Monday, April 22, 2013

Home schooling highs...home schooling lows

 "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."  Matthew 6:33-34

Sometimes I feel like I have a handle on things.  Life seems to whirl by so quickly that it seems difficult to keep up, but it is easier with a carefully followed schedule.  But then there are those times when it feels like I just come un-raveled.  I just went through one of those pits and I think it was one of the most difficult I've been through as far as my home school goes.
I think it all began with my schedule slipping out of control a bit.  I enrolled a new child in my home child care, lost another child due to his parent's job loss, then got another child back whose mom had been off due to an injury, and my son & his wife both started working so I have my precious granddaughter more.  With new children came new parent's drop-off and pick-up times.  This should be minor - and truly it is - but sometimes tiny adjustments to my routine seem to throw me off my rhythm till I start slipping out of my regular schedule.
The next thing I knew we were getting a little later eating breakfast, a little later beginning school work, and obviously we were a little later finishing.  Funny thing about starting a few minutes later is that it seems to cause your finish time to be even later.  For instance, if I start 15-30 minutes later, it seems like we don't actually get finished till almost an hour later than usual!
Once the schedule slipped a little - there went my nerves!  I was so irritable.  I felt harried and rushed and my children could tell.  I was feeling frustrated with everything.  I started wondering if they were grasping English lessons well enough, and were they really learning their spelling words, and was the math curriculum really up to par?  It feels like once you let your mind run away with anxiety it can really start sabotaging your thoughts until doubt sets in.  Once I started doubting I truly began to worry that I could not teach my children all they needed and I felt like crying at the thought of failing them.  My thoughts would flit between my reasons for home schooling and my reasons I prefer not to put them back in school.
At that point - I just pulled back completely.  I really put it to God in prayer and then I let it go.  We took a week off of some of the extras and just took the time to really dig into some lessons that I felt they needed a tutorial week on, and just focused on core subjects for a few days.  By Grace alone - it worked.  God is SO good.
In the extra time I had allowed myself, I studied my bible more.  I re-read some stories about women in the bible I had not taken much time to read about lately.  I am so glad that He made sure those stories are there for us.  I glean so much from amazing stories like Joseph, Moses, Noah, David, and so many more.  But I am also so thankful to learn about Abigail, Lydia, Deborah, Mary, Martha, and Priscilla.  
I also took the time to re-read my teacher's manuals on areas my children may have struggled to grasp concepts so that I could make sure to pick up on something that may help me explain it to them better.  I re-read parts of the introductory section of my core manual to get tips from the author of my curriculum on teaching the subjects I was most concerned about for each child.  (They each have one area that seems to be more difficult, and of course they are not at all alike!)  By the end of the week I began to feel better.  I also gave the house a thorough cleaning - which always lifts my spirits!
I just thought I'd post this because sometimes - I feel like I get into a place that feels like it will not end.  This feeling of doubt has been working it's way into me for quite a while.  But today - our home school was back on track and I felt so much peace as we closed our day - on schedule!!  I am so thankful that God is so good and when I get into a low place, he brings me through it so faithfully.
"The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it." I Thessalonians 5:24
"Start children off on the way they should go and even when they are old, they will not turn from it."  Proverbs 22:6

Saturday, March 2, 2013

How blessed we are when we least expect it!

I wasn't sure how to feel about this weekend earlier this week.  My daughter was invited to spend the weekend with her Mamaw, which she was excited and eager about.  My son was playing paintball with his dad, which they love.  I miss my children so much when they leave overnight; they rarely do this.  So it was strange to have them all gone for the day & my daughter gone for 2 nights. 

Today, however, I knew it was just my precious granddaughter and me with the house all to ourself.  I told my my husband last night that I wanted the weather to be nice so I could spend some time outdoors with her - she loves that so much.  When I woke this morning the sun was shining and it was cool, but still nice enough to be outside.  I was thrilled!

We spent the cooler part of the morning playing indoors - but I kept checking for it to be warm enough for her.  Then our adventure began!

Several days ago I noticed that some bulbs I planted in the fall were beginning to pop out of the ground.  I was eager to get the weeds and grass cleared so they could bloom!  Until they began peeking out a few days ago - I had not even known what I had planted.  My husband had brought a bag of bulbs home from a friend who had dug them up and wasn't planning to replant them.  I planted them last fall and waited.  Today, I hoped to get this weeding done while my sweet little explorer enjoyed the fresh air.  That led us to our first mission.

First, I had to fashion a gate to keep her on my porch.  She and I searched my hubby's shop & yard for just the perfect thing....we found the base to an old hollow, metal tube twin bed frame (the part that supports the mattress).  I had been using it to secure a raincover and wind barrier for the winter over the side of the cage my rabbit sleeps in.  Then in my hubby's shop I found a rope with a clip that would help secure it.  Now I could keep her on the porch so she could stay near me to play.

Next, as she played, I began unearthing God's little treasures he sent my way this week!  I was thrilled as I gently pulled weeds and grass to find so many soft tendrils and beautiful, little, purple clusters just pushing up from our hard Texas dirt.  I'd already checked with my neighbor and she said they are grape hyacinth!  I have never even seen a hyacinth growing, that I am aware of, so I had to proceed cautiously until I figured out what the leafy part of the plant looked like before it blossomed so I wouldn't pull the plants up.  It didn't take long to tell their long, tender, strands of green that I often found the flower just popping up from the center.  I am so excited - they are just beautiful.  And as I dug up weeds I kept finding more and more of these gorgeous, rich, purple clusters.

I wish my cell phone camera would do them justice - they are exquisite!

I had another wonderful treat as I turned to check on my li'l explorer I realized she was intently watching something sunning on the ground just outside her "gate".  I scooped up this frigid, little creature who was trying to warm himself and let her see - she was thrilled to watch him as he moved in my hand.  He had to make a narrow escape to my wandering Jew plant, where I placed him in the sun on one of the broad leaves, as she was ready to snatch him for playtime!

I also found a squiggly earth worm, which made her laugh.  I couldn't get a picture of this - but if only I could playback her amazing little giggle everytime I feel blue - I believe I could never feel sad again!!  Each sweet laugh reminds me of those precious moments when my own children were her age; those moments are far too fleeting!

After I'd rid one bed of most of the weeds, she was getting tired.  I brought her inside for lunch and a nap.  She was so funny watching her eat!  She was so tired, she would open her eyes, grab a piece of food, close her eyes to chew it, and then repeat the whole process again!  After a diaper change and a little snuggle time, she didn't offer even one protest at being laid down for her nap.

So sleepy!!

Oh if only, the sweetness of days like today could remain fresh in our memories everyday!  I just had to stop and thank our amazing Father for all the blessings he has rained into my life!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What kids will do!

The image above is my daughter's bed!  She has her bean bag on it, several stuffed animals, and her frog stuffed chair...but the interesting thing, of course, is the canopy which has collapsed onto everything.  She came to my room at about 10:35 p.m. last night to get me out of bed and said in a very meek, quiet voice, "Mommy, I need you to come here."

When I got to her room, I was surprised and immediately said, "How did this happen?"

The first words she  said as she innocently began her story, "Well, I was just sitting there...."!

Somehow, 'just sitting there' really doesn't fit this picture!!!

Mike & I could barely stifle laughter as we disassembled the fallen poles completely & removed the canopy promising to repair it tomorrow.  When we got back to our room, we really had a good laugh.

It is so funny when things like this happen!  It makes it so hard to be firm and keep a straight face while we tell her if she'd been in bed asleep as she was told this would not have happened.  Just thought I'd share!  Have a great day, ashley

Monday, January 28, 2013

Unstained religion?

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."  James 1:27 NIV

I had a friend ask recently, "what is religion; how does it differ from belief and faith?"  I think I told her this was probably a question that many wrestle with and told her my best answer was that religion is something like an ordered practice.  One can be religious about many things; the way he or she does his or her job, cleans his or her home, takes care of others, works for a cause, or, of course, practices their faith.  It really does not necessarily have to have anything to do with God.  Therefore, does this 'religion' save you?  My easy answer was, "no!"
Belief is more than that.  True belief in God is more than religion.  Following and serving begin in the heart.  This will come out so much more as I begin week four of my James study.  I wish I had been posting every Friday as I finished each week's homework - but this study has been monumental and I want to share some of the beauty I have found in what Jesus' little brother penned!  In following up with my friend's question - I thought it fitting that I write James' definition of religion - because his is so much better than what I could come up with! 
The ESV (English Standard Version) says it like this: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."  James 1:27
Unstained?  This is hard; take care of others when it is sometimes hard to take care of ourselves, love the unloveable, help those who need it, get down in the mud so to speak?  In other words, why speak of our love for Christ if it doesn't compel us to get out of our pretty places, roll up our sleeves, and WORK?  But wait - don't get dirty!  What! I live in a tiny house and I have 6 children (some still at home and the others come to visit now), I babysit toddlers and an after-schooler, and I have a granddaughter.  I have never been able to clean this little place without getting dirty - even a light tidy will cause me to break a sweat!  So that causes me to pull back the reins and say, "whoa, how can I work without getting dirty?"
James gives us the answer - but the answer is so familiar, I think I missed it until now.  Love your neighbor (let's be honest, I'm asking him, "do you really mean all of them")?  Seriously?  I already know this stuff James....I quote them easily!  Between loving God, and serving Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and loving your neighbor as yourself; I have said those things so much I figured I had them down pat!  I mean Jesus says they are the greatest commandments, and I say them all the I got this, right?
NO!  I've read those words on cute, little needlework prints you could buy out of magazines that my grandmother used to receive since before I knew a thing about God.  Long before my dear, sweet Papa introduced me to my amazing Father, I quoted those words like a mantra.  I knew, when I was 6, to be nice to my neighbor and I even knew that that meant more than the lady next door.  I knew it was anyone I came in contact with.  I could read, but to REALLY love my neighbor, I just wasn't grasping that.  You see, God is LOVE, and before I knew God, I only knew love from a worldly perspective.  I think I just thought being nice and hurting no one was enough.  And if I were to dig a little deeper and try to reach out a little beyond myself, and do something to really help someone else - well - I must have really grasped it, right?
I don't want to say much more because I have begun my homework for week four now - and I must say - today's study was BIG for me.  So I will close by reverting back to the thought of remaining unstained.  How can we do that?  I think James is saying we can - if we continually keep bathing everything we do in real, pure love.
" "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
Jesus replied, " 'Love the Lord our your God with all your heart and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." "  Matthew 22:36-40

Friday, January 25, 2013

The book of James, a call to true faith!

This book has been absolutely monumental for me to study this closely.  How often have I skimmed carelessly over these words and not applied them in my life?  How often have I neglected to be obedient to my precious Father who wants only my love?  How often have I rejected him by my lack of concern for His will?  And how often have I caused another to stumble, or worse, by my lack of discipline, my failure to realize how important His call really is?

I have struggled with writing in this blog.  I have wanted a way to share with others - but sharing personally was never my plan!  I just wanted to find great ideas on how to save money, or find a great recipe, and maybe even make a little money with an ad while I learned to make laundry detergent at home!!  (By the way - I sure save a lot of money with just that one easy thing...evey little bit helps!)

However - getting personal online - was not my plan.  But - it's really not about me.  It never has been.  I guess I've just been so steeped in a greedy culture of people afflicted with entitlement - that I didn't even know it.  It's always been about Christ.  From the moment God shaped this earth in His hands, from the first bite of forbidden fruit, to the nervous laugh of Sarai and her long awaited son's first breath.  This entire time - I've blundered through life; making mistakes, sharing tears and joy, suffering, and growing, while I never realized that the reason I was having such a hard time is because I put too much emphasis on my needs.  His plan has never been about me.  I am a part of a precious story, the story He is writing with every breath we take.

God has blessed me so abundantly.  Through my children, I have learned to love more deeply than I ever thought possible.  They are the first of many gifts God gave me so I could learn to love unconditionally and completely.  Yet even still - this story is so much bigger.  He loves us so much - despite our disobediance.  However - I have finally reached a place of true desire for obedience.  I truly want to do whatever His plan is; though it scares me since I know that may mean something I never wanted to do.  My pastor challenged us recently to search the scriptures to find a place that God has done BIG things without personal sacrifice.  I don't know what God may be asking of me - and sometimes I feels stretched so thin that I couldn't do another thing; but I want to obtain the righteousnesss He wants us to strive for.  But what has held me back until now?  Why have I never really felt ready to do His will.  I think I have been stuck by feeling unworthy.  I know that my many mistakes have left me feeling drained and unfit for His work.  Yet, He still offers mercy - He literally rains mercy down over us. 

Lord, I want to be your child; to depend on you fully.  I am so thankful for the freedom you have offered us and the amazing love you have for us, though we do nothing to deserve it.  My prayer today is that someone who is trapped in a life of sin.  Someone who may not even mind living in a lost, fallen world, will hear you now.  They will feel your whisper, and heed your call.  Maybe a young person who has not made the many mistakes as I have will fall in love with you and prevent a life of unneeded heartache that results from disobedience.  Maybe another who has never understood what it is you offer us will leave a life of lostness to cling to your promises.  Lord, I love you and I want you not to forget us.  It must be difficult for you to see the world as it has become so distorted from your original creation.  I pray that you will strengthen us to remember what You have done for us and stand up for the Truth that is Christ!  Breathe on us anew Lord, and awaken in our hearts a yearning for You.  In your precious, sweet son's name I pray. Amen.

Take the time to study this book...I have truly been convicted by the words of James and I pray that they will change you for God's Glory as well!

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."  James 1:2-27