Monday, November 30, 2009

Simple Pleasures

(Translate: cheap amusements)

Two kids, six feet of space, one broken window shade, a few blocks, and a few dozen marbles. One point for each marble you roll into your opponent's box.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Two Big Victories


Monocogman finally made it to the top of Spirit Mountain and back down again, all in once piece, and without having to spend the night up there in the howling wind.  *Insert bells and whistles!*  This is a monumental victory for him, after failing twice in earlier attempts. You can see his blog for the details. When he got home, Monocogman stated that he is NOT interested in climbing that mountain ever again.  (Oh yes, I have heard that one before.) Within about twenty minutes he was talking about the next time...

And, today Alison met her goal of writing 50,000 words in the month of November, and is now a NaNoWriMo winner!  *More bells and whistles!!*  This is wonderful.  After twenty-seven days of missing my daughter, she is back!  Her body has been here the entire time, of course, but her mind has been on a tropical island in the midst of the Pacific Ocean somewhere.  I'm so glad to have her back.  Unfortunately, her characters are still stranded on said tropical island...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Haven of Rest Duet

This is Jenifer Cook's beautiful piano accompaniment arrangement of Haven of Rest.  Amy is at the piano, and Alison on the violin.

Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Understanding God's Grace

Last week as I was preparing my Sunday School lesson I got to thinking about Noah.  The Bible says, "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord," Genesis 6:8.  It was a wonderful thing for Noah and his family that they did.  No doubt about that.  God's grace brought them through the destruction of the entire world and all its inhabitants, and through a brand new beginning in a world that was now hardly recognizable.  I wonder about the emotional impact that great flood had on Noah, and more especially, on the womenfolk who were aboard the ark. God made everything new. The Bible says Noah found grace.

But the grace that brought the Noah family through that terrible apocalypse also required Noah to endure possibly a hundred years of ark building while the world mocked on.  As a "preacher of righteousness"  (2 Peter 2:5) he warned the world of God's coming judgment and had not one convert (except maybe his sons' wives). There was much work to do in gathering food for his family and all God's animals.  He and his family endured an entire year of cabin fever in a closed-up boat, eating the same simple meals every day and cleaning up after a whole population of smelly beasts.  When they got off the ark, they must have felt like they had traveled to a different planet.  How lonely they must have been those first few years! 

In my way of thinking, supposing I were Noah, finding grace in God's sight would have meant something different.  God would have come to me and said, "Noah, you have found grace in my sight.  I am going to completely destroy the world and everyone in it, but I will save you and your family.  I am going to make an ark big enough for your family and all the animals I choose.  Your neighbors will be respectful of your faith, and even though none of them will believe you, they won't bother you, either.  In fact, I will cause them to help you gather food for your journey.  The ark will have lots of windows, with strong awnings, so you can get some fresh air in there, and there will be a covered deck so you can go outside and get some sun after the first forty days. When you come off the ark, I will have made you and your sons beautiful homes and fields all ready to harvest.  My grace will make things easier for you."

That's not what happened, though.  Finding grace with God didn't mean an easier life, in fact, it meant a lot more trouble and difficulty and things Noah would otherwise never have experienced. 

So here is what I have been thinking about.  The troubles and difficulties I am seeing now -- are they actually part of God's grace in my life?   I think they must be!  Knowing that these things are part of the process of his grace should make my heart more grateful, don't you think?  I know this.  Every Christian knows this.  But I feel like this is sort of a new realization, like this "bad" stuff really is God's plan for me, and not just obstacles for me to overcome in order to follow his plan.  This IS the plan!  I can trust him with this!  Up until now, I think my understanding of God's grace has been all wrong.  I''ll be chewing on this for a while.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8,9

Image from sxc.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Fire Ants

Some fire ants snacked on Emily's arm the other day.  We have lots of them around here, and while they don't go looking for you to hunt you down and eat you, they do feel welcome to sting if you cross their path or disturb their home. 

I don't know if the ants sting because they feel threatened, or if they are just mean.  The get ahold of their victims with their jaws mandibles, then pivot around the bite location to sting repeatedly. It is mildly painful to have one sting, but to have several, or, God forbid, hundreds of them all at once is awful!

These fire ants were climbing up a post, and Emily leaned on it.  In less than seconds she had ants moving quickly up her arm.  Emily hollered to her chivalrous, manly friend, Brandon, to help her get the ants off.  By the time they had cleared them, she had at least a couple dozen stings. 

Her mosquito bites swell to the size of a nickel or bigger.  (No, we don't have mosquitoes here, not many.  These were Missouri mosquitoes. Foreigners.)  Looks to me like she is mildly allergic. Fire ant stings normally look like this.  But look at these things.  This was several hours later. (You'll have to use your imagination. My photography skills are right up there with my helicopter mechanic skills.)  The next morning even her face was swollen.

What I want to know is, might this be a good indication that she is also allergic to bee stings??  Should I be carrying Benadryl everywhere we go?

The sting of death is sin;
1 Cor. 15:56

Thursday, November 12, 2009

There Is Hope

image from stock.xchng

When we first started homeschooling, I naïvely believed with all my heart that my children would LOVE school.  They didn't mind learning (nevermind loving it), but they HATED writing.  We could do any assignment orally. But when the children were told to do something (anything) in writing, I witnessed, to my unbelieving eyes, the return of the temper tantrum.  Happy voices turned ugly. Whining, crying, and wailing prevailed. Little bodies writhed on the floor or ran away. 

Maybe their little muscles just weren't ready to write, I don't know.  Whatever the cause, I thought, What am I going to do with this?  We couldn't go on through elementary, junior high, and high school doing our assignments orally!  Not with one child, but especially not with four!!! 

I cajoled, I argued, I threatened.  I finally figured out that God's way would be the best way to handle this  rebellion, because after all, rebellion is what it is. (Proverbs 29:15). 

One small compromise: I allowed them to tackle the keyboard from a very young age, making up words and stories and sending I-love-you emails to their parents and sisters.  Yes, I wanted them to learn to get their thoughts from their brains to the end of a pencil.  But maybe it wouldn't be so bad if the thoughts went from their brains to a keyboard. ??

Forward several years.  My fifteen year old daughter is twelve days and 23,000-some words into a novel.  She is a participant in 2009 NaNoWriMo (that's short for National Novel Writing Month).  She has a journal and a story blog in addition to her regular blog.  She writes for the HSB Backyard. Once in a while she contributes to my church ladies' newsletter.  Who'd a thunk it?  She still hates writing by hand, if it's assigned writing, but she has learned to write in spite of it. 

Don't give up on your non-writer.  There is hope.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

God's Way for God's People, part 2

As happens any time you make a strong statement in a public forum, I drew fire with yesterday's post. Read the comments

Here's the point. 

If you educate God's way, you are better off. 
If you choose to homeschool, you are better off doing it God's way.
If you spend your money God's way, you are better off. 
If you worship God the way he prescribed, you are better off. 
If you nourish your body God's way, you are better off. 
If you train up your children God's way, you are better off. 
If you attend the church of God's choice, you are better off. 
If you choose your friends God's way, you are better off. 
If you spend your time God's way, you are better off. 

Not better.  Better off. 

Homeschooling is not the salvation of our children's souls.  Homeschooling does not give me a guarantee that my kids will be saved, sanctified, and serving the Lord.  But I can see it from here.

Not better.  Better off.

Monday, November 9, 2009

God's Way for God's People

I've been thinking about that visit to our local high school.  One person commented that it must be a really tough school.  I'm thinking, as in inner city L.A./N.Y./Miami?  This is what I would expect to see in inner city L.A., but we are out here in the middle of nowhere, AZ.  I don't think we have a tough school, necessarily.  Actually I think most high schools in America have come to this.  As things have gone downhill with grades, teacher and student behavior, administrative foibles, and the endless black hole effect of pouring money into the school system, we have added more and more rules.  No prayer. No Bibles.  Carry I.D. Fenced-in campuses. Campus police.  No pocket knives, squirt guns, bubble gum, aspirin, etc.  It's just proof that you can't legislate righteousness.  After putting all these rules into practice, we still have more problems. 

The real problem with public school is in the heart of most of those who are involved with it -- government officials, board members, teachers, parents.  The students are the victims. Public school is a mess that I don't want my kids to experience.  With a different foundation (the Bible) and a different outlook, and a very different goal, public school could be a great ministry.  But it isn't. And it's not God's way to begin with.  It's one of those carts from 2 Samuel 6.  When David saw that the Philistine heathen had put the ark of God on a new cart in 1 Samuel 6, he probably thought, What a great idea! That would be much more efficient than having the priests carry the ark. But putting the ark on a cart resulted in disaster for David and his people. God didn't care how the heathen transported the ark, but his own people were to follow the instructions he had given Moses. God's way was to carry the ark, no matter what extra work was involved.  We (my family) are God's people.  Public school has been around for a long, long time, but for God's people, it's a new cart. God's way to educate our children is to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4.  He gives us many warnings to keep away from the ways of the heathen (the heathen aren't just in deep dark Africa -- they shop at Wal*Mart) and to depart from those who teach contrary to God's word.  Sure. It would be much more convenient to send my kids to school, and a lot less work for me.  But it's not God's way at all. It's bound to result in disaster.

I don't believe the fact that we homeschool makes us better than you or anyone else.  However, I do believe with all my heart that my children are better off than those who attend public school, and our home life is better off for it, too.  Anything and everything in us that is good is not there because we are good, but because of the grace of God and the blood of Jesus Christ.  No matter what other way is out there, we are content to do our schooling God's way.  I feel sorry for those kids behind bars.  And I feel sorry for those teachers, administrators and government people who can't figure out why their system isn't working.  They'll never get it until they read and believe God's word and put it into practice.  Public school is now a doomed system graduating doomed students (if they graduate at all). No new carts for us, thank you.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Visit to the Local High School

Amy made my heart glad today with this remark, "Boy, I'm happy I don't have to go to school!"  It's the kind of remark that encourages an insecure homeschooling mother to just keep plugging along. 

The girls have been wanting to play tennis for some long while.  Upon hearing of this the other night, a friend from church generously loaned us a couple of rackets and a can of balls. He said, "Just go to the fire station and ask the fire chief for the key to the tennis courts.  I do it all the time."  Just to be sure we weren't going to be chasing a wild goose, I called the fire station this morning.  I had four girls all dressed for the courts and ready to go.  "No... we haven't had the keys for the tennis courts for three years.  You'll have to call the high school."  Aha!  Just as I suspected!  A goose was loose.

After learning that I would have to bravely send my girls on to the high school campus, I gave them $5 for a key deposit plus a walkie-talkie.  In fifteen minutes my radio bleeped.   I could hear a bit of resentment in my daughter's voice.  They needed to have an adult signature. Why don't adults trust kids?   I had to brush my teeth and make my hair look presentable, but my girls waited patiently.  Borrowing my daughter's bike I pedaled three or four blocks to the high school.

No one accosted us when we entered the gate, but the girls had been questioned the first time they went in.  "Do you have ID?  What are you doing here?"  As if they look dangerous.  But I can understand the school having security.  They might have weirdos off the street, four little Baptist girls in skirts, for example, come in shooting or something.  Scary.  Funny thing is, to me it looked a lot scarier on the inside that it does on the outside!

We made our way to the administrative office building and down the hall to the bookstore.  We could feel eyes turning to stare from all directions. Frankly I was happy to be an unusual attraction -- a  happy mother with orderly children, none of whom were dressed like street-walkers in training.  I signed for the tennis court key. 

As we exited the building we met the one teacher we know there, and we stopped to chat for a minute.  He's a good man trying to make a difference in this place. Truly, it's a mission field. His family homeschools, too. 

Going around the outside corner of the building I was thinking maybe we could get off the campus through a back gate and avoid walking all the way around.  I noticed a security guard leaving the building right behind us, and observant woman that I am, I did not notice until I had asked him for directions, that he was actually a police officer, and in front of him was a male student in handcuffs! 

On our way to the rear gate, which we found locked, one of the younger girls excitedly pointed out the little playground equipment, and commented that she didn't know high schools had playgrounds.  I explained that that was play stuff for the school's day care... 

Finally making our way back to the front gate, Alison said, "I don't like the way these kids look at me.  They probably think I don't know anything!"  I told her they probably know a lot of things she doesn't know, and to be glad for that! 

And after all that, the tennis courts were full.  But it wasn't a wasted trip.  We now have a key.  We learned first hand that school is like prison.  And I now have four kids who are glad to be homeschooling.

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him,
If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

John 8:31,32

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

October in Review

It's that time again!  Past that time.  If I don't hurry up and post this it will be the November month in review post.  Looking back through my photos, I can't believe October went so fast.  We had a fun and busy month with twelve days of special company -- there went almost half the month! 

We are well into school for the year, but we about to make a curriculum change in math.  I do love Teaching Textbooks, but I have at least two children who would benefit greatly from some Charlotte Mason-type learning.  I am having a hard time breaking out of my box, but thanks to my dear friend, PlainJane, we are getting some very practical math and taking a break from TT for a bit.  Introducing Your Business Math Series.  Amy and Elisabeth will be bookstore and pet store owners, respectively.  They will be responsible for ordering stock, selling product, recording sales and figuring sales tax, and calculating their monthly profit.  But first things first!  Each girl will have to come up with a name  and a logo for her business!  They are going to love this, and I think I will, too. (Please, God, let us have only happy faces at math time from now on!)    But wait, that is what is going to be happening THIS month.  Back up!

October started with lots of creative play. I love this stuff!  Elisabeth contructed a covered wagon and roped a horse to pull it.

Betsy's interest in things western continued throughout the month.  A friend left us a couple of felt cowboy hats.  Within a few minutes Betsy had rifled through her drawers and come up looking like a real-live cowgirl, minus boots.  Boots.  Boots!  Cowgirls have to have boots!  What ever will we do?!

On a whim I stopped at the Salvation Army to find a pair of kids' boots.  No cowboy boots, but look what they did have, in unopened boxes:

This was such a fun find, because while some people are always in the right place at the right time, I am almost never in the right place at the right time. I'm in church at the right time, of course, which is the right place to be at church time.  But I rarely get in on a deal.  This time I did, and I am thanking the Lord.  For a song, we are now the happy owners of a Lego train station, cavalry soldiers, bandits, horses, garbage truck, and even a bicyclist -- that one's for Daddy, you know -- and lots of extras!  There you have it.  That's what the little girls have been busy with the entire month.

In the few moments when no one was Lego-ing, we had a couple of birthdays...

Emily was so excited to get If You Give a Cat a Cupcake and its accompanying kitty, that she made all of listen to her read the book out loud before she would open the rest of her gifts!  Daddy and Em had their Dad and Daughter birthday date at the famous In-N-Out Burger.  Good choice, Em. She's been in a big hurry to be six ever since she turned five.

The other October birthday was Alison's 15th.  I can't believe we didn't get one birthday photo.  Where was my head??  Where was everyone else's head??  It's so wonderful to have a teenage daughter.  It such a blessing to see the Lord working in her life and making her into a responsible and very pleasant adult person.  Here she is working like crazy on a hat for a friend's little girl's birthday.

We enjoyed a nice visit from Grammy and Grampy, complete with art and art lessons.  Amy and my mother seem to be kindred spirits of sorts. They share a common interest in artsy stuff; add to that the same genes for height and slenderness and energy.  I now have more of my mom's paintings and pastels hanging in my living room.  They are very special to me.

Elisabeth learned to crochet!  Here is her first complete project, a hot pad:

Emily helped make supper. It was one of those days.  One of those days when the man of the house needed to be fed with something delicious and filling, to know he was loved and appreciated in his castle. We got a huge auto repair bill that day.  Medical bills were piling up. But the man of the house came home to an experimental meal. I meant well, really I did. The website said this one was a keeper. It wasn't in this house . Disaster struck!  And there was enough of this horrid dish to feed an army and a half!  It was so bad that  it became a sermon illustration!  But a prudent wife doesn't throw bad food in the trash -- she figures out a way to make it edible.  Next day it was salvaged and  gobbled up.

The western theme continues:

We had special meetings at church with special friends from Kansas and here in Arizona,
we witnessed a gun fight in our local gold-mining ghost town, Oatman,

climbed Sitgreaves Pass (in the car),

climbed a mountain at sunrise, on foot (using the word "we" very loosely, I admit),

played music, participated in speech co-op, and enjoyed our first cold weather, complete with hot cocoa, layers of clothing, extra blankets, and long underwear.  But not the furnace. Not yet.  (Don't laugh.  It's cold here, too.) 

And finally, the month was finished off with a surprise package in the mail!

Isn't God good?  Yes, he is!

Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness,
and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
Psalm 107:8

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