on faith and how to please God

There is something amazing about the power of Scripture.

Some days I read it and there isn’t anything that particularly jumps out at me, but there’s a solidness and comfort in simple saturation of God’s inspired Words.

Other days there are things that are so clear and meaningful it’s as though they were divinely highlighted.

For awhile now I have been intrigued and inspired by Hebrews 11 and its list of saints who were unflinching in their faith.
The ones who did the right thing even when it was hard. Who obeyed God in the face of ultimate grief. Who trusted God even when it didn’t seem that He was doing anything. Who were martyred and considered it a glorious privilege.

This is the kind of faith that I want. It’s the kind of faith that makes anything possible and everything able to be borne.

Persistent, determined faith.

I’ve read Hebrews 11:6 before. But this past week when reading these words again, I was impressed with something I hadn’t ever noticed.

“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 KJV

In the past I have read this and kind of got stuck in my own musings of how small my faith is, and how I’m probably barely, if at all, pleasing God because of that fact.

But this time something new was there for me.

First, in order to have a faith that pleases God there are two things this Scripture details as requirement; they have to do with His existence and His character.

1.) So first, we must believe He exists.

This isn’t that hard for me. Oh, I have had times of really wondering where God is in the midst of hardship. Or why He isn’t doing anything. But as a general rule I acknowledge that there is a God.

2.) The character part. We must believe that this God is the kind of God who rewards those who diligently seek Him.

This is what stopped me in my tracks.

Our God is a Rewarder-God. And not only is He so, we must believe Him to be this kind of God. As in, we can’t please God if our faith doesn’t accept Him as a God who loves to reward us for seeking His face and His heart.

This, I believe was the faith of Noah, the faith of Abraham, the faith of Sarah, the faith of the martyrs. They looked up to the heavens with knowing smiles and acknowledged that, “Yes. There is a God. An unseen, enthroned King. A Maker. An Authority that is unequaled in power and glory, deserving all our worship and praise.”   There. Is. A. God.

And then, a much more personal and heart-expanding truth: this God rewards.
He loves His children immensely. And those who choose diligent seeking, who choose to follow after Him with all their heart, who repent when they mess up… And those who refuse to worship their experience over His promises, these are the ones who please God with faith. They will experience unimaginable rewards. Both here on earth as well as in heaven. And I’m not talking necessarily about rewards you can touch or see (though that’s certainly within the realm of possibility), but rewards from the Spirit in this life that make our hard things possible to be viewed as a privilege.  And rewards in heaven (you know, the kind that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, what the Father has in store.).

This is Martyr Faith.

This is a faith that takes people through prisons, through disease, through fire and persecution.

This is the faith that propelled Abraham up a mountain on a God-ordained mission to kill the son he had waited decades to hold in his arms.
The Son of promise. The one who was the link to sons and grandsons and great-grandsons who would number greater than the stars.

But Abraham knew God was real. And He believed that God rewards those who seek Him. So he sought. He obeyed. He believed in this God so much that He was willing to obey what seemed like a senseless and horrible request.

How else would you do what Abraham did unless you truly believed that your God was capable of anything?

Anything.

And everything.

And sure enough, God proved Himself faithful.

These two truths must be settled in our heart. We must choose them over and over.

Believing God is real.

Believing what kind of God He is. That His rewards are deep. Better than we can imagine. They are for us, here and now- the reward of patience in impossibility. The reward of being able to love instead of reject. The reward of His character and mind thriving inside these flesh-temples. They are Loving. Perfect. Beautiful. We have no concept of the pleasure He takes in us. And we can’t begin to imagine the ecstasy that will envelop us as we stand, perhaps shoulder to shoulder with martyrs and the ancient Faith Heroes, and hear His words ring out across heaven’s majesty:

“Well done. Well done, thou good and faithful servant. ….enter into the joy of your Lord.”

The joy of your Lord.

What an amazing privilege.

 

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Slow

It’s Saturday.

And it’s almost mid-November. And I made chicken and dumplings for the first time in a loooong time last night.

This week I have been simultaneously wanting to hibernate into a long winter’s nap (exhaustion from life, recently) yet knowing that I need to settle into a new rythym of sorts. A new normal.

Sometimes when life is crazy busy and you’re running from one thing to the next it’s just time to stop.

Just stop.

Stopping this week looked like school going by the wayside. I would think about it, feel guilty about it, but when I listened to  Sally Clarkson’s podcast I knew.

I knew that it was time to do a little caring for my own soul.

That looked like sitting down to knit on Friday.

It looked like making doughnut muffins for my kiddos Friday morning …just because.  It looked like chicken and dumpling comfort food Friday night.

It looked like letting my children play in their hay fort without requiring school to get done.

It looked like a stop at the library to bring home a dozen or so books and oh! The squeals of delight…!

(There is something thrilling about seeing your 12 yo get excited about books on King Tut and his tomb, and it helped me stop feeling guilty for not requiring 3 more math lessons be done this week. We are learning, in this house, and my children are learning to educate themselves with books and questions and all manner of self-direction.)

Who really said anyways that you were supposed to make sure you didn’t skip any school the first week of November?  I have to ask myself these kinds of questions- and I’ve heard several veteran homeschool moms say the same.

Again, we just needed to stop. To slow down.

I was able to enjoy coffee and a conversation with an older, wiser mama who encouraged me to keep pressing on.

I got to chat with another friend who is in the same place in life as I am, and we talked about keeping perspective fresh and truly loving our children.

We snuggled kitties, I listened to music that lifted my heart and soul, and vacuumed my floors because there is hay-bale remains everywhere.

I set a timer for a few minutes at a time and cleaned up my bathroom, my living room, and washed my dishes.

Stopping this week wasn’t necessarily about not working… it had to do with slowing my heart and mind down and thinking truth.

Listening to wise friends and mentors. Listening to God’s Word. Allowing stillness to penetrate my heart.

Slowing down.

Resting.

Break-neck speed wasn’t meant to be an environment for thriving.

So I rest. I rest my heart in His. I rest my need to get all the schoolwork done and lay that down too. I rest my concerns and wonderings about the future. The future isn’t mine anyhow.

I snuggled my girls up this afternoon and read a couple books and laughed along with 5 year old giggles about the mouse who needed milk with his cookies. I breathed in the scent of my 3 year old and marveled at the softness of her skin when she fell asleep in my arms within minutes (very.very.unusual) the other night.

I thanked my son for helping me wipe down the counters even though he was grouchy about it.

Seeing beauty is so much easier when we are slowed enough to look for it.

 

 

Bless the Lord, Oh my Soul


I am thankful.

I will not choose to be anything else.

I’ve begun several sentences to try to describe in a nutshell the last few weeks, and I just can’t figure out how to say it well, so I’ll just say it how it is.  (Many of you know this already, but still.  Hard to know how to encompass some circumstances in words.)  These past two weeks have been hard.  Just hard.  As hard as they could have been? No. Harder than anything I’ve faced yet? Yes.

And at the same time, it’s not the hardest place I have been. Hardest circumstances, perhaps.  But the sense of God’s grace and provision and the prayers of people we love have made the things we have been dealing with not go away, but the load has been made lighter, all the same. 

There is a very real sense of Emmanuel.  God with us. 

A very real sense. 

Fear. Anxiety.  The knowledge that perfect love casts out fear.  Hopelessness. The knowledge that love never fails.  Not knowing how to pray. The friend who says – we will pray on your behalf.  The sensation of flying blind. The knowledge that in Jesus, we are guided.  We are NEVER flying blind.  That in our weakness, His strength shines brighter than ever. Blind tears. The strength of my husband and seeing that strength in fresh ways that I never, ever have seen in all our nearly 13 years. 

I know less about parenting than I ever have.  I’m asking God what it looks like to truly love my child.

What is His heart toward my child? What does He think of them?  I’m asking Him to teach me how to mother, how to love.  I’m asking Him honestly.  Because I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever been in a place so empty of my own ideas or plans and just plain clueless on what to do next. 

So, with all that said, I’m thankful.  This is what I choose.  I am thankful for a good, good Father.  I’m thankful I serve a galaxy-builder.  That the God who lives in my heart is great enough to raise dead men from the grave and make dead hearts new and make me know that He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that I can ask or think. 

He is so able.  

So able.  

So as we walk unknown paths, I choose to be thankful for many things, and these are a few.


the truth of God’s Word.

-the brilliance of the leaves out my window.  Orange, fiery red, fluttering to the ground, clinging to the trees who have borne them all season.  

-our four baby kittens and how my sweet girls mother them. Rocking, loving, talking to them as though they were their very own babies. 

-fire in the fireplace in the morning

-chilly nights and cozy soups

-hay-forts from the hay bales we used the other evening

-bread and wine, fellowshiping in His sufferings, realizing that His sacrifice was pure love, and He’s able to guide me in the same

-laying down in the quiet night, with a husband who prays with me for strength, guidance, and wisdom

-miss E – naming her kitty “Clifford” (pronounced Kiff-uhd) … after her favorite stories about Clifford the Big Red Dog.

-requests to read “Pa and Ma” (Little House on the Prairie)

-garlic breadsticks

-finishing the white lace blanket, blocking and folding its softness up

-kindness in all of its forms, from dear friend’s hugs and sweet children wiping my cheek with their palms. 

-taking a nap with my girls after a trying and tear-filled afternoon yesterday

-this gorgeous sunset

The Beauty of Mums, Bread, and Dishcloths

Mums.

Yum.

I have two yellow ones on my deck, and they shine bright and lovely every single day.

<exhale.>

My obsession with flowers continues.  But they sure are the happiest things, just sitting on my deck, minding their own beautiful business.  I believe in the power of intentionally surrounding ourselves with beauty.  It comes in all forms, and might just be a clean countertop or in my case – yesterday – an actual, for real, clean microwave.

There is a mulled cider candle on my mantle that is burning, and I lit a candle this morning on our table while we ate breakfast. Last night after cleaning my microwave I got in the notion to make some quick English muffin bread, too.  And ah. Fresh bread with butter for supper was a hit.  It wasn’t hard, didn’t require kneading, and was just amazing.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I shall post the recipe.  You really should go make some.


English Muffins in a Loaf

6 c. Flour

2 T. Yeast

1 T. Sugar

2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking soda

2 c. Milk

1/2 c. Water

Cornmeal

Combine 3 cups flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and soda.  Heat milk and water until very warm. (120-130 degrees) {or if you are like me and don’t want to mess with a thermometer, just heat your milk and water til it’s lukewarm, and dump your yeast in and stir it up nicely.}

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.  Beat well.  Stir in the rest of your flour to make a stiff batter.  Spoon into two bread pans that have been greased and sprinkled with cornmeal.  Sprinkle tops with cornmeal.  Cover.  Let rise in warm place 45 minutes. Bake at 400 for 25 min.  Remove from pans, slice, and EAT WITH BUTTER. (Well. Or whatever you want.) 


This loaf is all that is left of the two I made last night. The original recipe says to slice and toast, which I did, just now, with the intention of taking a picture of toasted, buttered, English muffin bread yumminess.  However, I ate it before I toasted it. Or took a picture.  Oh well.
And you should really make the soup (Zuppa Toscana copycat – made with cauliflower instead of potatoes) to go with it.  You can feel all carb-free while you eat the soup, and then take a bite of luscious bread and remind yourself why carbs are good for the soul every once in awhile.

I’ve been knitting along on my blanket edging… almost halfway done.  It’s easy, mindless, and continuously beautiful.

Somehow my dishcloth situation has gotten precarious.  I seem to run out of dishcloths regularly, and because I cannot abide dishcloths with that certain aroma about them, I’m pretty much a stickler for changing them out often.  Yet, alas, I check my drawer, and there are none.  I found a few in the garage… I think they got used to clean a weedeater. Or hold a kitten because “Kittens need blankies, Mommy!”…   I broke down and bought a few, and then I thought – hey!  I knit! I crochet! I should be making my very own dishcloths!  So I did.  Just a simple granny square, with scalloped edging around the side, and another more complex (but not very) pattern with the same scalloped edging.  I used this Easy Crochet Dishcloth Pattern for the slightly more complicated one, and this Granny Square Dishcloth for the other one.   They were so quick…  crochet is hands-down so much quicker than knitting. And fun in its own way. After finishing the one and making a whole ‘nother one, my hands were very tired of working with cotton, so it was back to my delicious merino blankie again.

I made a second pot of coffee this morning, and this weather just calls for all the coffee and tea.  Rainy, chilly, sunny, blissful fall. Schoolbooks are strewn across my table.  I sent my children out to play, and they are down in their fort in the woods. The thought crossed my mind about calling them in for math drills and science, and then I just knew.  This weather will not last, and they will not be children forever.  There is, after all, a time for everything, and school is not only bookwork.  School is manners, and getting along, and fort building, and having your siblings as your best friends.

So I shall pour another cup of coffee, and let the children play.  When they are happy and outside and getting along, it is a sweet blessing, and one I do not take lightly.  I just might even take my knitting out to the deck to sit and beside my happy little mums awhile.   (Or until my fort-builders are ravenous for their lunch.) 🙂

Joining in with Nicole from her weekly Crafting On linkup, as well as Unraveled Wednesdays and A Wise Woman Builds Her Home.

Why being chosen changes everything

Nothing really had changed.  Things hadn’t gotten worse, or really better.  The same challenges, the same child, the same annoyances, the same every day tiredness.

I sat in my bedroom Saturday with nothing changed, just life and its messiness that no one else is here to see, and told my husband I just didn’t care anymore.  He knew, of course, that those emotions in the moment weren’t true, and gently reminded me that I really did.

But in the moment?  All I wanted to do was shower in peace.  Without someone crying, someone arguing.  To tell someone to do something and have them actually do it, for pete’s sake.  Without either a.) whining, b.)bothering someone else who is probably supposed to be doing something too, or c.)going out to the garage to check on the various wildlife/latest puppy escapade/weedeater

My panic button was flashing continuously, and all my warm and fuzzy autumnal moments were distant memories, even though they hadn’t been long removed.  In fact, it seemed as though all my overwhelm socked me in the gut and I was left breathing hard, lost, without a truth reminder to be found.

Tears leaked trails on my cheeks and I stared into space in our bedroom, my husband speaking calm to my heart.

I spent the weekend alternately doing mechanically the things that needed done, going to town by myself, desperately searching for things to calm my heart.  Praying, aching, and wondering what-in-the-world made it all seem impossible right now.

I hesitate to be too open about the challenges in our home.  One of my issues with writing is the tension between real life and a pretty picture that is only true some of the time.  I can post sweet pictures of family bliss, without writing about the tantrum being thrown off to the side.  So in my quest for joy, as well as my desire for honesty in my writing, I’m faced with writing about both, and hoping my heart comes through each time.  There is both gratitude and gritty, messy life happening at our house.

The truth that I know is that all of us have hard things in one form or another.  I also know that when we face those very challenges, we can too easily make them into something much bigger than they are.   I do this.  We have a hard day? Suddenly my mind is whirling with the hard future we are sure to face with the particular child we are dealing with.  A bad attitude?  Oh my, this one as a teenager is going to be impossible.

And all those thoughts are absolutely toxic.  Faithless.

I know this, but it’s just hard some days.  Just plain hard to remember truth when the lies fly fierce and fast toward my heart.  The all-too-familiar thought processes begin to seep in, wrapping tentacles of anxiety around my mind:  “Why me? What is wrong with us?  No other families have problems like this. I don’t have a clue what to do, and I’m pretty sure I never will. Other mothers are seated with their obedient and joyful children as they all learn quickly and then they all frolic happily in the meadow when school is over.”  (Mine frolic. Yes.  They do.  Not always happily.  And for some reason they like to frolic in and out the door, leaving it open much of the time, rather than spending their time in the meadow.) 

This weekend I was in full-on pity party mode.  And as a result, I started freaking out about every.single.behavior.  My children became people who were in my way, annoyed me, and I simply wanted to escape.  (Not sure if anyone who reads this can relate?)  Even though I KNOW that they are beautiful gifts, they don’t FEEL like it all the time. Especially when the shrill whistling (is it possible to whistle at the top of one’s lungs? If so, my children have it mastered.) never seems to end.

So that’s real life at our house.

I knew I needed a dose of truth.  A reminder of something.  Anything to re-focus my mind on what is true, good, lovely.   I’ve lived life when things aren’t awesome and had amazing perspective in the face of it all.  It can be done.  I know it can.

But how?

I know there are ways to focus my mind on things above.  I can shift my heart and mind into  praising God for progress. (I do.)  Praising Him for Spirit-help that moves me through my days.  I can (and do) thank Him for all the good He has in store for my family.  I can ask Him to show me how to love, how to cultivate an atmosphere of grace in our home.

And these things are all good, all a part of the necessary attitudes in facing whatever it is we are facing.

The thing is, it really doesn’t matter what it is that our Thing is.  Health? Children? Marriage? Addiction? Mundane? Money? Loneliness?

It just isn’t important what our thing is… that thing that dogs us, pestering us with snide reminders that pretend to be truth… telling us that if this thing were removed or fixed, we’d finally be ok.  We know life wouldn’t be perfect, say, but we would be free of this thing, and we could breathe freely, and walk a little more upright.

So as I wallowed in my emotional exhaustion this weekend, I kept asking this question in my heart.  “How can I continue to do this, day after day?  How can I regain perspective?”  

And after we had put everyone to bed last night, and I was cleaning up the popcorn bowls and grape juice cups, my dear, dear husband walked up to me and framed my face with his hands.

He looked deep into my eyes and said “Here is your word for the day:  ‘Elect’.”

I glanced quizzically at him, and he continued:  “Elect.  It means chosen.  Picked.  You’ve been chosen by God to fulfill what He has for you to do.  You’ve been chosen by Him.  You’re His favorite.  You’re who He wants. You’ve been chosen to be my wife, chosen to be the mother of these children.   But most of all? You’re chosen to be His.  His very own.”

Tears welled in my eyes.  The relief kind of tears you cry when suddenly all the world rights itself from its crazy off-kilter spinning, and everything makes sense.

I’m chosen.

He picked me.

He sees me as the apple of His eye.  His favorite.  Daddy’s little girl. He wants me.
There is nothing like acceptance, value, and a knowledge of who I am and who He has made me, and the fact that this means I get to call my King, “Abba” that makes me feel like I can take on the world.

Well, except He already did.  He took on the world.  And so often it feels like it’s all on my shoulders. Yet again, false perspective.

We sat down last night in our living room – I’d lit a candle and put up a few twinkle lights around the pumpkins on our mantle, and as I began to finish crocheting the edge on my new dishcloth, our conversation continued.

My husband reminded me that it’s only my job to do the best with what I know.  To pray, to stay humble, to cry out to our Lord for help.  To raise these children with faith, with hope, with love.  He reminded me that I need to stop freaking out all the time.  (Thank you, dear husband. Truth.)

It’s not my job to worry about the future.  To carry the world on my shoulders.  It’s not my job to try to fix behavior, even.  It’s my job to trust.  To keep coming back to the One who made me and the precious (yes, marvelous treasures) ones I have the privilege of teaching and loving each day.

So it’s what we do with what we have.  The thing that separates the hopeful and the hopeless is perspective.  It’s knowing Whose we are.  It’s choosing to do the right thing, over and over and over. And knowing that every single right choice is known by the Knower of All.  It changes everything.  Nothing circumstantially may have changed.  But this truth? It changes everything.

He sees us. 

We are not alone.

We are chosen.

Elect.
Romans 8:33 “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.”

 Books + tea + knitting + soup = autumn coziness 




Well, full-on swing of life is in progress here. And I’m taking a breather from it this afternoon with my mug of tea sitting quite companiably beside me. {sip.} Ahh.  Creamy, sweet basic black tea.  Just the perfect thing for a (for the moment anyways) quiet afternoon.  Hang on.  I need a piece of Dove Dark Chocolate too.  Be right back.

Make that two. 

There really isn’t any way to catch up in writing form all that’s been going on.  And none of it has been overly monumental anyways. So this post will be somewhat of a random mishmash of thoughts, what’s happening, things I’m thinking about. 
>> I menu-planned this month. This, Dear Reader, has been a lifesaver.  Not only did I menu plan, but I actually took note of what hamburger I needed and (drumroll.) browned it ahead of time and put it in the freezer, as well as made a meatloaf for one of our meals this month.  Let me tell you.  This way of living is much preferrable to not knowing what we are having at 4:30 p.m.   The deal is, I really do want to be an organized person.  And I love the way it feels when I am.  But I just haven’t been able to be consistent about it.   Anyways, I’m slowly learning.  And the relief of having that out of the way for the month is lovely.  I also wrote down meal ideas for breakfast and lunch.  
>>Fall is amazing.  I’m always looking for yellow leaves by June.  This month, with all of it’s pumpkin, apple, chili and candle-burning goodness thrills me every year. I drive down the roads and just marvel at the bright pops of color.  So bring on colder weather, I’m loving every minute.  (And this last week has been warm and humid. Bleah.  But at least it doesn’t look like it when you look out the window.)
>>Books, books, books.  The power of reading out loud.  The power of literature to teach.  We learn geography (reading about Napoleon in Story of the World turned into finding out where Siberia was, where the two islands where that Napoleon was sent to, etc.). We learn to understand writing that was from 100 years ago by reading old books aloud and becoming familiar with it’s sentence structure and different use of words.  We read poetry, and our current favorite is A.A. Milne.  We are reading “Now We are Six”, and it’s just so funny.  It’s like a more formal version of Dr. Seuss.  My recent secret to a day gone south is reading aloud. And this year in school, I’m attempting to start our days with a read-aloud during breakfast.  Sometimes it’s the Children’s Story Bible.   Sometimes it’s Wisdom and the Miller’s.  Sometimes it’s Little House on the Prairie.  And sometimes, like this morning, it was a news article on the wildfires in California.  (More on that later.)    Lately, every afternoon we gather in and get cozy with paper, pencils, or whatever other thing is interesting to do with their hands, and I read aloud then too.  Or we listen to an audiobook.  Right now, in the afternoons we are going back and forth between Little House on the Prairie and Streams to the River, River to the Sea.  And today, when I was too tired to do anything, we listened to the Moffats.  I know I’ve got a picture overload in this post of everyone reading, but I just seriously can’t stop taking pictures of my children doing the very thing I love so well. 
>>Tea time is more and more a tradition in our mornings.  A pot of chai, sweetened and milky provides the perfect background for our Morning Time lately.  Sometimes we have a snack to go with it, sometimes not.  Something simple, like cheese cubes or buttered toast, sometimes a handful of nuts. And lately I’ve been thinking that something yummy like muffins would be fun. Somehow it just makes learning even more special to have tea to sip while we read poetry or a picture book.    
>>The fires in California… there are always wildfires in California. But this year, it is sweeping across a lot of residential areas in Santa Rosa, and Napa Valley areas.  One of my cousins lost his home, and my aunt and uncle nearly lost theirs.  I’m so thankful they are safe, though I know that the loss of a home and neighborhood is devastating, to say the least. 
>>I’ve been amazed, again, at the power of God in the throes of parenting.  The power of His Spirit to guide.  And this morning when things were tense, I was reminded that my primary work is not simply to administer consequences and lectures.  My most important work is to be the image of Christ to my children.  To show them exactly what kindness looks like.  To offer a cup of water to the child who has tested me the most.  To perhaps serve first the child who has displayed lots of selfishness.  And the victory is ours in every situation.  Already!  
>>I’ve been knitting on this creamy, delicious lace baby blanket for much of the summer, and I just began the edging.  Pattern is Gaia on Ravelry.  I’m using Tosh Merino Light yarn in Antler, and it’s just perfect.  My only yarny complaint is that there have been several places in one of the skeins where the yarn was frayed, and nearly broken.  But the feeling of this single-ply yarn, and it’s subtle sheen just makes for a wonderful knitting experience overall. Which, after all, is my favorite part of knitting. I’m not obsessive about finishing projects, but the feel of yarn through my fingers, the excitement of casting on a new project… it gets me every time.  This blanket has many prayers stitched into it…. it’s for a friend who has been praying for a long time for a babe of her very own to hold close.  I’m going to be sad to see this project come to an end, but I have a fun apple green baby sweater for another friend that is going to be cast on as soon as I get this blanket blocked. 
>>More about books… I’ve been voraciously reading all sorts of things homeschooling and mothering related.  One book I had, and hadn’t ever read is called “Mother” but Kathleen Norris.  Oh, this book is a gem.  It was written in the early 1900s, and was an easy read, a story of a young woman whose life was dramatically impacted by her faithful and loving mother.  The one quote that smote my heart and I that I knew was meant exactly for me was as follows:

“….She secretly regarded her children as marvelous treasures, even while she laughed down their youthful conceit and punished their naughtiness.”

You see, I have lost this all too easily.  I become obsessed with behavior and get annoyed with the constant-ness of irritations and annoyances, and I forget that I am surrounded by beautiful, marvelous treasures. No matter what they are doing or not doing, I must always keep in view that my children are treasures straight from our Father – and He always, always gives wisdom and grace to accomplish the things He has for us to do.  I need this wisdom and grace on a moment by moment basis, and was so thankful for this reminder of just how important my persepective and thoughts toward my children really is. 

Other books I’m reading, in little bits and pieces – Pocketful of Pinecones, by Karen Andreola, Susanna Wesley, by Charles Ludwig, A Charlotte Mason Education, by Catherine Levison, and I’m not sure what else. In other words, I’ve started several of these books and switch around regularly.  Hopefully I’ll get done eventually with all of them. =)
>>Soups.  I made this variation of a soup recipe I found online last week … 

Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup (for crockpot)

-4 cups chicken broth 

-1 pint diced tomatoes

-2 T. Tomato paste

-1 lb. ground sausage

-1 clove fresh garlic, minced

-Basil, Oregano, Italian Seasoning, Garlic Salt to taste

-1 package of cheese tortellini (I accidentally got spinach cheese ravioli, this was good too.)

-1/2 cup of half and half

-1/3 block of cream cheese

—(I also added a pint of canned, blended yellow squash that made it extra thick and yummy, and didn’t change the flavor a bit!)

Place broth, tomatoes, paste, sausage, garlic and seasonings in crockpot and cook for 2-3 hours on high.  About 15-30 minutes before serving, turn to low and add cream cheese and half and half.  Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan!

I made this for some friends of mine for lunch last week and they loved it.  I had some left over, so I added more of everything to it, (including the squash the second time around) and we had it for supper with some pumpkin muffins.   Yum!!
Happy October, friends.  🙂

Linking up with Nicole from Frontier Dreams and 

On Spelling, September and the Eclipse Viewing Fail.

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Ah, September.

When the culmination of the long – awaited autumn begins to come to pass.  The leaves are falling, the trees patch-worked with yellow, the blueberry bushes are glistening with fiery red among the summer green.

And on that poetic note, we have officially begun our school year. 

And this year, along with every year preceding in which we have homeschooled, I was beset with a familiar breed of anxiety.

What should we do this year?

Are they getting enough?

What about another curriculum?

THE SPELLING.  The spelling needs big help.  And fast.

This anxiety led me, as it always does, to yet more familiar googled paths.  These paths are well-worn.  I’ve researched Sequential Spelling, All About Spelling, Spelling Wisdom, Spelling Power, Rod & Staff Spelling, and what all the moms on Simply Charlotte Mason and the Well-Trained Mind Forums have to say about spelling.  I would decide to order one, then research a bit more and find out that what do you know? There is another family with whom that curriculum hasn’t worked well for.  So I’d begin to doubt, toss it around, and that led me to yet another spelling program that I needed to rabbit-hole down into.

Other familiar paths were My Father’s World, (love this curriculum, and I’ve researched it every August for the past 5 summers.) various reading curriculums, (because – kindergartener this year!)

In the middle of all of this, I had decided we needed more routine in our days, so I began a non-school-ish routine of school.  This involved lots of reading out loud, sometimes having the boys do a bit of copywork on subjects interesting to them, and more reading out loud.  History, Little House on the Prairie, picture books, you name it.  Audio books, too.

Suddenly…. I realized….

This is how we homeschool.

Yes, we officially “began” two weeks ago.  But before that, we were already doing school.

Before we “started school”, we were doing things like researching crawdads, finding amazing butterflies to pin on our makeshift insect board, and finding inchworms that matched the deep violet cosmo it was crawling on.

The boys began catching all manner of creek creatures after having overnight company a few weeks ago. (Dear friends of ours from CA who doted on our kiddos so much that I’m pretty sure the two days they spent here will not be soon forgotten.)  Thomas and Michelle arrived on a Wednesday afternoon, deposited their clothes in the guest room, and Thomas asked our boys what they liked to do best.

When they told him they liked to play outside, he said “Well, let’s go outside, then!”

Within an hour or two, he had helped them make a crawdad-catching trap down at the creek, along with a spear.  They caught crawdads, and had the most absolute time of their lives.

All of this resulted in a two-crawdad boil, which they ate with Cajun butter.  Crawdads are not very big.  Just saying. 

Since then, we have a clear plastic Rubbermaid drawer on our front porch (it’s beautiful front porch decor at it’s best, let me tell ya) and it’s filled with rocks (“so the crawdads have something to crawl under, Mommy!”) and minnows and whirligig beetles (which are seriously so much fun to watch) and the occasional lettuce leaf bits for food.

So they have drawn their finds and we’ve read about crawdads.  Science.  No curriculum.  Whaddya know.

Did I mention the baby mouse that wasn’t completely formed (I don’t even know what to call it.  Or why it ended up on our front porch. Possibly Socks the cat could tell us.) that was brought in this week? Yes, in.  As in, inside.  And it’s been in a jar. Green beans, anyone? Oh, gross. Seriously.  This is the kind of science that you just can’t manufacture.

I have a notebook on the table for them to write down questions they have and we google them. (There’s some doozies in there, like “Who was the most famous person in 1800?”)

We randomly decided to learn about Bach, and have been listening to some of his cello suites.  (I feel so classical-musically accomplished that I even know now that Bach had anything to do with cellos or suites.  But they happen to be some of my favorite music now.)  We watched a mini biography, read some more about him, and sketched a picture of him to put on our history timeline.

(Read, we sketched it to put on because it’s not on yet ….because after having these timeline books for three (?) years now, and I finally put all the dates in the little corners…. I realized that I had spent a whole century or something with dates missing from the book.  As in, one two page spread said 1700-1710 and the next said 1720-1730.   And I’m pretty sure there are really important things that happened between 1710 and 1720.  And between 1730 and 1740. I was seriously annoyed.)

So we did all those sorts of things.  And it wasn’t really school.  You know? But it was. 

They are delighting in life. 

In crawdads and whirligig beetles.  In poetry that we laugh like crazy about. In Pa and Ma and Thomas Jefferson and Sacagawea and in how long the Great Wall of China is. 

Although, trust me, not every day feels delightful.  The “first actual day” of school I got the brainy idea to take pictures.  It was going to be so great.  Pictures of each of them, and I was only wishing I had cute little blackboards for them to hold up saying which grade they were in.  They cooperated for the most part,  amidst “go over there, it’s better lighting!”  “Nooooooo we can’t this is right where there used to be a HUGE YELLOW JACKET NEST!!!!”  “No, no, (to miss E) you can’t run in circles, stand STILL.  BOYS.  Stop tickling/sticking your tongues out/wrestling.”    Eldest rolls his eyes at his extremely uncooperative and immature siblings.  Youngest runs circles.  Second oldest flops on the ground.  Second youngest chases a kitty she must hold for the picture.

It was great fun, let me tell you. 

And we won’t even talk about the day of the eclipse.  Other than the clouds + several behavioral malfunctions + a weary mama + no coveted cardboard glasses so we made some sort of ramshackle cereal box projector = eclipse viewing fail.  There were a couple people in the house who thought they probably had missed out on The Single Most Important Event in History.  Thankfully the disappointment was curbed by finding several YouTube videos.  Not the same, but it helped.

So here we are, two weeks in, and I haven’t ordered a spelling curriculum yet.  I might – I’m leaning towards Spelling Power or Sequential Spelling.   But we have been doing dictation – (where you take a passage, they study any words they are unsure of, and I dictate it to them, and they write it out, and then practice any words they miss.)

I couldn’t believe my eyes when one of them wrote out a large three stanza poem on George Washington yesterday.  And missed only three words.   And I realized that he is getting spelling, by reading a lot, by continuous copywork, and by growing up.

We’ve had more of a routine since we “started” and they’ve been settling back into multiplication, fractions, writing, journaling, sketching, and by now we have finished Little House in the Big Woods.

I’m feeling much more ok with where we are and with what we are doing.  It’s hard to believe we are on year 6 of homeschooling this year… I still feel very much like a newbie.  But my kiddos are growing up, and my 5 year old who was a baby one summer not so long ago is learning her letters and sounds, and writing every new letter she learns (mostly combinations of A’s and N’s).   And my biggest is almost 12, just one year away from a teenager.  I can’t believe how fast time is going, and I can’t believe I’m in my mid-30’s either.

I don’t want to waste a minute of these fleeting days.  My babies are growing up.

I read a blog post written by a mother whose youngest is 21 …that she wishes she could tell her younger self just how short these years would be.  That her children’s years as children are much fewer than their years as adults.  I began to realize that the next ten years will make me 44, my oldest 22, and my youngest 13.   I want to make the most of each year, each month, each moment.

Somehow, August seems to do it to me every year.  The hand-sweaty panic of how can I do this and what are we doing and what about all the stuff we aren’t doing.

But September’s here now, bringing with it promise and hope and perspective.

And I’m excited to dive into another year of this homeschool journey.  It just might be the best yet. 

 

soul-vacations.

The air conditioning is doing its job nicely.

So is the washing machine.

I took a nap this afternoon, and I am thinking I could probably use another…  It is HOT and humid outside and the dog days of summer are officially here.  (Why is it called dog days?  Hmm.  I should google that.).

My brain sort of feels like it’s been on autopilot.. after a few weeks of busy-ness and company, (my mom and dad were here for a week and my brother’s family for the last night they were here.) somehow all I can think about is vacation.

I don’t know how all that will work out. We have talked about getting away just the two of us, and also the possibility of doing something for several days with just our family.

Regardless of what happens, this prevailing thought of vacation keeps coming to mind, and I had to wonder about how to have a vacation when you aren’t on vacation.

Sometimes it’s time to actually go away, to another place, and let the everyday cares be set aside for awhile.

But what I believe my soul is mostly longing for – is rest.

Life has been emotionally and mentally draining for awhile. There are the Big Decisions that must be talked about and made, the Raising of the Children to be done, and yeah. That about encompasses the whole of what has been draining at our house.

Regardless, there isn’t a realistic way to just “go on vacation” in the middle of it all. Maybe we will.  Maybe we won’t. Maybe it won’t be as quickly as I want. Maybe it won’t be at all, this summer.

But, Rest.

Soul-Rest.

Perspective shift.

Focus rearrangement.

How to do this in the middle of everyday life? Because this is what I have needed. Truly needed. More than I have needed an actual getting away.

There is a way to walk through the mundane and the chaotic with grace and joy.  I do not need a vacation to live life well.

But soul rest requires a slowing of the mind. It requires a deep breath. And what I have needed is the reminder that communion with Jesus – intentional, alone time with my Saviour – is where my soul will find its rest.

So in these past few weeks (amid a broken arm/ER visit), a birthday party for a newly minted 5 year old, company, green beans, blueberries to pick and freeze, etc…) there are a few things that I have begun doing to take a deep breath. To stop for a moment and lay aside the important for the better.

-I started a new Bible Study. One I have had for years, (as in, I did the first lesson about 9-11 years ago? Before we had children.) and I am so, so glad I didn’t finish it then.  Because it’s what I needed now.

-I have made coffee in the afternoons sometimes, just because I have some time alone then, and because, well, coffee is good. Need I say more?

-I pulled my spinning wheel out, and started spinning again.  This actually happened today, on the front porch, in some lovely, you-could-almost-taste-fall-coming weather.  The pillowy softness of wool slipping through my fingers, making yarn, and the rhythm of my feet pressing the treadle… it’s good stuff.  By the way. I started writing this post on a day where it actually was hot. Today was a welcome respite.

-I have slept in several mornings.  Not a habit I want to get into- but for a few mornings it’s what I needed to do.

-Some afternoons, or when I have had a moment to myself, I have been practicing praying aloud, rather than just in my head, and communing with Jesus. Thanking Him and worshiping Him… not just asking Him for things, or for help.. but adoring Him and thanking Him for all He is doing. This goes excellently with coffee.

-I began “Little House on the Prairie” with everyone after lunch. The girls have their blankets that they sit on, they draw or do some sort of quiet-ish activity (read: Miss E needed reminding of her need to stay on blanket and be quiet over.  And over. And over. Don’t misunderstand. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses.)  But on a whole, it was good.  Ma, Pa, Mary and Laura and baby Carrie, Jack the brindle bulldog, butchering time, Laura’s corncob doll, and little pint of cider half drunk up… this series really is one of the very best. Also, the fact that this particular book is the same exact copy that was read to me as a child adds to the experience.

-Reminding myself that God is happy with me. Genuinely, truly delighting in me. That He is my King.  I am His own. And He not only loves me perfectly, but He is happy with me.  He likes me.  At our women’s Bible study the other week, my dear friend Sara reminded us of this truth.  And it’s been reverberating in my mind.  He isn’t fazed by our poor choices, He isn’t forlorn and sad with us.  He delights in us, He is glad for our joy in Him, and He is happy with us, just like we are happy with our own children. Only  So. Much. More.  He delights to forgive us. Delights when we come to Him. Delights in us because we are His.

I needed the reminders of these truths to change my perspective.  So my soul could be at rest again. I needed to remember the importance and the restorative power (another blog post on this soon) of reading out loud to everyone.  I needed to remember that sleep is a priority.  I needed to remember, simply, who I am and that I’m loved.

Vacations are lovely. But the soul needs to rest in its God more than it needs anything else.

“My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him”  Psalm 62:5 (KJV)

Wait, in this verse, means to be still.  To grow silent, and cease from activity.

So, soul, stop.  Stop your activity.  Grow silent. Wait upon your God.

Soul, take a vacation.

Stop striving.

Soul, sit a bit, take a breath, wait on God, get un-tilted from your skewed perspective.  Let the rush of life stop, make time to savor, to wait, to slow.

Whisper thanks to Him, hug those little people hard, and definitely make some coffee in the afternoon.

Or come over to my house, because I may have some already made.

beauty.

 

Beauty.
It soothes my soul.

And its everywhere.

This past weekend I planted flowers and “beautified” our deck with plants.  There are hanging baskets on our front porch, pots on the deck, and impatiens and cosmos in the flowerbeds.

There are fewer impatiens and one less pot, because …puppy.

I am not known for my green thumb, and in previous years I haven’t been quite as obsessed with flower-beauty as I am this year.

I’ve gotten hanging baskets before, but always thinking, ok, all four alike, keep it matchy-matchy. This year, though? I picked four different baskets, loud and wild, pinks and blues and reds and whites and yellows and deep purples. I want all the variety and crazy combinations. I don’t care if pink and red clash. It’s just all beauty.

And I am enthralled.

Recently I’ve been aware not just of beauty itself, but how it soothes me. How it brings me back to truth. How it shows what reality really is – a kind and Good God who is orchestrating every detail of our lives, and showing us in all the showy ways just tiny glimpses of His own beauty.

This morning my youngest was up early, (6:30 these days..) and I wanted some quiet and time alone before I began parenting (amen?), and the thought skittered across my mind as I sent her to my bed to lay down….

“Cherish this time, don’t wish it away, she won’t be 3 and snuggly forever.”

And the words of my mother-in-law just this past Sunday evening rang in my mind, in reference to this time of our lives…”Just enjoy it,” she said.

So the coffee stayed in the coffee pot and I crawled back in bed with my delighted girl.. and this is what I heard:

“You take a nap with ME, Mommy?”

“Mommy… I love you too. I love you too.”

And she told me all about Aunt La-la coming last night while I was in town, and chattered and wrapped squishy arms ’round my neck and kissed my cheek and my arm, whispering her “I love you too’s”.  My heart filled to overflowing for this treasure, this time, this sweet one. This beauty, with her loud stomping everywhere she goes (Bull. China shop.) and her penchant for sweets, her stubbornness, her long, long, hair with wild curls, and how dearly she loves.

We read a story and she surprised me by picking out the e’s on the page, and I melted into one last 10 minute sleep while she wallered (is that a word? I think it must be. It’s what she did.) and talked and attempted to hijack chapstick and my phone.

It’s a summer-slow morning. And everyone else trickled out of bed, enthralled with the new library books and always, always holding kittens.

That’s beautiful to me.

And the fresh, rain-soaked blueberries coming in last night from our patch by my dear second son, so excited with his find and asking if I want one. They tasted delicious, more so accompanied by the smile of the giver.

The rain-drops glistening on the bright green of lavendar and succulents on my deck this morning.

My whipping cream, pouring into a steaming cup just 10 minutes ago.

Fresh sheets, slipped on late at night with the help of the husband I love, and crawling in, the coolness and the weight of the quilts, and the knowledge that he is still loving me, almost 14 years since he started, and the beauty of love that stands through hard and harder. Sickness. Health. Vows that were hushed and quiet with all the strength of the love we shared then, and knowing that the love we share now is more beautiful than I ever could have dreamed. That even when we misunderstand  each other and get frustrated, when we are tired and clueless about how in the world to parent or what we are supposed to do, that our love is rock solid. We know so much more about each other and so much less about parenting than we ever did before. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Then the way the carpet looks after the vacuum has worked its magic, and feeling like surely this time my room won’t get messy again.

Knowing that in just “one more sleep” my mom and dad will be here, and we will talk and laugh and drink coffee in the afternoon because why not? and hug and not think about saying goodbye again. We will enjoy the beauty of the moment.

The sound of the washer and dryer humming, cleaning the dirt and grime off the summer mountains of laundry.

The way my shampoo and conditioner smells, and the sense of luxury in having a new bottle and inhaling it’s unfamiliar and intoxicating scent.

Starting our new read aloud (so what if we don’t finish the others..) “Streams to the River, River to the Sea” by Scott O’Dell, about Sacajawea.  And yesterday, going to the library, just my boys and I, and filling our bags with books for all. Then taking french fries and coke up behind that subdivision in our small town, all the way past the houses to the very end where we were way up high and we could look out and see the valley where we live, with the mountains capped in wispy white clouds. We parked there, enthralled by the view and pointing out Grandpa’s silo, and the weeds and tall grass framed the bottom with bright and sun-caught green. We sipped our drinks and I read aloud and we were all captivated by the story. The view. The sun. The taste of McDonald’s hot and salty fries.

And the kitten who traveled under our vehicle to the library and who pitifully meowed loudly as we were trying to order French fries. The rescue attempt commenced with great excitement and we hoped the people behind us understood while my boys ran wildly around the van looking. Soon the little yellow kitty was safe and sound and gifted with the first french fry for his bravery.

A bath with oatmeal and Epsom salts to (hopefully) soothe the poison oak that’s taken up residence on my leg.

A word, fitly spoken while on a last minute rendezvous with my dear friend last night.. sitting in the motel parking lot that should have had a sign that said “scenic overlook” on another mountain. This time looking at the twinkling lights below and the other mountains we know are there but couldn’t see, while rain drizzled on and off on the windshield. She spoke truth to me that I didn’t even know I needed, but keep coming back to over and over again since we talked.  We spoke of grief and pain and when your mama goes to see Jesus and leaves you behind and what it looks like to step into a future that’s uncertain and maybe even thrilling at the same time. What faith looks like and how sometimes what you really need is just to make sure you get enough sleep so you can get up a bit more refreshed and not quite stretched so thin.

The fresh cucumbers found in the garden, and brought inside with great fanfare.

When you can pray and you don’t even know what you’re going to say, but Jesus brings the words and they flow and you know you wouldn’t have wanted to come up with words by yourself anyways.

And this verse the Lord led me to yesterday:

“I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more.” Psalm 71:14.  So much beauty when we praise more and more… it increases our hope. It magnifies our hope. And it’s the only way to continue in hope.

So much beauty. So much overflowing of a cup that isn’t half empty, and isn’t even half full. It spills and runs and drenches everything, and the more I praise Him the more I hope and the more beauty I see around me.

More.

And more.

for when the days are long and you need a cup of lemonade.

It is nigh to July.

And I can feel the itch to school-plan. Which makes no sense to my I’m-relaxing-and-it’s-still-summer self.

Nevertheless, the itch is there and mostly it’s because when I’m not pressured to get a lesson done or feeling the push to “do school”, I remember why I love homeschooling in the first place.

This morning I let the kiddos play outside with no chores; feeling rather out of sorts and trying to come up with something fun to do that wouldn’t involve a.) packing anyone or anything up or b.)much effort.

I’m pretty sure that both a and b are synonymous.

All I really wanted to do was sit in the cool and quiet with no noise and knit peacefully, thinking lots of profound thoughts and sipping cold brew.

However, there were chickens dead because some unknown predator had gotten into the chicken house (again!) and beheaded more of our dwindling brood. Due to said circumstances there was one very upset 11 year old who wanted to find said predator and do away with him Once and For All.

There was also a puppy and various cats/kittens who continued to sneak in through all the various doors left open and I  said/yelled (I could seriously use a foghorn.) for the 12 billionth time for ALL THE PEOPLE TO SHUT THE DOORS PLEASE AND THANK YOU.  I may or may not have added those last four words but surely one of the 12 billion times I did.

I continued wearily brainstorming to come up with a plan. Weary at 10:30? Yup. Sadly.

Going to get ice cream for lunch? While I love the idea…Nope.  That involves effort and packing. And it also involves risking a sugar-high naptime encounter. Regardless of effort and packing I Was Not going to go there.

bingo.

My mind settled on the best idea yet.

Lemonade and a read aloud.

Oh yes. Along with some almost freezer-burnt banana chocolate chip muffins that have been languishing in my freezer. No one minded them, since they all wanted at least two.

I squeezed a whole bunch of lemon juice in a gallon jug, dumped some stevia in, (no sugar! Woot!) added a BUNCH of ice, filled it with water, and poured 5 cups full. And sweaty kids sat down with eyes lit up like it was Christmas when I pulled out the read aloud that had also been languishing, though not in my freezer.

(Confession: there are way too many read alouds we have begun, and not finished.)

This one was “The Treasure Seekers” by Edith Nesbitt, and the munchkins settled into munching and then drawing/coloring/water beads. Water beads! Go get some! Now! Even if you aren’t a kid! (Again, I digress. But these things are awesome. I didn’t want to stop playing with them while I read out loud.)

We read a couple chapters, and it was awesome. And it was what kindled the reminder-fire of why I love this.

At the end of the school year it seems like all my good intentions fly right out the window and the kids are way more on their own, math, copywork, math, copywork, over and over.

It wears us all out and it’s boring.

Morning Time, with it’s prayers and singing and memorizing and read alouds and fun science facts and mapwork and nature drawings and poetry, all but disappeared from March/April on.

And Morning Time is what I love.  It’s what draws us together. To begin our day with prayer centers all of us, and reminds me of my most important work, teaching truth, goodness, and beauty.

Funny poems, sometimes just one, that make everyone laugh. Sometimes we can’t stop and there are choruses of “one more! Read one more!”

The excitement of knowing one or 5 more states, the standing and singing the doxology. The tea time and the satisfaction of another verse tucked into our memories.

This is why I love to homeschool. Because of the relationships. The time spent together. The learning together.

We have been in somewhat of a survival mode for a few months, and it’s so much easier to just send them off to play, or to do their math, and that’s ok too. Sometimes you really do need to sit quietly with cold brew and knitting on the couch.

But for today, I am realizing that the fun got drained away and it’s time to come back to coming back together.

We read at least two chapters and by then it was lunch time and we were hungry but full-up with all the good. Yes, the 3 year old got bored for part of the time and went back and forth between multiple activites.  Yes the water  beads were fought over and hoarded  by the 9 year old.  And then while I was in the middle of the second chapter, his two sisters were struck with some sort of strange benevolence and decided that their big bother needed multiple spoonfuls of their water beads.

I kept on reading, saying a silent prayer of thanks for the sweetness that shows up at the oddest moments and for the sheepish, knowing grin that spread across the one who didn’t deserve to have kindness given.

And I thought of the days when God gives me lemonade and refreshing joy from various things like connected friendship and prayers said out loud just for you that make tears slip down your cheek. And the knowing that you are prayed for, often, and always  by a heart-sister.

For when He amazes me with kindnesses like lunches with friends who’ve known each other for years and can always pick up where we’ve left off. For 6 am coffee with other friends who have felt the same pain, and know how to read between all the lines of what you say.

I thought of the ways we grow up into Him that so obviously couldn’t be manufactured by our good behavior and the fruit that sprouts and grows, so surprisingly, on simple and once-bare branches.

Truly, there is much treasure to seek and find in this life..

And I’m thrilled with the reminder that simple joys and blue Tupperware cups full of lemonade can make smiles spread wide.

He fills our cups, for sure.