Saturday, November 8, 2014

what we've been doing outside of the classroom

A couple of weeks ago I was asked about my philosophy of home education.  I’m not exactly sure what I said, but I am pretty sure that it sounded as dumb to those listening as it did to my own ears.  I have since come up with a better answer.  Here goes …

I want to squeeze as much fun … as many good memories … as possible into the years I have my children at home with me.  Now, many of those memories need to center on your basic, sitting-at-the-desk-doing-math, kind of days.  Many days yes, but certainly not all.  So, with that in mind, here is a look into what we’ve been doing outside the classroom lately.
all three smiling ... quite an accomplishment for my non-photogenic family

my beautiful girl

the boys playing in the corn bin ... 
I guess you never get too old for this kind of fun

a rare picture of me ... sitting in the very stinky hay

ain't he cute?
 A few weeks ago we made our somewhat annual (read – we want to do it every year but don’t always get to) trip to the pumpkin patch.  We’ve been doing this since our very first year homeschooling … as a matter of fact, I think the pumpkin patch was one of our very first field trips to ever attend and I know it was the first one I ever planned.  This is not something that I ever did as a child (did they even have pumpkin patches way back then??), but I have loved how much my children LOVE this super fun fall activity.  I am sure that they have learned a few things over the years, but honestly, we aren’t taking this field trip to claim school hours learning … it is just FUN!
JW chose a flat one for the
pumpkin stack that is now
next to our front door.

D and his so-ugly-it-is-almost-cute pumpkin

Of course, some field trips are both educational and fun.  This was certainly true of our recent trip to the Grand Gulf Military Park in Port Gibson, MS.  The children were given the history of the Civil War battle fought there and then sent off to explore the wonderful park.  Oddly, one of my favorite parts was exploring the old cemetery.  Roaming through weathered tombstones is always such a poignant reminder of our connection to the past. 

Our history teacher - the park director

The kids wandering through a section of the cemetery

The group - taken by LB from about halfway up the
observation tower ... no one in my family
wanted to go any higher.

JW and his best friend

One of my favorite views of the day.

We ended our day with a visit to Windsor Ruins located somewhere near the Natchez Trace, not too far from Port Gibson.   Windsor is the remains of what was once a beautiful antebellum home.  This massive home has a sad history ~ the man who built it died within weeks of its completion.  Later, it was used by both Confederate and Union troops during the Civil War before it burned down after a guest dropped a lighted cigar or cigarette.  
Just a little perspective on the massive columns

I took several of these just because the day was so beautiful

As we walked among the columns (which we probably weren’t supposed to be doing), one couldn't help but think of the lives that were lived inside those now imaginary walls.

A beautiful old tree that was probably
there when the house was built.
A very serious D climbing the jungle gym tree
While the adults and teens enjoyed the actual ruins, the younger kids found a tree that looked just like a jungle gym to them.  What a perfect way to end a wonderful day.

A bonus for the day ... my friend Marie (and her children
Izzy and Max) rode with us, just to make sure I didn't get lost ;)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Galatians 6:2

Tonight, I stood in my kitchen frying chicken as the tears fell ...

I miss my Mama.

I've been looking back through blog posts that I have started and not finished.  I figure it is time to finish this one since it has been on my mind lately ... I'm not sure how long it has been since I started this post, but I do know that nothing has changed.

In less than a week, we will mark 18 months since my Mama died.  Not a day goes by that I do not think of her.  At least once a week, I almost reach for the phone to tell her something ... anything.  There are so many things I wish I could ask her ... things I wish I had asked when I had the chance.

I know in my heart that I am no different than anyone else.  Everywhere I look, I see hurting people ... and in this fallen world we live in, death isn't the only thing that brings grief.  If I have learned anything over the last 18 months, it is that grief is an intensely personal journey.  A path that we all walk a little differently.  

But it is not meant to be a private journey.

Galatians 6:2
Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Romans 12:15
Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

Stop and let that sink in a minute.

We were never created to walk through our trials alone.  As Christians, we know that we always have the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort us (see John 14), but God also commands us to be there for each other ~ to help in time of need.  God doesn’t tell us to fix the problem, He simply tells us to share in the burden.

I am not very good at this ~ in either direction.  My tendency is to be a hermit.  I want to hold on to my personal pain and I often shrink from the pain of others.  But this isn’t what God intended. 

I have often heard it said and probably even said it myself, that God will not give us more than we can handle.  I no longer think this is true.  I believe that God allows situations that we absolutely cannot handle on our own ~ whatever form they may take ~ in our lives that are needed to help us to grow and mature in our faith.

When I think back 18 months to the time when Mama was home on Hospice care and then to the day she died and the days following, my mind doesn’t always immediately go to the pain and grief.  I can also think of my sweet friends in our homeschool group who provided meals for my family in a time when they would have been living on peanut butter and jelly had it been up to me.  And then there was the amazing “coincidence” that my dear friend from church was in town the day Mama died despite the fact that she has moved a couple of hours away.  Amy chose to come sit with me during one of the most difficult days of my life.

My friends didn’t have to bear my burden, but I will never forget that they chose to be the hands and feet of Jesus for me.  I pray that I never miss an opportunity to do the same for someone else.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


I’m feeling like waxing (a little) poetic tonight.  I’ll apologize in advance … but keep writing anyway.

The days are marching by faster and faster.  Sometimes, it seems that all I can do is think in clich├ęs about how fast kids grow up and how quickly time marches on.  I don’t think I can keep up with the changes in my children.  My sweet friend (and “secret twin”) Marie informed me that it has to do with my age … hmm, just what I wanted to hear. 

In the midst of all this fast moving time, I have missed several important events that should have warranted a blog post.  A good mommy-blogger would probably give each a separate post … oh well, judge me if you must, but I’ll just lump them together here.

Last month, my first-born child turned 15 years old.  This beautiful little girl has grown into a lovely young woman.  She has entered high-school and I have been pleasantly surprised that she is beginning to take initiative and pride in her schoolwork.  She still needs some encouragement, but that is okay ~ I am not quite ready for her to grow out of her need for me just yet.  I saw a quote the other day and I can’t help but look forward to the time when this is true for us … “Daughters are just little girls who grow up to be our best friends.”

Last week my “baby” turned 9 years old.  Somehow this one has been hard for me.  I am now one week into my last year with a child in single-digits.  Maybe this has something to do with how fast time seems to be flying.  This little wild-child of mine is changing faster than I can keep up.  He may still be the baby of the family, but he is finding his own way in the world, apart from his older siblings, and I am loving it and hating it at the same time.  At least he still loves to cuddle with his Mama and he’ll even still let me kiss him in public.  I know that these things won’t last forever, but I’ll enjoy it as long as he will let me.

There was another birthday last week, but this one brought only sadness instead of celebrating.  My Mama would have been 66 on Wednesday of last week.  It has been 18 months since Mama died and I really thought that it would be easier to deal with by now, but it isn’t and I really wonder if it ever will be.  I have made a couple attempts to write a post about just that, but so far I just can’t seem to get it done.  The words just won’t come.  Maybe someday.

I’ll end on a happier note … my middle child will be celebrating his 13th birthday in just under a month.  I think that milestone birthday should warrant a post all of its own.  I’ll try really hard to actually accomplish just that!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

a message in a box

Our family began packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child 10 or 11 years ago.  At that time, it was just a mission project suggested by a lady in our church.  I knew nothing of the ministry of Operation Christmas Child and very little about Samaritan’s Purse.  Over the last decade, I have learned to love this ministry ~ first by simply packing shoeboxes with my family, and later as the coordinator for a local relay center (drop-off location).

Each year, from January to October, our church collects items that will be used to fill our shoeboxes during a church-wide packing party.  This is one of my favorite events of the entire year.  I have seen church members from preschool age to senior adults (some in their late 80’s) coming together to pack shoeboxes for children we will likely never meet (this side of Heaven) in countries we will most likely never visit.  I love that Operation Christmas Child provides a mission field for the entire church to work together, but this is just a piece of the story. 

While I have a part in packing many boxes each year, I always pack one special box.  This box is one that I work on all year long ~ usually for an older girl.  While school supplies, hygiene items, and other basics go in every box I pack, I choose the items for this box carefully and it is important to me that it includes certain extra things.  I always include at least one thing that is handmade and since I crochet, that item is often a scarf or small bag.  I also include crayons and a coloring book.  Finally, I always include a carefully chosen stuffed animal ~ one that carries a special message of love to the little girl who will find it in her gift.

These extra items are meant to convey the simple message of this shoebox gift. Most important to me is the stuffed animal. Though she may not understand it, I choose the stuffed animal early in the year and use it to remind me to pray for the child who will receive this box and all the others that are packed in our church.  The most important message in my shoebox, or any other one, is that  "God loves you and sent His Son to redeem you.”  I want this young woman to know that she is being prayed for and that she is not forgotten. 

The true beauty of this message isn't only revealed in the faces of the children who will receive the gifts.  It is true that they will hear, perhaps for the first time in their lives, that there is a Savior who gave Himself for them.  They will have the opportunity to learn about the amazing love of Jesus and that is nothing short of a miracle.  But, they aren't the only ones who receive a gift through the packing of shoeboxes.  Each year, during collection week, I hear countless stories of how packing a "simple gift" has impacted the lives of individuals, families, and churches.  We have received boxes that were packed by abused women in a battered women's shelter and boxes packed by adults with special needs at a local center.  These boxes are placed alongside hundreds of others ~ some from individuals, some from families, and some packed by churches of all sizes.  Each box has a story, a reason it is packed, and each box is special.

The ultimate message is this ... God created and gifted each of us in a special way for His glory.  Whatever your part in the process, from the packing, to collecting, to processing, and even to receiving, God has a plan for your life.  I may never know how God plans to use the children who receive the shoeboxes that I have a part in packing, but that is okay.  I have no doubt that I can trust Him to accomplish His will and I am thankful for the opportunity to have a small part in it.

Monday, September 22, 2014

the journey

This fall begins our 11th year as a homeschooling family.  It has been quite a journey.  One with more ups and downs than I care to remember.
Actually, I’m not sure exactly how to count the years we have spent homeschooling since Ronnie and I made the decision before our children were even born.  My desire has always been to foster an atmosphere of learning ~ though I’m not sure I’ve accomplished that goal, at least not in the way I envisioned it in the days when my children were still toddling around the house with sippy cups.  I had dreamy visions of kids happily bounding out of bed each morning, eager to see what the day would hold.  We might spend the day tramping in the woods or writing compositions or reading the classics.  In my dream world, my children would all absolutely adore school and I would never, ever have to coax them to do their work.

I’m sure that it is unnecessary to say that reality is just a wee bit different absolutely nothing like those early visions.  My children have a love/hate relationship with sleep … they hate it when I am trying to get them to go to sleep and they love it when I am trying to wake them up.  The only time they voluntarily “bound out of bed” … um, actually I don’t think that has ever happened.  Mornings are not our favorite time of day. None of my kids are child prodigies-they won’t be graduating from high school at 13 headed for some Ivy League school. 

Just for the record, I am okay with that.

Somewhere along the way, over the last decade of our journey, I traded those idealized dreams for the reality of life.  Our days may not look like what I thought they would, and we may not have covered as much material as the world says we should have, but God’s hand has been in our journey.   Each of my children is smart in their own way.  They are gifted, maybe not by the world’s standards, but thankfully, it is God’s standards that matter. Their giftedness comes from Him and He doesn’t make mistakes.

There have been many difficult days on this journey.  Some of the troubles we have brought on ourselves, some are things that we simply couldn’t avoid.  But there have also been many wonderful days.  There have been days full of bickering and days full of snuggling.  There have been days when we struggled through the work and days when learning seemed effortless and fun.  Most days are a mixed bag of good and bad, easy and hard. There have been days when my only desire was to throw in the towel and just give up. Fortunately, on those days, my sweet husband reminds me that we didn't choose this path randomly.

God called us to it and confirmed it even before Ronnie and I were married.  

Each day that rolls presents an opportunity to choose joy.  I have become keenly aware, over the course of several years, that my children’s ability to navigate the day ~good or bad~ is directly connected to how I choose to navigate the day. Ouch.  I have no desire to admit how many days I have sabotaged with my own bad attitude. But, I am learning and they are learning and together we are making strides to change our attitudes.

I don’t claim to have gained much wisdom, but there are two things I would tell anyone new to the homeschooling journey.  Things I wish I had understood better when I first started out on this journey.

First and foremost, bathe your journey in prayer.  When the day starts to fall apart, don’t fall apart with it ~ stop immediately and pray.  And when you do fall apart (because we all do) don’t waste time beating yourself up about it. It won’t help.  I have begun to be honest with my kids … I tell them that I know I have messed up and ask them to forgive me.  And then we pray together and try again.  In the end, it is my prayer that my children will remember that we all make mistakes and we all need to seek forgiveness.

The second thing I know for certain is that we shouldn’t try to go this journey alone.  Ronnie and I have been blessed with a great biological family and a wonderful church family; both have been supportive of our journey, even when they don't fully understand what we are doing.  I am extremely thankful not to have faced opposition from either of these groups.  But, God has blessed us with another group of people to help us along the way and I am so thankful.

Our first year homeschooling, Ronnie and I went to a homeschool materials display at a nearby hotel.  While there, we ran into a friend of his from college.  He introduced me and during the course of the conversation, this old friend invited me to visit a meeting of her homeschool support group.  I had no idea what to expect and I didn't really know anyone there, but I went and have never regretted it.  Before I even knew that I needed a group, God met my need.  Just when I would begin thinking that I was the only one experiencing some particular problem, I would go to some event and in just chatting with other moms I would realize that I was not alone.  Later, our family would join with several others to form a new homeschool group and this group has become even more like family to me.  Some of the moms have been schooling their children much longer than I have, while others are just starting out; but we all have something to offer each other: community and shared experiences.  It is an excellent picture of the Titus 2 lifestyle ~ though often the wisdom flows both ways, not just from older to younger.  I have learned much from listening to others on this journey, no matter their age.

I firmly believe that God designed us for community.  Just like a Christian cannot thrive without a church family, I believe that homeschoolers need community, as well.  I realize that not every homeschooling family would agree that they need a support group, but I know that I most likely wouldn't have survived this journey alone and I am so thankful to God for having provided for me before I even knew what I needed.

I really didn't intend to write this particular post.  I actually began with the idea of sharing how one of the ladies in our group helped me to see some things I was missing as I begin a new phase of homeschooling with two teenagers - including our first high-school student.  But, now that this little history of our journey is written, I think I am glad.  Maybe one day it will help my children see the journey a little clearer.  

And, maybe it will help me to remember to be ever-thankful for the great blessings God has poured into my life through this journey of educating my children and finding out that I am learning at least as much as they are ... probably more.

Friday, February 21, 2014

daybook - 2014 edition

Back when I was blogging on a regular basis, I enjoyed doing these weekly peek into my day posts sponsored by The Simple Woman.  Even now, I still use them occasionally in a thankfulness journal that I have kept for several years.  I also use the format to help my children journal sometimes.  With all that said, I still have to admit that I miss doing the daybooks in the blog format, so here I go again.  Besides, maybe it will help be get back into the blogging routine.

For Today ... February 21, 2014

Outside my window ... 
The sun is shining and the skies are a beautiful blue.  
It is cooler today after an unseasonably warm 80 degrees yesterday,
and the puddles give evidence of last night's storm.

I am thinking ... 
about school and our possible move and how to make the two work together.

I am thankful ...
for my wonderful visit with my friend Amy this week!

I am hearing ... 
not much ... the kids are all being very quiet at the moment.

I am creating ...
a crocheted shirt for Lora ~ at least I am trying.  
It is slow going, mainly because I just don't have the time to work on it.

I am going ... 
nowhere that I know of ~ yay!

I am wondering ...
how our meal at church will go Sunday night ... our SS class is hosting!

I am reading ...
mostly with the kids.  
We have been reading some classic stories and we just finished Rip Van Winkle.  
The kids didn't know the story, so that made it more fun for me.  
Today we are going to read The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.  

I am looking forward to ...
getting on with this move and re-establishing normal.

I am learning ...
that you can't run away from hard things ~ some things you just have to face.

From the kitchen ...
I can still smell last night's fried chicken ... yummy!

Around the house ... 
more and more things that I realize must be done!

One of my favorite things ...
peaceful evenings at  home - they are far too rare.

A few plans for the rest of the week ... 
not much left of it, but I will be shopping for the food I am fixing for the meal at church and then our class will get together to get the fellowship hall ready.  Sometime tomorrow we need to buy Daniel new cleats in anticipation of his first baseball practice of the season coming up this Tuesday night.

A peek into my day ...
This is a picture of where we are planning to move ... of course, it doesn't look
exactly like this anymore since this was taken 19 years ago.
I grew up here and I still love it.  So do my kids.

This is a picture of my Mama's Daddy holding me when I was about 2 months old.
He would have been 93 this month.

Daybooks are fun!  Visit The Simple Woman to find out more.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

creation vs. evolution debate

Outside my window, there are tons of birds doing what birds do.  Watching (and photographing) them is one of my favorite things.  My favorites are the male blue jays and cardinals that we have in great abundance around here.  Their bright colors are so distinctive and just plain beautiful.  As I look out on the tiny little bit of nature in my back yard, I am often amazed by the world around me and even more so by the infinite creativity of God.

There has been quite a bit of talk over the last few days regarding the debate between Ken Ham of the Creation Museum and Bill Nye (you know "The Science Guy").  I watched the debate on Tuesday night with great interest.  I love debate and was excited to see one on this topic - especially with Ken Ham participating.  Although I didn't know much about Bill Nye before the debate, I was also interested in how he would back up his stance that you cannot be a Christian and a scientist at the same time.

The debate went pretty much as I expected.  Both men were respectful of each other on stage and neither man was swayed by anything the other said.  I was a little surprised at the debate format, which allowed for very little interaction between the two men.  I was also surprised by how little actual science was discussed.  Bill Nye kept to his demeaning attitude of creationists aren't real scientists and thus have no place in either science or education, while Ken Ham showed many examples of men and women who are managing to be both at the same time.  Both Nye and Ham gave some scientific evidence for their respective positions, but it was relatively shallow on both parts, probably due to time constraints and an attempt (at least on Mr. Ham's part) to stick to the debate topic of whether or not "creation is a viable model for science in today's modern, scientific world."

Several people have asked me who I think won the debate.  My opinion on this question is much like many others I have read over the last couple of days ... who won ultimately depends on your worldview.  Because of this, I have been reminded of how critical it is to have a biblical worldview.

Watching this debate took me back a few (and by a few, I really mean, like 25) years to when I was in my high school biology class and other classes where we were debating the creation/evolution question.  Thankfully, I had great teachers, most of whom didn't teach evolution as fact (though it was presented that way in our textbooks) and I also had great parents who taught me that not everything taught in school is true, so I wasn't swayed by the evolutionary worldview.  

BUT, at that time I had never heard the term "worldview" and to be honest, I didn't really know what I believed.  Of course, I believed the Bible, but I didn't know how to reconcile that to science ... and neither did the people teaching me. Basically my beliefs went something like this ... I believe the Bible, so anything that contradicts the Bible can't be true.  Don't get me wrong, I still believe this, but I am not sure that I would survive in today's far more aggressive educational climate.

The problem was that I really didn't know what I believed when it comes to the age of the earth or if the creation account in Genesis was literal or allegorical ... the list of questions to which I would only answer the Bible tells me so was too long and I am not sure that I could have defended my faith in the face of someone who challenged me with their own beliefs.  Worse than that, I was not capable of sharing my faith with someone who came to the table with scientific questions.  

That isn't to say that God isn't bigger than my lack of understanding, thankfully, He is quite capable of filling in the gaps in my abilities.  But as a Christian and as a parent, I want to be able to give my children a greater understanding of the world they live in ... not so that they will look to science for their understanding, but so they will understand that science and the Bible aren't mutually exclusive ... in other words, the Bible is the final authority for every facet of life - not just religious study.

I have a lot more that I want to say about worldview, but that will have to wait for another day.  I do have one final comment about the debate, though.  If you really want to know who I think won, here is my opinion.

I think that Ken Ham "won" for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  He clearly presented the Gospel more than once during the debate and with the huge audience watching online, who knows what God will accomplish?
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.  Isaiah 55:11
I don't know where God sent His word, but I believe that it will accomplish HIS purpose.  It doesn't matter who the world thinks won the debate, the only thing that matters is what God will do with His Word.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

struggles, grace, and a thought about service

Sometimes things happen in this life of which our finite minds just cannot make sense.  Lately, it seems like there are more things happening in that category of life than in any other.  This past Sunday morning, just when I was finding myself submerged in my own world - focusing only on the struggles there, the Holy Spirit gently prodded me back to reality with a simple hymn.

He Giveth More Grace

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater;
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase.
To added affliction He addeth his mercy;
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

His love has no limit; His grace has no measure
His power has no boundary known unto men
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father's full giving in only begun.

His love has no limit; His grace has no measure
His power has no boundary known unto men
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!

No one is immune to the struggles of this world, but fortunately for us, we have the promise that greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:4)  No matter what we face, what heavy burden we carry, we have the promises of scripture to help us stay the course when we all we want to do is crawl under the covers and hide from the day ahead.

There are many scriptures that I could draw on for times like these, but among my favorite are:

 2 Timothy 1:12 
... for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

and Philippians 4:19
... But my God shall supply ALL your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

and finally, Philippians 4:6-7, which were also among my Mama's favorite verses,

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

One final thought ... our devotion this week in Wednesday night Bible study was led by one of my favorite ladies ... and she shared some thoughts on service.  Two things stood out to me that I feel the need to ponder on and I thought I would share them with you, just in case you might want to ponder them, too.

"Outside of the will of Christ there may be much activity, but there can be no service."

"Service is a state of being, not of doing."

Back to the original topic, here is a video of the Gaithers singing  He Giveth More Grace among some other hymns ... 

Friday, January 3, 2014

a shiny new year

Another year has come and gone and I, for one, am glad.  2013 was, without a doubt, the hardest year of my life, thus far. And yet, it wouldn't be correct to look at this past year as if there were no good days and nothing for which to be thankful.

I spent the morning of January 1st looking over a journal that I started for the specific purpose of recording the blessings in my life and realized that I had only written one page in that journal in 2013 ~ that realization both startled and saddened me.  Despite the difficulties of 2013, last year had just as many days for which to be thankful as any other year.  My level of thankfulness should never be based on my current circumstances.

In my first post of 2013, I concluded with this paragraph: prayer is that God will show me which things that HE wants me to focus on and which things I should simply leave in the past.  My desire is that when 2013 draws to a close, I will be able to say that the most important change in this year has been that I have drawn closer to God, because I know that in doing so, He will draw closer to me.  What more can we ask from a shiny new year?

Today, I pray that the lessons of 2013 will not be forgotten.  This past year taught reminded me that God will carry me through the hardest days - He always provides exactly what I need and His timing is always perfect.

Now, 2014 stretches before me, still fresh and new.  Before it comes to a close, there will be struggles and frustrations, good days, bad days, and days when I just want to give up ~ but through it all, there will be days of grace, days when forgiveness is sought and freely given ... life lessons lived and learned, and in the end, growth.

The end result is that my prayer for 2013 continues into 2014 and this song sums it up far better than I could.

Happy New Year!