Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Happy November {with a Free Printable Devotional Booklet!}

Happy November!

I can't quite explain it, but the slow and faithful practice of a few moments in the morning leaning into God's Word is heart-changing. It is the kind of change that can sometimes be frustrating for me. It isn't instant, and there is never a checkbox that I can check off to show progress. But it is the real deal. It is true growth in a festina lente and an esse quam videri kind of way.

As a busy mama, my morning time devotions change with the seasons of life. Sometimes, these moments are quiet times where I can read and write and really dig into what will stir my heart. Honestly, these kinds of moments are rare. Usually, I am reading the Bible on my phone while I am brushing my teeth or picking up one of the printed out cards I have sitting by the kitchen sink so I can pray it while I scrub the pancake batter out of the bowl.

I want to build this heart-growing habit into both my kids, while they are still young, to prioritize time in their day to read the Bible and to pray. It is important to me that we don't make this time into another "to do", and so we don't work at it like a rule, but like a habit towards relationship. The time we spend in the morning doing our devotions, or adorations, is not a study (although, sometimes it can look very similar), but a time to open our hearts to the Truth, Goodness and Beauty of God's Word.

Because this time isn't for study (we do that at other times), I do not supervise or "correct" these journals for my kids. It is for their hearts, not their minds. We still discuss and share things that have stirred our hearts, but we don't take this time to teach. I trust that God will work in their hearts during this time.
He always does.

For years my kids have been using a simple format, and I've let them follow along with children's devotionals, story bibles or even just picking a book (like Psalms) and they choose verses from it. Last month, I introduced them to Adoration using Sara Hagerty's free Adoration for Kids (it was amazing!).

This month, since it is November and we always focus on giving thanks, I created this Grateful Heart devotional. The best part about it is, it is simple. It can be used with many different ages (I will be using it, too!). You can have older kids locate and copy the verses directly from their Bibles. Younger kids can copy from a whiteboard, or you can even create worksheets here for them to copy from. You can dictate the verses if you want it to be a family activity. You can print it and bind it. You can staple the pages, have the kids make their own book with it or just hand them a page daily. The possibilities are endless.

I added a few days with spaces for art instead of copywork in this devotional. Up until last month (for years, now!) both of my kids have been writing (even if it was very, very basic copywork!) for their morning devotionals. Last month, I had them draw pictures only (even my oldest!) and it really refreshed their time and let their creativity shine. The pictures were very precious depictions of how God's word had moved their hearts. I didn't want to neglect this creative piece this month.

You can download the Grateful Heart booklet here.

Happy November!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

True Hope

A few years back I wrote a blog post about Discovering Hope. I can’t link you to it because it has long since been archived. That summer was a summer of HOPE. I was reading about new ideas, growing in faith and hoping that health and healing would find our family, especially my husband. It was an “aha” moment for me. I was discovering how God moved in invisible ways. How He could change our day’s trajectory with one phone call, one letter, one nod in our direction. I suppose up until that point I had assumed that our family’s path was in a fixed direction. It was that summer I found the hope that things could change.
That was a very, very good feeling.
One of the books I had finished reading during this time was Kisses from Katie. I had been encouraged, inspired and amazed at how this young woman was walking out her faith. I had all kinds of ideas of where our family could be a few years from that summer. I didn’t know how, what or where, but I felt a call to live life in bigger, more faithful ways. Not bigger in things or in vacations or status updates, but bigger-hearted, more living and more loving. I was sure this new discovery of hope meant things would be changing-and soon-healthy and whole, we would be moving into our “calling”.
Things did change, but not how I anticipated.
After a time of improvement, my husband experienced many setbacks, some severe. By the next summer, we were shuffling back and forth to the hospital two hours away. Sometimes he was admitted and sometimes it was just for testing or sometimes for immunotherapy treatments, but mostly it was to be informed,  “we don’t know what is going on. Come back next month after more testing/treatments/trials”.

I did not handle that change with grace.

Outwardly, life kept rolling on. It’s what you do. Laundry doesn’t stop and the cooking needs to be done which means you still need to grocery shop and chop carrots and make sure you don’t forget the soap. Bills still pile up and need to be paid and, of course, the learning must not stop.
When life happens, you do what you need to so
You do the next thing.
Sometimes, figuring out what the next thing is can be the hardest part.
Inwardly, I was a mess. Our life was not predictable or plan-able in any way and my illusion of control had been shattered once again.
I often thought if the “only” battle we were facing was the illness then I would be able to handle it much more gracefully (the truth is, I wouldn’t, but I liked to tell myself this). Life, however, doesn’t work that way. Look at Job’s life. He didn’t  just lose his kids, or his fortune or his health, or friendship, he lost it all. I didn’t understand how to hold onto hope when the future was so shaky, the dog had fleas, the bills were piling up, the roof was leaky, the heater was broken, the vacuum died (and ate some kitchen floor before it did), my friend stood me up at lunch and my loveliest friend left for Heaven.
How was I supposed to hope here, in this desolate place?
I started to resent my hope (and here, truthfully, is when the blog post was archived, aka…deleted). I started to question, most vigorously, not only the hope I thought I had discovered, but also the God who promised it.
Why would God show me hope for healing and give me dreams of something good, just to make it unreachable?
My prayers, when I could find the words, were more often angry words of confusion than sweet words of adoration and faith. Hands weren’t raised in praise or folded in peace, but clenched in fists-raised only so I could cry out my lament to the One who seemed silent and far.

It was a hard season.

Fast forward to this summer and I was notified that I would be a part of the Launch team for Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful. I was excited to read this next book by Katie Davis Majors (who had written the book Kisses from Katie I read during my summer of Hope). When I signed up to be part of the Launch team, I didn’t really pay much attention to the title of the book, I just knew that I wanted to read whatever she was writing.
The book came in the mail and I was excited to dig right in.
One look at the title and I realized that I couldn’t read it, not yet.
I wasn’t sure if I could read this, a book that I knew would challenge me to see circumstances in new ways again.
A book that was talking about, of all things, hope.
I knew God had been growing my heart in Unseen ways. (link) but I wasn’t sure if I was ready to approach hope again.
But because of my past experiences reading her story and the ways she shares of Grace, I knew that whatever she had to share wouldn’t disappoint.
I also knew that I couldn’t ignore this stirring in my heart, the one that could have been titled the same as her book; dare to hope.
So I finally opened the pages and I couldn’t put it down.
Page after page I was reminded of Truth, encouraged to dig in and walk out the path that He has chosen.
She wrote on page 71:
“Dreams die and seasons end and terrible, unspeakable things happen that don’t make much sense, but God is not done with us yet. He uses the bending and the breaking and the dying to prepare the harvest, to prepare more for us. We reach high to the Son and He comes down and pulls us closer. We lift our heads to Him in awe and we know that there might be hard around the corner but we can look expectantly even to the bowing and the breaking, even the death of all we have planned because we know in Him there will always be more. He sees the seeds that come with all the endings and He is faithful to use them, to turn them into beauty.”
This book, these words, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
And here is what I found, not necessarily in each lamentable moment, but in looking back on these past four years.

And God-HE is Hope.

I don't need to hold onto hope, Hope is holding onto me.

Any hope that is lasting hope, that doesn’t depend on an outcome or circumstances or prayers being answered in my way, that is the hope of Jesus.

Nothing less, and there is nothing more.

Four years have passed since that hope-filled summer. Four full and difficult and beautiful years.
Life today is not what I thought it might be four years ago. Health isn’t something we take for granted in our home, it is something we pray for daily. Tests and treatments are on hold not because they are unnecessary, but because a body and heart can only handle so much before it needs a rest and to reset.
Four years and I am still discovering, every day, how God moves invisible things, namely my heart. How He can change our life trajectory with one phone call, one letter, one nod in our direction. And how He can change our life trajectory by not sending that phone call, that letter and that nod.
And like Katie wrote
“He wasn’t promising me ease. He wasn’t promising that things would go as planned. He wasn’t promising a world without trouble, without heartbreak along the way. He was promising me Himself….Sometimes the blessing is a hard road and an uncertain calling.”

God, Faithful God, promises me Hope in Himself, in all that He is.

To Hope in Him, in things unseen, that is a very daring hope, indeed.

A very long time ago, I read a blog post (which I cannot find but wanted to share his words) about Joseph and his trials, specifically the time he had to spend in prison. The author of that post went on to say that “Joseph had three options on how to view his trials. 1. Prison of self-pity 2. Dungeon of despair or 3. Sanctuary for God’s presence…Though at first, the prison looked like a useless detour, it was actually God’s pathway to the palace.”
Just as I have been learning that unseen moments can be times of worship and leaning closer to God, trials, Mercy Storms, they can be viewed as a “Sanctuary for God’s presence.”
Katie quoted a devotional she read that said exactly what God had been whispering to my heart.
“The difference between shallow happiness and a deep, sustaining joy is sorrow. Happiness lives where sorrow is not. When sorrow arrives, happiness dies. It can’t stand pain. Joy, on the other hand, rises from sorrow and therefore can withstand all grief. Joy, by the grace of God, is the transfiguration of suffering into endurance, and of endurance into character, and of character into hope-and the hope that has become our joy does not (as happiness must for those who depend upon it) disappoint us.”

True Hope, the kind that is sustaining and life-giving, is different than hope that is dependent upon a certain outcome.
When I lean into Truth like that, when I hold onto the Hope that will never let me go, I can, no matter what, say along with Joseph that “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction”
By His grace, this is what I pray to be able to do.
And this, this is the only next thing that is really necessary.
Seek Him first-above all things, even a worthy calling, a healed body and mind, an answered prayer-and all these things will be added-in His time and His perfect way.
Katie wrote
“And this blessing isn’t always what we think-the happy ending we wanted and the desires of our hearts fulfilled. Blessed is she who believes His promises. This blessing is different than blessing as the world sees it. It isn’t an easy life or one of success. Blessing is that, as we find ourselves in a place that God has yet to explain, may never explain, a place or a life that doesn’t line up with what we had in mind, He gives us a promise like He gave to Abraham. It is the promise of Emmanuel, God with us. He will be here with us, our reward.”
And that, my dear ones, I believe is True Hope Discovered.

To Stir Your Heart:
Genesis 41:52-Matthew 6:33-Luke 10:42-Romans 8:25-Hebrews 6:19-Hebrews 10:23

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Back to School (and why all teachers should have a Keurig in their teaching space)

Last week was back to school week around here and let’s just say, I’m happy a weekend is a full 48 hours.
We took a very liberal approach to learning time this summer, and spent most of our time learning in ways we always seem to neglect when school is “officially in session”.
It was refreshing and exhausting at the same time.
But now we are back into the swing of things, or headed in that direction at least, and I’m excited and exhausted in a completely different way.

After our lessons last week, I was left thinking one, very important, thing:
Do public school teachers have Keurigs in their classrooms?
(Because, they should.)
I tried to start the day out with a cup of tea. It’s part of my attempt to approach the day in a more restful way. Not to mention, I love coffee with milk and sugar and that is not working well with my goal to eat (& drink) more healthfully.
But tea is not coffee, for sure.
And about ten minutes into our lesson, I gulped down my cup of tea and refilled my cup with a nice, strong, cup of coffee (I had it waiting, just in case. This isn’t my first year teaching.)
And that is when I thought about the Keurig and teachers all around the world in classrooms of all shapes and sizes.

Enough about that, here is what I really came to write about: education.
I spent an inordinate amount of time reading and studying and listening to podcasts and lectures and watching youtube videos and even reading old dusty books this past spring all about this one thing.
I came away with some amazing ideas, I honed in closer to what my educational philosophy really is, found some great resources, and walked away completely overwhelmed.
By June, I had to step away from all that information and I spent the next weeks digesting and processing all of what I had learned.
The first thing I did was process the disappointment I was feeling.
I wasn’t someone who had planned to homeschool. When we started, two weeks into the school year all those years ago, I was, quite frankly, terrified to jump into our lessons. I didn’t think I could teach handwriting, reading, math, history, science, and everything else the pacing guide provided to me had listed on it for one school year.
I looked at what was required and cried.
Then, by Grace, we moved forward one lesson at a time  (with many homeschool mamas, other teachers and patient friends coming along side me to mentor me during this time) and we made it through the first year.
And then, I was hooked.
I love homeschooling.
Please don’t misunderstand this statement. I  am not saying it is easy. Homeschooling is, hands down, one of the most difficult things I have done to date.

Homeschool is work and growth and change and even (I believe) a smattering of sanctification all mixed up into one glorious and terrifying day.
For each one of us (not just the students).
But, this route, it is worth it.
Kind of like child birth.
I don’t recommend the process, but the result is a precious miracle.
So here we are, seven years in and pretty much at the half-way point of my oldest child’s education.
Here at this point, I have learned so much; the most precious of which is that I still have so much to learn.
So after listening and reading and learning about all the amazing forms and ways of education, instead of looking at the success we have had, the learning we have accomplished and the joy we have experienced, all I saw was all we hadn’t done.
·      *We didn’t start a real nature study until last year
·      *We don’t use memory as the key tool it can be
·     * I didn’t teach handwriting in the right way
·      *I should have started with a different math curriculum
·      *Why didn’t I know about morning time (or morning baskets, or symposium etc.)?
·      *Why had I never heard about these ideas before?
·      And many, many other great ideas that I learned but had yet to implement into our education life.
And so, for about a week, I wondered what in the world I was doing even attempting this homeschool thing?

And then I remembered (remembering is so important!) my favorite quote by Charlotte Mason
“Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”
Sweet. Simple. To the point.
There are many techniques to providing a solid, well-balanced education to each homeschooled child. Morning time and nature study are some of my favorites, but they are not the only way.
The true beauty about a home-based education is the ability to tailor the needs according to the family, the child, the year, even just the needs of that particular day.

Of course, there are basics that need to be addressed every day. But, the fact of the matter is that what will be most beneficial to your child, after showing their hearts to love the True, Good and Beautiful, is to surround them with these things right where they live and where they work and where they play, and not only making sure they have really great handwriting (although, I won’t lie, that would be nice.)

Atmosphere: is not just how you decorate your school space (ours is a precious 130 square foot room that I lovingly refer to as our “Tiny Room School”.) but it is also the community you surround yourself with. Family and friends and even strangers that turn into friends that can teach things you might never be able to teach. It really does take a village and it can be done without a separate space to call a “school room” (fancy decorations, Ikea rolling carts and a laminator are not as vital as many affiliate links lead you to believe. Books, however, are vital.).
The atmosphere is also affected by our entire family’s own quest for learning, by living out the motto that we are “life long learners” in front of our children and by investing in this quest (especially with our time) everyday.

Discipline: I don’t even want to write about it, honestly. This is my least favorite part of education. It is hard. It requires not only consistency (even amidst change and hard things) but also dedication and determination. It means that I can’t take the easy route. When I tell the kids we will do math every day, we need to do math every day. I can’t shirk cursive practice just because it takes ten times longer than printing. Sitting through the tenth reading of a reader struggling through tough words, explaining math when I’d rather be doing art (and so would the kids), and remembering to still do our chores, is all discipline. Putting down my phone and limiting my scrolling and instead picking up a book or playing a board game, that is discipline, too. Focus is also a form of discipline. I can’t expect my children to dig deep and learn well if I am flooding them with good resources but not making time to actually zero in and pick the best one (for us, for this grade and this season of life and time) and use it properly.

A Life: This is my favorite one. It takes the pressure off the other two, especially discipline. You see, when I remember that education isn’t only supposed to happen in a few short years, or only within the walls of a school room, I suddenly am not pressured to make it all happen right now. Sure, it is better to get the hang of reading down sooner than later (it will happen if it is approached with discipline and sound teaching) but it doesn’t need to happen today. Every day is a piece of a picture that, when combined with the other days of our lives, will make it a complete picture. It doesn’t happen all at once.  When insta-learning is attempted, the picture will not only end up not being what you thought it would be, it will definitely not be what it should be.

Another quote from Charlotte Mason is
“Self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature.”
When I stay true to creating a wholehearted atmosphere, applying discipline to our learning and my teaching, and living this out every day, then my children grow to be self-educators. And since I have no idea what this world will be like tomorrow, much less in ten or fifteen years, this is a very valuable life skill to possess.
And so, as we enter into this new school year, with too many things scheduled for each day (I am still learning) and with high hopes for the math curriculum and the handwriting practice and the co-op days, I can look back at these nuggets of wisdom and remember; it isn’t necessarily the subjects or the activities we do or do not get to this year. It is in how we approach them, what atmosphere we create in our hearts and home, what discipline and habits we work on for both our brains and our stubborn hearts and most definitely how we live these ideas out each and every day.

Here’s to surviving another back to school week, to another day ahead of trying tea before coffee, and  to a new, (large) reminder of  “Cow Theory”  (my new found painting titled “Selfie”) that is facing me everyday as I sit at my desk to both learn and to teach.

Happy School Year!

“It is especially strange that we burden our children with this question of what they will one day do, when so much of our lives is already prescribed. What will my children do? I can already see most of it. They will sleep. They will eat. They will live in relationships with others. They will celebrate special days and live ordinary days that tick with repetitive tasks. The truly important question seems not to be what will they do, but how will they do it.
 Will they bless the food they eat and so receive it within the context of a relationship with God? Will they pursue truth and justice and beauty as things belonging, not to a dark world, but to the light that has come into the world? Will they keep and care for their environments, homes, offices, and neighborhood parks? For their urban centers and national forests and for those who live in them? In these ways and every moment of their days, will they proclaim the gospel, the good news of Christ’s reign and redemption?
   Whether they are engineers or writers or, even, unemployed or bedridden by illness, I pray they will live as priests in this world (1 Peter 2:9). I pray they learn from me and their father what it is to offer with our whole lives the sacrifice of witness. This witness, in word and deed, in happiness and suffering, is always this:
God is God, and he is love, and through Christ all can be redeemed. Everything, including our own hearts, can be made new.”
-From Roots and Sky by Purifoy

Verses to Stir your heart
Psalm 32:8-1 Peter 2:9-Micah 6:8 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Unseen Book Launch!

"God champions us like no human can, but we don't often see that unless we have nowhere to look but Him."
~Sara Hagerty, Unseen page 158

I’ve always been a wife and mama first, writer and blogger second. The frequency and regularity of my blog postings have attested to this. But this year I have placed blogging further down on my list than ever before. This year, my laundry takes priority over writing things that others may read, and when laundry takes priority in my house, you know that things are moving in a different direction. (Rest assured, however, our socks remain unmatched.)

2017 has been my year of “Rest, Quiet, Still”. Usually, I pray about and focus on one word for the year, but God knew I needed a whole vision of what this year needed and so it was a three-in-one kind of year. Fitting, I think.

Anyways, part of my rest-focused year has been to post less, here and elsewhere, and to spend less time thinking about my words and more time resting in God’s provision, promises, and plans. That sentence makes this process sound much more peaceful and restful than it really has been. Just like in the year where “Trust” was my word, the focus isn’t necessarily that I’ve reached a place of mastery of this quality, more accurately it is a focus because God is bringing me through things that will require me to lean into Him in that way specifically. This rest year has been no different.

But here I am writing (and my laundry is still on the couch waiting to be folded) and it is because I am excited to share with you that I am a part of the Unseen book launch!

I read Sara Hagerty’s book Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet a few years back and her message struck right into my heart. This is the book where I first learned about Adoration and I can’t believe that I never (never!)  heard of this word (Adoration) and learned of this discipline before. I was incredibly excited when I heard that Sara would be releasing a new book this fall.

In her newest book Unseen, Sara continues sharing the passion she has for God’s Word and His work in the world and in our hearts. She shares her own heart and story and how God can use our unseen moments to not only grow us but show us that He sees us and that being seen and known by Him is what our hearts really crave.

Through story and Scripture, Sara shares how we can challenge the perspective that the unseen parts of our stories are wasted, and see them instead as an invitation to draw nearer to the One who “made us in secret” (Psalm 139:15).

I finished reading Unseen just last night and I know that I will come back to it again and again. It was simple (in the best kind of way-like how Jesus simply met the woman at the well and yet changed her whole life trajectory) and complex (I loved how Sara didn’t shy away from the mysterious parts of God).

I am still processing much of what I read, but here are three things I am taking away from her book right now:

1.     We all have unseen parts of our lives and live out unseen stories. I can think of at least a handful of other women that I would love to share this message with and dig deeper into what God wants to do with this in our hearts.

2.     I LOVE the passion that Sara has on every page of her book about God’s word. Seriously, she has given me words to a new prayer; that I would see His Word anew, to light up His Word in my heart so that it seems less ordinary, less familiar and more of the crazy-amazing Truth that it is.

3.     My year of “Rest, Quiet, Still” has also been a very difficult year in terms of connecting with God. While reading her book, and especially while opening His Word with new perspective, I realized that the deafening silence in response to so many of my prayers (most of which are seeking out specific answers to things that we have been battling for years) has very little to do with me having been in a time of “wilderness and wandering”, but because I have been approaching God all wrong. Not that there is a method or formula for approaching God-it was just that I was seeking answers and relief, not necessarily HIM. This method was wrong for my heart at this time in my life and God knew this (of course). This way of approach would not “dig roots deep” but would have been just a quick fix of a much deeper problem. God is not interested in quick fixes. He is interested in relationship (!). He has been waiting for me to seek friendship, not “answers”.

My prayer is that the message of leaning into God through the unseen will continue to permeate my heart and life and that the Truth about what God says in His Word about the unseen places (of my days, my life and my heart) would become deeply rooted within.

 The laundry is calling and I must go. ;)

Unseen will be available for purchase on August 29, 2017 and is available for Pre-Order right now.
 If you Pre-Order you have access to many incredible gifts that compliment the book!