Ready for it to be done

Well, I don't know about you, but SweetPea and I are ready to get back to a schedule.  We decided this morning that neither of us does very well with too much free time and no limitations on things like eating, computer, etc.  (I can't believe I'm saying this.)  Seems like we default to the laziest and easiest thing--which is really wonderful, don't get me wrong.  We needed it after such a busy semester.  But now we're both, shall I say eager ?, for school to begin again.

We had a wonderful Christmas with our snowy-mountain getaway with family.  Got to get my fill of the darling baby, enjoy our traditional Scandinavian food, and drink in the incredible scenes everywhere.  I'm sorry my whole family couldn't be there, but as we usually have no one with us for Christmas, this was very special.

If I were an unschooler, I would say that SweetPea did school nearly our whole Christmas break.  She's been on a photography frenzy...setting up a new photography blog, learning the ins and outs of Adobe PhotoShop and doing a beautifully creative job, poring over her new digital photography books, reading and absorbing everything she can get on others' blogs, online tutorials, etc.  She's researched cameras both online and in the stores to see what she needs to be saving her money for, read reviews, and committed to a savings plan to get it soon.  And yes, I'm going to actually use this toward an elective credit.  It seems to be the quintessential homeschool mom's dream-come-true:  student teaching herself because of her own passion for the subject.  How do we make that happen with math???

So a couple more days of hang-loose, then 2011--here we come.


Lessons from 2010

Maybe it's a week early, but this morning I thought over the lessons God has been teaching me this year.  They've come through illness, parenting, homeschool challenges, family issues, decision-making and more.  But it was a good exercise to see the strong threads of training the Lord has been at with me.

  • First and foremost would certainly be the utter Truth of God's Word.   He said it...it cannot fail...I can have complete confidence in it as I take it as mine, mix it with my faith, and wait in certainty and patience that He is bringing it to fulfillment in His time.

  • I cannot and should not live one day without having spent time with Him and in His Word.  It is my very life, health, counsel, wisdom, peace, and blessing.  Daily, early, I need to be praying in the Spirit, fellowshiping with Him, inviting His Lordship into everything, waiting on Him.

  • His Word on my lips, declaring His will over every situation, is the Sword of the Spirit.  It will accomplish what He sent it out to do.

  • His kingdom is to be my first priority--not school or cooking or blogging or friends or errands or housework or fun stuff.

  • I need to cast ALL of my cares on the Lord, "get out of the way," as my beloved husband admonishes me, and so enter into REST.  It is finished.  It is not up to me to bring about the fulfillment of God's promises.  My part is to believe, His part is to do.  (Incredible thought.)

  • I need to operate in all things from the position of being "in Christ"--seated and ruling with Him.  All that He did for me, all that He is and has is mine because I am "in Him," and as I appropriate it by faith, led of the Spirit, I will see His LIFE on every level.

  • I need to be filled with praise and thanksgiving all day, every day.  It enthrones God then in every situation of my life, activates my faith, and causes me to see things from His point of view--VICTORY.

  • I can't, He can.


'Twas the week before Christmas...

...And I'm ending the day with a scattered brain...still lots to do for Christmas but I'm not sure what...too many things going on...the to-do list too-long...yawn.

BUT!  God is so good and that's what I want to have as my final thoughts of the day--His never-ending goodness and blessings.

Thank You, Father...

  • for bringing my brother-in-law home safe today from several months in Afghanistan!  What a wonderful Christmas gift to the family.

  • for keeping us in good health.

  • for giving SweetPea a fun Christmas party today with support group friends.

  • for helping me get my packages shipped on time!

Tomorrow is a baking day--lefse, a Norwegian soft bread like a tortilla only made with potatoes, cinnamon rolls, and some more cookies.  Our family is Scandinavian so we have all sorts of fun food at Christmas, the only time I can be persuaded to make such labor-intensive goodies.  How did those ladies of long ago have time to do this daily??


Working at rest

I've been doing pretty well in my goal to be cool and relaxed this Christmas--no stress (right), enjoying all the sweet and special things of the season.  But I can feel "acks" creeping in around the edges...Ack!  We don't have our family photo taken yet.  Ack!  I haven't even begun our letter or Christmas cards.  Ack!  I've done no baking and have nothing ready in the freezer for those quick gifts.  Ack!  It's only two weeks until Christmas and I haven't wrapped our shipped my out-of-state gifts.  Or finished my shopping.

But one of my Big Lessons for 2010 has been to learn to be at Rest and let the Lord manage all the 'stuff.'  Hard to do, but so rewarding when I'm doing it right.  I determined in November that I was going to have a simpler Christmas this year, so I'm bravely facing all the "I haven'ts" with "He will--I just don't know how!"  In keeping with this lesson of Rest, my philosophy is, if it doesn't get done, it must not have been that important.  Very Type B, I know.  Another one of my goals.

So I'll keep you posted on how the Lord handles all this for me.  "His yoke is easy and His burden is light"!


Why do I have hope? Because...

...God loves me:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

...I am chosen:
...but you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.   (I Peter 2:9)

...when the world seems to have gone crazy, He is still God:
In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.   (John 16:33)

...when I fear for my future, He says, Fear not!
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.   (Jeremiah 29:11)

...no evil purpose can stand against me:
The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.   (II Timothy 4:18)

...the testing of my faith has great purpose:
These [trials] have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.   (I Peter 1:7)

...when I pray, I get answers:
I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.   (John 16:23)

...when my body suffers, I can know His healing:
...[He] healed all the sick.  This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah, "He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases."   (Matthew 8:17)

...when I'm tired, He gives me strength:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.   (Matthew 11:28)

...when I don't know what to do, He gives me His wisdom:
If any of you lacks wisdom he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.   (James 1:5)

...when my heart is breaking, He wraps me in His arms:
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.   (Psalm 147:8)

...when I stumble and sin, He forgives me:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.   (I John 1:9)

...when I've been wronged, He is my Defender:
I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.   (Psalm 140:12)

...when the money doesn't stretch, He provides for me:
And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.   (Philippians 4:19)

...when I'm worried and anxious, He promises peace:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.   (Philippians 4:6-7)

...when things are falling apart, He has a plan:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.   (Romans 8:28)

...when I fear for my family, I can trust His care:
...because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.   (II Timothy 1:12)

...when conflicting voices confuse me, He shows me the right way:
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.   (John 16:13)

Why do I have hope?  Because Jesus came, and...
He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.   (Isaiah 9:6-7)


Thanksgiving in the slow lane

What's Thanksgiving without family?


Hubby got slated to work the whole four-day weekend, and the only family we have within a few-hour radius left the state for the holiday, so it's just us.  SweetPea and I are having a very quiet--and restful!--holiday weekend.    And you know what?  This year I don't mind.  The weeks have been so full for so long, that it was actually euphoric to think that we could just kick back for four days, without schedule and demand, and catch up.

We did the traditional meal thing yesterday, eating late when Dad came home, and watched an old movie by a crackling fire.  Today I tackled some major mess in the basement and made significant progress--there's now room to wrap Christmas presents.  (Groan.  Don't you feel like you're hurtling to the next holiday at warp speed?)  This afternoon SweetPea and I got a two-hour start on the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice, a garage-sale find with four hours left to go.  Very fun.

Tonight I took Doug Phillips' idea from his Vision Forum email and read out loud Chapter 4 of William Bradford's "Plymoth Plantation" at the dinner table.  This chapter tells of why the Pilgrims felt compelled to leave Leyden, Holland and come to America.  Interesting that a primary reason was that they were losing their children to the culture, watching them walk away from God and family.  Sound familiar?  They faced grim alternatives to stay or go, but I love what they based their ultimate decision on:

"...all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and must be both enterprised and overcome with answerable courages.  It was granted the dangers were great, but not desperate; the difficulties were many, but not invincible.  For though there were many of them likely, yet they were not certain; it might be sundry of the things feared might never befall; others by provident care and the use of good means, might in a great measure be prevented; and all of them, through the help of God, by fortitude and patience, might either be borne, or overcome."  (modern spelling my change)

A bracing word for us parents today, wouldn't you say?  The challenges of raising children in a culture opposed to the things of God require this same gutsy faith in Lord.  I pray I will have "answerable courage."


A "CCC" week


Catch-up, Creativity, & Cooking!

I decided we just had to take a break and regroup--the house, our schooling, but most of all, our inner selves.  When I melt down over little things, that's a sure sign I've got to stop and fill my well.  I've been doing too much 'melting' lately, so I made the executive decision (O, wonderful freedom of homeschooling) to have some fun and rest time...and it's been wonderful!

Catch-up on home tasks, paperwork, gifts to mail, raking leaves, phone visits, rest, thinking, reading, talking

Creativity - some space just to play...piano and guitar, writing, jewelry-making, photography

Cooking - I'm having SweetPea shadow me in the kitchen, something that seems to get bumped a lot of the time due to other priorities.

I even had the blessing of attending our ladies Bible study yesterday, something I usually can't fit in.  Since most of the families in the church homeschool, the kids do their independent school studies for a good hour, then have a fabulous romp for another while we do our study.  Yesterday it was Capture the Flag in the wintry cold--so fun to see the breathless laughter and red cheeks.

And we get to end the week with art class and a Scandinavian Christmas Fair.  Too fun.

It might be hard to get back into the rigors of algebra and all the rest next week, but I'd have to say "mission accomplished."  I think I'll have to ponder the idea of adjusting our schedule to have a week like this regularly.  Just knowing it was out there waiting for me every few weeks would be bliss.


A lament

I've decided I don't like busy weekends!  And I'm stumped at how to avoid them.  By late in our week, I'm having visions of all the stuff I'm going to get done on Beautiful, Unstructured Saturday...long quiet time, cleaning, paperwork, yardwork, projects...you know.  But by the time we have our family waffle breakfast, run errands, whatever, it's dinnertime and I didn't get anything done on my list.  Again.

Is it only me, or do you find if you're gone half a day, you're catching up for two?  I was gone half of Saturday, then church yesterday with a potluck lunch, then a long, gorgeous hike in the afternoon with my honey while SweetPea had a youth event at church.  Such a beautiful day.  But I hit Monday morning unprepared for our school time, tired, wondering what we were going to have for dinner, not liking my cluttered home, and considering just going back to bed.

The only fix I can see right now is to be more organized during the week, do more planning ahead, preparing ahead.  Now, mind you, I'm an organizer by nature, but I'm sitting on the edge of a pretty decided revolt.  I don't want to be more organized!  I want to f-l-o-w.   How many months until summer?

So my goals this week include arriving at Friday afternoon with a relatively clean house, school all planned for next week, laundry and ironing caught up, plenty of food prepared for the weekend, fall leaves all raked up and bagged, bills paid.  Oh, yeah, and my basement cleaned up.

Hm-m-m...think it'll happen?


A day of praise & thanksgiving

In keeping with my old testament readings lately, I am declaring today a Day of Praise & Thanksgiving to the Lord for all He is and has done for our family!  It's good to remember the mercies of the Lord and to proclaim that His goodness endures continually.

So with all my heart, I thank You, Lord, for...

  • Knowing You, that somehow in the billions on the planet, I was blessed to have the gospel told me at a young age

  • My beloved husband, my partner in faith and dearest earthly friend

  • My precious daughter who came as a miracle and continues to bless my life in more ways than I could have imagined

  • My home, our sanctuary, and lovely yard; flowers, peaceful neighborhood, and lovely places to walk

  • My husband's good job

  • Hot showers, clean water, good food, warm beds, washing machines & dryers, books & libraries, cars, telephones, and all the thousands of comforts that make life so blessed

  • My mom's arm healing so well after a nasty break, and that it wasn't a hip or worse

  • Our families who love us and love You

  • Dear friends and all the richness they bring to my life

  • The privilege of homeschooling, for all the good books and resources we have available, and for our wonderful support group

  • Our beloved church family and their uncompromising stand on Your Word

  • This free country and all the privileges we enjoy as a result of that freedom

  • Healing from our illnesses and infirmities, for the blessing of health

  • Your WORD!!! that changes me and gives me strength, confidence, courage, and perspective

  • Writing and sewing and hiking and cooking and entertaining and reading and art and all the joys of creativity and self-expression

  • Daily purpose because of You in my life

  • Our sweet little dog and the laughter that she brought to us

  • Mercies new every morning, answered prayer, and grace for every need

You are altogether awesome, wonderful, incredible, and You fill my heart.  I give You praise and honor today for revealing Yourself to me every day...and thank You for taking me to live in the secret place of the Most High.


My homestead moment

Guess what I did today?  Dehydrated cranberries...lots of them!

I've been waiting for them to come in again for the holiday season and was delighted to find them at Costco this week.  I'm on a fairly strict candida diet right now, but have discovered the cranberries are a low-glycemic fruit.  I cook them up with stevia and even though it's not quite the same, it's great to have a treat like this. 

Off season they're pretty expensive so I'm experimenting with some ways to preserve them.  Anyone ever tried canning them with stevia instead of sugar?  I called the Ball company consumer rep today to ask them about it, but they said there hasn't been any research done on canning with stevia where they can definitively say, yes, it works and is okay for you.  I might boldly go where no professionsals have gone before.

Did I mention that it takes a long time to cut that many cranberries in half??  I might just be content with freezing them from now on.


Scheduling a teen's life

A couple of weeks ago, I finally made the decision that I should no longer be micro-managing SweetPea's schedule.  I've been trying for a couple of years now to really get her to see the 'big picture' of our week and month, to learn to plan ahead and take ownership of what she needs to get done when--with little success. 

So I put together a planner for her and told her that from now on, she's responsible to keep it up-to-date.  (Bold move!)

I give her a pretty new 3-ring notebook, added a bunch of blank tabs and notebook paper, then gave her some time to do an artsy spine and cover to insert, and to personalize the dividers.  I went to Donna Young's website and printed out big double-spread calendar pages on card stock, front and back, then had her spend some time putting in all the important dates from my calendar for the coming year.

You know what?  She loves it!  It's now her "Life in a Notebook" and I have successfully passed the baton!  :-)  Each Monday morning we sit for a bit and update all our comings and goings, check in on projects, brainstorm ideas, and talk through what any given event will require.  I suspect that deep down somewhere she's an inveterate planner like her mom, and I'm having the fun of drawing it forth!


A writing lesson

A story I wrote was recently accepted for one of the Chicken Soup books, and while gratifying, the real 'meat' of this experience was what I learned about writing. 

I wrote this story a number of years ago, had it rejected by a magazine, and filed it away.  When I began to reconsider it for the CS book, I saw that it needed major rework on many fronts.  It was 500 words too long for their needs.  I was guilty of two major no-no's in writing:  writing passively instead of actively (too many "was's"--I had six in one paragraph!), and telling instead of showing.

But the real problem showed up when I faced the daunting task of cutting 500 words.  That's a whole page of typewritten material, double-spaced.  And since this was a true, personal story, I just couldn't see what I could cut without damaging the flow and interest of the story.

So I went to work with some experimental slicing and dicing.  What gradually became apparent was a more subtle problem inexperienced writers have, that of having too much 'stuff' in the story that distracts from the main point.  It could be other sub-stories, rabbit-trail descriptions, or events that don't really add to the story.

I had to ask myself, what story am I really trying to tell here?  When I answered that question, I saw that two other incidents I had included could be taken out without impacting the story.  In fact, by doing that and tightening up some of the "and then I's...", it gave a much greater dramatic punch to the actual story I was trying to tell.  And 500 words thankfully disappeared.


That's the key word here.  Tell one thing in one story.  Enlarge upon it, enrich the descriptions and word use, add some metaphors and similies, using vivid verbs, and you have a compelling read.  If you're a word-lover, it's hard to submit to the maxim, "less is more," but in this case it's true.

My dad is a landscape painter by profession, and he has preached this for years.  "Simplicity!"  He taught me early on that a really good painting is not one that has every jot and tittle of detail (we have cameras for that), but rather simple strokes in bold colors, clean composition balance, and focus on one main thing.  Funny how that parallels writing--and life.

Well, it was a terrific experience and one that will make me a better writer, hopefully. 



A great writing curriculum

Honestly, I can't believe how I've let my blog slide these past few weeks.  Chalk it up to that old 'busy' excuse--truly.  I take solace in noting that others around here are in the same boat!

We've finished up our second week of school.  Wow, those first few days were tough!  Neither of us wanted to do it.  But we've finally hit our stride again, not finding it so hard to get up early, discovering once again that we really do better with a schedule.

 I have to give a huge thumbs-up for the WriteShop curriculum!  I'm very impressed.  It's very detailed, leaves nothing for you, the teacher, to have to figure out, even to check-off lists that enable you to grade each assignment objectively.

Best of all, I love the process it leads you through, beginning to end.  The student must not only edit their own work--at least twice per assignment--but they must know why.  It requires a thoroughness that I can see will develop excellent lifelong writing habits.  I also love the way you can adapt the assignments to your core curriculum.  In a word, I'd say it demystifies the writing process.

So far, so good!  I'm happy to recommend it.


Blogging? What's that?

I'm so disconnected right now from posting.  But the dust is settling around here so I'll be getting back to a routine soon.  As fun as our summer has been 'away' from our usual efforts, I think both SweetPea and I need our schedule.

In these last couple of weeks before school begins again (AACK!!! I can't believe I'm saying that), I'm trying to focus on the big "O" word--organizing.  School prep, the last of our shed and yard projects, the basement (this one is a permanent sticky), etc.  I'm trying to finish up an article I'm writing, work in some visits with homeschool friends before they disappear off my radar when school starts, schedule dental check-ups, etc.  I would love to work in some of my own catch-up reading, but I try to preread our Sonlight literature--SweetPea's readers--and I haven't even begun yet.  I figure I'll attend to my catch-up list sometime after 2014!

And on the fun list is our ongoing sewing class with our friends.  This week we sew aprons start to finish, having done all the learning and prep work--now the fun stuff!  I'll post pictures when they're done. 

God is good, all the time!


A VBS week

A cool, rainy weekend was just what I needed to 'take me off the hook' for doing yardwork!  Not that I don't enjoy it, mind you, but we had a FULL week helping out with VBS at our church.  If I told you I had a class of 15 6 & 7-year-olds, that might clarify things a bit, huh?  :-) 

But as is typical of the goodness of the Lord, He had all sorts of graces and mercies on a challenging few days.  First of all, the kids were great!  Our topic was wonderful--the Covenant.  We had a terrific group of volunteers to make it all happen.  And when I was scrambling to pull together a lesson (I was a last-minute fill-in teacher and so had no time to prepare ahead of time), I was relieved to sense the Holy Spirit's leading...something workable for each day.  Praise the Lord, it got done.

I made a funny observation this week.  Every time I needed my group to gather together and head off to our next activity station, there were fifteen little bodies lining up in a flash next to me like so many iron filings to a magnet.  Efficiently, superbly lined up every time.  One of the excellent 'crowd' skills taught in public school!  Truly, I heartily appreciated that this week.  Have you noticed that trying to get a group of homeschoolers lined up is like herding cats??  We could take a lesson.

One little girl in our class asked prayer for God to help her witness to a little neighbor girl.  You should have seen the shock on her face when that little neighbor arrived late in the week!  Just in time to hear the whole way of salvation through Jesus and how much God loved her.  I saw a hard and sullen little face change in two days to a happy, participating part of our group--and rejoice to know God's mighty work has begun in her.  Things like this sure make it all worthwhile, don't they?


Ah, summer...

It's finally here!  We're warm, it's not snowing, and it's very green outside.  You can't tell me that I might still need gloves and boots.  Please.

And the other good news is that we finished school!  (Almost.)  We actually met all our state requirements for hours and days, and will just do a bit of wrap-up this month, then truly have a few weeks off.  We're in the middle of our last read-aloud for Sonlight Core 7, God's Smuggler, about Brother Andrew.  My goodness, what a wonderful example of being led by the Holy Spirit, of being truly sold out to Jesus and living every day by His heart.  It's been a fresh challenge to my own faith.

SweetPea finished Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra, and we certainly both have to give that program a huge thumbs-up.  She loves it.  And it's a relief to me to have found the right thing for her that we can track with now throughout high school.  Yay!

Having already done a big vacation in April, we're looking forward to some quality time to improve the homestead.  Hubby needs to rebuild a shed and do the finish work on our new patio roof, and I have a ton of yardwork and landscaping that will take me all summer to catch up on.  I haven't done much the last couple of summers; a nasty bout of candida last year nixed my energy for doing normal yard stuff, and it's been a year of recovery.  I'm praising the Lord for the increasing ability to tackle these things again!  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me"!

We're starting a fun project tomorrow with another family--I'll be teaching them and SweetPea how to sew.  We expect to work at it throughout the summer, and I have the side hope it will jumpstart me back into sewing.  I used to make most of my own clothes, but it's one of those things that fell by the wayside when I started homeschooling. 

Off to see what Brother Andrew is doing in the next chapter!  Blessings on your day.  :-)


Apologetics today

We had a great opportunity today to hear Ken Ham (Answers in Genesis) do a presentation for students on defending your faith.  Wow, these guys have certainly done their homework!  I've heard and read much on the topics they present, but it was fresh and so well presented.  My favorite part was the discussion on DNA, how they have discovered that the DNA code is really a language--complete with counterparts to letters, words, and sentences.  God is so awesome!

I need to do some more browing on their website, but I'd certainly recommend it as a fabulous resource for homeschoolers.  He told us that very shortly after the news story came out recently on the "we finally created life in the laboratory," they had an article posted addressing it in detail.  The website is:  www.answersingenesis.org

Now I want to go see their Creation Museum in Kentucky!


A May Day blessing

It's May!  Yay!

I just had the most astonishing blessing for my May Day.  I was hard at work out by our front entryway, laboriously moving all the small rockwork (one rock at a time) to clean out the pine needles and debris that had fallen over the winter.  A s-l-o-w job.

I noticed across the street our neighbors' young grandsons had arrived for a visit and were weeding dandelions in the yard.  I only knew them by sight, and their grandparents only slightly as our paths don't cross very often.  A few minutes later I looked up, and to my surprise, here were all three boys coming up our driveway with a beautiful gift bag.  "Hello," I said, wondering if they were going to try to sell me something.

"Hi," they all three said.  The one with the gift bag held it out and said, "This is for you."

"For me???!"  I was nonplused.  For a fleeting moment I thought it was a trick, that something creepy would jump out of the bag at me.  I am deeply suspicious of groups of boys doing anything together, having been on the receiving end of pranks more than once.  Cynical, huh?

"This is from Lisa," the youngest towhead said.  Oh.  My neighbor, the grandma.

They waited as I opened the multi-colored pastel bag and drew out a card.  A May Day gift!  Inside were some lovely spring kitchen towels and a little gift for SweetPea.  I was trying to gather my wits, having been caught completely off-guard.

"Wow, what a thoughtful gift!  Tell her thank you for me, okay?"

They agreed, but kind of hemmed and hawed.  Then one of them said, "Could we please help you?"

Help me???  Do young boys volunteer to do that these days???  Boys that you don't even know??? You could have knocked me over with the proverbial feather.  Of course my lightning-quick response was "Um, sure!"

They pitched in with a will and I had a lovely time, meeting them, talking about fishing and homesteading and guy things.  And we made quite a little dent in that rockwork.

Later, Lisa came to retrieve the boys and explained that where she grew up, they used to do May Baskets.  They would make paper baskets, fill them with flowers and candy, then ring someone's doorbell, leave the basket, and run off before they were discovered.  I was the lucky recipient of this year's May Day surprise!

Well, I tell you.  It brought tears to my eyes to receive such unbidden kindness not only from a neighbor I didn't know well, but to meet three wholesome, very dear young boys, simple and direct, and totally devoid of attitude.  How incredibly refreshing.  No, they're not homeschoolers (thought you might ask!), just raised right.

What a great reminder of how powerful it can be to bless someone's day.  Mine is blessed!


Honoring the Sabbath

I have learned from hard experience that the Lord had a very good reason for making the Sabbath for man.  We need the rest after six busy days!

It used to be that I would do carryover work from the week on Sundays, trying to catch up, but would find that come Monday, I was tired before the new week even began!  Seemed like I could never catch up.

But in keeping with a new understanding the Lord has been giving me of walking in His rest instead of my works, I decided to make our Sabbath be more what the Lord intended--a day of rest.  I'm not talking here about keeping Shabbat as the Jewish people do; more the spirit of the Sabbath.  A time to stop and refresh, focus on the Lord and His Word, rest.

It's hard!  Church life often makes our Sundays one of the busiest days of the week.  But, together with my hubby, we've decided to keep the decks as clear as possible.  I was reading a couple of weeks ago in Exodus 16 in the account of God giving manna to the Israelites.  They were commanded to gather twice as much the day before the Sabbath as none would appear on the Sabbath.  It occurred to me that I could ask the Lord for that same kind of thing--help on Saturday to get all my work done as well as preparation for Sunday.  Here's some of what I do to get ready:

-  I cook ahead, maybe even from Friday, and cook extra so that on Sunday all we eat is leftovers.

- I set up breakfast before bedtime Saturday night.  Sometimes I make a breakfast casserole or waffles ahead of time so that it's just a quick warm-up in the morning.

- Fresh placements and napkins out to look pretty and special for the Lord and my family.

- Giving or tithe check written and ready.

- Church clothes picked out and ready.

- A quick house pick-up and dishes put away.

It's so wonderful to wake up and not begin the day in a frazzled rush, getting us out the door to church.  I'm able to have my quiet time with tea and actually have my spirit prepared for worship service!  What a concept.

Another thing that has contributed to a peaceful Sabbath morning is Hubby's involvement.  It seemed that I was the only one who could read a clock on Sunday mornings.  No matter what time we got going, we were always in a late, mad rush out the door to church.  My indigestion and irritation did not help me receive much from the Lord!

So after some discussion, Hubby agreed to take over the leadership of Sunday mornings.  He set times for all of us to be up, showered and dressed, and when I had to have breakfast on the table.  It's incredible--we actually now have extra time in the morning, to the point that we have leisurely family talk over breakfast!!!  It's wonderful.

So all taken together, our Sabbath is becoming what it ought to be, little by little.  I look forward to it now, knowing I have 'permission' to not do my to-do list for one whole day.  If it must be done, it just might have to wait until Monday!



Snow and school

It's a cozy night to stay home...a snowstorm rageth outside (16" predicted over the next 24 hours!)...a fire crackles in the fireplace.  It's a typical Colorado spring snowstorm, wet and sticky and heavy.  Lots of shovelling tomorrow, prayers for Hubby as the makes the trek to work, hot soup and a quiet day of school (if we can concentrate!).  We might need to build a snowman, don't ya think?

It's been a good week.  Though all the credit goes to the Lord and His mercy, it also helps to have the prospect of a long and lovely spring break ahead of us.  We're headed for a visit to AZ in a few days to see our families and enjoy that famous sunshine.  All three of us have been showing definite signs of needing a break!  So I can rather smugly smile at the snow piling up and know that it might well be the last one I'll see this winter.  Ask me if I'm sorry. 

SweetPea and I have been studying the pre-WWI era in our studies, the tangled and desperate affairs across the globe that erupted in that horrible war.  We've had some really great discussions this week about governmental leadership, the 'masses' and what moves them to go one direction or another, slavery, and these end times.  Truly, history does repeat itself, and it seems also that the great and terribly hard-won lessons of one generation don't carry over to the next.  Why is that??

She's also been reading through a book of short biographies of all the presidents and has been quite struck with how rare it was to have one who really governed with wisdom and left a legacy of good.  Again, we've had a chance to contrast man's idea of 'ruling' with what God has instructed in His Word.  Plenty of points to bring up about our own times!

I love homeschooling!  What a wonderful opportunity to help our kids become thinkers, to understand the deep issues of life and see them by God's light.

With high school beginning in just a few months, I'm starting to research what I'm supposed to do and how.  I found a wealth of stuff on the HSLDA website, and I'm digging into Barbara Shelton's Senior High: A Home-Designed Form+U+La.  Wow, what an amazing resource!  It'll take a while to process all that's in it, but I love her focus on really being led of the Lord for each step, for new and fresh thinking about His design for my daughter's education.

Time to call it a day.  Thank You, Lord, for Your wonderful love and kindness.  It is a very great privilege to belong to you and to be the object of Your tender care.




Time for a breather

     Busy month around here...anyone else?!?  (So much for the it's-winter-and-I'll-get-caught-up-on-projects idea.)

     Let's see, we've spent a lot of time in the car getting from here to there.  Sweet Pea's done gym classes, an oral report skit with required practices, drama class with final performance, piano lessons and special practices for a performance, five most-of-the-day sessions of a free enterprise mock-town experience, a Valentine party, hang-out times with friends, church and church activities...you get the idea.  Then there's the round of colds that went through our family (SP's on her second one).  Oh, yeah, and we did school.

     So I think things are settling down a bit, at least for a couple of weeks.  It's time to get well and get back to our routine.

     I have to give a wonderful recommendation for an audio version of Great Expectations that we listened to from the library.  It's a BBC production and is narrated by Martin Jarvis--absolutely outstanding.  He does all the voices so distinctively that you think it's a whole cast of people.  After we finished it, we checked out the Masterpiece Theater version of the story, but gave up early on because we so loved the characters we'd come to "see" in our minds with Jarvis' performance that the visual seemed a betrayal of it!

     As much as I enjoy the Olympics, I'll be glad when they're done--they rather dominate our evening time.  And they're so...cold.  I guess my Arizona upbringing still stirs in my chilled winter veins.  I'm trying to remember what it feels like to sweat.



Mid-winter doldrums

February tends to be the month where I would like to pack my suitcase, get in the car, and go anywhere (except where it's colder or grayer).  I'm daydreaming about yard work, Vitamin D that comes from the sun instead of a bottle, vacation destinations, no school, birds singing, and the glories of spring.

It's not that I don't like winter; it has it's own beauties.  I like the lack of yardwork and outdoor projects so I can get caught up on indoor stuff.  I love the beauty of snow, the coziness of slippers and afghans and hot tea, of the fireplace crackling of an evening. 

Today God shared a special winter scene with me.  I was out for a walk circling a frozen lake in the thin mid-afternoon sunshine, and there, spread before me on the lake, were hundreds of Canadian geese, all fluffed out and settled down for their naps on the ice--and all facing the same direction.  So peaceful, so striking with their dark heads and markings against the white ice.  Behind them, the dark, jagged skeletons of bare trees edged the lake and in the distance, the long blue mountain range stretched out as far as I could see in either direction, topped with snow-capped peaks.  Wow.  Wish I'd had my camera.

So I'm trying to savor the season and fill my restless mind with thankfulness, and do things that refresh my spirit. 

Is it spring break yet?



Some good stuff in school

It was slow going last week trying to get back into the mental mode of school, but we did it.  Both SweetPea and I are glad to be back at it--we just seem to do better with a schedule.

We finished a very interesting book last week, Dr. Jenner and the Speckled Monster.  It's the story of smallpox, the ghastly impact on our world over the centuries, and the discovery of the vaccine that literally conquered this "monster" and changed the world.  I highly recommend the book even as an adjunct to a science program.  In fact, it's a fascinating read for anyone, and certainly throws a different slant on history.

I've said it here before, but I'm really delighted with our math curriculum, Teaching Textbooks.  I hear comments regularly from SweetPea of how much she likes the pace of it, the clear instruction, and how well she is understanding the foundational concepts of each topic.  Thank You, Lord!  This is music to my ears after a couple of years of curriculum-hopping to find what would work for her after we finished elementary Singapore.  I think we can just stick with it now through high school and expect good results.

And this week we will begin Great Expectations by Dickens as a read-aloud.  From the looks of the study notes, we'll be awash with new vocabulary.  A decidedly wonderful way to learn words! 

I'm using Writer's INC this semester as the basis of essay writing study, reading and discussing each of us with our own copy.  I love this resource and have been trying to use it more as a study text for some time, so this is a great chance to do that.

So we're off to a good start for 2010, and I'm so thankful for this amazing privilege of homeschooling! 


Ring in the new

Happy 2010!  My prayer for you is that you will know the "blessing of the Lord which maketh rich and adds no sorrow to it"!

We're already enjoying the sense of new beginnings around here...

...A new patio roof is about halfway done, with our Christian builders diligently working whenever it's not too cold to do so.  I think they're taking off Thursday; do ya think 13 degrees for a high is too cold to work outside?!

...Back to school today (yay! three cheers for Routine!), with some new directions before us.

...Some new and improved kitchen organization is making things better and more enjoyable in the cook's department, and I'm loving my new over-the-sink cutting board with hole/strainer basket.  How did I ever live without it??

...And of course the excitement that comes with new goals.  I love that about the Lord, how He is ever able to make all things new.  I don't know about you, but I'm really ready for His renewing touch on a lot of things.

I like the bracing effect of goal-setting each January.  Gives me a chance to closely examine things, decide what has not been working, what priorities and processes have changed, and what can be improved.  This past year some health issues really dragged me down, so it's safe to say that nearly every area of my life needs improvement.  Praise God, He is the "glory and lifter of my head"!  I'm depending on Him day by day to truly be my New and Re-Newed life this year.