Showing posts with label Christian Living. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christian Living. Show all posts

Wednesday Five | Vol. 14

 


A Quote 


I think this quote section is going to be where I dump my World War 1 thoughts on you for the next few Wednesday Five posts. I’m reading so many interesting books about WW1 right now.

What has struck me most in learning about WW1 is how much most of the leaders of the countries involved did not want war. There were a couple people in Austria-Hungary who wanted retribution on Serbia, but all the allies involved seemed to try their hardest not to let a war start. It was like a very tragic “comedy of errors“, riddled with miscommunication and mistrust. 

This part of the book A World Undone by G. J. Meyer, really got to me. A double ultimatum was issued by Germany to Russia and France, and the German ambassador went to meet with Sazonov, Russia’s Foreign Minister. The last ditch effort at avoiding a war fell apart. 

“In his hands he had two messages, both of them declarations of war. One was for use if Russia gave no answer to the ultimatum, the other a reply to a negative answer. In his distress and confusion he pressed both on Sazanov and burst into tears.

 Or so Sazanov wrote years later in his memoirs. Pourtales’s recollection was that Sazonov wept first.  Whatever the sequence, apparently both men cried. They embraced, then pulled apart and began to exchange accusations.

 ‘This was a criminal act of yours,’ said Sazonov. ‘The curses of the nations will be upon you.’ 

‘We were defending our honor.’

‘Your honor was not involved.’

Finally, they parted forever, Sazonov helping the distraught Pourtales to the door.

When I was reading this, it struck me how the Fall and sin’s curse didn’t just affect mankind, and our relationship to God, and creation, and interpersonal relationships - it affects relationships between nations too. Peace is so tenuous, and war has been a part of the story of humanity ever since Adam fell. 

As I write this, I’m also thinking about someday, when every knee shall bow before Christ, and He will reign for a thousand years and then create a new Heaven and Earth where sin and death are no more. Then we will have peace forever, and people from every tribe, tongue, and nation, even people who fought and killed each other in wars like WW1, will wipe their tears and sing praise to the Lord together. That will be a glorious thing to see.


A Book

Aside from my collection of WW1 nonfiction, I’m reading a book on prayer by John MacArthur called Alone With God (the Kindle version is only $2!). Prayer is always something that I wish I was better at, and I’m getting a lot of good thoughts out of this one. What specifically stuck out to me was how MacArthur says the focus of prayer needs to be God, and too often we act like we’re talking to God when really we’re just focusing on ourselves. That is so true.

A Bit Of Nature

Before it snowed two weeks ago...yes, it snowed! Not a little bit either, it snowed a few inches. But before it snowed I was worried it would kill all the leaves and I wouldn’t be able to get any good fall pictures of the kids. So I took them outside by our long, pretty mountain grass, and we had a little impromptu fall photo shoot. The pictures turned out really cute (I'll put more on Instagram). 

I love long grass like this. You know, we learned that those little bunches at the end of a piece of grass are actually technically a flower.





A Recommendation

I've mentioned these about a million times, but I wanted to recommend (again) the Rush Revere: Time Travel Adventures With Exceptional Americans book series. We like them on audio.  My kids were SO EXCITED when I told them I got the next book, Rush Revere And The Presidency, at the library.  Wyatt asked if he could listen to it today, and he and Gwen have their chairs pulled up to the CD player so they can listen to the story.  They think Liberty (the time-traveling horse) is hilarious, and I love the strong American values and history in the stories.  This one that we're listening to is also great if you are trying to teach your kids about the election.  I'm planning on adding it to my election resources blog post.


A Moment Of Happiness

It's hard for me to isolate just one moment right now, because I've been feeling generally happy and content for the last several weeks.  That's odd for 2020, isn't it?  I just have this peace that no matter what happens, the Lord is sovereign and it's all going to be okay.  I love my country and am so proud to be an American, and it kills me to see the turmoil. I also believe strongly in caring about the wellbeing of the nation, continuing to fight for our freedoms, and being an active citizen as a Christian.  But this world was never meant to be my home.  

Maybe it took a year like 2020 to make that extra clear.  

We're just passing through, and if you believe in Christ's sacrifice to save you from your sin - well, the place we're going is promised to be so much better.  I've always wanted to live my life with eternity in mind, there was always a part of me that knew how important that was - that's part of why I named my blog Through Clouded Glass all those years ago (based on 1 Corinthians 13:  ).  When you keep your eyes on Jesus and live with eternity in mind, the world can't touch you the same way. That's where I'm trying to keep focus, and nothing else in the world is as calming as resting in Him.  

I wish that for all of you this Wednesday. 

A Case For Choosing A Personal Study Project




In January, my husband and I went on a rare date night.  Even though we rarely go out, most of the time we do the cliche thing and go see a movie.  We enjoy watching movies together and talking about them afterwards, and many movies we have seen sparked some great conversations.

Anyway, in January we saw 1917, and I came to a shocking realization.

I didn't really know what World War One was about.

I had a basic set of knowledge about it - I remembered when it was, which countries were involved, who won.  I remembered an assassination kicked things off, but I didn't remember who was assasinated, or why, or how exactly that led to a World War.

After watching a whole movie based off of one soldier's experience in World War One, I felt a sudden conviction that I should know these things.  And so my 2020 World War One personal project was born.

I've been casually picking "themes" for some of my historical reading the past several years, but this is the first year that I decided to formally pick an area of study and give it a strong effort.  It ended up being a really timely topic choice for this year.  Those men in WW1 truly suffered.  As much as 2020 has been hard for so many people, with stressful moments for me too - having that perspective of the intensity with which some of our forebears suffered has helped keep things in perspective.  People often say "things have never been this bad" - well, probably somewhere in history, they have.  

Anyway, I've been enjoying my WW1 project so much, that I am now going to take it upon myself to convince you that you need a personal study project for 2021!  Here are the reasons why.


You have educational gaps.

Oh, the dreaded educational gap.  We are embarrassed when we realize we have them.  We do everything in our power to help our kids avoid them.  We tremble at the mere thought of them...yes, I"m exaggerating.  But guess what, guys.  Everyone has gaps in their education.  I guarantee you do, and if you don't think you do, you probably just don't realize what you don't know.  It doesn’t matter how great your  education was. It doesn’t matter if you are the smartest person in the world - there will always be things that you don’t know.  I love Sarah McKenzie’s mindset that gaps are really just gifts.  For our kids, and ourselves, gaps mean that we will always have to learn something new, to pause and marvel over something that we never realized before. The gap itself isn’t the gift, but the exploration of a new subject is. Don’t leave the gift unopened! (Okay, sorry, that was a little cheesy...)

Choosing a personal study project is modeling lifelong learning for our kids.

How many times do we moms opine about wanting our kids to have a “love of learning”, to cultivate “lifelong learners”? I figure if we truly want that, it’s a good idea to model it! Just like it’s a good thing for our kids to see their parents reading if we want them to read, seeing us get interested and excited over something new we learned has a similar effect, I’m convinced.  

There are alot of ways we can do this - and your personal study project doesn't have to look like mine.  I've been focusing on history, but you also could pick a science subject, classic literature you never read, a skill you want to learn.  There are so many options!


A personal study project makes you a more interesting person. 

I think learning more about a variety of subjects, or deep-diving into one subject, will obviously make you a more interesting person to talk to. When the subject of what ACTUALLY caused WW1 comes up at a party, as it inevitably will, you’ll have something to say and can dazzle your listeners with your knowledge! 

I’m kidding, guys.

The truth is, the causes of WW1, or the name of that one kind of orchid that looks like a bee, or the biochemistry of gut flora, or how to make the perfect lemon meringue - those subjects are not going to come up at any party ever (well, probably not). But learning new skills or diving into new subjects does give you a wider perspective on the world, gives you more topics and experiences on which to draw in a conversation, adds to who you are as a person - and yes, it makes you more interesting.

Diving deep into a subject can help you to understand the world better. 

This is a Captain Obvious sort of statement, but I’m speaking from my experience diving into WW1 this year. I didn’t realize, before I started looking into it, just how much World War 1 affected everything that came after it. I’m convinced if you don’t understand WW1, you don’t have the full picture of anything else that happened in the 20th century. This could probably be said of everything.  as human beings, we aren’t even capable of understanding it all, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile to learn what we can. Which leads me to my next point...

We will never know it all - and realizing that can draw us closer to the One who knows everything.

Maybe this is a continuation of point number one, but isn’t it kind of amazing to think that you can never know everything there is to know? The only Person who knows everything is God, and we are not Him. We weren’t made to know everything, but we were made to bring glory to Him. I think one way we, as believers, can do that is to study His power in His creation, the story He is creating through history, or a creative skill that we know in our heart pales in comparison to the creative power of our awesome God - all while recognizing and thanking Him for all the ways He is greater than us. Learning more about this world, and realizing all the more how little we really truly know - if we are doing it all to the glory of God, we can’t help but be a little more amazed at Him. That’s what truly makes learning a worthwhile pursuit.



Did I convince you?

Over the last year, I've become invested in the idea of periodically choosing a personal area of study as an adult, and diving in deep.  It doesn't have to be a forever project - figure out something you want to learn more about, and dig in until you feel you've accomplished what you set out to learn.  Then see if a new subject piques your interest!  I've been really enjoying my World War One project, and I'm already thinking ahead to what subjects could be possibilities for 2021!

Have you ever started a personal study project as an adult?

The Danger Of Dreaming


There is a danger, you know, that comes with dreaming.

I’ve been thinking about this lately after flipping through a few books I read last year. I like to go back sometimes and see what I highlighted. As I flipped through The Great Gatsby, I found two paragraphs that I think are the most haunting in the whole book:

"'If it wasn’t for the mist we could see your home across the bay,' said Gatsby. 'You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock.’ 
Daisy put her arm through his abruptly, but he seemed absorbed in what he had just said. Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one.

Gatsby never considered that perhaps the hoping for Daisy was part of the magic. That once the hoping and dreaming was gone, the real work of building a life with the object of his dreams wouldn’t match up with the fantasy he had built in his head. Later in the book (spoiler and trigger warning), he actually ends it all because he can’t have his dream just the way he wanted it.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with dreaming, or with working for things to be better. The danger comes though, when we place all our hope in dreams. We idealize, we fantasize. We build up all the beautiful parts and forget that in this fallen world, there is always difficulty that comes with dreams fulfilled. Or we despair when our dreams go unfulfilled, as our hopes are never realized.

Nick Carraway too, is chasing dreams throughout the book. The line most quoted from Gatsby is:

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

But people tend to forget the Nick says this earlier in the book:

“I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

I think in Nick Carraway we have another character who is looking for something, wanting a fresh start with every changing season, chasing something new and exciting that he never quite finds. His disillusionment grows throughout the book. Finally there is nothing left worthy of wonder, no enchantment that isn’t eventually spoiled. In the end he decides he isn’t made for East Coast life and returns home.

You see, the world of Gatsby is in the end a godless thing, and the book ultimately drives home the futility of a godless world. Without God, there is nothing to hope for, just earthly dreams which can never truly be grasped. Without something greater, something “commensurate to [our] capacity for wonder” we are lost, doomed to ever be striving as our dreams drift farther away. 


As believers, we have a better hope than that.  Better than any earthly, temporal dream.  Hebrews explains where our hope lies:

“Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever...”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭6:17-20‬ ‭

Our hope is in the strong consolation we have through God’s promises - that this world is not the end, everything it holds is not the only chance at wonder. No matter how godless the world may seem, our awesome God has not withdrawn His hand. Even now He is upholding the world “by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3), and working out everything for the purposes of His will. 

We don’t need to place our hopes in a fresh season, or a dream fulfilled. We shouldn’t in fact, because those things are ultimately empty. No, our only true hope lies with an immutable, unchangeable God. A God who became our Savior when He stepped down to this fickle, fallen world, and offered up Himself as a payment for our sins, as our perfect, unblemished Savior.

Rooting all our dreams in this world will ever be a disillusioning, hopeless endeavor.  And sometimes even we as believers can place our hopes in the wrong things - people, movements, elections, a new house, a new state, new friends, vacations, babies, a significant other - but all those things, even the ones that are blessings, can never truly fulfill us. When we hope in only the blessings and forget the One from whose hand they come, we’re left drifting. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

This we have as an anchor for the soul. Sure and steadfast. The promises of God that our salvation is assured, that our citizenship is in Heaven, that our Savior is there building a place for those who believe, who repent and call on His name.



There are a lot of dreams that have gone unfulfilled in 2020. A lot of disillusionment, disappointment, pain. But there is a great Hope. This is just a reminder to my sisters in Christ to not put our hopes in the wrong place - to not dream of a better tomorrow without resting in, and pointing others, to the true Hope for the world.

My Homeschool Bible Recommendations



I didn't want to finish my curriculum series without including Bible, but to be honest, it's hard to sum up our Bible "curriculum" in one post.  We don't use just one resource to teach our kids the Bible, and we don't do it at one time of the day and then check it off our list.  My goal in teaching my children the Bible is that we will talk about biblical truths often, throughout our day, in formal and informal settings, and that it will be embedded into every part of our homeschool curriculum.  Do I always succeed at this?  No, there are alot of days where I drop the ball and our Bible study doesn't look like that, but it's what I want to strive for.

At the same time, I think it can be really useful for kids to have some sort of resource to guide them in Bible study and help them think about what they are reading, especially as they get older.  My oldest son is getting to that age where he has been working on reading through the Bible on his own, and he could handle a more structured study, so I've been mulling that over and thinking through different resources.  Here are some of the resources that we've used, or that we plan to use.  Some of them are actual "curricula", and some are other types of resources I've used.  This isn't even a comprehensive list, but these are the things that have stood out so far.

The Bible (Like, The Real Bible)

I think sometimes we forget that the most important way we can teach our kids is just to read it with them!  Alot.  Derek is really good at reading them a chapter each night, and I'd like to do better at bookending that with reading a chapter to the kids at breakfast as well.

I firmly believe in reading the actual Bible even to little kids, but I do think for the younger ones it's nice to add in a Bible storybook too, so the next couple are my favorite Bible storybooks.

Egermeier's Bible Story Book

I've collected quite alot of storybooks in my day, and this is one of my favorites.  I like how this storybook is so thorough - no part of a Bible story is skipped, not even the hard parts, but it presents it in a kid-friendly way, with beautiful illustrations to accompany each story.

I Am: 40 Reasons To Trust God 

This is another Bible storybook that I really like - each story is connected to a different name and attribute of God, and a short devotion and prayer is included at the end of each chapter to get the kids thinking further.  I think the illustrations in this are just gorgeous, and it's a great bedtime storybook.  Our copy is actually falling apart, so I'm going to have to purchase another one.

Answers Bible Curriculum

This was our main Bible curriculum last year!  We picked this up at the homeschool conference, and we got about halfway through, so we'll continue it this year.  The book comes with pdf files for slides to show on your computer while you teach, memory verse posters, and coloring pages.

The curriculum was written by the folks over at Answers In Genesis, and uses their method of breaking biblical history up into "the seven C's" - Creation, Corruption, Catastrophe, Confusion, Christ, Cross, and Consumation (and my kids can recite those now, so that's a plus!).  While a lot of time is spent in the Old Testament, the curriculum is an overview of the whole Bible, and I think it lays a great foundation for understanding why Christ had to come and die on the cross to save us!  That is the most important thing for my kids to know, and I love the focus on the gospel through this curriculum so far.

Since we are stretching the curriculum out over two years, I've looked ahead to see what is coming, and the second half of the curriculum seems to focus on answering different questions about God and the Bible.  It has more of an apologetics focus, and I think it'll fit nicely with another resource we are using.

The Answers Book For Kids

There are eight volumes of these little books, and they are completely full of questions kids may be wondering about the Bible, along with the answers of course!  We use these in our morning time right now - I'll read a question and the answer, and then we'll look up the Bible verses that are listed and read them together.  I think this is a really convenient little resource to start some good conversations, and it's really easy to add into a morning routine or read over lunch.

Big Thoughts For Little Thinkers

These books are really similar to the Answers Books For Kids, but each page has cute illustrations and a different truth about God to talk about with your kids  Once again, I usually read the thought on the page, and then we look up the Bible verses and talk about it more if needed.  I really like this for all the kids - the thoughts are deep enough to bring up some good topics with the older kids, and simple enough for young kids to learn and remember.

God Is Really, Really Real

This resource goes a little more in-depth on some of the main concepts that we learn in Scripture about God, man, sin and death, Jesus, and salvation, etc.  I think it could easily be used as the core for a more formal curriculum as well.

As it says on the front, there are 30 Bible doctrines covered in this book.  The first part of the book has colorful illustrations and a poem-story that relates to the lessons, and the second half guides parents through teaching different biblical doctrines to their kids, along with "tuck-in questions" to remind your kids what they learned during the day.  There are also more in-depth explanations and Bible references for parents in the back of the book.

I think the book is geared toward younger children, but with the more in-depth information in the back, it would be easy to use this to teach older kids who already have something of a grounding in these doctrines too!  I honestly forgot I had this resource until late in our school year, and we used it in morning time, but going forward I am thinking I might add this one to our bedtime routine instead.

Bible Survey For Kids

This is one of the new resources I purchased for the upcoming school year, put out by Mike Fabarez's ministry.  This curriculum is super simple and straightforward, a way to give your kids an overall view of each of the books of the Bible.  Each lesson covers one book, and the main things that are included in that book, and then Bible book cards are tacked onto the wall in chronological order, or in genre groups.  I really like this idea for giving the kids a "big picture" of the Bible as we continue reading it and studying it with our other resources.  I'm thinking we'll do one of these lessons a week for the upcoming school year.

Explorer's Bible Study

This is the other new resource I bought for Wyatt, because I think he is big enough to find this sort of book helpful.  The Explorer's Bible Study books go through different eras of Bible history through a simple fill-in-the-blank format.  Just flipping through this book, it is really similar to the Community Bible Study workbooks we did a couple years ago.  Since we aren't ready to re-start CBS this year, I think having a similar book will be helpful.  Each lesson is broken up into five segments, one for each day of the week.  The text of the Bible passage is included in the book, and then the student can answer questions.

Depending on the day, I might sit down and do each lesson with Wyatt, (and possibly write his answers for him), or I might have him work on it independently once he gets the hang of it.  However, if he works on it independently, it's important to me to still sit down with him and talk about what he wrote.  I think this will be a great guide through different biblical books, and a great chance to get Wyatt used to more in-depth Bible lessons.

Devotional Books

One more quick little note - I am a fan of devotional books for kids.  When I was about Wyatt's age, I found a devotional book I liked at the Christian book store.  I ended up buying it, and it helped me get into the habit of reading a chapter of the Bible and a devotional every day.

I really would love if my kids developed that habit as well, and so I bribe them with devotional books!

Actually, I picked up a couple kids devotion books here and there a few years ago, and just put them on the bookshelf and forgot about them. My kids discovered them this summer, and my big kids have been reading through them on their own, along with their Bibles. These are some of the ones I've found:

My Big Book Of Five-Minute Devotions - This book includes animal facts along with lessons about God, the Bible, good character qualities, etc.  Each devotion has a Bible verse and prayer to go with it.
God's Amazing Creatures And Me - This is another book that includes animal facts tied in with a lesson about the God who created these animals.  Can you tell that I have a kid who loves animals?

One warning about devotional books - often they can be rather superficial, especially when written for kids, so I think it's important to not use them as your child's only Bible-related  resource.  Devotion books aren't a substitute for true Bible study and biblical instruction, and they often do an inadequate job of presenting the gospel, so I try to be aware of that and do some extra explanations where necessary.  But I do think they can be a fun addition to Bible reading.  What I like about devotion books for kids is how they can emphasize the ways that biblical knowledge relates to anything they could encounter in their day or life.  So that's the value I think they can add here, when read in addition to the Bible itself and regular Bible instruction in other areas (and not just reading a devotion alone, because they aren't enough by themselves).



In case you didn't notice, I am all over the board with Bible instruction.  I told you that I wouldn't say we do one Bible "curriculum" - the curriculum is all these things put together and done regularly (or for some of them, sporadically) over the course of many years - my kids' whole childhood really.  I hope we are always in the middle of this or that Bible resource, and in the middle of some book of the Bible itself, throughout my kids' childhoods, until they no longer live in this house.  I want them to be saturated in it, so they can soak it up constantly, and take it all with them when they go.

For a Christian homeschool family, I don't think Bible should be just another homeschool subject.  Bible instruction will never be done.  If I want my kids to learn anything in this homeschooling journey, I hope it's that - to never stop seeking after the Lord through His Word, to love Christ, and never be done learning about the One who created them and died to save them.  If I succeed in that, I will have succeeded in everything.

And maybe that's also why I have way too many Bible-related resources to choose from, ha!

What do you use for Bible instruction in your home? (Aside from THE BIBLE, of course!)



Shouts And Whispers



9:32 AM.  Some spunky spider threaded a silvery strand from the porch railing to the chair last night, and I'm sitting here looking at it as I try to figure out what I exactly want to write today. The wind is picking up, and I keep watching the thread in the sunlight, thinking surely it will break in the gusts.  But it hasn't.  Spider silk is strong stuff.

I didn't start this trying to draw an analogy here, but its kind of like the country right now isn't it?  Some days the events in the news are so crazy, it feels like the entire American civilization is hanging by a thread.  Maybe one day the last gust of wind, the last crazy event, will break it.  I hope our traditions and values, the things we used to all unite around as nation, will be like that thread, strong enough to string our country together amidst all this chaos, but if not...well, it's a good thing that we believers in Christ don't have to place our hope in men, isn't it?

I'd like to insert something I wrote on Instagram a couple weeks ago, for posterity or for any of you who don't follow me over there.  This is the bottom line to me:

I had some things I wanted to share this week, but all that is on hold for now, as Instagram was dominated yesterday by black squares. I don’t like getting involved in these things online, but this morning all my thoughts and feelings and discouragements coalesced and clarified. So against my initial instinct to swear off social media and just pray and cocoon with my kids (which still might be what I end up doing), I have a few things to say..First, to those putting your hope in social media campaigns, or conversations, or human organizations, or a political party, or violence, to spur on whatever change you think needs to happen, I think you will be disappointed..I like how someone else (@stopandconsider on Instagram) put it: “The spiritual oppression that all men are under is sin, and from that all the physical vestiges of oppression find their power. The only way that is changed is by proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ, who died for sinful men to reconcile them to God.”.
The solution to ALL our sin, the sins hidden inside us as well as the sins of murder and theft and racism that dominate the news, is CHRIST, crucified to pay the penalty of death that WE deserved. He is risen to conquer death, heal our souls, and give us victory over that sin..
HE is the One who sets us free, changes hard hearts, and brings peace to our sinful souls and broken world. If you don’t know that peace and reconciliation with God - I pray, I beg you, to seek and find that Truth...And one more thing - if we as Christians are trying to participate in this conversation on racism, rule of law, etc, and we leave out the Gospel, I’m sorry but we are doing it wrong. I’ve been personally convicted of this. What eternal good are we doing if we aren’t taking care to point others to Christ through this tragic situation? What lasting change can be made if we don’t preach the Gospel of Christ, which has the true power to change hearts and save eternal souls?.
It’s time to turn our eyes back to Him, our only true Hope amidst the chaos.

The events of the last few weeks have kind of been the last gust of wind for me, to turn my eyes back to what really matters.  These verses in 2 Timothy have been swirling in my brain through the turmoil our nation is facing - reminding me that this is my duty, this is my call:

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching...But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
2 Timothy 4:2,5

Paul was writing this to Timothy, who was a young pastor.  But when I read those verses to apply them personally, I am reminded to keep my mind on the gospel, and my energy focused on my kids. There are so many voices shouting on social media right now, it's hard to hear anyone, and the limitations of trying to speak the truth online become ever more apparent...but I can preach the Word to my kids.  I can be faithful in my efforts to convince, exhort, rebuke, and train them.  I can show them how to be watchful in all things by showing them what God's Word says about what is happening in the world, I can present examples of how to endure afflictions while giving thanks to God, I can do the work of an evangelist by pointing them to Jesus's atoning work on the cross always.  This is I can fulfill my ministry, the most important one, which has always been to shine the light of Christ in my home to my children, to write the Truth on their hearts.




(A couple photos from my birthday fishing trip last weekend.)

So maybe that's why I have been quiet on social media and my blog lately, because I have been mulling over how I can do better at this.  How I can lead their hearts to Jesus, pray for them better, train them in righteousness, and prepare them to stand firm amidst the persecution they will no doubt face someday.  

I feel more urgency for this than I used to.  I don't want to waste too much time shouting into the noise on social media, when my greatest impact will be whispering truth into the hearts of my children.

---

Anyway, I meant for this to be a light, catch-up post, but I guess I needed to get that off my chest first.  You all know I like to have fun, and sharing it all on here is part of the fun for me, so those posts are coming too!  Thanks for hanging around while I sorted through my thoughts over the last month.

And oh yeah, it's summer.  The sun is shining on my legs, and I can practically feel the Vitamin D being manufactured, boosting my mood.  The birds chirp from the trees all around, the table umbrella is spinning as the breeze picks up, and I hear some shouting from inside the house that I should probably go attend to.  Before I close my laptop, I look up again, and that silvery thread connecting the chair and the railing is still dancing in the wind.


Certainty

(This week last year, we were visiting New Orleans. Is it cheating to recycle those photos for this post?)

Walking to the mailbox has become something of a lifeline over the last weeks.   Though I am so blessed to be able to say that our day-to-day life has not changed much through this virus situation, it is still difficult on all of us to be stuck at home.  So we are making a tradition of fresh air and mud on our shoes, as we trudge on the dirt roads of our neighborhood for the post.

The other day, as we were walking, my oldest stopped in his tracks.  "Did you hear that, Mom?  I think it was a robin."

And we all stopped and looked around, and from the eave of our neighbor's house we saw a swooping movement, a flash of orange-ish red.  

"It is, it's a robin!  That means it's spring!" my boy cried, and somehow seeing that little bird did my heart good.  The world may have ground to a halt, but spring is still coming.






I've been thinking alot in the last few weeks, about the juxtaposition of some things going on unchanged, as other things cease entirely.  I may not be afraid of physically suffering, but the frustration and disappointment and uncertainty of these days is still stressful.  I'm remembering that these feelings qualify as the cares I need to cast upon Him.  He cares for those things too.  And in the midst uncertainty, I look at spring flowers pushing their way through the dirt, and I remember all the things of which I can be certain.  

I am certain that even if this world burns to the ground, this is not my real home.  

"For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." Philippians 3:20

I am certain that we are all sinners, but Jesus took the punishment we deserve for our sin by dying in our place on the cross.  

"For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23 
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23

I am certain that Jesus has risen and conquered over death, and that if we turn to Him in repentance and faith, He will save us - and He will hold us in the palm of His hand, and no one and nothing can snatch us out of it.  

"For if you confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9 
"And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand." John 10:28

I am certain that we are going to have trouble in this world, and we can see some of that trouble clearly now.  But I know that He has overcome the world.

"In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world." John 16:33 
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind." 2 Timothy 1:7

I am certain that one day He's coming back, and He'll wipe away all our tears.  He will give believers the crown of righteousness that we cannot earn, but that Jesus bought for us on the cross.  

"And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  There shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:4 
"Finally there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only, but also to all who have loved His appearing." 2 Timothy 4:8

And in the meantime, I know that God is our ever-present refuge, upon whom we can cast all our cares.

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea." Psalm 46:1-2 
"Cast all your anxiety upon Him, for He cares for you." 1 Peter 5: 
"Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." Matthew 10:29-31


That last verse feels poignant at this moment.  I'm sitting here, typing this now, listening to the birds making nests in the eaves outside my window.  Tiny peeps, flashes of shadow against the screen.  And I remember that not even one of them falls to the ground without God seeing.  And He cares for us more than the sparrows.

This is our comfort, our help in trouble, our peace with God - bought by the precious blood of Jesus. Today is Good Friday, and we remember His death to pay the price for our sins, the penalty we owed.  On Sunday we will celebrate, because no matter what is going on in the outside world, He is risen.  His is the victory.  And He has us in His hands forever when we trust in Him.  What peace and joy there is in that, even if we have to celebrate stuck at home this year.

If you don't know that peace, I pray that through all this you will find it.  And if you do know Christ, I pray that you'll also remember with me that we can turn our eyes to Jesus, rest in His peace, celebrate His resurrection well, and take this chance to share the truth of the gospel of Christ with a world that is full of fear.

Happy Resurrection Day in advance, friends!

"He is not here; for He is risen, as He said." Matthew 28:6

Goals For The Dreariest Months | March And April Goals



March is upon us, which means it is time for me to check in with my 2020 goals!  Making goals for a couple months at a time (January/February), as opposed to monthly goals, ended up working out really well over the last couple months.  It gave me a little more wiggle room to catch up when life got a little crazy, so I think I'm going to do that again and make goals for March and April together.  I'll write a check-in at the end of May.

But anyway, how did my January and February goals go?

-Memorize Hebrews chapter 5.
-Set up prayer pages in my bullet journal.
-Start the day hugging each kid, and hug Derek when he gets home. (Did pretty well at this - I didn't succeed at starting every day with a hug, but there were more hugs in general!)
-Clean out my Facebook friends list.   (Read more about this here.)
-Send snail mail.
-Save $100 in February.
-Participate in the Read Your Bookshelf challenge.

I was pretty happy overall - focusing on a few small goals in specific areas was great because I never got too overwhelmed or behind, and I did succeed at mostly every goal I made.

As I've been looking ahead, I'm glad to have a few specific things to work on during what is arguably the dreariest time of year in the mountains.  March and April are usually interspersed random snow days and muddy days in between, and as a consequence, Spring never been my favorite time of year.  One of my dear friends moved up into the mountains several years ago, and she said she finally understood why I hated spring, ha!  But writing this out, I'm looking forward to trying to accomplish a few things instead of letting the momentum get buried with all the spring snow and mud.

(Spring looks kind of pretty in this photo though, doesn't it?)

I'm thinking I might have added too many things to my list for this next two-month period, but we'll see how it goes! Here are more specific updates and thoughts for my goal areas, and the things I'd like to focus on for the next period:


Spiritual

Overall Goal: Memorize Hebrews, and spend more time in prayer each day.

Update:  I did successfully memorize Hebrews 5, but I want to spend a little time reviewing it over the next couple weeks and then move on to memorize Hebrews 6.  I did create some prayer pages in my journal, but I'd like to figure out more specific items to pray for each member of my family.

Little Steps Goal: Memorize Hebrews 6 before May, and be more specific and thoughtful in my prayers for each family member by coming up with a prayer list for each person.

Marriage And Motherhood

Overall Goal: Be a happier and more thankful wife and mother.

Update: Last month I did get much more intentional about doling out the hugs, though I didn't always catch every kid every morning.   But I did my best, and I think the kids and Derek appreciated my attempt to start our day on a better note!

Next Little Steps Goal:  Over the next two months, I'd like to make a written list of specific ways I am thankful for each kid and Derek (and perhaps write them a note telling them what I come up with).  I also want to re-read Happiness Is A Serious Problem by Dennis Prager.  I read it several years ago, and remember it being thought-provoking and helpful!

Social

Overall Goal: Spend less time on social media, and spend more time investing in and encouraging my real-life friends (including family).

Update:  I think I've been pretty successful at staying off social media so far this year - so much so that I think I'm going to have to tip the balance the other way again!  I haven't been sharing enough of our day-to-day photos on Instagram, and I don't want to drop off too much on that because I still want those photos and memories for our Instagram photo book.  I wasn't 100% happy with my snail mail attempt last month, so I'd like to try that goal again.

Next Little Steps Goal: Write a letter to a friend, have my sister over for poetry tea time with the kids, and plan a joint birthday party for the boys.

Financial

Overall Goal: Save $1000.

Update: I saved the $100 I had hoped for, and also got paid for a couple of my freelance articles, so I squirreled that money away too!

Next Little Steps Goal: Save $100 in March and $100 in April.


Reading

Overall Goal: Read more books I own.

Update: I did finish two books I already owned as part of Chantel's Read Your Bookshelf Challenge.  The two I finished were And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie and Ember Falls by S. D. Smith (part of the Green Ember series, so I'm sort of counting it for the read-a-book-with-a-color-in-the-title challenge).  I enjoyed them both, and enjoyed crossing them off my list!  I have also decided that for this goal area, I'd specifically like to focus on reading the physical and audio books I own.  I have a bunch of ebooks I haven't read, but I would like to focus on physical books to clear space on my bookshelf, and audiobooks are a no-brainer since I listen to them while I'm doing chores.

Next Little Steps Goal: Read at least one book from my physical shelf (I'm thinking The Lake House by Kate Morton, so I can cross off the March prompt in the Read Your Bookshelf Challenge), and one audiobook (I'm thinking The Accidental President by A. J. Baime). I also have to read Adopted For Life: The Priority Of Adoption For Christian Families And Churches by Russel Moore, because the challenge prompt for April is "the book that has been on your unread shelf the longest".




So here is the full list for March and April!


-Memorize Hebrews 6
-Make a specific prayer list for each family member
-Read Happiness Is A Serious Problem by Dennis Prager
-Make a gratitude list for each family member
-Write a letter
-Have my sister over for poetry tea time
-Plan the boys' birthday party
-Save $100 in March
-Save $100 in April
-Read one physical book from my unread shelf
-Read one audiobook from my unread shelf
-Read Adopted For Life by Russel Moore

How are your 2020 goals going so far?  

My Favorite Books From Last Year



Is it too late to write a post about my favorite books in 2019?

I have been slacking quite a bit on recording the books that I'm reading, ever since...well, our vacation, which was in August.  I met my goal of 52 books for 2019, but I didn't record many of them on Goodreads.  But I wanted to at least share a few of the books that stood out to me on here!



Non Fiction

I read a lot of non-fiction books that I really liked, so it was hard to leave some of them out.  These were the ones that stood out - I especially read some great Christian non-fiction, so if you are looking for some Christian encouragement-type books, read on!

Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham

I bought this book when Voddie Baucham visited our local homeschool conference a few years ago, and I finally finished it.  Wow, if you want to be challenged in your parenting and in training your kids up to know the Lord, this is one you should pick up!  I was convicted to re-think a lot about my parenting and refocus on what is really important because of this book.  In fact, it's probably time I read it again.

Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges

This book is about the smaller sins that aren't mentioned much in Christian circles - we brush over these sins in ourselves and others, we tolerate them.  Bridges challenges us in this book to root those sins out of our lives.  This book is soundly rooted in the Gospel, and I found it not just convicting but very uplifting as well.  I highly recommend it!

None Like Him by Jen Wilkins

I feel like I've mentioned this book a million times between my blog and Instagram, but it was really good.  Wilkins looks at ten attributes of God, but these are not attributes that we can reflect (such as love, grace, etc), but attributes that belong to Him alone.  I found this book insightful and inspiring, and it was biblically sound and very readable.  It's a great book to start with if you are just beginning to dip your toes into theology.  Even though I was somewhat familiar with alot of the attributes she discusses, there were terms I learned and specific points that made me think more deeply about the ways that God is set apart from us.

Devoted: Great Men And Their Godly Moms by Tim Challies

If you've ever wondered if the little things you do for your kids are making a difference, pick up this book!  It's short and sweet, and would be perfect for Mother's Day.  I found it both convicting as I read about different godly moms through history and how they impacted their sons, and encouraging because of the little things they did that made such a big difference.  Highly recommend.

What Wondrous Love Is This by Joni Eareckson Tada

This is a book about hymns, and I used it as an addition to my morning Bible time.  Each chapter covers a different hymn, it's history, the theological breakdown, and it's personal impact on the authors.  I didn't even know half of the hymns in this book, but I would read a chapter and then look up the hymn on Spotify, and it was such an uplifting addition to my morning routine.  I'd recommend it if you also love hymns and are up for learning some new ones!

You Who? Why You Matter And How To Deal With It by Rachel Jankovic

I liked Jankovic's Loving The Little Years, which I read years ago, and finally remembered her as an author this year when I saw this book.  She discusses the "self help" culture, and why it is not the way we should approach life as Christians.  I think I need to read this book again, because I flew through it so fast the first time.  I read it during a discouraging period, and it was exactly what I needed to break me out of my doldrums, but I can't remember everything about it.  I inhaled it the first time, and I'd like to read it more thoughtfully a second time.  But anyway, it was good.

Them: Why We Hate Each Other And How To Heal by Ben Sasse

This book was timely for the current political climate, and the epidemic of loneliness in our culture.  We are more connected than ever, via the internet, but less rooted and less likely to actually know the names of our neighbors.  Sasse discusses why this is, what's really dividing us as Americans, and little ways that we can start to fix it.  I thought his view of why our culture is changing in our level of connection to one another was interesting, and in the end I was so encouraged by this book.  Though Sasse is a Republican senator, the information in this book and the points he makes are bipartisan, so I'd recommend it no matter your political leanings.

Chasing New Horizons by Alan Stern and David Grinspoon

I started several space books last year after our visit to NASA, and I'm still working through most of my space books, but I shot through this book on audio!  It gives the history of Pluto, and how we finally sent a spacecraft to that distant planet.  What I found really interesting about this book was how involved it is to fund and plan an unmanned space mission, and all the logistics of sending a spacecraft to such a distant planet (even going as fast as 52,000 mph at times, and traveling almost a million miles per day, it still took 9.5 years for it to arrive at Pluto!).  I listened to it on audio, and I'd recommend reading it that way, I think it could be a little dry if read in print.  But it was a fascinating book to me.

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

This book was so timely, since I read it after I decided to go on a Facebook break in December.  It challenged me to think more carefully about social media and how I wanted to be using it.  Highly recommend this book if you struggle, like I do, to put down your phone!



Fiction

As I was looking over my list, I did not have as good of luck with fiction books last year.  I'm going to list the books I really liked first, and then do some "honorable mentions".

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I have to be honest, I didn't think I was going to enjoy this book.  I have seen the movie before and the characters weren't exactly likable, and there was alot of debauchery, cheating, etc.  But what made this book worthwhile for me was reading while also listening to the Close Reads discussion of The Great Gatsby.  Because of reading the book while listening to that podcast, I noticed so many things that I wouldn't have otherwise, and I realized the message of the book is completely different than what I originally thought it was.  I ended up really liking it!  You can bet that if I ever have my kids read this for school, it will be assigned WITH the podcast.  Here are the links to the episodes if you're interested:

Chapters 1-3
Chapters 4-5
Chapters 6-7
Last Chapters


1984 by George Orwell

Does anyone really like 1984?  I'm not sure that's quite the right word, but I did get alot out of this book.  Some of it was creepily similar to aspects of our political environment today.  It's not like any book I would normally enjoy (more sexual aspects of the plot than I expected, and the ending was NOT uplifting), but I have to include it here because I think every adult should read it.  Very interesting.

The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery

The first book I've read by Montgomery that wasn't an Anne book, and I loved every second of it.  It was completely delightful.  I especially liked the nature writing and the ending.  This book didn't feel anything like Anne Of Green Gables to me, but the writing was the same ol' Montgomery-style that I loved from the Anne series.

Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt

I love every Schmidt book I've read, and this is no exception.  A boy opens the door one day, and finds out his family has "inherited" a butler from his grandfather.  The butler starts putting the family in order and teaching Carter about cricket.  Really fun and delightful while also wrestling with some deeper subjects.  If you haven't read Gary D. Schmidt, you just should.  I usually recommend The Wednesday Wars first, but I loved this book because it had the same feel.



Honorable Mentions

A couple more books I read and enjoyed alot...

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

All the "book celebrities" (ie. Anne Bogel and booktubers) mention this book all the time, and I finally read it.  It didn't completely blow me away, but I did thoroughly enjoy it.  It's a post-apocalyptic book, but it imagines how art might survive in a post-apocalyptic world through following a traveling orchestra.  I think I enjoyed it even more because I've never quite read another book like this, so it was something new.

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

I listened to this book, and I'd recommend it in that format, because I think it would get slow in print (and also, the narrator was very good).  Whoever recommended this book to me said I should go into it without reading the synopsis, and I'm glad I did.  But let's just say if you are into time travel plots, you might like this one.  It's more character-driven than plot-driven.  Even though it's a slower-paced book, I still really enjoyed it.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Horror books aren't really my speed, but this one is a classic, and I'm glad I read it.  I understand vampire references in pop culture so much better now.  That Gilligan's Island episode where Gilligan is bitten by a bat?  Makes so much more sense.



There we go, my favorite books from 2019!

What did you all read last year?  Any stand-outs?






Long Before Luther - A Review


Affiliate link below.

This book, Long Before Luther: Tracing The Heart Of The Gospel From Christ To The Reformation by Nathan Busenitz, caught my eye late last year.  I had recently heard someone claiming that the Reformers basically "made up" a new doctrine when they formally established the doctrines of "by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone" as the means by which we are saved.  The claim was that no one before in church history had viewed salvation the way the Reformers did - that Luther, Calvin, and others were unsupported by previous church history and theologians.  I didn't believe that, but I am not completely familiar with church history either, so I wasn't sure what to think about that claim.  When I saw this book, I snagged it.

This book is pretty scholarly, but it has to be to address some of the specific charges of Reformation theology being unsupported previously.  The author does a great job of breaking down Reformation theology into three specific points - the forensics nature of justification, a distinction between justification and sanctification, and the imputed righteousness of Christ.  Each area is explained in a clear and accessible way, and then the author goes about showing that there are evidences of theologians before Luther who held views in line with these doctrines.

I really loved that the author starts with showing where Scripture itself is in support of each of these doctrines.  The Bible is our ultimate authority, and I love that the author clearly laid out how Scripture presents these issues of justification, sanctification, and salvation.  After firmly grounding us in Scripture, the author then presented his evidence from pre-Luther history, showing how many theologians held similar views to the Reformers in each of these areas.

I thought the author's presentation was thorough and convincing, while also being honest and fair in explaining the ways some of these theologians differed from the Reformers.  But my favorite section of the book was the Appendix, where the author includes 100 quotes from pre-Reformation theologians and church fathers that support the idea of being saved by grace, through faith in Christ, apart from any works.  The book itself thoroughly explains how these theologians viewed each of the specific Reformation doctrines the author was investigating, but the Appendix compiles all the evidence in one place, and it's really compelling.

After reading this book, I feel confident that the next time I hear someone claim that the Reformers were making up new doctrines, I will know there are specific church fathers and theologians that we can look at to prove otherwise.  Excellent book if you have ever wondered where the true Gospel was before Luther.

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

What I Hope To Accomplish In 2020



Over the past week I've been seriously thinking over how I want to handle goals in 2020, and I think I need a way to more frequently check in with myself on my goals.

Last year I made very specific, measurable goals that I wanted to accomplish by the end of 2019.  Specific and measurable is good, right?  Except that I was thinking too far in advance, and my goals, though measurable, were still too big.  My end goals became a little overwhelming to me, and when they started to seem unattainable, I just gave up.

This year I decided to make overarching goals for the year, but I'm going to try to make "little step" goals for each month (or two) that will move toward those overarching goals.  Does that make sense?  I'm hoping to write a post each month about how I did and share it on the blog for some accountability as well - if I write about it, I'm more likely to feel like I can't give up on it!



I decided on four categories this year, spiritual, marriage and motherhood, social, and financial.  I did not include health and blog categories as I did last year, mainly for simplicity's sake.  It's easier to focus more intently on less categories.  I also feel like I don't do too shabby at keeping up on this blog and my health anyway, so I'm skipping making goals in those areas for this year.


Spiritual

Overall Goals: Memorize Hebrews, and spend more time in prayer each day.

Little Steps:  Memorize Hebrews chapter 5, and start a prayer page in my journal.

There isn't much to explain here.  If I want to actually memorize Hebrews this year, I need to just buckle down and do it.  Last year I spent alot of time reviewing and solidifying verses, but this year I want to focus on the initial effort of getting them into my head.  I may not know them as well as I'd like, but once they are in there tentatively, it's easier to solidify them later.

I also have a Bible study bullet journal, which I use only irregularly when something stands out to me in my quiet time. I'd like to make it a more useful tool for my prayer time.  So over the next month I need to figure out a way to set it up to track the things I want to pray for.

Marriage And Motherhood

Overall Goals:  Be a happier and more thankful wife and mother.

Little Step:  Start the day with hugging each kid, and greet Derek immediately with a hug when he gets home.  

This goal makes me sound a little pathetic, but between getting the kids up and dressed, making beds, doing my own hair and makeup, making breakfast, getting started on school...sometimes I forget to take a minute to look into each of their sweet faces, and give them a hug and "good morning" before all the craziness starts.  I'd like to change that.  For Derek, he usually gets home right about the time when my nerves are frayed from all the chaos of the day.  I don't always greet him properly either, so that needs to change as well.


Social

Overall Goals:  Spend less time on social media, and spend more time investing in and encouraging my real-life friends (including family).

Little Steps:  Clean out my friend list on Facebook, and send some snail mail.

I'm cheating a little with this one, because I actually already cleaned out my Facebook friends list, and I am hoping to write more about that process next week.  Stay tuned for that!  My other goal is to send out some good old-fashioned snail mail.  I used to be pretty good at letter-writing, but I probably only send out one letter a year now.  I'd like to write at least one longer letter to one of my dear long-distance friends, and at least one short note of encouragement to someone.  I think it's a pity how much snail mail has declined, because I know the joy of receiving something in the mail that isn't an advertisement or a bill.


Financial

Overall Goals: Save $1000.

Little Steps:  Save $100 in February.

That's fairly straightforward, isn't it?  I have a secret project in the works that I need some money to accomplish, so I need to really buckle down and save a little more successfully this year.  Last year I saved only about half my goal, so if I can catch myself up to where I originally wanted to be at the end of 2020, so much the better!

Reading

Overall Goal: Read more books that I own but haven't read.

Little Steps: Participate in the Read Your Bookshelf project!

This one is more just for fun, but I also do have a ridiculous amount of books which I haven't read.  Chantel at An Intentional Life created this fun themed challenge to get us reading our unread books, and I'm going to try to participate each month!  In January I have to read a book with a color in its title (I'm gong to read "The White Cottage Mystery" or "Greenglass House"), and February is supposed to be a book that is also a movie (I want to read "The Princess Bride"!).



There we go!  My goals for 2020, and my little steps for the month of February.  I'm giving myself the extra two weeks in January as freebies, to help me get into the swing of things.  The plan is to check in with myself at the end of February and report how I'm doing on the blog (you guys are basically my accountability group, ha!).

What is your main goal for 2020?

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