Fall Planning: Carve out time to live your true calling.

Whenever I talk to younger moms, the same question always comes up in one form or another: How am I supposed to get everything done?!

If you’ve had kids for more than two minutes, you know that, despite our best efforts, unpredictability and busy-ness is the name of the game. And the more kids you have, the busier you are.  P.S. Nobody ever told me that the teen/college years were going to be the busiest of my life! (Someone should write about that! Really, now.)

If you’ve read here for any length of time you know that I can commiserate with the crazy-busy life. With a large family, my plate is full.

And full is good, but an over-flowing plate is not so good. Overflowing plates look a lot like forgetting appointments, unplanned dinners, haphazard ministry, and a disorganized home.

So, my advice to the younger moms and the advice I give to myself is this: plan and prioritize to avoid frustration and save your sanity. Then start with the needful things.

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Sally Clarkson, in Own Your Life, says,

“From the moment we take our first breaths, our days are numbered, so how we live matters. The decisions we make—the important ones and, yes, the mundane ones too—they all matter. Everyday decisions add up to form the life we live and the legacy we leave behind.” Own Your Life

I sit down every fall with my priorities sheet and pray over and eliminate any area that is wearing me down or where I’ve over extended myself.

“Someone has said that if you do not plan your life, someone else will. How true! Every woman should try to manage her own life and priorities with the help of the Lord. If you do not, more organized people will eagerly help fill your day and try to control your destiny.” The Christian Homemaker’s Handbook, pg. 269

The negative results of unmanaged, haphazard lives are:

  • “Unmanaged lives reveal personal weaknesses.”
  • “Unmanaged lives are influenced by dominant people.”
  • “Unmanaged lives surrender to the demands of all emergencies.”
  • “Unmanaged lives get involved in activities that gain public acclaim and are not necessarily important. ” CHH, pg 270

 

In The Life Ready Woman,Thriving in a Do-It-All World,  the authors give “Life Long Decision-Making Principles” that I found very helpful:

  1. There is a time for everything.
  2. Your core callings never go away.
  3. A choice for one thing is a choice against another.
  4. Make choices appropriate to your season.

This is such practical advice!

I don’t want to live with regrets, so I re-evaluate my season of life, pencil in the “non-negotiables”, those things that only I can do for my immediate family, then I add the things I’m called to do and passionate about, whether it’s ministry of some sort, hospitality, blogging, or encouraging women one-on-one, then add any extras that I might hold loosely, like local events, classes I’m interested in, or sites I’d like to visit.

In Teaching from Rest, Sarah MacKenzie wisely warns us to simplify our schedule:

“If God expected you to get thirty-six hours’ worth of work done in a day, He would have given you thirty-six hours to do it. If you have more to do than time to do it, the simple fact is this: Some of what you are doing isn’t on His agenda for you.”

“Take a hard look at the 168 hours in your week. Now consider nonnegotiables: sleep, eat, shower, pray. Plug in meal preparation, rest and church on Sunday, and enough wind-down time at the end of each day to ensure a good night’s sleep. See what’s left? You don’t get any more than that, sister.” pg 38,39 Teaching From Rest

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So, as you plan your fall, remember that you want to embrace His agenda for you. If you are married, are you scheduling time to love and befriend your husband as a priority? Do you have margin in your life to assist him if he needs it?  Make his life special?

If you are a SAHM, be all there. Be an overachiever in your own home. Don’t shortchange your immediate family by buying into the lie that anything and everything outside the home matters more than what you are doing inside your four walls. Rock those babies. You are the only one who can. Comfort your children. Don’t despise work that is unseen. Be content living a life that looks different than others if God has called you to stay home. Plan to use your home to minister to others. Invite others in. Meet one on one for Bible study or encouragement with a younger mom. Use your home for gospel ministry.

Older moms who are running teens here, there, and everywhere, or who are trying to stay connected to married children, don’t forget that little things are still big to kids of every age. Show interest. Schedule time to write a letter or make that phone call. Plan one-on-one time with your teen because this is the time they need it most. Be as connected as they want to be. Show them you have all the time in the world for them.

Moms who work outside the home, be a stickler when it comes to adding extracurricular commitments. You can’t do it all and thrive. Decide which activities feed your soul and which are adding frustration. I recently read that it’s more important for a child to learn to cook than to learn soccer. I think there’s some wisdom to that somewhere. 😉

As you plan, pray that God’s kingdom would come to fruition in your little home as you plan your daily tasks. Ask Him for grace to do what’s right, to love what must be done, and for a heart to follow hard after Him as He guides and leads you.

Are you planning for fall? What tools are you using? What do you need to cut (or add!) in order to live the life God has called you to? Feel free to share in the comments.

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Ideas for Every Day Art

Do you feel unqualified to teach your child the arts?

You’re not alone.

Whenever the topic of art comes up in homeschool circles, those who classify themselves as “non-artsy” shrug their shoulders in defeat, assuming they could never teach their kids art. They say things like, “I can barely draw a stick figure.” or “I couldn’t carry a tune if it had a handle attached to it”.

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There’s good news for you in the non-arsty camp. Art is so broad that you are probably already creating art but without thinking much about it.

  • Maybe you aren’t a maestro, but have you ever gathered flowers from around your yard to arrange a centerpiece for your table simply for others to enjoy? Floral design is an art.
  • Do you send handwritten notes with flowing script, sealed with pretty stickers, intended to make the recipient smile? Writing and penmanship are both arts.
  • Do you enjoy kneading bread dough and find it therapeutic and beautiful as you shape loaves for dinner? Baking is a delicious art.

The truth is that a creating art starts with art appreciation. It’s a lifestyle and and an atmosphere which stops to take notice and savor beautiful things. Raising an aspiring artist is easier than you might think but there’s one rule: You have to step out of your comfort zone and try it.

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I wish people viewed art, music, and poetry (and every pursuit of crafting beautiful things) as integral to the whole person, instead of extra-curricular. Art should be considered the webbing on which all other academic disciplines attach themselves. History relates to art because it’s the story of people and people make art. Math, because design is orderly and universal truths are needed to create rhythm and sequence, etc…

Christians often view art as superfluous, like something you can enjoy when your real work is done. Taking time to create art is seen as a “hobby.” I think Protestants have gotten this wrong for so long that it has affected the quality of work produced by Christians when years ago, some of the most influential artist were Christians.  I for one have seen my fill of cheesy “Christian” movies that lacked excellence and were, frankly, poorly made art.

“What is the place of art in the Christian life? Is art- especially the fine arts- simply a way to bring worldliness in through the back door? What about sculpture or drama, music or painting? Do these have any place in the Christian life? Shouldn’t a Christian focus his gaze steadily on “religious things” alone and forget about art and culture?

As evangelical Christians, we have tended to relegate art to the very fringe of life. The rest of human life we feel is more important.

Despite our constant talk about the lordship of Christ, we have narrowed its scope to a very small area of reality. We have misunderstood the concept of the lordship of Christ over the whole man and the whole of the universe and have not taken to us the riches that the Bible gives us for ourselves, for our lives, and for our culture.

The lordship of Christ over the whole of life means that there are no platonic areas in Christianity, no dichotomy or hierarchy between the body and the soul. God made the body as well as the soul, and redemption is for the whole man.” ~Francis Schaeffer

I’m going to share ways we encouraged art in our home. But I’m really excited to share YOUR thoughts below about how you incorporated art inexpensively and consistently into the home. Thank you so much for contributing!!

Ideas for Every Day Art

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Music::

There are so many ways to enjoy music.

  • Pandora, Spotify, and classical radio are free and allow you access to the greatest composers of all time.
  • When children are young, allow them to make their own music. Bells, rhythm sticks, piano, glockenspiel, pots and pans are all ways to let them enter into music making as they listen to the composer.
  • Sing with your children! Teach them folk songs and hymns. Can there be anything sweeter than “Infant Praises” in the ears of God?
  • If you have access to instruments, let your children play them.
  • Attend free concerts in your community.

Ambleside Online has a composer study rotation, which is a painless way to immerse your kids into their work. We would choose one composer a month and mainline on listening to their work during dinner and free time.

Artwork::

  • Start cheap. Crayons, watercolors, washable markers, chalk, pens, pencils, modeling clay, scissors, and good sized paper are all you need to begin with your children.
  • Spend more as you progress. Eventually buy better art supplies as your budget allows. For the serious art student I recommend Windsor Newton Watercolors, Arches watercolor paper, Prismacolor colored pencils, Tombow Dual Brush Markers.
  • As you work, talk about the process. You might point out that the red paint appears purple when you smear it over the blue. Or that the paint gets runny the more water you add. Or find out what happens when you mix blue and orange. Or as you are out and about, ask “How do you think we could paint clouds like those right there?” “What colors would you mix to get that spring green color?”
  • There are YouTube videos galore on painting, drawing, pastels, etc. When our kids were young, we enjoyed the Draw Right Now series, especially books 2 and 5. For older students, look into  Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

Don’t criticize your child’s artwork. Pretty please, just don’t. I once watched as a mother hovered over her 4-year-old as she painted, telling her that she was making “that tree wrong” and it should be “that color” and the child was shutting down, unsure of herself.  Not very “inspiring” conditions for a young artist.

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Consider anything your child shares with you as a gift. Ask questions if you like. But in the moment, criticism is not helpful.

Ambleside Online has a Art Schedule that is similar to the composer schedule. You study one artist per month or term. If you have a color printer, you can print them off and stick them on your fridge. If not, set each artists work as a screen saver so your child gets familiar with the feel/style simply by exposure. Let your child try to “copy” the masterpieces.

Boston has the MFA. Your city might have an art museum as well. Many libraries display the work of local artists, as well.

 

Poetry::

My mother loved poetry and would sometimes read it to us at night. We memorized poetry in school, and learned to love the flow of words and the way the language sounded.

If your poetry skills are shaky, or your reading aloud skills are sub-par, consider listening to poetry online. Less is more. One poem enjoyed for a few days is a delightful way to help them appreciate it.

There are so many beautiful poetry books for children:

A Child’s Garden Of Verses. (This edition is OOP but you can get it used for about $5 and the illustrations are lovely.)

Some poetry is easier than others. If you don’t know where to start, try the work of Christina Rossetti or A.A. Milne.

Many songs are just poetry put to music. Hymns can be sung, then spoken articulately.  Folk songs can be spoken and clapped so they notice meter and rhythm.

Handwriting::

I guess penmanship isn’t taught in school anymore, but in the Beals home, penmanship was practiced. Handwriting has a personality. When you see someone’s handwriting, it says something about them. They were in a hurry when they wrote this. They were relaxed and happy as they penned this. They were all business here.

Sending mail via the USPS may be outdated, but there’s something special about getting a handwritten note in the mail in an impersonal world. There are so many occasions to write. Sending a  get well or a “thinking of you” is a gift to the recipient. I love getting a card from my grandmother with her proper, gorgeous script. Sometimes she affixes stickers to the envelope. Usually there is a recipe tucked in or most recently, a recipe for canning blueberry jam.

When my kids were younger, we used handwriting time to copy verses for older people who were shut in at a nursing home. We’d deliver the verse and hang it on their bulletin board to add some color and cheer to their room.

Rebekah especially loves calligraphy and you can see some of her work here.

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Photography::

The world of digital photography makes practicing this skill inexpensive and non-threatening. Don’t like it? Delete!

Kids can learn the ins and outs of DSLR via YouTube or library book and practice away fairly inexpensively.

Handiwork::

There are so many useful crafts that it’s hard to know where to begin. Basket making, jewelry making, woodworking, needlework, beginning sewing with felt, needle felting, flower arranging, card making, ceramics, pottery, etc. are all areas where creativity can flourish.

Reader Advice::

I asked my readers to share how they’ve encouraged art in their homes. Here are a few responses.

I think that it has to be something that is a part of your everyday life, and not something you perceive as an extra. That can be as simple as: taking your children even when their infants to free outdoor concert, having the radio on at home playing music all different kinds, playing CDs, or MP3s, or DVDs! Anything with music in it. That might mean that the first concert you can only stay 10 minutes or so, that will get better over time. The same is true with drawing or painting, it’s not something you introduce as extra, there are crayons and paper is laying around everywhere and whenever they are bored or need downtime that’s what you do. I think if you don’t perceive the arts of something extra and the children won’t either, it will absolutely be a part of their lives. Give me children can also play percussion instruments and that’s fun to do the kind of family drum circle even when they’re just infants! Pots and pans work doesn’t have to be anything fancy.” Beth MacLeod Largent
“I give my kids beginning piano lessons. Even if you’re not a virtuoso, it’s easy to do the beginner stuff. I highly recommended Alfred’s “Music for Little Mozarts” series. You can move through the lessons faster than a weekly lesson with an outside teacher and save 1+ year’s worth of tutiton. They have a music appreciation aspect to the series as well where you can purchase a cd and book. My kids love it. They dance and learn beginning singing. We also do the art lessons included in our homeschool curriculum. (My Father’s World). I always tell my kids that learning art and music makes their brain stronger and think better.” Charity Harley
 “We have had a dedicated “art room” as long as I can remember, and the kids are free to create during their downtime. We talk about an artist once in a while, and display his/her works on the walls. I play piano and sing for them while they play or do art projects, and they sing along. I introduce them to classic and traditional songs, literature, art, poetry on a regular basis. The library has been a great resource for finding books, music, etc. Youtube videos have served us well. The Virtual Art Instructor has also been an amazing tool for learning visual arts. My kids also are in classical ballet and tap classes. Our education is heavy in the arts because my kids are extremely creative, and their creativity spills over into all other subjects. Their education is much more interesting and though provoking because of the arts.” Andrea Hanson

We started our young kids with just crayons and playdoh to give them a chance to create. And that morphed into preschool art like tearing paper to create collages and using beans or pasta to make things. I also rely on a few resources for project ideas – Before Five in a Row is a preschool curriculum that incorporates art and also Five in a Row for the older ages. Lots of good intros into artistic elements but in a welcoming way. Also a blog I like that gives good step-by-step instruction is Art Projects for Kids (http://artprojectsforkids.org/) – a lot of fun and simple projects using supplies at home. We also do nature studies and use field guides and nature books for ideas on drawing and using watercolors. For music and art appreciation, we check out books from the library about artists and composers (some good picture books are available) and listen to music online (allowing us to study some instruments). None of these have been expensive but have given them a good intro if it’s something they want to continue exploring Oh and we bought an inexpensive keyboard so our kids could take basic piano lessons and they’ve enjoyed it so far, even if it’s not something they are passionate about.” Kim Pina

 “Hubs and I are both musicians, and our oldest (7) is in piano lessons. One inexpensive thing we’ve done to introduce all of them is simply to follow our local orchestra(s) on facebook. There are LOADS of free opportunities sponsored by local businesses and such. My favorite is that we got to be in the audience for a live interview with Itzhak Perlman and to watch him play a solo in a piece with 70 young violinists from the area. Tickets for his performance with the city orchestra the night before were upwards of $140 each. Watching him play with local students was free! Just one or two songs, but still… I’m less “up” on visual arts. We’ve done some crafts, pointed out design in architecture, woodworking in old buildings, etc., but not much else. I’m filling that gap next year, though, with homeschool group art appreciation classes at our local art museum. It’ll be $450 total for all my kids for 10 classes, which I consider to be a good investment. It’s a well-known museum and classes will be grouped by age and taught by actual art educators. I’m pretty excited about it.” Tiffany Dujinski
“Homeschooling has been a great blessing. It has enabled us many opportunities. Here are a few “out of the box” things that I have used to incorporate art into our family…playing the piano for them just after they climbed into bed. They all have taken piano lessons and two of them like to write and play their own pieces.
I also incorporated color and creativity into lunch and dinner preparation. Fruit trays and vegetable trays lend themselves to lots of color and texture.
I also talked about loving others through our presentation of the food. It says that we took the time to prepare for them and it’s healthy!
Playing classical music in the background has given them a love for classical. It is their go to music. I have taught homeschool classes…we made cloth hand puppets (incorporating sewing) and then we developed a puppet skit (incorporating creative writing). I taught a drama class by pulling out some of the parables and then assigning different parts to act out. I have also spent time doing my own art and inviting them to join me and I have shared my art supplies. This is huge! Basically, I have shared what I love with them and they have in turn encouraged me in what I love to do.” Karen Todd
“We always had music playing in our home. Consequently, our older son is an amazing singer and can play any instrument. We used to take trips to Museums, many are free on certain days, and the boys would bring along their sketchbooks and pencils. They would choose a piece and try to copy it. My younger son loves to sketch and draw. We also used to sculpt and paint at home. We made pictures for people and crafts for holidays. My kids appreciated hand made visuals of any kind and still make, draw, and write their own cards. They learned to appreciate the arts because their own creations and talents were so valued.” Amy Engelberger
For our family it started vey locally, art exhibits in our town. To meet & speak with the artists while viewing their work made it more real than textbook study, though that was to come as well. Artists are very generous people willing to encourage even the youngest budding artist.  Sharon Gensmer
 “I think it’s a lot like raising readers – fill your home with books, read to them, and spend time reading yourself. If you fill your home with music or art, do music or art with them, and enjoy it yourself, they’ll likely develop an appreciation for it, too. Music is part of the fabric of our family’s life, so our children’s appreciation has grown naturally. The other arts require more effort on our part, b/c my husband and I have not developed a strong interest in them ourselves. For music, we take them to every free classical concert we can, and we regularly enjoy music from our classical library and WCRB. Our enjoyment of classical radio has actually morphed into a fun game we often play at dinner – when an unfamiliar piece comes on, we first attempt to identify the period it comes from; then we venture guesses on composers from that era based on what we hear (a baroque piece featuring horns, for instance, will typically yield at least one Handel guess). With that simple game, our children are effortlessly learning the periods of classical music, the major composers of each period, the unique “sound” of the composers, and the key pieces an educated person should be familiar with, based on how frequently they are played on the radio (Beethoven Eroica, anyone?). This has been a real treat for us, b/c now we have kids putting on classical music while they eat breakfast! Jenny Noel
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What 20 years of homeschooling has taught me

This summer I find myself re-reading some of the earliest books I ever read on home education. Turning the pages of these old friends makes me nostalgic.  My level of ignorance in the homeschooling department was matched only by my fear of pursing it in those early years.  I hardly knew how to parent, let alone, teach. These book mentors taught me so many principles that were not simply for “education” but for nurturing people.

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In my ignorance, I was looking for the “right way” to teach English or Math, but God redirected me and taught me big picture stuff about reaching hearts before minds. I learned that education is a misnomer without nurture and I had five little image bearers to consider.

Let’s start at the very beginning.

You are educating a person and their personhood is worthy of respect and love. That’s what Susan Schaeffer MacCualey explains in For The Children’s Sake. She gets this truth from one of the core tenants of the Charlotte Mason method: children are born persons.

Children are born persons.

This principle that a child is a person and deserves respect as a fully functioning, capable person permeates the Charlotte Mason method.  Schaeffer explains that in order to truly educate a person, you have to respect them enough to give them excellent information and assume that they can digest, process, and draw their own conclusions based on that relationship with the idea.

So correct information alone is not enough.

Methodology Matters

A perfect curriculum in a toxic environment will “educate” a child as the school of hard knocks will educate surely enough. A stove that burns can educate a child. The facts might be correct but the methodology matters and must be right as well. We’ve all heard or lived the horror stories. Teachers who wield fear or humiliation as a weapon. I’ve seen it too many times to count. “Excellence” on the altar of results and the child’s personhood is sacrificed and spirit crushed.

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If the atmosphere in the home or school is not filled with love and respect, then what exactly are you trying to teach the child? What’s the point?

Take a small child on your knee. Respect him. Do not see him as something to prune, form, or mold. This is an individual who thinks, acts, and feels. He is a separate human being whose strength lies in who he is, not in who he will become. If his choices made now and in the future are to be good ones, this person must understand reality and see the framework of truth. In the shorthand of language, we call this “knowing.” The child is a person who needs to grow in knowledge…

We are told by many in our generation that this small child is cog in a machine, or even that he is a possession like a pet animal. Many adults now “have” a child in the same way they “have” a washing machine or a collie dog.

We must answer: NO. You are holding a person on your knee, and that is wonderful…

Look well at the child on your knee. In whatever condition you find him, look with reverence. We can only love and serve him and be his friend. We cannot own him. He is not ours.

For The Children’s Sake, pg. 13

Trusting the Method

Looking back, I am so thankful I trusted the wisdom of Charlotte Mason and Susan Schaeffer MacCauley. And if you have young children, I’d encourage you to read For the Children’s Sake,  because no matter what type of education you pursue, the atmosphere must be conducive to the child flourishing. Institutions of learning that seek to control, conform, intimidate, bully, or simply don’t allow the freedom of thought apart from answering multiple choice answers is not nurturing a mind that is interested in the world around them. The WHY of education is as important as the WHAT of education.

What this looked like on a daily basis.

Now that my children are all older and I only have two students at home, I’m more convinced than ever that the Charlotte Mason method works beautifully. It’s a natural and nurturing approach to learning. It still requires careful work and rigorous reading, but it’s never shoved down a child’s throat.

Charlotte Mason wanted the child put in contact with the best books. Nothing dumbed down. First hand accounts and living books were a must. After short lessons, the child was to tell back what they learned from the interaction. She called this narration. It was the precursor to written and oral reports. She insisted that children be exposed to music, nature, and art, things that many children in 19th century London were deficient in. (Amazing that art is still seen as an extra in many schools today!) The goal was education as a life.

It gives me such joy to see my adult children pursue many areas of interest.

My oldest daughter (my homeschooling guinea pig, poor thing!) excels in calligraphy, creative homemaking, and practicing hospitality in her home.

Years of music practice (okay, violin practice was OFTEN painful!!), enjoyment, and exposure produced kids who were interested and who enjoy singing, composing, and practicing together on the piano, violin, or whatever instrument they pull out of the closet.

My son and husband landscape our home and make it beautiful for all of us. My younger daughters enjoy writing, decorating, art, nature, photography, etc…

Early Attempts Were Messy

In the early years, like learning to ride a bicycle, our artistic attempts were messy. Violin intonation was off, sketches were unrecognizable, muffins were burnt, tea cups were broken, milk was spilled, tempers flared, and table manners less than exemplary.

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But every shared attempt was accepted, acknowledged, and appreciated as “relationship building.”

(One of my favorite memories is of Matthew as a cute toddler surprising me with a chubby little handful of my red geraniums that he had picked from my planters! Eek!)

If it’s shared, appreciate it, moms. (Your kids don’t have to share their ideas or attempts with you, you know. That’s a trust. Steward it well.)

Simple things are the big things.

Simple things like tea time or reading time allowed us to exchange ideas and see where our kids were coming from while enjoying great literature.

Small actions that showed care were encouraged. Cookies were baked, and lemonade squeezed. We oohed and ahhed over ideas and someones attempt at drawing.

Little by little, small interactions cement relationship norms, for good or for bad.

We encouraged family times and traditions. Decorating for holidays together. Traipsing through the woods for Christmas greenery and picking the perfect plaid ribbon for our front door.

We ate dinner nearly EVERY night, making time in our schedule because we believed dinnertime to be sacred.

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Ideas were talked about and our values passed down around dinners of spaghetti or garlicky roasted chicken, or bowls of beef soup with LOTS of cheese. We spoke of God in terms of friendship and glory and goodness and read the Bible at the table with our kids.

Of course, our Christian worldview was the basis for all we did (and still do.) We prayed “Thy kingdom come” in general, yes! But we prayed “thy kingdom come” to our family specifically as we lived and honored the teachings of our Savior, Jesus Christ. (We are FAR from perfect so with seven sinners living under one roof and bumping into each other, we really needed grace and enablement and forgiveness many times a day!)

Hospitality was intentionally practiced so we could share our lives and hear stories from different people with different life experiences. Outsiders were always welcomed in.

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We’d have missionaries stay with us for days or weeks and our kids would pour into their kids. By their teen years, our kids could entertain without us if someone dropped by. I recall coming home to Emily who had prepared and served shortbread and tea for grandma when she stopped over while I was out.

What does any of this have to do with education, you ask?

Nothing if you’re talking in terms of textbooks or SAT scores.

Everything if you are talking about nurturing children while they learn. Over 20 years of “home education” has taught me that education should be about life and should never suck the life out of children. Education should leave the child wanting to know more, wanting to care more, and interested in the world around them.

Additional books you might enjoy::

Educating the Wholehearted Child

Charlotte Mason: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning

What have you learned about homeschooling that you could share with our community?

 

*Next post, I’m going to talk about adding the arts to your day, even when you feel unqualified and artistically challenged.

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Why I Take Pictures and Weekend Favorites

The pursuits of motherhood are often undone minutes before they are completed, aren’t they? (Laundry, anyone?) It can be a little discouraging to look back on your week and wonder what you actually got done. Yes, the house is still standing. Yes, my children are all in once piece, but WHAT did I do with my time? There’s nothing to show when you are driving kids to work and washing, dirtying, and re-washing dishes over and over again. So, I’ve purposefully documented a few of the domestic things I’ve done over the last month, as a reminder of what did actually get done and as an encouragement that though my work is “here for a moment, then vanishes away” it WAS done and it did count, even if my foggy mind can’t recall what I did two minutes ago.

Today, I thought I’d share a few of those domestic pursuits from this past week, plus some favorite finds from around the web. One of the reasons I love taking pictures with my iPhone is because it helps me remember and give thanks for the life we have.

If you’re a young mom wondering what you actually do with all your time, TAKE TIME TO SNAP A PICTURE. It’s wonderfully encouraging to review and see the moments where you were shaping your family culture by caring for others, cooking, cleaning, spending time, or serving the Lord together. It’s also a reminder that time passes and though there are no awards for the mom who sat up with the croupy kid all night, we know that God sees every small deed done for Him and we will be rewarded by Him.

Domestic Pursuits::

This week I made Marcella Hazan’s delicious bolognese sauce, a recipe that people across the internet swear is THE only bolognese sauce you’ll ever need.  It was fabulous. It cooks for hours on the laziest of simmers and the whole house smells divine in the process.  I served it with pappardelle and lots of fresh pecorino Romano.

(Please forgive the mediocre iPhone pics!)

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I also made some homemade ice cream using this coffee ice cream recipe based on David Lebovitz’s recipe, and of course, I used Starbucks Morning Joe as the coffee of choice.  It came out delish! I also made mint chip , though, next time I will steep my fresh mint in the milk a bit longer.

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We had overnight guests, so I made my favorite waffle recipe and added berries and whipped cream. (You all know about Trader Joe’s shelf-stable whipping cream, right? You store it in your pantry until you want to use it, then stick it into the fridge for a few hours to chill and viola! Whip it with your Immersion blender and it takes less than 3 minutes to make delicious whipped cream.)

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I also made this crustless quiche which is a great recipe to make when you are cleaning out your fridge and have a mishmash of leftover veggies.

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To make, saute 4 cups of fresh, cut up veggies. Sometimes I use thinly sliced zucchini and onion, but today I used pepper, onion, mushroom, scallion, and tomato.

I put all the sauteed veggies in a 9X12 pan. I then whisk together a dozen eggs and a bag and a half of shredded cheese. (12 oz.) Today I used mozzarella and cheddar, but you can use whatever you like. Pour the egg/cheese mixture over the veggies. I then add a tsp each of fresh chopped basil, oregano, and parsley. (If you don’t have fresh, use 1/2 tsp of basil and oregano and 1 tsp of parsley. You can use whatever savory herbs you like.) I add a little garlic salt and pepper and stir that in as well. Then I bake it for 18-22 minutes or until the edges are browned.

Of course, you can also add chopped ham to this recipe or tweak it however you want. I make this when I am having a friend over for lunch and serve with a nice salad.

We just finished up a bit of landscaping around the yard (happy!) and I am thrilled that our rose topiary (that Peter bought me after our trip to England last year) is thriving and in full bloom. I was pretty sure I had killed it after I knocked it over once and over pruned it this past fall. Little B likes to help me water all the flowers first thing in the morning.

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I also had a few hours to pick up a paint brush and start a watercolor of my little one at the beach. It’s not finished and may not be for another month, but here’s the start of this work in progress. IMG_3120
Articles I Enjoyed::
This Harvard study tracked the emotional well-being of two groups of men from 1939-2014, and found the #1 single most predictor of happiness in the results. Fascinating read.

This article entitled “Peaches in Paradise” about Elisabeth Elliot was inspiring.

This article entitled “Throw Away The Lumps and Enjoy the Sweetness” was a great reminder to not focus on the negativity of life.

This sermon by Mark Minnick on the power of the flesh is a helpful reminder that the flesh is often underestimated and has a complete life of its own. Also an encouragement to say “Yes” to the Lord whenever He prompts you to do right. Thankful for the powerful and effective preaching of God’s Word. It’s a grace in our lives!

I enjoyed this sermon by Paul Washer “Recovering Biblical Womanhood”, though I have to admit that his “style” is not one I love. This sermon will either make you mad or make you cry at how far our culture has come in its pursuit to destroy women and femininity. He also shows what a loving marriage looks like as far as loving/respecting goes and how that intersects with leading/submitting. Helpful!

I loved this podcast on How Humility Nurtures Your Soul by Hannah Anderson. Great to listen to as you wash those dishes! Redeem the time! :)

 

When Trials Meet A Specific Need

The Christian life should never be marketed as the way to an easy life. In fact, we should be honest and admit that taking the name of Jesus Christ will bring trouble of all kinds.

Once you are “born again” and God’s new “DNA” pulses through you and the Spirit of God prompts you towards Christ-like living, the struggle gets real.

You can’t lie on your taxes. You won’t hate that neighbor. You follow Christ wherever regardless of who likes it or who opposes. You stand up for the oppressed making waves with the powerful of this earth. You won’t do what you used to do, isolating you from family and friends.

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Everyone has trouble in varying degrees and the trials themselves are “varied.” 1 Peter 1:6 uses the word “manifold” or multi-colored, multi-faceted. Layers upon layers. Too messy to explain. Different from anyone else but “common”.

Some trials meet a specific need. 100% tailored for you. What about when God sends you a gift that He chose specifically for you and you open it to find out that it’s a great big trial? 1 Peter 1:6 says that sometimes they are needed. “If necessary, you have been grieved by various trials.”

This is hard to swallow, isn’t it? We want all the good without the bad. Gifts without the gall. But God knows the big picture and allows a trial for our betterment…  because it’s the VERY thing we needed.

As Christians, we aren’t living for the here and now. We are being prepared for a future, our life and inheritance in heaven. We’re also being prepared for future ministry at the revelation of Jesus Christ. If we could keep that in mind–that this trial, if responded to properly– will help me to praise God and show His glory more accurately now and at His coming, we’d see things a little more clearly.

If you’ve been alive for any period of time, you’ve seen people make the same mistakes over and over again. Maybe they fail to consult Scripture and make poor decisions. Maybe they say no to obedience or compromise on the “little things.”

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I’ve watched as Christians enter and exit failed relationship after failed relationship like a revolving door. The details may change but the root causes are all the same. They leave a church or a spouse or a longtime friend or a job. It’s never their fault. They’re always the victim. They’re always disgruntled and vocal. They’re usually pretty blind and oblivious to their own struggle and how others perceive them.

In my own life, God has used various trials to teach me lessons. When people fail me, I’ve learned to stop looking to people to meet my needs and to put my trust in God. When people have hurt me with words, I’ve learned to look at my own speech, and watch my own words fiercely because word-sins are far reaching and we pay “double” the price here and in eternity as we lose respect and relationships on the altar of saying whatever, and we give account at the judgement for every idle and evil word we’ve dished out.  When people don’t have the capacity to love me because of their own junk, I can look to Christ who loved all the unlovely at His own expense and still choose to reach out to them because my needs are already met in Him. Whenever trials are recurring, God is working at something deeper than the “surface” issues we assume. He’s trying to release my death grip on some idol, or cause me to see Him as greater. He wants to kill my pride and grow my humility and love.

Perhaps you are someone who struggles to forgive and you seem to have an endless list of offenses to forgive. You work at it and pray about it and spend inordinate amounts of time obsessing over wrongs done and then praying for a forgiving spirit. This is a trial. The people you are offended with may change, and the situations may change, but at the end of the day (or the decade!) you still hold a grudge and fail to love. You still have malice and jealousy rooted firmly in the soil of hate in your heart. You feel discouraged because you try, but God continues to bring “manifold” people into your life to rub you the wrong way and you are still on Satan’s short leash in the forgiveness department.

Of course, unforgiveness is not a Christian virtue so God brings another trial. “If necessary, you have been grieved by various trials.” God is going to bring you to the point where you see that your unforgiveness is not ultimately the problem. He’s going to wear you down and show you that the pride in your heart that causes you to be so constantly offended and unloving is what He’s going for. You might be content to work on forgiving. God says that a humble man in un-offendable and He wants your deeply rooted pride gone.

Whenever you are in the middle of trials, remember that this moment is not all that there is. Eternity is coming and today’s trials are the schoolhouse God uses to prepare us for living today and for eternity. Trials are a grace, friend. They’re hard, yes. They hurt, sure. But they are controlled by God. That’s a comfort. We have hope. He’s not trying to “kill us” or make our life miserable. His intentions are for your betterment and His glory. He desires to make us just like His Son, Jesus. What could be better than that? Who better to emulate?

What do you need to let go of or put on in order to be conformed in these needful trials to God’s will and the image of His dear Son, Jesus? Are you willing to do it? Let’s face it. Sometimes our flesh rules and we don’t listen to the Spirit’s still small voice prompting us. If you want to follow the Spirit more than your flesh, say “Yes, Lord” whenever you are prompted to obedience or are reminded of a convicting Bible verse.

Humble yourself. Be watchful and aware of whatever short chain Satan has you leashed to, be it unforgiveness, addictions, anger, laziness, whatever. Resist and persist.

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10

 

 

My Toy Purge Experiment

After reading This Mom Threw Away Her Kids’ Toys and Got Her Life Back, I got rid of most of my toddler’s toys.

I wasn’t “drowning” in toys but little B had too many and he didn’t seem to be handling them well. Our little guy seemed to be losing his ability to focus on what was in front of him, a habit essential for learning and school success.

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This really concerned me.

Before the toy purge, I encouraged him to focus on one item by placing him in his toddler chair for a few minutes with a project like painting or legos, or on a rug with cars or building blocks. I’d set the timer and tell him that he was going to do “paint time” or “block time” until the timer went off. Nothing worked. He wandered and I continued to redirect him back to his activity. This wasn’t working. I even sat in the same room with him as he played as he sometimes has separation issues. Not happening.

So, I decided to give the toy purge a try. Why not? At least my living room would be decluttered for a few days, right? One day while he was out, I bagged up all of his toys but 15. I hauled them down to the basement: two trash bags and one Rubbermaid tote FULL. (Don’t judge. When we first got B, people gave us a ton of toys because we didn’t have any in the house. Okay, and we like to buy him toys, too. ;))

I arranged a few open-ended toys on his little bench: a play silk, a ball, blocks. I also left his favorites: his Woody, a few Matchbox Cars, a Playmobil train set, an Octonauts playset, lightsabers and a Woody dress-up hat.

Bonus: My living room was gloriously uncluttered!

When he came home, I waited for his reaction. He sometimes freaks out at change. But, lo and behold, he ran into the living and exclaimed, “I found my Octonauts!”.

He sat on the rug in the uncluttered room and played for 20 minutes. I was intrigued and wondered if it was just the newness of the set-up.

The next morning, he sat and looked at his Cars and blocks on.his.own. for about 15 minutes.

This morning he came running out with a play silk around his neck pretending to be Superman.

I’m happy I tried this because I think he is the type of kid that needs an uncluttered environment to concentrate. (Aren’t we always trying to figure out how each child ticks?)

Also, having too much limits our creativity. Aren’t we most creative when we have to be? If we had everything at our fingertips, we wouldn’t need to be creative. I think this applies to imagination and creative play as well.

Seems this approach is not as uncommon as I thought. Apparently, some preschools are getting rid of toys.

The program grew out of an addictions study group that worked directly with adult addicts. They determined that habit-forming behaviors started in childhood, and that these adults used toys to distract themselves from negative feelings. As they got older, they turned to other things.

 

I know these are small steps, but I’m encouraged to see him sitting and interested again. I’ve always believed that typical children can be taught to concentrate in the right environment.  (Obviously, I realize that there are exceptions to this!) With my older children, I kept a low-key atmosphere in the house. They weren’t bombarded with television that was too hyper or allowed to sit passively and be entertained on a regular basis. (It’s impossible to compete with the TV, am I right?)

I encouraged lots of play time, crafts, outdoor play, and audiobooks as I felt that it was very important to learn to “listen”, especially for school.

I’ve also realized that our little guy’s viewing habits need to change. He came to us loving movies that were fast paced, and I’ve tried to slow the movies down. Like, way down. Did you know that you can get several seasons of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood free with an Amazon Prime Membership? They aren’t as “flashy” for sure, and the first time he watched one he reported that it was “boring” but I like that the child can be thoughtful as they watch. Some movies are like trying to get a drink from a gushing fire hydrant. And with the constant barrage of images, who can process or make any kind of judgment about what you are seeing? It’s hard to keep up. (YES, I realize how old-fashioned this sounds.)

So, I’ll let you know how we progress. Have you found that too many toys actually limit your child’s creativity? Do you think limiting toys and “noise” is extreme? How have you encouraged your kids to learn to focus? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Family Photos and Updates

It’s been a while since I updated this space with family updates so this post will be news-y.

Our biggest life update is that our daughter Emily is engaged to be married to her childhood friend, Sam. Sam surprised her by proposing two days before she was scheduled to leave on a missions trip. Though they haven’t set a date yet, we’re excited for them. Also, please pray for Emily as she travels with the Musical Missions Team again this year.

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18447218_10154466345245785_8847105110921616241_nMany have asked how things are going with our foster son. There are really no changes in our situation, but he is doing well and thriving.  He’s learning basic three year old stuff (no means no, whining isn’t acceptable, obey the first time, focus) but I’m also unlocking the pieces to his puzzle, and I’ve come to realize that this little guy is a quality time person who just loves to be right with people. His heart is reached through praise and he lights up as soon as you mention that he obeyed well, or colored well, or did a good job shooting hoops. (He’s in a home with 3 adoring teen girls who are constantly telling him how cute he is and doting over everything he does.) Please just pray for his little heart and that God would meet his every heart-felt need as time goes on.

I’ve been reading Adorned and highly recommend it and also,  The Friendships of Women at the recommendation of a friend. It’s excellent so far and has been liberating in a sense. In a world where women are told that we need to be like men, it’s been a great encouragement to use the gifts of intimacy and connection that women as nurturers generally possess. One statistic I didn’t know from the book: both men and women report feeling connected and encouraged when they spend time in the company of female friends over male friends. Hmm.

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Do you find that you read in a certain place? Over the years my reading spot has changed from my couch to the bedroom, and now to this lovely old a chair that a friend gave me. I love opening the breezeway door and hearing the birds in the morning.

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I’ve been enjoying my roses and love taking a few blooms inside to pretty up the table.

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IMG_5650I also tried my hand at some moisturizer because my skin is changing and it’s hard to find a moisturizer that worked. I had heard so much about the Boom Stick makeup, so I looked at the ingredient list and tried to duplicate it. I REALLY love the way it makes my skin feel. I am “forcing” it on my sisters on Sunday because that’s what good sisters do, and if they like it, I’ll share my recipe here. If it burns or irritates their skin, I’ll post pictures of their “after” results.  JK

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I entertained a few times this week and shared my scone recipe.

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What are you reading? What creative pursuits have you tried your hand at this week? Are you planning a garden for summer? I’d love to hear your comments, or if you blog, drop your link so we can all visit your “home”.

 

 

Strawberry Lemon Scones

This is my go-to scone recipe. Until our recent kitchen renovation, this recipe was taped into the cupboard door where I could have quick access to it. I made it so often over the years whenever we needed a pick-me-up during a long, tedious school day.
I still recall all of my children sitting on our old, long Queen Anne’s couch watching an old version of The Railway Children with a table of tea and these scones spread before them.
This recipe is a “base recipe” and can be adapted for whatever fruit is in season: a generous handful of cut strawberries, wild blueberries, or juicy peaches.
I copied the recipe out in watercolor for a friend and thought I’d share it with you here.

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~Old Fashioned Scones~
2 cups flour
3 T. sugar
2 t. baking powder
Pinch of salt
6 T. shortening
1/2 cup milk
whatever “add-ins” you want, about a cup’s worth total: strawberry slices, blueberries, peach, Craisins, nuts, chocolate chips, etc. You can add a teaspoon of lemon or orange zest as well.

My favorite variations: lemon zest and strawberry, lemon zest and blueberry, white chocolate chips with chopped Craisin and a few crushed walnuts.
Preheat oven to 400. Sift dry ingredients. Cut in shortening. Stir in milk and form a ball that just holds together. Press in your “add ins”.  Press into a 1/2″ circle shape on an ungreased cookie sheet. Cut into 8 wedges. Brush with egg. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until slightly browned.

Though these are sprinkled with sugar, you can also add a glaze made of powdered sugar and lemon juice or water if you like, as well.

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Enjoy.

Weeding Wisely to Increase Joy

I spent most of the day outside, tending my herb and flower garden while my 3 year old played nearby.

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It’s warm enough now to plant, so I bought a few herbs to replace several that didn’t survive the winter: parsley, mint, and basil. I spent hours pulling weeds and showing Brayden how to find and eliminate them so we could replace them with something better.

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Among the herbs, I also added pansies (a favorite of mine), freesia, pink flowering ornamental strawberries, and violets.

While I worked, I listened to my Bible App (Hebrews) and also enjoyed a podcast.

I also tried my hand this week at propagating roses for our yard. Though there are detailed YouTube videos on how to do this, you basically cut a piece of new growth under a leaf node off at a 45 degree angle, dip it in water for a minute, scrape the outer layer of the stem off with the side of scissors, dip it into rooting hormone, and place it in a cup full of potting soil or perlite. It is then misted with water until moistened and placed in a ziplock bag to make a small greenhouse environment for each plant. They’ll require misting every few days and in 6 weeks, roots should form. I’m very excited about the possibility of propagating some of my grandmother’s roses and bringing them to my yard. I have a bleeding heart bush from my husband’s childhood home that I propagated using root cuttings and it makes me smile whenever I see it. There’s something satisfying about connecting times and places and people through flowers and conservation.

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Whenever I garden, I’m reminded of how much it parallels life. Jesus used gardening terms when he taught: branches connected to the Vine, sowing, reaping, various types of soil and ground, broadcasting seed, mustard seed sized faith, plants thriving near rivers of water, and the life of the godly being compared to watered garden.

Especially as I pull weeds, I’m reminded that so many areas of life need to be removed in order to make room for what is truly life-giving. Weeds easily overtake and crowd out those aspects of life that bring beauty, nourish your soul, and feed and heal your body.

Weeds will choke out your joy if you’re not alert. “The cares of this world.” It’s a slow creep, barely noticeable. Weeds crowd and steal space and use necessary oxygen.

We may need to weed out busyness where we’ve over-committed and run ahead of God. We may need to plant ourselves still before Him so we can worship.

We may need to weed out the hidden-in-plain-sight sin that has so entangled us that we believe it’s just part of our DNA –who we are.  We may need to plant the Word before our eyeballs and meditate on Truth in order to get back on the righteous path.

We may need to weed out friendships that are mediocre or toxic, or worldly influences that are not honoring God nor helping us thrive spiritually. We may need to plant ourselves with godly friends, older women, and those who are doing right and acknowledging God in all their ways.

We may need to turn off the noise, the social media, the books, the TV, the hobbies, the chatter that steals our attention from the One who truly deserves our undivided devotion. We may need to rearrange our time so that God gets the first fruits.

Weeding is tedious, hard stuff, but it makes space for the crop that you want to harvest in the end.

Saying no to one is saying yes to another. Weeding wisely increases your success and your joy.

Summer is right around the corner, and I want to challenge you to do some weeding so your life can flourish and grow with grace.

Might you have a few weeds to pull? Ask:

  • What is sinful, ungracious, and unlovely?
  • What is hindering me from following God and pursuing His best?
  • What is keeping me from loving others first and best?
  • What is weighing me down?
  • Where am I easily offended and where does Satan enjoy tripping me up time and time again?
  • Where am I easily angered and frustrated? Again, where does Satan keep me defeated by pushing my buttons?
  • What friendship leaves me depleted? Which one is not based on mutual respect and edification?

To purposefully plant, ask:

  • Lord, what do you have for me in your Word today?
  • Lord, where is my first circle of influence and what jobs have you assigned only to me? How can I be most influential there?
  • Where is God burdening me to act?
  • Who needs my kindness today?
  • What is God teaching me through this thing?
  • What virtue is the Holy Spirit asking me to put on?
  • Which friendships refresh and encourage me? Which friendships are based on mutual respect? Whose life points me to Christ?

I hope these questions help you to navigate the maze of your own heart and encourage you to seek the important and eternal aspects of life that will bring you joy.

Have a lovely week tending the garden of your heart and hearth,

Sarah

“I am enough” and other lies Christian women believe.

The church seems to be confused about the concept of truth.

We say we believe the truth, but I believe we’ve been conditioned by our culture to think that it is more educated/enlightened/accepting to believe that my truth is as relevant as yours.

Just believe what you want. Believe in yourself if you want. Who am I to criticize your truth? If we each have our own truth then there is not truth or right or wrong.

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In Christian circles, I see confusion everywhere: from the books pumped out of Christian publishing houses, to the bloggers we follow. When they deviate from the Bible, we’re quick to write it off as a misunderstanding or just “their experience”, when in reality they are breaking rank with Scripture and we are giving them a thumbs up as the world watches on. Recently a big name blogger divorced her husband and married another woman. Instead of grieving this woman’s vow-breaking and disobedience, Christians bought in to her “journey” as though that was the ultimate thing. Some jumped on board and applauded her because she’s happier now, when women who know God’s word should be grieving that yet another public figure tossed obedience aside for desire.

This is a silly example, but Christians memes filled with error are EVERYWHERE.

This morning, scrolling through my FB feed was this meme: “I am enough.” It was from a Christian page. Christian women were liking and affirming this feel-good three-word statement. But the meme is not true from a Christian’s worldview. What’s the problem with “I am enough” you ask? We’ll, obviously, if I were enough, I didn’t need Christ and he died in vain. If I were enough I could have saved myself and taken care of all my own need in my self-sufficiency. God’s Word teaches the absolute opposite– that I was so lacking in EVERY area, morally and spiritually destitute, it was like I was a dead corpse, and Christ reached down to help me. No, I am not enough and neither are you, and people who believe they are enough will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven, as it is only for those who recognize their utter spiritual poverty as detailed in the Sermon on the Mount. (Matt.5:3) (Good news & spoiler alert: Christ is enough.)

We’ve elevated feelings and demoted God’s Word as a take it or leave it smorgasbord.

Are you uncomfortable with the word “truth”? The church is called the “pillar and foundation of truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15)

Do you relate to Pontius Pilate who mused, “What is truth?”

“Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

Jesus claims to be THE Truth.

Truth is an indisputable fact. It’s reality. Truth transcends culture and time.

As Christians, we’re commanded to speak the truth in love, but do we understand what this means?

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.

 

The verse doesn’t say to speak YOUR truth. Many like to imagine that this verse is their straight-up mandate to vent all.their.feelings, and let you know everything that you EVER did to them that they didn’t like about you. That might be speaking your truth but, just to set the record straight, it’s not speaking the truth. It’s having no filter. So, NO, you shouldn’t tell Sally that she really should lose some weight or let Jane know that you don’t approve of the length of the skirt she’s wearing.

Speaking truth is to edifying another believer towards Christian maturity by promoting Scripture as TRUTH that can be depended upon. It’s to promote sound doctrine and to build up a discouraged (or even sinful) believer with the promises of God’s faithfulness.

It looks like this:

“I know you’re discouraged that you used your tongue in a less than gracious way again, Sally, but God is faithful to forgive us when we ask and He’s promised to give us a way to escape the temptation if we look to Him. Why don’t you just ask Him to forgive you and return to Him?”

“Yes, this heartache seems unbearable, Jane,  but God is the God who is near to the Brokenhearted, so He is right here with you.”

“I know it’s disappointing when people don’t respect you, but ultimately humility is a place where we can embrace the lowly mindset of Christ. Could this be another opportunity to kill pride and become more like Christ?”

In Alive in Him, Gloria Furman, states it this way:

“Speaking the truth in love” has…everything to do with building up someone else with good doctrine in a loving manner. Solid doctrine is our building material, love is our disposition, and maturity in Christ is our aim.” pg.117

“Truthing solid doctrine with each other wars against our flesh while it strengthens our souls. If a toe gets stubbed, the whole leg smarts, and the body walks with a limp. Ephesians teaches us that the ascended, victorious Christ is creating in himself one new man of which we are a part…every member, then, is a minister to every other member.” p.117

Sometimes speaking truth means that over my dead body will you go this direction while I remain silent.

Do we feel all “weird-ed out” to hold anyone to a biblical standard of truth even as Christians? It’s risky, isn’t it? Because often times Christians are offended when other believers hold them to the Biblical standard by which they claim to live.

We have to also speak up when truth is trampled by erring Christian teachers who are not discernible from the world. God’s grace is bringing us toward’s greater goodness and holiness every day, my friends, and we have to expect that pursuit from the people we look to for leadership.

In 1875, when Hannah Whitall Smith penned a book entitled The Christian’s Secret to A Happy Life, it became an instant best seller, well before the days of the internet or celebrity blogger. She was a big ticket and her success set her up as a prominent speaker on the “higher life” idea of Christian victory. People bought into it and sought her out.

Behind the scenes though, there was a huge disconnect between what she wrote and what she lived. Her personal life was a total mess. In 25 Surprising Marriages, William Peterson recalls the unhappy nature of her marriage to her husband, Robert. He traveled a lot, leaving her alone and they fought. He accused her of being a cold, frigid wife. Her journal reveals that she doubted God, especially after the death of her little boy, and years later she described herself as an agnostic. The year her book was published was also the year her husband had to step out of ministry for adultery/infidelity. The year she wrote another book about child raising (1894) was the same year her younger daughter married atheist Bertrand Russell. And her older daughter left her husband and two children for an artist.

My point is not to glory in Hannah’s failure’s. Not at all. But to warn that though she wrote this:

 If we are to walk as Christ walked, it must be in private as well as in public, at home as well as abroad. It must be every hour all day long, and not at stated periods or on certain fixed occasions. We must be Christlike everywhere and to all. It is in daily living that practical holiness can best show itself, and we may well question any “professions” that fail under this test of daily life. An anxious Christian, a discouraged, gloomy Christian, a doubting Christian, a complaining Christian, an exacting Christian, a selfish Christian, a cruel, hard-hearted Christian, a self-indulgent Christian, a Christian with a sharp tongue or bitter spirit, may be a very earnest worker and have an honorable place in the Church. But, he or she is not a Christlike Christian, and knows nothing of the lessons of this book concerning the higher Christian life.

her life was different behind the scenes. Did her reader’s catch that in her book? Did they overlook it?

I have to ask myself how someone with so much knowledge of scripture, and with a vibrant public ministry like Hannah’s, with the wherewithal to write the above excerpt could have turned away from God?

What truth did she deny? What truth are we denying? Where are we skeptics when God’s Word has spoken it as truth?

Do we believe that God is who He says He is?

If so, what responsibility do we have to His Word?

Are we living as though God’s Word is Truth?

EVERY word of every book, teacher, pastor, speaker, blogger, should be examined through the sieve of Scripture to see if it aligns with the Truth.

Every thought and motive in my own heart should be tested as well, to see where it stands.

Often we have to peel back the layers of our own thoughts, words, fears, emotions, to see the lies that are buried in our own hearts that we are holding on to as Gospel Truth.

If we want to be women of the Word, we have to KNOW the Bible inside and out. We have to read it. A lot. We have to let it infiltrate our mind and change our pre-conceived notions.

“Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only.”

Then we need to meditate on what it says. “What does it say and mean?” Simple questions. “What am I doing about this information? Am I living this truth?”

Don’t read for knowledge’s sake. Read to obey.

And please, please, don’t confuse interest in the knowledge of Biblical things with being teachable by the Holy Spirit. A teachable heart is pliable to the truth of God’s word.

“All you have said, we will do.”

“Sanctify (set them apart) with thy truth. Thy word is truth.”

I’m praying for you this week as you get into your Bible. If you have little kids in the house like I do, I know it’s hard to make this happen. I have to set aside time every day to read or it doesn’t magically happen. Five minutes is better than nothing so don’t let time restraints keep you from even a little. Put your Bible in a prominent place, like the kitchen counter so you can glance at it on your way by or when you have a free minute to stir your soup. I know you know all this already, but I wanted to encourage you today to put away any distractions that would keep you from getting into God’s Word. It’s not something that’s celebrated in the world, so I want to cheer you on as you learn to love and value God and His Word a little more each day.

Praying for you as we seek Him together and believe HIS Truth.

Sarah