Letters of Love

Letters_of_Love

As I ready my children for school, I stand at my kitchen counter packing wholesome lunches all set to be tucked away into their boxes and carted off to school. Along with their balanced meal, I lovingly slip in a note of love which promises of homemade cookies and cold milk upon their return. –– WAIT!… Scratch that… How could I forget? I don’t send my kids off to school. I don’t pack them lunches in cute little boxes. I don’t give them milk and cookies when they come back because they never leave. I don’t send them little love notes in their lunch pails; there are no lunch pails.

When shopping for back-to-school supplies, I happened upon a set of adorable lunch note cards for parents. What a cute idea, I thought! In reality, I have no use for them. We homeschool, so I don’t pack meals for our kids. I don’t box a lunch for my guy; he works at home. I make our lunch at the stove and then we sit down to eat as a family But the idea behind the love notes was touching. Surely there must be a way for me to use them. Then an idea struck! Part of dating someone is writing love letters, right? So if I was “dating my children“, surely I would need to write them “love letters”. These little notes would indeed come in handy.
Now I needed to find creative ways to deliver my letters of love. Perhaps when we are on a field trip, I could attach them to their juice boxes or water bottles. I could tuck it into the front cover of their current read. I could stick them to the chairs at the kitchen table between breakfast and the beginning of our day. There are so many possibilities, I could go on forever.

Whether it is a stack of silly little notes or a handmade card, I need to remember my family appreciates these demonstrations of love. To them, it is anything but little. I constantly am trying to find ways to show my heart and express my feelings. As homeschoolers, I have to be a tad more creative. I am learning to take advantage of an opportunity when I see it. I can’t use a lunchbox, but I can use other things. The key is remembering and doing, no matter how little or how silly.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
~ Proverbs 22:6

We’d love to know… Do you write your children letters of love? What creative ways to do you find to deliver them?

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In This Alone

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord.”

Jeremiah 9:23-24

I admit, there are times when my vision becomes skewed. It is in these moments, the Lord must remind me it is in Him alone I am satisfied.

How often do we start idolizing the things around us? Our spouses, our children, and our family can become the focus of our lives. Our jobs, our homes, and our financial status can start to define us.
What about our homeschooling? Do we boast in our ability to homeschool or to homeschool well? Has homeschooling itself become the very center of our lives, instead of the values upon which homeschooling was built? Has progress, for the sake of progress, become our goal?

May we not make an idol out of homeschooling itself. May we focus less on the act, the daily progression of lessons. Instead, let us rejoice in our children’s ability to draw closer to the Lord. May our homeschooling be a means of helping our children understand Christ better, and may we boast in this alone. That our children walk with God.

Please share with us… Take a moment to brag about what the Lord has been doing in your homeschooling. How is He working in your lives?

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Waiting for ‘Real’ Ministry to Begin

Do you ever feel as if you’re not moving forward in ministry? You desire to serve the Lord, but where would you find the time? There’s learning which needs to be done, a house which needs to be cleaned, meals which need fixing, and a world of responsibility sitting at your feet the moment you open your eyes each morning.

The ministry which surrounds us daily might not be glamorous; no one outside our immediate family may ever know our name or see the impact we make on the world around us. This does not make our ministry less real. The roles we are currently playing are vital and as real as it gets.

The Ministry of Marriage – The Lord is constantly reminding me that marriage is more than a relationship, it is a ministry. We are connected, but it is a bond which requires work and a call to serve the Lord together. Done right, our marriage will point people to God and His saving grace.

The Ministry of Parenting – We have a unique call to train and disciple the next generation of adults. Positively a full-time role in ministry. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.

The Ministry of Education – As we teach our littles, we have the unique ability to reach their hearts, souls, and minds for Christ. Every lesson builds and strengthens, helping our children increase for God’s glory.

The Ministry of Friendship –We thank God for the few people He has brought into our lives who minister to us in this capacity. That girlfriend who just stops by to say hello? You just made our day. The gentleman who calls to encourage my husband and ask how His Bible study is going? Love that! Where would we be without awesome friends who take time just to ask how we’re doing, and occasionally stop in for a visit.

The Ministry of Edification – We might not have physically met, but our goal here at A Homeschool Mom is to edify everyone who reads these pages. While we’re perusing your thoughts, questions, and helpful tips, we’re often edified. Together, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we use this community to edify one another, encouraging closer relationships with Christ.

The World of Outside Ministry – As our children have gotten older, our ability to serve in other areas has become available. In the right context, time and place, this too is important. I want to example a well-balanced ministry for my children to see. Not a mom who is so busy she can’t take of her family and not a mom who never serves. Balance. This too ministers, trains, and educates my kids.
So we openly discuss church and community opportunities as they become available. Together we pray, list the pros and cons, and finally come to an agreement on managing our time and resources. Sometimes the ministry opportunity is only for one member of the family (e.g. A daughter helping other teens sew pillow cases for missionaries.) and other times we serve as a family. Always, the ministry opportunity is led by the Lord and intended for His glory.

Whenever I start feeling as if I’m not doing enough to serve the Lord, I remember a line from Francesca Battistelli’s song, “He Knows My Name“. It’s not important that my name be in lights. I am not living for applause. The God of the universe knows my name and loves me; just as I am, just where I am. He has me here for a reason, and He’s asking me to be faithful with what He’s given.

‘Real’ ministry is here and now. It’s not ten years down the road, it’s not ten minutes down the road. It’s right where I am. The real question is, what will I do with the ministry He’s given?

“But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”

~ Acts 20:24

Your Turn!: Show of hands… Have you read The Ministry of Motherhood?

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When Our Big Summer Plans Amount to Something Small

Big_Summer_Plans_Amount_to_Small

My children long to know what we’re doing each summer. A grand adventure seems to be called for. All of their friends will be announcing their fantastic escapades: vacations to exotic locations, camping with other friends, road trips, and more. These all sound wonderful. But with a work schedule which doesn’t let up and a budget which cannot afford such luxuries, our big summer plans usually amount to something small.

Truthfully, this breaks my heart. I’d be lying if I said I don’t want these things for our children or myself. Like most parents, I would love to give these experiences to my family and explore the world with them. Unfortunately, that’s just not where we’re at. So what can I do? Begin with prayer, and ask the Lord to lead.

Start with a Heart of Gratitude Unfulfilled desire can easily lead to a heart filled with bitterness and anger over what we don’t have. Instead, we need to choose look around us and be thankful for all we’ve been given. We have a lovely home, good food to eat, too much clothing, and plenty to keep us occupied right where we are. It’s good to have goals, but we must remember to be content with what God has given us already and be thankful for all He continually provides.

Plan for the Future If there is something important we wish to aim for, then we should also be willing to do the work needed to make it happen. Vacation trips don’t just fall in our laps. So, we’re researching, planning, and minimizing to make these happen in the future. Some of our goals are more easily attained while others might take years to accomplish. With a visual guide and plan in place, everyone becomes excited to see progress and help with cutting back.

Turn Off and Tune Out the Buzz If Instagram squares start causing discontent and Facebook posts bring us down, it might be time to remove ourselves from the action for a little while. These feeds can be lovely sources for ideas, but when inspiration becomes frustration we need a break.

Make the Most of Right Now Traveling to Europe isn’t in the cards right now, but there is plenty of opportunity for adventure all around us. Even when budgets are on a budget, there are still many ways to take advantage of the season. With a little creativity, planning, and a Google search or two, we could be having all kinds of fun.

Remember, Sometimes Small Amounts to Something Big While we’d all love grand adventures, it also helps to remember the little things in life which add up to big memories. Roasting marshmallows over a fire pit we built ourselves, sleeping in tents in the living room, homemade ice cream, free concerts, library events, kitten cuddles, and so much more. These aren’t far away adventures, to be sure, but grand none-the-less. I can’t provide exotic locations every summer – okay, not even every third summer – but I can take each day and make it memorable in its own way.

The desire for adventure remains. Through prayer, planning, and the Lord’s leading, we’re making it happen. In the mean time, I’ll continue to keep my eyes focused on what the Lord has already provided and be grateful for each new day. Because the truth is, a grand adventure awaits the moment I open my eyes. I just have to be open to the possibilities and live each day with thankfulness.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
~ I Thessalonians 5:18

We’d love to know… If you could plan one grand adventure before the summer ends, what would it be?

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A Simplified Life, Series Review!

Simplified_Life

Before summer gets away from me and life once again becomes crowded with too many homeschooling resources, parent-taxi responsibilities, and an overburdened calendar, it’s time to take a moment to breathe and simplify life. Perhaps you’re feeling like me and could use a little encouragement. Join us in reviewing this fun, simple to follow series!

With these basic, easy steps, we hope to help simplify life. Join us as we share our thoughts on how to simplify all areas of our lives, homes, and learning.

A Simplified Life: Menu Planning
A Simplified Life: Chores
A Simplified Life: Homeschooling
A Simplified Life: Educational Resources
A Simplified Life: Extra Curricular Activities
A Simplified Life: Free Printables

May these ideas help you as much as they help me!

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
~ Ephesians 5:15-17

Your Turn!: What is one area of your life you’d like to simplify?

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Am I Really THAT Important?

Am_I_Really_That_Important

Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?

Clarence, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

I don’t know of anyone whose had the pleasure of having a ‘George Bailey’ moment. Do you? You know the one I mean. A fateful night when an angel comes down to earth and shows you exactly what life would be like if you had never been born. Like George, maybe every once in a while, we could all use a reminder of just how important a role we play.

am important. You are important. What lofty positions do we hold which allow me to write these words; senator, president, prime minister, or king? Nope; we are even more important than all these.

First, assuming you are a Christian, you are a child of the One True God; a child of the King. How could you not be important, especially to Him? He created you; you were not an accident. He came to earth for you, lived as an example for you, died for you, rose again for you, and is coming again for you. Yeah… you are definitely something special.

Second, He has a plan for you. If you are following His path for your life, you are fulfilling a purpose. No matter where God called you to serve and minister, you are doing God’s work. Take joy and comfort in that.

Not everyone is going to be a super star, much less hold a government office. That doesn’t mean the role you fulfill has any less meaning or importance! Being a Christian holds so much for those who follow God’s call in their lives. Being married gives a living example of Christ’s love for the church. Parents are imparting wisdom to the next generation. Those working outside the home have the ability to minister in an even wider arena. While you might not see the benefits of your hard work now, take heart. If you are walking according to God’s purposes, you are making an impact for His kingdom.

Now that I think about it, maybe you are an ambassador after all… an ambassador for Christ, reaching out to the lost and sharing hope to those who are willing to hear. A pretty important job; don’t you think?

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
II Cor. 5:20

We’d love to know… For those of you who are Christian, share a Bible verse which encourages you in your calling. For those who aren’t Christian, and might have some questions for us, we’d love to hear from you, too!

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Are You in the ‘Dead Zone’?

I could feel it coming on; a total shut down. I had, once again, overloaded the organ currently called a brain and put it into meltdown mode. Too much information was being entered, a mass amount of work was being done, and my body was calling it quits.

How often do we do this to ourselves? Personally, I do it far too often. From the minute I wake up ’til the minute I get the kiddos down – and sometimes beyond – I am rushing at the speed of light, trying to accomplish more than is humanly possible. The result of all my busy-ness? The dead zone. A temporary state of mind where I have to literally stop everything and just breathe. A point in time when, if I don’t stop, I’ll careen myself right into shortness of breath and a massive headache.

What causes the dead zone? An overload of activity or activity which I had not planned for. On occasion, it can also be caused by my own foolishness; namely, me choosing to do far too much on any given day. Unfortunately, that’s usually the one that gets me.

Last week is a prime example… We needed to get learning done in the morning. I got the kiddos started. While they were wrapping up work, I did a list of chores and cooked some food. We rushed through lunch and headed out the door. We handled a special event and ran two errands before I dropped the kiddos at home with their pop. I headed back out to do a few more errands, only to come home and start another list of things I wanted to get done before the day was over. Did I mention all of this took place before dinner time?

Now, mind you, every day is not like this! (Thank the Lord!) But I have noticed a trend. More and more days are becoming like this. It needs to stop. Having a busy day once in a while is alright and understandable, but doing this several times a week is just too much.

The sad part is, the main culprit is me. No one is putting pressure on me to get this much accomplished. There is no manager standing behind me, ordering me to finish this list of “to do’s”. This is all me. I need to learn how to say, “no”; even to myself. I need to realistically look at my day and understand I am not Superwoman. Yes; I could rush around like a mad woman and get all this accomplished – and some days I do – but those days should be few and far between. If I am managing my time well, the days will be full, but not overwhelming.

Most importantly, I need to stop telling myself that the more I do the more I am worth. This is not a competition, even one against myself. Just because an activity could get done today, doesn’t mean it should. If something comes up at the last-minute, I need to take stock and realistically decide if this can get done; without me ending up in the ‘dead zone’.

I truly hate to admit it, but I do not need to get this much done in one day. If all of my days are filled to the brim with busyness, even for a ‘good cause’, I might be missing out on something just as important; those quiet moments with my kids and the ability to just relax. Before I run myself into the ground, it’s time to slow down. It might just be a short season of our life, but I am tired of being stuck in ‘the dead zone’.

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to [His disciples], ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’”
~ Mark 6:31

We’re curious… Do you ever find yourself overworked to the point that your brain decides to call it quits?

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Senior Trip! What Senior Trip?

Hooray! We have somehow managed to survive thirteen years of home education and this amazing child is about to graduate. In these final months a multitude of activity fills our calendar. Senior photos, yearbooks, caps & gown, honors, and so much more. Then a passing acquaintance asks a question which sends us into a tailspin, “Where is your daughter going on her senior trip?” Wait… what? What senior trip? You mean that’s a thing!

Apparently so. One acquaintance was sharing the joy her oldest daughter had on her trip to France. Her second daughter was thinking London might be more her style. We’ve had friends who’ve gone to Mexico and others to Hawaii. Sometimes it becomes a family trip, other times one parent adventures with the graduate. On occasion the senior globe-trots with friends.

I’ll confess. These all sound amazing. I would love to be able to do this with and for my children. I would also argue there is nothing wrong with these parents choosing to do so and applaud their desire to bless their children. If they can afford it, why not go for it?

But what about those of us who just… can’t? For whatever reason – finances, work situations, life – prevent us from giving that “Instagram worthy” vacation our children have always dreamed about. Our friends are sharing their fantastic plans. Our children’s friends are sharing their fantastic plans. Social media is presenting the image that everyone else has fantastic plans. And we’re… Well, we were planning on heading to the local ice cream shop, getting two scoops of ice cream and perhaps going to the beach. That comparison game is tough, isn’t it?

Just thinking about it is enough to stress some parents out. Or worse. Start a bout of parental guilt. We bemoan all we cannot do for our children but would like to. We stress that our children will be unhappy or harbor feelings of resentment for not having a life which allows us such pleasures. In short. What started out as a simple question, “What are your plans for a senior trip?” becomes the start of a spiritual battle.

Friends, we’re right there with you. But the enemy doesn’t have to win! It’s all a matter of perspective and thanksgiving. If we choose to focus on the celebration of all God is doing in our child and the plans He has for their future, the momentary event holds less weight in our lives. Graduation is not about the party, but the next step in a grand adventure. How we approach the celebration is entirely up to us! Those two scoops of ice cream and a beach trip can be a wonderful senior trip. As could a picnic in the park, having a family party, or any other way we choose to commemorate the occasion. (Plane tickets need not be involved.) It’s all a matter of perspective and a heart of thanksgiving cultivated in ourselves and our children.

What is truly important is that our child know they are special to us. What matters is that they understand we are proud of their accomplishments and celebrate them, not the event. The ceremony, the certificate, is one tiny step in a bigger adventure. We rejoice together over a job well done and go forth in prayer for the steps to come. Graduation honors God’s faithfulness in bringing us this far and anticipating all He will do in their future. It is thanksgiving, grace, mercy, and love. And that cannot be outshined by exotic locations.

In one short month our oldest girl will be graduated. Honestly, I’m not sure where the time has flown. It seems like we just got started. But here we are. God has indeed been good to us. In so many ways. Our family will celebrate, in our own way. A small trip might be involved. We’ll see. And while I would hope she fondly remembers this small adventure, I hope it is merely one of the many which has brought her to this point. For, in my eyes, this isn’t the cherry on top, but one of the many sprinkles which already decorate the large scoop of life the Lord has put before us.

“And we pray… that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, and growing in the knowledge of God…”

Colossians 1:10

We’re curious… When you graduated, did you have a senior trip?

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I Don’t Need This! (Or Do I?)

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

….. 

“I Don’t Need This!” How many times have I uttered those words? Probably more than I can count, certainly more often than I recall. The chapter of the old year is quickly coming to a close, and a new chapter in our lives is just beginning. Many of us tend to look back at the past year, either rejoicing, or thanking God it is over. I am no exception. As I look back at the year, I too am glad, in a sense, that it is done. In truth, some chapters are darker, scarier, or less cheerful than others, to say the least. In my own case, the second half of the year was definitely in the trials category.

James tell us to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

To be honest, I struggle with verses like these at times, particularly those hard times. But in light of God’s Word, I have to conclude that my opening question does indeed have an answer. That answer is, “Apparently, I do.” If I truly believe that my Father is in control, is sovereign, and has a perfect plan for my life; and if I trust that, like Job, nothing can come my way that hasn’t been okayed by Him first, then I must conclude that my trials, however unpleasant, weighty, or dark they may seem, have been allowed by Him for some reason, likely more than one. I can only conclude one thing from this: God uses trials to work on me.

God has a LOT of work to do in me, so maybe that is why I seem to have so many trials? Back to James. It says to “count it all joy… knowing that the testing produces patience…” My first inclination, whenever things get difficult, is to immediately cry out for relief, strength, and praise to God for His wonderful sustaining grace… NOT!! Sadly, my first inclination is to complain, bemoan my circumstances, and wonder, “When will this end?”

I am not, by nature, a very patient man, just ask my wife and kids. My Father, however, is working on that. His ultimate goal is not my creature comforts, but that I may, personally, be complete, lacking nothing. In order for that to happen, I need to learn patience, because, at least according to James, patience has a work to accomplish. That work cannot be accomplished quickly, easily, or without trial, because patience is only needed when one has to wait. If all of my trials ended in a split second, when would patience be built up?

According to Paul, I am supposed to rejoice in the Lord always. (Php. 4:4) James said to count it all joy. This does not mean that I am supposed to enjoy the trials, there is nothing pleasant about what we are enduring, but I am supposed to rejoice in Him during it. The fact that He is working on me is a joy, because He is working toward a perfect end, and the fact that He is working on me at all proves that I am His.

Not only am I impatient, but my natural tendency is also to wander, roam, and get distracted. I am like the little boy whose father is constantly saying, “Come here, stay close to me.” Every time a trial comes along, I run back to my Father because, like that little boy, I am afraid, overwhelmed, intimidated, or perhaps simply had some sense knocked into me. This being the case, I can also conclude that God uses these trials to keep me close to Him, which is where I need to be.

In the words of a contemporary Christian artist: “Now, I don’t want to sound like some hero, ’cause it’s God alone that my hope is in, but I’m not gonna run from the very things that would drive me closer to Him; so bring it on.” (Steven Curtis Chapman, “Bring It On”)

As I put this all together, I am coming to understand a key fact: It is one thing to praise God during a trial… it’s not always easy, in fact, it rarely is… but it’s another thing entirely to praise Him for the trial, which is where I need to go if I am to count it a joy when I fall into one. May the blessing of the Lord abound in this new (learning) year as you stay close to Him.

We’d like to know… During your summer break, in what ways are you being purposeful in drawing closer to the Lord so that you might be refreshed for the coming adventures in learning?

Want to stay connected & up to date with A Homeschool Mom? Don’t forget to follow on FacebookInstagramTwitter&Pinterest!

Helping Our Children Move Past Failure

Moving_Past_Failure

Some of you may have children that always seem to succeed; there is no hoop they can’t shoot and no test they can’t ace. Eventually though, both our children and ourselves have to deal with the reality of failure.

Through homeschooling my children, I have often seen them experience moments of failure. At times it is an arithmetic test, losing their self-control, or not winning a competition. It often amazes me that they put more pressure on themselves than I ever would place there. They have a goal and become distraught when their own expectations are not met. How do we show our children that it is okay to fail; that failure is merely a life lesson, helping them to grow and learn? How do we help them move on?

Congratulate them on giving it their best. One aim for my children is that they do their best, no matter the circumstance. Even when they don’t quite reach their goal, they should still be congratulated on giving it their best shot.

Let them talk it out and offer empathy. My kids often need the opportunity to vent their frustration and “talk it out”. They want to figure out where they went wrong and how they can fix the problem. There is no need for me to get upset; I simply need to listen and then offer a comforting hug.

Don’t lecture, ask questions: Instead of telling my child what they could have done and should have done, I try asking them what they would have done differently. By allowing them work the problem out for themselves, we are helping them to grow and mature.

Offer personal insight. It sometimes helps when our children know we can personally relate to their circumstance. If we can explain how we have dealt with the same struggle, it will encourage them to keep trying and eventually succeed.

Help them to keep trying. My kids need to be encouraged not to let the situation get the best of them, but to use this as a springboard. If they can’t succeed in a particular field, I help them to explore other options. No matter what, we “try, try again”.

Please let me be clear. While we firmly believe in helping our children move past failure, we do not believe in rewarding effort only. Not every child is going to receive an award; nor should they. We encourage our children to do their best with the understanding their best might not get them a physical award or reward. They are doing their best for the glory of God, and the improvement of themselves. Children who assume every effort earns them a trophy are being set up for life-long failure.

Part of growing up and maturing, is failing. The key is learning to dust ourselves off, learn from the lesson, and move on. With compassion, understanding, and a lot of love, our children can learn this important life lesson.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
~II Corinthians 12:9-10

We’d love to know… How do you help your children move on from failure?

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