Thursday, November 16, 2017

Joy in the Mundane

I have a dear friend who is suffering from cancer.  She's been fighting this ugly, evil, terrible monster for three years.  She's a member of our church and until the past few weeks has rarely missed a Sunday.  She's been pointing others to Christ throughout this ordeal and has been a blessing to so many, and many are praying relentlessly for her right now.

I received an update from her sister yesterday morning about her current situation, and she mentioned that a lady at the cancer center had asked her what she would like to see happen when she is released from the hospital and is able to go home.  Her reply was that she wanted to feel good again and do normal things like cut grass.

When I received this message, it was after lunch.  I was sitting on the couch thinking how I really didn't want to get up and clean the kitchen.  Again.  But then I read the message and thought, Oh how she would love to get up and clean a kitchen!

Her humble reply humbled me.  It reminded me that I should be thankful I have a kitchen to clean and the strength to do it.  

Psalms 28:7
The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.

~~ May we all find joy in the mundane today ~~ because of who God is and all He has done for us ~~ and in **thankfulness** for the merciful blessing of health and strength to do the daily chores of life that must be done, while being reminded to pray for those who long for the mundane but are without strength to do even simple activities of daily living.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Matthew is 9!

We've been celebrating Matthew this week as he is now 9 years old!


His birthday party was last weekend after he played his last game of the season in Upward flag football. He absolutely loved it and was a pretty good quarterback!  


He has become a football fanatic.  I mentioned on Instagram that he has many nicknames, and I think "Mr. ESPN" could be added.  He remembers players' names that I've never heard of and can tell you pretty quickly who plays on which teams.  He knows the stats, the rankings, it's just crazy.  So, it was appropriate that he wanted to have a football party.  He and his friends played football outside, played inside on the Xbox, and watched some games on TV.  It was a fun afternoon of football, and he said it was the best party ever!


His friends come in all ages and sizes, and no one seems to care.  When you home school, that tends to often be the case.  They have fun together and that's what matters.

This has been a big year for Matthew.  Namely, he trusted Christ as his Savior back in the summer, and it's been a blessing to see the fruits of that.  He's such a "good" easygoing kid by nature that I was worried it would take him a while to realize he was indeed sinful, but I'm thankful he did.  (His sisters often comment, "Matthew never gets in trouble!"  When he does something wrong, he is corrected, and 99% of the time, he immediately stops whatever it is.  Thus, no need for any punishment!  What a novel idea! :D)


He's really likes his new school and is doing great there.  He mentioned the other day that he would rather do all of his school at home and just let me teach him (more free time), but if he has to go somewhere, he's happy to go there.


If you walk in his room, you can tell he is a huge Texas Longhorn fan.  It's everywhere ~ even in his bathroom.  And speaking of his room, it is probably the neatest, most organized room in the house.  He is detailed in his thinking, and I LOVE it.  Don't moms love anything that makes their life easier? LOL

So, there's a few tidbits about Matthew (AKA Butterbean, Hotdog, Matchew).  His sisters may complain that he never gets in trouble, but they adore him, and his dad and I think he's pretty awesome, too.  

Happy Birthday, Matthew!

My dad always makes our birthday cakes, and the kids always request M&Ms be added.

Monday, October 30, 2017

A Word that is Losing it's Meaning

COMMITMENT

How could 10 letters carry such a heavy weight?

If I sat here long enough and thought about it, that word would bring tears.  Not sure about other countries, but in America, this word has less and less meaning. :>(

And as a confession, my sister had to give me a reminder about this the other day. 

There was an event that I was to attend, and I had RSVP'd.  But I was exhausted and had a day full of other activities, and I had decided I'd just not go.  She asked, "Did you indeed RSVP?"  I did.  She said, "Then you have to go."  Really?  Ugh.  I realized she was right.  And I went, and I'm glad I did.

Isn't it just too easy to break commitments nowadays?  My thought was, "There will be so many people there, they'll never notice if I don't show up."  But that's not the point at all.  If I made the commitment, it is my duty to stick with it. 

Now, if I had ended up with the flu or had a family emergency or something along those lines, that's totally different and understandable.  But just being tired?  No, that's not an excuse.   Everybody is tired!

I've had that happen to me many times.  In fact, I'm fighting bitterness against a particular person who has a record of changing plans with me at the last minute.  I've reached the point where I'm "done" with this person, and I'm having to ask the Lord to help my heart with this.

I don't want to be that person that someone is "done" with.  I want to be a person that can be depended upon - not talking about people pleasing here but just being a person of integrity.

Matthew 5:37 ~ But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.'  For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

James 5:12 ~ But above all, my brethren, do not  swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath.  But let your "Yes" be "Yes," and your "No," "No," lest you fall into judgement."

I think sometimes we can say "yes" to commitments too quickly without "counting the cost."  Reminds me again of Naomi, Ruth and Orpah as mentioned in the previous post.  Multiple times, Naomi asked her daughters-in-law to stay behind and gave reasons why they should.  She wanted them to completely understand what it was going to cost them if they decided to follow her.  Ruth and Orpah both initially insisted on going, but I think as time went on, Orpah realized what that truly meant and determined it was a heavier burden then she wanted to carry.  Ruth, on the other hand, was set on going.  She loved Naomi and wanted to stay with her, but the main reason I think is because she realized that Naomi was a worshiper of the One True God, and she desired to worship Him, too, and was willing to leave the country of the false gods in order to do that.  She then made the commitment and stuck with it.

When we make a commitment, we're making an oath of sorts.  Sometimes we take advantage of friendships by canceling at the last minute (for no good reason) thinking that "they'll understand," but we're actually causing damage to the friendship by not being true to our word, and it makes the other person feel like they are not a necessary part of our life.

I've had many occasions where I didn't want to do something but ended up going anyway and was always thankful afterward that I made the effort.  I also remember a time about a year ago when I had "tentatively" said I would go eat dinner with someone.  I could have made the effort to go but didn't and haven't been invited since....

As a Christian, I am realizing how important it is to keep my commitments - to God, my family, my church, my friends, etc., and to not commit until I am certain that it is something I am willing to follow through with.

I don't want someone to ask me to do something and then worry up until the last minute if I'm going to show up or do what I said I'd do.  Often, commitments take us out of our comfort zones, and that's okay.  When we serve and love others by keeping our commitments, we serve the Lord.  [Lord, help me remember this.]

Romans 12:10-11 ~ Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;

Friday, October 27, 2017

Stuck?

On Monday evening, some ladies from my church and I wrapped up a Bible study we've been going through.  I haven't made it to every session, but I did manage to complete the workbook.  We did the study "Stuck" by Jennie Allen, and it was good.

I went into this study not really feeling stuck in anything, but by the end of the study, I realized I most certainly was.

Two particular areas stood out:  (1) People pleasing and (2) Letting go of my expectations and plans in exchange for God's expectations and plans.  The author didn't even really go into deep detail on these subjects, but as I read the scriptures and studied through them, these are definitely things that God spoke to my heart about.

I've touched on the people pleasing thing on here before, but I cannot explain how much joy I now have since coming to that realization and letting go of trying to please everyone and meeting the expectations that I assume they have of me.  I feel like I found myself when I didn't even realize I was missing! Crazy, I know.  On the last night of the study, we were talking about denying ourselves and following Christ - I commented that sometimes you have to find yourself before you can deny yourself, and that's exactly what it feels like I've done.  I was being so many things to so many different people that I literally did not know if I was coming or going or where I was when I got there! Whew!

Freedom is a great word to describe what I'm feeling.

And then there's letting go of expectations and plans of how I think my life should go.  There's a lady in Texas who used to have a blog, and I recently found her on Facebook.  She encourages me.  During this study, I was reminded of something she tells her children.  When making plans, do so with "open hands" versus "tight fists."  In other words, we can make our plans and have our goals but always do so with the thought that God could have other plans, and His ways are always better than our ways. 
 
As I've been studying the Sunday School lesson for this Sunday, I thought of this as well.  The lesson is on Ruth and Naomi and being committed (and that's a whole other subject that is stirring in my mind).  At one point, Naomi comments "the hand of the Lord has gone out against me."  Maybe she felt like she was being punished for something and that was why she was in the difficult situation she was in - losing her husband and sons and now moving away from what was familiar and being very selfless in urging her daughters-in-law to stay behind.
 
Despite the hard things and the great hurt that I'm sure Naomi was going through, God had a plan. 

Ruth, determined to stay with Naomi, would marry Boaz in this new country, and they would have a son named Obed who would be David's grandfather, and in time, the Messiah, our Lord Jesus, would be delivered through this lineage! Naomi had no way of knowing this.  Unfortunately, she couldn't see the big picture.  And that's how it is with us.  Sometimes, God allows things to happen that we just can't make sense of.  In some cases, we get to see the puzzle all put together, but in some cases, we don't.  [Sometimes sin (our own sin or others) causes situations to arise that cause life to spin out of control.  But God is still in control - even when we make a mess of things.]

At all times, we have to trust God - just like Joseph did in Genesis 50:20 ~ But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. 
 
And although Naomi didn't know it, this would have been a good verse for her as well.  If we can only bring our expectations in line with what God desires for us, wouldn't that be the most wonderful thing!  This is hard and something I struggle with, but I've been made aware, and that's the first step to getting better, right?
 
Tenth Avenue North has a new song out that goes well with this, and I love it! It's called Control.  I'll end with a portion of the lyrics.
 
Here I am, all my intentions
All my obsessions, I wanna lay them all down
In Your hands, only Your love is vital
Though I’m not entitled
Still You call me Your child
 
God, You don’t need me, but somehow You want me
Oh, how You love me, somehow that frees me
To take my hands off of my life and the way it should go
Oh, God, You don’t need me, but somehow You want me
Oh, how You love me, somehow that frees me
To open my hands up and give You control
I give You control
 
I’ve had plans shattered and broken
Things I have hoped in, fall through my hands
You have plans to redeem and restore me
You’re behind and before me
Oh, help me believe
 
You want me
Somehow You want me
The King of Heaven wants me
So this world has lost its grip on me
I give You control
 
 


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Wednesday Evening Church Meals for Children

Over a year ago, I happily started helping out with our Wednesday evening suppers at church.  The family that was doing it had been doing it for many years and had decided it was time to stop.  Consideration was given to stopping the meals altogether.  (Actually, they weren't really meals at that time but more like snacks.)  Myself and others did not want it to end, so I decided I'd give it a try.  I knew this was something that the children looked forward to, and with our bus ministry, I knew some children really needed it.

After weighing the options, I realized that a small meal for the youth would cost relatively the same as purchasing snacks - sometimes cheaper!  So, that's the direction I chose to take.  At the time, I had a few ideas but started searching the Internet for meals that were easy to serve to a crowd, but unfortunately, I didn't come up with a whole lot.  Over time, we've developed a few different menus, and we just rotate those. 

This is a ministry that I enjoy participating in, and I have a lot of help.  The hardest part, which actually isn't hard at all, is deciding what's next in the lineup and purchasing what is needed.  I rarely spend over $40 a week and usually it's less as others are often donating some of these items that I just have to add to.  I usually shop on Wednesday afternoons, deliver the items to the church, and I always have help to get everything cooked or ready to serve, and thankfully, there are several who help with the cleanup afterward, so this is not a burden for anyone. 

Here are some of our menus (I usually plan for 40-60 as I want the adults to feel free to eat, too):

Nachos! (This is the crowd favorite)
We use the big can of condensed nacho cheese at Walmart, and after adding milk, it goes a long way.  In addition, I have to purchase the chips (around 6 bags), 4-5 pounds of ground beef and 2 packs of taco seasoning, shredded lettuce (1 large bag), sour cream, and salsa.  Then we add a dessert, which is usually cookies, brownies, cupcakes, etc. 

Chicken Nuggets
I buy around 5 bags of chicken nuggets (usually the 90-count bag at Walmart).  Each person is given 4 nuggets with usually some left over for seconds. Macaroni and cheese and a salad is served with this.  Condiments and desserts are added.

Corn Dogs
A local grocery store has a box of 80 corn dogs for $12! They are slightly defective, which just means they may look ugly - not dangerous to eat or taste affected in any way.  We add tater tots, condiments and dessert!

Pizza Rolls
Same as chicken nuggets, there's usually 90 in a bag, sometimes more, so I buy 4-5 bags.  I usually serve corn and a salad with these in addition to condiments and dessert.

Chicken Sandwiches
I buy the big bag of Tyson chicken patties, usually 2-3 bags, and then purchase buns and shredded lettuce.  We'll serve chips, pickles and dessert alongside.

Hot Dogs
I purchase 6-8 packs of hot dogs and buns, and with this we'll serve chili (sometimes I'll make a crockpot full and sometimes I'll buy canned), and on occasion I'll make slaw.  We add chips, condiments and dessert.

Spaghetti
I cook a lot of noodles and then offer two choices for sauce.  I make a red sauce with meat and a white sauce with chicken.  I buy the canned sauces, fry up some seasoned ground beef for the red sauce, and open up some canned chicken and add to the white sauce.  We'll serve a salad, bread and dessert to go with this.

Pizza
If there's a good bit of extra money left at the end of the month, I'll purchase pizzas from a local restaurant.  We all love their pizzas, and they sell one-topping pizzas for $5.99 each! We'll add a pasta salad (2-3 boxes of colored noodles boiled/drained, tiny pepperonis, 2 cups of mozzarella, Parmesan cheese to taste, and 1-2 bottles of Olive Garden Italian dressing) and dessert, and this is an easy night for all of us!

Soup
In the winter, I have a chicken noodle soup recipe a friend shared with me that the kids enjoy.  (Two LARGE cans of cream of chicken soup, 1 box chicken broth, 1 Rotisserie chicken, and 2 packs of fine noodles - these are in the Jewish section at the grocery story, if I'm remembering correctly.  I then double or triple this recipe.)  PB&J sandwiches and desserts are served with this.

With all these choices, we can easily rotate and the kids are getting a variety so if they don't like one week's choices, they might like the next. :>)

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Hidden Things

I post a lot about our home.  I know this, and it got me wondering.... Does it appear that I am worshiping our home?

I gave this some thought because if I am, it needs to stop.

But I've examined my heart in this area, and I honestly don't think I am.  I am grateful for our new home.  I love that we went from 2200 square feet with a full, partially-finished basement to 1800 square feet of space that makes so much more sense with no waste, and it is so fun to dress it up to fit our lifestyle and personalities.

This is a "before" picture.  The past two weekends, we have been staining the front porch. I'm very happy with how it looks - it just feels warmer and more cozy.

"Before"

"After"


I think it's important to care for my home but in a way that honors God.  Am I going into debt to make it a showplace to impress others?  Thankfully, no.  I'm taking my time and purchasing things as they appear or searching out deals for things that are needed.  I've allowed all our children to decorate their rooms however they want.  (Some choices have made me cringe a bit, but I just walk away.)  And even though things are not exactly as I want them yet, I'm fine with that and would not let it prevent me from having guests over.  They're welcome anytime!

When we built our home, I said I wanted it to be a place where all feel welcome.  I want my guests to feel cozy.  I want my family to be comforted in this little piece of space that God has allowed us to live in, to always feel loved and safe, and hopefully be surrounded by beauty at the same time.

On Saturday evenings, we often invite friends over for supper.  It's very motivating for me to clean and get things in order - because so far, all of our guests have been coming over for the first time since we moved in, and I know there will be a home tour.

Although what is seen may be nice and tidy - what is not seen may be a different story. (I could definitely make a correlation here to our lives as Christians, but I'm pretty sure it's been done before, so I'll leave that alone.)

Just a few examples of the "seen:"

This is our homeschool closet.  I don't even mind if the doors are left open. :)

The girls' bathroom as well as the one generally used by guests.

The Dining Room

The Living Room
The kitchen - although it rarely looks like this.

View of the back porch from the living area.

This past Saturday as I was preparing our home for our friends, I realized my cleaning routine was taking a bit longer.  For the first few months, I could have the entire house cleaned (with the children cleaning their rooms, of course) within two hours or less.  It's taking a bit longer these days.  I didn't really think about the reasoning behind this until Saturday evening when our friends were here. 

During the home tour (our closet) and later while having supper together and the wife was searching for a utensil in my kitchen, I found myself a bit embarrassed. 

I realized that while I've been trying to make what is seen look nice, what is not seen has gone to pot.  I read Emilie Barnes' books early on in my marriage, and she taught me a long time ago to make sure everything has a "place," but it seems I've forgotten about that.  I've been throwing stuff here and there and then closing drawers and shutting doors - out of sight, out of mind.  This may seem like a good idea, but when items don't have a place or they're just out of place, it causes more work - thus more time spent in cleaning! 

So, if at some point I've given the idea that I'm the perfect housekeeper, I'm going to be painfully honest and let you see the "unseen." (Well, obviously, you're seeing it, but if you walked in my home, you might not.)

The Master Closet.  Makes me want to cry.

The Cookbook/Recipe Drawer.  Before we moved, I went through all my cookbooks and got rid of several and tried to condense my favorite recipes into one book.  That helped, but this definitely is not a working solution at the moment.

The JUNK drawer.  I know everyone has one, but this is ridiculous.

The inside of the fridge.  You're lucky if nothing falls out when you open it.
I love to organize - although there's not much proof of that right now, but that's my goal for this week or month or however long it takes - to get this place in order!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The 2017-18 School Year

We've been a homeschooling family since 2002, and I think every year has looked different.  2017 is no exception.

One big change is that I am now down to 2 students!  Madison graduated from public school in 2014 (she homeschooled through the 8th grade), and Cari is a 2017 graduate from her homeschool co-op.


Cari attended the same co-op for three years, and Amelia and Matthew attended there last year.  It was a good year, but there is another co-op in our area that I've always wanted to give a try, but their schedule never lined up with ours.  This year, it did, and that's where we are.  It's different, but I like it.  It is a classical school, and I've always liked aspects of a classical education.  In fact, we've used a lot of classical curriculum over the years and even attended Classical Conversations at one point.  I liked CC, but I always wanted to move past the memorization, and we weren't in that "group" yet.  Now, it's like the best of both worlds with memorization and also learning about what you're memorizing.

They attend on Tuesday and Friday of every week with homework assignments on the days they are home.  Unlike the previous school, I only have one volunteer day per semester, so Brad takes them to school on his way to work, and I am able to stay home and work/get some things accomplished.

Amelia is taking a Foundations class, which is a history-based class, and a Grammar class, which includes grammar, literature and composition.  

For Foundations, they use Streams of Civilization, In Their Words (a Notgrass curriculum), Know What You Believe by Paul Little, the Bible, and The Chronicles of Narnia.  Lots of books, but they don't use them all at once.  Her teacher uses a little of each here and there.  It is a challenging class, but Amelia is in 7th grade, so it is time to buckle down and wade through the challenges.

In her grammar class, they use Harvey's Revised English Grammar.  It looks like a book you would see on Little House on the Prairie, which is awesome.  I tend to believe there is nothing wrong with the way children received an education back then, and it's a blessing they didn't have to suffer through Common Core. So I'm all in with this grammar book.

At home, Amelia uses Teaching Textbooks 7 for her math, and for science, we have a curriculum on *weather* that came from Answers in Genesis.  She also has a daily devotion/Bible lesson.

As for Matthew, he is taking all of his classes at the school.  He has a Classical Core class, which includes history and Latin.  They use Story of the World for history and Prima Latina for Latin.  He has a language arts class in which his teacher creates her own worksheets for editing practice, and he also has grammar charts that he is memorizing.  They  work on writing and composition with the IEW Ancient-History Based writing curriculum.  I love how it goes right along with what he's learning in his history class.  For math, his class uses Rod & Staff, which we've always used at home for the early years, so that was a big win!  And in science, they use Science in the Beginning by J. Wile.  I really have no complaints about any of the curriculum.

At home, in addition to his homework, Matthew works on handwriting skills and has a daily devotion/Bible lesson.

This year is definitely their most challenging yet, educationally, but I think it's good for them.  In the past, I might have backed off if something appeared to be too challenging, but seeing the sense of accomplishment when they jump through a hurdle is encouraging.  And needed.


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