worked for us and what hasn’t. I might even have little tidbits of wisdom to share regarding things the Lord has shown me – and tidbits is just what they are – but I will never claim to be an expert on your life. That job is the Lord’s.

May we all seek wisdom from the one true expert… Christ.

“Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!”
~ I Chronicles 16:11

Your Turn!: Are we studying our husbands and children more than we’re spending time elsewhere? It might be time to take stock of our priorities!

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Our Children are Hearing, But Not Receiving

Our Children are Hearing, But Not Receiving“Son, are you hearing me?” His voice filled with agitation, he gives a curt, positive response. I begin again only to find his eyes wandering out the window and his mind engaged in other activity. I gently ask him to repeat what I just said. He gives me back the words, but we both know… he’s hearing, but not receiving.

I do my best to keep our homeschool lessons short and sweet, especially for the younger of my children. Testing their patience is never pretty, and we want learning to be an engaging activity. Something our children love to do, and will continue long after I’m gone. No matter how good a teacher I think I am, there are going to be days when no matter what I do, my children are not going to receive what I’m offering. For one reason or another, they are hearing my words but not taking in wisdom and knowledge. Maybe it’s time I explore the reasons why.

Prayer – I can always tell when I’ve been slacking in my prayer life, tough as it is to admit. I become short-tempered and we start going through motions of doing school instead of actively using this as an opportunity to reach my children’s hearts for Christ. One of the reasons we might be having learning issues is because I need to repent of my disobedience and ask the Lord to meet my children where they are.

I am Over-Burdening Them – Another confession: In my desire to teach my children “everything”, I sometimes try to fit in everything. Now there’s a recipe for danger. Four active kids, too much book work, add an overabundance of lecturing and there you go. A bomb which leaves a hideous mess in its wake.

It’s All Just Words – How much is too much? I wish I knew. Some amount of lesson giving needs to take place. I wish I could say its only different for each child, but it’s not. It’s different for each child, each day of their lives. Some days are better than others. Some days all words fly right out the window and being out-of-doors is a fantastic idea.

They Have a Physical Need – This is a little easier to understand. Lack of sleep, food, water, exercise. There’s a physical reason which requires a physical response. If only all of life’s challenges were this simple.

This Is a Character Issue – Here is a tough one. This takes time, energy, care, and gentleness. This is when everything else stops – and should – so we can get to the bottom of the issue. Are my children experiencing a spiritual attack, or is this an act of laziness; worse, rebellion?

It’s Not What it Looks Like – I had visions of what learning would look like. Eager faces turned in my direction, excited answers and anticipation of lessons. Yeah. Don’t get me wrong, this happens sometimes. Sometimes. And that’s not a bad thing. Just because learning doesn’t always look as I imagined, doesn’t mean my kids aren’t learning. It just looks… different.

Turning Hearts, and Minds, is Not My Job – (This one thought deserves an entire blog post, which we might come back to later.) After all is said and done, I need to leave the issue – whatever it might be – at the feet of Christ. If I have done my part by praying over my children, changing learning to meet needs, dealt with physical and character issues, and more, the rest is up to Him. We only need be faithful in what God is calling us do. He will see His work is done.

As a parent and educator, my job isn’t to force my children to receive wisdom. That is impossible. It is my responsibility to lead my children to Christ, by example and deed, encouraging them and training them. It is my privilege to instruct and teach, continually stimulating growth. Reaching my children’s hearts and minds is God’s work.

When I become discouraged or distracted because it appears my children are not learning, may the Lord prompt me to pray and leave it at His feet. May He meet my children where they are; opening their hearts, minds, and ears to hear. May He soften them towards learning and grant me wisdom to teach as He would lead.

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
~ I Corinthians 3:6-9

Your Turn!: What helps redirect learning when it appears your children are not receiving?

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The Heart of Why We Homeschool

The following article was written for our monthly school newsletter. With permission from our principal, we are sharing this with you; praying you are inspired and blessed by the heart of his message. Enjoy!

….. 

The Heart of Why We HomeschoolUpon consideration, there are probably hundreds of reasons why a person would choose to home school. People pulling their kids from public schools cite poor education, low test scores, large class sizes, lack of good teachers, bureaucracy of schools, lack of individual attention, or the accommodation of individual needs, the prevalence of drugs, violence, alcohol, or other substances. Then we can add the moral side of the equation: peer pressure, the tolerance of that which the Bible calls sin (if not outright encouraging it), trans-gender bathroom laws, a generally anti-Christian agenda, and more.

Any of the above reasons, if not all of them, would be valid reasons to yank your kids from a wolves’ den. For the Christian parent who wants to follow the Scriptural mandates found in Deuteronomy 6, Ephesians 6:4, Psalm 78, and other locations, it does not make sense to put your child in an unloving, God rejecting setting, in front of teachers bet on the indoctrination of lies and biased material, and then hope that our children turn out ok.

Judges 2:10 gives us the result of parents not actively engaged in the discipleship of their own children, “When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel.”

We are called as Christians to go and make disciples. God expects us to start at home, and while it is true that none of us can make our child come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, much less choose a life of obedience for them, the blame for a generation rising that does not know lies squarely on the shoulders of the parents. They did not know because they were not taught. That is one issue that we can, and certainly do have a very large part to play.

Deut. 6:7-9 gives us a serious command to teach the Law specifically, though we could apply it to the whole of God’s Word for practicality, to our children.

“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

The command is for throughout the day, not just Sunday morning, or during Bible class, but all day long. When idle (sitting), in transit (when you walk), the last thing we hear before bed (when you lie down), and the first thing we consider in the morning (and when you rise up). Verses 8-9 basically tell us to so arrange it that God’s Word should be ever before us for consideration and reminder.

If we want our children to know the truth, and to be able to recognize (and avoid) the lives of the Enemy, then we must constantly be setting the truth before them. How else will they come to know it? Many of us have heard that banks teach their employees to recognize counterfeit money –not by classes on what to look for – but by constantly handling the genuine. Even when they cannot at first identify why, the teller gets to a point where they know that something isn’t right when they come across a phony bill inserted into the mix. They are taught to follow that instinct, stop, and examine more closely.

May the same be true of our children. Our desire is to so immerse them in the truth of God that when the false comes along they instinctively put up their guard and examine it, seeing where it doesn’t measure up against Scripture. I don’t want my adult son needing me to check his pastor out to see if the man is teaching correctly, I want him to be able to determine that for himself. How else can he teach my grandkids to recognize the truth?

The second reason why home schooling best fits the command to disciple our children is found in the second part of Judges 2:10, “nor the work which He had done for Israel.” It is my belief that our children trust God when they are little simply because Mommy and Daddy do. And when they are little, that is fine. Their faith can, does, and should be able to rest on ours; But I am not planning to raise a spiritual infant, but a well-trained, strong, victorious Christian soldier that is capable of teaching his own kids to be victorious Christian warriors as well.

As our children grow up, the focus needs to expand and go beyond “What did God do for Israel” or “What can God do?” Rather it needs to broaden to help our kids see what God has done for them, and what He has been doing in their lives. God helping blind people to see some 2,000 years ago can be encouraging, (please don’t misunderstand me, it is vital to know that He is able to do all that Scripture records), but how much more unshakeable is our kids’ faith when it rests on the certainty of what God has already done for them? When they come to the understanding that Jesus has never let them down before, it is so much easier to know, believe, and cling to the promise that He never will. They need to grasp that the promise wasn’t just for Lazarus, but for them as well, and that God’s personal track record with them is 100% faithful as well.

I know of no curricula that can teach those life lessons. So, as the school year begins, and the books are opened, remember that you don’t introduce them merely to stories about Jesus, you are introducing them to Jesus Himself; and know that as you do so, your labor is not in vain.

Ensure that your kids learn the life lessons they wouldn’t be taught anywhere else.

That is why we home school.

Your Turn!: Share with us a few of the resources in your home, and homeschooling, which help build your children’s faith!

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Review: Web Design by CompuScholar, Inc.

WebDesign_by_CompuScholarIncFor a while now we’ve debated building our own website. Finding a web designer can be pricey, and online forums can be restricting. So when we were offered an opportunity to review Web Design by CompuScholar, Inc., you know we jumped on board!

Web Design by CompuScholar, Inc., previously known as Homeschool Programming, is an online curriculum teaching students the basics of building a web page. The course is broken down by a multitude of chapters. Chapter topics include Web Tools and Languages, Your First Web Page, Head and Body Elements, Connecting Your Site, and many more. Most chapters contain four to five lessons, an activity, and a chapter test.

Our original intention was to complete a chapter a day, Monday through Friday, but we quickly needed to make adjustments. We discovered CompuScholar, Inc. Web Design is an in-depth course going beyond anything we had yet experienced. Plus, with life being what it is… realistically only a few chapters a week were accomplished. Seeing as we have a year to complete the entire course, this is not a major issue. We found we were able to complete an entire chapter – on average – in a little over an hour. At times taking two hours, depending on the concept being taught.

While it might be tempting to only watch the video portion of the lesson and skip the text lesson, we would highly discourage such a course of action. Text lessons include additional information not covered in the video and help students complete the quiz which follows. In addition, the text lessons will reinforce what was learned in the video. Taking in both methods of learning ensure the student fully understands each lesson and can move forward in confidence. The video lessons are short, helpful for visual learners, and easy to follow. Text lessons build upon the video, once again providing visual aid to learners. Quizzes are extremely short, consisting of five questions, helping the student take measure of their knowledge before continuing on.

As a teacher, I’ve found CompuScholar, Inc. Web Design detailed, methodical, and well-thought out. The online system auto grades all quizzes and tests, saving me time. I need only log into my teacher account and check the progress of my students. As a teacher, I also have access to Professional Development helps such as Teacher Guides, Quiz/Test Answer Keys, and Activity Solutions Guides. These Activity Solutions Guides came in handy further along in our course, as a few of the activities were challenging.

WebDesign_ScreenShot1

We had the ability to review the Technical Support department after experiencing an issue with the activity project in Chapter Nine. Even after checking our student’s project against the solution guide, the webpage was still not loading correctly. We submitted a ‘ticket’ for assistance via Homeschool Support and received an email stating our ‘ticket’ was being processed. Within several hours, a helpful support staffer contacted us and requested copies of our files for review. He gently reminded us of the presence of activity solution guides, in case we had missed this option, and offered to review our files for errors. By the next morning we received another email with clearly labeled, highlighted, instructions to fix the issue. Within five minutes the problem was fixed, an error on our part, and we were on our way.

Thus far, CompuScholar, Inc. Web Design is fantastic, if challenging! We found the videos to be very helpful; surprisingly one of our favorite portions of the lessons. Quizzes and tests were simple, if we paid attention to the lessons. One of our favorite aspects of CompuScholar, Inc. Web Design is that students are working while learning. They immediately are able to apply what they are learning, seeing their results as they progress. We found this encouraging and helpful, keeping the students’ interest. CompuScholar, Inc. Web Design will push learners to focus and pay attention to detail. Even the smallest mistakes will result in errors of programming. However, their helpful and knowledgeable technical support team is always ready to help you get back on track.

After only reviewing CompuScholar, Inc. Web Design for several weeks, and long before we’ve completed even half the course itself, we have a new appreciation for those who maintain and build our website. Thus far, we’re about a quarter of the way through our course. We have every intention of finishing. We’ll continue to move at a consistent pace, finishing the class by the end of the year. Maybe then, maybe, we’ll feel competent enough to tackle the tough job of creating our own web page. Maybe.

If you’d like to learn more about CompuScholar, Inc., in addition to Web Design, please visit them at their website. For those new to computer sciences, you’ll want to check out Digital Savvy to learn more about these fundamental life skills! You can also find CompuScholar, Inc. on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

To read additional helpful reviews like this one, and gain more insight into what CompuScholar, Inc. has to offer, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew!

Review Crew Disclaimer

Your Turn!: How digital savvy are you?

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Celebrating the True Meaning of Easter!

CG_Easter_logoAside from Christmas, Easter is the most significant holiday for Christians. This is more than just an opportunity collect eggs, wear cute bunny ears, and hoard candy. Easter is amazing, redeeming grace. For our family, this is a time to put aside outside responsibilities and simply focus on the true meaning of this holy week. From this Sunday till next, we will focus on all things Easter.

It is our desire to use this week not only for encouraging our family, but to learn from yours! Join us as we focus on the true meaning of this special holiday. We hope to share some of our favorite games, activities, crafts, and recipes which all point towards Christ and His love for us.

Easter Fun: Easter Week Begins
Easter Fun: Resurrection Eggs
Easter Fun: Books
Easter Fun: Egg Decorating
Easter Fun: Resurrection Garden
Easter Fun: Resurrection Rolls

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,”
~ John 11:25

Time to Chime In! : What is your family’s favorite homeschool resource for learning the true meaning of Easter?

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Boundaries vs. Individuality: Is There a Conflict?

“If your boundary training consists only of words, you are wasting your breath. But if you ‘do’ boundaries with your kids, they internalize the experiences, remember them, digest them, and make them part of how they see reality.”

~ Henry Cloud

Boundaries vs. IndividualityShe was frustrated, it was written all over face. She wasn’t asking for the moon, merely an opportunity to make her own decision. My daughter had thought this through, felt she was able to accomplish the task, and only wanted the freedom to move forward. It was time to ask myself an important question: Was she crossing a boundary here or just expressing her individuality?

It seems obvious, before we can determine whether our children have actually stepped out-of-bounds, we need to determine exactly what those boundaries are. Some of our boundaries might include:

  • You shall have no other gods before Me (the Lord).
  • You shall not make idols.
  • You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
  • Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
  • Honor your father and your mother.
  • You shall not murder.
  • You shall not commit adultery.
  • You shall not steal.
  • You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  • You shall not covet.

While this list could go on, by now it should be pretty obvious where we’re going with this. We are to follow God’s commands, live righteously, and love our fellow-man.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” 

– Micah 6:8

What about those choices we make for our household, the ones that aren’t ‘officially’ spoken of in the Bible; things like tattoos, staying out late with friends, dating, and more? Do these fall under the heading of boundaries or individuality? In response, I would ask my child to look at commandment (boundary) number five above: Honor your father and mother.

As parents, we aren’t making decisions willy-nilly; we’ve made them through careful consideration and hours of prayer. Our children are commanded – and expected – to obey these boundaries, understanding our choices are made with their best interest at heart. Each family needs to be on their knees in prayer, asking the Lord to give their family wisdom in making these choices.

What about things that aren’t technically forbidden, however for any number of reasons, should be considered carefully? As Paul noted in 1 Cor. 10:23:

“All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up.”

In a nutshell, Paul was writing this to the Corinthians to advise them not to use their liberty in a way which might stumble new believers. There might be things which are not necessarily wrong, but would give a bad witness. Where do we draw the line? Unfortunately, there is no black and white – one size fits all – answer. This is where wisdom comes into play. We need to be encouraging our children to seek the Lord in all things and prayerfully allow us to advise them in such choices.

Does this mean our children are never free to express themselves and make individual decisions? Of course not! There are many areas in which our children have liberty. As parents, our main concern is the training of the heart and discipleship. When our children wish to express themselves in various ways, this is a perfect opportunity to lead through questions. We ask them to consider what God wants of them, whether He is in this decision, and if He is glorified through their actions. We pray together, and allow God to lead.

What we ought to be asking ourselves is this: Where is my child’s heart? Is this an act of rebellion or just a fun idea that’s been rattling around in their brain, waiting for an opportunity to be acted upon? If my baby’s heart is right with God, and they’ve sought the Lord in their decision, what is the harm in letting them try something new? There is no danger to their soul; no physical harm involved. My child is merely asking to try something and venture into the unknown.

What about all those nay-sayers who might think something’s just a little off in your household, especially when they see the purple hair your child is sporting this week? Well, does their judgement say more about your child or about themselves? Remember the old saying, “Never judge a book by it’s cover.” My child’s hair may be purple, but the soul underneath would die doing the work of God, and, after all, that’s what it’s all about.

Time to Chime In! : How do your children express their individuality?

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10 Fun & Frugal Spring Activities

10 Fun & Frugal Spring ActivitiesThe weather is starting to warm up. It’s beautiful outside. Our kids are clamoring for an adventure so mom is scrambling to find something, anything, we can do which will equal fun without breaking the bank. Together, we’ve created a list of ten fun and frugal activities we plan to enjoy this spring.

I suppose before we talk about fun and frugal ways to enjoy the spring season, we should define exactly what we mean by frugal. Budgets being different in each household, we might have varying ideas on just how frugal, frugal is. For the purpose of our discussion today, frugal is as close to free as possible. The maximum being $20 for the entire family to enjoy this activity together. Can we do it, especially with six people in our home? Oh, yes; yes, we can!

10 Fun & Frugal Spring Activities

  1. Make Ice Cream – This is a fun, easy, inexpensive activity for us to enjoy. No ice cream maker needed. Just a few ingredients, a bowl or two, and a freezer. If we need a recipe? Pinterest has all the ideas we could ever want.
  2. Go Camping – Not the leave home, pack an entire truck full of supplies, kind of camping. Let’s camp in the backyard! All we need are sleeping bags, flashlights, and maybe a book or two to keep us company all night. The best part? Close morning showers and private restrooms.
  3. Take a Nature Hike – Most local hiking trails are free! With a sturdy pair of shoes, several bottles of water, and trail mix to keep us going, this should be fun. If we can find a trail with a stream; even better.
  4. Have a Picnic – This is not merely eating out-of-doors. Our plans are to pack a pretty basket full of lovely things (fresh fruits, croissants or rolls, tea sandwiches, cucumber, and more), visit a local grassy field, and enjoy a leisurely picnic. If we happen to bring along our current read or a guitar to pass the time, so much the lovelier.
  5. Host a Movie Night – Prices at the local theatre can be out of this world. Instead, we will host a movie night in our living room. Let us not forget the sugary snacks, cola, and buttered popcorn. For added memories, we’ve even gone so far as to print ‘tickets’ for our film.
  6. Go Fly a Kite – For that matter, we’ll build a kite! This project is not only educational, but tons of fun. This is the perfect season to explore this adventure.
  7. Build a Bird House – Inexpensive kits can be purchased at a local hardware store, but it’s more fun to build our own. Painted in bright, fun colors, these are great additions to our backyard.
  8. Blow Bubbles – The science behind bubble making is fascinating. Let’s see how big we can make our bubbles, and if we can get bubbles to land on our hands without breaking.
  9. Chalk Art – Before the pavement becomes so hot you can cook an egg on it, we’ll explore this creative medium. We’ve seen so many lovely examples of possibilities. This should be fun!
  10. Farm Visits – Where we live, local farms love having families come visit. For a nominal fee, we can even pick our own fruit.

Having fun doesn’t mean we need to spend tons of cash. It only takes a little creativity and a sense of adventure. What’s important is not how much money we spend, but how much time we are investing in our children.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
~ Matthew 6:19-21

Time to Chime In! : What budget-friendly ways do you spend time with your family and friends? Share your top five with us!

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You Are Not Alone!

You_Are_Not_AloneHow had it come to this? This wasn’t what I envisioned when I first started on this journey. My spirit is warring with my head. It’s as if I have been dragged through the mud, and my soul is feeling the abuse. I am tired. I feel alone.

All around me people are under attack. Some are going through marital problems. Others are struggling with strong-willed children who push their limits daily. Finances are in crises, health is failing, and life continues pouring down upon them with no end in sight. A voice whispers in their ears, telling them they are not enough. A nagging guilt overtakes them; preying on their fears, telling them they are alone. No one could possibly understand their struggles.

Perhaps this may be you right now.

With all gentleness, I remind you – Don’t believe the lie. You are not alone! This is a falsehood our enemy, the devil, wants you to believe. He wants you to feel helpless. He wants you to feel hopeless. He wants you to feel alone.

The truth is, I don’t know the details of what you are going through right now. But I’d like to. I’d like to hold your hand, listen while you pour out your heart, dry your tears, and tell God is with you through it all. I’d love to hug you and remind you that you are not in this by yourself.

The truth is, we cannot be with you every moment of the day, but God can and is! He sees your heart, your tears, your fears, and His hand is upon it all. He sees what brought you here; He sees right where you are; and, best yet, He sees where it leads.

I may not be walking in your shoes. but I do know what it’s like to be tossed in the storm and wonder if I’ll ever come out the other side. I know what it’s like to be lonely, hurt, and lost. And, I know I don’t want that for you.

Do not remain silent, hiding away from the world. Reach up. Ask God to strengthen you and surround you with the truth. Reach out. Ask those around you for prayer, encouragement, and a willing ear. Choose not to remain alone. Allow us to come alongside you and shower you with love. Allow us to share the burden and edify you before Christ.

I’ve had friends move all over the US. To each I say the same, and I say it again to you. Distance may prevent me from holding your hand or hugging you in your moments of greatest need, but distance cannot prevent me from loving you. Distance cannot prevent me from lifting you before the throne of heaven, begging our God to hear your request and answer the needs of your heart.

Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:31-39). In Christ, we stand as sisters and brothers; ready to defend and edify. In Christ, we are one. In Christ, we are never alone.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” 

~ Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Time to Chime In!: How can we pray for you?

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Our March Reads

Our March Reads (2017)

This was a lucky month in the book department. We found so many reads, we almost didn’t have time to finish them all! In March, we explored a world of literature and did some learning along the way. Join us as we share our picks of the month. I wish I could tell you all of them rocked, but…

  1. Tangle Journey ( Beckah Krahula) – Gain deeper insights into how tangles can be combined to create more complex and realistic forms, how to use contour and shading, how to work with mid toned papers by adding highlights and shadows, how to use introduce color-based media, how to integrate mixed-media techniques, and how to work on various surfaces.
    This was a homeschool pick for the month. I’ll be honest, I had no idea what it meant to ‘Tangle’ before picking up this book. In fact, that might just be one of the reasons I picked up this read. However, we quickly discovered a fantastic art form easily learned by artists of any age. This was a great book for beginners and veterans. 
  2. Crafting With Nature (Amy Renea) – Fuse your love for crafting and the outdoors with this incredible compilation of DIY crafts, recipes and gifts made with natural materials you can grow or gather yourself.
    Another homeschool pick for the month. This was a fantastic read, and one to add to the shelf if you’re a wild and free learner. Included were a multitude of artistic projects to explore as a family, homeschooler, and nature lover. 
  3. The Total Money Make Over (Dave Ramsey) – Instead of promising the normal dose of quick fixes, Ramsey offers a bold, no-nonsense approach to money matters, providing not only the how-to but also a grounded and uplifting hope for getting out of debt and achieving total financial health.
    This book was a personal read for Mom. I had great hopes for this book, having heard much of Mr. Ramsey’s program. Unfortunately his wit does not transfer well onto the written page, and comes across as rather flippant and rude. The advice given is sound, but honestly nothing new. I was expecting something grand and novel; instead it was the basics. Good, but the basics.
  4. Color Lab For Mixed-Media Artists (Deborah Forman) – In Color Lab for Mixed Media Artists, color is explored through multiple lenses-nature, history, psychology, expression-as you work through 52 exciting and approachable projects that explore the infinite potential of the chromatic experience.
    Yet another homeschool pick for the month. Being married to an artist, and having children who appreciate creativity, Color Lab was a fun exploration of color. If you’ve never had the opportunity to venture into this study, this would be a good book to try.
  5. The Bad -Ass Librarians of Timbuktu (Joshua Hammer) – To save precious centuries-old Arabic texts from Al Qaeda, a band of librarians in Timbuktu pulls off a brazen heist worthy of Ocean’s Eleven.
    Let me state the obvious from the get-go. I did not title this book. So please be gracious. On to our thoughts… This was a good book! I wasn’t sure what to expect of this read, but found it enjoyable and full of historical detail which I had yet to explore. Because of the title, this book was initially chosen for myself, but found it to be clean and something I might possibly pass off to my high school students in the future.
  6. The Book of the People: How to Read the Bible (A.N. Wilson) – In The Book of the People, A. N. Wilson explores how readers and thinkers have approached the Bible, and how it might be read today.
    Another read for Mom, this was an incredibly disappointing book. Mr. Wilson attempts to explain his ideas on how people read the Bible – mainly as a book of good ideas and not truths – and fails to see the redeeming power of Christ. He shares his beliefs on how Jesus cannot be known from the Bible, in fact history itself cannot even give us an accurate picture of Him! Altogether a frustrating read, which will teach me to pick up a book based on its title alone.
  7. The Storyteller’s Secret: From TED Speakers to Business Legends, Why Some Ideas Catch On and Others Don’t (Carmine Gallo) – Keynote speaker, bestselling author, and communication expert, Carmine Gallo, reveals the keys to telling powerful stories that inspire, motivate, educate, build brands, launch movements, and change lives.
    It had the word TED in it, so I picked it up. This read was okay, but just okay. The bulk of the story relied on, well, story telling and less on how to BE a good story-teller. There are a few good tips mixed in, but you could probably read the table of contents and save yourself the time of reading the entire book. 
  8. Thank You For Being Late (Thomas L. Friedman) – In his most ambitious work to date, Thomas L. Friedman shows that we have entered an age of dizzying acceleration–and explains how to live in it.
    Yet another ‘Mom’ read, Thank You for Being Late was incredibly long-winded and dull. In fact, I had a hard time staying focused on why Mr. Friedman even chose this title. The point gets lost amongst the multitude of details regarding microchips and the modern science of milking cows. 
  9. Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World (Michele Borba) – Bestselling author Michele Borba offers a 9-step program to help parents cultivate empathy in children, from birth to young adulthood—and explains why developing a healthy sense of empathy is a key predictor of which kids will thrive and succeed in the future.
    Unselfie was an interesting ‘Mom’ read. While I agreed with the majority of ideas presented by Ms. Borba, I found it interesting she did not establish a foundation for WHY children should be empathetic. As a Christian, I found we’re already building this into our children. Faith and obedience to Christ will naturally lead to the loving of His people. 
  10. Present Over Perfect (Shauna Niequist) – Written in Shauna’s warm and vulnerable style, this collection of essays focuses on the most important transformation in her life, and maybe yours too: leaving behind busyness and frantic living and rediscovering the person you were made to be.
    A great read for any parent! The Lord isn’t asking us to be perfect, but willing to follow Him wherever He leads.  This was an encouraging and edifying book. 
  11. The Boy at the Top of the Mountain (John Boyne) – When Pierrot becomes an orphan, he must leave his home in Paris for a new life with his Aunt Beatrix, a servant in a wealthy household at the top of the German mountains. But this is no ordinary time, for it is 1935 and the Second World War is fast approaching; and this is no ordinary house.
    For those who read The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas, you might anticipate this book will have a twist. I will not give away the surprise, but you won’t be disappointed. For those who have not read previous works by Mr. Boyne, you might wish to read this yourself before passing it on to children. While the story was surprisingly clean, the nature of its content will be disturbing. Death, violence, and attempted rape are mentioned. This was an emotional book, but well told. A good read. 

The bulk of our list this month consisted of reads for me! How did that happen? No matter how many good books I have in my pile, it continues to grow. It’s a never-ending cycle. Next month, we’ll be focusing more on children’s literature and books we’ve been reading as a family. However, we’ve enjoyed this month’s focus on good books which inspire mom to keep reading and keep learning.

Your Turn!: Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction as a relaxing read?

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