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!


This post was originally posted at on March 6, 2017.

I am learning the value of resting, reflecting, trusting and grieving.

Not all grief is the result of a death, but often grief does result from a death of some kind. Dreams can be shattered when marriages are torn apart or when someone must face the struggle of infertility, broken relationships, illness or disability. Trauma or unexpected tragedy and even war and terror attacks reframe the way we see how the world functions and even the way we approach the day. Often, when grief is caused by something other than death, it is easy to believe that pushing past it is the appropriate thing to do. Sometimes, when faced with my own grief up next to the reality of another person’s, it is easy to dismiss my own as something trivial.

For many years I tried to skip the grieving part of my story. I wanted to forget about anything that caused my heart to ache and dismiss it as a waste of time or even selfish. I would take my best coping skill, pushing through, and I would maximize it to its highest potential. I learned how to be an expert at “suck it up, buttercup”.

Quite a few years of this unrecognized and dismissed grief and it did what most heartbreak does when left unchecked-it turned to anger, resentment and fear. Eventually, every time I came face to face with the reality of my grief, instead of sadness, I felt anger and resentment.   When day would break and the sun would rise, I would be faced with fear of the unknown, because my heart was already so heavy.

This absence of grieving, it kept me stuck. Stuck in the past. Past dreams and plans and expectations were all that filled my thoughts. I wasn’t able to move forward because I was continuously reminded of what was, or what would never be.

This is not a good place to be.

Through some counseling, heart to heart moments with friends and some family, through much prayer and many tears, I was able to let go of what wasn’t any more.
Something beautiful happened through this process.
I was finally able to accept what life had become and I realized that, although there are still hard things, it is a beautiful life.
Sounds super simple, right?
It isn’t.
That one sentence represents the key that released me from so much heartache, but it also required a lot of time and work.
But it was so, so, worth it.
In John 11, when Lazarus dies and Jesus finally arrives to raise him from the dead four days later, there is a lot of grief surrounding the entire situation. Mary and Martha are grieving, not only the loss of their brother but the fact that they knew Jesus could have saved Lazarus and he didn’t.
Mary, who had previously lavished love on Jesus, found herself paralyzed by her grief (v20) and didn’t even greet Him as He arrived. Martha, steadfast in her duty and probably of the “suck it up buttercup” kind of mind, was the one who went out to meet Jesus, all of her grief and doubts bottled up. It wasn’t until Jesus asked her, “do you believe?” and she responded with a “yes”, that she held onto the hope that there might be more to this story than she understood. She quickly ran back to Mary to bring her to speak with Jesus. Both of these women were dealing with their grief differently, and it took Jesus’ presence and questions to help them work through it. So many times Jesus will ask questions of His believers. He doesn’t ask it for His sake (He already knows the answer). He asks it for theirs, so they may begin to understand the depths of their own heart.

Often it is in the grip of our own sorrows that our faith is tested. To know that Jesus stands with us and provides ways for us to be reminded of His restoring truth, faithful love and His eternal hope is vital. All we must do is be willing to have a conversation with Him.
There, at the tomb, Jesus saw all the grief, felt the sense of loss deep in His own spirit, and even though He knew what He was about to do (raise Lazarus from the dead!), He still joined in the grieving process.
Jesus Wept (v35).
The brokenness of this world will not leave any of us untouched.
But we have an Advocate and a Counselor Who knows first hand the heartbreak of being broken.
There is nothing productive or helpful about skipping to the “happy ever after” parts, nothing healthy about pushing through and past the heartbreak.
Grieving our own losses, as well as weeping with those who weep, is part of what makes us human.
I believe it is also important to remember that grief and self-pity are not the same things. Walking through suffering and processing heartbreak is one thing.
Sitting in a pit of pity is another.
Notice, Jesus wept and then He moved.
When He raised Lazarus, Jesus assigned Mary and Martha to the task of unwrapping his body from the burial clothes. They were removing, bit by bit, what had caused so much grief.
The death still happened, the burial clothes would still exist, but they were able to unbind from it all and move on because of Jesus’ direction and their obedience in action.
Grieving is a process, self-pity is a pit.
Grieving is a movement, sometimes slow or even backwards to recover from a wrong turn, but it does move us forward over time.
Self-pity digs the pit deeper and there the Light can be harder and harder to see.

Today I encourage you to take a moment to listen to your heart. To press pause on any “pushing through” you might be doing. To acknowledge grief where it exists and then to reach out to a trusted friend, fellow believer, or a counselor as you walk along the road of releasing the grief you carry to the One who promises to carry you. I trust that, through the faithfulness of Jesus, you will see beauty for your ashes. Beauty for ashes doesn’t diminish the experience that caused the grief. The process of grieving gives it it’s due and then frees our hands and hearts to hold new gifts of hope.
You only need to first let go of the ashes.

Isaiah 46: (ESV)
even to your old age I am he,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Flowers in the Weeds

I was blessed to guest post over at the Hearts Being Healed website this week. The 2017 Conference is coming up in just about a month and a half....check it out, you will be glad you did. 

If you didn’t know any better, you might not guess that depression slinks in the shadows for me, that there are times I have to fight back this depression-darkness with all I’ve got.
And if you know that kind of depression-darkness, you know that when it is lurking there around the corner that it is then you are at your weakest to fight this battle. That “all you got” doesn’t seem nearly enough.
You know it is here we need a Light of epic proportions.
It is here we need a strength that isn’t limited by our own personal weaknesses.

It was during one of these hardest times that I learned one of my most valuable heart lessons and met the One Who is the Light.

Continue Reading at the Hearts Being Healed Website