Emptied to be filled

I hate to say it, but it’s true….when you come off a mountain top weekend you can expect to find yourself in a valley come Monday.

All weekend I listened to women I admire speak and share from their hearts and ignite passion in their listeners.  I had complete and uninterrupted thoughts for 8 whole hours on a Saturday.  Then I went to dinner with my beloved.  I felt like a woman who had dreams and goals and aspirations (and a brain that could think deep thoughts) again.

And Monday dawned and real life resumed and trying to fit in the passion and purpose and calling is hard when your day is spent in obedience to God but not where your gifts are.

I do not disdain this place where I’m at.  This motherhood is an incredible gift and this home schooling is where God is shaping me most. And I can only trust that by the time the last one graduates I will have learned what I need to learn, and I can hope that I learn it before then.  And as ugly and messy and imperfect as our days may be, I know that I know that I know this is where we are supposed to be.

But as I work out what God is teaching me between making meals and answering math questions and trouble shooting computer problems and drying tears over broken doll glasses, I pray.  I pray that He would take the gifts that He made me with and use them.  Somehow, in the midst of this mundane, use them.  For His Kingdom, for His glory.

And I want to pray that I will find fulfillment in this task He’s given me.  That home schooling would satisfy me and make me feel my purpose.  But maybe my fulfillment isn’t the point.  Perhaps the point is a constant emptying of myself and being filled by Him.  Perhaps that’s the lesson in this valley.  Yes, He gave gifts that are to be used to point others back to Him.  But maybe the greatest gift is pouring these gifts I can see back out to Him at this time, day after day after day, and doing something hard and uncomfortable and inconvenient and absolutely draining.  And resting in Him to fill me with His grace.

For His Glory ~

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Week(s) in Review 2013 {Weeks 31, 32, 33, 34, and 35}

Again, yikes.  Another month has slipped by with little to no posting.  Let’s see if I can hit the highlights on August….

We celebrated the beginning of a new era in our home – the teenage years.  Grace turned 13 earlier this month (a longer post on that in the near future).  She and Chandler (turned 10 in June) both had birthday parties this month also.  It was fun to have their friends over to hang out and celebrate.  It’s also nice to be at a stage where sleepovers / parties are actually fun, and not just a ton of work for mom.

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^ Chandler’s birthday sleepover. She and her friends had a lot of fun tie-dying shirts.

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^ Grace’s birthday. Our “1” candle was in a pretty sad state, so we came up with a different way to count to 13.

We went Back to School on the 5th.  I normally don’t ever start on a Monday, always a Tuesday (Monday’s are hard enough, and it makes the first week shorter 🙂 ), but we were all so ready we went ahead and started on a Monday this year.  It’s always a transition getting back into the groove, but this first month has been really good overall.  Here’s a quick overview of what we’re using this year (in case anyone is curious):

    • Grace, Emma, and Chandler are using Sonlight for Bible, history, and literature.
    • Grace, Emma, Chandler, and Ellie are all using Teaching Textbooks for math.  We loooove Teaching Textbooks!
    • Grace is taking science (Apologia Physical science), writing (IEW), another literature class, art, and worldview (Apologia Who Is God) outside the home.
    • Emma and Chandler are taking science (Apologia Astronomy, writing (IEW), another literature class, and art outside the home.  They are also supplementing their language arts with Daily Grams for their grade level.
    • Ellie is using A Beka streaming for most of her subjects, along with Sonlight history and reading.  Since we are using Teaching Textbooks and I prefer it over the A Beka math, we fast forward through that portion of each day.  Shhh!  Don’t tell!  She is taking science (Apologia Astronomy), art, and “histography” (history and geography in one) outside the home.
    • Amania is also using A Beka streaming for kindergarten.  God bless the people at A Beka Academy for providing this service and my husband for being willing to pay for it.  Kindergarten makes me want to bang my head on a wall.  (God also bless kindergarten teachers. They are amazing, saintly people.)

Last year when we finally decided to take the plunge and try A Beka streaming, I nearly choked on the price tag.  But pulling me out of the teaching position and allowing me to do what I do well (administrate and facilitate and keep up on laundry) has brought us all so much more happiness in our schooling.  It’s not something I want to do forever, but it is a definite sanity-saver in these early years when the teaching is so critical and can be so time consuming.

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August also brought the beginning of volleyball for Grace and soccer for Amania.  Sports involvement is new for our family of ballerinas, pianists, artists, and the occasional gymnast.  Amania’s first soccer game was last week and Grace’s first game was this week.  It should be a fun (and busy) fall!

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I think that pretty well sums up the past month.  I have a lot of words rolling around in my head. I miss writing and photography, but this just has not been the season for either.  I’m fairly convinced that when we look back on photo albums in ten years 2012 and 2013 will be “the lost years” for family photo memories.  I’m hopeful that September will provide more opportunity to collect words and photos and share them here as life continues to settle into our “new normal”.  Until then, have a blessed week, friends!

For His Glory~

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Systems and Charts and How I’m Keeping the Kids on Task

I’ve had a few people ask me recently about how we do chores at our house.  A year or so ago, I shared this post about the chore system I was rolling out then.  It seemed to work really well for about a year and then fizzled, as many of our chore systems are wont to do.  So I thought through and prayed and planned and designed a new chore system utilizing washi tape, scrabble tiles, RIT dye, glue on magnets, and the side of the refrigerator.  It was pretty, it was elaborate, it was detailed.  And it was a complete and total flop.  Given, we were at the end of the school year (when everyone is just done) and then we decided to move, so who knows if they would  have taken to it.  But, we are starting a new new system now (which I will share about later in this post), but first, the flop system, because it really may work for someone else.

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I started out by coming up with all of the chores that needed to be done.  At this point, children were being paid small amounts / chore for many chores.  (We don’t do allowances – we prefer to pay for work.  I know this is a grey area in parenting with lots of opinions, that’s just where we’ve settled over the years.)  Then I measured out the appropriate number of rows and six columns (one for chores and one for each kid) on the fridge with washi tape.  (I will say the washi tape had a hard time sticking to the fridge.  I’m not sure it would have made it through the hot, humid summer had it been left up.)

I purchased generic scrabble tiles from Michael’s and dyed them one of three different colors.  The colors corresponded to the value or pay of the job.  Purple = no pay, you do it because you live here; Red = small pay, daily job; Green = more pay, weekly or rarer job.  The tiles were then placed under a name and next to a job at the beginning of each week and the girls were supposed to be responsible to check the chart and do their work.  More tiles were dyed the same colors.  When a job was completed, they were to drop a corresponding color tile in the box below their name.  Tiles were counted at the end of the week to determine payment.

Perhaps the system was too elaborate or it was just the season of life, but like I said, it just didn’t take at our house.  It was fun to make, though!  🙂

Learning from that experience and now that we’ve moved, we are taking a different approach to chores, one I’m pretty excited about and that seems to work in our “wired” and list-oriented family.  It started when we were in the process of moving.  Matt would email out a schedule for the week to me and a job list to the older girls each day, copying me on the email.  I noticed quickly that the girls did really well with this, so I started trying it too.  I’m still a pen-and-paper person when it comes to to do lists, so sometimes they get emailed and printed, sometimes they are handwritten, but they always get posted on the fridge for everyone to see.  The daily note includes jobs for the day, as well as a loose schedule.

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While it does take some time to make up a schedule / job list every day, I made out a running schedule that I keep with my weekly to do list and I just refer to that and add in any specific details.  We also changed how the girls get paid.  The older three have each been given a fairly substantial job that is their on-going responsibility.  (One mows the lawn, one is the pool girl, one is the “gardener”.)  The younger two will be given similar, but smaller, tasks in the garage and basement once we get those areas cleaned out and unpacked.  They will each be paid fairly for these larger responsibilities but no longer will they be paid individually for the smaller indoor work of regular cleaning and chores.  Since winter will come and some of the outdoor work will end (unless we get a lot of snow again), we’ll have to think of some other jobs for them to do during the off season so we don’t hear about how broke they are.  😉

As for the indoor work (helping around the house, making beds, doing laundry, keeping things generally picked up so I don’t go insane, etc.), our kids need incentives.  I wish they didn’t, but they do.  For a long time it was the small pay for small jobs.  But the older girls are earning more money now and a quarter really just doesn’t motivate them much and I can’t afford a dollar a day x five just to get beds made.  So, taking a cue from Cleaning House (please read this book if you have kids of any age still at home – so good!), we are starting each month with a jar full of ones.  The author of the book did a jar for each child but that’s just not in the budget,  so we’re doing one jar for the whole family, but with a little more money in it.  If jobs that can (and should) be completed before lunch are, the money stays for the day.  If they are not, I pull out a dollar.  So, yes, one child can ruin it for everyone, but that’s the way it tends to go in large families.  Money that is left at the end of the month will be used to plan a family night since frequent eating out was one thing that got nixed when we decided to move.   The main indoor job right now is helping in the kitchen.  This used to be a me plus one person job and I realized that it really needs to be me plus two kids, so I made a rotation pairing the girls up (an older with a younger every day) and those two are responsible for dishes, cleaning up the kitchen after meals, and helping with meal prep each day.  The other big job is taking care of the dog which has been moved to a weekly rotation and that child has to feed and water her, clean up after her (outside messes, as well as vacuuming the carpet where she tracks in dirt), and make sure she’s kenneled when we leave and her door is locked at night for the entire week.  Things like cleaning and other jobs are just “as needed” right now and aren’t really on a rotation yet. I’m sure one will come into being as we get more settled in the coming weeks and months.

This turned into a rather long and winding post.  I guess that happens on one cup of coffee and not a lot of sleep.  This is what’s working for us right now.  What chore systems work for your family?

For His Glory ~

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Week in Review {2013: Weeks 16 & 17}

The past two weeks have been mostly good. Life rolls along as we work to wrap up another school year. It’s starting to look like a couple of the girls will get to go past our official end date this year, but I guess that’s just one of the beauties of home schooling. 🙂

Last week I bought Amania a preschool workbook at Walmart. To say she loves it would be an understatement. She asks to do school and is eager to share her knowledge, most of the time. She is especially fond of naming her colors right now. We borrowed a book from the library called The Color Dance about ten days ago. I’m pretty sure we’ve read it at least 87 times. 🙂 I will also catch her singing the alphabet song to herself. She enjoys singing along with songs on the radio, winning (usually by cheating) at board games, and generally just being silly. She really is closer to a four, maybe five, year old, not only in physical size, both in emotional maturity and academic skills. Some of that will catch up, some may not, and it’s all fine. It’s just interesting to observe. I’ve said for a long time that four is my favorite age, mostly because of the incredibly (unintentionally) funny things they say. But I had forgotten how hard it is to keep one entertained. Especially when she has no concept of playing independently like all of our other girls did. On the other hand, it is a blessing to see our other girls step up and help. Everyone is (usually) eager to play or help out, especially if it means a break from school. Grace is definitely her favorite sister right now, but the others are working to win her over, especially Chandler.   It’s funny to think about the fact that the last time we had a baby in the house (which Amania obviously isn’t a baby, but she’s definitely someone new to adjust to who needs lots of help and attention), my oldest child was 5!  No wonder I’m surprised by the amount of help my girls are this time around!  lol

Friday we had to go have some lab work done on A.  I’ve been putting it off for fear of the trauma it would be.  I was right.  Bless her heart, she sobbed and sobbed and then would barely look at me the rest of the morning.  By the time we got home from running errands and picking up big sister, though, she was all smiles.

I finished a new chore chart this week that I will hopefully post about soon.

This week I decided that all of the adoption books and blogs and other things telling me how to parent and attach and bond needed to go.  A couple of good conversations via Facebook messenger followed by re-reading this post shared by a friend a while back convinced me that while many good things can come from reading those books, the One I really need to be consulting is the One who made her and knows her heart and mine.  And just like He showed me her fear that day before her welcome home party, He will show me what she needs.  And that can be hard to remember, but it applies to all of our children.  A three step formula would be so nice.  A ten point list to live by would be superb.  But that’s not what God wants for us.  He wants a relationship and a relationship is built on continual communication and what better way to get me to communicate than to keep me on my knees in prayer?  So I picked up Sacred Parenting the other night.  We had put it away a few months ago.  It was too soon after finishing Sacred Marriage and the book seemed flat and predictable.  But this week, it has been a balm – comforting, encouraging, and pointing me back to the One who loves me perfectly.

In other news, all of the above sat on my desktop all weekend, waiting to be published and just never quite made it.  So, it’s Monday, and rather than say I’ll count God’s gifts tomorrow, we’ll combine the two and make this a Grateful Week in Review.


2552.  sunshine and birds singing

2553.  an afternoon at the zoo

2554.  character training one of the littles….and me

2555.  rainy days and feeling shut in

2556.  making summer plans

2557.  sounds of youngest two laughing early on Saturday morning

2558.  start of a new week

2559.  Haiti girl – one month home

May your week be blessed abundantly and God be glorified!

For His Glory ~

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A Reflection on Lies We Believe

Last week was wild busy and I didn’t have time to think about the downward spiral my mind was caught in, the rapid free fall my thoughts had given way to.  How does a depression that I can count on coming always manage to catch me off guard and suck me in before I realize how bad it’s gotten?  It came early this year with the realization that the holidays would be spent without Amania and I just couldn’t ever get off that emotional roller coaster.  And last Saturday night it all came crashing down.  Matt and I sat at dinner and I cried over my chimichanga.  We talked long about kids and marriage and life and ministry and so much more.  We went to bed, depleted and numb, and I opted to stay home on Sunday morning, unable to come up with the energy to put on my “church face” and pretend like all was well when absolutely nothing seemed “well” at all.

So, God and I, we sat and talked over coffee and the Bible and a legal pad.  I listened and I took notes.  And I recognized the lie that the devil had been whispering to my soul for months.  I don’t know when it happened, I know it sneaks in from time to time, but I picked up that old lie again – that lie that I have to be someone else, we have to be someone else.  That their marriage is better; that their kids are better behaved, better adjusted.  That her home is  cleaner, better decorated, more peaceful.  That she’s in better shape, seems to have it all together, never gets discouraged.  That her husband does this and their kids do that and she never seems to struggle, so what’s wrong with us?  That in everything, in every way, I have failed.

And God, He so gently reminded me that He made me just the way I am.  Yes, I am expected to grow, mature, and become more like His Son, but that doesn’t mean becoming some other created being.  When He made me so long ago, He knew what my bent would be – how I would love, how I would mother, how I would teach, serve, live.  He knew I would struggle with patience and I am confident that He laughed just a little as He placed each girl in my womb and in my heart at my general intolerance for drama (other than my own, of course).  When He gave me a husband whose primary love languages are physical touch and encouraging words, He knew that those would be the two love languages hardest for me to give.  He knew.  And I can rest in the fact that He knew.  I don’t have to compare our home, our family, our school to the family down the street or across the country or on the other side of the computer screen.  I can rest confidently in what He is doing right here, right now, in our home, in our family.  He knew exactly what our strengths and our struggles would be when He brought us all together.  I can also trust that He’s not finished.  He will keep working in us and through us and for us – for His glory and our good.  So I choose to rest confidently in Him and in His promises.  He is faithful.

For His Glory ~

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Week in Review {2013, Week 3}

It’s been a quiet week here.  My brain felt as if it were wrapped in a thick blanket and my thoughts just felt all jumbled and non-sensical.  My attitude and behavior kind of betrayed that, as well.  So I have tried to stay quiet.

As we come to the end of the week and a couple days of warmer weather and sun have cleared my head a bit, I recognize the battle I am fighting with being content and finding joy where I am right now.  Discontentment tells me all the ways I would be happier if …. God’s word says “godliness with contentment is great gain.”

I don’t always enjoy being a home school mom and finding contentment there has been an on-going struggle.  I don’t think saying that makes me a bad home schooling mom.  I think saying that makes me honest.  I love my kids and I’m very happy with how they are learning and progressing in school, so that’s not the issue.  I love being at home with them and the wonderful time we are able to spend together.  It’s just that they’re always here.  Always.  So sending my kids off to school every day and having hours at a time to myself?  That sounds so luxurious!  But that’s not where God has me.  And I’m sure that’s not where God has me on purpose, because of the countless ways He uses my constant exposure to these human chisels to shape me – to make me more gracious, more patient, more selfless, and more like His Son.  I really wish relaxing on the beach could somehow have the same effect….

So if our educational options aren’t changing anytime soon (which they aren’t, because I still have a TON to learn about patience and selflessness), the only other option is to learn contentment.  And there’s really no fast track on that road, either.  It seems to be a matter of continuing to constantly say thanks, to see all as grace, to not consider my blessings burdens, and to continue to follow hard after the One who is perfecting each of us, day by day.  If I seek to be filled up by this job of home schooling, I’m going to be disappointed every time, because really it’s a daily emptying out, like much of mothering, and these kids aren’t responsible for filling up my empty places.  Only God can do that and He didn’t give us home schooling for that purpose.  He gave us home schooling to reveal how desperately we all need His grace and mercy every day and how empty we all really are without more and more of Him.

In other news, we received word this week that Amania’s passport is “in process”.  We are tentatively hopeful that we will have that in the next month or so, then it’s on to the US Embassy and her Visa.  So, maybe, maybe???, home this summer?  We’ll see.

School has taken until bedtime (or close to it) for the second week in a row for the younger two.  God bless them for their perseverance and sticking with it, but this has to change.  It’s a little ridiculous.  I’m praying through how to make things work and have some ideas, so we’ll see how next week goes.  We’ve gone from having too much free time on school days to having zero free time.  Surely there’s a balance in there somewhere?!

Emma’s having a couple of friends over tonight to (finally) celebrate her birthday (early December).  She’s kind to understand that her mama can’t handle birthday parties in the midst of Christmas craziness, so she always gets to wait until January.

Speaking of Emma, I’m pretty sure she and all her sisters are about to grow a lot.  All I hear about (or so it seems) is how hungry everyone is.  All.the.time.  And as a non-foodie-type, constant requests for food wear me out pretty fast.  Today, after being snapped at by a child who was apparently starving to death (and I was doing nothing about it!), I decided to come up with a paraphrase on Ephesians 4:26, “Be hungry and do not sin…”  It may also work for dieting husbands, but I wouldn’t know anything about that.  😉

And speaking of husbands, my very wise and wonderful man realized this week that this mama needs a little break, so he’s whisking me away for a quick overnight, some quantity quality time, and to finally see Les Miserables (woot!).  He’s definitely a keeper.

That’s the update around here.  Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!  May all that you do draw you closer to God and those you love.

For His Glory ~

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Week in Review {2013, Week 2}

We come to the end of another week and I find that we’ve made it through that tremulous first week back to balancing school and life.

I practiced peace while wrestling testy appliances and a messy house.

We found our way through some new curriculum and found that the second grader absolutely LOVES it.  After a few days of doing school from breakfast until bedtime (not exaggerating!), we found a little bit of rhythm and were done by dinnertime.  Now if I can get a certain child to stop disappearing between classes, we could have something close to a normal school day.

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All week we walk a dark road with a daughter who wants to choose her own path and we continue to learn what it is to pray and beg mercy and be humbled because we really have no clue what we’re doing in this parenting thing and by the time we think we’ve figured something out everything changes.

We pass another week with no word of movement in Haiti while on Facebook I see an acquaintance post pictures of their Haitian children at home.  An acquaintance we met standing in line nearly a year ago at the embassy in Port-au-Prince both waiting for our I-600 appointment.  I marvel at how their kids are home and will myself to say the Lord’s ways are higher and His timing is perfect.  Because I am done with this being “pregnant” and there are no old wives tales to test to start labor.  I must simply wait.  And I’m reminded as I do of some of the wisest adoption words I’ve heard so far, and we heard them early on in this….”Respect the process.”  No amount of grumbling or being impatient or thinking how this or that could be done better will change the adoption process in Haiti, at least not right now.  My safest and most peaceful place is to trust God and respect the process.

Last night we celebrated the new year with our Sunday school class and as I crawled into bed at nearly 1 am, I prayed thanks to Jesus for the community He has been quietly building around us this past year in our own church, a place where we had felt painfully disconnected for many months.  We are blessed.

I realize today it’s been three years since the earthquake, since Haiti appeared to almost fall in on itself.  Three years since we watched unimaginable images on television screens and prayed for our own loved ones and friends to come home safe.  It’s been three years since we felt compelled to move, to act, to be involved. Three years since a massive community-wide sale that really was the beginning of our involvement in ministry in Haiti.  And I sit and reflect on all the mighty ways God has moved in just three years and I am amazed and how can I not worship and praise His name, for He has done good things.

For His Glory ~

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Random Wednesday

…the back to school version.

This year we are doing three different Sonlight cores with four different students.  If you are not familiar with Sonlight click here to learn more, but let me summarize by saying it is a LOT of really great reading, which means a LOT of books to order and that can get pricey fast.

Historically, I have always just simply ordered the Sonlight core from Sonlight itself.  It’s fast, easy, and worry-free.  Almost everything in it is reusable, so I know we will always get our money’s worth.  This year, however, I was inspired by a friend who was going to try to piece together her own core.  So, I spent a morning comparing prices and instead of doing the simple “click and ship” from Sonlight, I also decided to piece together my own set from Amazon and used books and fill in with Sonlight where necessary.

Here are some pro’s and con’s on that experience:

Pro’s:

  • You can save almost enough on the (almost) two cores ordered to offset the cost of one brand new version of Teaching Textbooks (another item I had to buy) and a few other items.  No small savings!
  • You will be “green” and recycled by buying used books whenever possible.
  • It is like Christmas for a solid week as all the books come in one by one.  (I can only imagine what our mailman thought of all the packages we were getting!)

Con’s:

  • When you buy mostly used books, you lose that magical “new book” smell.  This is not the end of the world, but that smell does make the start of a new school year much more exciting.  You also never really know what you’re going to get when you buy used on-line, so some of your books may be pretty beat up.
  • You can easily spend at least 3 or 4 hours comparing prices and ordering items.
  • In your weariness after switching between so many windows on Google Chrome, you may inadvertently order multiple copies of a book.  Or of more than one book.  And you may forget to order other books entirely.
  • Sellers may accidentally send you the wrong book.  Then you are stuck with a crappy book that will cost more to return than it did to purchase and yet it’s still worth nothing.
  • When you order close to 100 items from various sellers on Amazon, you end up with a 23 page receipt print out and your credit card will get flagged for fraud.  🙂

Even with all of those negatives listed (and I’m laughing as I write them out), I think I will still order our Sonlight this way in the future.  The savings were definitely significant enough to offset the hassle.

In other home schooling news, I may or may not have handed the following document out first thing in the morning on our first day of school:

A School Year Agreement

I understand that school is for my benefit and is not some form of punishment devised by my parents to make my life miserable because Mom and Dad have nothing better to do with their time.  I realize that my parents are sacrificing to provide my education and because of that and because my future success depends upon it, I agree to the following:

1.  I will not argue or complain about the schoolwork given to me, either by Mom, Dad, or by any outside teachers.

2.  I will do my best to understand the assignment independently.  If I am unable to do so, I will politely and calmly ask for assistance without interrupting someone else’s time of instruction.

3.  I will resist the urge to take the fast, easy route by doing the minimum amount of work required.  Instead, I will complete my assignments thoroughly, making sure all questions have been answered to the best of my ability, even doing extra research if necessary.

4.  I will use my time wisely.  I will not be a distraction to others either when I am working, or when my schoolwork is complete.  I will do my schoolwork during the school day as much as possible. I will not purposely save significant amounts of reading to be completed at bedtime, unless I intend to go to bed very early to do said reading.  When I am finished with my work, I will find ways to be helpful to Mom or Dad.  If my help is not needed, I will find constructive ways to spend my time.

I understand that school is hard.  I realize that if it were easy, very little could be learned from it, and so I will rise to the challenge and expectations that my parents and teachers have set before me because they have faith in my ability to complete the work.  This year, I purpose to work hard, do my best, and do all for God’s glory.

And, yes, I made them all sign it.  🙂  I credit this little document (and God’s grace) for how well the past two days have gone.

I think that’s it for today.  I hope your Wednesday is wonderful, wherever it takes you!

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

Age of Opportunity – My Take Away

This summer I read Age of Opportunity:  A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens by Paul David Tripp.  Tripp is the brother of Tedd Tripp, author of Shepherding a Child’s Heart, hands down the very best book I read for raising children during the little years, so I was hoping that this would be something similar for the teen years, and I was not disappointed.  The author does an incredible job of reminding parents that this time is an opportunity, not a burden, that these challenges are gifts, not punishments.  Below are just some of the things I took away from this incredible read…

In a section titled, “Struggles for Parents”, he writes:

These years are hard for us because they expose the wrong thoughts and desires of our own hearts….We don’t radically change in a moment of trial.  No, trials expose what we have always been….So, too, the teen years expose our self-righteousness, our impatience, our unforgiving spirit, our lack of servant love, the weakness of our faith, and our craving for comfort and ease.

He also writes:

It is time for us to reject the wholesale cynicism of our culture regarding adolescence.  Rather than years of undirected and unproductive struggle, these are years of unprecedented opportunity.

These are not years merely to be survived!  They are to be approached with a sense of hope and a sense of mission.  Almost every day brings a new opportunity to enter the life of your teen with help, hope,and truth.  We should not resign ourselves to an increasingly distant relationship.  This is the time to connect with our children as never before.  These are years of great opportunity.

And this:

All must be seen as something more than hassles that get in the way of an otherwise enjoyable life.  These are the moments God made parents for.

And that is all just Chapter 1.

In chapter 2, the author gets down to the business of dealing with idols – our idols as parents.  The ones we didn’t even realize we had and that are greatly interfering with our ability to parent for God’s glory.

Our idols have caused us to see opportunity as trial and caused us to strike back at our teenagers with bitter words of judgement, accusation, and condemnation, behaving toward them with intolerance and anger.  While God is calling us to love, accept, forgive, and serve, we are often barely able to be nice.

Life is war.  There is a war out there; it is being fought ont he turf of your heart.  It is being fought for the control of your soul

Parents who demand comfort, ease, regularity, peace, space, quiet, and harmony will be ill-equipped for this war.  They will begin to see their teenager as the enemy.  They will begin to fight with him rather than for him, and even worse, they will tend to forget the true nature of the battle and the identity of the real enemy.  They will act out of frustrated desire, doing and saying regrettable things, and they will fail to be effective and productive in those strategic moments of ministry in which God has placed them.

We begin to look at our children as our trophies rather than God’s creatures.  We secretly want to display them on the mantels of our lives as visible testimonies to a job well done.

It is so easy to lose sight of the fact that these are God’s children.  They do not belong to us.  They are given not to bring us glory, but Him….Our identity is rooted in Him and His call to us, not in our children and their performance.

Uh, wow.  This chapter cut deeply.

Moving on…

Our Christianity often becomes fuzzier the closer it gets to real life, every day experience.

All of life blows into a chaotic mass of meaningless choices unless it is rooted in the one fact that makes every other fact make sense – GOD.

We must be faithful to turn their eyes from what they desire to what God requires.

Teenagers desperately need to see the larger story.

The family is called to be the context in which what it means to love your neighbor as yourself is self-consciously taught at every turn.

When selfishness, individualism, and demandingness create conflict, strife, and tension in our homes, we must thank God for the opportunity to deal with something that He has said is second in importance only to our relationship to Him.  If we are truly thankful, we will not opt for quick, surface solutions, but we will work to uncover the issues of the heart that are the real reason for the conflict.

The family is the context where the teenager’s true heart toward relationships is consistently exposed….Situtaions must not be viewed as the groaning hassles of family life.  These are the moments when God is calling us to something greater than our own comfort and ease.  These are the times when God calls us to love our children with a second-great-command love, so that we are willing to take the time to do the second-great-command parenting that they so desperately need.  At such moments, we need to be ruled not by the rule of personal desire, but by God’s rule of love.

This is all from the first four chapters of the book.  Part two goes on to Godly goals and then part three gives practical strategies for parenting teens and both sections are heavily underlined in my copy.  I was both challenged and encouraged by this book, even though we technically do not have any teens yet.  As a parent who does greatly desire peace and space and general ease of life, I was convicted that my attitudes are wrong and that this time is an incredible opportunity to engage my children as young adults and to help steer them down the narrow path of life while the wide path calls with distractions and temptations.  As we enter a new school year this has served as an inspiration to me to persevere through the hard days and to continue counting each day as a gift.

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

When I want to run away…

As we wait for tomorrow to dawn and bring with it the beginning of a new school year, fears from how last year was creep in and overwhelm and God gives words that comfort and encourage.  I didn’t know one could suffer from post-traumatic stress just by home schooling, but there is definitely a high level of anxiety as we prepare to open the books on a new year.  I know we are called to this and I am called to do something I am not gifted in so that He can fill me and enable me and all glory can go to Him because it’s definitely not me.

God will make all our obstacles serve His purposes.  We all have mountains in our lives, and often they are people and things that threaten to block the progress of our spiritual life.  The obstacles may be a untruths told about us; a difficult occupation; a thorn in the flesh; or our daily cross.  And often we pray for their removal, for we tend to think that if only these were removed we would live a more tender, pure, and holy life

‘How foolish you are and slow of heart…!’ (Luke 24:25).  These are the very conditions we need for achievement, and they have been put in our lives as the means of producing the gifts and qualities for which we have been praying so long.  We pray for patience for many years, and when something begins to test us beyond our endurance, we run from it.  We try to avoid it, we see it as some insurmountable obstacle to our desired goal, and we believe that if it was removed, we would experience immediate deliverance and victory.

This is not true! We would simply see the temptations to be impatient end.  This would not be patience.  The only way genuine patience can be acquired is by enduring the very trials that seem so unbearable today.

Turn from your running and submit….There is nothing in your life that distresses or concerns you that cannot become submissive to the highest purpose.  Remember they are God’s mountains.  He puts them there for a reason, and we know He will never fail to keep His promise.

I don’t know what this year will hold.  We have prayed and discussed and planned and done everything we can think of to make this year better.  But we’re still a family of fallen, broken sinners, so struggles will come.  We will pray to be stronger people and live on the grace He gives everyday.  We will cling to the hope that He is doing something great in our lives and that one day we will see the benefit of our struggles.

Never pray for an easier life – pray to be a stronger person!  Never pray for tasks equal to your power – pray for power equal to your tasks.  Then doing your work will be no miracle – you will be the miracle.

We must remember that Christ will not lead us to greatness through an easy or self-indulgent life.  An easy life does not lift us up but only takes us down.  Heaven is always above us, and we must continually be looking toward it.

Some people always avoid things that are costly, or things that require self-denial, self-restraint, and self-sacrifice.  Yet it is hard work and difficulties that ultimately lead us to greatness, for greatness is not found by walking the moss-covered path laid out for us through the meadow.  It is found by being sent to carve out our own path with our own hands.

For today and tomorrow and many days ahead, I will continue to count the gifts He gives.  I will count as blessings the beautiful days and the ugly days, the days I wish would never end and the days that cannot end soon enough.  Because if the good things are gifts – sunshine and flowers and laughing children – and all things come from God who only gives good gifts, then aren’t the days full of tears and broken arms and broken hearts gifts too?  Not because we are supposed to be all happy-Pollyanna about those hard things, but because of what God can do in our life if we will only submit to those trials.  As I look back, I am lying if I don’t say that it is the ugliest, darkest seasons of my life that have worked out the greatest beauty.  No, I don’t want them there, but my Jesus He did something amazing with those years and I wouldn’t know Him like I do, wouldn’t love Him like I do, if He hadn’t walked with me down those paths.  And He continues to do something amazing with these broken years.  Years where I struggle to lead and mother and love well and I fall into bed each night, feeling like I could have – should have – done more.  And yet, He’s always there to pick me up, hold me close, and whisper truth into my heart.  There’s something amazing about the grace that picks you up out of the mud and makes you clean and beautiful and lovely and once you’ve experienced it, you can never give thanks enough.

 

1984.  Olympic watching with friends

1985.  laughing hard

1986.  four and one half hours of sleep

1987.  coffee to get me moving

1988.  time in the Word to get me focused

1989.  long lasting rain

1990.  all asleep by 8:45 last night

1991.  candles flickering

1992.  morning coffee (again)

1993.  all these feelings of failing, inadequacy

1994.  my God who carries me

1995.  a twelve year old today

1996.  feeling less crazy

1997.  dinner at 9:00 p.m.

1998.  beef broth spilled everywhere – everyone helping clean it up, including the dog

1999.  only a few more days of summer

2000.  lovely, productive Saturday

2001.  date night happiness – finally cool enough to enjoy eating outside

2002.  extended family reunion

2003.  sleeping with windows open

2004.  lazy Monday morning, last day of our summer

2005.  all of this amazing grace

Praying that today you know His goodness and see the gifts He longs to give.

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

quotes taken from my well-loved Streams in the Desert