Monday, January 31, 2011

Gifts 13-16

#13: Deuteronomy 30:19 -20 : " 19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. " I strongly feel that the Lord has brought this verse to my mind over the last week. I feel sometimes that it is a constant battle for me to "choose life". I constantly want to duck out of life, run and hide, stay at home where I feel "sheltered". As I remember this verse, I am asking God to help me choose life moment by moment, day by day. When faced with the choice to retreat or engage, that I would choose to engage; to serve, to love, to venture forth, to take chances, to live !

#14 "Secondhand Lions". I just love that movie. I love it so much that each time I put it on for the kids, it is because I have forgotten how much bad language there is in it. Then they look at me with the question on their faces "Is it really okay to watch this?"

#15 Having finally decided, after 12 or more months of deliberation, on a color scheme for my house. Yellow/gold, sage green, terra cotta and maybe a bit of colonial blue thrown in. Whew! One more thing off my "To-Do" list. Now if I could just get those colors INTO my house...

#16 merciful, sweet Jesus! I know that sounds too "easy" to include, but oh how I love His love!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Gifts #9-12

After a morning where my old habits died hard, and I wasted an hour on the computer while my kids started their day off on the wrong foot and without me, I got up from the computer feeling grouchy, and irritated with my kids and (much more so) with myself. I quickly remembered why I had set my mind to developing that new habit in the morning, Scripture, prayer and breakfast together, to start our day off right. When we don't do that, I feel like I have lost the battle before I begin. Kids are scattered everywhere plugged into various media without even checking with me first, dirty dishes are stacked on the counter, and general mayhem prevails. (Mike & I love those car insurance commercials with the guy who calls himself "Mayhem"...the one where he jogs in tight shorts, or where he is texting like a teenaged girl...Well, we have a joke that Mayhem lives here, at the Hollinhead Penitentiary. Mike often jokes when he calls on the phone that the background noise sounds like a penitentiary, and Mayhem has broken out. I digress...)

That is how my day started, but it is not how my day ended, thankfully. The Lord in His mercy, woke me up to the fact that I am blessed in so many ways. Here are but just a few more...

#9 my marriage. Though it is far from perfect or even ideal, I know my hubby loves me. He tells me many, many times each day. Sometimes I even find myself thinking maybe he says it too much, and then I am reminded to be thankful, there are many women who would love to hear those words from their man every day.

#10 the internet. Though I abuse it, I am still so thankful for this amazing tool that allows me to scoop deals, find info and blog to myself and my 4 or 5 friends ; ).

#11 mayhem. Though the penitentiary effect may not be what I am going for, I love the sounds of life that are the constant backdrop to my life. There is nothing that compares to the sweet, contented feeling I get when I hear my kids laughing uncontrollably at something together. Of course, more often than not the mayhem is of a more combative nature, but it all goes with the territory, ya know?

#12 Abbie asking for her hair to put put in ponytails 5 different ways (literally) before she was satisfied with her "do".

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

an Abbie-ism

We were reading in the Bible this morning, and talking about how God sent angels to warn Lot to leave Sodom & Gomorrah so that he would be safe from the destruction. I guess Abbie wanted to jump straight to the destruction part of the story because she asked, "So which half of the world did He explode?" I love that girl!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Gifts #6-8

#6 Deep Dish Chicken Pot Pie...I love this creamy yummy comfort food. And it's what we had for dinner, so I am feeling very comforted (comfortable?) now.

#7 Netflix. I am not sure I could have mustered the strength to (re)cancel cable if it weren't for Netflix. Without cable we get NO channels, not even PBS. So Netflix is it, and tonight we are having popcorn and watching "The Endurance".

#8 Popcorn & movies with my kids. Love Netflix! ; )

Blazin' a Trail !

I have had something on my mind for a week or so now, and it has to do with making beauty out of chaos. Really I think it has been much longer than a week or so, much longer. I feel like God has distilled it down to a pure form for me recently, though. I have always (always!) struggled with feeling that I am inadequate because of my seeming inability to organize, focus, complete a task, be consistent...(need I go on?) I shudder to think of all of the labels that would likely be placed on me if I were a child in a public school today. Or, maybe I wish they had had those labels when I was a kid and they could have helped me! At any rate, here I am today with these ongoing issues which makes it quite difficult to run a household and homeschool well. In the past I have made resolutions, cried, pled with God to change me, and done battle with my tendencies to the point where I have come close to giving up completely.

But the Lord has shown me a new thing.

He made me. He made me the way that I am. He chose to put these precious children that I love in my care during their stay on earth. He must have wanted to use us to shape one another. I promise I am coming to a point (I think). I have been so busy waging war against my weaknesses according to my own plans that I have forgotten to rely on God to use my strength to DO anything! I plan, plan plan everything and then don't do it. Because it's all my plan and I never asked God what should I be putting first? What is the most necessary? What is the MOST important in God's order of priorities?

Rather than make new commitment to overhaul my life and set an unattainable standard that I cannot reach, I am setting one goal for the next 100 days. ONE. To each and every day have breakfast with my children all around the table and not get up from the table until we have together read in God's Word and prayed together. It may sound like I am not asking a lot of myself, this is not a tall order. But my hope and prayer is that as I put God first in our day he will meet me in my need for Him to help me bring order to the rest, a glimmer of beauty to the mess and the chaos. Today for the first morning I blazed a trail that I pray will become a well worn path in our life, an act as familiar and comforting as bedtime stories. When that path is well worn, then I can move on to blazing a bit of a new trail, and wear that one down, too. Romans 8:37 tells me the truth : "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." I cannot, will not conquer my weaknesses on my own but I know that He can turn my mess into something beautiful!

On a purely practical note, a couple of resources we have been using that have been GREAT are:

This book has been such an awesome guide / devotional / Bible study (whatever you would like to call it!) We have been loosely following along as our pastor preaches and teaches through Genesis we follow up with this the next week at home. For the older kids it is a great review of the sermon and a way to dig out some more gems from a kids point of view. For the younger girls, they are usually hearing it for the first time because they were in kids' church during the sermon so it helps keep them up with what we are doing in "big church" too. The author definitely doesn't leave out any of the tough stuff, and I would say it is geared toward mid to older elementary kids but she handles it well and I am always surprised at how the little ones have been listening when I thought they were just playing with silly bandz.

We were able to get this book through the PINES library system. I always like to get my hands on a book and look through it before I lay out the money (or Swagbucks!) for a copy, but I am thinking these are worth the investment. It comes with a CD, the lyrics to each hymn and a story about its author or origins. I have to laugh at myself because way back in the early days when I first became a Christian I thought hymns were so "old", and I wasn't at all a hymn type of gal. Well, turns out I am SO MUCH a hymn type of gal. Love this book !!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Four Snow Days!!

I don't think I ever would have believed, on Sunday night, that the snow we were about to get would result in four whole days of down time. I am NOT complaining, mind you, because it gives me an excuse to be "relaxed", shall we say, in my homeschooling approach this week!!! Our activities this week could not, even in the loosest meaning of the word, be construed as "school". They were very fun days, though, and a great way to wrap up the holiday free time before heading back into a time of knuckling down to do a bit more hard work. Some things we did:

~ lots of sliding down the driveway in the laundry basket
~monkey bread and hot cocoa
~a knockdown, drag-out snowball (ICEball!) fight
~a two day Monopoly marathon that included, lots of laughing, yelling, crying, whining, and fun (really it actually was fun!)
~reading most of the book "The Incredible Journey" aloud. This is the only thing that really was part of school work, we are finishing up learning about Canada. Sounds like fun, eh?
~made homemade pizza
~another (yes, another) batch of monkey bread
~ventured over to the neighbor's house across the street to see if they had better ice than we do
~more hot cocoa
~went to our friends' the Roells to play the "homeless orphan game" in their play log cabin. I think my girls may have possibly watched Love Comes Softly, Anne of Green Gables, Annie, and August Rush a few too many times with me.
~got out to go to ballet with our friends
~Abbie made a mahhvelous chocolate cake with Rachel

That is all, so far. Daddy has been gone all week long, because he couldn't get home from the train yard. He comes home tomorrow, so hopefully there will be some more laundry sled action tomorrow with him, if the ice doesn't melt too early.

Oreo Cookie Cake (which is not a cake at all)

My sister Karen has been asking me for this recipe, and since it is one of our family's favorites I thought I would post it here, in case anyone else is interested in a mind-bogglingly yummy dessert...

Oreo Cookie Cake

CRUST 1 pkg Oreos
1/2 cup melted butter/ marg
(crush cookies, mix with butter, press into 9x13 and chill)

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioner's sugar
8 oz cool whip (or can buy 12 oz, see end)
(mix cream cheese & sugar w/ mixer, add in
cool whip and spread over crust. Chill.

TOP LAYER: 2 small pkg instant chocolate pudding
3 & half cups milk
(Mix up pudding, pour over cream cheese, chill.)

*If you bought a 12 oz cool whip, use the extra to spread around a little on the top and top with more crumbled Oreos. I skip this because I am lazy and just want to get to eatin'.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Not good snow for sledding...

One Thousand Gifts, #1-5

I found Ann Voskamp's blog because I am using her Geography curriculum, and I loved her ability to use words with such beautiful craftsmanship. I went looking around to see if she had a blog and, lo and behold, she has a beautiful blog that always says something that inspires me. Ann has a new book out titled "One Thousand Gifts", which is on my wishlist on amazon at this very moment, but I have not read yet. She is asking others to join her bandwagon with posts of thankfulness for the many wonderful gifts our Lord has poured out on our lives, so here begins my list:

1. A Snow Day, on which I do not feel the slightest bit of guilt or remorse to take the time to begin something new on my blog, sit a few extra minutes (hours?) in my pajamas with my coffee, and listen to my little girls chatter about plans for popcorn and hot cocoa after they come in from playing in the snow.

2. An overwhelming feeling of gratitude that God ever whispered my name in the first place. How could I have ever known this amazing Love that was in store for me?

3. Sisters. Not only biological sisters, whom I love very much, but my spiritual sisters who live life and love God alongside me. To understand that I will never know all of the times that prayers were offered up on my behalf is such a humbling thing, and to know that there is a whole legion of women who are connected to me because we share the same Father; a Father who has loved us so well that He has shown us how to open our hearts enough to love others a small bit like He does. It really and truly amazes me, and how exciting that I can even call my daughter my spiritual "sister" ! I am so thrilled at the idea that through God's faithfulness we will one day have a family legacy of generations of "sisters" who have loved God's Word and walked in His Spirit. Just to think of great- great grandaughters who will call on cousins and sisters to pray for one another and walk with each other through all of the mountains and valleys of life....amazing to me!

4. A twelve year old boy who still says good morning and gives me a hug.

5. Monkey bread ( no further explanation needed!) : )

Saturday, January 1, 2011

I stink at blogging...

I would love to know if there is anyone else out there that has this problem. Let me back up a little bit. The problem I am talking about is not as simple as the fact that I stink at blogging. If that were all it consisted of, I would be content to live with that. The problem goes much deeper than typing about our mundane adventures. The problem I am talking stems from the fact that I get behind (...very behind) on many (...most) of the things that I want to make a priority to consistently get done. Even that, though, isn't the real problem. The real problem, when I get down to it, is that when I get behind I give up. Instead of accepting that yesterday is gone and that today has enough worries of it's own, I constantly look over my shoulder at what I didn't do yesterday and how I can finagle (sp?) a way to get that done today. Looking backwards at my failures prevents me from seeing the goodness and the possibilities of the day that lays before me. I think it is almost comical how that struggle has manifested itself in a visible way on this blog. My posts abruptly stop when I am bogged down. A few weeks later I may spurt out two or three posts at a time so that I can "catch up" (as if there were some sort of ominous blog deadline looming ahead!). I follow this up with several more weeks of silence.
I know that all of this may sound silly, but I feel like this pattern is indicative of a deeper issue for me, a problem with letting go of yesterday and what I could have done differently. A problem with accepting change and that God is in control of my circumstances because He knows what I need. A problem with beating myself up over all that I have failed to do and how incapable I am. A problem with getting so mired in my hangups that I stop taking steps forward.
I am not big on New Year's Resolutions. I will inevitably have some failure at them and then beat myself up again. What I will be praying, though, that God will do for me this year is that He will help me to keep my eyes fixed on Him, and what He brings to me each day. I pray that when a week goes by and not a single math lesson has been done, I will simply thank Him that we are free to homeschool and ask Him to help us get done what we need to next week. I pray that when we get to the middle of the school year and we are still only on Week 7 of our 36 week curriculum, I will ask him to help me stop trying to make every little detail right in the weeks we missed, pick up the book and MOVE ON ! ( I could go on forever with examples here...when the laundry is so high I have to climb over the mountain to get to the shelves in the laundry room...when I have no memory left on my camera to take new pictures because I have three months worth of pictures that I need to get uploaded, blogged about and facebooked before I can move on to what is happening right now.)
If there is ANYONE left reading this out of my 4 or 5 readers...I will wrap up with this: I took my blog off of facebook feed so that I could write this to my real-life friends. Maybe you can help me to stay accountable to you with this. My prayer for the new year is that I take each day as a blessing from the Lord, make the MOST of it according to His priorities and not mine, and when it is over I lay my head down content that His grace is sufficient for me and His mercy will be new in the morning. If He can change this in me, I will be able to sleep well even if I only post on my silly blog about odd & random things such as this! Happy New Year, friends!