Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Different Set of Scripture for the Season

At Christmas time, we tend to focus on the traditional verses about the birth of Jesus. During this special season of Advent it seems we return to those same verses again and again. Prompted by a sermon I heard over the weekend, I opened my Bible to 1 Peter 1 this morning. It seemed like a good place to begin the day with the Lord. As I read over the familiar words, I felt like they were just what I needed for this time of year. I thought perhaps some of you might need them today too. I've enhanced the words that spoke to me the most in this season.

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace be multiplied.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.
10 Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, 11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.
13 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, 24 because
“All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.
Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.

"In this you greatly rejoice, though for a little while now, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials..."
Haven't we all been in those seasons? It feels very much like my family has been grieved by various little trials all throughout 2016 but especially in the last few weeks. Most of them are minor annoyances but all piled together I have had moments of despair and hopelessness. I never stay in that place long though because my faith does find me praising, honoring, and glorifying Jesus Christ who brings us so many blessings each day. 
If you find yourself in a season of hopelessness, in a time of despair, turn to the Word of God. Rekindle your faith. Look around for your blessings. Don't dwell in the dark places but rejoice in the light of our Savior and the beautiful message of His birth. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Gained and Lost

This was a post from 2010:

What has been lost & gained in 2010.....

I know it isn't over yet, but the the end of the year is quickly approaching! This post has been on my mind for the last few days. I'm going to try to get my rambled thoughts into a coherent post.

2010 has been an interesting year for our family. It feels as though it has gone by so, so quickly but yet as I think back to January, February, March they feels as though they were long ago.

We have already lost 2 families from our church congregation (soon to be 3) to the missions field this year. Oh how I miss them! As we prepare for the third family depart, I feel the longing for the others more acutely than I have in the last couple of months. Will you pray for all our missionary friends? The R family to Norway, the N family to Saipan, and soon the S family to Uganda. To be honest my husband and I have just really began to understand international missions in the last 3 years. Prior to that I always thought there was more than enough missions work in our own country that needed to be done. Why go so far as Africa or Norway? Why send so much money to other nations when so many in our own nation are struggling? Our country does need more missionaries, more people to stand up and say "I believe in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for me. I'm going to live, and speak, and behave so that everyone knows about Him." Many in our nation are struggling financially and could have much to gain from assistance. But oh, the Lord has changed our hearts. He has gently reminded us over and over of Matthew 28:19-20 "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." Meeting so many missionaries from all over the world, watching friends heed God's call to other nations, and my hubby going on his first international missions trip has forever changed our hearts. So if you feel the way that I use to feel, I urge you to read deeper into God's word and to seek out blogs and articles on the things happening all over the world in the name of Christ.

We have lost loved ones. Dear friends lost their infant early in the year. We have seen again that the loss of a child bears so much pain. God reminded us in Matthew 5:4 "4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." I was so grateful for that reminder because later in the year, my grandma passed away. Still feeling the pain of loss from my father's passing, I wasn't ready to let go of someone else so near and dear to me. I feel though that I have gained understanding of the importance of God's timing and that His plans are so much better than mine could ever be. This was also a difficult time for Apple as she and Grandma had a close relationship. I feel like even though she is still sad and feels the loss, it has been a wonderful opportunity to show her a deeper understanding of Heaven.

On a personal note, I have lost 30 lbs this year and 3 pants sizes. Woohoo! I have gained a love for Zumba. I need to lose more weight and I hope to do so in 2011. I think this has helped me to see that it is perfectly acceptable to spend a little time and thought on myself and my health. It is so easy for me to engross every minute into my children and my husband. I know now that spending some time exercising is a great stress reliever and will help insure that my health will not one day prevent me from enjoying time with them. In all of that I have also seen this year how quickly just about anything worldly can become an obsession, eating, exercising, blogging, facebooking, television, reading. There are so many snares available to keep us from God. I hope in 2011 to be even more diligent about my priorities and just making certain that all things are done in moderation.

We have in a sense "lost" friends and family members to divorce this year. An alarming number really. We have seen many separations and rifts in marriages too. Satan loves to attack the family. He loves to bombard marriages. Please pray for yours and mine! It is so very easy to become selfish in marriage. It is so easy to start a line of thinking of "I deserve......" This was one of my statuses on FB earlier in the year "Do you work as hard at your marriage as you do your job? Do you treasure your marriage as much as your hobbies? Do you fight for it like you fight for your friendships? Do you pray for your marriage like you pray for your material desires? Do you love your spouse like Christ loves the church?" And these were the verses that played over and over again throughout the year Col 3:18-21 "Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged." Does Christ expect us to stay married? Absolutely!!! Does He expect us to be bitter and unhappy? No. BUT we are to live our lives in service to Him. Not for our own pleasure. Part of our service to Him is following scripture which clearly includes do not divorce. It is gut wrenching to see the father of 3 walk out because "he is unhappy." It is painful to watch him chose another woman and her child over his wife and children. It is heartbreaking to see a husband and wife chose hobbies, friends, and work over their spouses. It is terrible to see a wife chose revealing clothing and flirtation over her husband. Guard your marriage as you would a treasure. Choose to love your spouse everyday.

I have lost friendships over silly things, nothing at all, and some over reasons unknown to me. I try very hard to be a good friend. I try to be someone that is trustworthy, helpful, and a joy to be around. I try to give in every relationship expecting little in return. Sometimes however this just doesn't work. I have found this year that sometimes things just aren't going to jive. Do I expect everyone to be my best friend? Obviously not but I do treasure friendships. Growing up in the environment that I did, friendships were vital to my survival. As a teenager I could truly depend on my friends more than my own family in many situations. I, as most women, really value friendships. Other women that I can talk to, confide in, and bounce ideas off of, are really a blessing to me. Our choice as a family to walk out our journey with Christ has cost us some friendships. Our choices about homeschooling, traditions, and lifestyle have cost us some friendships. My specific choices in a few instances to choose my husband and children over friends have cost me. I will not apologize for those things. I will say that I am saddened by those losses. I carefully chose those that I draw closest to me (as I belive everyone should) and so friendships that have spanned 20 yrs, 10 yrs, and 3 yrs are big losses. I continue to pray that feelings will be restored and that healing will happen in all of those friendships. God has shown me that community and friendships are so important to our spiritual maturity. He has shown me what a blessing real true friends can be. Pray for your friendships, that they be strengthened by a love for Him!

I have gained a love for homeschooling, a new found respect for law enforcement, a host of new friends, a Panera Bread in my hometown (one of my favorites), and a renewed sense of awe for our Savior.

What have you gained or lost this year?

It's amazing how many of these words are just as fresh and valid as they were 6 years ago. So many of the things are the same. Loss of loved ones, loss of friendships, and loss of marriages around us. When I reflect on these things, it seems like we can never do enough. We must be in prayer and conversation with those we care about. We must be about the Lord's business sharing His word with those around us. Of course to share His word, we must be in His word memorizing it and studying it daily. 

I'm still praying over my Word of the Year for 2017. I've looked back over previous years, and I've been thinking ahead to the things I'd like to accomplish in 2017. I think one reason it is taking me longer to find my word is because I want to make sure the end result will be pleasing to the Lord and not just to myself. While I always pray about the choices and my goals, I want to make certain this year that it will bring glory to God in some way. 

Have you chosen your word of the year yet? 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Hospitality Update

November is a fun hospitality update! We hosted 42 people in our home for a Thanksgiving feast. This is our second annual dual family celebration at our home. My Hubby's family came from out of state, my family came from all around the region, and even a few friends joined us. We had sososo much food. It was amazing and wonderful. I snapped one pic of a couple of the kids with the first plates of food, and then I decided I didn't want to spend the whole time tied to my phone. I put my phone away and really enjoyed chatting with each person that was here. I hopped from table to table and place to place to make sure everyone had everything they needed and to make sure to speak with each person even if it was only for a few minutes.

One reason we picked our house was because of the large amount of living space. It's perfect for large gatherings. I enjoyed this year so much. Although a lot of work goes into the cooking and cleaning, my mom lends a hand and really helps pull it altogether. Hubby also did a lot of work to get things together including frying 2 turkeys. Speedy made brownies for the meal, and Apple made wassail. She was also around all that morning to assist when needed.

The planning pages I created really helped. We did a little shopping at a time over a span of a few weeks. I also was able to write my yearly notes on the same pages and tuck them away into my family planning notebook for next year. I always keep up with all the folks that attended and all the food we had. Years and years ago we started that tradition at my mom's, and we've continued it here. It's fun to look back and remember the Thanksgivings past.

Did you host a Thanksgiving feast? Did you try anything new this year? We added corn casserole to our menu. It was well received and will replace traditional corn next year.

Our Favorites from 2016

The Homeschool Review Crew has wrapped up its 2016 run and they have announced the Blue Ribbon Award winners for the season. Many of our favorites made the winner's list.

We reviewed products that won in all 21 of these categories:

Favorite Reading Curriculum – Logic of English
Favorite Writing Curriculum –  Here to Help Learning
Favorite Vocabulary Program –  The Critical Thinking Co.
Favorite Spelling Program –  Talking Fingers: Read, Write and Type
Favorite Penmanship Program –  Homeschool Copywork
Favorite Literature Curriculum –  Institute for Excellence in Writing: Poetry
Favorite Literature Resource –  Heirloom Audio
Favorite Science Curriculum –  Apologia: Astronomy
Favorite Fine Arts Product/Curriculum –  ArtAchieve
Favorite Elementary Product –  Veritas Press
Favorite Middle School Product –  Apologia: Writers in Residence
Best E-Product –  Grapevine Studies
Favorite Book, Novel, Audio Book, or Audio Drama –  Heirloom Audio
Just for Fun! –  FlipStir
Favorite Science Supplement –  NotebookingPages.com
Favorite Math Supplement –  Trigger Memory System
Favorite Christian Education Product –  Chara Games
Favorite College or College-Prep Product –  Everyday Education
Best Resource I Didn’t Know I Needed –  ForBrain
Kids’ Choice (Ages 0-12) –  KidsEmail.org
Teens’ Choice –  101 Series
All Around Crew Favorite –  CrossTimber

Favorite Grammar Program –  The Critical Thinking Co.
Favorite History Supplement –  Carole P. Roman
Favorite Math Curriculum –  CTC Math
Favorite Christian Education Curriculum –  Veritas Press
Favorite Foreign Language Curriculum –  Middlebury Interactive Languages
Favorite Preschool Product –  The Pencil Grip
Best Online Resource –  Veritas Press

We didn't review the particular products that won in each of these categories:

Favorite History Curriculum –  Home School in the Woods
Favorite Elective Curriculum –  Stop Motion Explosion
Favorite High School Product –  101 Series
Favorite Parent Product –  MyFreezEasy

We have purchased the Times Tales DVD from Trigger Memory System recently. I wanted to help both kids solidify their multiplication tables. We've just gotten started with it, but we are impressed so far. I ended up being really jealous of the MyFreezEasy reviews. Everyone seemed to love the meal plans! I've been pricing the different plans and hope to purchase one after the first of the year. 

Many of our favorites made the list, but we had some items we particularly loved that weren't recognized. 

Science Shepherd Introductory Science- Speedy LOVES this Science program. He knows he is getting close to the end so he keeps telling me they have other programs. He doesn't want it to be over. He enjoys the format of the online videos with the workbook. The questions are just at the right level for him, and he is excelling in this subject. The Creation based Science is just what we look for in a science curriculum.

Heirloom Audio The Dragon and the Raven, Beric the Briton, and The Cat of Bubastes- While Heirloom Audio received 2 awards, we reviewed 3 separate audio dramas from them this year, and they were all amazing. They needed an extra mention because everything they produce is wonderful.

Everyday Education Perfect Reading & Beautiful Handwriting- Everyday Education received an award but not for this product. I've raved about this Italics curriculum, and I will continue to do so. It's been perfect for Speedy.

We received so many amazing products for review this year. I could take all day and list them all and tell you something great about each one of them! These were the ones that stood out to us the most and made it into our regular school days. Be sure to check out everyone else's favorite picks!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Seeking Our Place

I have briefly mentioned a time or two that we are searching for a new church home. We have been visiting congregations closer to home. We are looking for a place to worship and to serve the Lord. Not to serve in any official capacity but we always jump in and get involved with our congregation. I've had a few observations as we've visited churches these last couple of months. We have gone to a variety of denominations so I'm not pointing fingers at anyone in particular.

First a positive. We live in a small town. We came from a larger city. We had a time of church visiting in that city so it's kind of neat to compare. Here almost every single congregation has been overwhelming welcoming. People are just kind. They are happy to have visitors. It's a small place so they really seem to want to get to know families that come in for a visit. Out of a bunch of churches I can't think of any that we left feeling ignored or unwelcome. Most churches have had some familiar faces and a couple of times we've only spoken to people we already knew. However in just about all the churches we have been greeted by strangers and left feeling like we made new friends. I've been really impressed with the people of the body of Christ. I hope everyone that everyone who steps in those churches leaves with a smile like we did. Whether you are in a huge city or a little town like ours, I hope your congregation seeks to be friendly. A smile, a handshake, and a little chitchat can go a long way with someone who has stepped out of their comfort zone to walk into a church.

Now this one is truly an observation. It's something I had only noticed one time at one church years ago. Many new churches now have small sanctuaries but huge activity rooms. Some have more square footage for classrooms and fellowship halls than they do for the actual sanctuary. It seems so backwards to me! My thoughts are all over the place on this point. I know so many churches do activities to draw in people. (I'll get back to a similar path later on.) I think it is important to have children's and youth areas in a church. Those would be well used places. I also think it is wonderful for a church to have room to do Wednesday night and occasional Sunday meals. Fellowship time is of utmost importance in a congregation. However in a few of these newer buildings, I felt packed in like a sardine for service! I'll be the first to say it can be hard to focus on worship if the sanctuary is too small. Now if a church has grown and exceeded its space then that's a totally different scenario. Some of these are brand new, just built buildings though. Is this a common trend in other areas?

Touching on activities again, almost every church we've visited has been having a special Sunday. Maybe our rotation is just off and this is a happenstance. It has left me wondering if churches need to make every Sunday a special Sunday. Isn't it enough to have a special time each week to worship the Lord? It's almost become a joke before we walk into a new church. I wonder if they'll be having a potluck today? I wonder if the regular preacher will be speaking or if it will be a guest? I wonder if its missions/ special holiday/ youth/ college/ whatever Sunday here today? This one is a little tongue in cheek because I also know it probably doesn't seem that way looking over a church's schedule as a regular attending member.

Now for a serious note. Many churches are in a time of crisis. Many are seeking new pastors. Some are seeking support staff. Some have abandoned the Word of God for the word of the world. A few have seriously let go of worship and have become a fun place to go and see friends. There is a decline in Sunday School classes. There is a decline in kids staying in church service and instead they go and do fun activities that have little to do with the Lord. There are churches closing their doors every day. Let's be in prayer for the church. Not any particular congregation or denomination but for God's people in general. If you are in a church, I hope your church is focusing heavily on the Bible. Not on devotionals or study guides or books but on THE BOOK.

We've been involved in some amazing congregations in the past. I'm looking forward to settling into the one God has for us here. I'd appreciate your prayers as we continue to visit! Since it's a small community, we'll be starting to do a round two for some soon. Have you ever found yourself looking for a new church home? Did you have any funny or curious observations?

Monday, November 14, 2016

Fun Gift for Grandpas #ChristmasIdeas

Many times the hardest people on my Christmas list are the grandpas! It seems like grandfathers never really "need" anything, but of course we want to bless them with something fun for Christmas too. I usually end up getting pretty creative (for me) for their gifts. They also tend to all get very similar gifts! Last year we picked up some really nice memory foam pillows during a Black Friday sale. Every grandpa got one! Then I purchased some inexpensive white pillowcases. I let the kids go to town on the pillow cases with permanent markers. They made a unique design for each pillowcase. At Christmas all the grandpas were so happy with their new pillows and personalized pillow cases!

I'm looking for new gift ideas for this Christmas! Do you have anything unique you've gifted the grandpas in your family?

Monday, November 7, 2016

Changing it Up

I posted awhile ago about priorities. I've really been concentrating and praying over my priorities and how to work those out in real life. We've had some challenges over the last few months (really when do we NOT have challenges?), and I've wanted to chuck all the responsible thinking and just roll with the flow. I'm not really a roll with the flow type person, but it always sounds intriguing!

Two years ago I joined the Crew to give our homeschool some variety. I wanted to try new things and so did the kids. At the time, I also entertained the idea of making this blog more lucrative. We have loved our time with the Crew. The members are amazing, wonderful ladies who are full of wisdom. The various products we have received have been huge blessings. Our kids have enjoyed trying new languages, new literature, and even new math. This year the Crew products became the backbone of our homeschool time. I've spent very little money on any homeschool materials this year because we've had a plethora at our disposal. The Crew is an amazing thing, and we have loved it. After much prayer (and a little heartache), I've decided not to join the Crew for the 2017 run.

The blog is going to slow down, but I do hope to keep it active in some ways. I want my life, my hours, and my minutes to reflect my priorities. Blogging started as a fun venture that became a way to earn some free products that has never really made much money that became a time drain. Blogging is an amazing outlet, and it can surely become a lucrative business. For this season in our life, I need to dial it back a bit.

So stick around! To keep up with all the amazing Crew reviews that I know are coming in 2017, follow some of my lovely friends from the 2016 Crew.

Just for fun, in 2016 I have completed over 100 product reviews (not all here on the blog). I've amped up my graphics skills. I participated in a weekly ABC Blogging challenge (began in 2015). I improved my blog organizational skills by keeping printables in a binder. I lost a large portion of a very important review and had to rush to fix it in tears. I felt like I found a groove to writing and prescheduling posts. All of my followers stats went up. I spent many hours on the computer doing all of these things. Thus my need for a little break. :)

I hope you'll stick around...because our chaos never ends!