Christmas…A Story of Grace


**This is an edited excerpt from an email that I wrote to my students.

I’m gonna say something surprising here, but really, Christmas kind of stresses me out. Yeah, I know. In the blog world, there’s tons of posts of crafts and decorations and “Yay! I
love Christmas stuff.”
But for me, that’s not my experience of Christmas.

The busyness overwhelms me. I dislike shopping, decorating, and the frantic pace of Christmas, and the fact that it starts before Thanksgiving makes it even worse.

The last few weeks, I’ve wanted to hide under the bed until it’s all over. There’s just too much to do, and the pressure to make things magical and special drains the fun right out of it for me. I’m generally a grumpy cat about the whole deal right up until the week before Christmas when things start settling down.

I feel that God turns my heart to Him in the final week before Christmas and I can truly consider the whole celebration from a spiritual perspective.

That happened this morning.  I was reading my Bible, and I turned to the first chapter of John. This isn’t one of the typical Christmas passages in the Word. But I really love reading it during the Christmas season. I guess it’s because it takes the whole baby in a manger, shepherds, and such and plops it right into the greater narrative of Grace that is threaded throughout the Bible. Because even if we do consider that Christmas is about Jesus, it’s not just about a young woman giving birth in a stable. It’s about Grace. Grace that is utterly undeserved and greater than I can ever fathom.

John 1: 14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory. Glory as of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.” and in verse 16, “And from his fullness, we have all received grace upon grace.”

Have a wonderful Christmas and consider that it’s not about parties, pageants, angels, and gifts. But rather, it’s all about grace.

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Summer

Can it be that summer is almost at an end?

Sigh.

It’s never long enough.

This summer has been busy but not quite in the way I expected.

On a side note: Is my life ever the way I expected it? Each time I make a plan it falls to pieces. And yet, the most important things get done.

I never did get my big vegetable garden. I still have to write about 4 scripts for my drama class, which begins in about 2 weeks. I haven’t planned anything for school. (Was hoping to start next week)

So…

It’ll be okay. Remember what I said about planning? Have I really given up on it?

No.

I’m just procrastinating and not wanting this summer to end.

What I did get done:

Re-did my house’s landscaping.

Wrote quite a bit. (not on this blog, but on some others)

Painted all the exterior doors on the house.

Organized the garage.

Spent time with my baby brother who will be moving to Turkey soon.

Next week is our Estimated Start Date.

And if the schoolbooks don’t come. It’s okay. We’ll get started when they arrive.

 

 

 

Homeschooling Myth: Homeschooled Kids Don’t Have Activities

This homeschooled kid myth makes me chuckle. In fact, on the right day, I might just laugh out loud. This homeschooling myth is totally out of date. In many areas, there are limited homeschooling opportunities. But for many other places, the homeschooling community is vibrant, interesting, and exciting.

Homeschooling parents usually don’t wait on the community to offer fun homeschooling activities. To wait on someone else means that it won’t get done. So all over the nation, homeschooling parents band together to make memories for their kids.

Through my daughter’s school career she participated in the following:

Handbell Choir

Drama Club

Monthly Homeschooling Enrichment Days

Homeschool 4H Club

Homeschool Game Night

Writer’s Club

Homeschool Prom

Homeschool Graduation

These are the activities that she did that were open only to homeschoolers. Other activities that she did were not merely limited to homeschoolers. The 4H Club for our county included her in many of their activities when the homeschool club no longer met. She also volunteers at a community food pantry where low income people come for food assistance. She’s done youth group at our church and gone to church camps.

Even if the homeschooling community is limited in your area, your kids don’t have to sit at home, bored and lonely. And, you don’t have to just limit your kids’ social interactions to other homeschoolers. Many public schools allow homeschoolers to participate in the extra curricular activities in the school for which they are zoned. So, things like sports, clubs, band, and other activities may be a possibility for your kid.

There are so many homeschooling activities available in our area, sometimes I despair of getting our schoolwork done!

Job 26:6-14

Job is not my favorite book of the Bible. Poor Job. He’s got a lousy set of know it all friends, a rotten wife, and one tragedy after another hits him. The book can be a little depressing. I’ve always felt sorry for him because he probably didn’t know why he was tormented.

However, in the book there are some lovely scriptures. This one is one of my favorites.

Job 26:6-14

Sheol is naked before God, and Abaddon has no covering.

He stretches out the north over the void and hangs the earth on nothing.

He binds up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not split open under them.

He covers the face of the full moon and spreads over it his cloud.

He has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters at the boundary between light and darkness. The pillars of heaven tremble and are astounded at his rebuke.

By his power he stilled the sea; by his understanding he shattered Rahab. By his wind the heavens were made fair; his hand pierced the fleeing serpent.

Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?”

 

I love the last verse; it reminds me that all of the beauty and glory that we see on this Earth are a tiny fraction of the power of God. And despite his amazing, unimaginable power, wisdom, and majesty God still wants to love us and have a relationship with us.

It truly is amazing.

 

What makes a good Mommy?

It is interesting to see how people define what makes a good mom.

A good mom cooks three meals from scratch each day.

A good mom breastfeeds each infant until they self-wean.

A good mom co-sleeps with her babies and never lets them cry.

A good mom homeschools all of her kids all the way through high school and gives them ALL a stellar education.

A good mom does crafts with her children, creating lovely works of art with them.

A good mom stays slim, exercises an hour a day, (with baby in a backpack) and does it cheerfully.

A good mom…..

Fill in the blank.

We all have these ideas in our heads about what it takes to be a good mom. We put so much pressure on ourselves to perform at ridiculous levels.

We worry that our children will be overweight if we don’t cook them a tasty, nutritious dinner each night and have them in 2 sports every season.

We worry that our kids will flunk out of college and live in our basements for the rest of their lives if we don’t kill ourselves teaching them algebra in the fifth grade.

We worry that our colicky babies will grow up damaged if we gently set them in a crib alone for 5 minutes so we can go to the bathroom and get a grip on our emotions.

Where do these expectations come from?

It seems that moms are really hard on themselves these days. Perhaps it’s the Pinterest/Facebook generation. But for whatever reason, we feel that we have to prove to ourselves, to our kids, to the world that we are good moms.

Here’s the truth of it. Here’s how to be a good mom.

Do the best you can.

Love your kids.

Listen to them.

Don’t let idealogy and parenting experts run your home.

Do what’s best for your kids and your family.

And most of all.

Pray. Read the Word. And trust Him “who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” (Jude 24)

Don’t let unrealistic expectations rob you of the joy of motherhood. Parenting is easier than you think.

 

Making Siblings Best Friends

“I’ve heard so much good about homeschooling. I have friends who tell me their kids are each other’s best friends. I want that for my kids.”

My friend confided in me about her yearning to homeschool. The above line caught my eye, and it kind of bugged me. I’ve heard it plenty.

Homeschooling will bring your family closer. Your kids will love the sibling closeness it brings.

Hmmmph.

Maybe.

Maybe not.

I’ve been doing this a long time. My kids have never been in traditional classrooms. I have four of them.

We’ve gone through periods of time when they’ve been close and were able to play all day together.

And we’ve also gone through times when they couldn’t stand one another. The simple act of breathing was enough to send one kid into orbit.

And this was all during one week. Of course my kids love one another. It’s interesting to see how their relationships play out. At different stages they’ve enjoyed one another’s company more and less. I can’t wait to see how they interact as adults.

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But I’d like to address the above fallacy in logic.

Homeschooling is no guarantee that your children will be close.

Moreover, there are a few observations that I’d like to make about siblings.

First, educational style has little to do with sibling closeness. There are homeschooled siblings who are close and those who are alienated. There are traditionally schooled kids who are both as well.

Second, your kids’ closeness will wax and wane through the years, depending on stage of development and personal interests. Some kids are close as children and grow apart as adults. Others are opposites as kids and grow closer as they mature. Looking at your kids in childhood, there’s no way of telling whether they will be close as adults.

Third, you can’t force sibling closeness. Politeness, kindness, and basic respect can be enforced, but kids are all different. They may choose an outside of the family person to be their “bestie” and that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong if your kids prefer to hang out with kids who aren’t blood relatives.

Fourth, there’s a special bond between siblings. This doesn’t mean that they have to be best friends. It’s not an either/or dichotomy. Siblings can have special relationships while also nurturing friendships outside of the family.

Don’t choose homeschooling as an educational decision simply because you yearn for them to be close as siblings. In general, if you provide a healthy, respectful home, they will love and care for one another as they grow up. You don’t have to homeschool to do that.

Forced togetherness will not guarantee that closeness. In fact, if  kids are complete opposites and they have no choice but to ALWAYS hang out with siblings, they may come to resent their sibling more than if they have a choice in the matter and a break from the siblings. This is why you need to nurture friendships for your kids.

More on that tomorrow.

Rude Kids? Grumpy Kids? It’s Okay!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten so down because of my kids’ behavior. Despite my best efforts, I look at my kids and they don’t look anything like the kids that I’d imagined I’d have.

They’re bickering and fussing.

They’re rude. They call each other hateful, ugly names.

Even though I’ve nagged and griped, their socks are still in the floor, they burp at the table, and they hate to share their stuff.

I think, “What kind of a mom am I? Why can’t I do something about these kids?”

After all, I’ve been in this job for years. And even though I’ve been consistent, bordering on rigid in trying to instill basic decency in my kids, sometimes, I look at them in exasperation.

My exasperation turns inward, and I wonder how badly I am ruining my kids.

This is pretty common. It’s too easy to believe the lie that good kids are made by good parents. You see polite well-mannered kids in public and think that the other moms know something that you don’t. Their kids don’t whine and cry. Their kids don’t call each other names like “booger lips” and “poop face.”

Let me tell you a secret.

Even the very best families have their moments. The moments when their kids are mean, hateful, unkind, selfish, and rude.

Some kids take correction better than others. Others can be a bit defensive and argue with you about everything.

Some kids are naturally more compliant than others. Other kids have more defiant natures.

Some kids are more empathetic and others are more naturally self-centered.

Some kids are better at picking up social cues and others have to be explicitly told things like “For the fifth time today, will you PLEASE get your hand out of your pants!”

Just like some kids are neater and others are sloppy, personalities are a huge part of how your kids behave and how they treat one another. None of them are born automatically knowing how to resolve conflict, treat one another fairly, and be polite.

It’s all too easy to look to the future and imagine your son calling his children hateful names and your daughter screaming and slamming doors when angry. And then you jump to, “It’s all my fault!”

Take heart, dear mama. Your kids don’t misbehave because of you. They don’t say horrible things, shove their siblings, tease, pass gas at the table, mess up the house, and argue because you can’t get through to them.

They do these things because they are kids. And this is how most kids act from time to time. Had Jesus himself raised children, he would have dealt with many of these same behaviors.

I have a few pieces of advice for you if you’re feeling like an utter failure in training your children.

First, don’t take it personally.  They aren’t out to get you and their behavior is most likely not a reflection of your parenting skills. It’s just kid stuff. And so often the bad behavior is just a reflection of their sin nature combined with immaturity.

Second, do your best. I’m not telling you to quit trying or to ignore bad behavior. Just hang in there, be consistent, firm and kind, and keep going.

Third, don’t draw conclusions about the future based upon today’s misbehavior. This will suck you into a weird place that you don’t want to be. You will panic, thinking that everything has to be fixed right NOW!

Fourth, read a few parenting books if there are particular behaviors that are troubling. But don’t get all caught up into one parenting philosophy that says “You have to parent this way.” or “Your children will only serve the Lord if you parent like this.” Remember that there are no guarantees in parenting. Better yet, talk to parents who have well behaved children, especially if they are older than yours. Ask them what they did about fighting, drama, undone chores, or tantrums. Always be flexible and go into these conversations looking for ideas rather than a magic bullet to “fix” your children.

Sometimes parenting is discouraging. But stay the course and remember that you can do this!

Taming of the Shrew

Yesterday, I took my girls to the Roxy in Clarksville, Tennessee to see a performance of The Taming of the Shrew as a homeschool field trip.

I loved it, and so did my girls. My youngest daughter, who is only 11, said ” Well, I didn’t understand a word they said, but by watching them, I knew what was going on. It was funny.”

See, that’s the beauty of Shakespeare onstage. Shakespeare was never meant to be read from a book. The full effect of Shakespeare’s scripts only occurs  when a troupe of actors takes those words and magically transforms them into stories.These stories, when done well, are interesting and often hilarious. Even a younger child like my daughter, who may miss some of the beauty of the words and dialogue, can follow the story.

Taming is my number one favorite Shakespeare play. I love wordplay and repartee and this play has so much of it. Another thing that a well done version of Taming of the Shrew contains is lots of physical humor. Yesterday’s fight scene between Petruchio and Kate was one of the best that I’ve ever seen. And yeah, I’ve seen many versions of this play.

Things I liked about the version we saw yesterday:

  • Kate, played by Margaret Eilertson, was one of the best I’ve ever seen. She did an excellent job of demonstrating the subtle shift between “Katerina the Cursed” and “Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom, Kate of Kate Hall, my super-dainty Kate” who comes to love Petruchio. Also, Eilertson’s presentation of the Kate’s final monologue, scolding the other women for their selfish, disrespectful attitudes toward their husbands, was the absolute best I’ve ever seen, including the one that Liz Taylor gave in the 1967 movie version of the Taming of the Shrew.
  • I loved the costuming. The Roxy presented this play in the style of the 1920s and 1930s. I love it when people adapt Shakespeare’s works to other time periods.
  • Petruchio was masterfully played by Jonathan Whitney, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Flynn Rider from the Disney movie Tangled . With Kate having such a strong personality, it takes an equally strong one to stand up to her and make it believable. Despite an unfortunate pair of pirate pants (I could feel myself blushing…yikes), Petruchio was very well done.
  • Sometimes in these plays much attention is given to the lead roles and the supporting cast is rather mediocre. However, the other actors were great too. We especially loved Jay Doolittle’s Baptista (he was so cute!) and Michael Klug’s Gremio. Bianca was played by Emily Rourke, and we all wanted to slap her, which is a sign of a well-played Bianca–she’s supposed to be a manipulative, little snot.

A few cautions. First, King James English is used in Shakespeare of course, and the three letter word for donkey, considered crude in modern times, is sprinkled through the play. I just talked with my girls about that afterward. The make-out scenes between Bianca and Lucentio are ummm…very realistic. One of my friend’s daughters commented, “That kissing stuff isn’t as gross in the movies as it is in real life.” Considering that the Roxy is a small theater and we we sitting near the front, my 11 year old was about 10 feet away from some rather amorous behavior. I think she’s decided that kissing is  really disgusting and she’s going to avoid that for pretty much forever. I was a little nervous about taking my youngest to the play since Shakespeare can be a little raunchy, but overall, it wasn’t too bad.

Now that I’ve seen the Taming of the Shrew onstage, this weekend I am planning on watching my favorite movie version of this story, McClintock, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. While this movie was made a very long time ago, it’s still fabulous. This is a Western, cowboy version of Taming and I so love Maureen O’Hara in it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Taming of the Shrew as presented by the Roxy. I hope in their next season they include another of Shakespeare’s comedies, because I will be there.

Book Review: 40 Days of Decrease–Fasting at a Whole New Level (I’d rather give up food)

Usually when people talk about fasting for Lent, it’s about giving up a luxury or a fun item as a sacrifice to remind them of Jesus’ suffering on the cross.

However, the book that I just finished reading this past Lenten season takes fasting to a whole new level.

Forty Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole is a 40-day-long daily devotional book that walks the reader through Jesus’ ministry, especially focusing on the final few weeks of his life. Each day, a short devotional is presented along with a Scripture reading. A few thought provoking questions are given with some journaling space for a few reflections. Also, the author includes an interesting history of various Lenten traditions.

But that’s not what makes the book special. At least for me.

The author challenges the reader to participate in a series of fasts, a different one each day. And these fasts go above and beyond giving up chocolate, soda, or television. She asks us to fast other things.

Things like a critical spirit.

Complaining.

Comparisons.

Guilt from the past.

Honestly, I think I’d rather give up food. These fasts are HARD! I mean, how many times a day do I mentally (or verbally) complain? How many times do I mentally compare myself to someone, usually so I can prop up my ego with pride or beat myself up?

But, isn’t that the point of fasting? Not only to give up some treasured luxury, but to make us as Christians grow closer to Jesus. These fasts really do this. In fasting one bad habit at a time,(okay…sinful habit. There. I said it.) I learned that I really do have some hard work to do in my Christian life.

See, I must confess that I usually feel pretty good about my Christian walk. I don’t swear. I don’t typically lose my temper. I don’t cheat others, I dress modestly, and I read my Bible every day. (well…almost every day.) But, Christianity is so much more that just avoiding the BIG sins. Those “little” sins, ones like pride, complaining, and anger, affect me just as much as the biggies. In fact, in just considering them as no big deal, I am making a mockery of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross.  These fasts really made me conscious of how wretched I am without the blood of Christ covering my sin.

Now,  this book is not designed to make you beat yourself up. Many of the fasts are positive in nature, focusing on loving others, and the common thread that runs through each daily devotional is a great rejoicing in the Grace given to us through Christ. The author seems to hope that in reading this book we can come back to the true meaning of Lent–a time of meditation, rejoicing and sacrifice which reminds us of our wondrous Gift of Grace.

While I did receive this book for free from Booklookbloggers.com in exchange for my review, this is one book I will probably read again and again. In my opinion, it was a wonderful way to usher in the Lenten Season and refocus my heart on what really matters–pleasing my Jesus and growing to become more like Him.

 

Piano Guys Concert!

My family doesn’t spend tons of money on entertainment. Ball games, movies, plays, and concerts seldom happen. But when I saw that The Piano Guys were coming to our area this spring, I knew that I had to go.

My oldest daughter turned 18 in December and I gave her 2 tickets for the concert.

My second daughter turned 14 in January and she got a ticket too.

Of course, they needed someone to drive them….so I *had* to go too.

And I gave my brother a ticket too.

My daughter invited her very best friend and we made an evening of it.

It was totally worth the money. We had an amazing time, and if you ever get the chance to go, you will enjoy it too. I really love how John Schmidt totally embraces the dorky dad role.

Here’s one of my favorite pieces that they did last night.

 

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